Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas and 2009 Year in Review Reflections

Merry Christmas!

But only in the Christ of it. 

Not much else in the world is worth crowing about.  The Senate just passed health care reform that would possibly irreversibly socialize medicine, with implications for the unborn, the disabled and mentally challenged, and the elderly.  The country is more militantly immoral than ever before.  And whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.  (Isaiah 59:15).

A while back I indicated that I had some answer for a workable view for Christ-followers regarding conservative media.  During the year 2009, I spent more time listening to Hannity (the mild one of the bunch), Limbaugh, Levin, and even their Ishmael-ic brother Dr. Savage than at any time in my life. 

OK, here goes.  They are like marathon runners who did not take off with the starting gun.  Real regenerates did follow the starting gun, and run from there.  But these commentators joined in the middle, and provided their own numbered bibs and running gear.  The pull up alongside the regenerates and started seeing the same sites along the road.  Some of the regenerates conversed with them and started running at their pace.  And then they and their conservative co-runners left the race.  Some never came back.  Others got sidetracked for a while, like the Pilgrim in his progress.  The spurious runners had some of the same observations and running zeal as the real marathoners, but they did not start with the organizer's go-ahead, without his equipment girding them--and had a different goal in mind.  Will the marathon Master give them a medal at the sovereignly-bottlenecked finish line?

That is what American political conservatism is like.  These masquerading marathoners hate abortion, intrusive and restrictive government, and laziness.  They champion courage, faith, and integrity.  And that is not wrong.  They also use profanity and crudity, insult each other and the President, and rely on human effort to effect change.  It is just back-door humanism.  And their observations and conclusions evidence a depressed mind without ultimate answers and hope.  Although their goal is a strong and free America, they remain powerless to exalt a nation, like Romans 3 points out. 

America is not forever, nor is it ultimate.  The Word of God is the wake-up call for what really is ultimate, namely the Person of God, evidenced by the work and Word of God.  Although that is not visible oftentimes, it will be.  And we need to fear God and the final judgment, for fear that we run for nothing, and prove to be more of the masquerade.

As Christmas is here and 2009 draws to a close, remember that even though the national "good old days" may pass from sight, we can let that fact sink in to the point where we look to the God of the Ages, who alone is the Sovereign and gracious one who gives good gifts to those who ask Him.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

My Personal Testimony of God's Grace in Facing a Giant

On Sunday morning May 24, I delivered a testimony at STARS Family Retreat about the giant I face. Below is the best reconstruction of that testimony:

"I come to you this morning not in great preparation, but somewhat consistent with the statement by Jesus 'When you are brought before kings and governors on account of my name, take no thought for what you will say. Just say whatever is given you at that moment. For it will not be you speaking, but my Father in heaven.' I know the situation is different, and this verse does not condemn preparation, but God oftentimes prepares me that way.

I guess the concept I came in this morning with is 'Make much of Him, and little of yourself' That will be the guiding principle. There are several verses in the Psalms that highlight the supremacy of God.

But the giant I face is me. Yes, you are seeing right.

The reason I say that is because since I was a child and all the way until now, I believe I have had an undiagnosed but very real cognitive, social, and emotional dysfunction or problem much like Asperger's

This manifests itself in circular thinking, obsessions, lopsided abilities, and social awkwardness. It has led to a lack of professional development. But while this giant is real, so is the grace of God that not only is sovereign over it, but also working through it.

Recently, a series of life-rocking events brought this to a head. One of these in early 2007 was when I pulled into a physical for a job that ultimately did not work out. At the physical, I was discovered to have a blood glucose level of 330. This meant diabetes. Now that was not ultimately a big deal, as a lot of people have type 2. My obsessive thinking and fears, though, led to a dramatic weight loss of 70 pounds in 9 months. This was achieved through medication and a lot of discipline. Around August of 2007, the emphasis on discipline led to memorizing Scripture in the book of Isaiah. To this date, I have memorized 14 chapters.

