The immigrant caravan and Christians


A missionary I know and respect posed this question on Facebook: “If Jesus were on earth today would he be at a Trump rally or in the caravan?” I did not comment on the post because it is at once deeply profound and not easily answered.

To start with we do not have any answers directly from the Bible. Jesus was never reported to be at any earthly political rally, all though sometimes people rallied against him. Also we read that sometimes Jesus went to the crowds and sometimes the crowds went to Jesus. Sometimes Jesus separated himself from the crowds altogether. We never see Jesus encouraging illegal activity of any kind.

I do believe the gospel message is political. I also think it is a major distraction to focus on earthly politics. How can I fully worship God while elevating politicians or political parties above all else? With a focus on the heavenly Kingdom it is easier to decide on who and what to vote for or against.

So what about the caravan heading to America? Would Jesus walk with them?

I hope that many of them have a faith in Christ Jesus. If so, then Jesus is walking with them. I do not believe Jesus would be physically walking with them for the purpose of breaking human laws by entering a country illegally.

Another statement made in Facebook was “Real Christians would be waiting at the border with food, water, and clothes for the caravan.” REALLY?!

I am a real Christian. At times I have gone above and beyond to help others. Often times without even a thank you in return. But until every person that truly wants help in my community is being helped there is no reason for me to travel hundreds of miles to help others. It may be that I would donate to an authentic missions program that is supplying needs to the immigrants but that would be the extent of my efforts.

The immigration history of this nation is not pretty on a bigger picture view. Slums of New York were because of immigrants that could not find work here. From those slums rose Mob Bosses, all sorts of violent gangs, and yes even Union henchmen. Our political system has been and still is influenced by violent people who rose from poverty to power through illegal activity and greed. Accept it or not that is a part of American history and even current politics.

Do I seem ant-immigrant? That would be a mistaken view of me. My father and his parents were refugees. It is my understanding that my father was born in a refugee camp in Hungary. A Christian organization in the 1950’s brought them to America. My grandfather worked in a factory in Aurora, Illinois until his retirement. My father became a radio repairman in the Air Force in the 1960’s and continued working as an electronics repairman until his death. My family entered this country legally and became tax paying citizens. I have this heritage because some Christians did something about a known problem from another country. I do not oppose immigration, I oppose illegal entry into our country.

 

Rev. Burt Schwab

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Thank you- A look at Philippians


This is the audio from a sermon preached at Clutier Community Church in Iowa on October 28, 2018.

One way to read the letter to the Philippians is to read it as if Paul wrote it with you in mind.

The big idea of this message; We can learn to be content with our circumstances when we learn to be thankful in them.

Rev. Burt Schwab

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Thoughts about Halloween


photo of person holding jack o lantern bucket

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It is Halloween month and the excitement and controversy is in the air again. Some will say Christians should not celebrate this holiday and find various reasons. Others will not give it much thought. Do you know the true origin of Halloween? Neither do I, and like most folk I don’t care either.

The tradition of trick or treating has changed many times through the centuries. As a kid it was common to see people dressed up in a poorly fitted, store-bought, one piece costume. Do you remember those plastic masks that was held on to your head by a piece of rubber band stapled to the mask? For some of us it was more common to have a homemade costume. On year I was dressed up like a hobo.

I have great memories of my parents carving pumpkins with us kids. Then on Halloween night taking me and my sister’s door to door to beg for goodies. I also have very cherished memories of taking my own children out on Halloween to knock on strangers doors and beg for treats. Good times!

It is become more and more common for communities to embrace “trunk or treat” where cars meet at a specified location and serve treats from their car trunks. I get the safety thing and so forth but the tradition I grew up with is fading into history. In a way it’s a little sad to me.

Oh did I not mention anything about religion in this post? Okay, how about this…

Maybe a way we can show generosity on Halloween. Maybe Christians can be known as the ones that pass out the best goodies on Halloween. I’m talking the most popular candies and plenty of them! Just say no to candy corn this year and bring out the good stuff! Bring out the full size candy bars!

For a child make-believe is serious business. Let’s find a way to teach them how they can have fun and be creative without adding the controversy of religious preference.

Rev. Burt Schwab

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Exposed to the light


Have you ever tried doing detail work in a dimly lit area? It makes it much harder to do a quality job when you can’t see things clearly. Several times in the past year I have painted things, like wood trim, in the garage only to find it wasn’t done well when I took it inside the house.

