Monday, December 31, 2007

Out with the old, in with the New...

Well, I have to write my final entry of this year 2007. I haven't been too consistent with this blogging machine I call the daily jolt from what I see. Perhaps I'll do better in the New Year - let me add that to my list of resolutions.

Looking back:
God has been good to me and my family over these last 365 days. (note to self: 2008 is a leap year, and I must remember to say 366 in my final post then). I'm getting to that stage in life where things are getting harder to remember. I'll turn 40 in a couple of months. With age comes difficulties - and this year has brought a few. I have noticed that I am experiencing greater difficulty in sleeping, maneuvering and hearing. Life seems to be catching up with me. The wear and tear I shrugged off for 30+ years is now playing the tortoise in this race... and winning. How I wish I would have taken care of my body when I was younger! (ahhh... youth is wasted on the young).

God has taught me a few things about myself, Himself and our relationship together. He is instilling in me the desire to persevere and finish strong in this life. Scripture seems to become very clear to me on this point - the absolute necessity of persevering. Another lesson He is teaching - one I will take into the New Year - is that I should not seek release from the circumstances, just to avoid the discomfort. How easy it is to self-medicate these days. Not only physically, but relationally, spiritually and emotionally. Another lesson: the need to be a dad not just the guy "in charge" of the family... or worse yet, not the "youth pastor" who I have to live with to my kids. This will demand greater time for them and less time for me. Yeah, it's suppose to be that way. Another lesson: cutting off the sleeves on which I wear my emotions / responses. This is especially true with those with whom I am most comfortable, like my lovely wife. How easy it has been to mistreat her.

There have been other vast lessons - some intensely personal, some not - but would prove to be incredibly boring to the average web-surfer who might stumble across this well-hidden blog. God has taken care of us providentially in amazing ways. Poultry, pork, beef and venison have all graced our freezers at no charge. Our income has been supplemented by the faithfulness and goodness of God's people. Even last night, "God's middle-man" (his self-appointed title), blessed us with an unexpected gift to aid us in our trip to Missouri. Indeed God is good.

God has worked in our ministry here at Calvary as well. I have seen teens rebel, repent and return to a loving relationship with God. All in the course of 2007. God is so good. Our youth group is growing in number and in maturity. We are very excited about the future.
I could go on and on about this past year - let's move ahead and think about '08.

Looking ahead:

What are the resolutions I have made for 2008? Here are a few:
1. Translate Ephesians. In order for me to maintain any level of proficiency with Greek, I must do this. (I've actually already started - it is proving to be an incredible task)
2. Memorize Ephesians. Yes, the book. I have taken the year and broken it down, and I think that in concentrating on 3-4 verses a week, I can get the book memorized. Much of chapter 2 is pretty much memorized, as are chapters 4-6. This will greatly aid this endeavor as I continue on in the year.
3. Read through this list of books: (I'll explain my choices at the end of the list)
  • The Mortification of Sin - John Owen
  • The Great Exchange - Jerry Bridges
  • The Doctrine of Repentance - Thomas Watson
  • Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave - Edward Welch
  • Pierced for Our Transgressions: Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution - Steve Jeffery, Michael Ovey and John Piper
  • Seeing with New Eyes: Counseling and the Human Condition Through the Lens of Scripture - David Powlison
  • The Reformation: How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World - Stephen J. Nichols
  • Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon - Bryan Chappell
  • Speaking the Truth in Love - David Powlison
You can see sprinkled in this list a couple of Puritan authors and a book about the Reformation. I am unsure who has suggested this, and I hesitate to assign credit inappropriately, but I heard someone (Piper?) say that for every 'contemporary' author one reads, they should read an author whose works have stood the test of time. Hence I am including some of the Puritan's works in my 'official list'. I am looking forward to reading through them. (I've actually started Owen's book and am enjoying it thoroughly). I have of course other books started that I will finish: Competent to Counsel - Jay Adams, The Reformed Pastor - Richard Baxter, A Reporter's Life - Walter Cronkite, Safely Home - Randy Alcorn, and a couple other minimal reads.
4. Improve physical well-being: This will require the loss of about 15 pounds, improved cardio care and the dreaded (already scheduled) physical. At this age of 40 - and a family history of cancer, heart disease and a host of other ailments - this will begin the annual treks to participate in various tests to watch for these types of things. An improved diet will help too.
5. Incorporate and maintain a family worship time. This has proven to be my thorn in the flesh. For whatever reason, (read: lack of discipline on my part), I have failed miserably in this endeavor. I again will attempt to improve here.
6. Begin to learn Spanish. I have tried this for several years - (enrolling in classes, only to have them cancel them due to lack of students) - I will again try to get this started. I love the Hispanic populace and desperately want to be able to communicate with them in their language.
7. Learn web-design. So as to better present our church online. This has been in the back of my mind as a goal now for a couple of years.

Oh, there are no doubt several other things I would like to get done. There are some personal and familial goals I have set that would not be appropriate to publish. The excitement of the New Year is that we can use this time as a time to re-energize our passions and desires to do well for our Savior!

One thing I will take with me into 2008 is my desire and enjoyment of strong coffee. Even as I type this out I have been enjoying Gevalia's "Dark Roast" coffee. The aroma of a strong java combined with it's somewhat sharp taste will remain a favorite of mine. Peering into my cup I see that I need a refill. It is probably a good time to shut down this most lengthy post of 07 and bid you a God-centered 08. May God bless you and yours - drop a comment now and then to let me know that you are reading. That helps me keep this random blog moving forward. God bless, and Happy New Year!!!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Blind to Truth


Having eyes, they do not see.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

We don't wrestle...

Ephesians 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

My oldest son and I went to a high school wrestling match tonight. I had forgotten how intense the matches were. The teams faced each other across a large wrestling mat. Painted orange and black, the circle had the "Warsaw Tiger" painted on it. Sitting in a long row, the wrestlers peered at each other from either side. When the match started, the intensity rose. Even sitting in the stands I tensed as I watched both wrestlers strain against the other.

As I watched the match continue, I began to notice some things that I found were interesting. The physical exertion was not constant the entire match. The strain grew in intensity depending on the position of the wrestler on the mat. Some times the wrestlers would even be looking at their coaches for guidance in the middle of a move against their opponent. The teammates also played an important role. They hollered encouragement and offered bits of advice throughout the match. I also noticed that neither opponent quit until the referee blew his whistle.

Enter my thoughts on Ephesians 6:12.

In one of the only mentions of this word "struggle" or "wrestle" in the New Testament, we see it mentioned in relation to spiritual warfare. It is important to realize that our struggle is not against one another - or any other human being. I also think it is important to understand that the intensity of the conflict is never constant. Sometimes we find ourselves straining vigorously - and other times we have times of 'rest' during which we can even look to our Coach for advice. Sometimes when we find ourselves at a disadvantage spiritually, perhaps because we made a wrong choice or wrong move, we find ourselves struggling intensely trying to overcome and achieve spiritual victory. There are many times when we can hear the encouragement of fellow-believers as they offer advice and help as we struggle. And I think its important to realize that we are in this wrestling match against evil until the day the Referee blows His whistle.

High school sports or theology? God used a simple set of wrestling matches lasting no more then 45 minutes to remind me of the warfare in which I am engaged even now. It is important to understand that we wrestle for a victorious Coach - One who has faced every move of the enemy and won every time. He understands our weaknesses. His Spirit empowers us. His word guides our every move. His victory is transferable.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Who Shall Dwell on Your Holy Hill? Part 4 (finally)

As I sit here in our living room, traffic begins to pick up on the state highway outside. It's dark. And cold. The only noise that varies from the sound of automobiles going north and south is the clacking of the keys as I type and the ticking of the clock above the mantle of the fireplace. Soon the boys alarms will be going off and the school day will begin. An apple sits next to me on the couch. My coffee (Gevalia's Limited Edition, Paupa New Guinea) is situated close at hand as well.

