80s Day

I almost decided against writing anything this morning. Usually something worth sharing comes to mind as soon as I sit down to start typing, but this time around, I stared at the screen for a few minutes. I thought I might write something in relation to 80s day here at Our Savior. We’re celebrating Lutheran Schools Week, and one of the theme days is the 1980s. I could go on forever about those years—and not to mention, Evelyn and Harrison are rocking the 1980s getup thanks to their mom.

Anyway, my conscience got the better of me, and as it did, I thought on something perhaps more worth passing along.

I had a conversation this past Thursday right after a presentation I gave in Battle Creek. The exchange arose from something I’d said that caught a few of the Christian listeners in the crowd by surprise. Essentially, I was asked during the Q and A how a guy like me goes about discerning the Holy Spirit’s voice (or something along those lines) when engaging in the Public Square. In one of my ruder moments, I interrupted the questioner mid petition and posed an alternate question—and it’s one that almost always draws out my favorite Facebook trolls whenever I post about it online.

“Where does the Holy Spirit actually speak to Christians?”

I let the question sit for a moment, hoping for a reply. But I didn’t get one. And by the way, I’m genuinely surprised when Christians can’t answer that simple question.

Pastors, do your jobs. Sheesh.

“The Bible,” I said, disturbing the silence resolutely. “God speaks to us by way of His Word. Be in God’s Word. Don’t waste your time hoping for a still small voice. In fact, I like to say if you’re hearing voices, don’t think of it as a God speaking to you, but rather as a medical condition. It may be time to schedule yourself an MRI.”

I went along a little further, adding that if anyone claims they’re hearing the voice of God telling them to do this or that, then they’re actually engaging in a long-established heresy born from a group called the “Enthusiasts” and he or she might not be all that trustworthy. I mentioned that even the crud-Christians who stick to the bottoms of our shoes—the Westboro Baptists—they claim divine messaging from God apart from His Word when they give license for their despicable hatred toward others. They’re proof of the lack of certainty such individual messaging from the supposed divine presents. In the end, if we’re being honest, people employ this method in order to affirm and then impose their own agenda rather than actually following the lead of Christ.

I said a little more in reply, but I don’t recall all of the specifics. Although, I hear a video of the presentation will be available on the public access channel in Battle Creek very soon.

My point in brief to this particular part of the story: Stick with the Word of God. There’s certainty there. Everything you need for faithful engagement in any situation is located between Genesis 1:1 and Revelation 22:21.

So, as I said, while I was ducking out, the person who referenced the surprisingly unequivocal nature of my response actually expressed an appreciation that I didn’t dance around the issue, but instead answered it unhesitatingly. He was glad I‘d answered the gent’s question with “yes” and “no” simplicity.

“Well, Jesus did kind of say, ‘Let what you say be simply yes or no; anything more than this comes from evil’ (Matthew 5:37). And besides, the question’s premise was faulty. That needed to be shored up before we could have a better conversation.”

I suppose this exchange comes to mind right now because it was recent, but also because I’m trying to type something of value on a Monday morning. Thankfully it has a wider embrace than what’s needed in this particular moment. It fits with something else I read on Saturday that was posted to the Facebook page of a Republican candidate running for U.S. Congress. Essentially, she was asked very simply if she was pro-life. In response, the candidate gave a rather lengthy answer that never really went anywhere. It seemed to be more of a loophole-searching attempt at avoiding a clear answer.

Why? The Republican platform is pro-life. You’re running for Congress as a Republican. A “yes” or “no” will suffice. If you want to enhance your yes or no with an explanation, then great. But at least give a clear answer when asked. It’s really not that hard. If you believe that human life begins at conception, and that all such life, no matter its stage or challenges has incomparable value and is worth protecting, then say, “Yes, I am pro-life.”

Tip-toeing around the question implies a concern for upsetting the audience and losing a potential voter because of what one’s truer answer might be. In fact, such a response is eerily reminiscent of Wynn Catlin’s words: “Diplomacy is the art of saying ‘Nice doggie’ till you can find a rock.”