The most recent project on our old home is the upstairs bathroom rehab. The bathroom is small by todays standards. To use the toilet in the sitting position placed a persons knees almost to the cabinet in front of them. Moving the plumbing is not a realistic option so creativity has kicked in.

Following the theme of “old is new” we have taken an old vanity that someone made from an antique dresser and repurposed it. Added a bottom drawer and a tilt out front. Along with that I modified an existing tall cabinet and gave it a fresh coat of paint.

In addition we replaced the existing light fixture with a new one. It was my idea to use LED daylight bulbs for better lighting. That is where things really became clear. As in every detail and flaw in the room is highly visible when the light is on at night. When I say every flaw I mean EVERY flaw. Countless wall touch ups and repairs from the last 100 years. Every ripple, paint run, and oops. Yet in some strange way it helps tie everything together and seem like it was meant to be that way.

It is clear why so many people run away from the light of Jesus. The Light exposes every flaw, sin, and shamefulness. The light of truth makes a person feel naked and exposed. But there is good news. Jesus love makes us new and gives us purpose. God uses our flawed, scarred life for a greater purpose. He brings everything together so it’s used for good.

There is a long way to go on this bathroom project. Kind of like my life. Still a work in progress, but changes for the better have been made and more are on the way.

Rev. Burt Schwab

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Never try to teach a pig to sing…


For reasons best left in the past, I visited the High School Principals office on many occasions as a teenager. On Mr. Freeman’s office wall was a plaque that said “Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and it annoys the pig”.  That bit of country wisdom comes to mind often when I am dealing with people who have no interest in rational dialogue. That is true of all subject matter.

It happens occasionally that I engage in an online dialogue with self-proclaimed atheists that start out with intelligence. It doesn’t take long for the atheist to start name calling and drag the conversation from intellectual to fruitless, emotionally charged ridicule.

To be fair the same thing happens sometimes with self-righteous Christians. Scripture is twisted and distorted to tear down the other person. Once a pastor told me that I am ambitious, and I agreed. He then proceeded to “instruct” me that all ambition is sinful. Using verses that talk about SELFISH ambitions this pastor was making a case that I am not qualified to lead a church because of ambition! Think about that! Sadly that is one of several examples I can recite about the same pastor. When a person seeks to control another person they will use whatever means possible to do just that. It is easy to find people that try to control what other people believe through manipulation and angry arguments.

Whatever happened to the gospel of peace? Why are so many people angry and abusive on both sides of the Christian message? Why does it sound so empty to say read the Bible and pray? Am I worshipping a god of my own design? These are the questions I have been contemplating for quite some time now.

History has shown that society has always struggled with identifying and understanding God. Throughout all of written history societies have created their own sense of God. There has always been those who oppose the idea of one true God. The United States of America was founded on the belief in a creator God. Try to twist history all you want but the truth is the founders of this nation used their understanding of God to create the foundations this country was formed on. However, their beliefs in God included some misguided ideology. For instance, slavery was considered acceptable in that culture. Views on women were not what we consider acceptable today. Not all of American history is pleasant. Even so the United States of America, including its laws and military, were founded on a deep-seated belief in one true God. Unfortunately we have drifted far from those beliefs in our politics and schools.

Church attendance for the most part has become a tradition. Something to be done on Sunday morning if we don’t have other interests to attend to. A common complaint is the gospel message has been watered down to make room for new cultural beliefs. Let’s face the facts that we have trained our church leaders to do that. We want to be entertained rather than enter into worship. As a preacher I have experienced first hand how the same people saying “amen” will turn away from sound doctrine when their views are challenged. It’s quite acceptable to preach against sin in general but when it gets specific some Christians want to challenge the message.

Here is a short list of some uncomfortable truths;

  • Being lazy at work is the equivalent of stealing from your employer.
  • Drunkenness in all forms, including marijuana, is sinful.
  • Any sexual behavior outside of God’s design for man and woman within the boundaries of marriage is sexual sin.
  •  Show respect for governing authority. Dishonoring those in authority goes against scripture.
  • God wants ALL of our worship. Not to be shared with our worship of idols such as cellphones and social media.

Preach against any of these things while using scripture in proper context and the preacher will receive some backlash. It may even include church members threatening to have the Pastor removed from office. As a result some Pastors steer away from subjects deemed controversial. Soon enough he/she becomes a trained puppet.

