2.6.20

I Have an Eye Problem -

It shouldn’t come as a surprise how often in the Bible God decries hypocrisy. Jesus made a painful point of it over and over (Mt. 7:3-5). You know, that saying one thing and doing another annoyance. It’s easy to spot hypocrisy in others, but always quite evasive in our own lives. We can justify our hypocrisy right out of existence, and do so without even breathing hard. 

This is a warning, and one I’m attempting to fold into my own life. If, and especially, you’re a Christian there must be a conscious fight to minimize hypocrisy in your life. Otherwise we live a lie. There must be a transformative congruence between what we say and what we do. Thankfully we’re not alone in this work as the Church’s recent celebration of Pentecost testifies, but it is work nonetheless.

As this topic relates to our current conflicts, it can be very easy to say the right things, post the right hashtags, align with all the right causes, post all the right memes, and even march in the right protests, and yet to not really love our neighbor. The command to love our neighbor is imperatival and specific. In other words it is a command with substance. It looks like something. It will cost us something. It looks and feels like love. To say or to post something that has no basis in real and demonstrated action is…well…it’s hypocritical.

God’s desire is for His people to be wholly holy. What I mean by this is that we live lives of declarative and demonstrative congruence. We not only talk the talk; we walk the walk. If we are going to talk about the evils of racism there must be some sort of demonstrable congruence to that declaration in our own lives. We must love our neighbor…and not by hashtag or meme post alone. Otherwise, we are hypocrites.

Christian, if you want to make a difference start with proximity. Love those that are not like you that are within proximity to you. You know, like a neighbor…a stranger. Every one of us has people around us that are different from us. Start there. And I dare you, don’t post a picture of what you’re doing on Facebook. No one else needs to know. Hypocrites do what they do for show and God detests it. God is pleased to see His people acting in love and mercy with great sacrifice, and with no thought for themselves.

This is how real change will take place.

- DJM

6/2/2020

10.5.20

None Like You - Mother's Day 2020


‘Ain’t no woman like the one I’ve got.’
- The Four Tops, Ain’t No Woman

‘Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.’
- Proverbs 31:29

‘…to lose your life for another, I’ve heard, is a good place to begin.’
- Andrew Peterson, Dancing in the Minefields


Every year at this time there is a pause to reflect upon those women who have had significant impact in our lives.  Truth be known, I have been surrounded by amazing women….

Grandma Rosie was her name, and she was my maternal grandmother. She passed away in 1993, but not before she made significant influence into the life of her children and grandchildren. She was deeply loved by those who knew her. She had a delightful smile and twinkling eyes, and her ability to cook up a storm was legendary. I'm not typically a fan of pumpkin pie, but hers had changed my mind. She also was a world-class knitter. There are still some sweaters and afghans around that bear her creative mark. She lived through the Great Depression and consequently lived a simple life in a modest home in Spokane, WA. She was beautiful and loved her family deeply.   

My paternal grandmother passed in 2014.  Her health was failing and her memory gone, and she lived to be 97.5.  She lived an amazing life.  Raised in the rough and tumble mining town of Anaconda, Montana, her life was never easy.  With the challenge of alcoholic parents at a young age she took care of her even younger siblings and when the authorities found out all of the children were placed in a state orphanage and were kept there until they could fend for themselves.  Life was much more difficult then.  She married my grandfather and their marriage was always a challenge.  Still, she soldiered on until my grandfather’s death in 1996.  My grandmother lived a life in service to others.  A while back I had a meal with a couple she and my grandfather befriended in the 60’s, the wife had escaped from East Germany and the husband had escaped from Czechoslovakia while both were under communist rule and they had no friends or family in the states. My grandparents 'adopted' them as their own. My Gramma Erma was full-blooded Swede and was tough as nails, but she loved her family. 

Judy’s mom Ramona passed in 2017.  Judy’s mom was an incredible treasure.  She could make me laugh like no other and her bold witness for Christ was unexcelled. I learned much from Ramona.  She has raised four children and worked hard as a farmer’s wife.  When the Minnesota winters got too cold she faithfully followed her husband to the Pacific Northwest.  And when her husband George died in 1984 Ramona only redoubled her efforts at loving and serving her family.  Always quick with conversation, you’d find that no one was a stranger to her.  Her life had truly been lived for others and her latter days were spent caring for her elderly friends.

My own mom is a rich treasure as well.  She raised three headstrong rambunctious boys and lived to tell about it.  She and my dad will soon be married 64 years and in case you’re counting that’s a long time.  She is a faithful Christian wife and mother and doesn’t mind speaking up about it.  She loves my dad, her church, and Christ. Her kids, grandkids, and great grandkids are always on the receiving end of her many kindnesses.  

I have five amazing daughters.  Each one unique and each one gifted in so many ways.  

Lydia, our youngest, is now a young married woman.  She and Renard have soon been married two years. She is mature and intelligent and has a sense of humor and wit that runs deep.  We can just look at one another and burst out laughing.  She has made it much more difficult for me to be serious about anything anymore (She once asked me how the motorcycle riding high-school flunkie got the high-school honor roll cheerleader! To which I still don't know the answer!).  Children and adults love her.  Her friends love her. Her nieces and nephews can’t get enough of her.  Her smile lights up any room.  Never concerned about herself, her life has been lived serving others as well.

