Monthly Archives: November 2014

“Meet Them Where They Are”

On Sunday, November 30, 2014, I was privileged to preach from Acts 13 during Thanksgiving weekend. If you are interested in reading the outline of my message, delivered at Waukee (Iowa) Community Church, “Meet Them Where They Are,” my notes follow.

“Meet Them Where They Are”

By Dr. Bob Stouffer

Waukee Community Church

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Opening

Several of us in this body have shared the Gospel with Muslims in Africa and the Middle East.

Obviously, we could not go into these situations without some evangelism training.

We had to understand what Muslims believe.

We had to understand the Muslim culture and the culture of each country.

We had to understand certain nuances of the Muslim language or tribal language, even if we weren’t fluent in Arabic, which we most certainly were not.

We had to understand what we believe.

We had to understand the Gospel.

And we had to understand how to bridge the gap between what we believe and the Muslims believed.

We had to meet people where they were, not where we believed they should be.

Such is the main idea of today’s passage in Acts.

Paul and Barnabas met people where they were, not where they believed the Jews and Gentiles should be.

So, as we tour through Acts 13, please pay careful attention to the main applicable point of today:

As believers in and followers of Christ, we, too, must meet people where they are, not where we think they should be.

Body of Analysis

Let’s better understand the context of Acts 13.

Luke, [the author], a first-century physician, walked away from his career and most likely surrendered the remaining years of his life to follow Jesus and to document the spread of [Christ’s] church.” (Jeremiah Study Bible)

Acts. . . .We are back in the Acts series. . .the Acts of the Apostles. . . . under the power of the Holy Spirit. . . .Luke refers to the influence of the Holy Spirit 55 times in Acts (Jeremiah Study Bible). One-third of Acts involves sermons or speeches. We encounter one of those messages in today’s passage.

 

Written around 62 A.D.

Paul. . .
Paul’s style of evangelism. . .

Paul met people where they were, not where he believed they should be. For instance, in another segment of Acts, Paul went to the Greeks and he said, “I see you are a religious person; you even have a monument dedicated to an ‘unknown god.’” Paul used that reality as a starting point for his evangelism. He proceeded to tell the Greeks about the “unknown God,” Jesus Christ!

Barnabas was the encourager to Paul and others. . . . “Son of Encouragement,” or “Son of Exhortation”. . . .

Imagine the scene of Acts 13 in your mind’s eye: “A synagogue service generally went like this: Opening prayers were offered, then there was a reading from the Law (the first five books of the Old Testament). Then a reading from the Prophets. Then, if there was an educated person present, they were invited to speak on subjects related to the readings.” (Guzik)

We must also understand the worldview of Jews in Paul’s time. Paul typically went first to the Jews in the synagogue.

“. . .the Jewish people believed that they were predestined for salvation by virtue of descent from Abraham, the idea that many Gentiles had been ‘ordained to eternal life’ (KJV) could be offensive” to the Jews. (Select Commentaries on Acts 13)

Please try tonderstand Paul’s audience at this time.   See the world through the filter of the Jews. No wonder many of them acted angrily to Paul and other Christian evangelists.

Listen to one commentator’s words:

“Many of the Jews “wanted to keep the division between Jew and Gentile, and if Jesus was to be the Messiah of ALL men, they wanted no part of Him. ‘They simply could not accept a teaching that opened such floodgates. For themselves and their adherents they could accept a message as God-sent and tolerate some change in their teaching and practice, but they could not endure that the Gentiles should be made equal with God’s ancient people.’” (emphasis added, Guzik and Williams in Guzik)

Another commentator said it this way:

“It must have sounded to [the Jews] like a compromise. All these years they had been maintaining their Jewish distinctness, keeping themselves clean from the impure, pagan lifestyle of the wider world. They had been true to the commandments which marked them out from the world full of idols all around them. They had suffered many things, mockery, social ostracism, sometimes physical abuse or even death, to be true to this heritage and this calling. And now – all these pagans surrounding them were going to come flooding into their world. . . . This was blasphemous nonsense! . . .and corresponding exactly to the reaction of the young Saul of Tarsus only a few years before. . . .” (emphasis in original, Select Commentaries on Acts 13)

Paul fully understood the point of view of the resistant Jews – he had been one of them prior to his conversation – so he was able to meet them where they were, not where he thought they should be.

We must also understand the worldviews of Gentiles in Paul’s time, which were markedly different than the worldview of the Jewish people.

Gentiles were surrounded by idols and idol-worshippers. Non-biblical worldviews abounded. In that respect, the culture of the Gentiles of the 1st Century church is no different than the 21st Century church. Some Gentiles had been drawn by God to Himself, and they respected the lifestyles and commitments of the Jewish people.

The Gospel was “good news” to Gentiles, but in many respects also very startling. “God’s surprise move is that through his incarnate and risen Son Jesus he makes salvation blessings available to all who will believe, INCLUDING GENTILES – apart from the law! For legalistic, ethnocentric Jews and even for God-fearing Gentiles this might indeed be unbelievable, perhaps even outrageous and offensive.” (emphasis added, Select Commentaries on Acts 13)

The Scriptures

So, such is the context of Acts 13:13-52. Let’s look at those verses more carefully now.

Acts 13:13-52

. . .

Paul’s message is eerily reminiscent of Stephen’s message in Acts 7. But there were important differences.

