Dear Chisago Lakes church family,

I know you know that Jesus talked more about finances than he did about most other subjects. It’s because our view of finances shows a lot about our values—even our spiritual lives. I’ve said this in good times; it’s harder to teach that now, however, but it’s just as true.

Obviously for all of us our normal giving routine has been completely upended. We’re not meeting on Sundays and physically passing a plate so the reminder is not there. God will provide and he will do it through the faithful and generous gifts of our church family as he always has. You can mail your gift, use your bank’s online bill pay, drop it off at the office (call Pastor Kraig or Pastor Ben first to make sure someone is here), or use our new online giving tab on the home page of our church website (clbc.me). Online giving has two options: a credit card or through your bank. It’s a secure site.

Our finance committee in conjunction with our treasurer has figured out that over three Sundays, (3/8 - 3/22/2020) the total weekly giving is $14,500 behind budget. Over these three Sundays the weekly giving has averaged 58% of the weekly budgeted need. Yesterday’s (3/29/20) giving was 54% of our weekly need ($6,229 of our weekly budget of $11,604). It’s not just church bills that get paid with what is given; we also support missionaries through the regular giving of our church family.

I bring these numbers to you just as information. I realize that some of you might have had your hours or salary cut because of Covid 19. Please don’t see this as an indictment of the generosity of our church. You have proved over and over again that you enjoy giving to God. I just want our church family to know where we are financially. God will sustain us financially as he always has, and he will use me and you to do so.

Your undershepherd,

Pastor Kraig

Dear Church Family,

This Sunday morning we’ll be looking at Psalm 23, probably the most beloved psalm in the psalter. The video for the sermon will be posted Saturday night, and I hope that you’ll work through the family worship guide. The link will be on the homepage of our website, clbc.me. Can I suggest you do two things in preparation for Sunday? One, pray that God will work in all of our hearts even though we cannot meet together. His Spirit is not limited. Second, read Psalm 23 a few times in preparation for Sunday. It’s six very familiar verses.

This pandemic has been a stretching time for your church staff. We’ve had to make decisions that we never could have anticipated. One recent one involves Awana. Since we are not meeting on Wednesday nights for the foreseeable future, we’re going to allow kids to say sections to their parents and count them as being completed. Normally you know that children work on them during the week with their parents, but they have to say them to an Awana leader on Wednesday to get credit. However, in these extraordinary circumstances we want clubbers that have worked hard for 3/4 of the year to be able to finish their books. So this is an option to keep your children in the Word and completing their books.

Another item: this Friday night I’m teaching online for the Biblical Counseling Alliance. This was planned months ago—they do their teaching through online webinars. It’s normally a subscription service, but they are allowing any in my church to join the zoom meeting for free. The attachment explains it all. You might need to download the zoom app ahead of time, but it’s a pretty intuitive experience. You’re welcome to attend virtually. This will also give you some exposure to the BCA. They’re a national group doing a good work promoting the sufficiency of Scripture.

Finally, our online giving is up and running. If you go to the home page of the church website, you will find a tab on the front page labeled online giving. It redirects you to a secure site for giving. Of course you can always mail your gift, use online banking billpay, or drop it off at the office (you might need to call one of the pastors ahead of time since we have adjusted our office hours).

Until we can meet together on Sunday, may God grow our longing for exalting his Son together.

Your pastors,

Pastor Kraig and Pastor Ben

Been reading a book on forgiveness by Gary Inrig and one of the chapters I read recently was based on the biblical account of Jesus visiting Simon the Pharisee's house in Luke 6:36-50. It’s different but similar to how Jesus talks about forgiveness in Matthew 18. Simon the Pharisee isn’t rude, but also isn’t welcoming to Jesus. He doesn’t think he’s (Simon) much of a sinner. Jesus tells a story and Simon correctly understands it. Read the passage to get up to speed.

Here’s the bottom line. Those love the gospel best that know their sin best. If you don’t think you’re much of a sinner, then you don’t think much of the gospel. I mean you like it, but you’re not amazed that Jesus could forgive you. If, however, you rightly understand your sin, then you love the good news. Which means that our appreciation of the gospel should always be growing as we grow in our understanding of our sinfulness. If my greatest appreciation for the gospel is from years ago when I got saved, then I’m not growing in my knowledge of God’s Word.

So, is your love of the gospel growing?

Church Family,

It appears that it may be a good while until we worship together again as a church. And while this is not what we would have chosen for ourselves, it is what God has ordained, and we know that “what God ordains is always right.”

Until we are able to meet again, here is our plan.

We will be posting a pre-recorded video sermon on our website by late Saturday night. This will give you some flexibility as to when you can watch it. All you’ll have to do is click the first banner that comes up on our website on Sunday AM (it will say “Sunday Worship”). On the same page, you will see a link entitled “Worship Guide - March 22”. Click on the link for what we hope will be some helpful suggestions for worship.
God willing, we will have online giving available by Sunday. If you prefer, you may mail your regular giving to the church. Thank you for your continued support as our church and missionaries depend on your faithful giving.

Our other regularly scheduled activities are canceled until further notice (except our men’s book studies on Friday and Saturday). If you need any help with getting supplies, etc. please do not hesitate to email or call the church office.

Every time we gather on a Sunday morning to worship, it is a foretaste of the praise we will one day render to King Jesus when we finally gather around his throne. For now, we are left with a foretaste of a foretaste. We’re thankful this is possible. We need it. It is far better than nothing, but it leaves us wanting more. And that is good.

