Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Crowd is Still Wrong

The crowd in Jesus' day was wrong. They followed him everywhere, and benefited from his miracles. Their sick were healed, the lame walked, the dead were raised. Demons came out in terror at the sound of his command. And Jesus accumulated a large group of followers.
Until the day he started talking about the Cross.
I guess people are like that. They go in for crazes and bandwagons. Then, after a while, the celebrated one wears out his welcome. He becomes unpopular--even hated.
The same thing will happen to Obama.
He is inheriting a HUGE slew of problems in this country. And soon he will discover--if he has not already--that leadership is about backbone for what is right, and not about fashion shows, pomp and ceremony, and popularity polls. Count on it.
I mentioned the story about Jesus at the beginning to illustrate that the Word is true once again
in its characterization of the crowd. They whip themselves into a frenzy about whatever, without even really analyzing why to any serious degree, and then when the goods are not delivered in the manner they expect, they hate the one they loved.
This is also a timely reminder to us all who are leaders in any capacity. We are not about popularity. We are about teaching and inspiring others to believe and do what is right. As a father, I am a leader. And so this is for me too.
Note the emphasis on right. Among mere mortals, the best leaders do not postulate themselves as the solution to all the world's problems, but point their constituents to the timeless principles
by which they may enjoy the best life possible.
So leadership is about timeless principles and sources of hope outside of man's ingenuity.
I have not seen this at all in the incoming administration. Or in the would-be administration of the opposing party.
So we are back to the old old story of Jesus and his love. Without that, no hope.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Presence Without Dominance

Regarding the most recent blog, I think there are enough philosphical traps in the Christian life to warrant a name for them: Puppet Dictator Dogmas.
PDDs are beliefs and ideas which eclipse the major feature of teachings when they should not do so. Classic example is the whole works vs. faith thing. Just because we say works are a necessary part of salvation does not mean that they are the instrumental cause or that they are the dominant feature in the whole plan of salvation. When, in the name of Calvinism, or whatever you want to call it, we get all worked up about works and worry if we have performed enough, we are falling into this trap. Clearly, the work of God is central. More specifically, the glory and character of God are central. I think this is where Roman Catholicism errs.

Showing The Love Of God Part 2

Recently my wife came to me in despair because she doubts that she is one of the elect. Here are my meditations on that subject. (By the way, I fight this too sometimes--more then than now).
I guess Dr. Piper has laid a pretty good groundwork for this discussion. He says we should tell the despondent one that we love them and will not let them go. That may convey a sense of the keeping love of God, and draw them to him. Additionally, stress, hard times, our sins, etc. complicate matters so that our thinking and conclusions are skewed. We should distrust our emotions at this point. Let God be true, and every man a liar.
I think she has fallen foul of a kind of Western, logical progression-oriented way of dealing with feelings of assurance and the love of God. She frequently cites pastors and preachers of the Reformed tradition who tend to shake assurance. John MacArthur, John Piper, Alistair Begg, et. al. (Kent Hughes?) are examples of this type of orientation to faith. Rather than immediately assuring the person who prayed to receive Christ, they insist that fruit be produced to evidence salvation.

The logical progression syndrome goes like this: If I must persevere in faith and obedience to be saved, then salvation is not really by faith alone. We cannot believe the simple Gospel of "Believe and Live," nor can we teach it to our children. They may not be one of the elect. And wouldn't you know it--those who believe in a salvation like this get barraged with trial after trial, setback after setback, temptation, sinful reactions ad nauseam. She gets completely discombobulated and assumes that God has not chosen her, as she senses no grace, no love, no peace, etc.

The Good News is both easy and profoundly difficult at the same time. God requires us to be righteous--but knows we can't do it. That is what the Cross is all about. The easy part is--like a little child (please do not miss this!!!) trust God to forgive you based on his Word. The hard part--is keeping yourself close to that forgiveness and grace. There is a gang of thugs out there--and in our hearts--that mitigates against this sometimes with incredible violence. Sin, disappointmemt, hard times,--all of them are thugs. How much attention, though, do we pay to the good resources. God's grace in letting us live and move and have our being. The Church. Songs, prayer, Scripture, meeting together. Good teachers. Thinking, journaling, learning. Meditation, evidence of his power and love in nature, human relationships, government. All of these are our friends.

Reader, God really does love you. Never let anyone convince you otherwise. As for Jacob and Esau, remember that Esau never gave a thought to his sinfulness and earthliness. He became angry at Jacob rather than letting the incident with the blessing make him see that he was a sinner in need of God. He "wasted his porridge." So to speak. God did not intervene in Esau's life because there was no room in Esau's life for God. This explains how God hated Esau. He just let Esau get what he wanted temporarily, but without the God he did not value.
But you have a chance to prove Esau wrong eternally. Value eternity. Value God. Come to him. Show that he did not lavish his temporary graces on you for nothing. And again, I love you and I am not letting you go.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Recent Pictures

Fall dress-up. Joe the Boxer, Princess Lu, and Daddy-o

(Middle) Home education rolling along (Top) Joe helps keep Dave in line. Dave is not memorizing anything now by the way. I still try to see if he knows some of the chapters we worked on, and occasionally he gets it right. I wish he would do that again through whole chapters!