In Acts 7, Stephen had “wanted to demonstrate that the old era with the temple and the law of Moses had given way to the new.” (NIV Commentary on Acts)

“Stephen had concentrated on Abraham, Joseph, and Moses. . . .” (Select Commentaries on Acts 13)

Stephen had focused on “Israel’s rejection of God-sent leaders. . . .” (ESV Study Bible)

In this passage of Acts 13, Paul made his way swiftly through the early years to arrive at the [monarchies] of Saul and David.” (Select Commentaries on Acts 13)

Paul stops at David “as a classic penitent, dependent on God’s grace for forgiveness. . . But the point is not that the story stopped at David [the king of Israel].” The point of the story is that “the true King, the ultimate King, ‘great David’s greater son,’” would come from the line of David – JESUS CHRIST! (Select Commentaries on Acts 13)

Whereas Stephen had focused on “Israel’s rejection of God-sent leaders, “. . .Paul stressed God’s grace in providing the leaders [AND THE LEADER, Jesus Christ].” (emphasis added, ESV Study Bible)

Old Testament truth was fulfilled in the New Testament – in the person of Jesus!

“Paul’s strategy is a challenge to us all, to understand our audience well enough to know how to tell them the story in a way they will find compelling, how to set up signposts in a language they can read. . . .Stick with the story. . . .Learn it, live in it, live from it. Don’t imagine you can possess it. Let it possess you.” (Select Commentaries on Acts 13)

On this Thanksgiving weekend, we must be thankful for the Gospel:

  • Creation
  • Sin
  • A sinless Savior
  • Death/Justification/Propitiation
  • Resurrection

“The resurrection means that Jesus truly is the unique Son of God (Psalm 2:7), and it proves he was utterly holy even in His work on the cross (Psalm 16:10)

Applications

Let’s speak now of applications in our own lives today.

Matthew 28-18-20 details “The Great Commandment,” not “The Great Negotiable.”

Jesus said, “GO.”

We think people will “COME” to Waukee Community Church. . . .

The unvarnished reality is that we love us more than others love us! Go where the people are!

Understand what you believe. Understand the Gospel.

Remember B.L.O.S.M.?

The B. of B.L.O.S.M. stands for BELIEVE. Such was one of the purposes of NT60. . . .

You must know what you believe. And L.ove. And O.bey. And S.erve. And M.ultiply! One of our chief values at Waukee Community Church is “BOLDLY GOING.” Go boldly!

B.L.O.S.M.!

Be among non-Christians.

Invest in relationships with non-Christians.

Understand non-Christians and what they believe. This is a tall-order.

  • . .
  • Secular Humanists. . .
  • Pluralists/Universalists. . .
  • Muslims, Buddhists, New Agers, Mormons, Wiccans, etc.

Meet people where they are, not where you believe they should be.

Build bridges from your beliefs to the beliefs of non-Christians.

Share the Gospel. Plant the seeds. Water and fertilize. God will bring the increase. You do not do the saving.   God does.

Closing

At the beginning of my second journey to Yemen, a 30-year-old American missionary pointed out a truth which bears repeating today.

Many people say that it is enough for non-believers to see Christians engaged in what is known as “lifestyle evangelism.” The idea of lifestyle evangelism is that we will live our lives before men and women in such a way that they will be drawn to Christianity.

Lifestyle evangelism is not enough.

We must speak/preach/teach the Gospel, this young man reminded us.

We live in a biblically illiterate culture. Even Christians who know Jesus as Lord and Savior are not knowledgeable of the Scriptures.

Approach different audiences differently. Different person, different approach.

Meet people where they are. Not where you think they should be.

Help them move from where they are to where we ALL should be as Christians – conforming to the likeness of Jesus Christ.

Evangelize AND disciple!   One commentator calls this “evange-sipleship”! One without the other is incomplete Christian living.

Do all of this not just on Sunday morning!
Do all of this every moment of every day of your entire life on this earth!

Closing Prayer

Let’s pray. . .

Resources

Guzik, David. Online Commentary on Acts 13.

The Holy Bible. English Standard Version. ESV Study Bible. 2001.

Jeremiah, David. The Jeremiah New King James Study Bible. Nashville, Tennessee: Worthy Publishing, 2013.

NIV Commentary on Acts.

Select Commentaries on Acts 13.

“50 Things You Need to Know About Satan and Demons”

If you would like to read my review of the book, 50 Things You Should Know About Satan and Demons, by Mark H. Muska, the commentary follows.

“50 Things You Need to Know About Satan and Demons”

By Mark H. Muska, Professor, The University of Northwestern-St. Paul

Baker Publishing Group of Bethany House

Minneapolis, Minnesota

2014

Summary and Review by Dr. Bob Stouffer, Principal, Oskaloosa Christian School

I believe in Satan, demons, hell, and spiritual warfare.

If you are a believer in and follower of the Lord Jesus Christ — but don’t believe in Satan, demons, hell, and spiritual warfare — you are not reading your Bible carefully.

We take two major faulty approaches to the spiritual realm.  We either (1) deny its existence or (2) live in fear of a power which is still overshadowed by the power of God.

I fashion myself to be a student of spiritual warfare.  I have read about it in the Bible and in commentaries by gifted researchers/communicators.  The Holy Spirit has illuminated truths about such warfare to me.  I have experienced the warfare directly.

And, now, I have discovered a new resource which EVERY Christian should read:  50 Things You Need to Know About Satan and Demons, by Mark H. Muska, a Professor at The University of Northwestern St. Paul (2014).

This book reads VERY fluently.  I was able to read it in just a few hours.

I have confidence in the content, because Muska obviously mapped an outstanding analysis on biblical truth; he details basically every major biblical writing on Satan, demons, demon possession, Jesus’ healing — and in such an excellent flow of analysis.  As I am reading commentaries, I can sometimes fall into the temptation of reading through familiar Scriptures, but I could not do so with 50 Things, because the verses and analysis are so inextricably intertwined, reinforcing each other.