Your Shepherds,

Pastor Kraig & Pastor Ben

Dear Church Family,

Yesterday we sent you an email telling you that we were taking the coronavirus pandemic seriously and that as the situation evolved, we might make some decisions about activities this week. It’s only been 24 hours, but that’s a lifetime in this fast moving situation. Most colleges have moved up their Spring breaks and told students they wlll be doing online classes for the rest of the semester. Sporting events from all major pro and college sports have been cancelled. We are not succumbing to panic because we trust God. And meeting as a church is far more important than any sporting events—or even college classes.

However, just like vaccinations are a way we love our neighbors, so restricting our contact to limit the spread of this virus is a neighbor-loving practice to take. Therefore, we are cancelling our ABF and Sunday school classes for this Sunday. Of course this means our beloved coffee and donut time is gone too. ;) Also, the PM service was supposed to be a baptism and membership service. Normally those services are really well attended as we hear testimonies of the gospel and we gladly welcome new members. We are postponing that service for the foreseeable future as a precaution. Hopefully we can have it in the future with a large part of our church family there. We will also be cancelling our Wednesday activities (Awana, youth group, Bible study & prayer) for this coming Wednesday. We take these steps as prudent actions. Scripture encourages prudence, not panic. Proverbs 22:3 (ESV) The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.

The cautions we mentioned in our last email still stand:

• We strongly encourage those who are high risk to stay home. This would include elderly members/attenders as well as those with chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease. Please do not mistake attending church during a pandemic for a test of spirituality or faithfulness. If you have ministry responsibilities, please contact one of us or the church office, and we will find a replacement for you. Also, if there are any needs you may have as a result of being homebound, please do not hesitate to call the church office and let us know. You have an army of brothers and sisters who would love the opportunity to serve you, whether that comes in the form of yard work, dropping off groceries, or something else.

• We are working on solutions for live-streaming our services. In the meantime, we strive to post the sermon audio each Sunday afternoon. You can find our sermons on this website. We are also working on solutions related to our offerings, as ministry needs continue as normal even if life changes significantly for a while. On both of these matters, we will keep you posted.

One of the songs we sing on Sundays says,

As summer flowers we fade and die

Fame, youth and beauty hurry by

But life eternal calls to us

At the cross

I will not boast in wealth or might

Or human wisdom’s fleeting light

But I will boast in knowing Christ

At the cross

I rejoice in my Redeemer

Greatest Treasure,

Wellspring of my soul

I will trust in Him, no other.

My soul is satisfied in Him alone.

Neither our possessions, nor our might, nor human wisdom are our hope. Our greatest treasure is Jesus Christ and no virus can take Him from us. He is what we have in common. And we will worship him together on Sunday morning in our AM service together at 10:30am. See you there. Just don’t try to shake my hand. ;) Let’s not greet each other with holy kisses for at least this Sunday. ;)

Your Shepherds,

Pastor Kraig and Pastor Ben

Luke 18:9 (ESV) He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt:

I read this and thought that if any verse can characterize America right now, this might be it. Both believers and unbelievers; both Republicans and Democrats, both conservative evangelicals and religious liberals. All of us are self-righteous. We’re convinced of our opinions and we are condescending to those that disagree with us. We don’t tend to be gracious with each other. No, whomever disagrees with me is the enemy.

Ellen Degeneres sat next to President George W. Bush in a private box along with a lot of other people at the Cowboys Packers game two weeks ago. She got lots of blowback from self-righteous celebrities that were too good to sit next to President Bush. He’s Hitler after all. Or at least he’s so evil that Ellen shouldn’t sit with him. By sitting next to him and being pleasant she’s agreeing with his policies or some other such nonsense. It goes both ways although personally I think Progressives are more guilty of it in politics. But it would be hard to beat Christians in religion. We’ve cornered the market on self-righteousness.

“trusting in themselves” is having confidence in yourself. It’s having no doubts about your opinions, the rightness of your positions. There is no second-guessing. I’m right and everyone else is evil. No one is wrong anymore; they are just evil if they disagree with me. It’s so pompous, or as Jesus says, self-righteous.

Contempt is a good translation of exoutheneo (ἐξουθενέω). It means “to despise someone or something on the basis that it is worthless or of no value.” It shows up in Rom 14:3 in the context of Christian liberty. The one eating shouldn’t despise the one that doesn’t. Contempt is despising someone. That’s what our self-righteousness leads to. It’s why the political climate is so poisonous in America. It’s why politicians have to apologize when they say something nice about someone across the aisle from them. Ridiculous. If you don’t question the humanity of someone that disagrees with you, you’re evil too. That's the climate.

Again, Christians are guilty of this also. We have contempt for those that aren’t “woke” enough or for those that are “woke.” We have contempt for those that don’t understand the church’s problems with sexual abuse the way I do. Or for those that seem to be going too far to correct it.

Contempt dooms relationships. You cannot be reasonable with the opposite viewpoint and also be contemptuous.

Jesus recognized this in his day, and he told this parable to correct it. But the parable won’t help you if you think it applies to your “enemy.” Can you own your own self-righteousness, misplaced self-confidence, and contempt? Can you admit it?

Luke 18:11 (ESV) The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.