Unfortunately many Christians fall into the same thinking Peter had in the garden. They will try to defend their beliefs violently and ineffectively. Jesus is still saying put away the sword. The way to defend our faith is through love and peace not through destructive device. Some will not listen to the gospel message no matter how it is presented. Christians should continuously seek after the living God. Constantly challenge personal thinking and see if it aligns with ALL of the Bible. It is not our job to tell others how to live. A Christians responsibility is first to their own relationship with God. If others are interested in learning from you they will, if not don’t waste your time.

To live out the truths of the gospel message requires a disciplined life. It is not an easy path. It is not negotiable with the desires of the flesh or views of a society. The Gospel message is unchanging, powerful, and eternal. Accept it or reject it but it will not change the truth that Jesus Christ died for all of our sin.

 

Rev. Burt Schwab

 

 

 

 

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Sex, the Bible, and the Church


I originally posted this under a different title a couple of years ago. Looking for mature, respectable feedback from readers on this post.

This is the notes from a sermon I spoke at a Men’s Breakfast in March, 2016  titled SEX, THE BIBLE, AND THE CHURCH. This sermon is a condensed version of an in-depth study on the topic of human sexuality from a biblical view.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture listed is from New Living Translation

Introduction:

Sex is an example of experience does not equal intelligence. To better understand the complexities of the sexual nature of humans it is helpful to understand what the Bible has to say. If you have not come to a place of accepting that scripture is the infallible word of God you will not readily accept all it has to say. If you believe the Bible to be truth there is much to be learned about the parameters, value, and relational impact of human sexuality. It is my belief that the Church has done a great disservice to the general population by remaining unwilling to address the subject of sex beyond a rule-based structure. Furthermore some people, men in particular, have been held hostage in a prison of guilt without a reasonable escape plan.

It is my intent in this teaching to give a brief overview of biblical parameters, personal comfort zone, and the churches influence on culture. This is not an all-inclusive or how-to teaching rather some healthy points to ponder about the great mystery called human sexuality.

  • Biblical parameters
  1. Procreation

Genesis 1:26-28, Deuteronomy 7:13, 14, Psalm 127:3, 139:13-15

Every creature, including man, was created with a natural sex drive. However from the very beginning humans were created differently, for and with a different purpose, than animals. We were created in the image of God. Why would we look to animals to define acceptable behavior in man’s society? And yet that is a typical argument against biblical principles of human behavior.

    2.   Communication

Genesis 2:18-24, 4:1

I hold a belief that Adam was the only truly complete human ever. I believe he had the full range of emotions and mental capacity that humans possess. I also believe that when Eve was created a part of Adam was removed and given to her. By doing so God made it so man can never be complete without woman. This is the core reason men and women seek each other’s companionship

  • Genesis 4:1 Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, “I have acquired a man from the Lord.” (NKJV)

Notice the word used in this verse translated ‘knew’. Other translations use the phrase “had sexual relations” or “made love”… The original word would have been ‘YADA’. Yada is a word that is difficult to translate into a single English word because it implies a deep intimate knowledge of another individual. This is not a just met and got to know each other event. This is a spent some time and studied each other’s characteristics type of knowing. I ponder the fact that there is no recorded offspring of Adam and Eve until quite some time had passed and then scripture says they knew each other. There is no indication of marital celibacy in the account of Adam and Eve just no record of having a child before Cain.

  • Think about the word yada when reading Psalm 139. It is clear God wants that intimate relationship of knowledge with us.

    3.   Recreation and release

Song of Solomon 4:10-12, Proverbs 5:18, 19

  • Song of Solomon 4:10-12 Your love delights me, my treasure, my bride. Your love is better than wine, your perfume more fragrant than spices.  Your lips are as sweet as nectar, my bride. Honey and milk are under your tongue. Your clothes are scented like the cedars of Lebanon.  You are my private garden, my treasure, my bride, a secluded spring, a hidden fountain.
  • Proverbs 5:18-19 Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth.  She is a loving deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts satisfy you always. May you always be captivated by her love.

Within the design of the human body is the ability to enjoy sexual relations. A scientific study of human anatomy shows just how perfectly male and female fit together. Humans in particular are perfectly suited to enjoy sex well beyond procreation.

Some guideposts we can glean from scripture are;

  1. All creatures have a sexual aspect designed in them.
  2. All creatures were designed to partner as male and female.
  3. Reproduction and the attempt at it is designed to remain within the species kind.
  4. Humans are created in the image of God and are set apart from and above animals. This extends into human sexuality without dismissing the aforementioned aspects true of all creatures.
  5. Humans were designed to be complete as one man and one woman.
  6. Humans have the God-given ability to truly know their life partner.
  7. The human body is perfectly designed to enjoy sex physically and emotionally.

