The person you think is a legalist … probably isn’t.

My dad has often said, “anyone who drives faster than me or slower than me, is an idiot!”  His sarcastic, self-aggrandizing point is that we judge everything through our own eyes and by our assumed standard of what is best.  If he believes that driving 59 is the right speed in a 55 mph zone, then the guy who slows him down since he is only driving 56 or the guy who speeds by him at 62, are both hazards to the welfare of other motorists.  He then makes a tongue-in-cheek comparison to Christianity and says that “anyone whose standards are stricter than mine is a legalist and anyone whose standards are looser than mine is a libertine.”  Frankly, his light-hearted banter has emphasized what has become a major misunderstanding among conservative Christians.

I think Christians have been mis-characterized because of an incorrect understanding of the categories which they are assigning to others.   Here is my thesis, the “legalist” is probably a “weaker brother” and the “libertine” is probably a “stronger brother.” Sadly, we have mis-named our brothers and sisters in Christ as something that is far worse than what they are.  Hopefully, this post will be enlightening and will help us to walk with a little more charity towards other believers.

If this post is of interest to you, I would suggest reading 1st Corinthians 8-10 and Romans 14-15 carefully, if you are not already familiar with the passages.  I’m not going to connect each of my assertions to a verse, but will assume you can see the connection from your reading of the passages.

First, I’ll create a small glossary, and then give a short commentary on each word.

GLOSSARY:

Gray Areas: matters of conscience which each believer is expected to develop through one’s own study of the Scripture.

Legalist: one who asserts that a religious rite or work is necessary for salvation.

Libertine: one who lives only for the satisfaction of the flesh.

Stronger brother:  one whose knowledgeable conscience does not convict him for participating in activities which are often referred to as “gray areas.”

Weaker brother:  one whose tender conscience prohibits him from participating in activities often referred to as “gray areas.”

COMMENTARY:

Gray Areas:  There are three gray areas inferred in Paul’s treatment of matters of conscience.  In 1st Corinthians 8-10, he writes of: the source of one’s meat and what a person may drink.  In Romans 14-15, he writes of: what a person may eat (one eating anything and another being a vegetarian), observance of or abstention from certain holidays, and what a person may drink (see also Colossians 2).  These are called gray areas because the Scripture is not dogmatic on these things and recognizes that one person may be able to participate in them with a clear conscience while another may not.  For one person, it offends their conscience and for another it doesn’t.  Though Paul only deals with what a person eats, what a person drinks, and what holidays a person observes, we are certainly able to see that there are many other gray areas on which the Bible, the N.T. especially, is non-prescriptive and therefore believers must exercise individual responsibility in ascertaining their position on a question.  Some things that I believe could fall into the gray area category: clothing, head-coverings, music, sports, entertainment, home/public/Christian school, organic food, essential oils, vaccinations, medications, whether one votes, self-defense, working on Sunday, etc. into infinity (almost).

Legalist: These were the Judaizers who followed the Apostle Paul from location to location, trying to teach his converts that they must adhere to the O.T. law, specifically the rite of circumcision.  Paul called this a false gospel and a perversion of grace; the entire book of Galatians deals with this problem.  Frankly, in all my years as an independent Baptist, I don’t know that I’ve ever known someone like this in any Baptist church.  I do know of denominations which have religious rites which they have added to salvation, but not in a church with which I’ve been affiliated.  A legalist is not a Christian who has strict standards of personal conduct.

Libertine:  These are hedonists and not unrelated to antinomianism.  I’ve known of few profligate people in my life who have little or no moral structure.  They live entirely for physical pleasure apart from any conscious inhibition; their curriculum vitae is, “whatever satisfies my desires.”  A libertine is not a Christian whose conscience allows them freedom in certain gray areas.

Stronger brother: The terms weaker brother and stronger brother are derived from Paul’s teaching in 1st Corinthians 8-10 and Romans 14-15.  The stronger brother is the one whose conscience does not convict him for various gray area activities.  Paul indicates that the stronger brother’s faith allows him to eat meat offered to idols because he realizes that the idol is just a piece of stone.  The Jewish stronger brother might observe the Passover because of its national or ethnic significance and not because he still lives according to the O.T. sacrificial system.

I’m convinced that there are two kinds of stronger brother: the first is the one like Paul, who even though he could do something, he may choose not to do it (1st Corinthians 6:12; 10:23).  He would not offend his brother by doing something in front of him which would be offensive (1st Corinthians 8:13).  The second is the one to whom Paul was writing in 1st Corinthians 8-10.  This stronger brother had the knowledge that he could eat meat regardless of its source, but he did so without care for the conscience of his brother.  Sadly, this latter kind of stronger brother is more prevalent than the former.

