Wednesday, February 25, 2009

First Robin

As I was reading this morning at about dawn, I heard a bird chirping. Could it be? I opened the drapes to look... Surely not yet? But it was! A robin has arrived back from the south!

I don't think we should be encouraged about Spring arriving soon. We should just pity the robin who must have a broken clock. It is pretty cold for a robin - and how long can he last without worms?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Go Ahead And Cry

I sigh a big sigh...
I know that big boys don't cry.
But I don't know why!

Our lives are full of stress, fear, anxiety, pain, and uncertainty. We can't sleep. We can't concentrate. We can't accomplish even a fraction of the things we should. The pressure builds up until we feel like our hearts or heads are going to explode!

We keep on plugging away - but the more we plug - the less well we do. Life becomes a monotonous routine of shocks to our system as we bounce from crisis to crisis in every direction. At work, at home, in the community and even in church the tension builds up and our spirits are crushed within us.

We wonder how we will make it through another day... even one more problem...

I say we should go ahead and cry.
Crying is natural. Crying is therapeutic. Crying brings a release that cannot be had in any other way. "Big boys don't cry," but maybe we need to become little children every now and then.

I am not recommending that you just burst into tears at every challenge. I do not mean that you should resort to tears during business meetings or even in any public setting.

What I mean is that we should not be afraid to unload all of our burdens to God. We should regularly admit our complete childlike dependence on God. We should be unashamed of tears in His presence.

Pour out your heart to your Heavenly Father! Cry out to Him and tell Him your fears, your uncertainties, your anxieties, your failures! You are weak - but He is strong! Cry out to Him to rescue you. Hold your arms out to Him and He will embrace you. Cry on Him as you contemplate your problems.

He is our Father. He doesn't want us to be self controlled and businesslike in our prayers. He doesn't want us to be reserved. He wants us to show childlike faith and to completely abandon ourselves to His care. This is faith.

David cried...
(Psalms 6:6) I am weary with my groaning; All night I make my bed swim; I drench my couch with my tears.
(Psalms 39:12) “Hear my prayer, O LORD, And give ear to my cry; Do not be silent at my tears; For I am a stranger with You, A sojourner, as all my fathers were.
(Psalms 42:3) My tears have been my food day and night, While they continually say to me, “Where is your God?”

David knew God cared about his tears...
(Psalms 56:8) You number my wanderings; Put my tears into Your bottle; Are they not in Your book?
(Psalms 116:8) For You have delivered my soul from death, My eyes from tears, And my feet from falling.

David knew that tears were not the end, but the beginning...
(Psalms 126:5) Those who sow in tears Shall reap in joy.

When Jesus was facing the cross He cried out in anguish of heart and He sweated blood! Why do we think we need to show a reserve before our loving Heavenly Father when we are facing difficulties? Go ahead and cry!!!

Could it be that we are too proud to cry before God?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Fundraisers At Church

I just got off the phone with the third fundraising coordinator to call today. There must be a Spring rush for fundraising. I don't know how that works. This one was with Honey Baked Hams. It made me hungry, just thinking about it. It sounds delicious.

But we don't do fundraisers at the church. When I tell these fundraising coordinators this, I get the impression that this is unusual. Evidently many churches, and especially church youth groups, get their money through fundraisers. I gather that they use this money for some particular project, like camp or a missions trip.

We don't do fundraisers at the church. We believe that the church members should support the various ministries of the church through freewill offerings. If we need money for some particular project we make the need known and ask people to give toward covering the cost. If we want to help send kids to camp we put a scholarship program into the budget and we are open to special designated gifts toward the program.

So, we don't do fundraisers at the church. We feel that God's own people should give as they feel led. We don't believe we should appeal for funds from people outside the church - people we are trying to reach with the Gospel of Grace. How would we make our appeal? "Would you like to help us with funds? We want the money so that we can reach sinners like you with the message that you are under the wrath of God - that you must repent and call on Jesus for salvation!"

No, we don't do fundraisers at the church. We expect members to tithe 10% of their gross income to the support of our ministry - and many give that and more. Our people are generous. They give a tithe and they give freely beyond their tithe. It seems silly to ask them to give $20 for a ham so that $10 will go to missions. Why not just ask them for $20 for missions?