Some other guideposts can be learned from scripture are;

Because of the fall of man, sin has led to a distortion of original intent for human sexual behavior.

  • Multiple sex partners

When the Bible speaks of men who had multiple wives it is never viewed in the positive. It’s common to find strife as a result of polygamy recorded in scripture. We do not know why God tolerated polygamy as long as he did.

  • Embracing a culture of prostitution

Prostitution has been around for a very long time. It is often compared to idol worship in the Bible. Pornography is a form of legal prostitution and it is where we have received many of our myths about sex. Prostitution is a destructive device that has no place in a healthy relationship and is a perversion of God’s design for the human body.

  • Sexual relations with animals

Possibly the most frowned upon distortion of sexual expression is involving animals. Some cults throughout man’s history have embraced this practice. This is a clear violation of God’s law and has always had a very severe punishment associated with it. There is a direct scientific link between bestiality and sexually transmitted diseases. I.E. syphilis came from sheep and was spread through prostitution on port cities.

  • Perversion of the marriage bed

Without a doubt the marriage bed was meant as a sacred place. By embracing the cultural lie of sex being acceptable before marriage we defile the marriage bed. Culture says we must have many partners prior to marriage so we can know if we are sexually compatible with our life partner. Physically speaking if you are a man and your partner is a woman then there is sexual compatibility. It does not matter what the color of your skin or the size of your shoes, men and women’s body parts naturally fit together.

  • A redefinition of marriage

We have not evolved very far from the time of Sodom and Gomorrah. Plainly stated most civilizations have embraced a redefinition of marriage toward the end of their existence.

Some Levitical laws were specific to the Nation of Israel and those laws were fulfilled by Jesus. Others are still applicable today.

As an example Leviticus 18 is filled with specific sexual sins God warned the Israelites against. These would have been common sins within the Egyptian culture as well as in the land they were being sent to. In other words these were culturally acceptable behaviors that God did not approve of.

Look what God has to say in Leviticus 18:27-30

 “All these detestable activities are practiced by the people of the land where I am taking you, and this is how the land has become defiled. So do not defile the land and give it a reason to vomit you out, as it will vomit out the people who live there now. Whoever commits any of these detestable sins will be cut off from the community of Israel. So obey my instructions, and do not defile yourselves by committing any of these detestable practices that were committed by the people who lived in the land before you. I am the Lord your God.”

  • Personal comfort zone

Personal comfort zones are shaped by culture, environment, personal history, and education to name a few things. As followers of Christ they MUST fit well within biblical parameters.

Ephesians 5 gives us some clear instruction on godly living and that includes honoring personal comfort levels of our spouse.

  • It is clear from scripture that a husband is to care for his wife and protect her from harm both spiritually and physically.

It is a form of deception to think that within marriage the sexual relationship between a man and a woman have no boundaries. The first set of guard rails is God’s word and the second is personal comfort zone. As men it is vital to our relationship with God that we honor His word. That includes protecting our wives from straying outside biblical boundaries.

In order to protect our wives we must also be willing to stay within their personal comfort zone. For instance, it is understood that exhibition is a violation of scripture but your spouse may not even be comfortable having the lights on during intercourse because it makes her feel exposed. As a husband you need to honor that. It is also possible your spouse has an appetite for activity that does not violate scripture that you are uncomfortable with. As a silly example, how would you feel if your wife wanted to paint your toenails as a part of foreplay? No violation of privacy. No physical harm either short or long-term. The guideline becomes If it causes either person emotional harm than it should be avoided.

  • The Church and culture

I began this study with the assumption that the church has not had an impact on cultural thinking about the subject of sex. That is not historically accurate.

  • Prior to his “conversion experience” Augustine was a serious sex addict. Upon conversion he viewed sex as dirty and vulgar and became a priest. His teaching on sexuality influenced the Catholic Church for several centuries.
  • This is an example of the need for mature believers to help guide young believers in Bible study.
  • In the Victorian age the Church taught that it was proper to refrain from sexual relations in marriage beyond procreation. It was also culturally acceptable for men to visit brothels in order to keep their wives pure.
  • Graham crackers and corn flakes were both invented by religiously fanatic doctors as a cure for masturbation and sexual desire. The concept of “wholesome foods” was believed to alleviate sexual desires and thoughts among young people.
  • The sexual revolution was partly a result of a culture rebelling against church-based rules in regards to sex.