Muska accomplished what I always encouraged my high school English students to attempt with writing.  He narrowed his subject to a manageable depth and breadth, and then he skillfully presented a definite view of the spiritual realm.

His 50 topics were quite engaging.  Passages of Scripture were expertly embedded.  The Gospel was “preached” throughout the book, and someone who does not believe in Jesus really is without excuse in responding to the call for salvation on multiple occasions.  Muska is extremely responsible in his exegesis of passages, making no faulty conclusions.  He interprets texts accurately and leaves room for multiple interpretations when the Bible is not definitive on a subject.  In particular, Muska effectively confronts one of THE most common objections to Christianity: “How can a kind, loving God send anyone to a place like hell?”  That “chapter” is worth the price of the book alone.

Muska’s book caused me to reflect even more on my beliefs about hell.  Many Christian do not believe in a literal hell.  I do believe, because the Bible is replete with descriptions of an actual physical place, and Jesus taught often about hell when He was on this earth.

Randy Alcorn has written THE definitive analysis of heaven in his book, Heaven.  I wish Muska would expand his analysis of the spiritual realm by presenting a counterpoint to Alcorn’s book in a book entitled, Hell.  Musca clearly has the necessary intellect, knowledge, research base, writing ability, and dependence upon the Holy Spirit to write such a book.

I believe ALL human beings are “everlasting” beings.  I do not believe in the theology of annihilationism, the belief that the end of our earthly existence is the end of our existence.  In other words, even after our earthly deaths, we WILL live forever — either in heaven or in hell.  I believe heaven and hell are real place places.  I believe heaven is a place of blessing, where I will live forever in the presence of God.  I believe hell is a place of eternal suffering — for those who do not know and follow Jesus as Lord and Savior of their lives.  Hell is a place of eternal separation from God.  An omnipresent God has removed His presence from those in hell.  That would be punishment enough.  But the Bible also obviously talks about suffering which comes from the fires of hell.  I believe the fire is close to unbearable.  I believe the fire and smoke are relentless for eternity.  And I believe the worst part of the suffering comes from COMPLETE DARKNESS.  Fire and smoke and heat and suffering are present, but pitch blackness prevents visual contact with anyone or anything.  Can there be any worse punishment, living in complete darkness, tortured by these torturous elements?!

If you are interested in learning about the hidden world of spiritual warfare — for the first time, or as an expert in this realm — this book is for you.  You will not be disappointed.  The reading will be well worth your time.

Eighth Grade Visitation Day at Pella Christian (Iowa) High School!

I accompanied the 8th graders for the annual 8th grade visitation day at Pella Christian High School on Tuesday, November 25, 2014.  Parents may be interested in what the students experienced on that day.  My summary of the morning activities follow.

Pella Christian High School Eighth Grade Visitation Day
Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Summary Notes and Editorializing by Dr. Bob Stouffer, Principal, Oskaloosa Christian School

The fifteen eighth graders of The Oskaloosa School for Christian Instruction (OSCI) received a warm greeting from Pella Christian High School Student Council (StuCo) members at 9:30 a.m.

Homemade chocolate chip cookies and juice were served by the renowned Bonnie Van Wyngarden!

Students from the K-8 schools (OSCI, Newton, Peoria, Pella Christian Grade, Central Iowa, and Sully) were integrated in small groups with student council leaders.

We attended the high school chapel with all of the ninth through twelfth graders in the Vermeer Auditorium.  The student-led chapel featured lead worshippers for singing, the reading of Scriptures, and narratives about thanksgiving.   Corrie and Betsy ten Boom’s experiences in the German concentration camp highlighted the ability to be thankful in ALL circumstances.  A special video featured Pella Christian High School students declaring the people and events for which they are thankful at this time.

The eighth grades spread throughout the auditorium, answering PCHS trivia questions posed by the StuCo students.

The groups were released for tours of the building, including several visits in classrooms.

The students returned to the auditorium for closing activities.

Darryl De Ruiter, Principal, addressed the audience.  He asked, “Who are you?  Who are you becoming?”  Mr. De Ruiter recited the mission statement and the ways that Pella Christian High School is able to help student understand who they are and what they are becoming.   He continued, “High school is a time when you start to figure out who you are today and who you hope to become.  What is God doing to call you to unique service to the world.  You don’t figure those things out alone.  You do those things with your classmates and teachers and friends and parents.  You are the Class of 2019.”

Mr. Van Kooten, Guidance Counselor, offered words to the eighth graders as well:  “I would like to tell you two unique things about Pella Christian High School.  Our communities are somewhat homogeneous.  You are living in a world which is increasingly diverse.  You will be working alongside people who are increasingly diverse.  The world is bigger than Central Iowa.  We started an international program here, and there are lots of interesting people and cultures are represented at PCHS.  Sixteen (16) of the 260 students from other countries.  That gives you a remarkable opportunity to interact with people from different cultures and viewpoints.  Another unique thing about Pella Christian High School is Winterim.  After Christmas break, you jump into Winterim.  As a freshman, you will go on a trip, or you will take one class in the morning and one class in the afternoon.  All of the names of the classes are posted on the wall in the lunch room (photography, floral design, auto mechanics, natural resources, future of farming, etc.  Winterim classes are a lot of fun).  That will be something new for you at Pella Christian High School.

Following Mr. De Ruiter’s and Mr. Van Kooten’s comments, student panelists answered questions about the high school.

