A Snowy View of What Is to Come

People worldwide love the Olympics. From the thrill of victory to the agony of defeat, the Olympic Games showcase athletes and their stories, countries and their histories.

For those of us old enough to remember, during the Cold War the Olympic Games were a huge matter of national pride. Everyone knew the roster for the Soviet hockey team consisted of men who played professionally, a no-no back in the day when Olympic athletes really were amateurs. So when our college boys took down the mighty Soviet team on the home ice of Lake Placid during the 1980 Olympics, we heartily chanted, “U-S-A, U-S-A.” We were Americans. These were our athletes.

Any time an American athlete ascends the podium to receive the gold medal and the orchestra plays our national anthem, for a few brief moments, it feels like we really are one nation, as if unity identifies who we are as a people. But the moment quickly wanes, and we return to the status quo of a fractured people. We wish the unity remained.

There is a victory that has made the unity of humanity possible. Paul spoke of Jesus’ victory over sin, death, and the grave (1 Corinthians 15:53-57). His resurrection is the culmination of the gospel where He made from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation, one community of the redeemed (Romans 15:5-6; 1 Corinthians 12:11-13). If there is to be any unity, harmony, agreement, peace, or goodwill among nations, churches, marriages, and families, it will only come as the individuals in those communities unite around the person and work of Jesus Christ. Every other idea promoting unity fades quickly.

The medal ceremony is a moving event in the Olympics. How marvelous the moment must be for the athlete when he receives his gold medal followed by the playing of his national anthem. If the athlete is fortunate enough to win on his home soil, all the better, then the crowd rises to its feet and sings with him the song of his country. Thousands of voices singing as one for the glory that is their homeland.

In a similar way this is our experience when we gather to worship together. All the voices of the redeemed rise and sing as one the song of our victor, Jesus Christ. From Crown Him with Many Crowns to The Power of the Cross and scores of tunes and texts in between, we declare our oneness because of the victory Jesus achieved. When we gather to worship, we declare to Him, we are one in You, and when we gather to worship, we declare to each other, we are unified in Him.

Enjoy the remaining few days of the Olympics. There is certain to be some great story or event still to come. Enjoy the feeling of being an American when one of our athletes wins and feel a sense of national pride. These experiences and feelings are a shadow of what we will know when all the redeemed of all the ages gather around the throne of the victorious Jesus and sing together, Worthy is the Lamb!

As always I welcome your feedback and any ideas you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.

This Musing first appeared in February 2014 as the world gathered in Sochi, Russia, for the XXII Olympic Winter Games.

When a Christian University Forgets Its Mission

Last weekend was as big as it gets for the Twin Cities. We hosted the Super Bowl, and by most accounts the myriad of events went off without a hitch. In the list of parties and programs surrounding the game was a concert held at rented facilities on the campus of Bethel University in St. Paul. What follows is my letter to the adminstration for its failure to protect the name of Christ and its students.

Office of the President
Bethel University
3900 Bethel Drive
St. Paul, MN 55112

February 5, 2018

President Barnes,

Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I write to you with a heavy heart and a measure of emotion. That Bethel University hosted an event headlined by Snoop Dogg raises serious questions about the capacity of the administration to execute the mission of Bethel University.

I have read Bethel’s Community Announcement (Jan 29, 2018) where the administration attempts to distance itself from the performers at the NFL’s Super Bowl Gospel Celebration, “Bethel does not get involved in the specific content of any events staged by rental groups, including this one.” The disclaimer appears in the same paragraph as “this year’s headline performer will be Snoop Dogg.” One can only assume the necessity to issue a statement is directly tied to the presence of Snoop Dogg.

Further, in the same announcement you openly encourage participation, even providing a hyperlink, when you inform the students, faculty, and staff “a limited number of tickets are still available through Ticketmaster if you would like to attend.”

In other words, “We can’t help it that the NFL picked Snoop Dogg to perform in our premier performance venue built by the generous and sacrificial donations of Christians worldwide, and we’re pretty sure he won’t drop any F-bombs, rap about female genitalia, or use the N word or the B word or the S word or any of those other bad words he uses. So, don’t go if you think you might be offended, but if you’re not offended by those words and if you think it’s really cool that a misogynistic, vulgar, pot smoking, ‘gangsta business’ kind of guy is droppin’ it on our campus, then here’s the link to snag some swag.”

It is disingenuous to ask your constituents to shrug their shoulders because Bethel does not offer oversight to the specific content of rental groups. You have a responsibility to promote the mission of Bethel University when renting to outside organizations. You have a responsibility to the alumni who continue to support the university to continue in the Christian tradition of the previous decades. You have a responsibility to the students to bring to the campus Christ-honoring entertainment. You have a responsibility to protect the female members of the community from the abusive ideology of Snoop Dogg’s music. Rightly, you would not allow the content of neo-Nazis or Planned Parenthood. What could you possibly have been thinking to give the NFL carte blanche approval for any performer they desired without any oversight from your administration?

