Thursday, December 21, 2006

Merry Christ -mas

As we near Christmas Day, let me first say, Merry Christmas. As un-PC (maybe anti-PC) as that greeting has become, it is all the more important for those of in Christ to remember to greet each other in the knowledge that the Christ has indeed come once and will come again.

In 1 Peter (1:20-21) we read this:
Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
No prophecy – if it is a real prophecy – comes from the interpreter. It comes from God. This is called the doctrine of inspiration. We believe that God’s Word is indeed from Him. He gave us the written Word so that we might understand about the Living Word. That’s the real key to the season. The Living Word has come to dwell among us.
The first two verses of the Epistle to the Hebrews read this way:
In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.
The Living Word was among us – not just as a babe in a manger, but as the savior who came to rescue us from the consequences of our own sins. He spoke to us. He warned us. He rescued us. This is the one whose birthday we celebrate next week. This is the one whose first sermon was: “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” This is the Living Word; the only possible way to heaven. All scripture is about Him.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

On Five Years Cancer-Free

I kept a very detailed journal during the years 2000 and 2001. It wasn’t everyday stuff. It was my cancer journal. It eventually grew to over 11,000 words. Here’s a bit of the entry for Thursday, November 8, 2001.

I had two doctor’s appointments this week. The first, and more important, was Monday. I went to see Dr. Tak. I was only there a few minutes. He discharged me. He used the word “cured” and I asked him about that. He said that we couldn’t exactly say that but that I was in “very good shape.”
I was released from treatment. I didn’t have cancer anymore. God had chosen to spare my life at that time. Obviously there is a reason.

I went through a lot of conflicting emotions during that period. I had to deal with how to tell my kids I had cancer (they handled it beautifully). My grandson William shared my cancer with me, pretending to take pills with me and telling whoever was listening, “Doc got ancer. I got ancer, too.”

Sandra was a rock. She was the one facing the possibility of widowhood. She went to every appointment. She drove me around when I needed it. She helped with every decision along the way.

One night Sandra and I were watching television and there was somebody on one of the shows who was admitted to a hospital with all kinds of problems. I said (according to my journal), “That guy’s in a lot worse shape than me.” Sandra said what are you talking about. My reply, “He’s got diabetes, heart problems and burns on 60 percent of his body. I only have high blood pressure, high cholesterol and prostate cancer.” She laughed heartily and said, “I almost envy you.”

Yesterday, I went to see my doctor. He checked me thoroughly (and I do mean thoroughly). I’m in good shape. I lost a bunch of weight (intentionally) this year. My blood pressure’s down. I still have to get some blood tests, but I expect them to look pretty good, too.

It has been five years. God beat my cancer. I’d better not waste the time He has given me.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Cleaning Up After the Storms

When my family lived in the Cayman Islands we would often walk along a beach after major storms. We would see flotsam and Jetsam, boulders and beams tossed upon the beach – or even still bouncing on the waves. The power of the sea would amaze us once again. But all that stuff is debris, “the remains of anything broken down or destroyed; ruins; rubble.” When we have major storms in our lives; we usually have debris after the storm. WE have rubble in our lives. It may be relationships that need to be restored – or abandoned; it may be bills to be cleared up; a reputation to rebuild. Maybe all we need to do is get around to those things which didn’t get taken care of while we were riding out the storm. Here’s a post-storm action list:

First, we need to give thanks to God for His goodness. Last week we looked at a big storm at sea as related to us in the Gospels. When that storm was finally over, the sailors, recognizing what was happening, responded appropriately. In Matthew 14:32-33, it’s described this way: “And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God". They were rescued – and they worshipped the God of the universe. They recognized Him – and they worshipped.

At our church in Maine we’ve been talking in our evening services about worship. What does it mean to worship Jesus? It’s not just music; it’s not just tithes and offerings; not just showing up on Sundays. It’s being reverent toward Him; adoring Him; seeking to learn more about Him; wanting to follow Him. At this moment, those sailors worshiped and gave thanks – as we should do; not only after major storms, but at all times.

Second, we need to assess the damage. Only the most foolhardy will wipe their brow and say, phew; lucked out,” then forget it. The prudent will look around after a crisis – maybe with some professional help. He/she will attempt to prevent a recurrence.

Third, mend your nets. Repair your masts. Get prepared. Jesus cares for us. He reaches out to help us; but we still manage to get ourselves in more trouble. We need to be ready for the next storm; the next Katrina. How do you weather storms? By preparing for them before they happen. The time to buy the duct tape and the plywood is before the hurricane hits. A daily routine that includes prayer and reading of God’s Word won’t make all of the storms veer around you, but it can make the storms easier to ride out.

