Wednesday, April 30, 2008
So, how do you react? What do you do? Do you keep your kid out of school? Do you let him go? If the kids see the Law Enforcement presence and simply postpone their destructive activities for a day - have we accomplished anything? How many times can you as a parent outguess the depraved mind of these teens? What do I tell him to do, how to act / react in a shooting scenario? These and other questions plagued me as I lined up behind other concerned parents dropping their kids off at school.
"Have a good day!", I called as he exited the van. I smiled, perhaps weakly - my son is very aware of what's going on. He too has seen the police around the property. Have a good day?! I really pray he does.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Then I got to thinking, as I worked, about how I am just like that camper. Oh, I know I don't look perfect on the outside. People recognize me as having flaws, but over all they think I look 'pretty good' for my Christian age. Little do they know that within me lies a heart that is black. Rotten, and falling apart. Surprised? Hardly - just take time to look 'under your skin'. Hence the need for 'renovation', I think Scripture prefers the term 'sanctification'. What does it involve? Complete transformation. I no longer exist for my own natural desires. I am now in the process of being totally overhauled by my owner. Some day I will be presented in wondrous glory, but currently I'm still 'in the shop'.
Friday, April 25, 2008
I thought I had posted about this verse before, but perhaps not. I didn't search really long and hard to find what I had written about it. I know I have tried to encourage others with this treasure, and now I find it comforting me. See, the natural man despises conflict. The natural tendencies are to flee any kind of discomfort. To run. To not look back. But it is in these moments of 'affliction' that I deepen my relationship with my Creator. His Word becomes real...like practically real. The pain doesn't go away. The relationship just gets tighter.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Today the alarm never sounded. I lay awake around 6:00am, waiting for 7:00. When it finally rolled around, I rose and made some Gevalia Mocha Java. It was a good cup of coffee: strong, with a bit of a bite. I was on my way to the church for our scheduled Spring work day as the raindrops began to fall.
Arriving at the church, I noticed that the clouds were clearing overhead. Through intermittent rain I trimmed a large tree, raked the clippings and some leaves, packed them into bags, washed the exterior of many windows and yanked out some concrete footers to our old sign. During this last project the skies opened up and the rain poured down. It was clear to me that this would be the last outside project I would help with. I was soaked by time we got everything cleaned up. It was a good half day of getting things spruced up around the church, and I am very appreciative of all those who came to help.
I am excited about this weekend: tomorrow we have our Annual Business Meeting and there will be ample opportunity for God to promote growth within His body. God is good all the time!
I finished a book this weekend called The Long Walk. It is the supposed true story of Slawomir Rawicz, a Polish soldier arrested by the Russians in 1939. He was allegedly banished to Siberia where he and others made a daring escape in a blizzard, aided by the Russain commandant's wife. These former prisoners of war fled southward and covered over 4000 miles on foot, through desert, mountains and forests to India.
If true, it is an amazing story of individualistic determination against all odds. If not, it is a spellbinding read.
Monday, April 14, 2008
...There were those who dwelt in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in misery and chains, because they rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High. Therefore He humbled their heart with labor; they stumbled and there was none to help. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; He saved them from out of their distresses. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and broke their bands apart. Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness, and for His wonders to the sons of men! For He has shattered gates of bronze, and cut bars of iron asunder...
What a miserable picture this selected passage from Psalm 107 presents: Envision the despair as cloaked in darkness the prisoners moan, chains clanking as these who are enslaved shift positions in a feeble attempt to bring some comfort to beleaguered bodies and souls. Rest does not come. Peace has fled and life is fleeting. Death, pressing in, now breathes it's chilly vapors into their spirit.
How did it come to this? What debauchery was committed to justify such a hideous punishment? Simply: sin. Rebellion against the words of God. Turning their back, rejecting, perhaps even ridiculing the Most High's counsel. Choosing their sin they now suffer the consequences. Imprisoned in a devilish fortress, shackled by their disobedience, they lay in bondage to their heart's desires. Quite regularly they bow their master: their lusts. Repeatedly they find themselves in a desperate struggle to satisfy the insatiable; and consistently they realize the futility of their labors.
How did they get here? What brought them from the frivolity of selfish ambition and pursuits to languish in this depraved state?