In December of that year, I found that my autistic son was picking all of this up as I reviewed the verses, and when he was able, we became a team--I would start out the verse and he would complete it. We are talking whole chapters worth! There is no way to overestimate what the Word of God has done for me as I have memorized this book. He has given me insights into virtually every verse--so much so that I can see the Gospel in even the obscure passages not well known to many. I feel that sometimes I could write about this forever. And all of that is to His glory! It is an awesome thing to behold, and now I have a ready resource to share and use anytime I desire. In my jobs, everything is not great yet, but God is using my analytical ability forged in the obsessive thought to write marketing copy and articles for a Christian businessman in the garage door business. My employers really appreciates them You can pray for the ultimate success of that and similar endeavors.

But having a child with autism and another with Asperger's is a serious vexation, and I do not want to minimize that. It is not a place for a circular thinker. Severe depression, anxiety, and despair lurk, as it seems at many times to be unfair. But God has worked in that. When you have no resources and throw yourself on his mercy, great things happen. You know there is a sovereign God when, you are thinking in a circle and getting depressed, and prayer to him in realization of his sovereignty leads to his 'straightening out' the circle to form a straight path. And then you notice that the others are on the path. And they need your insights even as you need theirs. And maybe (no, definitely) we can help each other! I believe this is what the 'one anothers' of the Bible are all about.

I really enjoy and appreciate the beauty of art and music. I see my children as artwork. You know, even as the sun shines on the just and the unjust, it shines on the able and the disabled. I love to see Dave's green eyes with the sun sparkling in them. Even something as simple as that. This speaks to me of God's grace to me and him. And it gives hope in a loving God which sustains me in the tough times with him.

And there are many other ways I could tell you he has ministered to my and my family through this. I am privileged to be here and share this with you this morning."

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I Met My Sister At Starbuck's, and Got Answered Prayer

The funniest thing happened today...

I was at Starbuck's finishing up some morning prayer, and was recently on the subject of Joe and
Lu who are going to M and M Club tonight at Central Bible Church. With my head buried in my hands outside the restaurant, a lady named Sherri, who I had seen oftentimes there at Starbuck's noticed me there, and came over to give me a cup of ice water. She asked me if something was wrong, because I was outside with my head in my hands. I, in total unsophistication, said "I am REALLY into Jesus right now!" I was surprised to hear it when she said she was too! I guess I took a big risk saying that. Someone might have thought I was nuts. But then Sherri said she wanted to pray with me about my kids, too. She went on to say she was saved since age 5, and that she attended Grace Pointe Church in Plainfield. So now I found a sister at the Starbuck's--and all of that as an answer to prayer. I had just gotten done praying that I would be able to show someone at that place what I was so excited about. Also, this is an answer to some prayer we prayed at the STARS retreat for people to come into our lives who would be of assistance with Dave.

By the way, Dave is not doing well right now. He is very agitated and unhappy, and holds up the family with his messes. But God did hear us at the retreat.

So sometimes we see that not all the good fruit from retreats and times of prayer happen all at once, but other times they do! This gives encouragement to keep going and praying, and asking for prayer. Can you do that for my Dave? He will one day see the fruit of it, and be happy.

OK, The Good News Explained

I thought, after the last post I should actually explain how this horrible fate can be avoided--to the glory of the living God.

The best launch point I can think of is this. Something is wrong in the world. We are disappointed, upset, unfulfilled, people get diseases, have fights, broken relationships, broken promises, nations at war, deadly storms, unrest in every corner of the world humans trod--and then you die. God lays down the gauntlet and says it is because of sin. Do you have any other explanation for why everything man hates surrounds us all the time, and tends to pull us to the inexorable grave?

But look at human experience another way. Did you ever witness a sunrise against a purple-streaked blue sky, with a bird chirping for joy in the background. Did you ever see the majesty of a crisp Fall day with the breezes making the multi-colored leaves dance and fall from their position on the tree to the cooled and moistened ground. Have you ever eaten something like ice cream, and felt a sense of pleasure inside. What about family and friends? What about all those birthdays you got at least a card, if not food and presents? Did you get any education? Do you use it today? Did you ever see a baby--maybe your own. Why do they play, eat, and grow? Why do they learn to laugh? Do you think all this is an accident? You have to literally fight off joy with a stick if you choose to believe so.

Choose to believe not only that there is a God, but that He is good. Your believing does not make it so, but it merely allows you to see it. There is more than enough evidence.