Post-election reflections

OK. SO Barack Obama was elected. The "will of the American people" has been expressed.
The bottom biblical line is. GOD somehow, some way, decreed that this would happen, and it fits his purpose perfectly. We can't deny that.
Without question, I can say I have never seen a presidential candidate as arrogant, self-aggrandizing, and yet, so wrongheaded as our President-elect. At the same time, though, he will be the supreme commander of this nation in about 70 days. And he must be respected, prayed for, and obeyed in all matters not contrary to the Word of God.
Yes, I will not enjoy this particularly. But I think the same thing applies to national life as well as employment when the Bible says "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord and not for men, since you know you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward," (Colossians 3:23-24a). Also check out Jeremiah 29: "Seek the peace and prosperity of the land to which I have carried you." Do that as a rule. Preaching to myself as well as the choir here.
There are a couple of alternative ways one could philosophically address this in a public forum (should one be given us) from this point. I suppose you could take the "Judgment of God" interpretive tack, envisioning that Mr. Obama is God's judgment on this nation for its crimes and indifference. From that, you could go two ways. You can call on people to repent, or you can assume God is completely finished with the USA, and the "wrath of abandonment" is now upon us--that there is no road out. One problem with that is that it assumes a direct biblical parallel to Israel or to a hardened unbelieving person. We don't know what God is specifically up to right now as far as the nation is concerned. There may yet be hope for a national revival. But we can't assume all is well either. Terrorists are poised to strike us at any moment. Russia still has thousands of ICBMs pointed at us with high alert status. Iran, China, North Korea, Venezuela--all menaces bent on our demise. And all the while, Israel--the prize of the earth--is the target of all the world's mindless hatred. Hamas, Islamic Jihad, PLO, etc. are all committed to Israel's destruction. And we are a major ally of Israel--at least historically.
We have to understand the times and know what to do. Begin with that. Do not assume all is lost. Do not assume all is well either. Let us, with fresh force, get to praying for our country and all its leaders, Democrat, Republican, or otherwise. Its the wisest thing to do when you don't know what God is doing. People are going to think we are nuts. Some Christians are going to think we are nuts. But keep it up. I believe--with increasing personal conviction--that God rewards those who diligently seek Him. You might have to wait until the world to come, but He will.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A Cool Idea

I had a great idea on what to do with David when he goes maniacal with his autism and tries to grab me or do something gross to himself. I recite Psalm 150:6 and have him raise his hands.
"Let everything that has breath praise the LORD." Let him fill in the blanks. Look at what gets accomplished:
1. We learn a verse from the Word
2. We worship (I trust)
3. We edify ourselves and all those present
4. We gain strength to persevere through the problem with our eyes on God.
5. Eventually he keeps his hands to himself. Persevere. He will.

Spiritual Autism: The Puzzle Solved

I have noticed that a lot of spiritual and doctrinal problems result from something I call spiritual autism. This is characterized by an almost exclusive focus upon one concept or idea.
Satan tried, I believe, to get Jesus on the "spectrum." By attempting to get him to throw himself off the pinnacle of the temple, the devil wanted to get Jesus locked on to the one verse in Psalm 91: "He will give his angels charge over you, and they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot upon a stone." Jesus would have none of it. "It is written: Do not put the Lord your God to the test."
So we should not be surprised to face attempts by our corrupt flesh and Satan to lock on to a verse or part of a verse, as if all the theology we need could be wrung from it.
Let's see how it works:
Satan's attack--induce victim to conclude the day of grace is passed, that he is hardened beyond repentance, that God gave up on him a long time ago--so just live in despair and blame God.
After all it is written in Proverbs 1: 28. "Then they will call to me, but I will not answer, they will look for me but will not find me."
The Sword of the Spirit: "Today, if you hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as you did in the rebellion" (Hebrews 3:15). "Now God commands all people everywhere to repent" (Acts 17:30). Are you a people? You have his command. Repent.

SONWORLD VBS--The Power is On

My son went to SonWorld VBS at a local Lutheran church. I highly recommend the St. Olaf Lutheran Church in Montgomery, IL which sponsored it.
Joe seems to have enjoyed it. My wife questioned me about whether I could subscribe to a "Choose Jesus" motif, being Reformed as I am. No sweat. Choosing Jesus is our responsibility, and doing so proves he has chosen us.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Rebuttal to the Below Letter

The following is my reply to the letter written by the despondent person quoted in the previous post:
Are you loking for someone to mollycoddle you? No sale here. God really is everything you say he is, but I would have to say that you are in need of some smart perseverance, and a swift kick spiritually speaking. Get the Word in front of you. Cry out to God! Do so every day. Follow the pattern in Hosea. Leave all normal activities. Replace all of them with prayer. Look at the Ninevites. They all put on sackcloth and ashes, and God was moved to compassion. Remember, you are not changing God when you do this. God is changing you.
Yes, you are on the right track when you say Christ is glorious beyond description. Believe that to the point of cutting out your eye and your arm. Resist sin to the point of death--of course prayerfully in the promises of Scripture, and he will come to your aid in due time. Get others involved. Get their prayers. Confess sin to someone in authority. You probably are resisting God in some area, and this is what creates a beachhead for Satan in your life. At least you have the spiritual sensitivity to see it. Don't badmouth Edwards, et. al. for their insistence that we deal with sin before God can move. Your dealing with it biblically proves he is moving.
It sounds like you have some good experiences in your past that make you yearn for them. Do not give up. Remember the counsel of Desiring God's counselors. "Our prize is Christ, the image of the invisible God, and his fellowship is worth ten thousand lifetimes of struggle and doubt and barrenness." Fight on--but fight smart. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, and he will transform you.
Also, do not wrest Scripture from its original intention. God did not write the book of Hebrews to make people perpetually blue and hopeless. Sure, it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, but paradoxically, the fearful need not fear. Keep your fear biblical--by reading and meditating on Scripture--Old and New Testaments--and persevere with others who have the joy. You will be eternally glad you did--for His Glory.