How much homework should we expect?  During freshman year, about an hour.  During the sophomore year, the homework picks up; perhaps you will work some nights until 10:00 p.m.  During junior and senior year, homework varies with the classes.  The workload isn’t too bad, as long as you pay attention in class and hunker-down at home.

What are some activities you may not know about?  Mock Trial, clay target shooting in the spring, bowling, Knowledge Bowl, student council, drill team, forensics, cheerleading for boys and girls, Caleb Crew (before-school Bible study), wrestling with Newton, swimming with Pella Public, or an activity which you can come up on your own.

How are the lunches?  Awesome!  I love Bonnie’s soups and unlimited spaghetti.  Bonnie is the head cook.  She also leads Caleb Crew, providing a breakfast of homemade rolls and juice.  She is awesome.

What are some of the all-school activities?  Chapel, intramurals over the Noon hour, and student council-sponsored homecoming in January (which includes spirit week, dress-up days, fun activities, competions between classes, class displays, basketball on Friday night).

How was it adjusting from a small school?  One girl:  “I came from Osky.  Only 4 others came with me.  I got involved in different activities.  Talk to others.  People are really nice here.  Don’t be afraid to talk to people.”  Another girl:  “You don’t necessarily look as though your classmates are from other schools.  Don’t get nervous that you won’t get to know everyone.  You’ll get very comfortable with everyone.”  Yet another girl:  “Try new things.”

What are some of the intramurals?  Pickle ball, basketball, softball, chess, checkers, ping pong, ultimate frisbee, speedball (a mix between basketball, soccer, and hockey — it’s pretty crazy and awesome)

How long are class periods?  For the most part, each class is 43 minutes.

What happens if you get a detention?  One young man:  “I wouldn’t know; I’ve never had one.”  Another young man:  “I won’t tell you, so, hopefully, you will be so scared that you won’t get one.”

How much time between classes?  3 minutes, which is plenty of time to get anywhere in this building.  You should also know that you’ll rotate through lunch shifts, eating with whoever you have in your fourth period class.

Are there breaks?  Yes.  One break between 2nd and 3rd period — 6 minutes long, plus 3 minutes before and 3 minutes after.  After lunch break is good for chilling with people.

Are there tardies or workrooms?  Yes, you have to serve detentions for tardies.   There are no workrooms; you get a zero if you don’t get your work done.  Sometimes, teachers will be lenient.  Do your homework.

How are classes divided by grade level?  Ninth and 10th graders can be together.  There is a transition of World History from 10th grade to 9th grade this year, so that class is mixed.  You will still have some mixed classes.  It may depend upon the level of math.  Choirs and bands are mixed.  Sciences are mixed.  Juniors and seniors are often mixed.

How many free periods?  During freshman year, you have 3 open periods for electives.  4 open periods for sophomores.  3 for your junior year.  2 for the senior year.  You have to take at least 7 periods.

We dined on an AMAZING Thanksgiving lunch of turkey, dressing, scalloped potatoes, dressing, yams, green beans, wheat buns, salad, chocolate milk, and frosted pumpkin cake.

“Freedom Is Not Free”

What a privilege to be asked by Steve Boender to be one of his several guests at the Iowa FAMiLY Leader fundraising event featuring Dr. Ben Carson as speaker at the Airport Holiday Inn in Des Moines, Iowa on Saturday, November 22, 2014.   Steve is a member of the IFL Board, providing godly leadership for this strong and influential organization, representing Oskaloosa and Iowa so very well.  Note the lower-case i in “FAMiLY.”  You and “I” must humble ourselves and work in concert as a family as the body of Christ.  If you are interested in my summary of Dr. Carson’s message, “Freedom Is Not Free,” please read on.

Iowa FAMiLY Leader Fundraiser
Airport Holiday Inn
Des Moines, Iowa
Saturday, November 22, 2014

“Freedom Is Not Free”
By Dr. Ben Carson

Summary Notes of Dr. Bob Stouffer, Principal, Oskaloosa Christian School

Candy and I are delighted to be here with you in Iowa.

The family is an important concept for the strength of America.  This organization represents family and faith.

The family will save America.  The people of faith will save America.

I’ve received tremendous reactions everywhere I’ve gone.  People are waking up.

As a youngster, I dreamed of being a doctor.  I enjoyed going to the doctor.  I loved hearing about missionary doctors at church.  They seemed like the most noble people on earth.

I grew up in dire poverty.  Missionary doctor was out.  Psychiatry doctor was in!  I was going to be rich.  People came to me in high school.  I’d stroke my chin.  I’d say, “Tell me about your momma.”  At medical school, I met psychiatrists.  It wasn’t what I wanted to do.

God gives every person special gifts and talents.  I had a lot of eye-hand coordination.  I was careful.  I loved to dissect things.  That’s how I came up with the idea to be a neuro-surgeon.

What an incredible privilege as a physician to be put in charge of the most important thing of a person — an adult’s life or a child’s life.  Your life and your health are the most important things you have.  Your life and health are valuable.  I met important people at Johns Hopkins.  The wealthy people would have gladly given their last penny to have good health.

That’s why I railed against the Affordable Health Care Act, because the most important thing of your life should be in your hands, not in the hands of bureaucrats.  Sometimes, we have to be suspicious.  Just because they say it’s true doesn’t mean it’s true.

I retired last year.  I thought I’d have a traditional retirement.  We bought a home in Florida on a golf course.  I bought an organ.  I wanted to learn several foreign languages on Rosetta Stone.

That all changed with the Prayer Breakfast.  I’ve had an outpouring of support.

We need to wake up to what is going on.  Our financial stability is being undermined.  We the people are the ones who need to change that.

