Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Blog from Prague
Yes, that poetic title indicates that Sandra and I have moved to Prague, in the Czech Republic. We have moved here to further our work with Lifework Forum, since my retirement from full-time pastoral ministry.

Today was our first post-pastorate Sunday. Instead of getting into a warm car and driving 6.8 miles to church, we took a bus, then a tram, then we left that tram and caught another one. After the second tram, we caught another bus. This took an hour, but it was well worth it as we were well-fed by the message from Luke 10:25-37.

We are still in the getting acclimated phase, but we have our bus passes, our Czech phone numbers, and next month will have our own apartment. On November 2, we head out to Bulgaria to do ministry in at least four different cities.

God is good.

By the way, like most missionaries, we have to raise our own support. If you like to help in this regard, there are two ways to donate. You can send checks to Lifework Forum at PO Box 124, Lititz, PA 17543 or donate through PayPal at our website, Regular support and the prayers of the saints would certainly be appreciated.

Stay in touch, Coffee Drinkers.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

So, Let's Move There!

In my last post (yes, I know it was a while ago) I explained about the trouble we had getting to Prague on our last trip. So, how do we respond to such challenges? Why don't we just move to Prague? OK, we will.

On October 17, Sandra and I will once again board aircraft and head toward Prague (with a brief stop in London). This time it is for the purpose of finding a home and settling in.

Details?  Well, here are some.  We've been working with families in Europe for more than a decade. We (Sandra more than me) fly there regularly to meet with families and groups. Now that I am retiring from full-time pastoral ministry on October 16 (oh, you didn't know that, either?), we are convinced that God has called us to be closer to the scene of the ministry.

So, we'll go. We'll give up our cozy home on the lake, the proximity to our grandkids, and the life we've gotten accustomed to living. Before you get all teary-eyed (I know some of you were getting there), we will be going to a wonderful city, with some friends already in place. We have a line on an apartment and a church. I love the food.

We won't just be sitting around in the city, however. The idea is to visit, speak, counsel, help people all over Europe. We already have several trips planned (including one to Africa, a remote part of Europe).

Please pray for us. We still need financial support, of course, but mostly we need prayer.

Friday, September 09, 2011

When the Going Gets Tough...

Life is sometimes a whirl. I have felt this way a lot lately. Sandra and I have been on several trips this summer – more than usual. Our latest was to the city of Prague, capitol of the Czech Republic. Oh, but it’s not as easy as all that.

We couldn’t just get on a plane and go. First, there was a problem with my ticket. It was a problem I caused myself, and it brought about some consternation. The issues were worked out and I never missed any flights, but it was nerve-wracking while we were in the working-it-out phase.

Then there was Irene. She was a hurricane as she roared up the coast. She was probably a mere Tropical Storm when she hit Maine. She inflicted damage and caused power outages, however. Our own street was blocked by a downed tree, which took wires down with it. We had to abandon Sandra’s car on the way home from church and walk along the beach – in the continuing storm – to get to our house. Her car survived, but another car, which had been left in the next driveway, fell victim to another downed tree. It was totaled.

We finished packing that evening in the dark. When we left the next morning for the airport there was still no power. We couldn’t even take a shower before a long flight to Europe.

All of this was annoying, but not devastating. We know that others fared much worse in the storm – and the one that followed a week or so later.

There was a constant in all this. God was in control. This is a good thing to think about as we face the dilemmas of life. God is, indeed, sovereign. We may not like some of the things that happen in our lives, but God knows what He’s doing.

We often hear people say such things as “everything happens for a reason.” If they mean that nothing happens by chance, I can agree. And certainly we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him. And trials do come for a reason. What are those reasons?
 Well, first, Trials Build Perseverance. In James 1:2-4, we read
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

What is perseverance? Stick-to-it-iveness. Hanging in there. Standing firm. God wants us to persevere in the face of hard stuff, annoying stuff, in the face of life. 

Another aspect of trials in our lives is that trials build trust. The apostle Peter wrote,
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.  
So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.  (1 Peter 4:12-14, 19.)

