Why?

I don’t know why. But I know the Lord knows why.

I also know the Lord works through our sufferings and that Jesus Christ Himself, the son of God, asked, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done,” Matthew 26:42. It seems that our whole lives are lessons learning how to say this. “Lord, we wish things were otherwise, please change things! Nevertheless, your will be done.”

Jesus also asked “why?”He asked it this way, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46.

We are, as Christians, tempted to think – “well, that’s Jesus, not me. I shouldn’t cast my circumstances into the frame of Jesus’ sufferings.”

But that’s a mistake. God Himself says otherwise. Jesus says, “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master,” Matthew 10:24. And He says, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple,” Luke 14:27. And God says in Hebrews, “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.” Hebrews 12:1-8
(Every time you read “sons” know that a better understanding would be “sons & daughters” – it’s just that language is never quite as all-embracing as God actually is.) This is so powerful, because as difficult as suffering is, as it turns out, when we suffer as Christians, that suffering is a confirmation of who we are as sons and daughters of God Almighty. Jesus the Son of God suffered. When we, sons and daughters of God, suffer too – we are confirmed in our son/daughter-ship of God and can rejoice as St. Paul did. He said, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church,” Colossians 1:24.
So, I can’t answer “why?”. Neither Joseph, Job, or Jesus got an answer to that…at least, not immediately.
But, I know this, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:28-32.
I don’t often feel that. But I know it. I always know it. I insist on returning to it over and over and over – and knowing it all over again – because life is full of disappointment, paradox, and grief – but, “Let God be true though every one were a liar…” Romans 3:4. He has spoken. I rest in what He has said and continues to say through His Word and Spirit.
All the Psalms of Asaph are always so helpful during difficult times. Asaph was like me and you. Often up, often down. Psalm 73 is a particular favorite of mine. Also, be liberated by the supernatural task James places on you in James 1:2 “Count it all joy…when you meet trials of various kinds…” You’re called to something you can’t do yourself. Joy in suffering! Cast yourself upon the Lord asking Him to sustain you. He promises He will. “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13
And, along with all the great Bible passages, read New Morning Mercies by Paul David Tripp. Here is a tremendous example of it’s excellent content.

What’s the Bible all about?

“The Bible really is a story of kingdoms in conflict, and the battle rages on the field of your heart. It rages for control of your soul. The two kingdoms in conflict cannot live in peace with one another. There will never be a truce. There is no safe demilitarized zone…Each kingdom demands your loyalty and your worship. One kingdom leads you to the King of kings and the other sets you up as king. The big kingdom works to dethrone you and decimate your little kingdom of one, while the little kingdom seduces you with promises it cannot deliver….You either pray that God’s kingdom will come and that his will be done or you work to make sure that your will and your way win the day.” – Paul Tripp, New Morning MerciesAugust 16

Psalm 2 (ESV)

Why do the nations rage
    and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
    and the rulers take counsel together,
    against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
“Let us burst their bonds apart
    and cast away their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens laughs;
    the Lord holds them in derision.
Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
    and terrify them in his fury, saying,
“As for me, I have set my King
    on Zion, my holy hill.”

I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
    today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
    and the ends of the earth your possession.
You shall break them with a rod of iron
    and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”

10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
    be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear,
    and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son,
    lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
    for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

English Standard Version (ESV)The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

Abortion – What Should Christians Do About It?

The following is the monologue from a radio show I hosted on June 17, 2017. The show is entitled, A Visit to the Pastor’s Study.”

Thank you for joining us today. I’m Pastor Jon Shishko, guest-hosting for Pastor Bill Shishko.

Today we are discussing the uncomfortable topic of abortion. Google for a definition and you’ll get, “abortion – the deliberate termination of a human pregnancy…” Just the word “abortion” and that simple definition of it begin to evoke feelings. As you listen, notice how your emotions start to rise to the surface. Think of a child you love, one of your own or a beloved niece or nephew, grandson or granddaughter. See that boy or girl and their vibrant beautiful personality, full of potential, a unique expression of the miracle of life, a person and a personality more valuable than any opportunity, any amount of money. A person and personality that began before even being born.