It’s Thanksgiving week. Let’s all strive to make every week Thanksgiving Week. Enjoy the floats, the food, the football, and the family. Don’t forget, however, The One who is responsible for all good things.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

My Daughter, the Librarian

Sunnie, the younger of our two daughters, called me today to ask me a question. It went something like this: “Dad, when do you think somebody can call themselves a librarian, when they get the Master’s degree or when they get a job as a librarian.” I responded, “the latter.” She then announced, “Well, then I’m a librarian.”

Sunnie has been determined to be a librarian since, at the age of eight, she became the youngest volunteer at the library in the town we lived in at that time. Then she became the first paid “shelver” in the same library at age 13.

Now, nearing the end of her graduate studies for the degree of Master of Information and Library Sciences (MILS), she will be a Reference Librarian in the library system of a good-sized city.

We are very proud of her. You go, Sunnie, the librarian.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Walking on the Water

In the Gospel of John, chapter 6, we read about a storm out on the water (read verses 16-24 for the details). It was dark. The wind was strong. The waters were rough. And these men were in small wooden boats, not ocean liners. These boats were probably less than 30 feet in length and had no motors to outrun the storm. These experienced sailors headed out obviously not expecting a storm; but they got one. Sometimes our problems in life come on us in this way; like a sudden death; unexpected expenses (like a tree falling on your house or your car); auto accidents; illnesses.

There are other times, however, when we ignore the warning signs and head into stormy seas despite the consequences. We ignore the “small craft warnings” and end up with unwanted pregnancies; business or legal problems (or both); relationship difficulties. Whether we caused the problems or not, the effect is the same: the Storm can leave you feeling helpless.

Sometimes as a result of a storm a ship is left “dead in the water.” As an old sailor, who went to sea for four years, I can tell you that is not pleasant. You have no control. You can’t outrun a storm, you can’t maneuver into the waves. You just wallow. Sometimes our ship of life gets like this. We’re buffeted at work; at home; at school; then to top it all off we get knocked around at church, too. I won’t make you wait for the end of the blog to tell you that these are especially good time to turn to Jesus for help – just as these experienced sailors did. But let’s look at more here in this passage.

These guys were old salts. These weren’t people renting the boat for an afternoon sail. Yet, they were terrified. We can look at a little more complete account in Mark 6:45-50.

They get out in the boat, this horrendous storm comes up, then it dawns on them. Hey, He sent us out here. I wonder whether they felt betrayed or abandoned at that point. But they didn’t have a lot of time for a pity party, because they had stay afloat; not capsize; not throw up all over themselves. They had to keep straining at the oars.

Now, they see a ghost. Jesus is out there walking on the water! Who wouldn’t be terrified in these guys sandals. More than three miles from shore; in the dark; getting lashed by heavy winds and high seas. Now there's someone out there, going for a stroll! A man can only handle so much. But then we read this in Mark 6:52: “for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.”

Things are beginning to take shape here. These men were disciples of Jesus but they hadn’t really understood His power – His credentials. They somehow missed the fact (which they should have learned from the healing of the Royal Official’s son [Jn. 4:43-52]), that Jesus didn’t even have to be physically present to perform a miracle. Do you understand this? Are you aware that Jesus can care for you no matter where you are or what your situation? Do you live in the light of this awareness. In other words, do you live like someone who has entrusted his eternity to Jesus? Recent studies tell us that few people who label themselves “Evangelical Christians” actually live up to what they say they believe. This is a tendency for us to fight - in ourselves; not others. But, I digress. (or do I?).

In the account found in Matthew 14:28-32, we read about the special case of Peter. What is important about Peter beginning to sink? If we think that’s the important part, we’re really missing the boat (couldn’t resist). We sort of expect that if one is attempting to walk on water he will sink. But Peter, the great disciple, apostle, follower of Jesus lacked the faith in Jesus to remain afloat.

What’s truly important for us to note here is that Jesus did not allow peter to sink! A common, human, reaction might have been: “You don’t trust me, fine, sink;” or “Be my guest, swim the 3 to 3 ½ miles back to shore.” But Jesus picked Peter up, just as He was to do many times for Peter.

Jesus pardons our weaknesses – even our lapses in faith – and He stretches out His hand to His people - - so that the waters of this life won’t swallow us up.

Sometime in the near future I'll write about cleaning up after the storms of life. The important thing I want to communicate though, is this: Jesus doesn't give up on us; even when we give up on Him. If you are a believer that Jesus is the one and only Savior of His people, He will get you through. He will lift you up to eternity with Him and His Father. Can I get an "Amen!!"?
One Word on the Election


Monday, October 23, 2006

Prayer and Fasting

Friends, I pass this on from Steve Camp. Give it some consideration.