Alexis in my daughter-in-law. She is the best thing to ever happen to my son Nate. Nate and Alexis have been married six years. She is incredibly bright and stunningly beautiful and she is the best mom to her two young daughters. Alexis has a very difficult job of her own as an emergency services dispatcher, but compounded with being the wife of a law enforcement officer she has a quite difficult role. She has a wonderful sense of humor, and is able to keep track of Nate's keys and wallet!    

Esther is my third oldest.  She and Tim have been married 17 years and they have four beautiful children.  Esther is quiet, pensive, bright, very capable, and opinionated.  She loves her family like a mama bear and heaven help the person that tangles with her.  She makes friends forever and is as true blue as the day is long.  She teaches her children well, is an excellent cook, and always makes sure we are well fed.  In fact, her home is often a revolving door of hospitality. She has an amazing flower garden that is the envy of those that see it. We have great conversations, can incessantly tease one another, and we never really take one another too seriously.

Hannah is my second oldest; picture Sandra Bullock’s character in The Blind Side.  No one can make Judy laugh like Hannah.  She says and does hilarious things that manage to get to the most ticklish spot on our funny bone.  She is tough as nails but tender as well. Hannah and Jim have two beautiful children and they've been married 19 years.  Jackson is the family athlete and Bella is Hannah’s ‘mini-me’.  Hannah is the diligent student in the family and has several degrees in nursing.  Her vegetable garden is a thing of beauty. Hannah exudes kindness and everyone loves her as well.  If you are discouraged your cares are her cares.

Sarah is my oldest.  She is an entrepreneur, a businesswoman, and a tremendous help to her husband.  Sarah and Kevin have been married 24 years and have four beautiful children.  They are incomparably generous and are always looking for ways to help and serve others.  Sarah can make a meal for an army on a moment's notice. Sarah’s boys work harder than most men I know, and Sarah and Kevin’s work ethic is the envy of the family.  Sarah is compassionate, serious-minded, plainspoken, articulate, and committed to her family.  She has a way of always getting to the nub of the matter. 

Next is my dear wife Judy.  The reason our four daughters are the way they are is because of her profound influence upon them.  Judy is funny, reflective, smart, hard working, full of mercy, wise beyond words, longsuffering, quick to overlook a fault, a faithful friend, and is always glad to make sacrifices for others.  Our home bears the marks of her love and care, and her flower garden is stunning this year. Her life has been lived in serving her family and others.  She has shown us what it looks like to suffer well and to come through tremendous trials with her faith intact.  There is truly none like her.

In each of these women the grace of God is evident.  In each of these women I am blessed beyond measure.  Their worth is far above the richest treasure.  

-DJM

Mother's Day 2020

9.4.20

That Glorious Scandal

"The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone," and "A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense." 
-1Pe 2:7-8 ESV

'Paul’s theology of the cross involves his theology of the resurrection and is simply unintelligible apart from it.'
- Richard Gaffin, The Scandal of the Cross

“The Gospel is ‘the greatest drama ever staged … a terrifying drama of which God is the victim and the hero'"
- Dorothy Sayers, Creed or Chaos, ch. 1

"It was not nails that held Jesus to that wretched cross; it was his unqualified resolution, out of love for his Father, to do the Father's will - and, within that framework, it was his love for sinners like me. He really could not save himself."
- D.A. Carson, Scandalous- The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus, p. 30

"There is no better news for sad men, for distressed, desponding and despairing men, than this - the Savior lives, able still to save and willing to receive you to his tender heart."
- Charles Spurgeon, The Lord is Risen Indeed, Twelve Sermons on the Resurrection, p. 102


The drama of the gospel is a story unlike no other. In this story the hero is not hailed, but mocked. He is not sustained by superhuman powers…in fact, he dies. The accolades originally directed toward him give way to rejection and disdain. After all, heroes are not supposed to become the victim. The Creator succumbs to the malevolence of the creation, and this death comes willingly, not with reluctance. He does not save himself. In fact, it is death that brings life. The gospel, in all of its tragedy and offence, brings glory. Death becomes its own victim. Through the mystery and the glory of the crucifixion and the resurrection every enemy is finally overcome. This is the ultimate scandal and if it has no place of offense with us we’ve not understood it well. There is divine wisdom and human absurdity in the cross and resurrection. Surely God could have done it another way…or not. In these singular events God has revealed the very heart of the gospel. The Son has revealed His heart for His Father. God has revealed His own heart for the world. Because of His love God has inclined His heart for the world. By love God has directed His heart toward His creation. By love God sends the emblem of His love, His own dear Son, to die. By love God raises His Son from the grave. And by love God vanquishes every enemy and removes every obstacle to His love for people like you and me. Our redemption has been accomplished by a glorious scandal.

Today I’m rejoicing with you in the scandal signified by a cross, a cross saturated in gospel love.