I get the sense she’s a candidate who, once elected, will be found with a rock in her hand.

And so how does any of this apply to us?

Well, the Bible communicates clearly that God is pro-life. A Christian doesn’t need anything more than that for discerning a candidate’s position on the matter. Even further, and I suppose coming full circle, I dare say that the only kind of Christian who’d answer the question with something other than “yes” would be one capable of hearing a voice from beyond the borders of God’s perfect and holy Word.

And we can all guess who’s most likely behind a voice like that. I’ll give you a hint. It isn’t God.

Three Things I Do Not Enjoy

I’ve discovered three things in life in general that I do not enjoy.

The first is when a snowflake, having twisted and twirled its way from the lofty heavens above, brings its lengthy journey to an end right inside my ear canal.

Pop! it goes, driven in on the breath of a wintry wind. Absolutely startling and really quite unpleasant.

The second is attempting to eat a frozen Cobb salad. Stiffly cold chunks of ham; two halves of a hard boiled egg crunchy with frost; tasteless cheese cubes turned orange; lettuce that’s a much deeper green, almost blackened by a glacial layer stealing away each leaf’s gentleness. And then finally, in an attempt to mask the meal’s unpleasantness, it’s made worse by a warm coating of ranch dressing poured from a bottle discovered a moment too late to have passed its expiration date.

But when a man is in between getting his kids home from school and an early evening meeting, he will do what he needs to do to survive. This leads me to the third thing I do not enjoy.

People will do what they need to do to preserve themselves, and they’ll do it in some pretty dark ways. One of these is by lying.

I do not appreciate deception. Yes, we are all guilty of such things. And yet, just as certain sins are particularly easier to certain individuals, lying has its happiest employers.

In my opinion, of all sins, dishonesty, no matter how slight, is one of the worst. When a man tells a lie, he sets the timer on a neutron bomb strapped to his integrity. When it does finally detonate, his respectability is vaporized, and it’s very hard to reassemble something that’s been turned to ash. As we’ve all learned, you’ll need six Infinity Stones to do that. Interestingly, the cruelest devastation isn’t necessarily found in the words a liar speaks. The words are often pleasant enough to endure. But rather the wreckage becomes real when the one deceived realizes the perpetrator’s deliberate scheme to trick a trusting neighbor for personal gain or glory.

As a pastor, I’m getting pretty good at telling when people are lying to me. It’s not because the stories being shared aren’t well told. They are. It’s because the stories are rarely original and I’ve heard them before. For as radically unique as the world tells us we are, human beings aren’t all that creative. They all tell the same stories.

For example, in my years, the man who says he’s tired with his marriage, saying his wife is unbearably dreadful to him, quite often has another woman on the side, or at a minimum, is in pursuit of one. I wish it wasn’t this way, but sadly, too often it’s true.

Another example…

In my experience, when a person stops by the church asking for money, as she’s crafting her fiction, I’m listening carefully and wrestling with the silent urge to finish her sentences. And why? Because I’ve already heard the story about how she lost her job, her car is on empty, and she’s trying to get to a job opportunity in Grand Rapids. I’ve already heard the same saga that if I give her $50, when she gets her first paycheck, she’ll send the cash right back to me. Unfortunately, more often than not, these folks go from church to church doing this, and after a full day of it, if they’re persistent, they can make quite a bit of money from such deceit.

So why share this? Because there’s a worse kind of deceitfulness that’s becoming quite prevalent in our society—a paralyzing kind. People are believing their own lies. In fact, this is happening on a massive scale. Entire populations are telling and believing their own lies. People want a way out of the suddenness of unexpected parenthood, and so they tell themselves the unborn child isn’t a person. Someone feels emotionally conflicted, and as a result, he or she works to convince the “self” that perhaps the wrong gender was assigned at birth. In the wake of these lies, those around them heralding objective truth—believing the premise that an unborn baby as a person worthy of life, believing that Natural Law cannot be broken and that people with mental illness need help not excuses—these people are being framed by the lies as the real deceivers. With this, they’re labeled as wanting to impose upon women’s rights, or they’re branded as unenlightened bigots. In some cases, they’re forced into re-education efforts (diversity training) lest they find themselves fined, in litigation, and ultimately attacked by a media set on decimating their reputation.