I praise God for my generous and gracious people. We don't do fundraisers and I am happy to say that we don't need to beg people for money. We let them know where we stand on the budget, week by week, and week by week, people put their offerings into the receptacles at the back of the auditorium. We don't even pass an offering plate. People give. Bills are paid. Needs are met.

Praise the Lord!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Fearfully & Wonderfully

I have not really enjoyed my cold. It has been pestering me for about two weeks now. But as I go through my ups and downs, I am amazed at the wonderful complexity of the human being.

What has man invented that has an immune system? What can man build that can fight off a microscopic attack and heal itself? I think of the many simple or mechanical or electronic devices I have had. When they broke they remained broken until and unless someone fixed them. No such thing as healing. (Sometimes if you whacked something just right it would work again for a while - but even that whack was an outside intervention.)

So, we have this amazing immune system! And, ironically, some people point to the flexibility of the immune system as an evidence that the system came to exist by chance. "See how it adapts through mutation? This proves evolution as the source of life!" For them, the complexity is wonderful - but they worship the creature itself rather than the Divine Creator.

No! Don't be so blind and foolish! See what is right before your eyes!
(Psalms 139:14) I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Answer Is Jesus

Whatever the question, the answer is ultimately Jesus.

Why should I endure difficulties and unpleasantness with patience? For Jesus' sake.
How can I have hope in the face of catastrophe and death? Because of Jesus' resurrection.
Why should the church take care to operate according to Bible? For the glory of Jesus!
How should husbands love their wives? Like Jesus loved the Church and gave Himself for her.
How should wives treat their husbands? With the respect that the redeemed have for Jesus.
Why should I live a good, kind, thoughtful, and helpful life? For Jesus' sake and glory.
Why should I hate my sin and leave it behind? Because Jesus died to save me from sin.
How can I live a life of faith? By following Jesus' example of faith in going to the cross.
What will make everything worth the trouble? Seeing Jesus and hearing Him say, "Well done."

Love Jesus. Live for Jesus. Follow Jesus. Keep your eyes on Jesus. It is all about Jesus.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Joys Of Illness

We had a lot of people sick with colds and such on Sunday. Sure enough, on Monday my throat began to bother me. Each day it has progressed a little bit farther. Today, I really feel sick - sore throat - insatiable urge to drink V-8 juice - draggy feeling.

But, Praise The Lord!
  • I don't have much of a cough.
  • I can still talk.
  • I don't seem to have a fever.
  • It is a good excuse for taking a nap.
  • It reminds me to appreciate my health when I have it.
  • It is a minor unpleasantness rather than incapacitating problem.
  • It will hopefully be gone before too long.
  • I still got my Thursday deadline duties done!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


(Philippians 4:8) ¶ Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
The Christian life is journey toward being like Christ - conformed to His image in what we think, say and do.

"All things work together for good..." because God is using them to conform us to the image of Christ. (Romans 8:28-29)

We should count our trials as joy (James 1:2-4) and rejoice in tribulation (Romans 5:3-4) because God is using these things in our lives to make us more like Jesus.

We are not to be conformed to the world around us, but to be transformed by the renewing our our minds for conformity to God's will and work in His service. (Romans 12:2)

There must be a battle raging within us or we are not growing in Christ. To the extent that we are complacent or proud, to that extent we are ungodly. When we are bitter and selfish we are ungodly. When we are unteachable and stubborn we are ungodly. When we are whiny and full of self pity, we are ungodly.

Godliness is on display in patient endurance, gentleness, kindness, and a quiet confidence in God. A godly person shows self control.

To the extent that we are mainly worried about what we feel and what we think and how things affect us and whether we are getting enough praise and recognition... to that extent we are ungodly - carnal - spiritual babies in poopy diapers - in sorry need of greater maturity.
(Philippians 4:8) ¶ Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Voice of the Lord

(Psalms 29:1-2) ¶ Give unto the LORD, O you mighty ones, Give unto the LORD glory and strength.
2 Give unto the LORD the glory due to His name; Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.
I love this Psalm!

God is GREAT! The strongest and most powerful of men must bow before Him in worship! Our strength is nothing in comparison to Him. Our goodness is nothing in the bright light of His genuine holiness.

