Friday, February 28, 2020

Draw Near to Christ - The Season of Lent

“If anyone wishes to follow Me [as My disciple], he must deny himself [set aside selfish interests], and take up his cross daily [expressing a willingness to endure whatever may come] and follow Me [believing in Me, conforming to My example in living and, if need be, suffering or perhaps dying because of faith in Me].” – Luke 9:23 AMP

Many Christians observe the season of Lent as a time to prepare to celebrate Christ’s resurrection. The word "lent" derives from a Middle English word meaning springtime. On Ash Wednesday, some believers put ashes on their foreheads as a visible means of humility and repentance. Some clergy repeat the words “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return" when ashes are placed. Historically, some Christians observe the day as one of prayer and fasting.

The 40 days following this Wednesday, known as the Lenten season, are a time many believers choose to give up something they enjoy as a habit of self-denunciation.

Though nowhere does the Bible tell us to observe Lent or to fast or give up something for Lent, many Christians find this a meaningful habit during the days leading up to Easter. Like many traditions that aren’t specifically commanded in the Scriptures, what matters is not the observing or non-observing of them. Instead, substance matters.

One hallmark of true Christianity is the denial of self – learning to say no to natural desires at times in order to control the body and its impulses. Jesus made it clear that a mark of discipleship is to “deny self.”

Prayer and fasting, a normal spiritual habit in the Bible, is one such ways to deny self and follow after God. The fasting of food for a time is beneficial if the denial is also joined with a seeking after God. The point of the discipline is not just to go without food and prove one’s self-control. The goal is to draw closer to the Lord.

I have no qualms with any Christian who sincerely gives up something for Lent. As Paul wrote,  "One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord" (Romans 14:5-6 NIV).

My mother has practiced this for decades and often starts the Lenten season with a day of prayer and fasting on Ash Wednesday. For many believers, observing such practices the weeks preceding Easter help them draw near to the Lord as they prepare to worship Him on Resurrection Sunday.

Personally, I rarely choose to give up something for Lent. Instead, I do something positive during the weeks before Easter I think will help me draw close to Jesus. One year I selected a book of Charles Spurgeon's sermons on the blood of Christ to read. Another year, I decided to read through the gospels during Lent.  And still another, I picked up John Stott’s The Cross of Christ to use devotionally. This year, I am leading our church through Claude King’s Come to the Lord’s Table, a devotional guide to help Christians prepare to take the Lord’s Supper, which we plan to do on Palm Sunday.

Whatever your practice in the weeks preceding Easter, take time to deny self and draw close to Christ. For the Bible promises, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:7-8 NIV).

- Pictures used by permission from Pixabay.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Intentional Parenting

Famous baseball catcher Yogi Berra played against slugger Hank Aaron in the 1957 World Series. An on-plate exchange occurred between the two when Aaron prepared to bat. Berra chided, “Henry, you need to hold the bat so you can read the label. You’re gonna break that bat. You’ve got to be able to read the label.”

Aaron remained silent, but he knocked the ball out of the park on his next hit. After running the bases and touching home plate, he responded to Berra, “I didn’t come up here to read.”

In a word, Aaron exuded intentionality. Merriam-Webster defines intentionality as “done by design.” It speaks of the quality of being purposeful and deliberate.

Read my entire article here at Just 18 Summers.

Picture used by permission from Pixabay.

The Democratic Party's Food Fight

"As I watched the two-hour food fight disguised as the South Carolina Democratic Presidential debate, what really hit me was the enormous contrast between President Trump and the first lady in India this week and the Democrats’ bickering.

The visual of the presidential couple being greeted enthusiastically by more than 120,000 cheering people in India’s largest soccer stadium was so much more impactful then the shrinking respect and declining seriousness of the Democrats’ squabbling.

It may be my age or my partisan bias, but Bernie Sanders seems as he repeats his mantra again and again. At any given time, he’s attacking Israel, defending Cuban dictators, proposing to take away everyone’s private health insurance, announcing new programs which would cost $10 trillion to $70 trillion dollars, and explaining everything could be paid for by taxing the rich. In a Broadway play, you would cast Sanders as the comic interlude."