Weaker brother:  The weaker brother is the oft derided one that no one wants to be.  However, using a synonym for the word “weaker” would probably be helpful.  Consider the weaker brother as the one with a “tender” or “delicate” conscience.  The weaker brother is operating in faith (that was Paul’s expectation for both the weaker and stronger); he loves the Lord and doesn’t want to do anything which would offend Him.  He wants to make sure that nothing in his life is questionable so he has set strict guidelines for his own conduct to keep himself from anything he thinks might not be in harmony with a holy life.  He should not be condemned, but respected.  He should be loved, not ridiculed.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

  1. We all may be the weaker brother in one area and the stronger brother in another. The categories don’t define a person’s permanent or absolute designation, but how he thinks on a subject.
  2. The stronger brother is instructed by Paul to consider the tender conscience of his brother and to avoid being an offense to him. The stronger brother is the one charged with considering the conscience of the weaker. He is instructed to restrict the exercise of his liberties so as not to offend his more tender brother.  The weaker brother is not instructed to tolerate the liberties of his stronger brother (he probably doesn’t see them as such), the onus of understanding and deference rests entirely on the stronger brother.
  3. The accusation of “legalist” against one, who is in reality just a weaker brother, allows the supposed stronger brother to ignore his weaker brother’s conscience because that one is considered a false teacher at worst, and an adherent to poor doctrine at best. This is wrong, selfish, divisive, and uncharitable.
  4. The weaker brother’s conscience is not something to be maligned, but appreciated. He probably loves Christ deeply, is following Him as best as he knows, and lives in a holy fear of doing something that offends the Lord.
  5. I don’t want anyone to be able to tell if I’m a stronger or weaker brother. As you’ve read this post, perhaps you’ve tried to figure out which I am on various questions; I hope you can’t tell.  I want to be spiritual enough that you can’t tell if I have a delicate conscience or loving deference towards my brother.

So, realize that the one you think has restrictive standards is one who has a tender conscience and is fearful of offending the Lord.  He is not a legalist teaching a false gospel to you.  Learn to appreciate his delicate conscience, it is that way because he loves the Lord.  I’m convinced that if the things mentioned above are learned, much conflict and frustration will be alleviated in families and churches.

Annual Family Christmas Letter

2017 Family Christmas Card

Dear Family and Friends,

12/18/2017

2017 has been as busy as every other – and just as much fun.  Below, you will find a few of the happenings of our lives over the last year.

Gilead:  Gilead is almost 3 (January 19th).  He just moved out of the crib and onto one of the bunks in the room with the other boys.  We had been concerned about one of his eyes turning in and discovered that his eye sight is very poor; he was able to get glasses in the spring to assist the muscles in focusing.  He is quite used to the glasses, but is now on his third pair (they have a one-year replacement warranty on them and the lady who works for our eye doctor told me she would order a couple of extra pairs just to keep in stock).  He will be graduating from the nursery to the regular church services in just a couple of weeks.  He is the only one not in school, and so Carol and I have great joy in his presence, we anticipate that he will start pre-school next fall – he certainly wants to go to school.  He loves to sing.

Gardner: Gardner turned 7 on June 15th.  He is in 2nd grade and will move from the elementary school to the middle school next year.  His reading and writing have progressed significantly, and he is a very good student.  He is eager for our family Bible reading time when everyone gets home from school and is not intimidated by the King James English.  He has a very nice singing voice and I often hear him in the congregation when I’m near him on Wednesday evenings.  He played baseball in the Farm League this year and it was very evident that his hours of whiffle ball had paid off (however, I have to work on getting him to swing level instead of trying to loft the ball).  We had his eyes checked this year, and he joins Joel as the only other one in the family without the need for corrective lenses.

Kara: Kara will be 10 on January 10th; she is in 4th grade.  The flute that had been given to us turned out to be unusable, so we purchased a new one for her.  Since the school does not start instrumental lessons until the 5th grade, we were able to get several lessons from a friend/teacher, Mrs. Reber, to get her a good start on the basics.  She practices faithfully and she has just started playing hymns with the other instruments in the church services.  Her singing voice continues to bless us – it is very “flute-like” (lyric soprano) in its quality.  She is a wonderful big sister to Gilead and has a very tender heart and is a willing helper to Carol.  She brings me a cup of (very strong) coffee every Sunday afternoon.  On Easter Sunday, she publicly professed her faith in Christ by her baptism.

Josiah:  Josiah turned 11 on October 30th; he is quite skillful as a marksman and purchased a pellet rifle for his birthday.  He is in the 5th grade and will move to the Junior High School next fall.  Josiah also publicly professed faith in Christ and was baptized on the same day as Kara.  We were very curious which instrument he would choose to begin playing with the 5th grade band; it is a large decision for us and our children because we intend for it to be a life-long habit and ministry.  We already had a trumpeter and trombonist, but I was willing to have him play either of those if he chose, though I was hoping for a baritone/euphonium.  I watched several youtube videos with him of various instruments and when it came the time to choose at school, he chose the French Horn.  I was a bit surprised, but I know that he’ll devote himself to the one that interests him the most.  We rented a beginner horn for a few months, but went ahead and purchased an intermediate model for him a couple of months later when we were certain that he would do well with it.  Practice time is like second nature to him; he is very consistent.  He also will begin playing in services in the very near future.  So, in our family, we have pianists, an organist, a trumpeter, a trombonist, a French hornist, and a flautist.  I wonder what Gardner and Gilead will play?