The only real remedy to all of this, firstly, is the faithful preaching, teaching, and emitting of the Gospel—the powerful message of God’s grace for sinners. Christians know that the power for repentance and faith comes by the Holy Spirit at work through this wonderful message. By it, we are converted and convinced to be ones with hearts born from divine honesty. Divine honesty has an authentic grip not only on the world around us, but on Mankind’s truest condition in Sin and his real need for rescue in Jesus Christ.

In other words, Christians know the truth. Better still, they’re equipped to know when they’re lying to themselves. It doesn’t mean they won’t. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). It’s easy to slip into the foolish ways of the flesh. But the Gospel is there to retool us for honesty with the “self.”

Additionally, I’d say Christians find this honesty has a strangely insatiable appetite for that which gives truth—real truth. Inevitably, the Word of God becomes the most precious source for the Christian spirit’s nutrition. It’s by God’s Word that human beings can know that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son (John 3:16), and that even as we were sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). It’s by the Word of God we can know this loving kindness as sourced from the same wellspring for setting Natural Law into order. It’s by the Word of God that we meet with the One who said so generously at the beginning of time, “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every creature that crawls upon the earth’” (Genesis 1:27-28). It’s by the Word of God, we meet with the One who said so kindly, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5). It’s by the Word of God we draw near to hear the One who said with passion, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14).

With this sail catching the winds, Christians have the momentum for steering boldly and truthfully into topics of gender, the personhood and value of the unborn, mankind’s role in relation to the environment, and so many other popular topics that seem to be turning actuality upside down.

I suppose my prayer for all of you is that while you navigate this messy world, you’d cling as tightly to the Word of God as you can. There will always be fresh versions of various lies, but in the end, a Christian knows they all tell the same story. As it was in the Garden of Eden with the first liar, the devil, all deceptions are aimed at separating us from divine truth. All are in place to divide us from the only One who can save us when all of this—everything you see around you—eventually comes undone.

Trust the Word. It’s there you’ll discover the real truth, namely your sinful condition and the Christ who can save you. As an added benefit, you’ll be armed for dealing with liars—especially when that liar is you and the believing listener is yourself. The Word never makes its way through the untilled field of falsehood without a plow and seed planter in tow. It has the muscle for digging into the heart’s impenetrable soil. It’s reliably unequivocal, never withholding what the good crops need to grow up with a faith that lasts for eternity even as everything else in the world’s field is spoiling.

A Win/Win

I just received a call from Michigan Senate Majority Leader, Mike Shirkey. It was a good conversation, and with his permission, I share the details with all of you.

First of all, Mike apologized for the situation, and he expressed a thoughtful embarrassment for how it unfolded and ultimately resulted. He spent a portion of last week investigating, having had conversations with the right folks. The call to me was to find and promise a better way forward.

Second, he encouraged me to save his mobile number in my contacts and to reach out to him directly in the future. He said he didn’t know it was happening, and had he known, it might have concluded much differently. In my own defense, since the reasons given for the prayer being rejected were set at Mike’s feet, I asked to have a quick conversation with him to gain some clarity. But the one with whom I was negotiating the prayer said that to do this would be to disregard her efforts as his appointee. I took that as I’d be offending her and making it worse for my cause. Initially, I respectfully refrained. After a few days, I called Mike’s office directly (and some of you reached out to him, too, one of you actually passing along my contact information—thank you for that).

Third, but somewhat in relation to the second point, we spoke of the dangers of social media. Again, he wishes I’d spoken with him before sharing the information online, primarily because people will run with small portions of material and find reasons to become vicious. Unfortunately, that goes with the territory. Nevertheless, he’s right. However, and again, in my defense, I shared that I do not have the luxury of press conferences or guest couches on TV shows. Looking up from my lowly station, social media is one of the only avenues one has for making known what’s actually happening. I didn’t share anything other than what I knew, although my satirical prayer didn’t make anyone in his office laugh. Still, on this issue, Mike and I are at peace and all is well.