The Death of Born-Alive

He was just a first-year pediatric resident when a hospital housekeeper came to him, panicked. "There's a baby," she said, "crying on the garbage can of the treatment room." Wide-eyed, Dr. Rocco Pascucci opened the door and saw him -- wrapped in a hospital blanket, wailing. Without a second thought, he reached out for the newborn boy and rushed him to a warmer, starting oxygen and an artery line. Dr. Pascucci never stopped to think why the baby had been left there. He just did what anyone would. Anyone, it turns out, except 41 members of the U.S. Senate.

To everyone but these 41 Democrats, it's that simple. No, it is not rare -- a lie we hear from endless talking heads. And even if it were, who cares? These are human beings. If that one life were your life, wouldn't it matter? "Some will say that a bill to ensure medical care for babies born after failed abortions is unnecessary because it doesn't happen that often," Senator Mike Braun (R-Ind.) argued Monday. "It doesn't matter how common it is, it matters if it's right or wrong."

For all but three Senate Democrats, no excuse is good enough. Opposing a bill that saves newborn lives is barbaric. "If there is a persuasive and principled case why America should remain on the radical international fringe on this subject, let us hear it," McConnell told his colleagues on the Senate floor. "The [people] I speak with cannot comprehend why this would be some hotly-debated proposition. It almost defies belief that an entire political party could find cause to object to this basic protection for babies. And yet today... even something this simple and this morally straightforward is a bridge too far for the Left."

Read the entire article here by Tony Perkins.

Picture used by permission from Pixabay.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Entering Eternity

The night before my grand¬father’s funeral, I spent the evening with my grandmother, who I called Mom-ee. Before going to bed, she wanted to tell me about his final moments. Pa-Pa had been very sick for several weeks in a nursing home. Months of taking dialysis had taken its toll on his eighty-two-year-old body.

Mom-ee told me, “Just the other night, I got down on my knees and prayed, ‘Lord, please don’t let him die alone in the nursing home. Please let me be with him when he dies.’”

Photo used from

Act Like Men

We live in a day often lacking a clear understanding of biblical masculinity. Society does not offer a strong definition to boys of what it means to be a man.

The examples in pop culture, sports, and politics often show weak and pitiful models of sensuality, selfishness, and foolishness.

However, the church, and more specifically, Christian fathers, can carry the torch of challenging the next generation to be godly men.

Paul exhorts the Corinthian church, "Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love" (16:13-14).

We live in a day that often lacks a clear understanding of biblical masculinity. Society does not offer a strong definition to boys of what it means to be a man.

The examples in pop culture, sports, and politics often show weak and pitiful models of sensuality, selfishness, and foolishness.

However, the church, and more specifically, Christian fathers, can carry the torch of challenging the next generation to be godly men.

So if the Bible challenges us to “act like men,” we should be able to answer definitively, “What is a man?”

Robert Lewis’ excellent work challenging fathers to raise their sons to be godly men influenced me a great deal several years ago. Focus on the Family airs Lewis at least once a year, and I commend his resources to you:

Raising a Modern Day Knight by Robert Lewis

For my sons, I crafted the following definition of manhood (modifying Lewis’ definition and making it my own):

What is a man?

1.  A man reflects God’s image consistently.
2.  A man relates to his family and friends honorably.
3.  A man rejects passivity.
4.  A man accepts responsibility.
5.  A man initiates and influences his culture and world positively.
6.  A man draws his strength from the Lord.

And for the Wilson family, I came up with this acrostic to define manhood:

W – Worthy of the Lord
I – Initiates and influences others for God and good
L – Loves and leads
S – Sharpens his character, skills, and strengths
O - Open to God and meaningful relationships
N-  No to sin, selfishness, and Satan

Teenagers or Young Men?

The concept of teenager never appears in the Bible.  American culture created an entire sub-culture for what we call teenagers, but the Bible speaks only of children and adults, or men and women.

The book of Proverbs, written to young men probably ages 12 and above, challenges these young men to grow up to be godly, wise, and responsible.

Understanding this transition, Jewish tradition practices the bar mitvah. When a boy turns thirteen, the community celebrates this passage, marking the milestone of beginning the slow but sure transformation from boyhood to manhood.

My youngest son Dawson turned thirteen two weeks ago. As part of the rite of passage, I invited several men I consider to be good, wise, godly, and responsible. These men’s lives have intersected with his in different ways.

We gathered for supper at the restaurant of his choice – Milano Pizzeria in Simpsonville, South Carolina. After a great supper and enjoyable conversation, I challenged Dawson with the above definition of manhood.