John: John turned 12 on July 7th and is in the seventh grade.  He loves information and facts.  He is much like Joel in his quick recall of various facts concerning any topic.  I recently obtained an encyclopedia of WWII and he has already skimmed through all 24 volumes.  I have a table of new, but uncatalogued books outside of my study, I don’t bring them into my office until they have been added to my LibraryThing database, he has kept me busy trying to stay ahead of him as he enjoys reading in the recliner in my office.  His favorite thing at school is scholastic bowl.  He and Grant also found much pleasure on the school’s Lego League (and robotics) team.  John’s trombone skill amazes me and every part of his emotions are expressed as he plays.  I’ve been skeptical of the phrase “he can play any instrument he touches” until I’ve observed John; he has figured out how to play his sibling’s instruments.  I often hear this, “dad, John is playing my…” and have to remind him that he has to have permission.  I’m very curious to see where his musical ability may lead.

Grant: Grant turned 14 on September 10th and is in 8th grade.  He is looking forward starting high school next year and already goes to the high school for the first hour of the day for an accelerated math class.  He and John are both in the miniband at school as well as the regular bands.  We were especially pleased for Grant to audition and win a spot on the ILMEA 3rd District honors band which performed at Olivet Nazarene University in November.  Grant also upgraded from my old Yamaha trumpet to a silver, Bach Stradivarius.  One of his teachers was moving away and sold it to him for a very good price, we count it as a blessing from the Lord!  He continues to find ways to earn money; he mowed more yards and did all kinds of odd jobs around town for various people.  He has a collection of tools, lawn mowers, rakes, a blower, and etc. – not including those which he borrows from me.  He also purchased a laptop for himself in order “keep his business records” and all other pertinencies of life.

Laura: Laura turned 16 on May 6th.  She still doesn’t have her license, partly because she doesn’t have sufficient permit hours and partly because neither of us care to pay the additional insurance.  She has a job working at a tea room here in town and has benefited tremendously from all that she has learned there.  She purchased a laptop to use in school and she has upgraded to my old iPhone 5.  She continues to progress as a pianist.  As a Junior in High-school she has had an extensive amount of homework and has had to learn to manage her time well; in fact, I’ve had to enforce a bed-time for my high-schoolers – not because of television or entertainment, but because of dedication to studies.  She is also on the HS scholastic bowl and speech teams.  She’s thinking carefully about life and is praying and considering what she will do in the next few years.

          Joel: Joel will be 18 on February 9th.  It’s hard to believe that he only has one more semester of High School.  He’s continued taking the computer classes at the community college; consequently, he has reduced the frustration I have often felt whenever I’ve had a computer issue, by being a quick resource for problem solving.  He got a Macbook computer, and closely follows everything taking place in the tech world.  He also greatly enjoys participating on the HS scholastic bowl team.  He did not play on the HS baseball team last season, but is planning to pitch this year as his final year.  He has not decided on a college yet, but has applied to several and is waiting to see where things go from here.  He still works at the local hardware store.  Personally, I’m blessed to sit next to the organ every Sunday and hear (and see) his skill as a wonderful contribution to our services.  He has grown a little more and is now easily over 6’5” without shoes.

Carol: Carol continues to manage our home and lives with grace.  She balances life as a Christian, a wife (pastor’s), a mom, a citizen (her community interaction continues to increase in various ways), and a daughter – her parents moved down here from northern Illinois and we are thrilled to have almost daily interaction with them.  She shuttles the kids back and forth between school, sports, music lessons, jobs, church, grandparents, store, and home.  If you’ve noticed on Facebook, she is constantly finding creative, artistic, and tasty ways to feed us.  She has learned the trick of using apps on her phone to get all kinds of deals.  I think her favorites are the Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonalds apps.  She also did most of the gardening (vegetables and flowers) this summer since my non-church activities this spring were farming and coaching of baseball.  She is my favorite person in the world.

Levi: I coached baseball for the 4th year.  I obtained a Class A CDL in order to drive a grain semi for my farmer friends, the Kinzingers.  I preached a family conference at the church where my dad pastors in Missouri.  I’ve donated several more units of blood.  I managed to get the upstairs bathroom in our house functional, even though there is still some finish work to be done.  I’ve added more bookshelves and books to my study.  I’ve learned to sell things on e-bay.  Mostly, I’ve been busy with life like the rest of you.  As a Pastor, I finished preaching through the book of Psalms (A 12 year, on and off endeavor) and continue in the books of Proverbs and Luke.  I press myself to read more books and review them occasionally.  I haven’t posted as much of my writing this year, but have several projects on which I’m working.

Oscar:  We reckon that he is 12 years old.  He has taken a little bit more freedom outside than he has in the past, though his southern heritage is still evident during the winter; he stays inside as much as possible when it is cold.  He is healthy, sociable, and good company.

Church: The church continues to thrive with God’s blessing.  We had our second VBS, with good results.  We had one of my former professors, Dr. Surrett, come and preach through the book of Job for a week (his teaching through that book when I was a student was a spiritual sustenance for me during a very difficult time in our lives).  We’ve gotten new auditorium chairs, purchased new hymnals, removed the old single-entry door and installed new double glass doors, sidewalk and front stoop.  We’re in the process of installing a new exterior digital sign.  We have had some new members join the church and have begun financially supporting a new missionary (my brother and his wife, Michael and Nora Deatrick to the Solomon Islands).  I’m so thankful for the years that the Lord has given to our family here.