And take your thoughts to that point prior to birth. Modern science helps us imagine more of what it’s like. Warmth. Shelter. Sustenance. Safety. Mom isn’t just carrying future life; Mom is caring for life itself. By God’s design, mom is security for her child – a life-giving safe-haven for the first nine months of life. Life within life – safety for the most innocent, helpless, and needy.

Consider now that in the United States, 1 out every 5 little unborn personalities – who know nothing but their mother’s constant nurture & provision – are suddenly killed by abortion, a “deliberate termination.” Consider that the termination is often done by vacuuming the child out of their safe-haven or by the use of narrow forceps which break and pry the child out. As grizzly as these options are, even worse options are available. In Sweden, 80% of 2nd Trimester abortions are “labor induced” abortions in which labor is induced, and the baby is prematurely born – and terminated. The termination of the children is performed through  tactics reminiscent of the holocaust: a pre-abortion injection of potassium chloride into the unborn baby softens the baby’s bones – which enables “decompression” – a slightly nicer way to say the crushing of the child’s skull and other bones that get in the way of extraction.

Consider how frequently these abortions happen. Not occasionally. Hundreds of thousands a year in the United States. Millions world-wide. 60 Million reported abortions in the United States since its legalization in 1973. Innocent life, terminated. A decades-long holocaust of the most undeserving & the most innocent.

Finally, consider how plainly Scripture speaks of life before birth. Thousands of years ago, King David the Psalmist wrote, “You formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works…My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven….Your eyes saw my unformed substance…” [Psalm 139:13-16]. These many years later, all our technology and science continues to reveal the mystery and miracle of life in the womb….and some of that same technology and science is used to destroy it.

And it’s right here that we need to stop to remember something absolutely critical. Most, if not all of us, hear these things and are filled with some combination of horror, grief, and rage. But, then we often take a wrong step. Our next step often reflects nothing but our rage. We denounce in the loudest terms abortion, because its murder. We march, we picket, we protest, – and too often – without even realizing it – us sinners who have been saved by grace have become graceless towards those who most need the grace by which we have been saved. We cease seeing ourselves as sinners and we do it by pointing at those we think have sinned in ways worse than we have. Churches become places where those most in need of forgiveness are ostracized and shamed.

I still haven’t mentioned the most stunning statistic about abortion. The most stunning statistic about abortion is that one quarter of them are had by people that go to church. You see, when churches shame and guilt instead of offering grace and forgiveness –though they denounce, picket, and protest, though they speak ever so loudly, they end up contributing to the atrocity right alongside the rest of the world.

We need to remember that the glory of Jesus Christ is that he was “full of grace and truth” [John 1:14].  Not truth & rage – but truth and grace. We read “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” [John 3:16-17].  We sinners are often quicker to condemn other sinners than the holy God is to do so! Jesus Christ demonstrates this throughout His life. He is the friend of thieves and prostitutes. He speaks with immoral woman and men. He offers eternal life and forgiveness to the worst of sinners. He never compromises the truth, He never alters the law of God – but He comes not in rage and truth but in grace and truth. He doesn’t waste his life otherizing and ostracizing. He denounces sin while loving the sinner. He is known to all as the friend of sinners. And that’s good news because all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

 

Listen to the entire show here:

What should Christian Marriage look like? (part 1)

I’m looking forward to preaching a 3 part mini-series on this in September 2017. Matt Chandler is masterful at this sort of thing. You won’t listen to these without enormous profit, I promise. Here’s his 3 part series on marriage: http://www.tvcresources.net/resource-library/series-index/captivated.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,
26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,
27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,
30 because we are members of his body.
31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”
32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

– Ephesians 5:25-33

 

Struggling with Stress and Burnout?

“Mr. Dollar is asking, ‘How can I make more money?’
Mr. Ambitious is asking, ‘How can I get a promotion?’
Mr. Pleaser is asking, ‘How can I make my boss happy?’
Mr. Selfish is asking, ‘How can I get personal satisfaction in my job?’….
Mr. Perfectionist takes pride in flawless performance. If he ever makes a mistake in his work, he berates and flagellates himself….