Now the parable. Verse 11 is key. The Pharisee imagines himself as better than other men and specifically, better than this man—a publican. And this is us. We are self-righteous and imagine we are better than most others. And when we look at individuals, we imagine we are better than them too. We are Pharisees with all the pride and arrogance that go along with it. And the answer is humility as this parable teaches.

Sometimes I come across a blog post that is so well written that I feel I must link to it. I've never heard of this guy before, but he is spot on in thinking about open doors when it comes to God's will. As Jay Adams said, "Sometimes open doors lead to elevator shafts." Read this and think carefully about how you make decisions.

Against Open Doors

I came across this blog, and I like it. It's good for us to consider how we've grown over the past year, and how we're doing spiritually now. I hope the questions in this link will encourage and challenge you. Annual Spiritual Check-Up

On October 28 we talked about Joseph's forgiveness of his brothers from Gen 50:15-26. You can find that message in our sermon files on the website. That Sunday evening and next we looked at a few questions about forgiveness. I want to include some of them here. There are many more questions we could have asked and answered. Forgiveness requires real biblical wisdom in the specific details of a person's life. Hopefully these will be a help to you.

What’s a Definition of Forgiveness?

The definition of forgiveness is promising…

Not to bring it up to the person's face

Not to bring it up behind the person's back

Not to dwell on it

This is not original with me, but I like this definition because it lines up with how God forgives us.

What If You Didn’t Sin, but They Are Offended? Should You Ask Their Forgiveness?

For example, someone expected you to call them while they were in the hospital, but you didn’t. They are angry with you for not calling. In fact, they’re giving you the cold shoulder. You didn’t promise you’d call them, but they expected you to. Is that sin? Probably not.

So the break in the relationship is real, but the sin is not. Do you ask forgiveness just to reconcile? One question to ask is who has sinned in this relationship? It’s not you; it’s them. They didn’t get what they wanted and now they are responding sinfully.

You shouldn’t ask forgiveness in order to appease someone. Forgiveness is not mine; it’s God’s. He invented it so to speak. I cannot use it for whatever I want. Don’t use forgiveness as a gimmick. Don’t use it to patch things up unless you think you have actually sinned. Don’t cheapen it.

So what can we do in those situations?

•If it’s a pattern, we can confront their sin.

•I’ve said, “I wish I would have done that” because I really do wish that. If it would have prevented them getting offended I really do.

Do You Need to Forgive God?

Some Christians will recommend that you pray and forgive God for certain tragic events. For example, if your child is born with a serious and terminal health problem, you might need to forgive God for that.

God is the absolute standard of right and wrong. He never does wrong. He is not unjust. Therefore, it’s blasphemy to accuse Him of doing wrong to you by telling Him you forgive Him.

The reason we would think that God has done wrong is because things didn’t turn out the way we thought they should turn out.

We are told that everything that happens in a believer’s life is for their good (Rom. 8:28-29). Therefore, when “bad” things happen in a believer’s life, the proper attitude is one of thanksgiving (1 Thess. 5:18).

So it’s always wrong to be angry with God—to think we need to forgive God—but it’s right to bring our questions to God with a heart of faith. The Psalms are full of questions to God when life seems inexplicable. However, they brought their questions to God in faith. They didn’t accuse Him of wrongdoing, but they did have doubts about His dealings. They moved towards God, not away from Him. We should too.

Do You Need to Forgive Yourself?

Maybe you’ve heard this view before—that you need to forgive yourself. What you did was so horrible that it demands not just God’s forgiveness and the offended person’s forgiveness, but you must also forgive yourself.

Do you now what the Bible says about forgiving ourselves? Nothing. It doesn’t show up in either example or command. Scripture teaches vertical forgiveness—God forgiving us. It teaches horizontal forgiveness—us forgiving others. But it doesn’t teach internal forgiveness. Clearly that is significant. It indicates that this idea of self-forgiveness didn’t come from careful study of Scripture but from somewhere else.

So, when someone tells us that “I just can’t forgive myself”, can we help them? Yes. Someone that expresses this thought may actually be telling us something else.

They might be expressing an inability or unwillingness to receive God’s forgiveness. We say this because we really doubt that God has forgiven us.

They may not be willing to acknowledge the depth of their sin. Sometimes this means “I cannot believe that I did that.” This is a form of pride; as if this type of sinful failure was beneath me. It’s an indication of self-righteousness and a lack of realistic self-knowledge.

They may be venting regrets for not achieving a certain cherished desire. I had an opportunity and I threw it all away. When desires are thwarted, the result is self-reproach and a case of “if only I had….” In this case a more careful use of language is helpful. They should say, "I regret how I blew that opportunity."

Self-forgiveness is unbiblical because you are the offender, judge, and the forgiver. Only Jesus Christ can fill all three roles. When you or I do it, we are trying to be God.

I read this last week and was reminded that holding a grudge is no small thing.

Mark 11:25 (ESV) And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”

A forgiving heart is necessary for answered prayer. But it’s also hard. I don’t think I’ve been greatly sinned against, but I do hold grudges nonetheless. Grudges for ways people have stepped on my idols, not necessarily ways that they have sinned against me. I have lots of minor grudges because I am a wicked sinner. I take offense at others. Just saying. Often I’m not a pleasant fellow in my heart.