Monday, August 4, 2008


Hi. I find myself in the undesirable position of lacking the regenerating work of God to become a believer. So here's what I believe:
1. I believe that assurance of regeneration is commanded, possible, desirable, and that Christ is glorious beyond description.
2. I believe that one cannot effectively live the Christian life without assurance, even as an unhired employee cannot claim benefits.
3. I believe in the full inerrancy of the Scriptures, all 66 books. I believe that the Gospel is the truth and the only hope for dying humanity.
4. I believe the lack of assurance is not in any way owing to malicious intent or a shell game by God. He's not messing around with us.
1. I do not believe all people can be fully assured as soon as they "pray the prayer." My wife would argue with me about this, but you have to have some fruit in attitude and action to confirm that.
2. I do not believe lives demonstrating no fruit are warranted to be assured by God.
3. I do not believe in a "set it and forget it" attitude toward one's relationship with God. Centuries of scholarship have gone into this. Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, the Puritans, John Wesley, Tozer, etc. all agree. It is not an invention of modern Reformed theology.
But for some odd reason, despite cries, prayers, effort, consultation, etc. spanning 26 years in the direction of God, I at this time have little or no assurance that I am his and he is mine. Life is an empty exercise, depressing in nature, filled with personal sin and inability to respond righteously, knowing the sweetness of the things others enjoy and take for granted sometimes. This only intensifies the sense of debilitating guilt and fear. I do not know why. I listen to descriptions of what true regeneration is relating to real repentance, but I cannot capture it. Worldly sorrow that brings death is the order of the day.
I have little inclination to go back to the world. They hold nothing for me. I know theology backwards and forwards, and know the world is a hollow, empty place--the city of destruction.
So I soldier on. Not willing to give up what is left or conclude I am an apostate. Motivated by fear right now.
Perhaps I am an heir apparent to these great things.
I know Edwards would say "Perhaps some way of sin is blocking you." OK, but how can you remove the block of sin if you are not regenerated? Your sin-fighting efforts will fail because flesh cannot overcome flesh. And if you do not believe, all your efforts are a hypocritical sham and unacceptable to God anyway.
Maybe your efforts do not meritoriously obtain the salvation, but merely evidence it, I don't know. Everything in the world and in the flesh mitigates against the availing pursuit of God, with a demonic energy sometimes. Add to that the Scriptures--about how God did not hear Saul, Esau, and abandoned Judas to the devil himself, the book of Hebrews "it is impossible" motif, and you have a situation that seems impossible from any angle to address. Maybe.
But you can't become a monk if you are married:) Its hard to believe that the way life is for me constitutes evidence of regeneration.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Making Sense of the Christian Life

Even posing the question like this presupposes that we are on a quest to "make sense" of this life and then move on to living it. That notion comes from the way we do business every day. When taxes are raised, people want to know WHY. Someone who wants to invest money wants to know that there will be a worthwhile return on it. If it makes sense, we dive in.
But the life of faith does not work like that apparently. No way in the world you can get all your questions about God answered--in fact, He usually frustrates those who proceed like that.
This is not to say that there is no cost-counting involved, or that you must turn off your brain to become regenerated. It is to say that we are to become like little children and trust God. Not to do that is to be doomed. Period.
Maybe its like this: The Father says in his word that we are completely responsible for our sin.
You have a few choices when you hear that. The first is to say "well, I just can't believe in a God who says that." Or "Yeah I know I am a sinner, but isn't he gracious" and move on to another topic and never be struck with the majesty and awesomeness of his forgiveness. Or "Can't he cut me a break, I was tired, hungry, etc." But those responses will not yield forgiveness. Only someone who says from the heart "God be merciful to me, a sinner." gets home justified. We do not want to humble ourselves like that. It doesn't make sense.
Yet in another sense it does. God is a lot bigger than me. He is infinite, I am finite. He is perfect, I am fallen. Therefore I should trust that He will tell me the true path to happiness.
Does the sailor try to tell the captain how to navigate the waters? Nope. Again, this faith is a miracle. "All things are possible with God." Luke 9:23.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Making Sense of Moses

Moses is great example of the Christian life. Before his encounter with God, he tried to right the wrongs he saw in the flesh. He figured that the best way to stop Egyptians from enslaving his people was to kill Egyptians. It didn't work. Then he found some Hebrews arguing and tried to set them straight. Then he was found out, and had to flee. Moses had passion, skill and the right idea, but God wasn't central.
Man since the fall does not come equipped with God-centeredness. It has to be given to him. Praise the Lord that he is ready, willing and able to do just that. When Moses got commissioned and went to Pharaoh, then miracles happened. God brought about a powerful deliverance, and