God continues to give us exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.  We enjoy life, each other, and we seek to live according to God’s Word by His grace.

 

May God bless your family this coming year!

 

Love the Deatricks,

Levi, Carol, Joel, Laura, Grant, John, Josiah, Kara, Gardner, Gilead, and Oscar       305 E. Franklin St., Paxton, IL 60957.

Levi: (217)781-4081; Carol: (217)781-4082  lcdeatrick@gmail.com  acaroltomyking@gmail.com  www.levideatrick.com

“Finders – keepers, losers – weepers” – NO!

Carol's mother's ring

I gave this mother’s ring to Carol last year for her 40th birthday.  I wrote about the significance of it then; you can read my original facebook post here.  The Scripture warns of excessive jewelry as a substitute for internal beauty, but this ring is a memorial with special emotional and spiritual worth.

Today, Carol and I were at a grocery store.  We were on different sides of the fruit stand and an elderly lady walked up to me and held out this ring and asked me, “sir, did your wife lose this ring?”  My heart jumped into my throat as I immediately recognized the ring and realized how close we had come to a great deal of grief.  I quickly told the lady “yes!” and she gladly gave it back to me.  She told me she had found it on the floor around the corner; she said that when she saw it she realized it wasn’t cheap and that someone would probably be missing it.  She also told me that she and her husband had decided to ask every person in the store if it was theirs.  I called to Carol across the aisle and held up her ring which she immediately came to retrieve and express her thanks to the lady, and to God.  (I actually put the ring in my pocket until we can get it resized, her hand is a little smaller than it was when I gave it to her).  We told the lady that we have eight children and this was her mother’s ring with the birthstone of each of our children.  I wish I had thought of getting their names so that we could have expressed our gratitude a little more tangibly, but I didn’t think of it quickly enough (so there’s a lesson I need to learn on a more immediate gratitude).

There are a few thoughts that have been running through my mind this afternoon.

  1. Integrity.  I’m thankful that the lady who saw the ring was more interested in finding the original owner than using it for her own profit.  She could have easily thought of keeping it or pawning it.  I’ve never liked the phrase, “finders keepers, losers weepers.”  That phrase describes a very selfish sentiment when it comes to lost items of nostalgic, emotional, or monetary value.  I’ve taught my kids that, just because they find something, it doesn’t mean it’s theirs.  There have been times when I’ve made them return items that they have found, seek out the rightful owner, or at least surrender it to someone or someplace where the one who lost it might find it (customer service at a store, etc).  They didn’t necessarily like doing it, but it was the right thing to do and I believe they will teach the same principles to their children in the years to come.  As they mature, they will learn more the spiritual value of material things.  I was encouraged by this lady’s determination that she was going to find the owner of the ring; it makes me think that probably her character is evident in other areas of life as well.  Integrity permeates your person, it isn’t just manifested in one aspect of your life.
  2. Mercy.  God very graciously permitted us to avoid the energy that would have been expended in retracing our steps.  We might not have realized it was gone until we were home several hours later.  At another time, we lost Carol’s wedding ring (which we did find in a pile of weeds pulled out of a rose garden); her emotions and mine were both on edge until we found it.  One time our check book was left on top of our vehicle after a trip to the store; a few hours later, the police from that particular town called and told us that someone had found it in the middle of the road and turned it in to them.  Those kinds of scenarios are maddeningly worrisome; your blood-pressure goes up, you can’t rest well, you spend time and energy looking, thinking, trying to remember and retrace, etc.  God was good to keep us from going through all of that, it was returned to us before we even knew it was gone!  Carol had probably dropped it just 5 or 10 minutes earlier.  It could have been found by someone who lived by the philosophy of “finders keepers losers weepers.”  God was very merciful to us.
  3. Sovereignty.  In all of this, God was in control.  Even if the ring was lost, God would still be good; He would have had some lesson for us to learn.  However, I’m convinced that God oversees over every situation of life.  He kept us from getting too far from the ring; He directed the eyes of that lady to the ring on the floor, He had her ask me if it was our ring (there are other people that would have claimed the ring had they been asked – even if it wasn’t theirs).  He used the situation to increase our faith.  He used it to be a blessing to the lady as she saw the relief that she had been able to give to us.  He used it as a reminder of the spiritual value of the ring – which is a token of thanks and a prompter of prayer for each of our children.  There are probably a dozen other providential intentions that I’ve yet to ruminate; His ways are higher than mine.

All said, I’m grateful that God will use various scenarios to calibrate our understanding of Who He is!  I’m thankful for the reminder of the value of my wife as the mother and chief influence in the lives of our children, just before Mother’s Day!

My wife’s heart…

carol-and-i-portrait-innovations

Though Carol and I have had a relatively calm life, there have been some stormy times.

Recently as I was sorting through music, I found this poem/song that she wrote in 2004 during a particularly deep trial that we endured.  This was not written for technical form, but simply as an outpouring of her heart.