They all look and feel miserable.

Then we bump into Mr. Grace, who’s asking, ‘In view of God’s amazing grace to me in Christ, how can I serve God and others here?'”

– David Murray in Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture

Here’s a helpful question to ask yourself: Are you regularly sleeping well? If not, something is wrong. Do you feel guilty for sleeping? If so, something is wrong. Adam slept in paradise God says sleep is a gift to his beloved, and Jesus slept in the boat even though a deadly storm raged. Never forget, “He gives to His beloved sleep,” – Psalm 127:2.

 

Public School? Private School? Home School?

The following is the monologue from a radio show I hosted on June 3, 2017. The show is entitled, A Visit to the Pastor’s Study.”

Thank you for joining us today. I’m Pastor Jon Shishko, guest-hosting for Pastor Bill Shishko. This episode of A Visit to the Pastor’s Study is entitled Public School? Private School? Home School? And we’ll consider the different options available to us for the education of our children.

But, before diving into all the education options and difficulties that typically come to mind, I want all of you to stop and think. I want to turn your attention to something that may surprise you — something so obvious that it usually hides in plain sight. And that is this: Everyone, all of you listening, each of you…..home school. We’re all home-schoolers….of one variety or another. In fact, you may be home-schooling right now.

Let me explain. A perfectly good definition of the word “school” is “a place where people are instructed in certain disciplines.” And the home is certainly “a place where people are instructed in certain disciplines.” That is inevitable! That is why “home life” and “family values” and “sociology” are always important and often talked about topics. Much of life comes back to home-schooling.

Every time you sit on your bed Googling something on your tablet or smart phone – you are self-educating at home – or home schooling. Every time you sip coffee while reading a book in your living room, you’re home schooling. Every time you follow a recipe, plant a garden, fix something in the house, or have company over – you’re home schooling. And when children enter the picture – well… Before children can  even speak they are already in advanced stages of homeschooling! Homeschooling is, after all, how children learn to speak! Watching, listening, learning, instructed by the example set by mom and dad, instructed by each brother and sister, instructed through everything that’s going on in the home. Coloring, playing with blocks, reading, and being read to, drawing, writing  – it’s all “homework” it’s all “homeschool.” Children are learners and their first school is the home school.

And, as followers of Jesus Christ, one thing we must always be thankful for is how very practical His Word, the scriptures, the Bible, really is. This reality – that we all home school all the time – is something the Bible understands better than we tend to. In one of the most well-known passages of the Old Testament, we read,  “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deu 6:4-7 ESV).

In the New Testament, writing to the fathers of homes, the Apostle Paul insists, “Bring  [your children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” God made us male and female in his own image. God designed us to live in and be part of families. God intends for the home to be a school. And the home is always a school whether we think of it that way or not. “How we were raised” shapes and defines us at every point. All of us not only home school, but have been home-schooled.

Now, please don’t take this to an absurd extreme. There’s often a place for outside schooling. Throughout the Bible we find many instances of specialized schooling. In the Old Testament we find a group called “The Sons of the Prophets” that seems to be a special prophet school to which Elijah and Elisha belonged. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were trained in the schools of Babylon – schools that were radically hostile to their faith. In the New Testament we read that the Apostle Paul spent fourteen years in special training – special schooling – for his work as a missionary. And the explosion of Christianity in the New Testament happened in cities where there were all sorts of schools – schools of philosophy, trade schools, and religious schools. Even Jesus Christ profited from specialized schooling! In Luke 2 we read that when Jesus was 12 years old he spent 3 days in the temple at Jerusalem “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.” So – while the home is a school – there is often a place for specialized schooling as well.

And that brings us to the options and difficulties we typically think of when we consider education. We all homeschool. The question is – to what extent should we make use of specialized schools? Are public schools the best way to raise our children in the Lord? Are private Christian schools the best way to go? What do we do here in NY where every option seems so labor intensive and financially challenging? To what extent should we make use of the programs and opportunities were already paying for through taxes? If we do more with homeschooling, what about socialization?

