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The Bankrupt States of America

Posted in Uncategorized on September 9, 2011 by gospel2live

There is something about a tragedy in the making that is difficult to look away from. Much like the proverbial train wreck, we don’t really want to see what is happening, and yet feel strangely compelled not to avert our eyes.

Last night, our president gave a speech calling for $447 BILLION dollars in tax cuts and spending increases to try to create jobs and deal with what is becoming a serious and chronic unemployment problem. Apart from the fact that most of us cannot begin to even fathom the reality of a number like 447,000,000,000, this announcement comes within days of yet another debt cap increase of $500 Billion that pushes our national debt to over $15 TRILLION dollars. Not counting unfunded liabilities (things like Social security and interest on our debt), our debt now exceeds our national Gross Domestic Product.

Can we still save life as we know it in America? I think it is doubtful. Mathematically, it would require huge increases in taxes combined with severe spending cuts (austerity measures) carried out over about 20 years. Even if our current politicians could agree to such a plan, we the people would need to continue to elect politicians who would continue to tax us heavily and spend very little on helping us for about 20 election cycles. How likely do you think THAT is?

In fact, look at what our politicians of BOTH parties are doing. After the midterm elections in 2010, they needed to raise the debt limit to give themselves permission to borrow more money to pay the governments bills. Democrats refused to agree unless there were additional spending promises to extend unemployment benefits. Republicans refused to budge unless there were an extension of the Bush tax cuts. So how did they resolve it? They reached an agreement to raise the debt ceiling (and thereby borrow more money!) by agreeing to BOTH reduce revenue (extend the tax cuts) AND increase spending! The latest offer by the president is more of the same — increase our spending AND decrease taxes. Looks like the magic money fairy is going to have to print a bunch of new money to pay for this too, right?

To put this in perspective, what our government is doing would be like a couple facing bankruptcy who decide the solution to their problem is to quit their jobs and take a lavish vacation to Las Vegas and put the whole thing on their credit cards!

Already our government and financial leaders are printing money (they call it quantitative easing) to be able to finance our government spending. Throughout history, every government that resorts to printing money brings hyperinflation to its people. Just like the store clerk has no confidence in bills I might try to print out in my basement, eventually government printed money becomes “just paper” and people stop accepting its value. This is when you see the pictures of people pushing wheelbarrows full of bills to buy a loaf of bread and a couple of eggs! While timing these events is nearly impossible, it is hard to believe that the whole system collapse is far off.

So what does this have to do with the Gospel and living a life as a follower of Jesus?

1. We turn to the Lord for our security, not money, possessions or the government. The Psalmist writes, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright.” (Ps. 20:7-8) We must never lose sight of the fact that God “steers the hearts of Kings.” He is absolutely in control — not wringing His hands in worry over how we are going to get out of this mess. We see throughout scripture that God works in and through the circumstances of life to the good of those who love Him and trust in Him and to the righteous judgment of those who reject Him. As American Christians, we tend to get caught up in finding our security in the prosperity of our nation. Being utterly dependent upon the Lord for our daily bread may be the best thing that ever happens to us.

2. We must at least consider the possibility that America is under God’s judgment.  While saying such things publicly will subject you to everything from ridicule to open rebuke, God DOES judge sin.  We, as a nation, have a lot to repent of.  We kill our unborn children. We openly endorse lifestyles such as homosexuality that are an offense to God.  We WALLOW in sexual sin and pornography — really a form of worshiping images made in the likeness of men and women.  We allow human trafficking right here under our noses.  We exploit the poor and the alien.  We worship the rich and famous and envy their often ill-gotten gains.  We pursue leisure and comfort rather than a right relationship to our Creator.  We pay lip service to God in socially appropriate services, but then worship and serve created things all the rest of the time.  Hebrews 12:5-6 states, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by Him.  For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”  If we fail to repent of our sin, God’s judgment is just, well, judgment!  But if we respond to the Lord with repentance, then tough times become a part of his loving discipline that enables us to share in his character — in particular, his holiness.  We need to call the church, and our nation, to repent of sin and to seek mercy from the Lord.

One of the ways that God judges nations is by sending spirits to kings and advisors that lie, confuse, and dull and dilute wisdom.  (See 1 Kings 22; Isaiah 19; Isaiah 29)  While we think of earthquakes, storms, fires and droughts as being the “typical” ways God judges, perhaps the constant stream of bickering, insanity, and propaganda out of our politicians and media is really the hand of God’s judgment.  After all, a people who would even allow most reality TV shows to air — let alone watch them and talk about them with all their friends — deserves to get the handed nothing more substantial than canned phrases and sound bites from their captors.  They may be lying and deceiving, but we tolerate it without thinking.  So who is really to blame?