So how do you reconcile the two realities--bad and good in the same universe? You can't in one sense, but in another if you believe that God by definition can do anything, then he must have a plan. Look at it this way. "The creation was made subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of one who subjected it. In hope that this flesh itself may be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious liberty of the children of God." (Romans 8).

God has a plan to right all the wrongs in the universe, most importantly, sin--even yours. That's why I did the last post. Everything else he does in all creation is gravy. Bless God, he is going to "deck the halls" in anticipation of all who come to heaven. (Read Revelation 21-22).

So do you see what God is up to? You admit that you cannot help yourself. If He is the great Architect of the New Heavens and New Earth, he is also the only one who can fit you for it.
So you believe His promise. "All the Father gives me will come to me, and him who comes to me I will in no case cast out (John 6:37)." Don't get discouraged by the statement about "being given to the Son by the Father." This will make sense in due time. If you are perplexed, go to Matthew 11:29. "Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." And throw yourself on him as your only hope of forgiveness for the sin that caused all this mess.

You may find yourself seeing the Cross event with new appreciation at this point. Good. That is exactly where God wants you. Jesus was crucified for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. (check out Isaiah 53:4-6), and did really come out of the tomb. I assure you, it will all make sense by a miracle, and by nothing less. At this point, you are ready to jump!

You must stay close to him and the Bible at every point, every day--and what a joy it is to those who are inclined thus. Not to secure your salvation, but to remain aware of it, and thereby demonstrate it, however mysteriously. That is what the New Testament letters of Paul and others are about. There is a whole bunch to learn--and to unlearn at this point. But if God has begun a good work in you, he will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).

I hope and trust this is helpful. And if you have any questions drop me a line, or go to other websites like, for example.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Dangerous Days Indeed--But Not Yet THE Dangerous Day

With the occurrence of 9/11, the American outlook on life changed. Now we faced the prospect of a terrorist attack at any time. Almost eight years have been logged since then, and we have not to this date experienced anything like it.

September 11, 2001, however, has faded into the distant memory of many. We are still telling ourselves that life will continue to exist as it has, and we can settle in and take our ease.

Some of us, however, know better. In the past few years alone, I believe we have seen the single greatest leap into iniquity ever. We now have a President who condones infanticide if the mother wants it that way. We are having to fight drug wars, pirates, terrorists--only we are now appeasing people like this. Homosexual marriage is becoming legal in more and more states. Crime is becoming more random, more senseless, and more violent. The concept of a father in the home is now laughable. Illicit sex is everywhere. I could go further down the laundry list, but grab a newspaper and enjoy.

Billy Graham once remarked "If God does not destroy America, he might have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah."

I know what some are thinking. You are just a fundamentalist ranting on and on and trying to force your view of morality on everyone. Ok, go ahead. Reject it. You can deny this only so long.

Isaiah 57:11 "Is it not because I have long been silent, that you do not fear Me."

One day the heavens will open up. The One we pierced will descend in the clouds. You won't be able to deny that. Imagine standing in a line, a judgment line, you cannot escape. Something is terribly wrong. You are probably surrounded by angels with swords. You cannot resist their power, let alone the power of the One they serve.

Closer and closer you draw. Now you are standing before him. His face is enough to vaporize you with anger. He opens the books and asks you to give account. You have nothing to say but "guilty." And there is no counsel for the defense. You know what the sentence is. This is THE Dangerous Day.

Man oh man, don't miss this. Grab the Gospel of John. Read it through and ask God to show you if these things are so.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Take On Race Relations-- "What God unites, man cannot divide, what man tries to unite will invariably divide."

Controversial, right? I guess it is as old as the Fall itself.

Right at the very outset of salvation history, mankind was divided. Cain hated Abel because Abel was righteous, and we know what happened.

Man tried at the Tower of Babel to unite--but it was an insult to God, the only true ground of union. So they were scattered.

Beginning with Abraham, God set in motion a plan to bless all the nations of the earth. Radical thought, especially as God was about to declare that Israel was his plan to do so.

As time progressed, the Israelites became proud, and did not take God seriously. So they went into exile. They hated the Gentiles captors, and the Gentiles hated them.