I previously asked each man to prepare a few brief remarks. We went around the table, allowing each man to share Scripture, challenge, and/or exhortation with Dawson about what it means to follow the Lord and become a godly man. What a joy to hear each of them encourage and exhort Him from their lives and from God's Word.

After supper, we gathered around Daws in the parking lot, laid hands on him, and prayed over him.

I hope he looks back on the evening as one more solid memory that encourages and challenges him to be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like a man, be strong, and let all that he does be done in love.

And, if the Lord tarries, I hope that 200 years from now there will still be Wilson men who know what it means to be godly men and who challenge their sons and grandsons to become such men.

- article is reprinted from 2018

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Swing the Bat

“Whatever your hands find to do, do with all your strength. ”  Ecclesiastes 7:10

When our children played t-ball and coach’s pitch baseball, we told them, “It’s ok if you don’t hit the ball.  But you’ve got to swing the bat.”  No one wants to watch a child who steps up to the plate but refuses to swing.  You gotta’ swing if you’re gonna score!

Photo used from Pixabay
At times in life, however, I find myself wanting to not swing.  It’s easier to just stand and watch the balls flying.  It’s safer to not swing.  After all, what if I swing and miss?  What if I look like a fool?  What if someone laughs at me?  What if my wife sees I am not Mr. Cool?  Yes, not swinging seems much more reasonable.

Sometimes I feel inadequate to parent my growing, and sometimes hard-headed, teenagers.  My dad wasn’t a stellar leader, so what do I know about leading my family?  It’s easier to just passively move through family life than engage their problems, needs, and questions.  

At times I don’t feel like I know how to navigate the emotional needs of my wife and our marriage.  After being married two decades, sometimes it seems the needs get more complex, not easier.

Solomon, reflecting on life, exhorts us to work hard and engage with strength whatever task we find.  I need to engage, lead, and communicate.  I need to not avoid every conflict.  The opportunities to influence my family won’t be here in ten years.  Today is the day.  I may not hit every ball, but I’ve got to step up and swing.

Try to be the one to make a difference.  Try to put your fear and doubt aside.

Try to make the most of every moment.  And if you fall, get up and try again.  – Dolly Parton

Friday, February 14, 2020

Petty, Poisonous Pelosi

President Trump’s February 4 State of the Union address will go down as a high mark in his tenure – not primarily because of a great speech but for the many accomplishments it celebrated. As CNN’s Stephen Collison shared, Trump cemented his reputation as a “rare politician who keeps his promises.” And for his opponents it was a “daunting warning.” This man, who resonates with many average Americans, can get stuff done that helps them. Tony Perkins cited it was “the message of a leader who’s beaten the odds . . . classic, confident, unconventional Trump.”

No wonder Nancy Pelosi erupted in ripping up his speech on national television – perhaps the rudest moment I’ve witnessed in American politics. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich aptly commented, “This was the behavior of a beaten, failed Speaker, who was desperately seeking approval from her left-wing fanatics. For most of the country, it was shocking and alienating.” After failing miserably with the empty Russian collusion attack, a phony impeachment, and championing the most vicious outward hatred towards a President in modern history, Pelosi’s pettiness and nastiness affirmed she is “maniacally opposed to working with President Trump under any circumstances.”

Many visible Democrats like her have displayed the behavior of spoiled brats the past three years – bent on undoing the 2016 election since Hillary refused to show herself publicly on election night and concede. To quote Gingrich again, they are showing themselves as the “party of incompetence,” and “a significant part of their failure will be traced to their pettiness and nastiness.” Pelosi personified herself as out-of-control and not in touch with much of the country.

Vice President Mike Pence remarked, "I think it was a new low. I wasn't sure if [Pelosi] was ripping up the speech, or ripping up the Constitution."

Fortunately, as Senator Lindsey Graham said later, she can rip up a speech, but she can’t tear up his accomplishments. Trump has kept his campaign promises. Things like confirming Supreme Court and federal court constitutional judges, standing up for the persecuted, protecting the unborn, defending freedom, honoring our military and police men and women, defending free speech, and encouraging the practice of faith in the public square are worthy of much celebration.