3.  Prepare for tough times.  Most apocalyptic writers would at this point urge you to stock up on precious metals, canned goods and ammo.  The theory is that you have to take care of your own and be prepared to kill your starving neighbor if they come for your stuff.  Others will have plans for how you can become rich during hard times by taking advantage of the desperation of others.  However, the Gospel calls us to love our neighbors.  While it is certainly wise to have a supply of extra food on hand (especially facing a winter in northern Minnesota!), I think that the Gospel calls us to be prepared to feed our neighbors, not just fight them off or fleece them.  There are things that we can be doing right now that will enable us to help our entire neighborhoods to survive in extremely difficult times.  We need to be serving people right now.  Blowing snow, sharing produce, building relationships with the people in our neighborhoods allows us to have a foundation in place to talk if things get bad.  Besides, this is ALWAYS good Gospel work!  Think about who in your neighborhood is particularly vulnerable and prepare to take care of them if needed.  Bad times create good opportunities for us to share the love of Jesus by sacrificially and generously loving our neighbors.

4.  Draw near to God.  The Gospel gives the one who trusts in Jesus’ death and resurrection a sure hope that this life is as close to hell as we will ever get.  As we draw near to God and meditate on his great and precious promises, our earthly anxieties decrease and our great hope of being face to face in his presence increases.  Jesus told us not to fear the one who can kill the body, but rather to fear him who can cast both body and soul into hell!  If the world falls apart around us, we need to be able to give a reason for the hope that we have.  The nearer I draw to the Lord Jesus, the more likely that I will be able to face both adversity AND prosperity with grace.  Even is America were to cease to exist, the Kingdom of my primary citizenship cannot be shaken!  My King is Lord of all the universe and will never face an adversary who can threaten his rule and reign!  How can I fear anything when I am in HIS presence?

Let me close with Psalm 46:

God is our refuge and strength,

a very present help in trouble.

2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,

though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,

3 though its waters roar and foam,

though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,

the holy habitation of the Most High.

5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;

God will help her when morning dawns.

6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;

he utters his voice, the earth melts.

7 The Lord of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

8 Come, behold the works of the Lord,

how he has brought desolations on the earth.

9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;

he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;

he burns the chariots with fire.

10 “Be still, and know that I am God.

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in the earth!”

11 The Lord of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our fortress.

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Luke Tamu — Emmanuel Community Center Kenya

Posted in Emmanuel Community Center Kenya, Luke Tamu, Uncategorized with tags , , , on February 10, 2011 by gospel2live

For the past 3 years, I have had on-going contact with Luke Tamu of Emmanuel Community Centers of Kenya.  Luke Tamu has stayed in my home on numerous occasions.  Luke Tamu has attended several conferences and speaking engagements with me.  Luke Tamu has invited me to bring a team to minister at Emmanuel Community Center in Kenya with their orphanage and Bible College.  Although I have not traveled there personally, other American churches have now taken teams to do various ministry projects with Luke Tamu and Emmanuel Community Centers.

If you are contacted by Luke Tamu of Emmanuel Community Centers in Kenya to partner with them in ministry, there are several contacts that can help you to make a wise decision about how to best partner with Luke Tamu and Emmanuel Community Centers.  I would be happy to provide references to assist your decisions.  Email me at Kevin@CrossHillChurch.org and I can provide you with the contact information needed to properly research your ministry partnership with Luke Tamu and Emmanuel Community Centers.

This may not be the most eloquent post I have ever written, but it may serve Jesus Christ and His church better than any other I have written.  I wish something would have shown up on a google search when I first considered partnering with Luke Tamu and Emmanuel Community Center of Kenya….

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Church Planting in Northern Minnesota

Posted in Uncategorized on November 24, 2009 by gospel2live

The blog has not received a lot of attention again lately as we have been devoting our efforts to transitioning ministries.  As of December 31, I will be leaving Chisholm Baptist to begin church planting work with the Evangelical Free Church in Virginia, Minnesota.  We have been privileged to be a part of Chisholm Baptist for the last five years, but we are excited about the call that God has placed on us to plant.

St. Louis County is the least churched county in the state of Minnesota.  Only 4% of the population is involved in an evangelical church.  In the Virginia area, there are roughly 40,000 people and only about 2 evangelical churches with an average attendance over 100 people.