May we humbly make Tuesday, October 31st, Reformation Day a call to fasting and prayer for reformation, repentance, and revival for His church in every nation

One week from this Tuesday, October 31st is Reformation Day--the day Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door at Wittenberg calling a recalcitrant Roman church away from the gross sin of indulgences for legal tender to recapturing the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Today's evangelicalism needs another Reformation--a genuine move of God among His people that calls and returns His believers back to biblical Christianity and the gospel of sola fide once again.This is an earnest plea for a day of prayer and fasting.No fanfare; no programs; no famous religious leaders jockeying for media attention; no K-Street spin; no DVD's or MP3's to profit from; no books to promote; no CD's to sell; no contests to judge; and no personality driven agendas to endure. But simply, God's people taking leave from the duties of their daily lives to humbly seek the Lord to bring revival, repentance, and reform to His church once again.

We need a new Reformation today; we need another Great Awakening! Will you encourage others through your blogs, websites, churches, Bible studies, etc. to humbly and faithfully join in this special day of prayer?

"O Christian, never be proud of things that are so transient, injurious, and uncertain as the riches of this evil world! But set your heart on the true and durable riches of grace in Christ Jesus." -ISAAC AMBROSE“

Oh Lord, send a Great Awakening among your people again according to Your Word; by Your Holy Spirit, for the praise of Your glory, for the spread of Your gospel, for the holiness of Your people. Leave us not in the condition in which we awoke this morning, but conform us by Your grace to Christlikeness so that we may be vessels fit for the Master's use. This only is a work of heaven--for no man can conjure up a genuine move of God; no man can transform the heart of another; no man can stir the conscience to repentance, convict the soul of sin, and invoke contrition over iniquity. All our ways are impotent before You; and even when we have done all to obey You, we are still "unprofitable servants."But the true church marches on her knees; and so may we run into the prayer closet this very hour, shut the door and see what You by Your sovereign grace will accomplish. For "it is not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit" says the Lord.Forgive us Lord for being consumed with the advancement of our own ministries at the expense of others, for measuring the effectiveness of Your work by the size of a church's yearly offerings, and for charging others for that which we have received freely by Your grace. Dash to the ground our paltry plans, our self-devised and promoted reputations, our carefully positioned and politically aligned agendas and alliances.

As my friend once said, "How can we be so dead when we've been so well fed; Jesus rose from the grave, but we, we can't even get out of bed." May The Swordsman, by His divine sword, whittle us down to size as You did Gideon of old, so that we may not find comfort, resolve, or hope in our own strength, wisdom or wealth. May all our lowly boasting turn to tears, all our pride turn to dust, all our vain exaltations of self turn to ash; may our "laughter turn to mourning and our joy to heaviness" until reformation comes... until revival comes to Your people. Break our stubborn hearts with the hammer of Your Word and humble us under Your reverential fear until our deepest longing, passion and joy is found only in Christ Jesus the Lord.”Glorify Yourself for Your names sake only...
Steve Camp Col. 1:9-14
AudienceONE Ministries:

"A true revival means nothing less than a revolution, casting out the spirit of worldliness, making God's love triumph in the heart." -Andrew Murray

“When God has something very great to accomplish for His Church, it is His will that there should precede it the extraordinary prayers of His people, as is manifest by Ezekiel 36:37... And it is revealed that, when God is about to accomplish great things for His Church, He will begin by a remarkable pouring out of the spirit of grace and supplication (Zechariah 12:10). If we are not to expect that the devil should go out of a particular person, under a bodily possession, without extraordinary prayer, or prayer and fasting, how much less should we expect to have him cast out of the land and the world without it!” -Jonathan Edwards

"God's quickening visitation of his people, touching their hearts and deepening his work of grace in their lives." -J. I. Packer”

I did then preach much upon original sin, repentance, the nature and necessity of conversion, in a close, examinatory and distinguished way; laboring in the meantime to sound the trumpet of God's judgments, and alarm the secure by the terrors of the Lord, as well as to affect them by other topics of persuasion: which method was sealed by the Holy Spirit in the conviction and conversion of a considerable number of persons, at various times and in different places in that part of the county." -George Whitefield

“Open heaven Lord and let Your Spirit fall...” Amen?

Monday, October 02, 2006

Idol/Idle Worshippers
This being Part 2 of “Playing Church.”