In conclusion, the prayer I wrote will be heard by our gracious God in the presence of the Michigan Senate. Mike has invited me to be his guest Invocator. We’ll schedule this soon. Also, we had a kindly conversation about what the guidelines should be going forward. From the conversation, essentially, there will be two. The first is that the prayer to be prayed will be submitted for review, but primarily because it’s easier to record the prayer in the official Senate record when a digital copy is made available. The second is that a prayer that calls for action leading to violence will not be allowed. Beyond that, any clergy invited to give the invocation will be free to pray in accordance with his particular faith’s confession.

In conclusion, I’d encourage all to reach out to Senator Shirkey and to commend him for his diligence in this. God willing in this regard, religious liberty has been better fortified by this situation and the resulting conversations. Christian pastors in Michigan need not fear being censored by those who’d find offense by the Word of God.

In essence, this is a win—and it’s good. Also, it would seem a friendship has blossomed between a lowly pastor and a gentleman desiring to govern rightly.

By the Book

As some of you may already know, the prayer I intended to pray before the Michigan Senate was deemed unallowable according to Senate Rules, and I was not permitted to offer it. If you are curious as to the words of the prayer, you may read it here: https://www.facebook.com/christopher.thoma.52/posts/10220201889853220

I mean no disrespect for those who serve in the challenging positions of governance, and yet I humbly request that they’d give ear to my concern and consider what they’ve done. A Christian pastor has been asked to pray to his God in accordance with the doctrines of the Christian faith to which he subscribes. The silencing of his prayer lest it offend others of differing beliefs —a prayer which speaks truth in love, but also with unequivocal clarity—teeters at the edge, if not crosses completely over, into the smothering of religious liberty.

For the record, the word “Invocation” is used a total of six times in the most recent edition of the Michigan State Senate Rules (Published February, 2019).

Its first usage is on page 8 of the index. The second usage is on page 1 of the content section. It’s used in passing in Section 1.102.b, which reads: “Except as proved in Rule 1.205(b), following the invocation and Pledge of Allegiance, the presiding officer shall instruct the Secretary of the Senate to record the attendance. The attendance roll call shall be taken using the electronic voting system for one minute; however, on the first session in January, or if the electronic voting system is not operational, the presiding officer shall instruct the Secretary of the Senate to call the roll orally and record and announce the results.”

Its third and fourth usages are within the same paragraph on page 9—Section 1.205.b. Again, its usage is in passing. The portion reads: “A Senator may be recognized prior to the invocation and the attendance roll call only for the purpose of presenting a motion to adjourn. Should such a motion to adjourn prevail, there shall be no official invocation and attendance roll call for that day.”

Its fifth usage occurs on page 19—Section 3.102. Here it stands simply as “Invocation,” and it is the second effort immediately following the “Call to Order” in the Order of Business.

The word’s sixth usage happens on page 32. It is listed as the eleventh point of clarification, designated as item “k,” in Section 3.902.a.1. It follows in reference to the list’s principal statement, which reads: “No person, other than the following, shall be admitted to the Senate floor…” Point “k” follows as: “A guest who has been invited by a Senator to offer the invocation, and a family member of that guest.”

Nothing else exists in the Senate Rules regarding the content of the Invocation. No rule exists regarding a required preview of the Invocator’s manuscript.