Many people give disclaimers.  Here’s my disclaimer.  I am not politically correct.  It’s not because I’m mean.  I care about other people’s feelings.  But I believe in this country.  I believe in the founding principles of this country, including freedom of speech and freedom of religion.  To deny those rights is un-American.  I will not submit to the PC police, who have had a profound effect on all of us.

If you’re pro-life, they say you are anti-women.  What kind of sense is that?  When that baby is in the womb, she is in the safest place of the world.

If you’re pro-traditional family, they say you’re a homophobe.  How are those two things related?  It means you are FOR the family.  The homosexual community can’t live with that, and they have to demonize you.

If you’re white, and you oppose a progressive black person, you’re racist.  They don’t know what to call me.  I’m pro-life, pro-traditional marriage, and pro-family.

As a child, I was deathly afraid of dogs.  When I was 8, a man told me dogs would not bother me, if I showed no fear.  I wasn’t sure about that!  I decided to test the theory.  Rusty was barking and snarling.  I thought it was a mistake [to test this theory] when I saw him.  He ran up to me, sniffed me, and ran away.  I didn’t respond.  That’s what we need to do with the PC police — ignore them.

There were trials and tribulations on my way to realizing my dream.  My father was a bigamist.  We were poor.  Rats, sirens, murders in Detroit.  I hated poverty as a kid.  My mother was out working extremely hard.  She’d leave a 5 in the morning and get home after Midnight, making every attempt to stay off public welfare.  She never felt sorry for herself.  She never made excuses.

That’s one of the most important thing she did for me and my brother.  She taught us to never make excuses.  My brother became a rocket scientist.  We need to teach our kids not to make excuses.  We need to take responsibility for our issues.  People are wallowing in excuses and not doing anything.

My mother knew how to stretch a dollar.  She’d go to Goodwill.  She patch up holy jeans.  We’d pick corn, apples, or beans in a 3-for-1 deal.  I am positive that, if she were the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, we would not have a budget deficit!

In 5th grade, I was a horrible student.  I thought I was dumb.  My classmates thought I was dumb — the dumbest person in the world.  One day, we had a math quiz.  I got a zero. I mumbled my score.  The teacher thought I had gotten a good score.  The girl behind me said, “He said ‘none.'”  I had to sit there as though it didn’t bother me.  It bothered me.

The way I was then reminds me of students and many adults today.  This is the information age, and 20% of our young people do not graduate from high school.  Knowledge is power.  Knowledge and education are so vitally important.  Education makes the difference in the kind of life you will have.  If you get a good education in this country, you can chart your future.  Our freedom and way of life are dependent upon the education of our populace.  Our founders understood that.  They knew slick politicians and duplicitous media would be our country’s undoing.

We used to have the best education system in the world.  What was the explanation?  Alexander de Toqueville studied our government and educational system, which produced second graders who were completely literate.  Only the aristocracy in Europe could excel in education.  We were people who knew how to do things.  We knew how to invent things when problems occurred.

We declared our independence in 1776.  One hundred years later, we were the number-one country in the world.  That doesn’t come by accident.  We believed in responsibility.  We were people of faith.  When de Toqueville finished his analysis, he said, “America is great because America is good.  When America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

My wife and I have co-authored two books.  Our books have become #1 best-sellers in spite of the media trying to suppress sales.  In one of those books, we looked at an eighth grade exit exam, and the learning was rigorous.  We have dumbed things down today.

We have to learn how to use technology to educate students.  We need to get caught-up.  Education must be a priority.

My mother knew education was important.  She saw kids who read a lot, rather than watch TV all of the time.  And you don’t have to have a Ph.D. to talk to God.  We read two books a week and did reports on each book.  I started knowing stuff no one else knew.  I went from the bottom to the top of the class.

People started coming to me for help.  I began noticing the person who has the most to do with your life is YOU.  I began forsaking those who were naysayers.  I didn’t have time for that.  I was too busy learning.  I wanted to be successful in life.  It’s a can-do attitude that made America great.  We’re replacing it with a what-can-you-do-for-me attitude.  It’s not too late, and we all should be playing a part in doing that.

Things began going well for me.  Rapidly, I progressed through my career.  I pushed the envelope.  I did things other people didn’t do.  We developed a technique to improve the growth of dwarves.  It was controversial.  I revealed the data.  Not a single patient died or had a significant complication.  Data changes people’s minds.  That doesn’t happen in politics!

I had conviction that what I was doing was right, and it made all of the difference in the world.

One day, I was in the operating room, and I got a call from the lawyer of someone who said I was the father of her child.  I got my lawyer involved.  It escalated.  Then, it died.  It was gone.  This woman thought I was an easy mark.  I knew something they didn’t know.  I knew the only person I had ever slept with was my wife.

Isn’t that the reason the good Lord gave us such guidelines.  He loved us.  He didn’t want our lives to be complex.  If you love your children, you give them guidelines.  You want them to get the most out of their lives.  God is not tyrannical.  The truth is “how can anyone be so loving”?  So we need to be more patient with other people.  Left-wing zealots can be vicious. When I interact with these people, I think, That used to be a cute little baby.

When I was a terrible student, I had the same brain as when I was a great student.  We need to use our brains to solve the problems that plague our country.

This week, immigration is in the fore-front.  In one sense, it would be wonderful to invite millions of people to our country, but we need to be practical.  There are people in dire poverty.  Don’t we have an obligation to extend a helping hand to them before we reach out to people who are in this country illegally?  That’s not to say there is not mechanism for legal immigration and citizenship.  Reverse the polarity of the magnet — all of the things that are pulling them in here — and we need to secure the borders.  The President has decided to grant amnesty to millions of people.