As we return to take a second look at people “Playing Church,” I call your attention to the fact that, despite all their pretense about worshipping God, the Israelites were really idol worshippers. We were looking at Amos, chapter 5 when we last blogged together. Verse 26 reads this way:

"You have lifted up the shrine of your king, the pedestal of your idols, the star of your god —which you made for yourselves."

Anyone who has ever tried to translate this verse from Hebrew knows it is really a problematic verse. But what is not a problem is understanding that the verse declares Israel to be guilty of idol worship. Idol worship can be defined as “allowing anything to replace God as the constant focus of your attention.”

Israel elevated men – their own kings to a position of worship. They even worshipped other nations’ kings. Healthy respect for kings, queens, other leaders is Biblical. But respect & honor are a far cry from worship. Foolishness like the worship of President George W. Bush that was splashed all over the news last week in the videos from “Jesus Camp,” is contrary to Biblical teaching. As humans we sometimes seek someone to worship. We elevate Rock stars; athletes; actors & actresses? Respect, even love, for these people may not be inappropriate. But the question we always need to ask is “have they replaced God?”

Israel not only worshipped men, they also worshipped material goods. They worshipped the things they made with their hands. The parallels with our own times are endless: money; comfort; power; sex have become gods of our age. How about the lottery?

Our cars, our libraries, even our children can become idols for us. Most are fine in moderation. What we’re talking about is obsession; leaving no room for God, God’s children, God’s work, God’s Word, prayer.

When God gets shut out what we have is idolatry. We ALL need to take heed!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Just Play, Already
Several years ago I began an unofficial, unilateral boycott of the NBA. I'm sure they miss me. I won't even watch the newsclips when they come on. I love basketball. I cannot, however, continue to support a league of thugs. You can read about them on the police blotter pages just as often as in the sports pages.

I'm getting disenchanted with the NFL, too. Beyond the thug quotient, there is also the posturing. These large persons are all millionaires. They became millionaires because they can play football. I have no problem with that. I love football. But, every time they make a play, - which is what they're supposed to do to earn those big salaries - they "celebrate." These guys are well-compensated because they can make first downs, or tackles. But every play looks like a Super Bowl victory party. Just play the game.
There used to be a MLB team in New England, right?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Playing Church

They call it “the C Word” today. Commitment. Even television commercials push the concept that life is better if you don’t have to make any commitments. I can understand that with phone service. But there are times when commitment is good and necessary. In fact, if you claim to be a Christian, you have made a commitment – which God expects you to keep!

What God wants from us, as individuals and as the church, is often very different from the popular perception in a lot of places - including both conservative and liberal churches. He doesn’t want religion – even orthodoxy – He wants our commitment. Amos 5:21-24 reads this way:

21 "I hate, I despise your religious feasts;
I cannot stand your assemblies.
22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship
offerings, I will have no regard for them.
23 Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your
24 But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream!

God not interested in how our worship services look, or sound (or smell). He’s not interested in body count. His interest is not in the outward trappings of religion. Rather, God is interested in the attitude of our hearts as we come before Him to worship. In this passage God is telling Israel that He’s not interested in their proper worship; their sacrifices. But, didn’t God tell them to do those things in the first place? Yes, He did. But there needs to be more involved than just the right form. Look at some examples.

Israel sang and played religious music. Take a look at verse 23. The Israelites probably had some nice choirs. Maybe even entire orchestras at times. The Hebrews were noted for musical skills. But God says, “Take it away. I don’t want to hear it.” It was hollow. Their lives indicated that their words were false (no matter how beautifully they sang them). What they sang and what they LIVED were two very different things. It was just “holy entertainment,” devoid of true meaning.

Israel also went to church a lot. These folks celebrated all the feast days in the Old Testament. They even held “solemn assemblies,” according to v. 21. The problem was not that they missed church. The fact of the matter is that they probably saw church attendance as a sort of magic shield between them and trouble. Why should they ever have problems? After all, they were a nation of church-goers. Yet this wasn’t enough for God then – and it isn’t enough today. Real worship of God cannot be boiled down to attendance at certain rituals and feasts, although we certainly should attend church services – even Bible studies and prayer meetings. But, just attending isn’t the point. Our participation has to have heartfelt meaning. It has to reflect a relationship between God and His people. Israel simply clung to a form of worship without substance. Their hearts were not really in it. Our worship services may look different from those in other places, but what matters is whether or not our hearts are lifted toward God.

Israel even made the proper offerings. Take a look at verse 22. Is this the real nitty-gritty? Is this where Israel made up for their indifference toward God? They may have thought so – just as some folks think so today. But God did not accept their tithes and offerings.