Additionally, it was shared with me by Genevieve Marnon, a friend and Dismemberment Bill petitioner, that she was told by campus police that the Michigan State Capitol Commission governs those types of rules. I did a similar search among the scribblings of the MSCC and discovered nothing of the sort. In tandem, I found it odd (if indeed it is true that the MSCC oversees the Senate Invocation) that such a body would be charged with such a task, especially when considering their official charter for maintaining the Capitol facility, which reads:

“The Michigan State Capitol Commission consists of the Secretary of the Senate, the Clerk of the House of Representatives, two individuals jointly appointed by the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House, and two individuals appointed by the Governor. The Commission manages, maintains and restores the Michigan State Capitol Building and its grounds. The Commission appoints an individual to manage the day-to-day operations of the site and employs staff to carry out these responsibilities. The Commission makes recommendations to the Governor, the Senate, and the House of Representatives regarding funding for the site.”

I found it equally interesting that the earliest acts establishing the MSCC are precisely worded in ways that describe the body as having no jurisdiction with regard to the House or Senate proceedings. One act (4.1946—Section 6.2) even goes so far as to remove the MSCC from limiting the Legislature’s privilege to use the facility as it deems necessary. The point reads: “The commission does not have authority and shall not exercise control over the internal decisions of the senate or the house of representatives related to the allocation of space in the state capitol building or the state capitol building parking lot, including legislative or staff offices. All decisions concerning space in the state capitol building and the state capitol building parking lot shall be made according to the rules or practices of the senate and the house of representatives.”

Finally, and in conclusion, if there are rules out there somewhere that show the prayer I intended to pray before the Senate as lawlessness, I am yet to see them.

And I have asked the people who’d know. I’m still waiting.

Of course, if you or someone you may know has a sufficient answer, please share it with me. I am courageous enough to admit when I’m wrong. But I’m equally courageous enough to pursue this to the end if, in fact, I’m not.

Change of Plans

As it turns out, I will not be offering the invocation before the Michigan State Senate tomorrow. I had to bow out. I did what I could with all involved to negotiate the wording of the prayer. I presented three different versions, in fact. But alas, far too much was deemed by Senate rules—well, actually more like subjective suggestions—as politically off-limits. I cannot speak to things such as abortion, Natural Law, traditional marriage, and ultimately, religious liberty. I can’t say anything that might offend other faiths or ideologies. Instead, I can speak encouragement and praise for the body–sort of a “Great job, guys!” while giving plenty of room for the impression and possibility that everyone’s truths—and the gods from which they come—are of equal value.

I’ve shared below what I intended to say. I don’t think it’s all that corrosive.


Of course, if you have the time, perhaps you might pray it on your own.


By the way, when I got tired of trying to shapeshift this prayer, I ended up hopping on the treadmill and writing a satirical one. Looking back, I’m starting to think that had I submitted it, it might have been doable. That prayer is shared at this link: https://www.facebook.com/notes/christopher-thoma/o-god-of-the-senate/10157775729255629/

In the name of the Father and of the (+) Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Almighty and most merciful God, Your holy Word teaches that all authority begins and ends with You, and so you are the Divine Author of earthly governance. Your Word reveals that You do this as you employ men and women for service within the three estates of the Church, the Family, and the Government, not lifting anyone in these to a position of self-privilege and tyranny, but setting them to the task of humility given for the well-being of those they serve.

Faithful God, move all attending to the work of this body to know such humility, and by it, to love these three estates.

As their work would meet with the Church, let them be ones seeking to preserve religious liberty, desiring to maintain the freedom to live according to the doctrines of faith. Hinder all attempts to burden Godly consciences by unjust laws. Defend against the crafting of legislation designed to cause your faithful to forsake the truth of Your Word.

As these Senators observe the estate of Family—a father, a mother, and children—cause them to admire the institution, not only as honorable, but as a society’s most powerful agent for stability. Be swift to avert the confusion of Holy Marriage as You have designed it. Within these same ranks, let children be cherished. Unravel any spirit that would consider a child in the womb to be nothing more than an inconvenience, a gelatin of cells, a non-person whose tiny frame is not protected, but rather fit only to be destroyed and scraped from a surgical tray into the trash. Convert and convince all leaders away from such atrocities born of radical individualism—which is the worship of “self” as the first and last to all things—a false liberty declaring each person free to do whatever he or she wants or feels, and to do so without consequence.