Sometime, I’ll post a recording of it, but for now, here are the words – which so accurately represent who she is.

Make my meditation only good;
Wash me with the water of the Word;
Casting down the reas’nings of the world,
I will seek true wisdom from above.

 

Jesus, Holy Spirit, Father, too,
In your creature You are making new
All the heart’s desires, not just a few,
To be seeking only, ever You!

 

Trusting Christ to give me perfect peace,
All my thoughts are yearning for release;
Praise continually satisfies my soul;
He regards my prayer of faith below.

 

My contentment in You only lies.
All the world’s allurements cause to die;
When my heart is fixed upon my Lord,
Then I hunger for the the Living Word.

 

Teach me Lord, Thy perfect way of living,
From life’s start until the final ending.
Train my heart Thy praises to be giving,
“How wonderful, the wisdom of my God!”

If I owned a business…

shopkeeper

Recently, quite a few Christian businesses have been faced with accusations of discrimination because they have refused service to various individuals with whom they have moral and/or religious disagreements.  Even though I don’t own a business (teaching a few piano lessons hardly qualifies me as a business owner), I have thought through this issue very carefully – and Biblically – and I have arrived at conclusions as to how I would handle situations if I did own a business which served the public.

One qualifier that should be understood is the distinction between a business and a church.  A church is not for profit and a business is for profit.  A church, though many people don’t understand this, is a private entity whose membership is comprised of people who meet certain qualifications.  A business is a public service that offers various goods for a price to any who will purchase them.  Therefore, the things that I would do as a businessman are entirely different from those as a pastor.

The law forbids businesses from discriminating based on many things such as religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, and etc.  Many Christian business owners have found themselves being sued because they have illegally discriminated against those who have sought out their services.

Unfortunately, the general response of Christians in such circumstances is to claim religious persecution and that their first amendment rights have been infringed (incidentally, the constitution of the U.S. is a man-made document; the Bible does not guarantee freedom from religious persecution, but actually anticipates it).  The first amendment was not intended to protect for profit businesses, but to prohibit the establishment of a particular state religion and to protect the free exercise of religious worship.

I do believe that a business owner should be able to make reasonable decisions as to who he may or may not serve; however the law regulates the extent to which he can take those options.  As a Christian who believes and lives by the Bible, I’m instructed to obey civil government (Romans 13:1-7; Titus 3:1-2; 1st Peter 2:12-25).  The resistance to government by some Christians in the United States is based upon an incorrect interpretation and/or application of Scripture.  Many Christians have been indoctrinated with the false idea that the U.S. is, or should be, a theocratic Christian nation which provides rights to Christians.  The reality is that the United States is an earthly nation like every other; historically, we have simply had more Christian influence than most other countries.

So, if I owned a business and could not conscientiously comply with a particular law, my options would be:

1) Close or sell my business

I’m convinced that it would be a righteous testimony for a believer to humbly say, “I cannot in good conscience obey this particular law as it relates to my business; I will not disobey the law and so I will take a personal loss, close my business and trust God to provide for me through other means.”  This submissive action would assert a trust in God, it would demonstrate an adherence to personal religious principles, it would maintain an obedience to the Biblical command to obey civil authority, and it would remove opportunity for the rest of society to speak evil of Christ and His followers!  The Apostle Peter stressed this in his letter to scattered Jewish believers.  In 1st Peter 2:20, Peter asked, “for what glory (honor) is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults (errors), ye shall take it patiently?  But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.”  Peter draws a fine line between suffering for my sake or suffering for Christ’s sake.  Here is the difference, suffering for my sake would be fighting to maintain my American Dream of a for profit business; suffering for Christ’s sake would be persecution because I’m preaching the gospel, or suffering because I abandon my for profit business since I can’t maintain it with a good conscience under the law of the land.  Peter is clear that there is no cause to boast in the first case, but there is honor in the second.  When a believer is fighting to maintain profit, he is suffering for himself; when he is willing to suffer loss for the sake of Christ, he is suffering for the right cause (Philippians 3:7-10).

Furthermore, Peter indicated that the cause of Christ is actually exalted when believers take the correct approach to suffering.  The following is a lengthy portion of Scripture, but the importance requires posting it.  1st Peter 3:13-17,

“13 And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? 14 But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: 16 Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. 17 For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.”

The historical context of the passage of Scripture quoted above is very likely that these individuals were being persecuted simply because they were Christians living in a hostile Roman world.  However, the following applications are appropriate.

Verse 13 – how can I be prosecuted for closing my business?  On the other hand, I can and will be prosecuted for breaking the law.

Verse 14 – my suffering of financial loss for a spiritual reason would work towards my spiritual happiness and satisfaction because I did not violate my conscience or the law.

Verse 15 – I will have opportunity to witness of the eternal hope that I have because my response was so out of the ordinary that it will cause others to wonder at the grace in which I live.  I will have done nothing which will alienate those to whom I hope to minister the love of Christ.

Verse 16 – where I may have been spoken of as an intolerant lawbreaker, I will have manifested that I am willing to give up my profit for the sake of my conscience and the testimony of Christ.  The world will recognize this as genuine Christian character.