Saturday, July 5, 2008

More on Life

I confess, I am a nutcase fan of virtuoso guitarists. There is this guy out there who can make his instrument sound like the soundtrack of PacMan when the ghosts run wild:) He says that anyone can do what he does, it just takes a lot of practice.
I guess I shouldn't pay so much attention to that, but even when I do, Psalm 139 rings true "If I fly to the heavens, You are there. Or if I make my bed in the depths, you are there too." The part about "it just takes practice" reminds me about the biblical truth that we are to train ourselves to be godly. I sometimes think "What would life be like now if I gave half as much time and attention to the Word and prayer and not let Satan blow it out. It really is spiritual warfare. No one is going to attack you if you are really disciplined and lose a lot of weight. Or if you can play like Keaggy or Eddie. But start meditating on the Bible, and go for it with practice and watch the fight begin. I guess not to fight back armed with your brothers at your side is to lose. Good thing God gave us the church.
Tomorrow is another Sunday. I am glad. It is a needed pit stop, and I trust that we will be able to see beyond the mundane and be jerked back to spiritual reality. I will praise him again, because what has happened before, we can reasonably expect to happen again.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Showing Somebody the Love of God

Does God love you? I personally do not see how people could struggle with a question like this.
( By the way, I personally do not subscribe to the "Calvinistic" views out there saying that God doesn't love everybody). It's like asking "Is water wet?"
Rarely does anyone look to the sunset, watch a mother bird feed her chicks, or witness the miracle of live birth and say "I just can't figure God out!" At best, we stand in awe. Questions only come up when bad things happen. God gets the bad rap when a hurricane destroys, or a forest fire rages uncontrollably. (Insurance companies call these "Acts of God".) What about all the murder, genocide, war, starvation, etc. So, to some degree we get stuck with cognitive dissonance--knowing that there is beauty, truth, and goodness in the universe, and yet the presence of evil and suffering.
Usually the first place we look to get the answer is to circumstances. If we are having it hard, we conclude he is not loving. If we got a good parking space, somebody smiled at us, our favorite food is for dinner tonight, then he is.
It is helpful, again, as in all cases to get the whole of Scripture in focus. The default is: "God is love" (1 John 4:16). Not that God loves, but GOD IS LOVE. Note carefully, and do not confuse this one. Remember the burning bush "I AM." The verb "to be" is in God's name. All other being is dependent or derived. And as such, we are shadows at best of his ultimate reality. God does so much better than just to love. Infinitely better.
So let me begin by defining love. Love is, simply, to reflect God's character. Period. Now with that definition, let's make sense of the present evil world, and all the negativity and fallenness in it, and the iniquity in our hearts. "The creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it. In hope that the creation itself may be liberated from its bondage to decay, and brought into the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Romans 8:20-21). Note the upswing in this verse. Frustration is only temporary. It gets fixed, and liberty comes. But only for the children of God.
OK, now you have put your finger on it. How do I know I am a child of God? That's exactly what I lack--assurance. I can verbally assure you he loves you, but God himself must move and give you the confidence you need in his love. I am not trying to confuse at this point, but the best way for God to show the love of God is in RELATIONSHIP with people. For example, if I am a good husband to my wife by the power of the Spirit, then Isaiah 54 makes sense "Your maker is your husband, the LORD Almighty is his name." If I have a relationship with you, and demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), you may have a sense of the reality of God's love, and yes, be drawn to confidence in Him. If you blow him off and say that God doesn't exist and I am a deluded dreamer, then his wrath is provoked. Notice that I said provoked. It is not his default condition. He still loves you, but if you die in this condition, you'll never know or appreciate it. Once again the definition "Reflect God's character." God will reflect his holy character in treating a rebel according to his rebellion. But he does not want to do that.
He would far rather be merciful. If you doubt this, check out Isaiah 53-55 with me and see if it is not true. Stop believing your emotions, and believe the truth!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Apologetics: A Fine Ride Indeed?

Chip Ingram recently did a series on evangelism. He discussed several types of strategies for sharing one's faith. One of them was as an apologist. A lot of people might think of me as an apologist for the faith, as I am really into the intellectual arguments for the authenticity of the Bible as God's Word, the uniqueness of Christ as God's Messiah, etc. But in reality I am a little wary of apologetics.
Here's the way I look at it. Apologetics is like a space shuttle ride. You go to lofty heights and see all of creation at a glance. The intellect is barraged with details and facts, and one is challenged to see things as never before. It makes for interesting discussion fodder. But there comes a time when the ride ends. You have to come back down to brass tacks reality. Children are sick. Bills come due. Disappointments come. You forget all this high and lofty stuff about empty tombs, eyewitnesses, and scrolls.
Going through apologetics with someone is only a worthwhile enterprise if during the ride, your ship has a rendezvous with the person of Christ. The woman who bled for many years touched the hem of his garment in order to get healed. Zacchaeus had Jesus over for dinner, and it was the best move of his eternal life. "This is life eternal: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent" (John 17:3).
In the western world far too much emphasis is made on appeals to the intellect. But we are creatures of intellect, will, and emotions. Man is not saved by getting smarter--just look at the universities. We are saved by faith, and that is supernatural. Sure--supernatural faith has its roots in proper knowledge of the truth. But truth must be belived with the will, and then the proper emotions follow. Never forget that it's a miracle.
When atheists press their case for why there must be no God, they always seem to ignore the aspects of man's emotional deficiency and corrupt will. All they deal with is (supposedly) intellectually defensible evidence for the non-existence of God.
Why sink to their level? All of their objections can be swept away by one bout with cancer, or the death of a loved one, or by being in the proverbial foxhole.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Out of the Mouth of Dave..Sovereign Wisdom