Starting in January, we will be raising support, doing evangelism and discipleship in the community, and preparing our core groups training curriculum.  We covet your prayers.  I have established a prayer group on Facebook that is open to the public.  You can find it at “Iron Range Church Plant Prayer Partners.”

Also, we are currently scheduling visits to churches in January and February.  If your church would like our family to come and share our vision for church planting, please send me an email for more information.  While we do need individuals and churches to support this work during its startup, we would be willing to visit churches even if they do not have financial resources to join our financial support team.

Prayerlessness in American churches tends to be the norm.  We want to establish a culture of prayer in the DNA of this new church.  All the strategy, resources, and talent in the world cannot cause the regeneration of a single soul.  Unless God moves, we labor in vain.  Therefore, we invite you to join us in praying that God would pour out his Spirit in Northeastern Minnesota to cause the spiritually dead to be born again, to create a movement of new and healthy churches, and transform the region to one of spiritual deadness to one of spiritual vitality.  We pray that every day the Iron Range would move towards a greater reflection of the rule and reign of Jesus Christ in our communities!

I’ll try to get back to regular posting soon, but until then I encourage you to pray for us as we try to prepare for the new work while leaving well from the old.

Individual Discipleship Plans

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on October 21, 2009 by gospel2live

Now there are a variety of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.  To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 1 Cor. 12:4-7

Becoming a Christian is a one-time event.  At some point in time, you must be born again.  When you were physically born, the doctor, a nurse, or your parents noted the date and time.  For those who are born again spiritually, there is also a point in time where God takes note that He has saved you – he has given you the faith to believe that Jesus died for your sins and He declares you righteous based on that faith.

However, the rest of the Christian life is clearly a process, not a one-time event.  Just like physical birth leads to various stages of growth, re-birth leads to spiritual growth.  Unlike physical growth which follows pretty set patterns and timeframes, our spiritual growth can often seem to be hit or miss.  We may go through great growth spurts where we mature by leaps and bounds, only to enter seasons where we seem to lose ground and become lethargic spiritually and seem to shrink farther away from maturity.  David Powlison describes this process by comparing it to a person who is using a yo-yo as he walks up the stairs – there is constant up and down motion, but it is ascending as it goes.  At least, we want it to be ascending!  We want to be able to see that there is progress being made and that we are becoming more spiritually mature, despite whatever struggles we may be engaging in at the present time.

So why do we sometimes fail to see any spiritual progress, either in self or in others?  First, growth follows birth.  One reason that spiritual growth does not take place is because there has been no spiritual birth.  Scripture admonishes us to examine ourselves to be sure that we are in the faith.  If you have seen no growth in your love for God, your ability to resist sin, and development of spiritual fruit, then you (or one you are concerned about!) may never have been born again.  It isn’t as much about praying a prayer as it is getting a new heart from God that is capable of loving God.

For those who have been born again, there can be problems in establishing consistent growth.  Sometimes a baby experiences “failure to thrive.”  In these circumstances, the child fails to gain weight, develop skills, or otherwise mature.  Often this is due to a lack of proper nutrition or nurturing.  In the same way, many Christians suffer from a spiritual “failure to thrive.”  They may regularly attend church, or even serve in some form of ministry, but they do not grow in their maturity.  They do not experience a growing love and passion for God, a progressive movement towards holiness, or a sense of their purpose and calling in ministry to the church or the world.

As our children grow, our parenting must change to accommodate their growth.  We make decisions about diet and activities so that they continue to grow to maturity.  As a church, we need to nurture people to provide for their individual growth.  This will NOT be a one size fits all plan!  Different people are at different maturity levels and are being given different gifts to perform in different ministries!  Most churches struggle to see that this is a process that will need different methods for different people.  It is much easier to focus on standard programs that individuals can customize to their own needs, than it is to focus on individuals and tailor make a discipleship program that takes into account their unique creation by God.

We, however, are not willing to be deterred by a challenge!  That is why I am putting together some basic assessments that you can work through, with me, to come up with an Individual Discipleship Plan.  We can look at your life and prayerfully examine where change and growth needs to occur.  Additionally, we can set goals that match up with your skills and abilities, so that you might move into a ministry that God is calling you to participate in – not just something you feel a need to do out of guilt or necessity.  If you want to become intentional in your spiritual growth, please set up an appointment to talk.  Whether you are a spiritual baby, or an aging veteran, there is always room to grow in our likeness to Jesus!

Gossip

Posted in Uncategorized on September 28, 2009 by gospel2live

Like many of you, I love a good story.  Someone recently recommended a John Grisham novel to me, and I told him that I need to get my wife’s permission before I can pick up any good novel, because I have a difficult time stopping once I start reading.  When I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy to Sam when he was younger, I would read a chapter or two to him before bed, and then read for hours into the night after he was asleep because I was so drawn into the story and wanted to find out what happened next.