There really are a lot of people who think that they can do as they please as long as they keep putting money in the offering plate. They think they can buy God. They obviously don’t realize that He already owns everything! He can’t be bribed. Think about it. He doesn’t need our money. He wants us to give out of love and gratitude; not guilt; not duty; not an attempt to buy His favor.

Obviously there’s nothing wrong with music, church attendance or offerings….In fact it is God who told us He wants them in the first place! Is this hypocritical? Contrary? No. He wants them offered up with the proper attitude – not just as a religious exercise.

More on this topic will follow!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Establishment

In John 5:1-16, we read the narrative referred to as “The Healing by the Pool.” At first glance, most people view this passage as the story of another miracle. It is that – but it is also much more. Here we see a turning point in Jesus’ ministry, as narrated by John. We see a change in relations between Jesus and the established church of the day; the establishment.

Those of us who lived through the ‘60s certainly remember this term, “the establishment.” It was almost always spoken with a snarl – and was often accompanied by the motto; “Never trust anyone over 30.” It was negative. It labeled one generation as “those who messed up the world and left us a lousy legacy. It meant those in charge – who aren’t interested in change or relinquishing any of their power.

In the 20th and 21st centuries, we’ve tended to think that new is “good,” and old is “bad,” and we’re responsible for the creation of all good things. We have to recognize, though, that we didn’t even invent the “establishment.”

Four times in this passage, the term “the Jews” is mentioned. The first of these, in verse 1, is used as an adjective. The feast spoken of was a Jewish feast. The other times, however, (in vv. 10,15,16) form an important commentary on the religious situation in 1st C. Jerusalem. For instance, in verse 10 we read, "and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, 'It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat."'

So the question that comes to mind is: “Who Are These Jews?” It’s obvious that John, who was Jewish himself, was not referring to all of the Jewish people of Jerusalem. Rather, he was referring to the powerful – and hostile – leaders of the religious establishment. We get a little more insight into the mindset of these “Jews” in John 9:20-22, which reads:

We know he is our son," the parents answered, "and we know he was born blind. But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don't know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself." His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews, for already the Jews had decided that anyone who acknowledged that Jesus was the Christ would be put out of the synagogue.

These parents were Jewish. They feared “the Jews.” This was not some form of anti-Semitism. It was a warning; a warning against misuse of church authority; a warning against misplaced loyalties. It was a warning not to forget God!

Another question that arises is: “What Was the Complaint of These Jews?” Verses 8-10 give us one viewpoint on that question:
Then Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk." At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, and so the Jews said to the man who had been healed, "It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat."
God’s Word clearly calls for us to honor the sabbath. The Church in the 21st C. would do well to give more heed to this teaching. In that sense we might actually applaud the leaders of Israel. But, it’s obvious that there’s more involved here than simply being zealous for God’s Word. There was a lot of man’s regulation added to the law – and loopholes inserted.

Allow me to give some examples of how Israel actually treated the sabbath. A man was not to travel on the Sabbath, according to Scripture. So the scribes defined a “sabbath day’s journey” as a distance equivalent to about 1,000 yards from home. That’s how far you could walk without sinning. What if you tied a cord to each house in a village or town? Obviously, then you could walk to the end of the village and another thousand yards. If that cord went out into the forest, would it not still be part of one’s home? The possibilities are numerous.

Carrying a burden on the Sabbath was also prohibited in Scripture. Ah, but what if it were an article of clothing. Tying something to one’s body made it clothing, so it could then be transported with a clear conscience.

The Jews were concerned. But their concern was not for the purity of the Word of God. They were concerned over a possible loss of control. These men were leaders of the “messianic religion.” Their scriptures prophesied the coming of the Christ. And they decided to do away with the Messiah! (read verse 16). He was in the way of their program; their plan; their leadership!

The Church is always in danger of crossing this line. When the church gets caught up in politics, social issues, guarding its orthodoxy, proper order, tight committee structures, budgetary processes, ecclesiastical infighting, fill-in-the-blank, all to the exclusion of worship for their Savior (the one who is the head of His body, the Church), then we become the hostile, jealous, sinful religious establishment.

How do you think about the church? Is it a “clubhouse?” Is it some sort of “dueling society?” What is your role in assuring that the church keeps its eyes on Jesus? Are you part of the “religious establishment,” or are you a follower of the Head of the Church?