Even Pilate made sure that Jesus had a sign over his head at the cross "The King of the Jews," in mockery of the people he felt were inferior.

After the resurrection, Paul and other apostles began to write about the new unity they have in Christ, where there is "No Greek or Jew, Circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and in all." (Galatians 3:28) This is the greatest news for race relations, yet today it is yawned at, passed over, and drowned in what I believe to be an unbelieving fog of nonsensical, unbiblical race talk.

We expect the common unbeliever to judge people on the basis of race. The church should not, yet it does. There are Christian colleges which, in the name of creating racial harmony, show videos of secularized race forum discussions. These include swearing, and bitter, angry people venting their spleen about their group's discrimination. And the not-so-subtle message rammed down the throats of students and staff is "accept this view, or face wrath." No, your oneness with someone in Papua New Guinea or Iceland who is saved is REAL the moment you believe!! Or else what do the passages in Galatians, Ephesians, and Colossians mean? God specifically removes the barriers, racial, national or otherwise. Otherwise, Luke wasted a lot of ink in the book of Acts showing how Peter had to be compelled by God to accept a dinner invitation from a Gentile.

Therefore I believe that anyone who has an unchecked view of man as divided by race, and seeks to aggravate that or "get even for their people" is exercising unbelief, and should examine themselves as to whether or not they are Christians.

Philosophically, lurking behind any race-sorting attitude is a collectivist perspective that Karl Marx has been able to pass off for 150 years now, and counting. When you get saved, you are light in the Lord. We don't need Karl Marx, or Friedrich Nietzsche or anyone else to inform us how to relate to one another. The cultural changes in the 1960s saw philosophical borrowing from Marx--the strong and the weak, the rich and the poor--and they are at irreconcilible odds.

By the way, Civil Rights legislation and awareness in the 1960s was a good thing, and I see it as a necessary coming-of-age in our nation's history, consistent with the historical stream of "liberty and justice for all."

But most of us late Boomers and Generation X never knew any other world than one with race, class, gender, etc. divisions. And we had it rammed down our throats that man is the primary agent to fix this.

But the Bible says the problems are spiritual, and the only real groups are the saved and the unsaved. Does that sound like mid-twentieth century Fundamentalism? Tough. Sit and let that sink in for a second.

What all this means practically is that we can only relate to one another as individuals, for the space and time God appoints for us to intersect. If I condemn or judge you on a geographic or cultural, or racial basis, or whatever, I am sinning against YOU. And likewise, you are sinning against me if you do the same. God will settle all national scores, believe me. Only let us be just to one another now, while it is still called Today.

All you regenerates out there have no excuse. To anyone who does not accept the religion of God through Christ alone, please read some of my other posts where the Gospel is explained.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Further Clarification on Pacifism/Guns

I guess it is possible to assume from a previous post that I have pacifist leanings. But recently, in my son's "reading book" published by an Anabaptist source, a story came up which took the didactic posture that calling the police on someone who commited or would commit a crime against you constitutes disobedience to God. Further, it was deemed to be sin if somebody locked their doors at night, as this evidenced a lack of faith in the protection of God.

Now before I start, I would say that there are, admittedly, cases where seeking justice against an offender is not the best course. What if your victimizer is close to repentance, for one possible example?

The issue is not as simple as all one perspective or another. Again, be like Solomon and pray for wisdom. Ecclesiastes 4 is again the governing principle. To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. Having said that, I believe there are more dangers from a passive response than a justice model. If you do not seek justice, you may live with anger the rest of your life. And the wrath of man does not work the righteousness of God. Are any of us prepared to carry that anger the rest of our days?

When my son was younger, I had a practice of occasionally omitting punishment from him when it was due. This was to teach to concept of Grace. My hope was that he would experience the feelings of lack of justice, and understand that God dealt justly with our sin at the cross, and on that basis, can forgive us. But that did not mean that, most of the time, I took a lenient position with him.

Of course, we face that old "what if he/she does it to somebody else" question. If you believe that is a real possibility, then it almost seems immoral not to seek justice. So again, my answer is going to be frustrating to the "binary" mind that only wants one definitive answer once for all, in all situations.