Now is a perfect time to get back to Psalm 15 and my look at Who Shall Dwell on Your Holy Hill? We have worked through two verses in this Psalm, and now begin v.3 with this phrase: "...he does not slander with his tongue...".

This idea of slander is one of falsification, of adulterating the truth. Speaking falsehoods, presumably against one's fellow man. Perhaps it goes a bit farther then our immediate thought of "lying". Deception. Manipulation. Distorting.

My mind immediately slips back to Genesis and the serpent's conversation with Eve. Not outright lying, but surely an adulteration of truth.

The outcome of slander is destruction. Truth destroyed. People destroyed. Relationships destroyed. There is never an appropriate time to be dishonest. Let me re-state that lest, in this post-modern age in which we live, we miss it. It is never right to lie. To falsify truth. To twist truth. To adulterate truth. To distort.

I started thinking about how this practically plays out in our lives. Slander immediately takes my mind to interpersonal relationships. I don't view slander as truth distortion - at least I didn't until I started thinking about this phrase. I think we need to be more careful in how we speak about one another, to one another. We need to make sure our speech is edifying and truthful.

The opposite of slandering would be edifying, even speaking the truth in love. See Ephesians 4 for more details.

God states that if someone desires to inhabit His holy hill, they can't be characterized by a slanderous tongue. We would do well to heed this challenge. Perhaps a New Testament reading of James 3 and Matthew 12 would be in order.

My apple awaits. The kids are starting to awake. I've got about 16 hours ahead of me that I can put this challenge of not slandering with my tongue into practice.

I embrace the day.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A moment in the life of a pilgrim...

There are days in which the struggle is this intense: (an excerpt from John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress)

Christian: "Apollyon, beware what you do; for I am in the King's highway, the way of holiness; therefore take heed to yourself."

Then Apollyon straddled quite over the whole breadth of the way, and said, I am void of fear in this matter; prepare thyself to die; for I swear by my infernal den that thou shalt go no further; here will I spill thy soul.

And with that he threw a flaming dart at his breast; but Christian had a shield in his hand, and which he caught it, and so prevented the danger of that. Then did Christian draw, for he saw 'twas time to bestir him; and Apollyon as fast made at him, throwing darts as thick as hail; by the which, notwithstanding all that Christian could do to avoid it, Apollyon wounded him in his head, his hand, and foot. This made Christian gave a little back; Apollyon therefore followed his work amain, and Christian was almost quite spent; for you must know that Christian, by reason of his wounds, must needs grow weaker and weaker.

Then Apollyon, espying his opportunity, began to gather up close to Christian, and wrestling with him, gave him a dreadful fall; and with that Christian's sword flew out of his hand.

Then said Apollyon, I am sure of thee now. And with that he had almost pressed him to death, so that Christian began to despair of life; but as God would have it, while Apollyon was fetching of his last blow, thereby to make a full end of this good man, Christian nimbly reached out his hand for his sword and caught it, saying, "Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy; when I fall I shall arise"; and with that gave him a deadly thrust, which made him give back, as one that had received his mortal wound.

Christian perceiving that, made at him again, saying, "Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us."

And with that Apollyon spread forth his dragon's wings and sped him away, that Christian for a season saw him no more.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Latest Read...

I just finished reading this great compilation by Wayne Grudem & Dennis Rainey today. Pastoral Leadership for Manhood and Womanhood is a great practical resource for pastors. In a day and age when the family suffers greatly, and often silently, this book challenges pastors to re-ignite their God-ordained responsibilities and lead their flock as they should. Taking contributions from some of today's well-known authors in Christianity, Grudem and Rainey divide the book into three sections: The Pastor's Personal Life, The Opportunities Today and The Challenges Today.

The Pastor's Personal Life:
This section deals with two matters that need intense magnification in the majority of today's minister's lives: the Pastor's Marriage and the Pastor's Responsibility for Romance in His Congregation and Marriage.

The Opportunities Today:
This section covers such topics as:
  • The Little Things that Build or Destroy Marriages
  • Using Small Groups: The Key Strategy for Building Stronger Marriages
  • Cultivating a Man-Friendly Church
  • Single Adults in Your Ministry: Why They Stay and Why They Stray
  • Father Hunger Among a Lost Generation: The Pastor's Opportunity
  • The Marriage Ceremony: A Cornerstone in Building Godly Families
  • Church Discipline: God's Tool to Preserve and Heal Marriages
The Challenges Today:
This section covers such topics as:
  • How to Encourage Husbands to Lead and Wives to Follow
  • Church Ministry to Persons Tempted by Homosexuality
  • "Someone I Love is Gay": Church Ministry to Family and Friends
  • Helping Single Adults Handle Moral Failures
  • Pastoral Responses to Domestic Violence
  • Standing Courageously in Your Home, Church and Community
I like this book because each and every one of the authors falls back to the authoritativeness of Scripture, applies Scripture practically and plainly and gives wonderful practical suggestions to follow for the reader.

I think this is a must read for all pastors. Need a Christmas gift idea for your pastor? Get him a copy of Pastoral Leadership for Manhood and Womanhood. It is an easy read - but will challenge him in the difficult areas of ministry: from his own marriage to the lives of his people.

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Today was extremely dreary in Northeast Indiana. A lot of mist, rain and some snow mixed in kept everything damp and bone-chillingly cold. A fire built in the fireplace and some Mocha Java kept nearby helped ward off Jack Frost's grip. Winter is slowly elbowing its way in.

On a side note for a future post: We got our Christmas tree and decorated it this last weekend. Pictures are sure to follow. And I haven't given up on Psalm 15 - more to come this week!

Friday, November 23, 2007

missed the "thanksgiving post"...

So, I missed the opportune "Thanksgiving Post" that so many bloggers get to do on Thanksgiving Day. Guess there is always next year, right? Yesterday, Thanksgiving Day, was a good day. It was a day we spent with some family and friends about 50 miles to the Northeast of where we live. We didn't have turkey for Thanksgiving - we had a dinner which we were thankful for, from the bounty of our own harvest. So that meant beef, chicken, veggies and homemade breads and desserts. It was a meal that recognized our dependence on our Sovereign Provider and one in which we thanked Him for His bountiful blessings throughout the year. We squeezed around a table with a burlap covering and a beautiful harvest themed centerpiece. The kids came and went as they do during the holidays - happy to spend time with cousins and friends. The adults enjoyed conversation, and realized that many of the 'new' adults were really just some of our kids who had grown up 'overnight' and now were planning new life ventures of their own. "...Time flies..." was repeated over and over, perhaps a gentle reminder to those of us with young children or a wistful memory of years too quickly passed.

Football.

Yes, we did watch the games yesterday. I say games, but I didn't think they were very close or competitive. I did get to experience HDTV for the first time in my life (I am behind the times I know), and was very impressed with the quality of the picture. I don't think I would want to be on HDTV - it's too realistic. Perhaps I should shed some of this holiday weight first!

Hunting.

I was able to take my freshman son hunting for the first time - just the two of us. We had been hunting together before, but usually with my seventh grade son along as well. We were graciously invited by my nephew to join him where he hunts his grandfather's farm. He let us share a very nice tree stand that accommodated both of us quite easily. It snowed very heavily throughout the afternoon and we didn't see any deer. We did see many squirrels, one feral cat and about 8 swans land in the field to the north of us. I was very thankful for the time alone with my son in the stand - we didn't get to talk much, but it was good. I treasure these times. We were about ready to leave when we heard a very close shot - and thought it might be my nephew. Turns out someone was shooting from the road and left before we were able to get there. That's dangerous - but thankfully we are watched over by a Sovereign Protector.