Dave recently was asked to complete the following sentence "Praise the Lord and pass the..." He said "The LORD." Yep--Praise the Lord and pass the Lord! Profundity beyond the greatest mind.
I know this occurred as an echolalic response and he probably doesn't know what he is talking about, but hearing this gives pause for thought.

The commond refrain in the 40s was "...and pass the ammunition."
In the 50s we might have said "...and pass the TV guide."
In the 60s it was "...and burn the draft card."
In the 70s it might have been "...and lets get down."
In the 80s it might have been "...and pass the loot."
In the 90s it was probably "...come on, all that traditional religion stuff is racist, sexist, homophobic, etc."

How refreshing. To think of not moving beyond the Lord when praising him. That's what heaven is all about.
Pass the LORD. Share the LORD. I am truly floored by the thought.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Blasphemy Challenge: Laughable, If Not So Sad

Recently, I was surfing the Net, and found something called the Blasphemy Challenge. It is basically a way for atheists to record a You Tube video of themselves denying God, Jesus and especially the Holy Spirit (in their minds, to become unforgivable). This is seen as an act of heroism and self-confidence in atheism, and then laughing it off as a joke.
OK. So you denied God, and now have "sealed your eternal doom." Why do you have to make such a big stink about it? If God does not exist, why fight??? Most of the "blasphemers" I saw on the videos also made a point of denying the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, etc., as if God was just another myth--possibly disarming the casual observer--to the fact that they have a chip on their shoulder about the God of the Bible. I never saw one yet that openly denied Allah (as conceived by the Qur'an) either. Chicken?
I believe they do this because they don't think there will be any repercussions. True Christians do not go around making death threats and assassination attempts against dissenters. Therefore they do not believe anyone will hurt them. It is fashionable to mock Jesus and the God of the Bible in our society, and those who do so publicly are now lauded as the bravest kind of existential heroes.
It would be laughable if it were not so sad.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Disability Ministry Sunday: A Special Day Indeed

Sunday, April 13 is DMS at church. This will be a special one as Dave will be reciting Isaiah 55 for his Kindergarten class. I will be reading from Lamentations in the service. Also, the next day Dave starts his first day at Giant Steps therapeutic day school for autism.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Blessed Stressfulness: The Relationship Between Our Emotions and Sin

"You were wearied by all your ways, but you would not say 'It is hopeless!' You found renewal of your strength, and so you did not faint." (Isaiah 57:10).

Sin has emotional consequences. After his sin, the Psalmist speaks of his strength drying up as in the heat of summer (Psalm 32), and Isaiah 59:9-12 speaks of despair and severe upset resulting from living in known iniquity.

So why do we consider all stress something to be avoided?

Not this kind! After some degree of meditation on these passages in Isaiah 57-59, I can see that emotional turbulence is a helpful warning sign that we need to get back to the Word.

I have personal testimony.

Since February, I have been having a rough go of it. Not having a full-time job with the economy the way it is, and some of David's worse moments with his autism condition have pushed me to the limit. I handled these vexations in a manner that was willfully selfish. God, in his wisdom, love and mercy, never left my conscience without verses like the above ringing in my ears. After some indescribable emotional pain, He has been gracious to me and brought me to himself again and again. I am glad I did not find renewal of my strength too soon!

I guess sometimes blogs like mine might convey the idea that my life is perfect, that all is rosy and right now that God has rectified some physical things in my life. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are all still made of dust, and it is only the Lord's kindess, tolerance, and patience that save us. Expect to be bummed out when you sin, and get alarmed if you are not!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Isaiah 58: The Cure for "Common Christianity" Part 1

OK, now I am into Chapter 58. It reads like a prescription for "common Christianity."

The patients hear about their disease

"Declare to my people their rebellion, and to the house of Jacob their sins."

God considers hypocrisy and divided allegiance to him to be sinful rebellion. Those addressed are people who are called by the name of the God of Jacob (Israel). They should know better.

"For day after day they seek me out. They seem eager to know my ways as is they were a nation that does what is right, and has not forsaken the commands of its God."

Unlike the idolaters and prostitutes in Chapter 57, these people are overtly religious.

"They ask me for just decisions, and seem eager for God to come near them."

They are God-conscious and probably mean well

"'Why have we fasted' they say 'and you have not seen it?' 'Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?'"

But they are in a quandary. Is God forgetting something? Since that doesn't jibe with their theology, they just can't figure out why God doesn't acknowledge their efforts.

