Category Archives: Special Topics

May the worst of times bring out our best

by Dietrich Gruen

Bridges out, roads blocked, businesses closed, basements flooded. One death.  Many water rescues by boat, helicopter, and human chains.  Untold storage items, basement appliances and family treasures soaked and lost.  Lakeside decks and docks float away.  Lakes appearing suddenly where there were none the day before.  Hundreds of flooded cars ditched in either underground parking or clogging above-ground streets.

You get the picture.  And I hope you get going and give help, as able and as need be.

No need to travel as far as New Orleans, as I and 15 “Disaster Response Teams” (DiRT) once did over 15 months in 2006-07.  To engage in flood recovery efforts today, look no further than Madison’s far west side where I live.  Also needing flood relief are Middleton, Cross Plains, Black Earth, and Mazomanie—towns just west of us.  Now the low-lying Isthmus.  Next week, the neighborhoods bordering the Baraboo and other rivers and drainage systems of south-central Wisconsin.

As your Housing Advocate and Benevolent Fund Coordinator the last five years, we are meeting the current flood-related needs.  Our DiRT Coordinator, Bill Taylor, is a modern-day Paul Revere sounding the alarm and rounding up troops of well-armed volunteers.  Volunteers show up armed with strong backs, wheelbarrows, pick-up trucks, squeegees, bags and buckets.

Survivor stories and heroic clean-up efforts multiply.  Good news travels fast. Good deeds beget more good needs. Families who “lost everything” are grateful for the collaborative efforts of church volunteers, the National Guard and civic-minded citizens to muck out, to save what’s left, or to sandbag ahead of the next rising tide.  On 24 hours’ notice, 14 people strong from the David/Rhonda Thompson small group muck out a grateful Harald Myers’ home, soon after eight feet of standing water recedes.

Annette Konicek and her husband battle water for 11+ hours unassisted; surrounded by water, they look to God to make it through; their faith grows as waters recede.  She reflects on her flood story: “I find throughout my life that the attitude you deal with things is so much more important than the actual things you go through!  Everyone goes through difficult things. If you can find a good attitude, the journey is so much easier.”

With ear to the ground and fingers online, and an office open on Mondays at High Point, I hear many such woeful tales of loss but am encouraged by just as stories of help and hope.  “It’s just stuff,” they say.  I listen and pray, as I help them with funds to recover.

The worst of times brings out the best in people.  Ancient Israel’s King David affirms as much: “God sits enthroned over the flood.  The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses people with peace” (Psalm 29:10).

Good news of help and hope is spreading among clients served through HPC—also online groups and through Barbara McKinney and Paul Skidmore, two Madison alderpersons I am networking with. Hence, a rising tide and run on the “Benevolence Bank” of those in a position to help.  For now, HPC has enough funds in our bank, under budget for the year, saving up a “rainy day” fund as it were, for such a time as this.

It’s not just about benevolent funds or bucket brigades.  Some policies and hearts may have to change, as well, in response to the flood of 2018.  Let us consider how to become better at crisis-funding, as well as long-term mentoring of people caught up in one crisis du jour after another.  When people come to church to learn a different, more excellent way forward out of their miry pit, will we steward our resources for them?  We will continue to round up helpers and stir up hope?

May this worst of floods bring out our best, now and always.

Mission of the Month: Rohingya refugees flee to Bangladesh

By Dietrich Gruen, with Lee Wanak

Persecution does not take a day off. Refugees seeking asylum from their murderous persecutors are always on the run. When not running for their life, they are crossing fortified borders and dangerous waters in search of a safe place. Here in the USA, the Church designates one day, First Sunday in November, as the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church (IDOP for the PC); that day Elder Mark Finley led us in prayer. Next month we extend our concern for persecuted believers as we allocate our year-end gifts in the Generosity Campaign, some of which will support one particular group of persecuted believers on the run—the Rohingya refugees.

The plight of Rohingya people fleeing persecution in Myanmar is captured in several images from TIME magazine. See the photo essay here.