The other huge problem is our $18 trillion national debt.  You can get your mind around $10 million dollars.   We can’t leave this debt to the generations behind.  We’re talking about multiple generations.  The debt won’t get to subsequent generations, because the debt is unsustainable.

Know who your representatives are.  Know how they vote.  If they are voting to increase the debt, vote them out of office.  It’s as simple as that.  The biggest effect will be to revive the economic engine in our country by revising the tax code.  People don’t go into business to support the government.  They go into business to make money.  A smart government creates an atmosphere which stimulates growth of the economy.  It’s not that complex.  I wonder if politicians want to keep the economy depressed so people can be dependent upon the government.  We also need to get rid of unnecessary regulations.  Regulations encircle businesses and schools.  We have to get the right people in office, and I think you’ll see an explosive economic growth.

We also need to be compassionate.  Compassion is not patting poor people on the head and giving them everything.  That is not compassion.  That is making people dependent.  That’s one of the most cruel things you can do to someone.   Instead, we should be thinking of the mechanisms to invest in human beings, so they can be productive members of society — in control of their own lives — people who will teach that to the next generation.  Provide mechanisms for all people to excel.

Energy is an issue.  This country has been blessed with tremendous energy.  Next year, we will be the #1 country for energy production, with fracking on private lands.  Can you imagine what our country would be like if we produced energy from public lands?!

Look at ISIS.  ISIS is a serious problem.   It’s a serious problem because of America.  George Washington assembled a rag-tag militia who defeated the most powerful, professional army in the world — the British.  It’d be like Cuba defeating the United States today.  What’s going on?  The Revolutionaries knew what they believed, and they were willing to die for it.  The British had no real convictions.  Today, you have ISIS.  They have conviction.  They believe they are right.  America is much more powerful, but we’re in the process of throwing away the values which made us great — for the sake of political correctness.  I don’t think it’s too late.

We are a Judeo-Christian nation.  Don’t let people tell you what you can or cannot believe.  We’ve got to stop letting people bully us.  I’m going to say, “Merry Christmas!”  Secular progressives are attempting to control us and to control our speech.  They can weaken our resolve and impose government-based systems.  The government is supposed to conform to the will of the people, not the people conforming to the will of the government.  That’s going to require courage.  In the long run, it will be worth the pain. What if our ancestors had not been courageous?  Nathan Hale said, “My only regret is that I have only one life to give to my country.”  Patrick Henry said, “Give me liberty, or give me death!”  The men on Normandy Beach stepped over the bodies of dead soldiers [on the way to a bloody victory].  Why?  They cared about us — you and me.   They cared about our future.  This is what we should recognize now.

Most of us in this room can go about our lives and not care about anyone but ourselves, but what happens to our sons and daughters, or grandsons and granddaughters?

Ours is the land of the free and the land of the brave.  You cannot be free unless you are brave.  Freedom is not free.  You have to work for it every day.

Thank you.

“The Powerful One”

I experienced a dandy of a service and message at Waukee Community Church on Sunday, November 16, 2014!  I am a compulsive-obsessive note-taker, so you may want to consider my summary below, including questions for self-reflection.
“The Powerful One”
By Pastor David Brooks
Waukee Community Church
Sunday, November 16, 2014
Text:  Acts 12:1-24
Summary and Editorializing by Bob Stouffer
INTRODUCTION
We sometimes feel powerless in life, but we must realize that God is all-powerful.  The book of Acts is about God building His Kingdom through the power of His Holy Spirit in His church.  In Acts 1:8, Jesus had given this power to the church, so the first Christians could witness to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and all of the ends of the earth, regarding the power of the Gospel.  At the point in Acts 12, the leaders of the early Christian church seem completely powerless.  However, when we feel restrained and powerless, we must remember that God has all power.
HEROD HAD POWER IN THIS WORLD.
Herod manipulated others and events.  The Roman Emperor had given Herod all of the power he wanted in Israel.  The Jews had become tired of Christians, so Herod killed Christians to make Jews like him.  Is this possible today?  Of course.  We manipulate events and people for power.
JAMES AND PETER HAD LITTLE POWER IN THE WORLD.
James had experienced the power of God on the day of Pentecost, and then, after a very short time period, he was dead.  Peter was doing great things for God in the power of the Holy Spirit, and then he was in prison.  There was nothing Peter could do in jail on the night of his trial and execution.  What did he do that night?  He was sleeping!!  The angel had to wake him up!  Peter knew God.  He rested in God’s plan.  The angel freed Peter and walked him to freedom!  Herod had plans.  The Jews had plans.  But neither Herod nor the Jews understood God’s plan!  Satan did not want the church to advance the Kingdom of God at this time.  The same is true today.  But God is patiently using obstinate people — His church — to accomplish His purposes.  Kingdom work is difficult [and often inconvenient].  Life doesn’t go according to our plans.  God’s plans are better plans than our plans.  God is in control.  God has power.
RHODA HAD NO POWER.
She was a servant girl of a Christian family.  She could control nothing.  These Christians were afraid.  James had been executed.  They believed Peter would be killed.  The church was praying at night for Peter.  They were seeking God’s power!
GOD HAS ALL OF THE POWER OF THE UNIVERSE.
He freed Peter!!  God freed Peter on the Passover, just as the Lord had freed the Jews in Egypt, and just as Jesus — the Passover Lamb — freed us all from the power of sin and death!!  Jesus defeated Satan at the cross.  We have the hope of Jesus’ resurrection!  God’s plan is more powerful than Herod, James, Peter, Rhoda, or any other person!  God’s plan is bigger than ours!  He has an overarching plan of redemption!  And God wins!!  Herod was angry, and he pouted.  He sought men who would worship him.  But Herod was struck down by God, he suffered, he died, and he was eaten by worms.  God had the power.  The false “god” was slain and powerless.  The true God — Jesus — was slain — but He had the power!
CONCLUSION
If people do evil to you, or you are struggling through another major challenge in your life, and you think you have no power, remember God has all power.  God uses the powerless to make His power known.  The story is not about us.  The story is about God.  Don’t focus on your ability to run your own life under your own power.  Focus on God’s power to work in and through you.  Let God use you in spite of you!  We think we all have power, but only God has all of the power!  We know the all-powerful one!!
QUESTIONS
  1. When have you felt powerless in life, seeking to lift yourself up in your own power?  What happened?
  2. When have you felt powerless in life and seen God lift you up in His power?
  3. How have manifestations of God’s power changed you?