Do I need to list the problems with Snoop Dogg performing at a Christian University? Did you cringe when you heard Snoop Dogg would perform? Did you attempt to stop the performance when you became aware of it? When Bethel University signed the rental agreement with the NFL, did your administration gain assurances that your expectations as a Christian University would be met?

Boldly informed and motivated by the Christian faith, Bethel University educates and energizes men and women for excellence in leadership, scholarship, and service. Because we are deeply committed to our mission as a religiously affiliated center for higher education, all rental guests must utilize the university’s facilities and conduct themselves in a manner consistent with Bethel’s mission and values.

For the last seventeen years I have served our church and the community of Inver Grove Heights. In my efforts to reach the community, I have become friends with many administrators, faculty, and staff at our local schools. Last Friday afternoon one of them said to me, “Yeah, Snoop Dogg is going to be at Bethel tonight and with the strippers tomorrow night!”

I was stunned and asked what he was talking about. This unsaved man informed me of what was happening on the Bethel campus. I stuttered in my response thinking his words could not possibly be true. Certainly, a high school student told him something social media had manufactured. I was wrong.

Friday night of Super Bowl weekend, Snoop Dogg performed something vaguely religious in the Benson Great Hall.

Saturday night of Super Bowl weekend, Snoop Dogg worked as the DJ for Playboy’s Big Game Weekend Party in Minneapolis.

I can only assume on campus venues were not available for Saturdaynight’s event since “Bethel does not get involved in the specific content of any events staged by rental groups.”

How is it that an unsaved man without the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit can see the problem with this, but the administration of Bethel University cannot? This unconverted man laughed when telling his Christian pastor friend that arguably the leading, evangelical Christian higher education institution in the Twin Cities hosted an event featuring Snoop Dogg. I suspect you set back the work of the gospel with this man and so many others farther than any of us know. May God have mercy on you and those who need the gospel.

The failure of Bethel’s administration to exercise righteous stewardship for the resources God has given the university requires a statement from your office and scrutiny from the Bethel University Board of Trustees.

Grace to you.

Rev. Dr. Michael VerWay
First Calvary Baptist Church
Inver Grove Heights, MN

As always I welcome your feedback and any ideas you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.

Abortion, Slavery & Wilberforce

William Wilberforce fought against slavery for twenty years. To state the matter differently, Wilberforce witnessed the import and practice of buying and selling human beings as normative in Great Britain nearly the whole of his life. As a member of parliament, he led the campaign to end the immoral and vulgar practice. For nineteen years his efforts did not produce the outcome he desired. I’ll return to Wilberforce later.

Lost in the mist of the political fog in the United States was a procedural vote Monday in the U.S. Senate. Needing sixty votes to move a bill that would ban abortion after twenty weeks gestation, supporters gained only fifty-one votes. Three democrats cast yes votes while two republicans voted no. Our two Minnesota senators, Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, voted no without comment to the press or their constituents.

For decades abortion providers and proponents have said abortion needs to be available to all women as a matter of modern healthcare. They argue women who have conceived because of rape should not be forced to carry the child to term. They argue a woman whose life is endangered by a pregnancy should not be forced to carry the child to term. For the record, both of these exceptions were included in the bill previously passed by the U.S. House of Representatives and rejected Monday by the senate.

The fact remains abortion providers and proponents will accept nothing less than abortion on demand without any restrictions. The slogan of those who promote the infanticide of children in the womb is that abortions should be rare, safe, and legal. This is not true. While they may be legal in the US, they are neither rare nor safe. A human being always dies in an abortion. A mother always bears the scar in her soul that she killed her baby. Society always loses a gift from God.

Today, abortion providers will kill 3,315 human beings in a mother’s womb.

Abortion on demand without restriction is the official position of the Democrat party. Their position embraces partial birth abortion and rejects parental notification. Their position advocates the federal government supplies and distributes condoms for all so that consenting persons may have sex whenever and with whomever they want.

Should a pregnancy occur, they have a solution for that. No woman should be forced to carry or to care for a child she does not want. For reference U.S. abortion laws are consistent with only seven nations on the planet. On this issue we look more like China and North Korea than Uganda or Peru.

When asked to defend the position, politicians raise the straw man argument of rape, incest, and life of the mother. The facts are these: abortions because of rape are 3/10 of 1% of all abortions. Abortions because of incest are 3/100 of 1% of all abortions. Abortions because of the safety of the life of the mother are 1/10 of 1%. Together, these are less than ½ of 1% of the abortions performed in the US. The fact is 99% of abortions are purely elective. For whatever reason (and there are many), the mother determines that she does not want this baby, and she finds a medical professional who will kill her baby for her.