We are thankful for God's goodness to us on a daily basis - this day yesterday allowed us to concentrate on it a little more pointedly. God is good all the time, and all the time God is good - that's a phrase we used to say in our church all the time... but have gotten away from it's reminder. Perhaps we need to start that again.

Coffee.

Today I wrapped up my Costa Rican blend - actually had to mix in some of my Mocha Java from Gevalia. I think, due to the chilly weather & crazy shoppers, that I'll stay close to the fireplace and just drink this precious brew all day.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Scrambled thots...

I'll continue posting the "who shall dwell on my holy hill" posts tomorrow - but today, since I'm off of work and all - I'll refrain from posting in that series.

Today is very overcast and a 'typical' Fall day here in Northeast Indiana. Temps are about 45* and predicted only to reach 54*. I've noticed that my sleeping habits are changing and I am unsure why. Partly due to a weak back - which hurts consistently when laying down - and partly due to getting older (pushing 40 hard right now), I'm sure. Typical sleep follows this pattern: in bed and reading by 10pm, usually lights out by 1030 or 1100p, awake again around 330a or 400a and fitful wake / sleep from then until 6:30a - my best sleep is from 630a till 800a (if I get to sleep that long). It's really been strange to notice the change.

Today has been the day that we run errands: my wife to the grocery and me to the parts store. I had 3 different lights go out on my Ford Taurus in the last week or so. Today I replaced the 'third' brake light and the turn signal. I also picked up some new wipers in preparation for winter. Antifreeze, windshield wiper fluid and motor oil was also purchased. I always buy my oil by the case. Today when I checked out with all theses items I thought the total sounded low. I paid for my items and went out to the car. I got to looking at my receipt and realized that although the clerk scanned the UPC on my case of oil, it only registered that I purchased one quart! Quite the deal - the Lord sure blesses in various ways!! (just kidding)

I was tempted just briefly to back out and hit the road not letting them know their error, but instead shut down the car, walked back inside and paid from 11 more quarts of 10w30. They were appreciative of my honesty and I was enjoying that 'good feeling' from doing something right. Isn't it funny how satan can tempt you with the smallest things?

Due to the slightly cooler temps, I enjoyed my Costa Rican coffee, extra strong and with a shot of chocolate (Hersheys of course) in it. It really helped me start the day off right.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to preach an overview of Roman's in our church. I gave some background info and concentrated on what I consider the theme verses Romans 1:16,17. All in all, Romans is probably one of my favorite, if not favorite book in all the NT. What's yours?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Who Shall Dwell on Your Holy Hill? Part 3

A continuation of a look at Psalm 15. So far we have looked at two requirements to those who wish to dwell on the holy mountain of the Lord: walk blamelessly and doing what is right. Today we look at the third 'requirement': he who"...speaks truth in his heart..."

There is something to be said about the lack of integrity in society today. Unfortunately it has crept into the church as well. We all would do well to heed the instruction of David as he asks the question, "...who will dwell on the holy hill..." of the Lord. Integrity is a quality that is highly desired in the Christian's life. It is so easy to communicate one thing verbally and yet have contrary thinking running through one's heart.

As I write this just before the holiday season - my mind goes to family gatherings. Have you ever commented on how 'good' someone has looked and in your mind done the math on how much weight they may have gained? Or perhaps you've spoken to how delicious a meal was only to think in your heart about over seasoned it was. This would be a practical out working of this passage. Speaking truth in your heart will lead to speaking truth with your mouth. There is a necessity to also speak '...truth in love...' (Eph.4:15) - as well as, not letting any '...unwholesome words proceed out of your mouth...' (Eph.4:29) all the while speaking the truth in love.

Here's a challenge for you this holiday season: speak the truth - in your heart. And your mouth. Live a life of integrity. May God bless your efforts as you move closer to 'meeting the requirements' of dwelling on the Lord's holy hill!

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Tonight we are not having an evening service at our church. We had our annual "Harvest Dinner" this afternoon and so gave everyone time "off" for time with family and friends tonight. We decided to stay home and enjoy some much needed family time. Subway provided the meal, and the NFL has provided the entertainment. I am wrapping up the night with a double mug of Mocha Java Gevalia coffee - some of my favorite!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Who Shall Dwell on Your Holy Hill? Part 2

A continued devotional look at Psalm 15.

Psalm 15:2 "...does what is right..."

We have already looked at the first "requirement" of being able to dwell on the Lord's holy hill - that being the ability to walk blamelessly. Now we see the characteristic of doing what is right. Such a simple thought isn't it? Oh, the Christian life is quite simplistic in it's 'requirements', but so difficult to live out. How does one know what is right in order to be able to perform what is right?

Scripture is clear in it's wisdom passages that "...the way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice..." and "...every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart..." So quite easily we see that if we simply accept our own reasoning without taking advantage of the counsel and wisdom of others that we can quickly be headed in the wrong direction. Wouldn't it be easier if everyone saw everything like us? Wouldn't it be more comfortable if everybody thought like us? Wouldn't this world be scarier if these things were true? We must realize that just because we perceive something to be 'right', it may not always be so. Secondly we see that even when we do think we are 'right', our heart may be deceiving us. The Lord is able to judge our heart and it's motives. I think it would be safe to assume that we can't simply trust our own reasoning to determine what is 'right'. Where then do we turn?

One of my favorite passages to direct me in this line of thinking is 2 Timothy 3:16. Scripture, not only inspired, is profitable in four areas: teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness. I break these four areas down as follows:
  • teaching - God's word tells me what is right
  • reproof - God's word tells me when I am wrong
  • correction - God's word tells me how to get back right
  • training in righteousness - God's word reveals to me how to stay right
Very simply put, it is God's Word that shows me how to do what is right. It is then up to me to act on what I read or hear. If I want to fill this second requirement to be able to dwell on the holy hill of the Lord, it is best that I follow the guidelines that Scripture sets forth.

So, what do you think? Have anything to add? Feel free to post a comment!

On a totally unrelated topic: I am barely going at the moment. I received about 3.5 hours of sleep last night and had quite the full day with meetings, appointments and bible studies. I drained 3 coffee pots to help me tread water, but I am starting to crash this evening. One of my youth leaders is a Herbalife dealer and has what amounts to an energy drink in a tablet form. I think they're called "Lift-off". They are very similar to Alka-seltzer tablets and you place them in 8 oz of water before taking them. I sure could use one now!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Who Shall Dwell on Your Holy Hill? Part 1

Ps.15:1-5 - A Psalm of David
O LORD, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart;
who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the LORD; who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
who does not put out his money at interest and does not take a bribe against the innocent, He who does these things shall never be moved.

Today I will attempt to embark on a several part blog about this Psalm. I think that there are ten - maybe eleven - requirements for entrance to the Lord's "tent" or the privilege to dwell on his holy hill. Today we will look at one. This is prayerfully a short devotional series designe to encourage those who are 'pressing on the upward way'. My prayer is that through your study of God's Word that you will find yourself moving ever closer to entering the Lord's "tent".