And God convicts me for which I’m thankful. And he prompts me to confess my pride and grudgeholding. And often I do. Which is necessary according to this verse. If I have anything against anyone, I need to give it up. Otherwise it affects the Father’s forgiveness of me. So my grudges are more serious than I think they are.

Of course this is talking about familial forgiveness I believe, not judicial forgiveness. The latter was settled at the cross. But like after the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6:14-15, this passage tells me that my relationship with God can be affected by my unforgiveness towards others.

And notice this verse doesn't claim that the offender needs to ask for forgiveness. Of course other passages encourage that, but here, I just need to extend grace to even an unrepentant offender.

It's an urgent matter. This person is standing in prayer, and they recall they're unforgiving. They need to repent right then.

So you cannot hold a grudge if you want to pray effectively. God doesn't hear the unforgiving.

Sunday, December 24, 2017, I will be preaching from Matthew 1:18-25, which is a marvelous account of Christ's birth. Often we think of the fuller narrative in Luke 2, but Matthew has his own succinct story of the birth of Christ.

There were three miracles that occurred in the birth of Jesus and all are present in Matthew's account. Normally we only think of the virgin birth, but there are actually three astounding miracles.

Shielding Jesus from Sinfulness

Matthew 1:21 (NASB95) “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

This passage certainly implies and I think clearly indicates that Jesus was sinless. How can he be our Savior if he needs to save himself from his own sins? Our Savior must be sinless. That would normally be a problem because sinful parents have sinful children. Some claim that our sin only comes through the man and since Jesus didn't have a human father, he would be sinless. However, sin comes through both man and woman according to David.

Psalm 51:5 (NASB95) Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.

So Jesus would have had a sin nature just from his mother, Mary. However, the Holy Spirit shielded him from sinfulness (Lk 1:35). This is a miracle of Christ's birth. That he could be born to a human mother and yet be without sin. And it was necessary for him to be our perfect sacrifice, the Savior who would save us from our sins.

The Hypostatic Union

Matthew 1:23 (NASB95) “BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.”

Theologians use this term to describe the fact that Jesus is both God and man. Jesus was God and became man. Of course he had to become man in order to be an acceptable sacrifice for our sins. Jesus needed to be of the same nature as the offenders he would save. Only a human can die for other humans and be an acceptable substitute that appeases God's righteous wrath.

And he would also have to be God. Jesus had to be free from all the demands of the law himself--he had to be sinless. Only God is sinless. Only God could have a death that was sufficient for all sinners and was efficacious for all believers for all eternity--the once-for-all sacrifice for sin. And only God could do that in three hours on one sad Friday.

Christ's birth is miraculous because Jesus became the God-man.

The Virgin Conception

Matthew 1:18 (NASB95) Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.
Matthew 1:20 (NASB95) But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.
Matthew 1:23 (NASB95) “BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.”

We think of it as a virgin birth, but it's more properly understood as a virgin conception. We know that Joseph and Marry didn't consummate their marriage until Jesus was born (Mt 1:25), but that seems to be a decision they made on their own to avoid any accusations that Joseph was actually the biological father of Jesus. Nowhere were they commanded to refrain until Jesus was born.

While this is the miracle that most of us think about when considering the birth of Christ, it's might be the least of the three. How hard is it for the God who created the world, who created biology, to overrule the creation he created? But it's still a great miracle and it's still significant. It was a fulfillment of prophecy given over 700 years before (Is 7:14).

So there are the three greatest miracles surrounding Christ's birth and all found in Matthew's account. How many did you know?

This morning I came across this blog post--I don't even know the author. However, I encourage you to read it.

Spiritual Growth Comes from Community

She makes a great point that since we need the church, it's good for us to have a commitment that keeps us coming to church. Serving in your church can be that commitment, and there are lots of places to serve: ushering, nursery, security team, greeters, ABF teacher, SS teacher, children's church, orchestra, accompaniment, sound room, and others.

I've seen it too often. A church member gets busy with life and asks to be let out of a ministry commitment. Sometimes that might be necessary, but what happens too frequently is they then become detached from the church. Pretty soon their attendance suffers. Sometimes it ends with them not attending anywhere.

If you have a ministry commitment that tires you out and sometimes you just wish you were done with it, don't wish that. Instead, thank God that he's used that to keep you coming back to a community of believers that will help you grow. That's what church does. We don't grow without it; we can't grow without it (Eph 4:11-16).

Yes you might attend just as faithfully without a ministry commitment, but maybe you won't. Praise God for a ministry responsibility that gets you to church every week. It's where you should be. It's where you need to be (Heb 10:24-25).

A year ago I preached on this passage in our Hebrews series. I was looking over it again today, and I thought it might be helpful to summarize it as a blog post.

A background note: The KJV and NKJV use the word, chastening. That has led many to think that this passage is just about punishment. Or that what the author is talking about is something punitive for specific disobedience. However, it’s really the word, discipline. And discipline is whatever God uses to bring us to maturity, to correct us. Remember that we are not condemned (Rom 8:1). We won’t ever pay the price for our sins. Jesus did that on the cross. However, we are God’s children and we will be disciplined. He wants to make us like Christ in any way that we’re not.


God disciplines His children…and it’s good. Hebrews 12:4-9 tells us how to reinterpret suffering. How to recast hardships. By reinterpreting I mean that we come to a true understanding of them. We come to God’s understanding of them.

There are four reinterpretations we need.