Verse 17 – it is better, in the eyes of God, to suffer for following a Christ-calibrated conscience than to suffer for breaking the law (even if the law is thought to be unjust) in order to fulfill the American Dream.

2) Suspend my business and utilize the legal means to change the law

I’m not a social warrior, so it is unlikely that I would pursue this option, but I do think it is acceptable for a Christian.  We have a legal system by which legislators introduce laws which will be voted upon and either pass or fail.  If I felt that a law was unjust and felt so inclined, it is entirely acceptable for me to use legitimate legal means to either introduce new law or amend existing law.  This is why we have representatives.  Following this method, I would still be living in obedience to God-ordained government. If the law can’t be or isn’t passed or changed, then I would realize that I’m not able to operate my business in good conscience and in obedience to the law; I would therefore have to find another means of financial support.

If I owned a business.

Deatrick Family 2016 In Review

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Dear Family and Friends,

The next edition of The Deatrick Family History has arrived.  I’m changing the format this year and eliminating the month by month narrative and combining all the news with the individuals.

Gilead:  Gilead will be 2 in just a couple of weeks (January 19th).  He has learned to walk and he has learned many new words.  He has a mouth full of teeth and eats most everything (including dog food whenever he can sneak a piece or two); he loves Oscar, but they run into conflict every now and then when they want the same snack – fortunately, there has never been any violence come from it.  He spends much time at church with me and Carol, often taking an afternoon nap in the nursery or pushing a Tonka truck around on the wooden floor while I work.  He sucks the same two fingers that I did when I was little; we are slowly moving him from bottle to toddler cup.  My personal goal is to potty-train him early this year.  He is a climber; he keeps all of us busy getting him out of places where his curiosity leads him (a time or two this summer he managed to get out of the house by himself.  We have before us quite a responsibility of channeling his energy.  I do conclude that dealing with a toddler at 40 is far different than at 25

Gardner: Gardner turned 6 on June 15th.  He is developing his reading skills quite nicely, every now and then he will work through some of the verses with us when we read the Bible in the evenings.  He has a quick smile and enjoys verbally teasing others in the house, though he has some quiet spells.  Gardner did not play on a baseball team this year, but he was our ball boy chasing foul balls; he wanted to go to every practice that he could and would always ask for batting practice after everyone else was finished.  He takes a keen interest in the technicalities of all sports; he attended one of Joel’s Legion baseball games with me this summer and took time to explain a few of the rules of the game to a foreign doctor (probably around 50 years old) who stopped by just to try to learn something about American baseball (from a 6 year old boy).  We are going to let him play on a team this year.  Gardner lost his first tooth just a few weeks ago.  He is an early riser and can’t tolerate being only partially prepared for something at school.  He thrives outside (including breaking the bathroom window with a baseball this summer).  He loves being at church.

Kara: Kara will be 9 on January 10th.  She is quite the young lady; Carol and I often describe her as dignified and stately (though she can hold her own outside with the boys and the neighborhood children).  She is progressing well with piano lessons and has a flute that she can hardly wait to start learning to play.  However, we’ve been pleasantly surprised with her vocal skills.  She has a wonderful platform poise, good pitch, a natural vibrato, but especially eyes which communicate as she sings.  She got to spend a week with Grandpa and Grandma Bumgarder for the first time this summer.  She does well at school.  She still hugs as many people as possible, and generally lights up any room which she enters.  She continues to know all the news, she is “miss information” and seldom is it “misinformation.”  However, she is not a gossip, but simply has a keen mind for things she observes, hears, or reads and has an ability to connect the dots of life.  The local newspaper is her afternoon reading on Thursdays.

Josiah:  Josiah turned 10 on October 30th.  He also is an early riser.  He is the neatest and most organized of the boys (all the kids).  Occasionally, he’ll take an hour to organize a bookshelf or clean out the van or a room in the house.  He also is doing well in his piano lessons, but as minor perfectionist, he tries a little too hard sometimes – but it will come.  His appetite is incredible for his size.  He was the smallest of my boys on our baseball team this summer.  However, he is deceptively athletic; he was our centerfielder and I could almost always count on him to catch a fly ball (he was still 9 at the time), and if it dropped before getting to him, he had the ability to throw the ball to any base from about anywhere in the outfield.  I had a very proud dad moment this summer seeing another coach in disbelief as Josiah threw out a runner at home-plate from center field.  He is very analytical in baseball, as well as in most other areas of life.  He still has “little boy” moments when I see him on the couch with Oscar just sitting and petting him; Oscar relishes those moments – and I think Josiah does too.  Josiah loves to read and has worked through a tremendous number of books this year.  Josiah and Kara are both anticipating baptism this new year.