Requirement #1: walk blamelessly.
There are several reasons why one should walk blamelessly before the Lord. Proverbs (28)states that the blameless will be delivered and (Psalm 89) those that walk uprightly will experience that no good thing will be with-held from them. Ephesians 1 indicates that God has elected us to be holy and blameless, and this He did before the foundations of the world. The Apostle Paul's driving desire was to have a blameless conscience before men and God (Acts 24). Our lives, as lived blamelessly and with integrity, will contrast the evil generation in which we live (Philippians 2). We are to be diligent to live blamelessly, so that Christ will find us without spot or blemish and in peace at His appearing (2 Peter 3). The body of believers, the church is also to be known and characterized by being blameless (Ephesians 5:27). We rest in the sovereign fact that we cannot do this in our own strength and that God will cause us to stand before Him blameless some day (Jude).
But what does it mean to be "blameless"? This word has the idea of: being complete. It refers to animals which are without blemish; also translated as such related adjectives as full, whole, upright, perfect. it represents the divine standard for man's attainment. (Thanks to the Theological Wordbook of the OT.) It's a goal. It's a realization that I am spotted by sin...by the world. How do you get rid of spots? With my shirts I have to launder them. With my sins I do the same. Ephesians is clear, we are cleansed by Christ through the washing of water with the Word.
So you begin to understand what cleanliness / blamelessness is by understanding what the word does in relation to your spots / sin. Then you proactively begin to move in a direction that ensures that you will stay spotless / blameless by constant washing in the Word. It is a way of life governed by the word of God that will allow me to walk blamelessly. Then I will know that I am well on my way to being able to dwell on the Holy Hill of our LORD.
Let me know what you think.
Today's java was Costa Rica - Gevalia and then here at the office: Folgers. Ewww. I can't complain - it is java. God bless,

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Where are your eyes?

ESV
Psalm 123 - A Song of Ascents.
To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens! Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he has mercy upon us. Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us, for we have had more than enough of contempt. Our soul has had more than enough of the scorn of those who are at ease, of the contempt of the proud.

The weary pilgrims, dust covered and foot-sore, glance upward to the looming city on the hillside. They have been traveling for days. The grit that grinds between their teeth has been their constant unwanted sustenance as they plod continually beside their beasts of burden. They are Jews. They seek Jerusalem. Pausing now, looking towards their holy city, a tear forms at the corner of their eye. As it forms and then slowly descends downward over the leathery wrinkled face of one who has spent their life exposed to the harsh wind and sun of the Middle East, it cleanses all it touches. These tears wash the dust from the pilgrims cheek.

The oppressors deal harshly with the Jews. They randomly swoop in from the hills and help themselves to any produce, stock or goods that these nomadic dwellers may have accumulated. It is a wearying existence. The constant glances over their shoulder, the beatings and the mockery... the mockery hurts the most. The sneer of the intruders, the arrogance of these heathen infidels curdles the blood of the Jew. They mock the pilgrim's belief. They mock Jehovah. Their cruel laughs and taunts ring loudly in the ears of the oppressed long after the dust settles from their departure.

Where is Jehovah?

Jerusalem. The city gates are now within sight. A traveler sighs, and it ripples through the caravan like the desert wind assaulting their tent walls. Then, softly at first, now stronger... a voice. Calling out to Jehovah. The sing-song cadence of the mercy request swells in volume. The children now join their parents in recitation.

Direction. Mercy. Our fill of scorn. Lord hear us! We have no other place to turn - You are the guidance we desperately need. Hear us from Your throne, O sovereign Lord!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

I finished my Kona today. I usually use three scoops of beans into my grinder to provide the succulent grounds that will allow the precious drippage of java into my two cup mug - today however, I had just about another scoop left in the bag after preparing to grind my beans. I don't like to mix my coffee beans - so I just poured the rest into my grinder and started grinding. My coffee was a little stronger than usual, but it was most excellent in taste! It also provided the energy to start on the Fall chores around the house. I made an omelet in which I threw onions, garlic and hot peppers. We didn't have any breakfast meat in the house (Monday is shopping day) so I just made due with what we had. It was a little strong, and kinda hot - but it tasted pretty good!

Today the boy's and I headed out to rake leaves. I have never lived anywhere before where I could not burn leaves - but in the last two years we have lived in this home, we are required to haul the leaves to the curb for pickup. The problem is that even as we hauled a 'ton' of leaves to the curb, we would turn and see that the trees were dropping them faster then we could rake them. The back yard doesn't even seem to have been raked. The other problem is that our trees don't all drop their leaves at the same time. We have 5 large maples in our yard - but they drop their leaves at different times through out the Fall. They sure are pretty though. Lot's of reds, yellows and pale greens right now. God sure does know how to make this time of year beautiful.

This week has been a very long, long week for me in my pastor position. It seems that I put in about double the hours I usually do. It's all good - I was able to hopefully encourage some people in some dark hours. It brought me back to the point that I realized that God desires that we live lives dependent on Him. "The normal Christian life is not one you can live in your own strength" ~ my senior pastor.

Makes you think, doesn't it?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Today's grind: Gevalia's Kona. I rec'd my last package of coffee yesterday: Dark Roast, Espresso Roast, Costa Rica and (my fav) Mocha Java. I have suspended my shipments due to costs. However, I am well stocked and will probably have enough coffee to make it through the winter - unless my boys increase their consumption!

On to more important things:

You may have noticed I added an online Lectionary to the blog. It is located in the upper right hand corner and updates daily for Bible reading. It is so very important to have a consistent reading program of some sort. I am involved in three right now - and am trying to keep up with all of them. I like the lectionary, although I am unsure if it is just out of trying something new, or if I will continue with it for the days to come. I'm sure I'll keep you updated.

Psalm 96 was in the reading today for the Lectionary. I like verse 2 - although it challenged me as well: Sing to the LORD, bless His name, tell of His salvation from day to day (esv). The Psalm is full of instructions on giving praise to God - worshiping the Lord for who He is, what He has done and for what He will do. This phrase of speaking His salvation from day to day struck a chord with me. I don't think it is an evangelistic phrase as some would term "soul-winning", but certainly would correlate with giving an answer for the hope that lies within us! The thought that came across my mind was, "how good am I at doing this on a day to day basis"? While I work in a church office and typically surrounded with Christian people now, I still need to live a life in such a way that the deliverance of the Lord is proclaimed on a daily basis. Whether in evangelistic outreach or discipleship (kind of the same thing actually), I need to continually proclaim the goodness of my Savior! What say ye on this matter?

You'll notice when I quoted the verse it was in the ESV version. I am quite possibly making the switch from NASB to ESV. And today may prove to be the perfect day! Ligonier Ministries is making available to Reformation Study Bible in ESV for only $15.17 - today only. This price is for the hardback edition - but I like hard covers anyway. I have purchased two - one may be a gift... I am looking forward to using it in everyday study and seeing how I like it. I have the ESV in my bible software, but not in any book form. Check out this study bible and get one if you're so inclined! They also have it in leather, etc for those interested.

Monday, October 29, 2007

It truly was colder outside this morning. The digital thermometer read 35* this a.m. and I thought I detected the lingering fingers of frost in the backyard. Those in charge of forecasting the weather stated that we were under a freeze warning and claimed an end to the growing season. Right now as I sit in the living room looking out through the circular window in our front door, I see a somewhat stiff breeze delicately removing the red and yellow maple leaves from one of the trees in our front yard. The city of Warsaw came by earlier today and used their large leaf vac to remove all our leaves by the curb. I think we'll be raking later today when the boys get off of school.

I decided to check out the furnace today - just to make sure everything was running well. It was not. Our furnace is very efficient and does not have a pilot light. It is supposed to automatically light when needed, but for whatever reason it is not. Tomorrow the repairman comes to take a look. He will also replace our very large and effective furnace filter - which costs $46! It is one of the best for those dealing with allergies.

I have just finished reading a book that my oldest son is to read in his English class: Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank. It is a book written in the late 50's and deals with one community's efforts to survive a nuclear strike from Russia. It's hard to believe that in the last 40 years the concerns of society have moved away from fears of total nuclear holocaust to individual terrorist attacks. The book was an interesting read, although there were some un-necessary allusions to improper behavior. All in all, it was a book that could be read in a weekend - and if one just wanted something to read for pure recreation, this would fit the bill.

I have now undertaken reading again Competent to Counsel by Dr. Jay Adams. It pertains to counseling people "nouthetically" - thus, biblically. I respect Dr. Adams immensely and he writes with wisdom. He is a great man of God, a wonderful teacher and I have had the pleasure to sit under his instruction on a couple of occasions. I encourage every Pastor or lay leader...frankly every serious believer to read this timeless work!