We, individual members of the Church; we, the redeemed, need constantly to remind ourselves – and one another – to keep our eyes focused on Jesus.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Reality TV and Real Reality
The reality TV thing has really gotten out of hand. Just a partial list of current programs includes, The Amazing Race, American Idol, America's Got Talent, America's Next Top Model, The Apprentice, The Bachelor, Big Brother, The Biggest Loser, The Contender, Fear Factor, Last Comic Standing, Project Runway, The Real World, Rock Star, The Simple Life, So You Think You Can Dance, Starting Over, Survivor, and Treasure Hunters. There are others I can’t even name on a family-oriented blog. There are cooking reality shows and there are web sites devoted just to reality TV. At least a couple of these programs feature British critics who’ve apparently come to this country to say that none of us have any talent whatsoever.

I don’t watch them. When I want to see a reality show, I watch the Red Sox. I see enough reality every day and it’s not always pretty. But my penchant for steering clear of this type of television programming doesn’t mean that I am anti-reality.

Jesus Christ taught through a grid of reality. Especially when He was questioned, He responded with what we might call reality therapy.

In John 2:23, we read, “Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name.” Jesus did perform miracles; Not for those who demanded it, but for those who would believe. And they did believe. They saw what Jesus did and they came to Him knowing that He was not just a sorcerer – but the Living God. But now comes the hard teaching.

The text goes on to say (in verses 24 and 25), “But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man's testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man. He did not entrust Himself to them!” That is not written about the hard-hearted Jews. It was written about the converted; believers. Jesus did not trust them! This is hard teaching. But it goes on to say that Jesus knew what was in a man. You see, the Christ believes in sin and its power - even over believers. He has a realistic, Biblical view of sinfulness. He knows that even the saved continue to be sinners. He knew then that even strong people like Peter could fail Him. Is there any question that Peter was a believer? Yet, he denied that he even knew Christ! What would it take for any of us to deny Christ? Are there any reasons we might turn on His people and His Church? These are tough questions for us all to ponder.

God alone is fully worthy of our total trust. He is the sovereign Lord of the universe. He alone is without sin and without malice in His heart. One cannot know the thrill of riding a bike until the training wheels are off. Are the training wheels still on your faith? Can you – do you – trust Him in everything? Or are you one of those experimental Christians who say they trust God until something tough comes up; then you lean back on the training wheels: the coping strategies of the world; your own strength and intelligence; your friends? We should all know better than to lean on such faulty, rusty, broken crutches. We need to continue to learn to trust Him. Easier said than done? Absolutely.

Take the training wheels off.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Growing and Groaning

Our theme verse for our retreat on "what Am I Doing Here?" was 1 Timothy 4:7. Here it is in three different translations.

But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. (KJV)

Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. (NIV)

Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; (ESV)

The Greek word γuμναζε, which is translated "exercise," or "train" means “to train naked; train in a gymnasium.” This doesn't mean strip down to nothing then work out. It means get down to the skimpiest of garments so that nothing impedes your hard work. The point is that this is hard work. Paul wants us to understand that being like Christ; trying to be more like God; or closer to God; is not like falling off a log. It’s more like learning to roll the log and staying on top. Most of us understand that going to the gym implies sweat and lots of reps. So does attaining to Godliness. God’s Word says that we need to “work out, so that we can be Godly men.”
So, in order for us to know what it is we’re doing here; how to improve on that – and how to actually enjoy it; we need to take a look at something generally called the spiritual disciplines. This we will do sometime next week.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Last weekend I went out to a Christian camp with several men from our congregation and we had a “retreat.” We discussed the question, “What Am I Doing Here?” The discussion was good – and deep. In the next few days, I’d like to share some of the thoughts I brought to that weekened.

We all remember the phrase “finding ourselves.” Especially in the 1960s and ‘70s (but still today, as well), people would check out of life in general and tell people they were trying to “find themselves.” Some ran off to communes; some just got stoned and pretty much stayed that way; some turned to religion. For those who weren’t just using this concept as an excuse to drop out, there were some serious issues involved. In a sense, they were or are asking the same questions we are considering: Who am I? What is my place in this world? What am I doing here? Is this all there is?
Being away from the hustle and bustle of our daily lives is a good – and Biblical – way in which to consider such things. Consider these verses from God’s Word:

· The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. (Psalm 19:7)
· Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. (Psalm 46:10)
· Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." (Mark 6:31)
· But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. (Matthew 6:6).

This is the whole idea of a retreat. We Go away and contemplate. In a sense, what we did was to go away and contemplate contemplation. More on that at another time!

We all have different roles (wear different hats) at different times in our lives. Where is “here” right now? Here may be, for you, at the junction of Daddy Boulevard and Husband Circle. It may be at the intersection of Son Street and Assistant Manager Alley. You may be standing at Church Leader Creek. In each case, we need to remind ourselves that whatever our roles (and remember that they change) they include being a Christian man. That’s the one that’s a constant. We have duties to our God, our families and our church (and these duties really ought to be considered in this order). What are those duties? What’s expected of me? Is that realistic?