But here is the culprit.

"Yet on the day of your fasting you do as you please"

Indifference to God. It showed up in the agenda.

"And exploit all your workers."

Injustice rears its ugly head

"Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife and in striking each other with wicked fists"

Even uglier. Maybe in their extreme hunger they got crabby and the slightest little thing ticked them off, and their emotional reactions were exaggerated.

"You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high"

Given their efforts they probably were shocked by this statement.

"Is this the kind of fast I have chosen. Only a day for a man to humble himself, Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes."

Ok, what else is there?

Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord?

I guessed so.

"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen. To loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke?
To se the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry, and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter. When you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?"

It must be a miracle. Usually when people are starving, they don't care about anything else but their stomach.

"Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear. Then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call and the Lord will answer. You will cry for help and he will say "Here am I." If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk. And if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed. Then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday."

It is certainly a miracle. Its how the fast ends. Not eating, and learning to depend on God. Finding him there, and understanding his Word and power more clearly. Seeing his glory. Proceeding to righteous attitudes and actions of love and benevolence. Being full of joy through the Holy Spirit.

May God do this for all of us.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

God Moves For His Name's Sake

What a valuable morning today at church! Dr. Michael Easley of Moody Bible Institute spoke on Psalm 25. This psalm speaks of David's desire for God to come near him in his hour of distress, particularly that from his sin, and from the enemy without. Easley's main point was that God may not grant our prayers right away, but he will enlarge our capacity to wait. He used the example of how White Fence Farm in Denver constructed a waiting facility with many amenities--simply for those waiting to get a table at the oft-busy restaurant.

Another valuable lesson relates to the portion of Isaiah 58 I have been memorizing. Consider the following verses:

"According to your steadfast love remember me for the sake of your goodness O Lord! (v. 7).

Verse 11: "For the sake of your name, O Lord, forgive my iniquity, for it is great."

Two verses in the middle of the "what" David wanted that give the "why." David is concerned with the name of the Lord being glorified. And in that spirit, he will receive the help he so desperately needs from God.
What is this leading to? Just that God seems to close the windows of heaven so long as we are still preoccupied with our own name and our own kingdom (contrast the Lord's prayer). In short, our prayers will not avail with God if we are self-preoccupied.

What are the personal implications? Years and years I prayed and never had peace. I received nothing I asked for. I was double-minded. What is the cure? Desperation and brokenness before God (see Psalm 51:17).
It also reminds me of James 4: "Wash your hands you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn, and wail."

This is a most blessed work indeed--when God moves and changes our orientation from self to God. It is consistent with the miraculous nature of faith. Faith is supernatural. We are not born with it. Man cannot manufacture it. GOD gives it! And he does so for the sake of his name. "I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions for my name's sake, and will not remember your sins" (Isaiah 43:25).

Once you begin this life of faith, you will know that there is no earthly joy to compare to it. Sometimes, I get deceived, and go to hang around Egypt's shore, but I know I can never get too far. God will call me back. May he do the same blessed work in your life as you meditate on Scripture.

Monday, February 4, 2008

A Good Prescription

I found this on a blog site for the Christian Research Network. It is in response to a polemic book published recently. I think it would have saved a church split I saw about 8 years ago if anybody cared to think deeply about the issues it raises:

The problem with [reformed minister] and others is that they think if you have and believe the truth, that is enough. Defend it. But where are the books that point out their/our sin? Where are the articles that castigate us for our powerlessness? How about our obvious pride about having the truth? Where are the calls for fasting and seasons of elongated prayer?

It is not enough to have the truth inside the castle walls, on display for all the inhabitants to see and show their children. We must take the truth, draped in power and grace simultaneously to the world. The orthodox crowd (me) are just as guilty of seeking bigger cars, bigger houses, Christian cruises, expensive clothing, and displaying our Christianity in a tearless portrait of western culture, not a broken and disturbed love that disregards our own needs and desires in favor of His.

If we have the truth and the emergents don’t, where is the demonstration of the Spirit and power? Do not hide behind the “results oriented” excuse, we will never see the glorious gospel of the Lord Christ without seeking His face as if we were a hungry deer. I am orthodox, but I refuse to be smug about the fortress we’ve built around our pitiful camp. We quote the reformation but where are those same reformation fires burning today. Spurgeon, Edwards, and Wesley would be offended if they saw who quoted them as if we were on the same page.

Books, books, books, words, words, words, tapes, tapes, tapes, and all things remain the same since the fathers slept. The orthodox crowd does not recieve correction, we are too busy correcting everyone else. And if you say we have no sin, you make God a liar. And not just a benign “everyone sins” attitude that soothes our flesh, I mean that says “If I believe there are brothers and sisters in Christ who are being deceived, I need God to empower me with such a loving and urgent anointing that I can reach out to those who I love with God’s love”.
Where is our pathos, our concern. I can cleaverly articulate the errors of [popular, trendy Christian authors] but how many tears have I shed. You would only need one hand to count them. That is what I find objectionable about scholarly books about the emergents or seekers or purpose driven theologies and their adherants. These antiseptic treatises are useless as they make the choir sing and pounce doctrinally on those not in the choir, but without any tears or urgency.