As I wrap up some very varied thoughts, I want you to know that again today I am drinking Gevalia's Kona blend. I mixed it very strong this morning, and this afternoon I ground it a little weaker. It is a fine coffee. I am enjoying it tremendously. Have a blessed day!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The early morning skies were clear and the air chilly as I heard the automatic brew start on the coffee pot in the kitchen. The aroma of Gevalia's Kona blend was soon wafting through the house. As I began to get around, I realized that the house was very cool - so I turned the fireplace on. Yes, I know, I wish I could build a fire...but our home came with an gas insert, so I just turn it on. I hope to get into November before having to fire up the furnace.

I was reading Luke 2 this morning. The "Christmas" passage. What struck me in an interesting fashion is verse 25: "...And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him..." It was the phrase "looking for the consolation of Israel" that grabbed my attention. This word consolation is the Greek word: paraklesis. Perhaps it doesn't immediately ring familiar in your mind. A closely related word: parakletos might be more familiar. The first is a word that means something along the lines of "a coming to one's aid; an encouragement, an exhortation". The second is a word used of both the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ in the New Testament. It is translated "Helper" of the Holy Spirit in John's gospel and "Advocate" of Jesus Christ in John's first epistle.

Now, back to Luke 2. It was this godly man Simeon who was looking for the consolation, or the One from whom aid would come, to Israel. This word clearly is a reference to Jesus Christ. Jesus was the consolation, the encouragement, the One from whom aid would come! I love the way that Scripture refers to God. I am always seeking out the names of God, as well as, terms that reveal more about Him to me. Terms such as: the God of hope (Romans 15), the God of love and peace (2 Corinthians 13), the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1)... By the way, did you know that the word "comfort" in 2 Corinthians is the same word "consolation" in Luke 2? Isn't Scripture wonderfully consistent?

So, what does it mean to me? Well, to keep the context of the text, Jesus Christ was clearly coming to be the Messiah for His people. He was coming to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. It was to these Jews He would come as their Comforter, their Consolation. Upon their rejection He did offer Himself to the Gentiles - for which I am now eternally grateful!!

I have these things as comfort / consolation / encouragement (all the same word) now in my life:
1. Jesus Christ - my Consolation, my Advocate
2. Holy Spirit - my Helper, my Comforter
3. Scripture itself - my Encouragement (Romans 15:4 - "...that through perseverance and encouragement (paraklesis) of the Scriptures we might have hope..."

I don't know what you are facing in life. I pray that you come to realize the comfort that is found only in a wonderful relationship with Jesus Christ as your Lord, Savior and Consolation, the Holy Spirit as your Helper and the Scriptures as your continual Encouragement.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Getting back in the Saddle

So its been a month... over a month... since my last post. Sheesh! I lost the desire to keep this blogging rig moving forward over the last several weeks. Actually, I think over the summer I fell out of the habit of posting and then it just kind of fell apart.

New beginnings: I love them. Seems like life is full of them. Jesus Christ gave me a big one in 1998... and yesterday. Isn't His grace and mercy incredible? How often I fail Him on a daily basis! How often He allows me to "start over" after a humbling and wonderful time of confession and repentance. The righteous man falls 7 times and yet he rises again. No excuses for the falling - but encouragement to keep getting back up!!

I am currently reading The Passionate Preacher: Previously Unpublished Sermons by Robert Murray McCheyne. It is edited by Dr. Michael M. McMullen. I suggest you do some study of McCheyne's life. What an incredible, passionate light for Jesus! Although he lived in the early 1800's, his sermons could still "preach" today. They are incredibly 'relevant' - must be because they are based on Truth. Seriously, pick up a copy or ask me to borrow mine.

Yesterday I raked our front & side yards. Yes, its the beginning of the Fall yard work! I like raking, but I don't really care to get up in the morning and see that that yard is again covered with leaves. Less than 12 hours after I initially raked!! We are experiencing some light rain - which helps with that. The trouble is that wet leaves really stick to the ground and driveway. Oh well, we are enjoying all the maples we have in the yard. God has blessed us in this home and our yard is a rainbow of colors in the Fall. Some maples turn yellow and some red - all drop their leaves at different times... which means lots of opportunities for large piles of leaves to jump into!

Today's java: Gevalia Maragogype - Limited Edition. Good stuff & brewed strong! (Full-bodied Maragogype (Ma-ra-go-hee'-pay) is a smooth, flavorful coffee from Mexico. Literally translated as "giant bean," these plump Arabicas are carefully nurtured in the Chiapas region.) ~ from Gevalia

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Latest surplus picture


I got this tankers(?) helmet while out near Ft. Lewis in Washington St. The first day I saw it the lady working the shop (an asian) blurted out: "You believe Jesus Christ?". We were 'shocked' at first because we were wondering how she knew we were all Christians. Then we were encouraged because we thought we had been acting in a way that might lead her to think that way. After answering in the affirmative, she said, "I give you good discount". Well, that was really cool and we ended up buying some sweet merchandise. I, however, let the hat go. I ended up going back the next day to pick up some inert gernades for souveniers for my two oldest sons and also ended up with the hat.


Oh, by the way, after telling this story to some of the soldiers and acting pleased that she had recognized that we were Christians... they told us that she says that to everyone. Hmmpfph.

This picture was taking as me and Pete were headed to Lowe's. I wore it the entire time we were driving around in rush hour traffic. I got some pretty good looks and a couple people to laugh...which made my day.
And I wasn't even jacked on java.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Back home:

Monday morning...one cup of java into the day...and all is well. I am attempting to recover from slight jet lag. There is only 3 hours difference between Northeast Indiana and Seattle, WA, but sometimes that can make a huge impact.

I apologize to all who checked this blog and expected to see something on Thursday and Friday of last week. I ended up with one of my infamous migraines while on this missions trip to Ft. Lewis - and frankly could not get online to get pics or text posted to this blog. I know you understand.

We arrived back home in South Bend a little after 11pm on Saturday night. I ended up falling into bed on Sunday morning around 2am. (This of course made for a long day on Sunday - with all the regular responsibilities and the reports from WA, etc) I also had planned a SNAC activity for our teens after the evening service - and then went from that into the tailend of a board meeting. Nothing like packing it all in on one day - especially the first day back from the West coast.

This trip was very rewarding. It was great to get the work done out at the Christian Fellowship House in Tillicum, WA - and see the soldiers enthusiasm for our efforts. It was even more rewarding to minister to these incredibly strong - and young - military personnel. These men and women prepare to fight physical battles across the world, and remain - as the rest of us - entrenched in spiritual warfare as well. I pray that our little conversations...those that ran deep quickly...made an impact and encouraged them to keep on going for Christ. I will never look at the news the same, nor will I ever think of the military without thinking of the fine soldiers I met while visiting Ft. Lewis. They truly are heroes.

It is good to be back home and jumping back into my ministry here with both feet. I am energized to be faithful in serving my Commander, Jesus Christ. While in Seattle I read a verse in Psalm 37 which included these two words: ...cultivate faithfulness... That is my desire for my life: to cultivate faithfulness in every aspect of it.

While I go to meditate even more on how these words will impact my life, I will once again stop by the java fountain and refill. I've been drinking from my Starbucks mug that I purchased while in WA... good stuff.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Wednesday:

As I wrap up this day - (I know that it is already "tomorrow" in Indiana) - I am amazed at how much we are able to get done. Before breakfast the drywall was being hung and the last little bits of wiring were taken care of. Immediately after breakfast the ladies went with Susan Hand on to the post and attended a ladies bible study. They saw one of the many, many memorial services being prepared for 3 soldiers of the 364th Engineering Regiment who were victims of a homicide / suicide attack on a bridge. We were also able to take a break at lunch and go visit the Peugeot Sound just minutes away from the Christian Fellowship House. We enjoyed the beautiful weather and the interaction of Ron and Susan during lunch. After lunch we had to stop by a Starbucks to get coffee - after all, it all started here! We then got back to the house and continued our work: trimming trees, hanging doors, mudding drywall, cleaning, sorting and a host of other things. At dinner there were again a number of soldiers in attendance and we spent the rest of the night fellowshipping with them and getting to know them better. (We also celebrated Marv Noser's 60th birthday!!!) It is now well after 10pm local time... and we are slowly but surely falling into bed.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Random Pics...