This really is the bottom line. Both James and Peter (and, of course, Paul) are teaching that especially in times of trouble we need to trust in God’s sovereignty. He knows what He’s doing. He keeps his promises. And in the end, those who are His will end up in the heavenly chorus, singing Holy! Holy! Holy!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Murder is Murder - 
Breivik's Actions Should Be Condemned

If you haven't read about Anders Behring Breivik in the last week, you've probably been hiding under a rock. Maybe that rock is a good place to be. Breivik is the Norwegian who is responsible for nearly a hundred (so far) deaths in the Norwegian capitol of Oslo last week. According to Breivik, and his lawyers, this bombing and shooting spree was intended to spark anti-Muslim feeling in Europe. He hates Muslims and what they are, in his estimation, doing to Europe.

I'm not exactly on the Muslim bandwagon, myself. I have seen some of the effects of hardline Islam in European nations. Fanatical Islam is to opposed. That is not, however, a good reason to go around killing people. Right wing murder is no better than left wing murder, or hardcore Muslim murder.

When Muslims blow up innocent civilians, they should be condemned. When anti-abortion activists (I intentionally do not refer to these particular folks as pro-life) blow up abortion clinics or kill abortion-providing doctors, they are wrong. They should be condemned. Likewise, right-wing, anti-Muslim activists should be condemned.

Anders Behring Breivik did not do a good thing in Oslo. He committed an atrocity. He should not be applauded, lauded, or defended. He must be condemned by all people of good conscience - especially by the Christian community.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Lord's Day

I guess as I get older, the Lord's Day becomes even more precious to me. I hate to see people who profess to be believers in Jesus Christ profane His Worship. This morning, in the course of our sermon series on the Book of Genesis, I addressed the creation of the Sabbath and the subsequent change to the Lord's Day. It may be heard here.

Below, is a quote from Rev. John Brown of Haddington an 18th century preacher. Nothing that has happened since the time of Brown has diminished our need for a Christian Sabbath.

Nothing more effectually tends to banish virtue, and introduce all manner of vice into a nation, than the indulged public profanation of the Sabbath. The Christian Sabbath, and all the ordinances to be observed in it, are calculated to promote the knowledge, belief, and impression of the existence, infinity, supreme authority, unbounded wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth of God, and of his future judgment of the world, and the infinitely important and everlasting consequences of it. Such views, belief, and impressions are the most powerful determents from vice, and excitements to virtue of every kind. By a cordial and spiritual sanctification of the Sabbath, we enjoy familiar fellowship with Christ, and his Father, and Spirit; and receive out of his fulness grace, which effectually teacheth, and enableth us to deny ungodliness and worldly lust, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present sinful world, Tit. 22:11-13.
Grab hold, friends of this great gift which God has bestowed upon us, a day of rest and gladness.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


How many days are there in your week? Silly question, you say? I don’t think so. Consider the millions of people, many of whom you know, who only get one day every week.

For these poor folk, that’s the only day the youth athletic leagues play, or practice, or hold meetings. The other youth organizations also hold all their events on this one day that these people are allotted each week. Softball tournaments (we aren’t talking youth anymore) regularly take place on Oneday. These unfairly put-upon folk also have only that Oneday on which they can wash their cars, go to the movies, go shopping, mow the lawn, paint the house, hold or visit yard sales, or get ready for the barbecue (not to mention, of course, holding said barbecue, or party, or shower).

To make matters worse for these overburdened individuals, it’s the only day they can get overtime or visit with their friends and/or relatives. It’s this day that everyone else at work takes off, so they are pushed into “covering” - regularly. And all these events (and many more) take place at the same times on Oneday: sometime between 10am and noon.

Imagine the decisions over which some of these people agonize some weeks. It’s enough to make them throw up their collective hands and just go back to bed - until around one o’clock.

How much easier it would be for these people if they were relieved of all the decision-making.

Here’s a far-fetched concept. Maybe they could simply pick one activity to attend each week and make a commitment to doing that. Maybe it could be something like oh, I don’t know, maybe attending church.