You can read these books and nod your head in agreement or shake your head in disgust, but until we all get sacrificially serious about Christ and His gospel which rises light years above just having the truth, we will continue to fail our Wonderful Savior. Forgive all of us Lord, we are in love with our own words and call them Yours.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

STARS Come Out At Full Light Of Day

I recently received a newsletter from the STARS disability ministry at church. It highlighted many of the adult STARS in the ministry who overcame their limitations through Christ who strengthens them.
Specifically, this occurred with the imminent hospitalization of one of their own young women who suffers from seizures, and a stroke, and was about to be admitted to the hospital the morning that STARS holds their annual Disability Ministry Sunday. One of the STARS, Cheryl Newing, just would not let that happen without prayer and supplication to God. More joined in, and as it turned out, the Lord granted the girl an amazing and against-all-odds recovery, and she returned that very morning for the special service!

I am frequently told that we all need to take a lesson from the simple faith of these fine servants of the Lord.
This occurred before I worked in the ministry but I would have loved to be there. Actually, I would have cheered the loudest if I had been there at the time of this faithful prayer for Becca Tally. This is the kind of faith that I--by His grace--possess to some measure, and want to encourage in others.

Let's take another look at the boat in the storm with the panicking disciples and a sleeping Jesus. Lets go back to the God who, in Christ, saw the wind and waves not as threatening, but as an opportunity to display his mighty power that we might believe:):)

It Doesn't Matter!

Who is elected president of the United States, that is.

In one sense, it does matter deeply to the heart of God that righteousness prevail in the hearts of our people, but as far as utopian dreams of the perfect leader leading us into the promised land, forget it.

Unless you mean that Jesus is the leader.

Yep, I mean it. Jesus. Despised and rejected by men. Ridiculed by the religious leaders of his day. Blown off by the rich young ruler. Betrayed by one of his close friends. Whipped and mocked, nailed to a cross, spat upon with sore abuse and scorn.

Forsaken by his beloved heavenly Father.

But check this out: loved by many little children. Clung to by prostitutes, beggars, thieves, and murderers who knew themselves so. The hope of the downcast, the sight of the blind, the reason for the paralyzed man to leap for joy, the awakening from the sleep of death for Jairus' daughter, the son of the widow of Nain, Lazarus, and of course His own glorious resurrection.

Why did I go through all that? So your thinking would be saturated with His glory, and you perhaps would chill out and relax as you wait and pray for the upcoming election.

This same Jesus is in charge. Even if the most vile ruler imaginable was in power, it would still be under his control.

In the days the Bible was written, the people did not elect their rulers. They were stuck with them. There were no "Vote for Herod" stickers on the backs of donkeys.

Who do we think we are complaining about our government? Bellyaching about the loss of our "freedoms?" Don't you believe a word of it. Even if wholesale persecution of Christians to death were to commence, it would actually serve to strengthen the Church. If it doesn't happen, we get to live in this great land with privileges unimagined by our ancestors.

But it won't last indefinitely.

My point is: yes, pray for the elections and for our national leaders, that we may live peaceable and quiet lives in all godliness. (Titus 3). But chill out if your guy or gal doesn't win.

Look to the Leader of leaders, Jesus.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ever Present

I think I saw you there.
While being bathed and cared for
When I was not able to write your name
or appreciate your word

I think I saw you there
When I first tasted ice cream
You made cold a treat
and surrounded me with sweetness

I think I saw you there
Even when I almost drowned
"almost" was my salvation
And you would save again

I think I saw you there
in the tender touch of my father
in a time of illness I would not rue-
to also lose the touch

I think I saw you there
"Oh Happy Day when Jesus washed"
was in the future still
when my ears delighted so

I think I saw you there
The VBS woman in the wagon
would not hasten an unkind word
to a child so wayward of his lessons

I think I saw you there
in every glint of sunlight
despite the passing badness
of youth with no direction

I know I saw you there
and if I only could go back
I would reach out my hand
and take yours
and never let go
to join the richly blessed
and begin with many years advance
a life already eternal bright.

-James E. Quattrochi

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Help Of My Countenance

Specifically, just how does reviewing Scripture with Dave help him? He cannot understand any of the text. He does not fix his gaze on a page, and has not recently used flash cards or pecs cards. He will probably never write a commentary. Well, again you have faith. One of the ways it benefits him is that reading to/participating with him is social interaction which autistic children need to come out of themselves. One can see this in his face. I noticed that he sometimes has a visual lock on me as he lies in bed listening. Another is that by meditating on Scripture, we become more loving people. I will naturally love him and all my family with a faithful love that gives hope in Christ. When the fruit of the Spirit is there, it cheers. And as we work together, it builds relationship, the "stuff" life is made of. Our prayers take on a power and passion that God truly honors as well. May it lead to a ministry of verbal witness to what God has done in Christ!