I imagine David watching a powerful thunderstorm as He wrote this.
(Psalms 29:3-9) The voice of the LORD is over the waters; The God of glory thunders; The LORD is over many waters.
4 The voice of the LORD is powerful; The voice of the LORD is full of majesty.
5 The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars, Yes, the LORD splinters the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes them also skip like a calf, Lebanon and Sirion like a young wild ox.
7 The voice of the LORD divides the flames of fire.
8 The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness; The LORD shakes the Wilderness of Kadesh.
9 The voice of the LORD makes the deer give birth, And strips the forests bare; And in His temple everyone says, “Glory!”
Tremendous flashes of lightening. Powerful wind tearing the leaves off the branches. Crashing and Booming thunder rattling the earth. Pouring rain filling the streams with a rushing torrent.

God is GREAT! This great storm is just a drop in the bucket compared to His almighty power.
(Psalms 29:10-11) The LORD sat enthroned at the Flood, And the LORD sits as King forever.
11 The LORD will give strength to His people; The LORD will bless His people with peace.
The storm passes. The sun shines. The leaves drip and sparkle. The fawn frolics. God smiles on us - His people. We are secure in His blessing, because He is "King forever."

Monday, February 9, 2009


I am the oldest "youthful adult" who played volleyball tonight. After the first three minutes I was already hurting pretty much all over - with an emphasis on my left hip, my neck and my hands. I was surprised when it was time to quit - I had played five games - what more damage could I have done to myself in one more game? (Beyond death, I mean?)

So, I will be hobbling again this week, no doubt. Was it worth it? I had fun. I got some exercise. Most of my aches and pains will probably heal in time. Perhaps it will help the economy because of the medicine and medical help I will need to buy.

No, it was worth it because it is life. I got to share an hour and a half with my (younger) friends. I praise God for the opportunity. I just pray that my muscles get into better condition soon so that I don't disable myself quite so thoroughly next time.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Caught Up?

(Proverbs 6:6-9) Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise,
7 Which, having no captain, Overseer or ruler,
8 Provides her supplies in the summer, And gathers her food in the harvest.
9 How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep?

I was so proud of myself. I got some work done and looked at my watch - it was only 10:00 AM. What great productivity!

But then I realized that I was now only 24 hours behind my schedule for that piece of work. I normally have it done a full day earlier.

But was I a sluggard? I hope not.

Sometimes creative work doesn't flow out of study like you might wish it would. You may do the study diligently enough, but the creative complement might not show up right away. Besides that, life is sure to throw you some unexpected turns during the week and that throws you off schedule.

But was I a sluggard? Maybe sometimes. It is easy to fall into entertaining pursuits instead of work pursuits. How often do I need to check my e-mail? How long should I spend reading the news?

Go to the ant... and be wise!

Keep plugging away and the work will be done. Go to sleep and it will remain unfinished.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Thrown Overboard?

In the GARBC Baptist Bulletin article “Concrete Words,” David Whiting of North Baptist Church in Rochester New York, is shown sitting in a rowboat and is quoted as preaching, “You have two options. You can help us row, or you can get out of the boat. There are other very good boats (churches) in our city that may do church in a way that you like better. That’s okay. You can get in their boat. We would send you there with our blessing. You can help row the boat or get out of the boat, but you cannot rock the boat. That is not an option!”

I have no idea from what Bible passage Pastor Whiting was preaching. It strikes me as an unbiblical and definitely unbaptist message.

If he was saying that people should not be divisive, I would agree. We should not just grumble and cause trouble. But Baptist churches have historically believed in congregational church government and that requires freedom for people to disagree (in civil ways) with leadership. It is not for leaders to pronounce major changes to a church and say, "If you don't like it you can leave." Rather, the leaders should say, "This is what we propose and why we believe it is the best course of action. What do you think? Will you support this?"

I believe that the top down model of church leadership is a product of the mega-church movement. It may be a pragmatic necessity for building a mega-church, but what makes it biblical? And what about the people who are thrown overboard?

I like the biblical models:
  • God's field where God gives the increase.
  • God's building where there is only one foundation - Jesus Christ - and everything built on that will be tested by fire.
  • God's temple where the Spirit of God dwells and the wisdom of God trumps the wisdom of this world.
  • God's flock of sheep being led by under-shepherds who lead - but not as "Lords over those entrusted to you, but as examples to the flock." (1Peter 5:3)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


As I lay in bed not sleeping, it occurred to me that I should make good use of the time.