For once in my life, I did not try to explain all of this to my 11-year old. Let him grow up and at least become a teenager before he tries to tackle biblically-derived ethical questions. Right now, that is like trying to have him bench press 400 pounds. We are just not going to read the aforementioned story. That is not a cop-out. That is parental wisdom, preparing the mind of my son in accordance with the way he should go.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Roping and Tying the Straying Life

Does anybody else resonate with that? It is so easy to go astray from reality. Specifically with me, it has been in the area of listening to conservative talk radio. Yep. You read correctly.

The basic philosophical problem with conservative media is not that it calls government overspending immoral, detests abortion, insists on citizens taking personal responsibility for their lives, and favors family values. The problem is that without a unifying life principle, all of it falls apart and is impossible to keep. This kind of media still does not look at man as fallen, and in need of restoration to a PERSON, God, through Jesus Christ. It can't do that. It still cannot call one religion superior to all the rest. Still politically incorrect.

Our pastor at church doesn't play that way. Recently he preached on Galatians 1 and highlighted the curse on anyone with any other gospel. He set forth the thought that it is either the Gospel or a curse. Do we get it practically. Do I get it? Everything, yes everything in our experience mitigates against the simple gospel. Even conservatism. Did not the Pharisees prove that?

I believe people's consciences really do have a sense that many of the conservative principles are right. I myself, feel a lot better when I work for my own money rather than having government handouts, for example. But it is possible to be centered on the principles and not the person of Christ.

What all this means is philosophically, in my estimation, is the needed ability not to separate relationships from principles. Principles serve relationships, and are meaningless apart from them. (by the way, I also think children get dysfunctional not because their parents have no rules, but because they are starved for the meaning brought to them by healthy relationship) God gave the law so we could know God, not so that we could simply walk around with lists we rigorously keep.

How then should we evaluate "conservative" media? The answer may have to wait. For my part, I am taking a month-long fast from listening to any media, conservative, liberal, or otherwise. Time to focus on implementing the principles and laying the groundwork for actually doing them in the context of a relationship with Christ and his church.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Dave Again Knows More Than We Think

Our friend Janet Swanson helped Dave recently in Sunday School, and Dave was told to color Lazarus in the picture. He then went through and colored Lazarus in all the pictures in the little book about his resurrection. One step closer to connecting about Jesus. Be encouraged, all you in disability ministry.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Book Review: The God-Centered Life, By Joshua Moody

As a New Year's determination, I began the year by reading Josh Moody's book "The God-Centered Life." I believe it is an outstanding book for several reasons.
One is it's even-handed approach to Christian history. Jonathan Edwards, doubtless, would not be flattered by people forming a neo-Edwards revival. In his analysis of the contributions of the great 18th century preacher and philosopher, Moody steers clear of the jaded, tired tactic of taking up the writings of historical figures as a club against modern Christianity. Instead, he notes both the greatness and the failings of Edwards in such a way that you can appreciate him as a man of God, yet remain Christ-loyal above all. And yes, there are some failings to report.
Moody cautions us not to harp on these, but appreciate the harshness of public ministry, and remember what it means and costs to carry the Scriptures with such brilliance and force as Edwards did. Also very memorable is the emphasis on setting Edwards in his historical context, thus freeing us from the needless pangs of trying to recreate life as it was in the Great Awakening. Moody does a great job showing a great example of a man who, though reputed to spend 13 hours a day in his study, was nonetheless a great father and husband of renown to his beloved Sarah. While accurately portraying Edwards as a cessationist, he shows that that label need not mean he was a preacher who marginalized the supernatural or attempted to squelch true and vibrant worship, provided that true fruit accompanied it. The "Sense of the Heart" is a badly needed concept today, as it explains just how God transforms people into lovers of Himself. Moody gives this concept a fair shake, and challenges us to see the glory of God with new eyes of faith, thus freeing us from the domination of self-centeredness. If you want to be challenged--yes, revived--I highly recommend this book for a balanced uplifting of heart and mind. For best results, read it sometime after or before re-reading Piper's "Desiring God." And, I might add, Dr. Moody is now my senior pastor. I am truly blessed.