One of my former pastors wrote a book entitled The Power of Speaking God's Word. I heartily endorse that-- now even to those who do not have the cognitive ability to understand it. There is truly an eternal benefit to David acoompanying me on this journey of memorization.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Dave Rolls On

We got a bluetooth for Christmas:) (see above)
Dave has moved into Isaiah 57 with me. Fruit has been borne from meditations lately. We are able to recall and obey such verses as "Maintain Justice and do what is right..." (56:1) leading to a clean-up concern at the Wayside Cross Store 1/17. I never dreamed life could be this good.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Lu Into Food, Babies, and the Bible

Lu, now 3 1/2, is into dolls, claims to be Cinderella, is married to a handsome prince, and serves tea parties for her baby dolls. She loves to sit in "big church" with her mother. At home, she is also on a regimen of Sunday School Bible stories at night. It is my plan to take her with Joe to Lawndale Community Church in Chicago March 2, to hang with the sistas for the morning.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Joe Gets Into the Scriptures

What began as a personal Scripture memory enhancement program has become a family affair. Joe is now asking to meditate on Scripture! He knows Christ-- the only hope for salvation, and he is drawn like a magnet to Dave and me as we memorize.
If you are reading this, stop and pray for Joe as he continues. A late update, we are working on Psalm 145 together.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Self-defense: Defensible, Sometimes, Maybe

Should I keep a handgun and be prepared to use it? Good question. Unfortunately, I have no satisfying answers. To those raised on the milk of foundational, pat answers my reflections may seem a bit frustrating.
I think it's more a matter of prayer and your conscience.

If you are reading this and living in a rural or mountainous area, I understand your having a rifle to repel wild animals.

Not all of us are wired the same way. Some people are naturally more physically forceful. David was a warrior, yet his son Solomon was a man of peace. And when it came to Jacob and Esau, who would have picked Jacob to be the father of the nation Israel? Genesis 25:27 says Esau was "a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents." If your desire to protect yourself or others leads you to possess weapons, and you are not emotionally unstable, you may prayerfully keep them. Who knows but that shooting to warn or wound might be used to save a life? A few requests, though. First, do not insist that all citizens must bear weapons, or say that those who do not are part of a left-wing conspiracy. If you ever lose control in a fit of rage, do us all a favor and turn in your weapons to the police. Third, pray like anything that you will not have to use them. God is your shield and defender. Don't trust in horses and chariots. Lastly, consider the staggering statement of Nate Saint who, when asked if he would use guns to defend himself against the Waodani tribesmen of Ecuador, said "We can't shoot the Waodani. They're not ready for heaven. We (the missionaries) are."

I personally stand with him, though I am certainly not his equal in magnitude of character.

Ten Lepers Healed, and The One Who Came Back On His Own

I love the story of how Jesus healed the ten lepers in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 17:11-19:

11Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us!"
14When he saw them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were cleansed.
15One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
17Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" 19Then he said to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well."

Did you ever notice that Jesus never commanded the healed man to stop and praise him? The praise sprung up from within him. That, I believe illustrates a very important principle of the spiritual life. Theologians call it a habitus. An indwelling principle of love and worship that unbelievers just don't have. Love is now inhabiting the man's life. If spontaneous affection for Christ arises in your heart at various points, you have this principle, and you may be assured of a saving relationship to Him.

Speaking of Marriage

Jennifer and I attended a marriage seminar graciously provided to us at our church. The speaker was Paul Tripp, president of Paul Tripp Ministries, in Philadelphia, PA. I highly recommend his style, methodology and content for getting to the core of having a great marriage, and all relationships, really.
One of the most salient points was that fights and quarrels come from within each person's heart, and to deal with it by repentance of being your own "king/queen" of your world. Submit to Christ, the real King!
Tripp also gave a freeing portrayal of belivers in marriage being smack dab in the middle of God's plan for sanctification in that relationship. Yes, with all the "incompatibilities" and different wiring and personalities, God is still the awesome creator who makes it all come together as a symphony of his redemptive grace if we are willing for him to do so. Check out

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Learning to Pray for the Disabled

I am a full time minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There is a field right in my house. And even though I work in disability ministry at College Church, my first ministry is 2 doors down from my bedroom.

So you may be asking "How does one pray for a disabled child who communicates in a very limited way, cannot share experiences, or make quality judgments, or tell you he is hot or cold, or that he feels sick, or even pray himself? I tell you, it takes a lot of faith. You have to believe in the sovereignty of God, because only He could arrange circumstances to benefit the child. You have to believe in the goodness of God, because he makes all things beautiful in their time. "Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart, " says Psalm 37:4, was a good verse that gave me wings of faith. Based on life experiences with God leading me to my wife, bringing us children, and a house I did not build nor was really able to afford, I found no problem with praying consistently for Dave. I prayed that God would use him in some way, perhaps unseen or mysterious, for His kingdom. It turns out that God has answered in ways that are rather obvious, a lavish surprise of grace. He has been "memorizing" Scripture for "Project Isaiah" (chapters 40-66) with me as I work through it myself. Now we can trade reciting parts of verses back and forth. We're talking LARGE blocks of the book of Isaiah. The Director of our church's Disability Ministries, Dawn Clark, knows about this, and she and her staff have been blessed. This is all besides the fact that our home has the Word ringing in it very much of the time. I am thinking about the evangelistic possibilities with Dave as well. And as a late update, I asked Dave to recite some of what he knows to our auto mechanic.

All I did was pray consistently. God did it all! I want to state that clearly. Cry out to him and ask him to show you great and mighty things you do not yet know.