Being the embodiment of the estate of Government, grant these Senators wisdom to seek legitimate impartiality according to objective truth born from Natural Law, and protect all who desire to remain in stride with biological verity from the threat of punishment or the labeling of bigotry.

Hear us as we pray, and help us, dear Lord! We need you. Be merciful, and do not rest idly by as this elected body joins for service. Cast the bright beams of Your love and insight into their hearts. Strengthen us, the citizens of Michigan, with the resolve to stand alongside Senators pursuing truth, and pit us mightily against those who do not. Equip us with the patience to pray for all, and by Your grace, lead us together to sunlit horizons where this government might be called “good.”

As all of Mankind dwells in Sin and is unworthy of Your help, still, Your Word heralds Your great love for us. Even now, Your believers implore you with contrite hearts, confident that you will hear and mindful that You will work for the good of those who love You, who are called according to Your purpose. We pray these things through the merits and mediation of the Son of God, (+) Jesus Christ—the only savior from Sin and the one way of eternal life—who lives and reigns with Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


I’ll Pray Intently

I’ll be giving the invocation before the Michigan State Senate on Tuesday. I’m not nervous. I’ve done it several times before. And I rarely get nervous before speaking to a crowd, anyway. Imagine if I did. As a pastor, I’d be a constant wreck. A good portion of what I do involves public speaking.

Still, I’ll admit to the pestering concern I feel when it comes to leading a gathering of civil authorities in prayer. I’m not concerned because I don’t know what to say. I’m concerned because I do.

As a pastor, I’ve learned that every prayer offered in the midst of a public gathering is a confessing moment of sorts. If a pastor says it isn’t, he’s being dishonest. In simple form, it’s a representative “reaching out” to God on behalf of all gathered. But it’s also an instant to clarify for anyone listening and wondering just why we’d do such a thing. It’s a moment to make clear who it is we’re speaking to—what He’s all about and what faithfulness to Him looks like. A public prayer is a powerful tool for petitioning God on behalf of believers, but it holds an equal potency for planting the seed of truth into the hearts of unbelievers.

I’ll be doing this on Tuesday morning using precisely selected words geared for maximum resonation. I’ll do so before a gathering of people with the power to target me as an opponent and haunt my every effort when I’m done.

But again, you know me. I’m not necessarily afraid to do this. But it would be disingenuous of me to say I’m not concerned. I am. When the prayer concludes and I make my way down the side aisle to the door, I know what will happen. I’ve been there before, and so I know what to expect.

In perspective, standing before a cast of various ideologies—some friendly, and others salivating monstrously for everything contrary to Christ and His Church—I’ll pray for the Lord to grant His wisdom to all who serve in the Senate chamber. Most in attendance will smile politely in that moment. But then I’ll begin to define wisdom’s contours, and in the ticks of the clock that follow, some of those smiles will evaporate like raindrops on the sun-cooked pavement.

I’ll speak of the fellowship of sinful humanity, how we’re all transgressors. I’ll speak of Christ crucified for this transgressing world—Christ, the wisdom of God and the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:24)! As it meets Mankind, I’ll speak of faith in this Gospel as true wisdom. I’ll speak of such faith as it leads into the three estates of Family, Church, and Government.

I’ll speak to the magnificent value of family. I’ll give thanks for the wonderful gift of holy marriage—one man and one woman joining together, and, by God’s gracious design, producing children. I’ll warn against opposing Natural Law, asking specifically for the strength to withstand false biology and to unravel the efforts of anyone seeking to weave untruth into society. I’ll speak to the pricelessness of the unborn. I’ll plead quite illuminatingly—unequivocally—for the overthrow and destruction of any agenda that would provide for the killing of little ones in the womb.

If you know anything about me, then you know I’ll do this very descriptively.

I’ll speak to religious liberty, and I’ll ask that God would fight for His Church’s freedom to preach the Gospel and to live faithfully according to His Word. I’ll plead with Him before His enemies that He’d turn their hearts toward a peaceful existence. And if not, then I’ll hope for Him to crush any and all attempts to criminalize the Christian faith, life, and practices, and I’ll ask that He give sturdy spines to His people for rising up in the cause of defense.