Tomorrow (or soon, at least) an introduction of the key verse for this particular discussion.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

He is Risen!

“Holy Week” can add a lot of extra work for a pastor. Beyond the "regular" Bible studies, counseling, administrative work, and visitation, there’s the Maundy Thursday service, Good Friday commemoration, and Sunrise Service on Sunday. Then there are the regular Sunday services. That’s a lot of extra preparation. But what a glorious time! What a great subject upon which to labor! He is Risen!

We live in a complex society. We have computers and other electronic devices we cannot understand or utilize fully. We have laws (especially tax laws) that we can neither understand nor read. There are a lot more frightening medical decisions for us to have to make than there were just a few years ago.

Not too many years ago a book titled Megatrends (by John Naisbett) stated that we live in an “information society.” He meant that we have a lack of physical production – our products are invisible. These thoughts were not common at that time. This was something of a revelation. There have been two revisions to that book. The basic premise remains the same, however. Naisbett stated that what society needs is something called “high tech/high touch.”

In other words, everything is so complex that we need to be more aware of simple things: relationships, nature, human potential. This is one way, Naisbett affirms, in which we can cope with the highly technological nature of our world today. Others have simply suggested that we might stop on accasion and "smell the roses"

The Bible has another manner by which we can cope with societal change. One thing which has remained simple and has never needed to be detechnologized is the simple offer of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ died and rose again from the dead in order that God the Father’s sense of justice might be satisfied and that we might find favor in His eyes. Simply put, Jesus died for me and rose again from the dead so that I may live – eternally. That’s easy enough even for me to appreciate. And I do.

Thank you, God.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Lenten Devotions
Lent consists of the forty days before Easter. In the western Church, we skip over the Sundays when we count the days of Lent because Sunday is always the joyful celebration of the Resurrection. Therefore, the first day of Lent in the western Church is always a Wednesday. Although it has historically been known as “The Day of Ashes,” we tend to call it Ash Wednesday.

During Lent, ancient Christians mourned their sins and repented of them, so it was appropriate for them to show their sincerity by having ashes on their foreheads. The custom has persisted in the Church as secular society has changed around us. It is most appropriate on Ash Wednesday, when we begin a period of sober reflection, self-examination, and spiritual redirection.

Some folks believe that this is a Roman Catholic practice which is to be avoided by all Protestants - particularly Baptists. Sackcloth and ashes are Biblical symbols of prayer and repentance. Prayer and repentance are integral practices for the Christian.

The following are suggestions for devotions and activities for the weeks of Lent. You might gather your family one night during the week and use these ideas as springboards for family devotions. You could even invite other families to come and participate with you. I start with the third week simply because I was away and unable to post the first weeks in a timely manner. If you are interested, simply email me and ask for the others.

NOTE: Some of the suggested activities require a bit of advance planning.
Supplement these ideas with your own – and share your ideas with others. The goal is simply for families to come together and discuss Christ’s work on our behalf and to enjoy family time around God’s Word.
March 26- April 1
Read John 12:20-33. What does a kernel of wheat have to do with Lent and Easter? In this gospel story, to lose your life means to give up anything or anyone that prevents you from following Jesus. For people your age in today's world, what might some of those things and persons be? Who or what helps you to be a faithful follower of Jesus, not only during Lent but on a daily basis?
How do you think Jesus draws people to himself? How can you help others whose words or actions say "We would like to see Jesus"?

Activity: Make badges! Followers of Jesus should be noticeable. Make badges using cardboard, aluminum foil, colored paper, or other available materials. On the badges write simple words that will identify the wearer as a follower of Jesus. Examples: "Kid for Christ," Jesus Follower." Be creative with both words and designs!

Don’t forget to wear your badges to church on Sunday!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

I was ordained to pastoral ministry in 1981. Since before that time I have been constantly studying the Church - its place in God's economy, its role in community, its authority, its government, and numerous other topics. I recently came across (I would reference the source, but I don't remember it) the article below. It's a wonderful essay on the role of the pastor. I share it for your edification.
The Duty of a Pastor
by John Owen (1616 - 1683)
"Preached with unction, September 8, 1682"
And I will give you pastors according to my heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding." -Jeremiah 3:15