This loving, merciful, holy God - the One who cannot tolerate sin in His presence - allows them to suffer the rewards for their choices, with the desire to see them turn to Him. He knows that it is in this time of trouble that they will cry out to Him. And He patiently endures the travesty of their choices, all the while remaining nearby to immediately answer their pleas. He does not force Himself on them. He simply waits.
And when they in the deepest, darkest moments of their agony turn to Him, He acts. Swiftly. He saves them out of their distress. He brings them into the light and into life. And He breaks the shackles. The citadel of sin is destroyed through the mercy of God. Bronze gates shatter at His command, bars of iron are cut in two.
They squint their eyes, breathing deeply this freshness of new life as they rest in the warmth of the Son. Praise now comes easily to their lips. The mercy of God is fresh in their mind. It is a wonder that God would so move in the lives of men!
Oh that we would see and understand the consequences of our sinful choices! Oh that we would see through the deception of the evil one! His palaces are facades that simply mask the concentration camp of consequences. His jewelry, while eye-catching turns to shackles at the stroke of darkest midnight. His party rooms become holding cells for our hearts. His promise of freedom leads to forced labor. His mischief leads to misery and his promise of companionship leads only to loneliness.
How to escape this trickery and deceit you ask? Simply: receive the words of God, heed His counsel. In the everyday moments of life will you turn to what will enable you to see the deception for what it truly is? Disciplining yourself for the purpose of godliness is not a futile exercise. It is the only way to ensure your freedom.
Friday, April 11, 2008
I was painting over our sink when the first pain hit. Kind of like a knife, real sharp and painful. It wasn't consistent but 'twinged' over a period of about 20 minutes. It took my breath away a couple of times. I decided to finish the part that I had started painting and then take a breather. This pain is not new. I've experienced it several times over the last few years. Each time I thought about the fact that it could be heart-related, but would stubbornly refuse to get it checked out. This time it just bothered me a little more than usual. The pain subsided, but I was still uncomfortable for the rest of the afternoon. We had our Wednesday night activity with the teens, and it wasn't too bad - so I thought that it was the 'same old, same old'. After returning home, I was sitting on the couch and the pain started to intensify, which caused me to tell my wife. You have to understand our relationship - we think identically...most of the time. I told her what I was experiencing "just in case I woke up dead". I tend to make light of these situations... she wasn't buying in this time. She insisted that I go to the hospital and get checked out.
So I did. It's amazing what happens when you walk into an ER and tell them that you're having chest pains. All of a sudden you become the center of attention. I had barely gotten laid down on the bed when I was covered with sticky patches, hooked up to an EKG machine, being poked by one nurse for IV and heart 'markers' - all the while being interrogated by another nurse as to my health. I kept insisting it was probably 'just gas', but they weren't buying. I'm no doctor, but simply put, the nerves in your chest area are used both by the heart pain as well as gastrointestinal (right word?) areas. That being said, it's hard at times to tell if you're having a heart attack or just have eaten the wrong foods.
The pain began to fade and as time passed, the blood work was showing normal activity. My blood pressure (BP) was erratic however and somewhat high. I was being monitored heavily, and told to let the nurses know if the pain came back. They had already given me 4 chewable aspirin, and I really didn't want to take the nitro they offered. But when the pain came back, so did the nurse with the nitro. I had one placed under my tongue and it was amazing what happened. Nitro is supposed to dilate the blood vessels to allow more oxygen to the heart - (my understanding). I'm sure it did, but my heart-rate shot way up and my BP drop 30 point in just a couple of minutes. In 5 minutes the BP dropped well over twice that. It was kinda crazy, and my head hurt too. The pain in my chest went away.
I thought I'd be good to go, but they had different ideas. They were admitting me, to take blood markers every 4 hours and had scheduled a stress test in the morning. I wasn't going any where. My wife went home at my insistence, because by this point, (1:30am Thursday), I was just 'hanging out'. They transferred me to my room, and it was a waiting game from there. I tried to sleep, but couldn't. The nurses at Kosciusko Community Hospital were great... all of them. The blood work techs came in as scheduled and drew blood every four hours. By 7:00am the Nuclear Radiologist (?) came in to pump radioactive sludge into my veins. I would have pictures taken of my heart an hour later and then the stress test. The pics lasted for 12 minutes, as I laid 'perfectly still' - and when they wheeled me into the stress test room, I was getting kinda keyed up. I know they inject you with something that stresses your heart as you walk on a treadmill - and I wasn't looking forward to it. My BP showed that: 150/104. The stress test went well however and off I went to eat a "highfat" breakfast. Then an hour later, more nuclear pics.