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives and at least fifty-one members of the U.S. Senate are trying to put an end to this. They face stiff opposition.

It has been 45 years since the Roe v. Wade SCOTUS decision. Little by little some states and portions of the federal government have chipped away at the legal standing that allows the killing of human beings in the womb. To date seventeen states ban abortions after twenty weeks.

Back to Wilberforce, he won election to the English parliament in 1784. In the coming year he came into contact with John Newton of Amazing Grace fame and soon was born again after hearing the gospel. He was a new man and took up the cause to stop slave trade making initial political moves in 1787. The next two decades of his life were given to that single cause. Year after year, the politics of failed votes, broken agreements, and setbacks marked his endeavors until the passage of the Slave Trade Act in 1807, twenty full years after he began.

The fight to end abortion in the United States continues. We’ve been at it for a very long time. Brave and bold women and men continue to stand against the economics of abortion and the immorality of abortion just like Wilberforce stood against the economics of the slave trade and the immorality of the slave trade. We have witnessed incremental movement away from the wickedness that is the taking of life in the womb. I pray we will see the end of the taking of life in the womb just as Wilberforce saw the end of the slave trade.

As heaven was on the side of Wilberforce so heaven is on the side of those who stand to protect the lives of the yet to be born. Let’s allow Wilberforce’s example to inspire us. He was a Christian who led the charge, and likely, Christians will lead the charge against abortion. And let’s remember God’s Word.

Galatians 6:9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.  

As always I welcome your feedback and any ideas you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.

Not That Long Ago But Almost A Lifetime

Two years ago today (01/23/2016) my mom put on immortality and entered the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. Shortly following her death, my older son, Michael, penned the words that follow. They are a blessing to me. I trust you find them to be a blessing to you.

Michael's note (01/11/2018): Two years have passed since my Nan died. Her memory remains fresh with me. While I still miss her very much, I am not overcome by her death nor do I worry for her. Instead, I say with the apostle, "Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift." I wrote the follwoing shortly following her death.

In the weeks since grandma passed away, I’ve had time to think about her life and death. I loved this woman, and her death has presented a challenge for me in my faith. Believing that God will accomplish his plan for eternity is easy, believing his goodness for my family today is hard.

She was the self-described “energizer bunny”, and even in retirement she played her clarinet in the church orchestra, educated children, and drove far beyond the grocery store and post office. Even though we all knew her heart was abandoning her, it still came as a surprise when it finally quit. It’s hard to believe God when someone so full of life loses it.

Maybe I’ve doubted because of the personal relationship we had with each other. Since high school, we’ve called and texted frequently because she was a cool, flip-phone-texting kind of grandma. None of my friends had a grandma like her. And I wasn’t just asking for cookies, Pepsi, and pizza anymore; I wanted her opinions and advice on marriage, Christianity, and my job - while, of course, still asking for cookies, Pepsi, and pizza. As her oldest grandchild, God granted me more time with her than my siblings or cousins. She was more than just my grandma, “Nanny” was my friend. It’s hard to believe God when He takes your friend.

Like so many before me, I began to ponder difficult questions. Why would God take her home? Why allow her to die when she still had so much to offer? What’s your plan here, God? Nothing about the situation seemed right. In our age of seeming medical miracles, how could a reasonably healthy woman have no option to live before the age of 70? Why would God take home one of his best servants? This woman, lying on her deathbed, was giving the gospel to her nurses and all who came to her room. Why take a woman like that away from her family and friends? And why take a woman home when she still wanted to live? It’s hard to believe God when His plan doesn’t match up with ours.

God, in his grace, did not give any direct answers; I still don’t know why he took her home. Frankly, I doubt I ever will. Instead, God gave himself to my family, and He showered us with the promises of his character. He wrapped us up in the security of his Word and calmed our fears and doubts. A few nights before she passed away, I sat down at my table and wrote two lists. The first is God’s actions, and the second is my responses.

God’s Actions in Nanny’s Death

  • God looked down from heaven to us on earth (Psalm 113:5-6).

Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth?

  • God raised a poor woman from the dust and garbage pile and placed her with the nobility of heaven (Psalm 113: 7-8).

He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people.

  • God collected our tears so that not one of them would be forgotten (Psalm 56:8).

You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?

  • Like Lazarus, God raised Nanny from the dead, but not to a life of continued hardship; she lives with the Savior (John 11:25).

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live."

  • God demonstrated the complete victory of Jesus over the devil. (Hebrews 2:14).

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.

  • God provided peace (John 14:27, Philippians 4:6-7).

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

  • God provided us a glimpse of the joy we will one day experience (John 16:22).

So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

  • God ushered her into her true home, His presence (2 Corinthians 5:8).

Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

My responses to Nan's Death and God's Actions

  • Trust the Lord and stop carrying your own burdens. We aren’t superheroes (1 Peter 5:7).

Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

  • Praise the Lord. He will continue to do great things. Not even death can stop his work (Psalm 113:1-3).

Praise the Lord! Praise, O servants of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord! Blessed be the name of the Lord from this time forth and forevermore! From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised!

  • Grieve as believers - with hope! (1 Thessalonians 4:13)

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.

  • Walk by faith and rejoice for Nanny as she walks by sight (2 Corinthians 5:6-7).

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.

  • Keep running! There is a new spectator encouraging us onward (Hebrews 12:1).

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us

As always I welcome your feedback and any ideas you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.

She's 11 and Wants Her Own Phone, Now What?

Her mom knew something was wrong. “I wonder what happened at school today?” the mother of three thought as she watched her 11-year-old trudge up the driveway toward the front door. Her little girl’s head hung low, and the usual smile after waving to her friends on the bus was nowhere to be found.

“Hi, honey! You’re just in time to help me make some cookies.”

“It’s not fair! Everybody else has their own phone except me. Today, Mila came to school with a phone. She showed it to everyone. The whole class was happy for her. Now I’m the only one without one. Why can’t I have a phone like everybody else?”

It is only a matter of time before the little girl gets a phone. I don’t have a problem with the inevitable. Cellular phones are as much a part of our culture in 2018 as is indoor plumbing. And like indoor plumbing, both contain foul odors. When managed correctly, no one notices. Left unchecked the whole house suffers.

In a previous Musing I asked, “What training do children receive before their hands grasp their first phone?” Here is an incomplete directory of ideas and suggestions for training and managing smartphone use in our families.

  1. Put off handing a smartphone to your child for as long as possible. Brenda and I ditched a landline long before it was common practice. No phone on the wall created a problem when we were away from home. What do the kids at home do if they need to make a call when both mom and dad are away or what do we do if we need to make contact with them when they are home alone? Our answer was to have a dedicated pay-as-you go phone available at home. They are mostly inexpensive and easy to manage but not always easy to find around the house, if you know what I mean.
  2. Parents must train and expect children to accept direction and correction in other areas of life before a cell phone becomes part of a child’s identity. If a child shows humility and a willingness to accept guidelines and improvement in other areas, he may be ready for a cell phone; however, if a child offers resistance to parental leadership, the child is not ready for the responsibility of a cell phone. To hand her one is to ask for problems. “Give me my phone!” will be your harsh reality.
  3. In our home any member of our family has veto power over any social media friend on another family member’s account. For example, one of the boys knows one of his sisters follows a boy on Instagram he thinks is a problem. He can veto that friend, and the friend goes away on the app. The same holds for Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, and the rest.
  4. In our home we do not allow any private passwords on any phone. All the family members in our home know the password to my phone, and each family member freely offers the password on his or her phone to the rest of the family.
  5. In our home texts received and texts sent are open for mom and dad to read at any time. This is a non-negotiable. As our children have gotten older, our reading of their texts has decreased to the point that it is now virtually non-existent. However, when they first received their phones, we read their text communication daily and, often, repeatedly in the same day.
  6. In our home cell phones have a bed time. When a child goes to bed, the phone goes to bed too on the counter in the kitchen. It stays there until the next morning when the child may retrieve it after the morning routine is complete. We don’t want the last thing our children experience at night to be their phones nor do we want the first thing they experience in the morning to be their phones. We want the last and first to be God and family. The importance of this guideline cannot be exaggerated.
  7. In our home browser history cannot be deleted by the phone’s user. The history can only be deleted by another family member.
  8. In our home cell phones are not the Bible used for worship.In truth I’d suggest this be the practice for all of us. Our phones do not NEED to come in the church building with us. It is nearly impossible not to be distracted by a cell phone’s other uses when it is used during worship. Unless it is put in airplane mode so no push notifications can come through, it will be a distraction. Even then how many of us are disciplined enough to not momentarily check a social media app, not send or read a text, or not go for a two-minute surf on the web? Do you really think your child is mature enough to worship with a cell phone at the ready? Do you really think your child can keep his phone in his pocket and engage in fellowship with other believers before and after worship? I see no reason for cell phones when we gather to worship. If you have one, I am willing to be corrected.
  9. In our home had an app like Moment been available, we would have installed it on phones. These apps monitor usage and allow parents to set limits on children’s phones. We learn to ride a bike with training wheels. Learning to use a cell phone with restraints on time is a wise move.
  10. Before giving your child a cell phone or if you’ve already given your child a cell phone, read together the recent publication 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You. If you act quickly, you can get the book for free in audio format.

Others will have additional ideas that help control an amazing and wonderful device that God has made possible for us to enjoy. If we are to do all to the glory of God, including using a cell phone, then our cell phones must be our servants and never our masters. Guidelines help maintain the relationship between a user and his cell phone.

As always I welcome your feedback and any ideas you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.