Perhaps, instead of being the thing that they do only when they are bored and don’t have anyplace else to be, they could set church attendance as a priority. They could even bring those visiting friends and relatives along!

Oh, maybe not. The bowling league is having a trophy presentation next Oneday. One couldn't miss that, could one?

Decisions; decisions.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Brain in Spain...

Actually, this post has nothing to do with Spain. It does, however, have something to do with brains!

In our evening service at Covenant Baptist Church we have been studying the Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin. Last night we began to take a look at Book Two, which is titled, "Of the knowledge of God, the Redeemer in Christ, as first manifested to the fathers under the law, and thereafter to us under the Gospel." With titles like that, Calvin would never even get published today.

 In Book Two, Calvin gets to the Law and the Gospel. Along the way, he discusses the fall, sin, and "common grace," although he doesn't call it that. He particularly applies this concept to the human, fallen mind. 

We often use the phrase "the rain falls on the just and the unjust," from Matthew 5:45 to describe this understanding. It occurred to me that we might adjust this statement just a bit, without doing harm to Biblical teaching, to state that, "the brain falls on the just and the unjust," as well.

In applying this thought, I recognize that such folk as Stephen Hawking, are brilliant individuals. The man could think circles around me before he wakes up in the morning. Intellectually, the man is far (far, far) superior to me. 

Yet, I know that Jesus Christ died for me. I didn't come to this understanding by intellectual might, but by the gift of God. I didn't earn this wisdom by great nights of laborious study. God gave it to me. 

That's a different kind of Grace. It's not common, it's special; it's saving. "Saving grace" is eternal favor from God conferred upon those whom He has chosen. We find its expression in such verses as Ephesians 1:11 - "In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will."

I'm not picking on Mr. Hawking. He's brilliant, unquestionably. I just used his name because he represents to me very smart people who have received, by common grace, the ability to think well. I do pray for him that he receive Biblical "wisdom" as well, wisdom which leads to an understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

BTW, for a great audio series on the Institutes, you can download (free) an entire course from my old Church History professor David Calhoun.

THIS JUST IN: Interestingly, after I posted this, I came across an interesting article on Mr. Hawking in a FaceBook post. It can be found HERE.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Deo Volente

In Proverbs 16:3 we read this: “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” It’s a rather simple equation, isn’t it? Pray about it and it will be as you desire. But it isn’t really that simple.

In the Epistle of James, we read that we ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will,  we will live and do this or that." (James 4:3). James was building on a theme here. He had already written, “When you ask, you do not receive,  because you ask with wrong motives,  that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (James 4:15).

In other words, what we ask needs to be within God’s Will. What we plan needs to be in God’s Will, as well, in order to get His “stamp of approval.”

Even the Lord Jesus Christ prayed to God, the Father, “Thy will be done.”

Often, we go about our daily lives just planning and doing – without regard to what God may have in mind for us. I’m talking about Christians, not pagans. We make our plans and we don’t even consider consulting with God.  But God’s Word teaches us that we are to commit our plans to the Lord. Be ready for Him to change those plans if they are not according to His Will. How often have we heard someone pray that a door be closed if it’s not God’s Will (maybe we have prayed this ourselves)? Did you mean it? Are you willing to be submissive to God’s Will?

In Romans 12:1 we read, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.” Offering ourselves up to God; that is, being submissive to Him, is an act of worship. 

In an earlier age, people were accustomed to using the Latin phrase Deo volente in their speech and correspondence. Often the initials “D.V.” were included in signatures. This means “God willing.” It was indicative of the desire to be in God’s Will. It was a reminder that all of our plans are subject to God’s Will.

I need to be more deliberate in bringing my plans before God. I need to remember that just because I plan something, that doesn’t mean God approves it. I need to be less presumptuous about my life and daily schedule.

Thank you, God, for the reminder.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

We need MORE Radicals

In light of the recent shooting in Tuscon, Arizona, there are many people pointing fingers. There doesn’t appear to be any question regarding who did the shooting. The shooter did, in fact, get tackled at the scene.