Don’t Overstate Your Suffering—It’s Not As Bad As You Believe (12:4-5)

•Hebrews 12:4 (ESV) In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

The audience of this epistle had suffered. We know that from Hebrews 10:32-34. They have suffered public abuse, loss of property, and even imprisonment. Those are substantial losses. This is not light suffering they’ve experienced.

But they hadn’t experienced loss of life of anyone in the community yet. Why mention this obvious fact to them? Surely they know they haven’t resisted to death yet. Why say it? Because our temptation is to overstate our hardships. And it’s not as bad as you believe. It’s really not.

You see our tendency is to think that we are the center of the world—certainly the center of our worlds. And that makes us look at our hardships as more difficult than they really are because they are happening to us.

But Scripture wants us to get perspective. We need to look around us and sympathize with the suffering of others. We need to bear one another’s burdens. When I’m suffering, I find it hard to think about the hardships of others. I can only see my own pain.

If we don’t understand God’s discipline it leads to two sinful responses found in verse 5…

•Hebrews 12:5 (ESV) And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.

You Disregard God’s Discipline

If we get focused on our pain we can assume it has no purpose. It’s just the random stuff of life happening to us now. God has a purpose for your hardships. He never wastes pain, so don’t treat it lightly.

You Become Discouraged

This is probably the more likely sinful response. You get tired of God’s chastening. It seems so oppressive that you actually lose heart.

I think one of the difficult lessons that Christians learn over and over again is that God is not interested in making our lives pain free. Salvation doesn’t mean that your life suddenly becomes wonderful and prosperous and your car never has expensive mechanical problems.

God is not concerned with that vision of life. He has bigger plans for you. He actually wants you to be like His Son, Jesus. And He will discipline you and me to get us to that objective.

Don’t Think God Has Abandoned You—He Only Disciplines Those in the Family (12:6-8)

•Hebrews 12:6–8 (ESV) For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” 7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

Here’s where our understanding really needs to change. We really need to reinterpret our hard times. Discipline means that God loves us. It’s actually the assurance that God loves us. A lack of chastisement is a bad sign. God disciplines those that He loves.

A father that doesn’t discipline, doesn’t love his child. You can say you do, but if a father doesn’t discipline his children, then he doesn’t care how they turn out. That’s a sign of indifference, but not a sign of love. So the father that loves his children will discipline them.

And it’s the same with God. It’s a sure sign of sonship to be chastened by God. Adversity, suffering, and hardships are the tools that God uses to sanctify His children. Suffering is not a sign of abandonment by God. No, it’s a sign of His love. Hardships don’t indicate God’s rejection. They are clear evidence of God’s fatherly care.

This is radical reinterpretation of suffering. Rather than being an indication of God’s indifference, it is a mark of His love for His children. Suffering should assure us of God’s care, not make us question it.

Don’t Resist God’s Discipline—You Can Submit to God (12:9-10)

•Hebrews 12:9–10 (ESV) Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.

This passage makes an argument from the lesser human relationship to the greater. Our fathers might have poorly disciplined, but we still submitted to them. Can’t we also submit to our heavenly Father? With our human fathers it was their duty to discipline us and our duty to submit. Your father might not have disciplined well, or you might not have submitted well, but those were the responsibilities. Therefore, submit to the God that does discipline well.

Don’t resist God’s discipline. Why? Because…

God is Wiser Than Your Father

Your dad may have been mistaken in his discipline, but your heavenly Father will never impose any discipline that isn’t for your good. God doesn’t make arbitrary judgments.

God’s Purpose Is Better Than Your Father’s

Your dad was a sinner. So he made decisions about discipline that were often at least tainted by sin. That means that sometimes he disciplined you for his own convenience. Sometimes it wasn’t about your character, it was about what was best for him.

But God has no such limitation. God disciplines so we may grow in holiness. We are to become like Him. Your trouble is used by God to make you grow into holiness.

Don’t Focus on the Pain—the Result of Discipline Is Worth the Trouble (12:11)

•Hebrews 12:11 (ESV) For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

In the moment, nobody enjoys discipline. When we’re in the midst of God’s discipline, it’s easy to focus only on the pain. Sometimes it does hurt so much. We lose something that we really value. God uses the pain to conform us to Christ’s image, but at the time, it doesn’t seem worth it to us.

But it bears good fruit. The outcome of suffering is substantial and pleasant. The period of discipline is followed by one of joy. We grow in righteousness through discipline. When reinterpreting our suffering this way, we can actually submit to it in the present. “Peaceful” reflects that the man that believes God’s discipline is designed for his good will cease to feel resentful and rebellious.

Pain wakes us up. God doesn’t waste pain, but He also doesn’t avoid it either. It’s a tool to make us grow. You and I wouldn’t have near the desire to grow if it weren’t for God’s discipline in our lives.

Don’t focus on your pain; instead think about the good fruit that God is growing in your life. Listen, God disciplines His children…and it’s good.

Why We Don’t Have an Evening Service During the Super Bowl

Our church will not have our normal evening service on February 5, 2017. We started doing this a few years ago when our teens would meet at the church to watch the Super Bowl. They actually used the sanctuary for that night, so we vacated it. We’ve continued it because I am convinced that it’s practically another American holiday and it is best used by our church members differently.