A long story short: the doctors eliminated the possibility of heart attack, and my heart appears to be functioning well. My cholesterol is high, and again I was reminded of the need to exercise and eat well. The doctors think that the pain is simply muscle related, not gas related - and so it appears that I have to just 'live with it', which is no biggie.
I had some time to think about things as I lay in the hospital bed all covered with patches and gadgets, etc. Physical care should be a primary concern. I am blessed with a relatively healthy body, and God expects me to be a good steward of it. Also, I was reminded in a weird way about the brevity of life. I need to be a good steward spiritually as well. I won't be around forever.
I thank God for His goodness to me and my family, and I so appreciate the healthcare system we have in this country. God continues to use a variety of things to show me His workings in my life.
Well, the coffee mug is empty, and I need to get a refill. Take care, thanks for reading - and as always: brew it strong and drink it steaming hot!
Thursday, April 10, 2008
The inaugural issue of Christianity Today, dated October 15, 1956, featured an article by Billy Graham entitled, "Biblical Authority in Evangelism." The thrust of the article was clear -- without an unhesitant "thus saith the Lord" authority in preaching and evangelism, the message lacks all authority. The only authority that matters, Dr. Graham insisted, was the authority of the Bible as the Word of God.
Indeed, this confidence in biblical authority was, at least in part, the reason for the establishment of Christianity Today as the flagship journal of American evangelicalism under the editorship of Carl F. H. Henry.
Now, over a half-century after the publication of that article, Angie Ward of Leadership magazine began with Dr. Graham's article and then asked five preachers -- What, if anything, has changed?
I was pleased to answer her questions and to participate in the project. She also interviewed David Anderson, pastor of Bridgeway Community Church in Columbia, Maryland; John M. Buchanan, pastor of Fourth Presbyterian Church in downtown Chicago and editor and publisher of The Christian Century; Tullian Tchividjian, a grandson of Billy Graham and the senior pastor at New City Church in Margate, Florida; and Rick Warren, founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California.
Her article, "Biblical Authority & Today's Preacher," is based on those interviews. The preachers interviewed represent something of a cross-section of American Protestantism, with John Buchanan representing liberal Protestantism and its most historic publication, The Christian Century (the very magazine to which Christianity Today was established to serve as an alternative)..
Suggesting the Old Testament prophets as models for preaching, Dr. Graham had referred to preachers as "mouthpieces for God." The magazine then asked if we should consider today's preacher to be a mouthpiece for God.
I am certainly supposed to be a mouthpiece for Scripture, a human instrument through which the Scripture is heard and received by God's people. But the human preacher's authority only reaches the human ear. It is only God himself who can take his word from the human ear to the human heart.
I stand by this answer, and by the large comments I made in the interview about the fact that the preacher is actually a mouthpiece for God only when the Word of God is rightly preached. As the Reformers made clear, preaching is the means by which God speaks to His people as a gathered community. Through the preached Word and the ministry of the Holy Spirit, God actually speaks to His people.
Dr. John Buchanan answered:
We need to be very careful about that. So many people have abused this, preachers need to be very careful before claiming they are God's mouthpiece. I think the preacher needs to be suggestive and not declarative. There are times in history when people (like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King) were called with some authority to say, "This is wrong." But we need to be cautious. One of our central doctrines is that we all fall short of the glory of God. Sin touches all of us. Our call is to study, pray, discern the word, then convey it to people.
The key issue here is his proposal that preaching should be "suggestive and not declarative." While the preacher must be modest concerning himself, his own abilities, and his inherent inadequacies, the preacher must not be merely suggestive in the pulpit. The "suggestive and not declarative" approach well defines most liberal Protestant preaching, but I think it also explains the decline of those churches and denominations. The earlier loss of confidence in the authority of the Bible inevitably leads to a declining authority of the pulpit.
As Martin Luther remarked, "Yes, I hear the sermon; but who is speaking? The minister? No indeed! You do not hear the minister. True, the voice is his; but my God is speaking the Word which he preaches or speaks. Therefore I should honor the Word of God that I may become a good pupil of the Word."
Friday, April 04, 2008
As quoted from Through Gates of Splendor, the account of the martyrdom of five American missionaries in the Ecuador jungle, as written by Elisabeth Elliot - the widow of Jim.
May we see as clearly the need for eternal focus in our lives.