Commentators of all sorts have been laying blame for the incident, however. Political hay is being made by those who claim that rhetoric (mostly “right wing”) is responsible. Now we have many calling for a cooling of the rhetoric.

I, on the other hand, declare that what we really need in the United States is more radicals.

Understand that what I write here is intended for those who claim to be Christians. It won’t make sense to anybody else.

The great military leader Joshua, as he was preparing to die, called Israel together for one last sermon. He was worried about them. He wanted them to remember the lessons of faithfulness they had learned about God. He told them that they needed to serve faithfully. This lesson can be found in Joshua 24.

“With Faithfuness.” he said.  Not with wimpiness; not with casualness; not with acceptance  from society. With FAITHFULNESS. What does this mean? It means that we serve him as radicals. We cannot be like everyone else. We must stand out.  In Philippians 2:12-16 we read this:
12Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed--not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence--continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. 14Do everything without complaining  or arguing,15 so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe16as you hold out the word of life--in order that I may boast on the day of Christ  that I did not run  or labor for nothing.

Shine like stars. Stand out. How? Well, in our society it can be viewed as both very easy and very difficult to stand out. It’s easy to find those actions and activities that are morally higher than those of our society as a whole. Our society is so morally bankrupt that being different is easy.

OTOH, it is hard for us sometimes to feel different; to be strange; to put yourself in a situation which marks you off and makes you a target. Here are just a few suggestions for living a radical life in a morally degenerate culture.

A.            Go to Church. We live in a generation that knows not Jesus. Some people attend church services when they get to it; when they don’t have anything better to do. God’s Word (Heb. 10:25) says that we should not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another. We can’t encourage one another while we’re at home (or at a bar, a bowling alley, or even a very important political activity) and they are at church.
B.             Nurture the Family. The enemy wants the family to be fractured. That’s why government makes divorce easy; has made living together without marriage more acceptable and legal; and wants to make homosexuality seem normal. God created the family. Satan – and his minions – want to destroy this medium of stability in society.
C.            Pray. Do you pray regularly? Do you let people know that you pray for them? There is power in prayer, friends. We are told to pray for our enemies; pray for the government; pray for one another. Do you pray in public? Let them see you. Let them know who you are – and whose you are.
D.             Dress Better. This one may seem out of place, but believe me it is one of the visible – and radical ways to stand out like a sore thumb in society. Do I mean that we should all wear suits all the time? No. I mean that we should not accept the lowered and sexually provocative standards of the society. I mean that we should look like Christians – modest, not trampy.
E.               Work. I know that some of you would like to have more work. Obviously this one doesn’t address you. But Christians are supposed to do an honest day’s work for a day’s wage. No cheating; no welfare. In Ephesians 4:28, Paul writes, ”He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.” Did you get that. No welfare (obviously accepting some help in times of need is not the same as living on the dole); no mooching; work – and be ready and able to help others in need.
F.              Quote the Bible. How do people know that you are a person of the Book? No, you don’t need to become one of those annoying Bible thumpers. Many of them know the words, but don’t live them. What I’m talking about is being able to use a quote or a concept from the Bible in conversation. What’s the catch? You need to read it; know it; have some understanding about it.
G.            Be Committed. This is “The C word” today. Jesus said that we are to have our “yes” be “yes” and our “no,” “no.” This is not just about making oaths; it’s also about living a life of commitment.
H.             Give. Ah, he finally gets down to the nitty-gritty. There are many places in Scripture that tell us that we need to be giving people. We need to give to the church; we need to be giving to one another. This really befuddles people. Liberals don’t give. They are stingy. There are all sorts of polls and statistics that show this. If they KNOW that you are a giver – especially to the church – they will either try to get some of that giving or they will ask questions about that. Rich, who used to work for me in the newspaper business, once asked me if I gave regularly to the church. I told him that I was a tither. He shook his head. He couldn’t believe it. I told him why.

Live well. Do NOT be involved in violence. Stand out. Be a RADICAL. If you do these things you will befuddle the liberals - and probably be persecuted. Rejoice!