This was self induced insomnia. I made too much coffee after supper last night. I ground too much while being absent minded. Then, when there was coffee left over, I didn't want to waste it. So I drank an extra two or three mugs.

I didn't think it would still be affecting me at bedtime, but it sure was. I was wide awake. And I knew it was the coffee. And I knew it would wear off eventually. And it did - sometime after 11:30 PM.

I knew I wasn't going to get any sympathy from Lola. She would just point out (correctly) that I was a dope for doing that to myself. (It is good to have a spouse who holds you accountable and keeps you grounded in reality.) I worried that my restlessness would disturb her sleep, so I tried to keep my breathing even and minimize my tossing and turning.

I thought about getting up - but figured that eventually I would get sleepy if I could just stay in bed. So - what can you do to make your hours of sleeplessness worthwhile without getting out of bed?

Here's what I did:
  • Prayed for people who are having special needs right now.
  • Prayed for the church and our work to glorify God.
  • Worked on my Sunday morning sermon... and came up with important changes.
  • Thought about the many ways God has blessed me - with health, with family, with ministry.
  • Did math about how many hours of sleep I would get from each half hour to my 5:00 AM alarm.
  • Made mental lists of things I need to do.

At eleven I listened attentively as the mantle clock struck the hour. I was still fully awake. I wasn't the least bit drowsy yet. At eleven thirty-two (it's an antique) I heard the mantle clock half hour chime... and that is pretty much all I remember until my alarm.

Praise God! Awake or asleep, we are in His hands. He is always caring for us.
(Psalms 121:2-4) My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, He who keeps Israel Shall neither slumber nor sleep.
(Psalms 139:1-3) O LORD, You have searched me and known me.
2 You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off.
3 You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways.
(Psalms 63:6) When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches.
(Psalms 4:8) I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; For You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Today and Tomorrow

(Matthew 6:34 - KJV) "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."

I was reminded of this a couple of times this morning. We have problems today and then we begin to worry about how we will cope with tomorrow. It grows into a snowball of trouble.
(Matthew 6:34 - NKJV) "Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."

Don't we have enough to deal with today? How do we know that we will even make it to tomorrow? At the very least things may change completely before tomorrow.
(Matthew 6:34 - NASB) "Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Just focus on today's tasks and don't burden yourself with things you can't do anything about. There is a reason that Alcoholics Anonymous has "One Day At A Time" as a slogan.
(Matthew 6:34 - NIV) "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."

This is not to say we should be clueless and careless. It means that we can trust God. The future is in His hands. We are in His hands. He will deal with us faithfully in the future according to His unfailing love and mercy. He will provide what we need then, just like He provided yesterday.
(Hebrews 13:8) Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Book Review - Basic Christian Leadership by John Stott

I bought Basic Christian Leadership by John Stott by accident. I was in the IVP book club and failed to cancel the automatic payment that month. When it came in the mail I decided to keep it rather than go through the hassle of sending it back.

I picked this book out of my stack of unread books by accident. It is a relatively small book and I needed one that would fit in the tray of my treadmill. This is not the way I normally choose my books, but it worked out this time.

From the title, I guessed this would be a typical book of leadership techniques. Those can sometimes be interesting and helpful - or at least entertaining. But this book is actually an exposition of 1Corinthians 1-4. That surprised me. Since I was just beginning a series of sermons on 1Corinthians, this grabbed my attention right away.

Stott does a masterful job of reviewing and explaining these chapters. He rightly considers them a pattern for how the church should relate to her leaders and the leaders to the church. Thus this is a book about Basic Christian Leadership. As I read the book I wondered when exactly Stott had developed this as a book on leadership. What specific observations of the modern church moved him to think of 1Corinthians as an important model for our time?

We live in a day of superstar preachers. It is amazing to realize that some of these superstars are multi-million dollar franchises in their own right. Not only do they draw a viewing audience in the tens of thousands, but they bring in millions through sales of CDs, self help books, and coffee mugs.

I'm not sure these were what Stott had in mind when he wrote this book, but it is easy to draw contrasts between these and the teaching of 1Corinthians. The church should not be cheering for one leader or another, but united in the pursuit of Christ. The leaders are only tools that God uses to plant and water. God Himself is the source of the increase.

This is a good and thought provoking book.