There was a time the average person was not literate and few of those who were owned a Bible. In our time there are still a lot more Christians than there are people who read the Bible.

Conclusion:

As a culture we have almost completely embraced anything but God’s design for intimacy. The Bible basics of human sex are;

  1. Keep it between one man and one woman within marriage. No third-party in the marriage bed. That includes pornography.
  2. Keep the communication lines open. Talk about and respect personal comfort zones.
  3. Embrace God’s design for the human body. Get educated about the proper design of the human body. Don’t think the locker room jokes are based on reality.
  4. Teach your sons and daughters godly principles about marriage and sex.   

If Christians truly embraced godly principles of sex they would be known for having the healthiest sex life of all religions. The Church holds the power to educate society about the proper design of human sexuality. It will require pastors, teachers, leaders, and fathers that are willing to put aside their own long-held views and educate themselves in order to train others. If the Church does not teach truth, the culture will continue to embrace lies.

Rev. Burt Schwab

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The last generation of church


I have been wondering lately if we are in the last generation of church as we know it. The Bible is clear that God’s Church will remain but what about the tradition of meeting in a special building on Sunday? It sure seems kind of bleak when considering the decline in church attendance and the rise of so called atheists.

Let’s face it folks most people hate Christians including other Christians. We bicker and fight over EVERYTHING! No wonder we can’t get our neighbors to join us for Sunday service. Oh wait, most of us don’t even know our neighbors. After all our lives are too important to slow down and say “hi” to someone we don’t know.

Hey I get it that not everyone has an outgoing personality. I’ve had better conversation with my goldfish than some people I’ve met. The point is if we call ourselves Christians we should look and act differently. Why don’t we? Seriously, why are we not known for being different?

I’m not talking about living a life of perfection. Not even talking about being sinless. Today I have sinned. Good chance of sinning tomorrow. Next week will most likely have some more of the same. That does not negate God’s grace and my option to repent of sins. None of this makes a bit of difference to an unbeliever.

So the question I struggle with is are we in the last generation of the traditional church? Have we traded true worship of one true God for man-made tradition?

Rev. Burt Schwab

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Seven denials


Seven denials that lead to the downfall of any society.

  1. Deny Scripture to be the word of God.
  2. Deny God created everything.
  3. Deny man and woman were created differently and for each other.
  4. Deny marriage is a God ordained institution.
  5. Deny God instituted human governance.
  6. Deny God’s definition of sin.
  7. Deny God’s son is the only way to heaven.

These are the steps that lead any society into a downward spiral that ultimately tries to place man above God. The end result being a culture of hate, violence, greed, and immorality.

Rev. Burt Schwab

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Is your church raising mature Christians?


Is it possible to truly follow Christ and not change? If we are to grow as Christians that would include changes in our lives. It’s completely contrary to nature to grow without change. A normal expectation is for all living things to reach a point of maturity. As an example a mature fruit tree produces fruit. A mature disciple of Jesus will produce more disciples. The greatest failure of any local church congregation is the failure to produce mature Christians. This seems to be a plague on the current Western culture church.

A big part of the problem many church congregations face is the mistaken idea that we must conform to be in unity. Unity is not the same as conformity. Unity is clearly seen in the beauty of diversity. We should readily accept that other believers are going to have a different worship style than our own. The unity of the Church should be clearly evidenced in the teaching of and adherence to the Holy Bible. Twisting scripture, or ignoring part of it completely, in order to conform to a “new” culture is destructive heresy.

God did not leave us to figure out how to become mature all on our own. He gave the Church certain ministry gifts as is recorded in Ephesians 4:11. These purpose of these gifts are clearly stated in 4:12.

Ephesians 4:11-13 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;

Marks of mature conduct

  • Prepared for works of ministry
  • Edifying the body of Christ, which is providing moral or intellectual instruction.
  • Reaching unity of faith
  • Growing in knowledge of the Son of God

The opposite of maturity is immaturity.

Ephesians 4:14 NKJV that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,

The immature believer is easily swayed by false doctrine and deceived by clever lies of greedy and selfish teachers. The same as a child is not aware of their own gullibility an immature believer is not aware of theirs. It requires patient instruction from mature believers to guide young Christians.

 

Rev. Burt Schwab

 

 

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… to inherit eternal life?


Luke 10:25 “…Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

This question was proposed to our Savior by a lawyer. It is a good question when asked with a sincere desire for instruction.

It loses its goodness when proposed out of ill design, merely, as a matter of discussion and dispute.

Rev. Burt Schwab

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