Ask Not What Your Pastors Can Do for You!

Central Reformed of Oskaloosa is welcoming new Lead Pastor Jon Nelson and his family within the month, so the church needed pulpit supply, as they awaited their Pastor. I was only too happy and honored to answer in the affirmative to their invitation for me to preach on Sunday, November 2, 2014. In my message, I intended to make the path straight for Jon, Shelly, Mary, Josie, David, and Hannah Nelson; but the gist of this preaching is also germane to congregations with Pastors of any tenure. If you would like to read the outline of my message, “Ask Not What Your Pastors Can Do for You!” please read on.

“Ask Not What Your Pastors Can Do for You!”

By Dr. Bob Stouffer

Central Reformed Church

Oskaloosa, Iowa

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Opening

Dr. Glenn Brooke, a good friend of mine, recently wrote, “

“Some years ago, I interviewed a B-17 pilot. He flew dozens of bombing missions over German-occupied territory in World War II. He told me that sometimes the navigation equipment would become unreliable in the extreme cold. . .or there was so much cloud cover that they couldn’t see the ground. It was especially difficult to find their targets at night.

‘But,’ he said, ‘We always knew we were over the target when the flak started.’”

Flak [n.]

Meaning. . .

1.

anti-aircraft fire, especially as experienced by the crews of combat airplanes at which the fire is directed – literally, and, figuratively. . .

2.

criticism; hostile reaction; abuse (http://www.dictionary.com)

Dr. Brooke continued:

“It’s not a perfect indicator in. . .leadership work, but, when the flak starts – and it always will, if you are doing significant work – you are probably on-target.”

Satan does not want to relinquish territory. He will engage in spiritual battle to weaken the work of the local church.

Your church is looking forward with great anticipation to the leadership of a new Pastor.

It’s not a matter of IF Pastor Jon Nelson will receive flak; it’s a matter of WHEN. Hopefully, when the flak comes, it will come from without and not within. And you will be united as a church in protecting him spiritually.

So my purpose today is to remind your congregation about your responsibilities, as Pastor Jon and his family enter your body.

Text of Message

Allow me to set the stage for my applications by quickly touring through the text.

1 Corinthians 12

. . .

Applications

As Jon Nelson joins your body, consider these important responses from ALL of you:

#1

Take on the “it’s all about God” heartset, and take off the “it’s all about me” perspective. Ask not what your Pastors can do for you. Ask what YOU can do for your Pastors.

Well-known Willow Creek Lead Pastor Bill Hybels once said, “I’ve learned that you can’t possibly build a God-honoring church with a congregation full of consumers.” (in The Volunteer Revolution, from Allison)

My Pastor is a wise man. He once said, “Too many Christians spiritualize their preferences.” Don’t “spiritualize your preferences.” Have you ever argued about hymns versus praise music?!

As Bill Allison so wisely points out, your church is not YOUR church. Your church is THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST (1 Peter 5:4).

#2

Pray for and with your Pastors. (1 Timothy 2:1-3)

Pray for your Pastors by name. Pray that the Pastors will flourish in relationship with God, spouse, children, and congregants – in that order. Recognize that the Pastor’s first ministry is to biological family.

Pick out a time or physical marker which prompts you to pray for the pastor by name.

Pray for and seek unity and unity of vision.

In your prayers, be open to the direction of the Holy Spirit, not the human spirit, which is so often shamelessly polluted by our own sinful desires.

#3

Affirm and encourage your Pastors.

Pastors get discouraged. According to one study of Pastors commissioned by Focus on the Family, “50 percent feel they are unable to meet the demands of the job; 90% feel they were inadequately trained to cope with the demands of ministry; and 33% have seriously considered leaving the pastorate.”

I have seen discouragement with my own Pastor. Thank God he

did not quit when he was up against spiritual warfare on multiple fronts.

#4

LOVE your Pastors.

 

How beautiful that I read in last week’s bulletin that you are collecting food, gift cards, and cash for the Nelson family, as you welcome them to Oskaloosa! Your bulletin asks you not to keep your excitement about their coming to yourself! And please make sure this enthusiastic love is not a one-time deal with any Pastor. Constantly shower your love on your Pastors.

#5

Respect, submit to, and FOLLOW your Pastors – AS THEY FOLLOW CHRIST. Leaders without followers are, as John Maxwell says, simply “taking a walk.” Follow your Pastors. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

As an Elder who has been frustrated with sheep who are not following reasonable Shepherds, I have been tempted to pull out the classic verses to rebuke these stubborn sinners with self-righteous indignance:

Hebrews 13:17 –

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (English Standard Verson)

1 Timothy 5:17 –

“Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.” (ESV)

Romans 13:1-3 –

1Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. (ESV)

#6

Hold your Pastors to high expectations. After all, they are charged by the Scriptures to be leaders above reproach.