-DJM

04/09/2020

Post Tenebras Lux

"Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.” 
- Mark 16:6

“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.”
- 1 Corinthians 15:20-21

“He alone has made a solid proficiency in the gospel who has been accustomed to continual meditation on the blessed resurrection.” 
- John Calvin, Institutes, III:xxv.I

“The issue (of the resurrection) is non-negotiable for Paul. The consequences of denying Christ’s resurrection are massive – for then Paul’s preaching is mistaken, their faith is vain, their sins remain unforgiven, and those who have died have perished.”
- Thomas Schreiner, Paul, Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ, p. 457

“The resurrection of Christ is the beginning of the new and final world-order, an order described as spiritual and heavenly. It is the dawn of the new creation the start of the eschatological age. In terms of the conceptual framework with which Paul views the whole of history, it is the commencement of the ‘age to come.’” 
- Richard Gaffin, Resurrection and Redemption, pps. 89-90


“Post Tenebras Lux” has often been used as the motto for the Protestant Reformation. In Latin it simply means, “After darkness, light”. It has also been used during the Easter season in association with Good Friday. Even today some Lutheran churches have Good Friday services that they describe as a ‘Tenebras’ service, where reflection is made upon sin that brought darkness. Then the following Easter Sunday is described as “Lux” or light. For the Christian the resurrection is that historically glorious and momentous event when the spell-bound darkness is finally broken by light. The curse is reversed.

In the comprehensiveness of Christ’s redemptive act Puritan John Owen called it the ‘death of death’, and John Calvin called the resurrection, “…the most important article of our faith”(John II:191). The resurrection is no small afterthought or appendage to our theological understanding. It is pivotal. Without the historical and bodily resurrection of Christ we are left without hope, we remain in our sins, our faith is in vain, and those who die face immediate corruption and finality. Many churches that call themselves Christian emphasize the cross and minimize the resurrection. For them it is much easier to believe Jesus was crucified, than that He was resurrected. The historical and corporeal (bodily) resurrection is too much for them. How glad I am for the Resurrection. In it Jesus has became the first to conquer death, sin, hell and the grave, and in His resurrection we are guaranteed the same. And if that weren’t enough, the resurrected and ascended Christ has bestowed the greatest of all gifts to His church in the giving of the Spirit (Acts 2:31-33 and Eph. 4:8). The Resurrection is the light after the darkness of the Cross. May we truly comprehend what has been done, and then rejoice in the resurrection of our Savior.

-       DJM

04/09/2020

6.4.20

Loving Our Unemployed Neighbor


“No one shall take a mill or an upper millstone in pledge, for that would be taking a life in pledge.”
-       Deuteronomy 24:6

‘Thou takest his life to a pledge: that is to say, thou cuttest a poor man’s throat, when thou takest from him those necessary tools with which he gets his living.’
- John Calvin, Sermons on Deuteronomy, pp. 844-845, Banner of Truth, 1987


The Old Testament book of Deuteronomy contains lots of ancient wisdom. Given as different types of law God’s intention was to preserve and protect His people from harm, in addition to setting them apart from other nations and marking them out as His people. These laws were given for their benefit. In the context of chapter 24 there is a list of miscellaneous laws and among them is a brief law regarding making a pledge or a contract. In this example a pledge or contract is never to be made at the expense of jeopardizing the way a person is able to make a living. In other words, if such a pledge is made that results in a breach of contract the contracting party (debtor) would be left without a means of personal support and provision should the debt go into default. In the above example half of the millstone would be taken away and the debtor would be left with no way to grind his flour. He would be plunged into poverty…or even death.

In these days of COVID-19 I think there is something to be learned from this. While the example is not one for one I think there is a principle to be learned from this Old Testament passage. We must be very, very careful in our desire to protect lives from a virus, to not endanger lives in other ways, by removing the ability for a man or woman to provide for his or her family. The Apostle Paul's encouragement to Timothy makes an even more stark pronouncement...to not provide for one's family is tantamount to a denying the faith, even to the point of being an enemy of God (1 Tim. 5:8). For some, the prospect of losing everything has become a stark and potential reality, but consigning them to God's judgment for their inability to do otherwise is unfair and unloving. By governmental edict we have taken their upper millstone and given them no recourse...no way to provide for themselves or their family. 

It seems that those with loudest voice calling for a stop to all business and enterprise are those that continue to be employed, whether they are in government, or academics, ‘essential’ business, or by other income means. We have shut down large segments of the economy with little thought to the eventual and tragic fallout. The command to love our neighbor is comprehensive. We must love our elderly neighbor as well as our unborn neighbor. We must love our wealthy neighbor as well as our unemployed neighbor. This is an all-encompassing command to be wise in executing things like stay-at-home orders, with the necessary and forceful compunction to ask for how long? Keep those in quarantine who are immune-compromised, but allow healthy people to work to survive. To prohibit someone from working is to consign many to inevitable poverty. In these days of open-ended quarantines we must wisely weigh the risks of all parties involved and get our unemployed neighbors back to work as soon as we can. Quarantines are one way of loving our neighbor, and getting them back to work quickly and prudently is another.  

- DJM

4/6/2020