Here is probably the most poignant moment of the week so far. Hannah De Roo (the young lady on the right) shares with the group how she lost her husband in Iraq a year ago. She spoke of the difficulties before he deployed for his second tour in Iraq - as she battled making Christ her treasure above all else. Just two months into his second deployment, he died. He was the first casualty of 3rd Brigade, stationed here at Ft. Lewis. His brigade will be coming home from deployment this next week. Hannah has a unique ministry to other widows on the post. She is raising their young son - he'll be 2 years old in December.
A couple pictures from our Bible study with the soldiers. There were approximately 25-30 people in attendance: 11 from CBC, the rest were soldiers - some freshly returned from Iraq, others preparing to deploy within the next few months.These are random pics of the work being done on the storage facility at the Christian Fellowship House. Total wiring of the facility, insulation, sub-siding the outside, framing of a double-door and some misc things are a few of the things that already have been accomplished. The team is eagerly anticipating finishing this major project ahead of time...the Lord willing.

Please keep us in prayer as we try to encourage Ron & Susan Hand, the troops we interact with and complete the tasks that are set before us. You have a vital part of this ministry through prayer. We have many stories to tell as we think about returning - of how the Lord is working through us and others to draw us closer to Himself.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Starting the work...















Here is the work team from CBC preparing to head to South Bend Regional Airport:
(from left to right)
Toby P. (driver only), David D., Marv N., Joe B., Carol N., Jason S., Sherrie M., Pete B., Bob M., Pastor Mark, Julie P. and Rick S.

This picture was taken at 4:00 a.m - just before the team loaded into 3 mini-vans heading north; first to South Bend and then flying to Detroit.

On this 167 mile flight aboard a CRJ jet, the team noticed that Congressman Joe Donnelly also was aboard the flight. At this time we are unsure if he noticed us.
We decided to rate our air travel using the "mint" method. Let me explain: there are a couple of team members who do not like to fly, and rely on mints to keep their stomach settled. The flight from South Bend Regional to Detroit Metro was only a "one mint" flight - meaning that it was a very smooth flight.
We left Detroit Metro after a two hour lay-over and headed westward for Seattle's airport: SEATAC. This was to be a 4 hour and 48 minute flight. We only experienced minor turbulence - thus causing it to be related a "2-3 mint" flight. While most of the flight the ground was obscurred by clouds, as we approached Minnesota the clouds began to break, and from 36,000 feet we saw the patchwork of God's creation. Even more exciting was seeing the Rocky Mountains, the Continental Divide and as we approached Washington state: Mt. Ranier, Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Baker and Mt. Hood. These majestic mountains, especially Mt. Ranier, jutted up through the clouds and were visible for miles and miles. We were in awe (as flatlanders) of the beauty of God's handiwork. Arrival, baggage claim and locating our missionary Ron Hand were all done easily - and a tribute to the power of prayer.
This is the storage facility behind the Christian Fellowship House that we are working on. On the left side of the building (the back side) is where we are doing most of the work. Visible is the insulation that eventually will be installed, as well lumber, tools and other misc. items.
The team was also able to visit Ft. Lewis and our missionary Ron Hand was able to take us on a tour where he interacts on a daily basis with our nation's troops. He has such a valuable ministry and his heart for these men and women was really evident as we drove with him from location to location on this massive installation. He and Susan have a wonderful home that is used regularly by the troops here. I hope to post some pictures from our interaction with these men and women, as we plan on having a Bible study tonight (Tuesday).
On this day of remembrance of one of nation's greatest tragedies, we are so very thankful for those who daily risk their lives that we might live in freedom. God bless our troops!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Go West young man!

On Monday morning, (9/10/07), in Leesburg, IN, a group will be assembling in the parking lot of Calvary Baptist Church. In the pre-dawn hours they will gather into three mini-vans and head north to a local airport. They will then begin a half-day trip west and arrive in Seattle, WA to begin their mission of encouragement to our missionaries Ron & Susan Hand.

Ron and Susan have a special ministry to our military forces located at Ft. Lewis, WA. They run a "hospitality house" and provide various means of encouragement to our troops as they prepare to ship out, while spouses are deployed and when they return from deployment. Our mission will be to do some construction work to aid the Hands in their storage space, but also to encourage them and the soldiers we meet.

We are very excited about this ministry opportunity! I intend to post updates as time and internet connections allow of our work and ministry while we are there near Ft. Lewis. Check back daily for these updates. As you do - will you pray for our team, the Hands and especially our troops? Thank you and God bless!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Snapshots of the Psalm 28 God

Psalm 28 - click here to read the passage.

v.1 - my Rock
v.7 - my Strength & my Shield
v.8 - my Saving refuge
v.9 - my Shepherd

Rock. Solid. Immovable. Unchanging. That's my God. Totally reliable when life goes upside down. I cling to Him. The Rock.

Strength. Power. Ability. And it's transferable. To me. Totally available when I finally understand that I can't do this on my own.

Shield. Defense. Covered. Protection. Life gets offensive at times. God allows me to be hidden in Him.

Saving Refuge. Safety. Security. Eternal. No more condemnation. None. Satan can point his wagging finger elsewhere.

Shepherd. Caregiver. Watchman. Overseer. My favorite. God holds me securely in His arms forever... what a picture. What a God.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Book Review: Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell


The subtitle to this book is: The eyewitness account of Operation Redwing and the lost heroes of SEAL team 10

I read. A lot. Rarely does a book grip me emotionally. This one did. I knew the story and had already read bits and pieces online about the account. I had listened to Marcus Luttrell's interviews. Nothing prepared me for how I was moved when I read the sacrifice of our military as they bravely fought the Taliban in the mountainous regions of Afghanistan.

From his early days of training to enter the military, his choice to become a Navy SEAL straight through Hell Week and on to the Middle East deployments - you'll be able to get inside the head of Marcus Luttrell. What you will also be exposed to is his heart. It remains as big as the state of Texas from which he comes.

As I read of the battle in which he would lose the three members of his SEAL team on the mountain, my guts just churned. His tale of escaping and eluding the enemy until his final rescue by US Army special forces is absolutely riveting. I cannot but highly recommend this book. I could not put it down.

In a day when the mass media tends to color patriotism a deplorable shade, it was a relief and an inspiration to be reminded once again of those men and women who volunteer... who choose... to sacrifice on my behalf. This is a must read.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A Night at the Ballpark

I am so proud of my kids! They entered a reading 'contest' at the local public library and 4 of the 5 (the youngest doesn't read yet) received free tickets to a minor league baseball game for their efforts. We went last night to watch the Fort Wayne Wizards take on the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. The final score was Ft.Wayne - 9; Wisconsin - 8. However, we didn't last the entire game. Last night was an incredibly hot and humid evening. Heat indexes were in the 100's. We did make it through 4.5 innings before my 2 year old just melted down. Trying to maintain control in the middle of the bleachers was way too much for us! We ended up leaving around 8:30p and took a leisurely ride home - stopping at McDonalds for fries and then later for gas & a break. We rolled into the driveway around 9:45p and dropped everyone into bed for a well-deserved rest. Below are pictures from the game:


Friday, August 03, 2007


Philippians 1:29 (nasb) "...For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake..."