John: John turned 11 on July 7th (he was born the week we moved to Paxton, so his age mirrors our time here).  He moved to the junior high this year.  He seems to love school and always does well with his work, though he is quiet about it at home.  He is playing trombone for the second year in band and has started playing it during the preludes and congregational music at church on Sundays as well.  His emotions are intense, I often need to calm him down during a baseball game because he gets so emotionally worked up.  John is extremely competitive in everything, even vicariously; he was heartbroken when the Cubs won the World Series because they are the arch-rivals of the St. Louis Cardinals – he just couldn’t handle it.  However, when his emotions get the better of him, he is usually quick to get it straightened out.  John loves to be at church, not just for services, but the weekday afternoons.  Often, Carol will text or call after picking the kids up from school and tell me that John wants to come down to practice piano or trombone and then read.  John has also gone through a staggering number of books this year.

Grant: Grant turned 13 on September 10th.  He is in that middle stage of occasionally being a man, usually being a teenager, and every now and then, still a boy.  He loves trumpet, he earned a spot on the mini-band at school, and plays at church during all the services.  He reads as much as possible, unfortunately, he gets so enthralled with a book that he is often oblivious to the repeated calling of his name.  He played his last year of little league this year.  He started a small lawn care business and had several yards that he mowed through the summer.  He bought his own lawn mower at the end of the summer.  He continues to have a bulldog tenacity when he has set his mind to something.  I get a bit perturbed when he continues to wrangle with me over something he wants to do, but I do appreciate his determination – it will suit him well in life.

Laura: Laura will be 16 on May 6th.  She has her driving permit, but hasn’t driven more than just a few hours at this point.  When Joel got his permit, the first night we went driving, I told him he was driving fast enough.  On the other hand, I told Laura that she should drive faster than 20 mph.  Also, Joel is taller than I am, so he never moved the seat or mirror and left the steering wheel tilt alone.  Laura, on the other hand, moves the mirrors, the seat, and the steering wheel – it takes her several minutes before she’s even ready to put the car in gear (and it takes me a while to get it readjusted whenever I drive again).  I’m not complaining, just expressing the difference between my son and daughter.  Laura got braces this summer and had to have a few teeth pulled, she handled it well.  She continues to do well in school, though she has become more of a homebody, eager to be home at the end of each day – for which we are extremely thankful!  She inherited Carol’s iPhone 4 and is expert on Pinterest.  She loves listening to classical music and has a prodigious collection of classical cd’s.  Her piano playing has progressed by leaps and bounds.  She takes lessons from a teacher here in town who has pushed her in classical music, performance, and technique.  I am guiding her through my college “Hymn-playing” book and so she has developed into not only an outstanding classical performer, but a very competent church accompanist.  She is very self-motivated in her music and there is an occasional skirmish at home over the usage of the piano.  Laura is a wonderful big sister to Kara and Gilead.

          Joel: Joel will be 17 on February 9th; he has become an invaluable asset to us in so many ways.  Obtaining his driver’s license has helped us immensely, he can make trips to church, to the store, shuttle the younger kids to activities, and etc.  He is in his junior year of high school; he is also in a duel credit program at the local community college (ECCA – Early College & Career Academy) in which he studies computer networking for the first couple of hours of the school day. He bought an iPhone 7 and can do more on it that most people can do on a computer.  He built and administers our church website (www.gbcpaxton.com).  He played baseball (pitched) for the high school in the spring and played on an American Legion team through the summer.  He is on the high school scholastic bowl team – and is especially good at social studies.  He’s started working at the local hardware store.  He takes organ lessons and is our church organist.  I’m already dreading the day that he leaves home; his absence will create many holes.  His sense of humor is especially touched with satire.  He thinks carefully about situations and circumstances and usually can give you a principle for why he does or does not do something.  He has a tender side which is evidenced with Oscar, Gilead, and sometimes Gardner.  He and Laura remain fast friends.

Carol: Carol has intentionally worked to improve her present and future health in several ways this year; her discipline is remarkable.  She is the one who keeps our home functioning – especially during the school year.  You can imagine the labor required to manage a home with 10 people and a dog.  She always has several books and a journal by our bed and is regularly telling me things that she has read.  She upgraded her iPhone 4 to a 7 and is moving faster on the information highway.  She is quick to research things of which she has interest.  We now have separate Facebook accounts and she enjoys seeing your pictures and what’s happening in your life (though she thinks that personal contact or a written letter is best).  To me, she gets more beautiful with age!  The few strands of gray are clear marks of maturity, but they belie the youthful spirit that she’ll always possess.  I continue to observe in amazement the inner fortitude that one of our college professors assured me was in her.

Levi: I turned 40 this year.  I’ve been pastor here for over 11 years.  My main project this year was to catalogue my library on the internet database, LibraryThing; the next step is to organize the books on the shelves.  I’m also a part of an early reviewer program in which I read and review pre-release books on LibraryThing.  I’ve started a hymn comparison database for various hymnals; I have the indexes of 5 different hymnals already entered and have 3 more in progress.  I coached baseball for the third year and find great satisfaction spending that time with my boys and with the boys and families of our community.  I’ve also started teaching a few piano lessons, several of our children and a few others.  I drove a grain wagon for a farmer friend during harvest and will soon have a class A CDL so that I can also drive the grain semi (farming is in my blood).  I’ve spent part of the year researching family history, especially my Grandpa Deatrick’s life.  We made a trip to very rural Missouri to try to find where my great-great grandpa landed when he came from Germany.  I have an endless to-do list for our home and church, so life is a continual triage of choices or deadlines, but the Lord continues to give grace and wisdom to do what needs to be done.