I’ll name radical individualism, which preaches everyone is free to be and do whatever he or she wants or feels without consequence. I’ll be sure to throttle this ideology aggressively.

I’ll pray intently. I’ll say a lot. I’ll have about two minutes to do it, although I’d expect the Senate Secretary won’t interrupt if I go a moment or two longer. I’ll expect a response from those who are dissatisfied by my words. They’re pretty predictable that way. But I’ll bet on a better response from the Lord of heaven and earth—the One I’ll be addressing. He hears the prayers of His people, and He works for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purposes in faithfulness. I trust He’ll accomplish something by His Gospel tomorrow. Indeed, it is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16).

As far as my role in the whole thing, “When our actions do not, our fears make us traitors” (Shakespeare, Macbeth). In other words, my immediate concern is to let my words and deeds be counted as traitorous to this world rather than allowing fear to seize them, making my silence a traitorous thing to God. In the end, what have I got to lose, anyway? In this world, nothing. Against eternity, everything.

Friends, the burial shroud has no pockets. That’s a far better knowledge to keep close when standing before the mammon-doling powers of this age.

Honorable Men

Resolutions for personal betterment are the topic of discussion at this moment just past the New Year’s turning point. At least for some. Others think the idea of making resolutions is ridiculous.

I don’t. As Christians, training for spiritual righteousness is a commendable thing (2 Timothy 3:16). Saint Paul said that. He also commended us to reaching higher in our Godly knowledge and ways when he wrote in Colossians 3:1-4, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”

In any of the discussions I’ve had so far on the matter with folks who are actually attempting New Year’s resolutions, most have itemized things they’d like to change—such as their weight or eating habits. Others have shared with me personality characteristics they’d prefer to see barred at the exit door of 2019.

On a personal note, last year I focused on rebuilding relationships I’ve seen crumble. For the most part, I’ve been working pretty steadily at it. Some have improved. Others, I’ll admit, are proving much harder—nearly impossible—to mend. Still, I intend to keep at it. And besides, I knew I’d win some and lose some. But the upside is that maintaining the desire to be someone who works toward such things isn’t as hard as it was when I first started. The ways I’ve been going about it have become more or less habitual—which is what you want when you’re trying to make deeper, personal changes. You want whatever you’re trying to change to become a near thoughtless part of who you are as a person. It takes time to craft and become this, but eventually, it does happen.

By God’s promised grace, it’s happening in various ways in my life, and I’m glad for it. It makes me wonder why anyone would knock such efforts. Who knows? Maybe there’s a fear of darker discoveries when we take an honest inventory of ourselves.

Again, who knows? Either way, now it’s on to other improvements, and so I’ve made other resolutions. I’ll share one with you that I shared with the men in the Bible study last night at my house. I’d sort of thought it through on the way home from worship yesterday.

A few weeks back, right after the Divine Service, I took a moment to encourage folks to attend the upcoming Marriage Seminar on January 11. To introduce it, I teed up a story of having never seen the movie “Aladdin.” I explained that I’d finally sat down to watch it with my daughters, and when I arrived at a particular scene in which Jazmine was throwing a bit of a tantrum about not wanting to be considered a “prize to be won,” my lungs stole nearly all of the room’s oxygen in a surprised gasp.

I’ve been telling my daughters for years that, yes, indeed, they are prizes to be won!

When it comes to relationships with young suitors, my girls are to know and remember the Word of the Lord in 1 Corinthians 6:20. It’s there they will hear, “For you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” They are to know that when it comes to dating, as Christian girls, they’re worthy of the best characteristics in men. My girls are to know that everything and all that they are is of incredible value. They are priceless prizes to be sought out and won by the best of the best. This isn’t snobbery, but rather a teaching from the right perspective—the Christian perspective—that they’ve already seen this demonstrated by the One who loves them perfectly: Jesus Christ. My daughters were worth every drop of blood in the Lord’s veins, and as Saint Paul shares in Ephesians 5:22-33, they ought never to settle for any man who is unable to behold them against the backdrop of the mysteriously beautiful gift of God called Marriage.