Stories can be a wonderful compliment to our Christian walk.  In fact, our entire faith rests on the story of God’s kindness to rebels through the sending of His Son, who came to live the life we should have lived, and die the death we deserved to die on the cross.  Our call as Christians is to continually retell this story of the cross, the Gospel story, to the world.  We are to be spreading the word of this story to our children, to one another, and to the world.  Our telling of stories and relating to them to understand our world better is one of the ways which reflects our being created in God’s image.

Not all story telling is good, however.  The Bible very clearly condemns gossip. (Rom 1:29; 2 Cor. 12:20; 1 Tim. 5:13)  As I was looking at the word that is translated as “gossip,” I learned that alternate interpretations of the word are “talebearer” or “whisperer.”  What is condemned is the telling of stories that hurt other people or in ways that cast a bad or deceptive shadow on them.  Politics are full of whisperers, who assist campaigns from behind the scenes by disparaging opposing candidates with lies and half-truths.  Although storytelling is something that reflects our being made in God’s image, we also must recognize that sin has marred and broken our ability to properly reflect God’s image and gossip is one of the ways that a good thing goes bad.

Sadly, our response to gossip is often to propagate it.  While the Bible teaches us to take our concerns directly to a brother or sister who has offended us, we tend to sinfully take it to everyone BUT the person at issue.  In my own life, I have been both the offender and the victim of gossip over the years.  Gossip is a cancer to a church body that often grows into conflict and dissension that is harmful to everyone involved.

Instead of spreading gossip, or even just ignoring gossip, our correct response should be to confront gossip. If someone is telling you a story about a person who is not present that reflects negatively on the person or is titillating because of its confrontational nature, you should ask if they have talked to the person about this directly.  If the answer is no, you should REFUSE to talk further of the matter until the person being talked about is present.  If the person who is gossiping will not talk to the object of their gossip, then we need to go to the person being gossiped about and get the real story as soon as possible.

I want to invite anyone who feels that I have wronged them by gossip, or any other offense, to come to me directly to talk about it.  This is not an easy thing to do, but it is a godly thing to do.  We all need to be more courageous to choose to end whatever gossip may be present in our church body, so that ultimately it is the redemptive story of Jesus’ death and resurrection that is being told, and not useless, sinful tales about one another.

It’s been awhile…

Posted in Uncategorized on September 28, 2009 by gospel2live

I have pretty much ignored this blog for most of the summer.  Largely, this was the result of being in the garage working.  However, the kayaks are done and delivered and the fall schedule is under way.  Thus, it’s time for me to catch up and return to the blog.

The finished kayaks, plus mine that I built a year ago.

The finished kayaks, plus mine that I built a year ago.

Men’s Ministry Kayak Project

Posted in Uncategorized on June 20, 2009 by gospel2live
Chuck, Jim, and Dale work at stripping the hull.

Chuck, Jim, and Dale work on stripping the hull.

I haven’t posted for awhile.  After a week at Miracle Bible Camp, we just finished a week of Vacation Bible School while working on the kayak with the guys in the afternoon and evenings.  We are building a pair of kayaks for Josh Sorvik, whose dad is a pastor friend of mine.  Josh was paralyzed in a ski accident in March.  You can follow Josh’s progress at http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/joshsorvik.

I have created a photo album for the project on facebook.  You can see the album here.  I will continue to add photos as the project progresses.  We have already finished stripping the hull of the first boat.  I hope to get the forms ready for the second boat so that we can work on stripping both boats on Monday.  Although I tend to be overly optimistic on my timeframes, I hope to be able to fiberglass the outside of the kayaks by the end of the week or the first thing next week.

Most of the wood for these projects has been salvaged from siding from houses that were re-sided.  The wood was going to be burned, but we were able to take it and rip it into strips that will eventually be these boats.  On the bottom of the first boat, we have used many strips that have nail holes in them.  The symbolism of nail holes to a Christian should need no explanation.  Nonetheless, as the project continues we are reminded of the redemption that is ours through the nails that pierced the Lord Jesus.  So too, we have taken materials that were doomed to burn, and are in the process of redeeming them into something both beautiful and useful.

I’ll try to give more thoughts and updates as time allows.

Dale Skinner (78) and Hudson Erickson (2) working together on the kayak.

Dale Skinner (78) fits the final strips, while Hudson Erickson (2) pulls staples with dad's leatherman.