I have been meditating on this verse for the last three days. I am encouraged to see that through the sovereignty of my God He has allowed me to believe in Him. At the same time I am also excited to see that through His sovereignty He allows me to suffer...on His behalf, or for His sake.

Doesn't this change the whole face of suffering for the Christian? It seems to me that since God is sovereignly in control of everything (salvation and suffering) that even when my life my seem out of control... it isn't. That means that God is only allowing me to experience what I can handle (totally dependent on Him, of course) and not a bit more. Another observation is that I am 'joining with Christ' as I suffer for doing what is right.

As I continue to face what I term "suffering", I face it now expectantly and joyfully.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Putting My Daughter to Bed Two Hours After the Bridge Collapsed
















(Author: John Piper) Original Article

At about 6 PM tonight [Wednesday, Aug.1, 2007] the bridge of Interstate 35W over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis collapsed. I am writing this about three hours after the bridge fell. The bridge is located within sight of Bethlehem Baptist Church. Most of us who minister at the church cross this bridge several times a week. At this point I don't know if any staff was on the bridge. Desiring God offices are about a mile from the bridge.

There are no firm facts at this point about the total number of injuries and fatalities. When we crossed the bridge Tuesday on our way out of town, there was extensive repair work happening on the surface of the bridge with single lane traffic. One speculates about the unusual stresses on the bridge with jackhammers and other surface replacement equipment. This was the fortieth anniversary of the bridge.

Tonight for our family devotions our appointed reading was Luke 13:1-9. It was not my choice. This is surely no coincidence. O that all of the Twin Cities, in shock at this major calamity, would hear what Jesus has to say about it from Luke 13:1-5. People came to Jesus with heart-wrenching news about the slaughter of worshipers by Pilate. Here is what he said.

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."

Jesus implies that those who brought him this news thought he would say that those who died, deserved to die, and that those who didn't die did not deserve to die. That is not what he said. He said, everyone deserves to die. And if you and I don't repent, we too will perish. This is a stunning response. It only makes sense from a view of reality that is radically oriented on God.
All of us have sinned against God, not just against man. This is an outrage ten thousand times worse than the collapse of the 35W bridge. That any human is breathing at this minute on this planet is sheer mercy from God. God makes the sun rise and the rain fall on those who do not treasure him above all else. He causes the heart to beat and the lungs to work for millions of people who deserve his wrath. This a view of reality that desperately needs to be taught in our churches, so that we are prepared for the calamities of the world.

The meaning of the collapse of this bridge is that John Piper is a sinner and should repent or forfeit his life forever. That means I should turn from the silly preoccupations of my life and focus my mind's attention and my heart's affection on God and embrace Jesus Christ as my only hope for the forgiveness of my sins and for the hope of eternal life. That is God's message in the collapse of this bridge. That is his most merciful message: there is still time to turn from sin and unbelief and destruction for those of us who live. If we could see the eternal calamity from which he is offering escape we would hear this as the most precious message in the world.

We prayed during our family devotions. Talitha (11 years old) and Noel and I prayed earnestly for the families affected by the calamity and for the others in our city. Talitha prayed “Please don't let anyone blame God for this but give thanks that they were saved.” When I sat on her bed and tucked her in and blessed her and sang over her a few minutes ago, I said, “You know, Talitha, that was a good prayer, because when people ‘blame' God for something, they are angry with him, and they are saying that he has done something wrong. That's what “blame” means: accuse somebody of wrongdoing. But you and I know that God did not do anything wrong. God always does what is wise. And you and I know that God could have held up that bridge with one hand.” Talitha said, “With his pinky.” “Yes,” I said, “with his pinky. Which means that God had a purpose for not holding up that bridge, knowing all that would happen, and he is infinitely wise in all that he wills.”

Talitha said, “Maybe he let it fall because he wanted all the people of Minneapolis to fear him.” “Yes, Talitha,” I said, “I am sure that is one of the reasons God let the bridge fall.”
I sang to her the song I always sing,


Come rest your head and nestle gently
And do not fear the dark of night.
Almighty God keeps watch intently,
And guards your life with all his might.
Doubt not his love, nor power to keep,
He never fails, nor does he sleep.

I said, “You know, Talitha, that is true whether you die in a bridge collapse, or in a car accident, or from cancer, or terrorism, or old age. God always keeps you, even when you die. So you don't need to be afraid, do you.” “No,” she shook her head. I leaned down and kissed her. “Good night. I love you.”

Tonight across the Twin Cities families are wondering if they will ever kiss a loved one good night again. Some will not. I am praying that they will find Jesus Christ to be their Rock and Refuge in these agonizing hours of uncertainty and even loss.

The word “bridge” does not occur in the Bible. There may be two reasons. One is that God doesn't build bridges, he divides seas. The other is that usually his people must pass through the deadly currents of suffering and death, not simply ride over them. “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you” (Isaiah 43:2). They may drown you. But I will be with you in life and death.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life . . . will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Killed all day long. But not separated from Christ. We go through the river. Not over it. He went before us, crucified. He came out on the other side. He knows the way through. With him we will make it. That is the message we have for the precious sinners in the Twin Cities. He died for your sins. He rose again. He saves all who trust him. We die, but because of him, we do not die.
Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”

Talitha is sleeping now. But one day she will die. I teach her this. I will not always be there to bless her. But Jesus is alive and is the same yesterday today and forever. He will be with her because she trusts him. And she will make it through the river.

Weeping with those who weep, and those who should,

Pastor John

Psalm 71:20 You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again.


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Christian and Suffering...

I recently read an article by Michelle Malkin on a news story that hardly draws any attention in the United States. It was entitled, The Martyrs No One Cares About:

The blood of innocent Christian missionaries spills on Afghan sands. The world watches and yawns. The United Nations offers nothing more than a formal expression of "concern." Where is the global uproar over the human rights abuses unfolding before our eyes?

For two weeks, a group of South Korean Christians has been held hostage by Taliban thugs in Afghanistan. This is the largest group of foreign hostages taken in Afghanistan since Operation Enduring Freedom began in 2001. What was their offense? Were they smuggling arms into the country? No. Inciting violence? No. They were peaceful believers in Christ on short-term medical and humanitarian missions. Seventeen of the 23 hostages are females. Most of them are nurses who provide social services and relief.
(full article here...)


I have decided to begin a word study of "suffering" in the New Testament. I hope to post findings as I continue in this study.

...
but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation... 1 Peter 4:13 nasb

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Another Book Review


Two eyes break the surface of the water. Their steely stare is barely visible behind the camouflaged face. They say you can’t judge a book by it’s cover, but I felt drawn to read Stealth Attack by Ray Pritchard – just by looking at it.

I have to admit that as a pastor I speak of spiritual warfare all the time. I hardly understand it though. I feel its impact in my life and the lives of my church members. It has been around since Satan first tempted Eve, and continues to this day. Yes, Jesus Christ won the war over Satan, sin and death 2000 years ago but as the enemy retreats to it’s impending doom, skirmishes rise up in my life and yours. We can be victorious in these skirmishes!

Ray Pritchard takes a look at the terrorism that we know today in our physical world and uses it to get our attention of the tactics of the enemy in our spiritual world. He writes about this warfare’s beginning, leader and eventual end. He speaks of how the devil can get footholds in our lives and how we as believers must resist him.

One of the most challenging thoughts in this book was the fact that Satan doesn’t always attack our weaknesses, but sometimes concentrates on our self-perceived strengths. I don’t know about you, but I really guard my weaknesses – things like internet purity, overeating and treating my wife improperly. The areas that I think I am strong in, I tend to let slide…and that is exactly what the devil is looking for. 1 Peter 5 speaks to the devil as being a ‘roaring lion, seeking to destroy’ us. Lions don’t attack fiercely guarded animals – just the ones who think they’re strong enough to stray from protection. You need to read this book!