Sunday morning is our main service of the day and we would never cancel or alter it for the Super Bowl. Scripture, however, doesn’t command us to meet twice on Sunday, so I think we can make changes to the evening service. I love our evening services. Most often we have 100+ people that come with a hunger for God’s Word. It’s our designated church family service at Chisago Lakes Baptist. By that I mean it’s when our members care for, love, and listen to each other. It’s more informal, more practical, more testimonial, and more flexible. If you don’t come normally, you’re missing out.

But there are already days on the church calendar when we cancel our evening service. We cancel for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day so you can spend time with your family. We cancel Super Bowl Sunday so you can accept that invitation to your co-worker’s house or so you can invite them to your house. Use this evening for outreach, use it for family time, or use it for fellowship.

But most of all please, please cheer against the Patriots. ;)

Here's what I said in church on January 15, 2017.


Today is Sanctify of Human Life Sunday. I’m glad that President Reagan designated the first one in 1984, and churches have been celebrating it ever since. I also agree with what Russell Moore said in 2009.

I hate Sanctity of Human Life Sunday because I’m reminded that we have to say things to one another that human beings shouldn’t have to say. Mothers shouldn’t kill their children. Fathers shouldn’t abandon their babies. No human life is worthless, regardless of skin color, age, disability, economic status. The very fact that these things must be proclaimed is a reminder of the horrors of this present darkness. We’ll always need Christmas. We’ll always need Easter. But I hope, please Lord, someday soon, that Sanctity of Human Life Day is unnecessary. (Russell Moore, "Why I Hate Sanctity of Human Life Sunday", accessed on January 14, 2017.)

I’m going to make a political statement. I rarely make those. I’m all for defunding Planned Parenthood. Last year those undercover videos were released and we learned that Planned Parenthood is not really interested in women’s health. Of course we already knew that. They are in the business of making abortion available and prolific. They want to murder babies. I want them defunded.

Planned Parenthood was started by Margaret Sanger who was a proponent of eugenics. That’s the belief that some lower ethnic groups or classes shouldn’t reproduce. While Planned Parenthood would reject that philosophy today, ironically their existence still results in more black babies being killed as a percentage of the population than white babies. The racist Margaret Sanger, their founder, would be proud.

It’s interesting to me that white liberals are for abortion when aborted babies are disproportionately ethnic minorities. There is something paternalistic and even racist about white people helping black people kill their babies. And I think it’s good to point out how the application of abortion has a disproportionate impact on African Americans and Latinos.

Abortion is not wrong because minority babies are being killed, but because any baby is being killed. But it’s especially sad that those that our country has a sad legacy of oppressing are most likely to opt for abortion.

How do we respond to abortion. I’m hoping some year not have to suggest this because it will be over. Until then, however…

1.We weep. We cry for the babies that are murdered. We cry for the mothers and fathers that are so deceived by their sin that they think the evil of abortion is a good thing.

2.We pray. We pray for the medical professionals involved that God will reach their hearts. We pray for the mothers that they will trust Christ. We pray for ourselves, that we won’t be calloused to the scope of this tragedy.

3.We love. You and I cannot stop abortion by ourselves, but the Gospel can change lives. Maybe you reach one co-worker with the Gospel and his or her life is different than it would have been. Maybe…maybe a baby isn’t aborted that would have been otherwise.

4.We praise. We praise a God that can forgive the sin of abortion. We praise a God that can forgive our indifference to the plight of the unborn. We praise a God that can forgive mothers that seem to have few options. We praise a God that through Christ can forgive all of us—yes, even you—in spite of our sin.

Let’s pray.

God, You are a God of great mercy. You save those that deserve only Your judgment. You forgive those that repent and believe. God, we pray that Your mercy would pour down on our country. Abortion is a sinful blight; so many babies have been destroyed by mothers that were misled and deceived. These babies are not a mass of tissue; they are human life that should be allowed to live. Father, please change our country so that we begin to value unborn life. Help more and more women choose to have their babies. Father, help us to offer Your forgiveness to those mothers and fathers that wrongly thought abortion was their only option. May the gospel free them from their sin and grant them the joy that is only found in You.

Amen.

Guess what? Christmas is on a Sunday this year. I learned something is a thing that I was surprised was a thing. Here’s the thing I learned-—some churches are cancelling church on Christmas Sunday. I don’t mean canceling some services; I mean cancelling all services. They’re not meeting at all. And I’m not talking about churches that don’t believe the Bible is God’s Word or don’t believe Jesus is God. I’m talking about conservative evangelical churches. I’m not speechless because I’m almost never speechless, but I am very surprised. I don’t get it. Don’t decry the secularization of Christmas and then admit that opening presents is what Christmas is all about, not celebrating the birth of the Messiah. I mean, we’re talking the day we supposedly celebrate the birth of our Savior intersecting with the day that we worship Jesus together in church. And you’re cancelling church? I don’t get it. As one Christian said, “If we desire for the world to stop taking Christ out of Christmas, then we need not do the same through our actions on Christmas Day.” (Kaylee Freeman)

But I also learned another thing was a thing. That thing is some Christian families are planning to skip church on Christmas day. What? I get that you might not be able to get your present opening in before the service. So what? If your kids have to wait a little longer, they can. Yes, they really can. If you have to do them after church that morning, won’t you be teaching your kids vividly that Christmas is about Jesus, not them?