He is no pastor who doth not feed his flock. It is to "labour in the word and doctrine," 1 Tim. 5:17;--to make all things subservient to this work of preaching and instructing the church; to do it in that frame the apostle mentions in Col. 1:28. Here is the frame of the apostle's spirit (it should give dread to us in the consideration of it): "I labour diligently, I strive as in a race, I wrestle for victory, --by the mighty in-working power of Christ working in me; and that with great and exceeding power."What I shall do is, to show you, in some instances, what is required unto this work of teaching or of feeding the congregation with knowledge and understanding, in this duty of the preaching of the word:
1. There is spiritual wisdom in understanding the mysteries of the gospel, that we may be able to declare the whole counsel of God, and the riches and treasures of the grace of Christ, unto the souls of men. See Acts 20:27; 1 Cor. 2:1-4; Eph. 3:7-9. Many in the church of God were, in those days of light, growing and thriving; they had a great insight into spiritual things, and into the mysteries of the gospel. The apostle prays that they might all have, Eph. 1:17, 18, "That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints."Really it is no easy thing for ministers to instruct to such kind of duties. If there be not some degree of eminency in themselves, how shall we lead such persons as these to perfection? We must labour ourselves to have a thorough knowledge of these mysteries, or we shall be useless to a great part of the church. There is spiritual wisdom and understanding in the mysteries of the gospel required hereunto.
2. Authority is required. What authority is there in a preaching ministry? It is a consequent of unction, and not of office. The scribes had an outward call to teach in the church; but they had no unction, anointing, that could evidence they had the Holy Ghost, his gifts and graces. Christ had no outward call; But he had an unction,--he had a full unction of the Holy Ghost in his gifts and graces, for the preaching of the gospel. Hereon there was a controversy about his authority. The scribes say unto him, Mark 11:28, "By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?" The Holy Ghost determines the matter, Matt. 7:29, "He preached as one having authority, and not as the scribes." They had the authority of office, but not of unction; Christ only had that. And preaching in the demonstration of the Spirit, which men quarrel so much about, is nothing less than the evidence in preaching of unction, in the communication of gifts and grace unto them, for the discharge of their office: for it is a vain thing for men to assume and personate authority. So much evidence as they have of unction from God in gifts and grace, so much authority they have, and no more, in preaching: and let every one, then, keep within his bounds.
3. Another thing required hereunto is, experience of the power of the things we preach to others. I think, truly, that no man preaches that sermon well to others that doth not first preach it to his own heart. He who doth not feed on, and digest, and thrive by, what he prepares for his people, he may give them poison, as far as he knows; for, unless he finds the power of it in his own heart, he cannot have any ground of confidence that it will have power in the hearts of others. It is an easier thing to bring our heads to preach than our hearts to preach. To bring our heads to preach, is nothing more than to fill our minds and memories with some notions of truth, of our own or other men, and speak them out to give satisfaction to ourselves and others: this is very easy. But to bring our hearts to preach, is to be transformed into the power of these truths; or to find the power of them, both before, in fashioning our minds and hearts, and in delivering of them, that we may benefit; and to be acted with zeal for God and compassion to the souls of men. A man may preach every day in the week, and not have his heart engaged once. This hath lost us powerful preaching in the world, and set up, instead of it, quaint orations; for such men never seek after experience in their own hearts: and so it is come to pass, that some men's preaching, and some men's not preaching, have lost us the power of what we call the ministry; that though there be twenty or thirty thousand in orders, yet the nation perishes for want of knowledge, and is overwhelmed in all manner of sins, and not delivered from them unto this day.
4. Skill to divide the word aright. this skill to divide the word aright, is practical wisdom in considering the word of God,--to take out not only that which is substantial food for the souls of men, but what is meet food for them to whom we preach. And that,
5. Requires the knowledge and consideration of the state of our flocks. He who hath not the state of his flock continually in his eye, and in his mind, in his work of preaching, fights uncertainly, as a man beating the air. If he doth not consider what is the state of his flock, with reference to temptations, in reference to their light or to their darkness, to their growth or to their decays, to their flourishing or to their withering, to the measure of their knowledge and attainments;-- he who doth not duly consider these things, never preaches aright unto them.
6. There is required, too, that we be acted by zeal for the glory of God, and compassion to the souls of men.Having spoken these few plain words, I may say, "Who is sufficient for these things?" There is that spiritual wisdom which is necessary to understand the mysteries of the gospel, able to instruct and led on to perfection the most grown in our congregations;--that authority which proceeds from unction, and is an evidence of an anointing with the graces and gifts of the Spirit; which alone gives authority in preaching;--that experience which conforms our whole souls into every sermon that we preach, so as to feel the truth in the power of it;--that skill whereby to divide the word aright, etc.
Hence we see we have great need to pray for ourselves, and that you should pray for us. Pray for your ministers. This, then, is the first duty required of gospel ministers.