Oscar:  Oscar is around 11 years old.  His health is stable, he still has occasional bouts with seizures, but we’ve all learned how to cope with them.  He loves to sit on the couch with the kids.  He’s glad for Gilead to have a snack because it is “fair game” since he can reach Gilead’s hand.  He sits patiently under Gilead’s high-chair at each meal, smartly anticipating that it is the best place to be as we eat.

Church: The church is doing very well.  This year we began our first VBS and we all believe it was a success.  We’ve had struggles like other churches, but the Lord has blessed us and I believe that Grace Baptist Church is as strong and solid as it has ever been, by God’s grace.

May God bless your family this coming year!

Love the Deatricks,

Levi, Carol, Joel, Laura, Grant, John, Josiah, Kara, Gardner, Gilead, and Oscar

305 E. Franklin St., Paxton, IL 60957.

Levi: (217)781-4081; Carol: (217)781-4082  lcdeatrick@gmail.com  acaroltomyking@gmail.com  www.levideatrick.com

14 Elephants In The Room

republican-elephant

This title is an intentional pun, but what I’m writing isn’t funny.  I understand that I’m going to upset some of you with what I’m writing and I’ve calculated that risk, but what I’m saying needs to be said.  Hopefully, this will actually be a wake up call to some of you.

This election cycle (with the help of infinite facebook posts) has revealed or emphasized several things: the general quality of the citizens of the United States, the corrupt quality of politicians and parties, but the most grievous to me is the revelation of the quality of nominal Christianity.

I know the things below are stereotypes and do not describe all of you (in some cases, I admit I’ve been guilty of some of these things); none of this is directed to any one individual.  Here is what I’ve learned about many Christians in the last year – these are some of the elephants in the room:

Elephant #1 You are more devoted to your country than to Christ and His church.

Elephant #2 You are more loyal to the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence than to the Sacred Scriptures.

Elephant #3 You spend more energy on facebook trying to convert me into being a follower of Donald Trump than you do reaching into your community and witnessing of the resurrected Christ to those who don’t know Him.

Elephant #4 You believe it is a Biblical obligation to vote and that it would be wrong to abstain from voting.  Somehow, you’ve come to the conclusion that if I don’t vote for Donald Trump, I’m culpable for the condition of our nation and have no right to complain about its direction.  (This whole vein of thinking is maddeningly illogical.)

Elephant #5 You use the threat of Hillary Clinton to manipulate others by fear-mongering.  Even though “God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

Elephant #6 You are more concerned with the earthly future of the U.S. Supreme Court than your personal future at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

Elephant #7 You are more concerned with the rights that come with your citizenship than with the responsibilities that are integral to your Christianity.

Elephant #8 You believe that freedom from religious persecution is a right endowed by the Creator.  It’s not.  The opposite is true.  The Apostle Paul clearly stated (as he was in prison awaiting his execution at the hands of the Roman government) that “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”

Elephant #9 You’ve forgotten that genuine Christianity is revealed by fire.  Real Christianity actually thrives when it is persecuted.  Read the book of Acts and see how the early church actually multiplied while rejoicing in trials which were far more grievous than what American Christians are resisting.

Elephant #10 You believe the United States is a Christian nation.  It’s not.  Admittedly, it was founded by men who generally held to a so-called Judeo-Christian ethic and by individuals who desired a place where they could worship God according to their preference.  The United States can only fit into the Scriptural category of a Gentile nation, even if we are friends and supporters of Israel.  Biblically speaking, there will be no “Christian nation” until the return of Christ.

Elephant #11 You have turned into the kind of people from which your ancestors fled in Europe.  You would like to require everyone in the United States to live by your “Christian values,” even though those people may not actually be genuine Christians.

Elephant #12 You are more concerned with creating an earthly utopia than by living by grace where God has placed you.  You act like the only way that you can have the joy of the Lord is if Hillary Clinton is kept from being president.  Think of Christians in the Middle-East, Africa, Asia, Russia, etc., who are thriving in their individual spiritual lives apart from any kind of religious freedom.

Elephant #13 Prayer and a trust in the Sovereignty of God are only an add-on to your political activism.  They are lip-service.  You think the voting booth is more important than the prayer closet.

Elephant #14 In the eyes of the world, you have re-created the picture of a Christian as being a moralistic, capitalistic, social warrior rather than a compassionate, praying, humble, imitator of Christ.

A few closing thoughts: 1) I know these things are generalizations and do not reflect every Christian.  2) This is not a repudiation of the United States, my citizenship, or those who have sacrificed on behalf of this country – I deeply love the United States, but I’m greatly grieved by the lack of a Biblical perspective of many Christians.  3) It doesn’t matter to me for whom you vote, or if you vote.  My concern is that Christians live with a Biblical perspective.  4) My prayer is that these words will serve as a warning to Christians to let themselves be calibrated to God’s design.  5) Thankfully, November 8th, or anything else that happens in the next 4 years, can not usurp my joy in a Sovereign God.