Even considering not being at church on Christmas Day shows that we have our priorities messed up. As one pastor said "Family is a gift, not a god. We rearrange our schedule for corporate worship; we don’t expect corporate worship to be rearranged for us." (Kevin DeYoung) Did you hear that? That deserves to be said again. "We rearrange our schedule for corporate worship; we don’t expect corporate worship to be rearranged for us."

It’s Christmas, it’s a celebration of the incarnation-—the Messiah became our Savior. Where else would you celebrate that on a Sunday but church? It’s also Sunday before it’s Christmas. Resurrection Day. The one day the church must gather together.

I’m excited about having our AM service on Christmas morning, What a great way to help ourselves and our kids have a God-honoring perspective about Christmas. We are commanded to meet as a church. That meeting happens on Sunday. We have made some accommodations. We won’t have our ABF hour nor our PM service. But we will have our main worship service that morning. Even if you’re out of town visiting family on Christmas Day, let me exhort you to be in church that morning unless Providence prevents you.

This past month a church member asked me a question about whether believers have physical bodies between death and the Rapture. Since this topic came up in our sanctuary ABF, I thought I would put it here. I've also included some thoughts from a sermon I preached in 1 Corinthians 15 about what kind of bodies we will have in the future resurrection.

Will Believers Have Physical Bodies Between Death and the Rapture?

[Name withheld],

This is not as clear in Scripture as other doctrines. We’re talking about the intermediate state of believers. It’s the state between death and the rapture. Where are we? Well we are “absent from the body and present with the Lord” (Phil 1:23; 2 Cor 5:8), so we are in heaven. However, do we have bodies or not at that point? that’s the controversy. When I was in college I wrote a paper explaining in part why I believed we had an intermediate body until we were united with our own bodies. However, now I don’t believe that. Here’s what my doctrinal statement from my ordination says.

I believe the next prophetic event to be fulfilled will be the coming of the Lord in the air to rapture all believers of this age. It is an imminent (Jn. 14:3; Phil 3:20; Titus 2:13), pre-tribulational and premillennial (1 Thess. 1:10; 2 Thess. 2:3-8), and personal return (1 Thess. 4:13-18) of Christ at which time the body of each dead Christian will be united with his spirit and living saints will be taken from the earth to meet the Lord in the air.

Notice it doesn’t talk about the intermediate state. That was probably purposeful. The less you say at an ordination, the less you can get quizzed on. ;)

So it’s not clear in Scripture, but there is no inherent problem with a disembodied existence for the believer. The soul/spirit can survive without a body (Mt 10:28). Several passages talk about death for a Christian as the death of the body, but not the soul/spirit (Acts 7:59; Phil 1:23-24; 2 Cor 5:8; Rev 6:9-10). Since Scripture never talks about Christians having bodies in the intermediate state, to believe so is based on speculation. Sometimes we guess because Scripture doesn’t say. However, here I think it’s safer to assume that our souls will exist apart from our bodies with Christ in heaven between death and the rapture. We will have a conscious existence; it just won’t be with a body. At the Rapture our souls will be reunited with our bodies which will also be glorified. From then on we will have a body for all eternity.

Will We Have the Same Body when We Are Resurrected?

Now as to whether we will have the exact same body we had when we died I believe there will be some differences.
• 1 Corinthians 15:35-38 (NKJV), But someone will say, “How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?” 36 Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. 37 And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain—perhaps wheat or some other grain. 38 But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body.

In verse 35 Paul is answering the question, “What kind of a body does a resurrected saint have?”

First century culture looked at the human body in some unique ways. Greek Gnostics believed that the body was evil; therefore, a bodily resurrection seemed like a bad idea to them. Why would you want to resurrect the source of evil—the human body? We don’t believe that your actual body is the source of your sin. If you could live without a body in this life, you would still be a sinner. Sin is in you—the real you, not your outward, bodily shell.

If you look at 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 Paul gives us a theology of the body in that paragraph. What you do with your body matters to God. Your body is the vehicle used to either glorify God or please yourself. But it is not the cause of your sin like the Greek Gnostics believed.

Supposedly Jewish rabbis believed that the resurrection body was identical in every way to the earthly body. It was the same exact body. They believed in a general resurrection, but they expected it to be the same body that went into the grave. Well, Paul is going to teach us that it’s not the identical body that went into the grave.

There is connection between physical bodies and resurrection bodies—there is continuity. In other words, they are not completely different. That’s what the analogy of the seed communicates.

The passage uses a simple illustration. Everyone knows that the plant doesn’t look at all like the seed that sprung it. The seed actually must die for the plant to come forth. Germination causes the seed to disappear—to die. Generally, the seed is gone, but the plant comes from the seed. Farmers don’t harvest seeds; they harvest plants. If all you wanted was seeds, then buy more packets of seeds. Don’t even plant them. But that’s not what any farmer wants.

It dies as a seed to spring forth as a plant. Even though the seed is dead; it is “resurrected” or brought to life in the plant.

The plant is something completely different from the seed, yet it’s not. There is continuity between the seed and the plant.

So what do we learn from this illustration? You don’t get a new body until the old one dies. You will have a better body someday. Your physical body is the bare seed of what will be when you are raised. Why do we need a better body? Since this entire world is under the curse of sin, even our bodies must be redeemed.