My wife Lauryn and I have a 9 year old son, 7 year old daughter, and a 5 year old boy. We wrestle with education & school-related questions all the time. Today’s show is an effort to start answering them.

Listen to the entire show here:

How do I help someone with anxiety and/or depression? part 3

Dealing with depression and anxiety is tricky in that whoever is struggling needs to start seeing that they aren’t in a good place for trusting their own thoughts. They aren’t fully functional. Depression and anxiety are often so crippling that the simplest tasks seem and may be impossible. So, in working through things, loved ones, friends, and counselors have to realize that the depressed frame of mind means good decision-making is often impossible.

Now, this is really some odd stuff. When things are “normal” we usually make our own decisions. Decision-making becomes the most natural of habits. But, when someone is ill, depressed, overly-anxious, paranoid, or incapacitated, then someone else – to some extent or another – must stop trusting themselves and start trusting the people that really love them. This is actually true across the board, which is why there is such a thing as “medical advice” and “power of attorney.”

Of course, this recalls the great line by Groucho Marx (actually, Chico playing Groucho), “Who are you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?”. But, perhaps the beginning of this famous folk story is even more helpful: Chicken Little likes to walk in the woods…One day while she is walking an acorn falls from a tree, and hits the top of her little head.  “My, oh, my, the sky is falling. I must run and tell the lion about it,” says Chicken Little and begins to run. She runs and runs. By and by she meets the hen. “Where are you going?” – asks the hen. “Oh, Henny Penny, the sky is falling…” Chicken Little is fine until the acorn triggers her depression, anxiety, and paranoia. And, things end badly for poor Chicken Little because no one persuades her that the sky isn’t falling. She’s delusional, but, leaning on her own understanding, she never realizes that she’s delusional.

For Christians, there is always someone to turn to in the midst of depression, anxiety, and paranoia. And, He always reminds us that we are not to trust ourselves, but to trust Him. He reminds us that when we think the sky is falling, the sky is just fine – that when we think everything is unhinged, it isn’t – that when we think nothing will ever get better, we’re delusional. The sun shines warmly even when hidden by dark cold clouds. And He often uses counselors, friends, pastors, and loved ones to reach into lives and gently say, “I know you think the sky is falling, but it’s just a passing acorn.”

Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones. – Proverbs 3:5-8 

Death. How should we think of it?

The last enemy to be destroyed is death. – 1 Corinthians 15:26

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. – 1 Corinthians 15:54-56

What’s a Christian Worldview?

“Who, after all, made the world of nature, and then made possible the development of sciences through which we find out more about nature? Who formed the universe of human interactions, and so provided the raw material for politics, economics,sociology, and history? Who is the source of harmony, form, and narrative pattern, and so lies behind all artistic and literary possibilities? Who created the human mind in such a way that it could grasp the endless realities of nature, of human interactions, of beauty, and so make possible the theories of such matters by philosophers and psychologists? Who moment by moment sustains the natural world, the world of human interactions, and the harmonies of existence? Who maintains moment by moment the connections between what is in our minds and what is in the world beyond our minds? The answer in every case is the same–God did it. And God does it.” – Mark Noll

“When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, observed Luther, we ask God to give us this day our daily bread. And He does give us our daily bread. He does it by means of the farmer who planted and harvested the grain, the baker who made the flour into bread, the person who prepared our meal. We might today add the truck drivers who hauled the produce, the factory workers in the food processing plant, the warehouse men, the wholesale distributors, the stock boys, the lady at the checkout counter. Also playing their part are the bankers, futures investors, advertisers, lawyers,
agricultural scientists, mechanical engineers, and every other player in the nation’s economic system. All of these were instrumental in enabling you to eat your morning bagel.” – Gene Edward Veith Jr.

“In the beginning, God created…” – Genesis 1:1

“In him we live and move and have our being.” – Act 17:28