In the end, I think I know why the character Jazmine said what she did. She was being treated like currency. But it doesn’t change the fact that I will continue to tell my daughters they are prizes to be won, and with that, I’m hoping for them to one day be joined in holy marriage to Godly and honorable husbands. In this is found the seed of one of my resolutions for 2020.

What can I do to make sure they find these types of men?

In 2020, as the pastor of a church and school, I will be doing whatever I can—actively, intentionally—to both model and promote honorability among the boys and men of this organization. Of course, I’m already quite mindful of such things in my day to day activities. It’s part of who I am already. But now I will be acting outwardly on this sense with more deliberateness. I will be looking for and seizing each opportunity to instill in the young men a craving for filling the gaps in male respectability in our society. We need these men to be the kinds of husbands and fathers who understand they can’t love their wives and children as God would have them if they love themselves more.

For example, in a basic sense, a man offers first passage through a doorway to others, namely to women and children. This is foundational to the ways of common courtesy alive in many of us. And yet, I say this having read a short news article about a man whose little one died in a house fire because he chose to save his video gaming system first.

This is where we are.

Another example…

A man is never to impose himself crassly upon anyone, being in a person’s face and loud. And yet a man will raise his voice above the fray if necessary. He is never so soft as to shrink from doing what’s right, no matter the boisterousness of the opponents who surround him. I say this as I observe our culture doing all it can to effeminize men, shaping them to be sheepishly ambivalent, discouraging them from confronting falsehood or bad behavior, crafting them into men who’d rather be friends with their children than steer them into verity, men who’ve become less likely to speak up and act when a sturdy viscera for truth is needed in the world around them.

An honorable man gives his word and is deeply harmed if he discovers himself breaking it. An honorable man puts his fiber into fighting for what’s good, for what’s important. He doesn’t accept what the world proffers as inevitable, but rather relies on what God establishes and has marked as virtuous. I offer these descriptions among an ocean of failing marriages drowning in shattered promises given by straying men who gave up long before lifting a finger to grapple through to better days with the women God gave them for a sacred unity.

In past interviews with new families desiring to enroll their children here in our school, when asked why they want their children to attend Our Savior, it isn’t uncommon for some parents to say, “Because we want them to be good people, to be moral people.” Usually I would respond with a brief explanation of our Gospel foundation, how we’re not necessarily a morality-factory—although morality is a deliberate byproduct—but rather a place that begins and ends with the Gospel as the source for all our efforts. It’s by the power of the Holy Spirit through the Gospel that a desire to live good and decent lives according to God’s holy Law is born. With this 2020 resolution in mind, from now on I might say a little differently, “Situated firmly in the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins in Jesus—which is the primary reason we exist—the fruits of morality will be taught and expected. For the girls, virtue will be heralded. For the boys, one pathway toward many of these expectations will be by way of teaching them what it means to be honorable.”

Thinking out loud with the men in the Bible study last night, I told them I believe a moral man is far different than an honorable one. I think both are capable of sinful behavior, but I get the sense from God’s Word that an honorable man is one who not only knows the rules, but plays by them. In other words, when he falls short, he’s more inclined to regret what he’s done and work to change it. That’s a face of honor. That’s humility. That looks and sounds an awful lot like the basic wisdom of faith—like humble repentance and trust in Jesus that leads to an amending of the sinful life. In fact, God did say in Proverbs 18:12 that humility strides before honor. And Proverbs 29:23 says a humble spirit will obtain honor.

So, anyway, that’s one of my resolutions for 2020. I hope I can achieve something by it. I know that however impactful the effort is, it will be even more fruitful if upheld and practiced by the parents at home. Truly, it’s there that boys are groomed for manhood—which means the first of my efforts will always be the continuation of such things among my own sons, Joshua and Harrison.