Christ’s resurrected body is the pattern for ours. It was the same, but different. Christ’s resurrection body was His body, but it was also different. His Resurrection body went through walls; it appeared out of nowhere. • Luke 24:15 (NKJV), So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. • Luke 24:36 (NKJV), Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, “Peace to you.” • John 20:19 (NKJV), Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

So it was different. However, His followers could recognize Him. • Luke 24:31 (NKJV), Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight.

So there was continuity between Christ’s physical body and His resurrection body.

Verses 35-38 indicate that your resurrection body will be different, but still recognizable as you. It will change, but still be you. You will still be you, but with a much better body. Paul didn’t believe that the same body you had at death is what is raised. It has continuity with your original body, but it is different. It’s the same body only…different.

Your loved ones that have died in Christ will still be your loved ones, but with much better bodies. And they’ll be recognizable. If you knew them in this life, you will know them in the next life.

I came across this online article, and it points out our tendency to idolize our kids' athletic abilities to the detriment of their and our spiritual lives. The author has a sense of humor in communicating his message. Read and enjoy.

Thank God Your Child is a Mediocre Athlete

I came across a blog from Desiring God ministries that I’ve linked to below on this topic, and it prompted me to let you know how my wife and I have tried to think through this issue. BTW, I’m going to switch between past and present tense somewhat incomprehensibly since two of our children are in college and the other two are in high school.

Our goal was for our kids to please God in how they related to the opposite sex. One of the best outcomes in our opinion was if our children developed friendships that were pure and holy. We didn’t want them to have regrets. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if your child could bring their spouse to meet an old high school romance and it wasn’t awkward—they didn’t have memories of sinning together? That was a scenario that we painted for our kids.

So I’m describing an ideal, and I am not embarrassed about holding out that ideal to my children. But the gospel teaches us that God takes messed up people, forgives their sins, and clothes them with Christ’s righteousness. Sinful failures in our relationships to the opposite sex don’t have to define us. Our identity in Christ is what defines us. God grants forgiveness to repentant sexual sinners. Praise God for that!

So what was our rule? Our kids weren’t allowed to have a dating relationship until they were able to get married. Our thought was that dating is for marriage. I’ve said that dozens of times to my children. So if you aren’t old enough to get married, then you aren’t old enough to date. Practically what that meant was they couldn’t have a dating relationship until they graduated from high school.

However, I’m not saying that the first person they date after high school should be whom they marry. No. Dating is for marriage, but that doesn’t mean that each dating experience should lead inevitably to marriage with that person. An adult might date several people less seriously and maybe a few more seriously before moving toward marriage with one particular person. Dating should be leading somewhere though. Even a bad date can help them on the road to marriage because they probably just learned some things that they don’t want in a future spouse. ;)

This is not the gospel. This is not biblically mandated. It’s an area of Christian liberty where we tried to help our kids make wise decisions. Of course we can’t prevent them from liking a particular person of the opposite sex nor would we even try to. But they couldn’t go on dates with that person. The only exceptions were a formal date like our school’s Junior-Senior Banquet because that is chaperoned and because it helps them learn how to properly relate to the opposite sex in a formal situation.

And even if our son/daughter had a girl/guy that they were really good friends with, we regularly ask them if they are looking at them as a good friend, which is okay, or a dating relationship, which isn’t. How would they know? Are they relating to the person in ways that they wouldn’t relate to a good friend of the opposite sex?

This doesn’t have to be everyone’s family rule. However, I do wonder why Christian parents are sometimes in such a rush to have their kids date. What’s the hurry?

Frankly I’ve seen enough Facebook posts to doubt that Christian teens are handling their dating relationships wisely while they’re in them, and the aftermath when they break up sometimes shows their misplaced values and immature search for identity. And you’re never going to convince me that a history of dating early and intensely and then breaking up has prepared a teen better for eventual Christian marriage than not dating would have. Seriously, can you name one spiritual benefit from dating in high school? Maybe you can. I’ve not thought of one. And I can think of several temptations dating could bring.

Our children are encouraged to have wholesome relationships with the opposite sex through school and church events or other group activities. They don’t need the pressure of finding a girlfriend or boyfriend in junior high or high school.

You are not helping your child find satisfaction in Jesus if even unintentionally you encourage them to find their identity in a boyfriend or girlfriend. Like I said, it’s not the gospel. It’s just something to think about.

Here’s the link to a well-written article on this topic from Desiring God Ministries.

I’ve been thinking about our annual theme this year from Hebrews 12:1-2—Run Light, Run Long, and Follow Christ. Specifically I’ve been thinking about running light. That’s a summary of part of Hebrews 12:1, “let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely” (ESV).

It’s not surprising to most of us that running light means laying aside sin. Some Christians’ spiritual life is on life support because they have indulged the flesh. There is little difference between them and their atheist neighbors. They have been sidelined by pornography, materialism, envy, bitterness, or idolatries of many different types. Running light means repenting of sin. But you expected that.

But running light also means laying aside every weight. These can be activities and interests that aren’t necessarily wrong, but weigh us down. We are so busy; we have so many things to do and most of them are obligations that were voluntary. Let me be clear. If you are too busy to attend church, then you are too busy. If you are too busy to serve in church, then you are too busy. Things have weighed you down, maybe even good things, but you are not running the Christian race like God wants.

So look at your life. What distracts you? What slows you down? What keeps you from church? What keeps you from service? Following Jesus means saying no to some good things so you can say yes to Jesus. God doesn’t want the hours you have left over after you’ve done what you want to do. He wants your whole life. Are you running light?