The Elders should give regular feedback about the actions of the Pastors, including annual reviews.

Hold your Pastors to preaching the truth of sin, even when it hurts.

#7

Hold your Pastors to high expectations. . .HOWEVER, do not expect your Pastors to be perfect, and offer abundant grace and forgiveness to them.

A Focus on the Family survey of pastors revealed that 80% of pastors believe that pastoral ministry has affected their families negatively; 33% said that ministry is an outright hazard to family life; 24% are currently receiving marital counseling; and 94% feel pressure to have an ideal family.” (in Allison)

In this context, I am reminded of a story which rightly casts me as an imperfect Dad and leader.

Molly was 5. I was 32. She wanted to watch cartoons. I wanted to watch football. I got my way. I admit that I was a jerk. I had exasperated my daughter. She stomped into her room. Forty-five minutes later, she emerged with a handwritten note, which I hold in my hand today. The note read, “To Dad: I can’t believe I still love you. Molly.”

#8

A corollary to this point is don’t expect your Pastors’ spouses or children to be perfect; offer abundant grace and forgiveness to them.

Here, I am reminded of a story which casts God as a perfect Father and leader.

Hannah was 17. I was 54. She got pregnant out-of-wedlock. We were sad about this development, since her sin was diametrically-opposed to our beliefs, but we were insistent upon loving her and supporting her through the pregnancy and decision about adoption or raising the child. After all, Cheryl and I were SO PROUD of her for choosing life and not aborting the baby! Her pregnancy coincided with my church’s re-affirmation of me as an Elder. I stood broken before the congregation, willing to accept whatever their decision would be. They unconditionally loved and supported Cheryl, me, and Hannah. I was so appreciative of their response.

Be especially welcoming of and loving to Jon’s wife, Shelly.

“According to a survey by the Global Pastors Wives Network, ‘8 out of 10 pastors’ wives say they feel unappreciated or unaccepted by their husbands’ congregations.’ My hunch is that many of those congregations do appreciate and accept their pastors’ wives; the wives just [don’t] know it.” (Breault)

#9

Elders and ALL other church attenders must SHARE LEADERSHIP AND MINISTRY as shepherds of the flock. A Pastor cannot be at every bedside, funeral, wedding, and family crisis.

Here is where 1 Corinthians 12 applies to every person in this room, except for the babies!

Bill Allison has said, “Popular traditional unbiblical American thinking goes something like this: ‘I give money so the pastor can do the work of the ministry.’ Ephesians 4:11-12 biblically correct thinking is this: ‘We hire a full-time pastor so the pastor can train me to do the work of the ministry!’”

Bill Allison continued, “I can hear your American objections right now: ‘Wait a minute! Are you saying that I am to give money so my pastor can take a salary – to train me to do the work? I give money AND do the work?” CONGRATULATIONS! You have just discovered God’s Ephesians 4:11-12 plan for the function of your life and church!”

Bill Allison asked one final convicting question: “So based on this

biblical principle, I challenge YOU to answer this question. Can you honestly say: ‘I give freely of my time, talents, and spiritual gifts so that my pastor can be freed up to direct. . . the church – rather than doing the entire ministry alone’?”

Your church bulletin lists all of the paid and volunteer staff, indicating, finally, the ministers as “all the members of the congregation.” Are you?! I challenge you to look at that notation every Sunday, and never take the phrasing for granted.. Fulfill your calling, everyone!

#10

Make your pastors rest. Make sure they take a REAL day off each week. Make sure they take all of their vacation days. Establish a sabbatical policy, if you don’t already have one. Make sure your pastor has no more than three nights per week away from family. Buy gift certificates and volunteer to watch their kids for fancy date nights. Send them to Disneyworld! Do something just for the pastors’ spouses. (in Allison)

#11

PERSEVERE WITH your Pastor. One of my favorite Bible and church commentators, Thom Rainer, author of Simple Church, once said, “A church cannot attain health with a series of ‘revolving door’ pastors. Such is the plight of the great majority of churches in America. The constantly changing [pastoral] leadership engenders inconsistency of vision, undeveloped leaders, regular programmatic changes, and a power vacuum that is often filled by some of the biggest troublemakers in the church.” [in Allison] OUCH!

#12

COVENANT with your pastors that you commit to all of these expectations! I hold a couple typewritten covenants in my hand. Use one or the other, or develop one of your own.

Start EXTREMELY well. Continue WELL. Sustain the positive momentum of excellent relationships with him.

Closing

I started this message with the analogy of the flak which will come to Pastors when they challenge Central Reformed attenders to step outside their comfort zones, when they challenge Central Reformed attenders to “get off the playground and onto the battleground,” when they challenge Central Reformed attenders to truly follow Jesus every moment of every day.

Satan and demons will come at you with all of their force in battle. Encourage, affirm, love, pray for, support, and follow your pastors as your best offense and defense against the flak of the enemy.

Closing Prayer

Let’s pray. . .

Resources

Allison, Bill. “Seven Biblical Ways God Wants YOU to Support Your Pastor,” October, 2004, http://www.cadreministries.com.

Breault, Joanna. “The Pastor’s Wife Effect,” Christianity Today, 20 October 2014.

Brooke, Glenn. “Will God Talk with Machines?” LeadershipCraft newsletter, 23 October 2014.

The Holy Bible. English Standard Version. 2001.

Sande, Ken. “Strike the Shepherd.” Biblical Peacemaking. 2005.