How wonderful to hear a Commander-in-Chief utter these words:

“My administration is also defending religious liberty, and that includes the constitutional right to pray in public schools,” Trump continued. “In America, we don’t punish prayer. We don’t tear down crosses. We don’t ban symbols of faith. We don’t muzzle preachers and pastors. “In America, we celebrate faith. We cherish religion. We lift our voices in prayer, and we raise our sights to the glory of God.”

The far Left, including several of the current persons running for the Democratic Party nomination, are in favor of limiting the rights of Americans, including freedom of religion and freedom of speech. Bernie Sanders has made it clear he does not think someone with a traditional, evangelical Christian theology should serve in the United States government. Pete Buttigieg has stated plainly he believes that churches who do not support the LGBTQ agenda should lose their tax ID status – and he would make that an agenda in his administration. Both men recently said the Democratic Party has no place for anyone who is pro-life.

Either of those potential leaders would produce a strong step away from democracy and liberty. No thank you.

Michael Goodwin of the New York Post wrote that Trump’s SOTU speech was long “because he had a long list of accomplishments to cite.” People like Pelosi’s real weapon is “her personal hatred of the commander-in-chief. [A]nd it’s not proving to be much of a fight. The president is on a winning streak . . . the country has noticed. She has overplayed her hand . . . and led her party into another embarrassing dead end.”

Meanwhile, the Trump Train keeps gaining speed.

Pictures used by permission from Pixabay.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

A Friendly Word to the Never Trumpers

Author Michael Brown shares sound advice the day following the State of the Union address:

"President Trump’s State of the Union message, coupled with the Democratic response, reminds me of why I voted for Trump in 2016. And why I plan to vote for him again in 2020. The contrasts are just too extreme. I am conscience-bound to vote against the radical left and to vote for the causes that Trump will uphold. Everything else pales in comparison.

I am voting against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tearing up the president’s speech for the whole world to see.

Picture used by permission from Pixabay.

The Dangers of Godless Government

My colleague, Becca Coon, wrote the following very good article.

"In good times and bad, government is foundational to society. And that is how God intended it. In fact, God ordained three institutions—the family, the church and civil government.

Scripture tells us to respect and obey government authorities and ordinances, and to live honorably within our communities. Local, state, federal—Christ carries 'the government upon His shoulders' (Cf. Isaiah 9:6) and carefully determines those in authority (see Romans 13), whose role is to punish evildoers.

Yet in today’s highly politicized environment, society’s immorality eventually becomes engrained in government institutions. When this happens, the government institutions, if allowed, become agents of immorality and unbiblical thinking. Every day, headlines splash across our screens announcing legislation that further threatens the sanctity of marriage and the very definitions of male and female, the lives of the unborn and the infirm, and the freedom of Christians to follow the convictions of their faith in public."

Read the entire article at Decision Magazine here.

Pictures used by permission from Pixabay.

State of the Union

Here are some of the best articles I read last week about the State of the Union address:

Trump Let's Her Rip at SOTU by Tony Perkins

The Nastiness of Pelosi and Democrats will be their Party's Downfall by Newt Gingrich

Romantic Moments

Looking for a good read this Valentine's season? I contributed 3 chapters to the book ROMANTIC MOMENTS, edited by Yvonne Lehman. Stories vary from humorous to serious, sad to happy, hope to disappointment, idealism to realism, and the myriad of emotions one experiences, human and divine. 

This is the 7th book in the Moments series that include his stories. Other titles include Christmas Moments, Stupid Moments, and Moments with Billy Graham.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Trump affirms religious liberty

Calvin Freiburger comments on President's Trump affirmation of religious liberty:

President Donald Trump pledged his administration will continue to defend religious liberty Tuesday night, as part of “reasserting the culture of American freedom” in his annual State of the Union address.

“With every action my administration is restoring the rule of law and reasserting the culture of American freedom,” the president said, noting that he and the Republican Senate “have confirmed a record number of 187 new federal judges to uphold our Constitution as written,” with “many” additional jurists “in the pipeline.”

“My administration is also defending religious liberty, and that includes the constitutional right to pray in public schools,” Trump continued. “In America, we don’t punish prayer. We don’t tear down crosses. We don’t ban symbols of faith. We don’t muzzle preachers and pastors. “In America, we celebrate faith. We cherish religion. We lift our voices in prayer, and we raise our sights to the glory of God.”

Read the entire article here.

Picture used by permission from Pixabay.