Continue reading Mission of the Month: Rohingya refugees flee to Bangladesh

Self Defense and the Church

You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor {Leviticus 19:18} and hate your enemy.” But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5:43-48  

And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even “sinners” do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even “sinners” lend to “sinners,” expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

Luke 6:33-37  

Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” “Nothing,” they answered. He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; {37 Isaiah 53:12} and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”  The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.” “That is enough,” he replied.

Luke 22:35-38

Last Sunday, 26 people were killed at a Baptist church in Texas by an active shooter. This shooter was eventually stopped by a citizen church-goer who killed him with a shotgun. Many difficult questions arise in the aftermath of tragic events such as this. What are we to make of this tragedy? And how are we to live in a world like this one? How should we, as Christians, respond to violence? And in what way should we anticipate violence? It is one thing not to take revenge, but are we supposed to defend ourselves? Or are there certain times where we might defend ourselves, while not at other times? Continue reading Self Defense and the Church

Mission of the Month: Disaster Relief, Ordinary Heroes and the King of Floods

by Dietrich Gruen


After the race-whipped riots at Charlottesville (August 12) exposed deep divisions and ugly disrespect in this country, we all welcomed with relief and euphoria the day the moon eclipsed sun—and for that day, all other news (August 21).  We now turn the eyes of our hearts and hands of hope to the disaster relief efforts underway in the Houston area.  We cheer the everyday heroes surfacing during Hurricane Harvey, as it whips Houston with a one-two punch of rain and flood “not seen in 500 years.”  Continue reading Mission of the Month: Disaster Relief, Ordinary Heroes and the King of Floods

Podcast Companion: The Good News about Honor and Shame

Did you know High Point Church has a podcast?? Our Engage and Equip podcast is updated a few times a month with new episodes designed to engage and equip substantive disciples for the local church. We’ve covered things like art and worship, Christians’ responses to the 2016 election, hospitality, religious liberty, High Point Church’s thematic goals and vision, and testimonies from multiple staff members.

You can listen to the podcast on our website, through iTunes, or with your favorite podcast app. Just search for “Engage and Equip” to get started in iTunes or apps.

We recently aired an episode called, “The Good News about Honor and Shame” in which we compare our culture’s narrative about shame with how it is addressed in Scripture, looking at the gospel through a lens that may be new to some of us. Nic and Jill Reasa, our Communications Coordinator, discussed insecurity in the episode before this one, titled, “Overcoming Insecurity.” Check it out!


We referenced a few different resources in the podcast, and there were many more we wished we could reference, so we collected a few for you here. We hope you enjoy diving into the good news of our freedom from shame in Christ and, like we have, come to appreciate the gospel in a fresh way.

Continue reading Podcast Companion: The Good News about Honor and Shame

Further Study in Stewardship

In the sermon on Sunday, we learned about stewardship. If you missed it, you can listen to the sermon Owning Nothing, Investing Everything here.

Stewardship is fundamental to our identity as Christians but is often under-addressed in teachings about becoming a substantive, thriving disciple of Jesus. Since we don’t discuss it very often, I encourage you to learn a bit more on your own. Here are two excellent resources to get you started:

Faithful in All God’s House: Stewardship and the Christian Life by Gerard Berghoef and Lester DeKoster (2013)Faithful in All Gods House

This is one of the most straightforward and comprehensive guides I’ve found for the issue of Christian stewardship. Coming in at 110 pages, it’s a slim and satisfying read that gives you a surprisingly broad and deep look at what it means to live as the bearers of a trust from God.

A 20 Day Study in Stewardship by Redeemer Presbyterian Church (Rev. Tim Keller)

20 Day Study in Stewardship (cover)

This is a free PDF published by Redeemer Presbyterian Church, pastored by Rev. Tim Keller. It leads readers through twenty daily studies/meditations on the subject of biblical stewardship. Since stewardship isn’t only a concept to be understood, but a reality to embody, this kind of daily exploration–digesting small pieces over a period of time–can be particularly useful in making space for the Spirit to renew our minds. You can download the PDF on their website here. Scroll down to the section titled “Devotional,” and you’ll find a link.