I am always looking for reading to go along with my Bible reading that challenges me in my daily walk. Stealth Attack not only challenged me, but encouraged me in the battle as well. Mr. Pritchard is very easy to understand and uses many captivating illustrations to make his points in this 150 page book. I highly recommend this book to boost your defenses against the one who is determined to bring you down.

Book Review Time!


I do book reviews for Familyman Ministries - please check out their site. Here is one of the latest reviews for them:

The shrill ringing of the phone broke the sterile silence that had enveloped my office. It was one of the men in my church asking for a suggestion to read for his weekly men’s small group study. Every pastor should jump at those types of questions, shouldn’t he? In my pastoral leap, I landed flat on my face…or so it seemed. I told him I would get back with him, hung up and promptly panicked.

It was a day or two later I received an email concerning a book with its own study guide entitled, Hazards of Being a Man by Jeffery Miller. I ordered it and read it. I immediately was convinced that this book would go on to be a resource I could recommend to men’s study groups and men looking to improve their Christian walks. I expected the same old admonitions of evils of sexual sin and time spent away from family – but was encouraged with so much more! Yes, Miller does address these issues, but stepped outside the ‘norm’ and hit me hard in several other areas. He writes of the hazards of: deflecting responsibility, manipulation, misplaced priorities, individualism, lust, insensitivity, absence, partial obedience, unresolved anger, discontentment, unteachability and unchecked motives.

With each hazard, Jeffery Miller uses a biblical example to illustrate his point, thus tying Scripture to each and every lesson to be learned. At the end of every chapter he suggests how to right the wrongs, provides reflection questions and (my favorite) gives Bible memory work to coincide with the lesson. This book stretched me in uncomfortable ways!

It would be a great study guide to use in a men’s group, as an individual man or even a father / son study. Just under 200 pages, this book is easy to read with short and to the point chapters. If you desire straight-forward advice, this book is for you! I highly recommend it, and will no doubt be re-reading it for myself soon.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Mis-diagnosis

Monday (July 9th) I was working in the garden and came away with some sort of rash. I usually have no problem with these types of things - however, my arms and legs were covered in a 'hives' type rash. No problem, I thought. That is what I thought during the morning hours. By noon, I was getting lethargic and pretty tired. I lay down after lunch for a quick nap and then got up to discover that I was extremely sore in both joints and soft tissue. I thought I had just 'overdone' the weeding / picking of veggies. Throughout the afternoon I just couldn't get going and fell asleep on a lawn chair and the sofa at different times during the day. The stiffness and pain just kept getting worse. I was in bed by 10:30p and woke up this morning...covered with the rash. My entire body was one big rashy mess. I also felt like I had been worked over with a baseball bat. I could hardly get motivated to take a shower. I was really in a lot of pain. I forced myself through it and went to work. All morning long I was again lethargic and sore. Everyone at the church offered their well-intended advice. All were agreed that I 'must' see a doctor. By lunch I was exhausted and really discouraged about not getting much done. I came home, hungry but not willing to eat - so I lay down on the sofa for another 30 minute nap. When I got up I ate half a turkey and tomatoe sandwich and then headed back to work, against my wife's wishes. On the way, I discovered my Ibuprofen in the car. I quickly swallowed a couple and hoped for the best. In about 45 minutes or so I was beginning to feel a little bit better. That's when I got a call from a fellow staff member who was talking with a parishoner about my rash. (You just got to love it when it gets around that you have a rash) They determined I had what is called Fifth disease. Don't ask me what it is - but they suggested I stay away from pregnant women and allow it to take its course. Funny thing was, by time I went home (around 5:30 or so) I was feeling pretty good - and the rash was fading. Even now, the tingling / itching is dying down and the rash is all but gone.
I find it humorous when people attempt to diagnosis what might be 'ailing' you. Sometimes they are right; sometimes wrong. One thing is for sure: spiritually speaking there is only one Authority that is right 100% of the time when it comes to diagnosing the 'ailments' of the heart. That is God's Word. You might ignore the 'rash' on your soul, but friend, I recommend you tend to the words of the Great Physician and allow the Balm of Gilead to soothe your discomfort. When was the last time you filled your prescription in the Word?

Saturday, July 07, 2007

7-07-07 - What a day!

So today's date is pretty cool! I didn't, however, go out and buy a lottery ticket or any participate in any other risky (unless you count working in the garden in 90* heat as being risky).
Latest book review:
Stealth Attack: Protecting yourself against Satan's plan to destroy your life by Ray Pritchard. (Ray Pritchard's blog) I picked this book up while I was in Schroon Lake, New York last week. I and two of my youth leaders took 12 teens up to the Word of Life Island for a week of camp. Mr. Pritchard was one of the speakers for those adults who were staying on the 'mainland'. Regrettably I was only able to listen to one of his sessions as I spent a lot of time with my teens and also completing some work I had to do. When I heard he was giving the sermons that this book was birthed from, I bought it. The book is a great reminder to every Christian about their participation in spiritual warfare. Using modern day terrorism as an example of how Satan might war in our lives, he makes the unseen understandable. Perhaps the greatest concept of the book (and the one session I attended) was the fact that Satan often does not attack our weaknesses, but our self-perceived strengths. We often guard our weaknesses, don't we? However, we grow slack and less diligent in the areas that we perceive as our strengths...and they by default become weak areas. I was challenged greatly by this. Ray Pritchard also speaks to our greatest weapon: prayer. I don't know about you, but I struggle so with prayer! It is my greatest weapon, and yet I don't utilize it nearly enough. It's like going back to flintlock rifles after being given laser-guided missles... it just doesn't make sense.
Well, if you read and are a Christian, you need to get a copy of this book. It is easily understandable and relatively short. There are many illustrations used throughout the book, making it very relevant. Keep the fight brothers and sisters!
It was also my first time to hear Pastor John Bouquet of Bethel Baptist Church, Savannah, OH. He preached through Colossians - which is one of my favorite books in all the New Testament. I was also challenged to Exalt God Only in the area of prayer during these amazing sessions with him. He is a bold man of God and if you ever have the chance, please plan on sitting under his teaching!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

an arrogant reading of scripture...

I have been reading in 2 Samuel and the Psalms as I work through David's life. I found myself getting a little arrogant as I read of David's struggles in 2 Sam 15. A little background:

His son, Absalom, has been turning the hearts of the people against David. The Bible says in v.12 that the "...conspiracy was strong, for the people increase continually with Absalom...". It was at this point that David tucks tail and runs.

He flees! What in the world is this? Is this not the giant slayer? Is this not the one of whom it was sung, "...Saul has killed his thousands, but David has killed ten thousands...?" Is this not the lion and bear slayer? Is this not the one who has experienced massive victories over the Philistines? Is this not the one to whom God said that He would establish His throne forever? (I could go on and on, but you get the point)

In 2 Samuel 5 we read, "...v.10 and David became greater and greater, for the LORD God of Hosts was with him...v.12...and David realized that the LORD had established him as king over Israel, and that He had exalted his kingdom for the sake of His people Israel..."

I wanted to bolt upright out of my chair and shout to David in chapter 15, "turn back to chapter 5... read it again!!" and then in that moment I realized that David and i are very much alike.

Oh, I wish I could say that I was like David in his conquests and quick repentance... but I am like him in his swift forgetfulness of the mighty working of God in his life. David's God hadn't changed, but David's perspective of Him did. God no longer could keep David safe - or so David thought. God could no longer be faithful - or so David's actions revealed. God could no longer be trusted - or so David's quick reaction to gather trusted servants and run tells us.

Where have I forgotten the mighty hand of God in my life? Where do I doubt the faithfulness of my God? Where am I trusting in my own understanding, rather than trusting the One who controls everything around me?

My prayer, for me - for you, is that we come back to a quick remembrance of the goodness of God in our life.

David did.