Monthly Archives: April, 2011

Struggling for Words–Clinging to Christ: Mountain Mourning

He was emotionally on edge this morning and rightly so.  His store has served as the HQ for the search and rescue efforts after several tornadoes ripped through Dayton Mountain.  Thankfully, Steve and his family were safe.  About a 1/4 mile from the store, a massive tornado an eye-witness described as a mile-wide, destroyed the Smith’s home and farm.  Like Steve, my friendship with the Smith’s was forged when, for a full-year, I delivered their daily newspaper.  Those twelve months on the mountain (every day on the same mountain roads from 4-6AM) endeared me to the people, roads and terrain.  That’s why I felt the compulsion to drive up and see the destruction for myself.  As a result, I stole away for an hour this morning and took HWY 30 from Dayton the bluff overlooking Pikeville.  I found no evidences of the destruction until I approached a spot I remember very well–the dangerious corner mailbox where I needed to quickly deposit the newspaper and get out of the way of on-coming traffic.  It was clear this morning that that section of the moutain received a direct hit.  Hundreds of trees looked as if they had been snapped in half.  One trailer was demolished.  It was a sobering sight.  From there, I made my way to the store.  When I arrived, I found a sheriff’s department road block.  I could go no further to gaze upon the catastrophic results of Wednesday evening without proof that I was a resident of the area.  So, I stopped into visit Steve.  On such a beautiful Spring day, it was difficult to believe the horror experienced by so many less than 48 hours earlier.  Four individuals lost their lives on the mountain.  My friend knows all of the victims.  Tough stuff.  Could I ask you to pray for the Smiths (our friends who lost their home and farm)?  Could I go futher to ask you to pray for the surviving family members of those killed in the storms this week?  Finally, can I ask you to consider helping allieviate the suffering?  One way you can help is to contribute to an offering RCA is collecting for the Smiths.  Perhaps you can make a small donation to the American Red Cross, or specific ministries on the ground in North Georgia or Alabama.  This morning I noticed quite a few volunteers, helping remove fallen trees from yards.  That’s what Americans do. We help our neighbors.  How can you help today?

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Timeless Truths: Storms–Actual and Emotional

Southeastern Tennessee and North Georgia had quite the storm day on Wednesday.  Newscasters repeatedly stated that they simply could not remember such an active day with so many tornado watches and warnings.  I’ve already heard of one storm-related fatality.  There will probably be more.  Actual storms (physical weather events) can be tough.  So can emotional storms.  I’ve got a solution on how to handle both to the glory of God. 

The Question:  How can we react to the unexpected events of our lives in a God-glorifying manner?

The Answer:  Theology.

Shocked?  Let me be more specific:  We can respond to a tough day of enduring physical or emotional storms, the unexpected events of life, by possessing a God-exalting theology.  This is one of the main reasons that I appreciate reformed theology.  Reformed theologians through the centuries have consistently proclaimed a big view of God, stressing God’s sovereignty as well as its’ implications for daily living. 

Contrary to the uniformed opinion of some, what we believe (theology) is important!  For example, our theology of Christ (specifically called Christology)–in a very real sense–determines whether or not we will spend eternity with Him! 

Every Christian is a theologian; either a good theologian or a bad theologian.  Good theologians study the Bible and develop their theological beliefs from the clear statements contained within.  Allow me to return to the doctrine of God’s sovereignty (possibly defined as “God’s right to rule His entire creation”).  Either the Bible teaches an absolute sovereignty of God as American Puritan Jonathan Edwards declared, or it espouses a more limited view, a perspective that God willingly allows Himself to be limited or restricted by human effort or free will.  Deep down, I think all believers have some sense of understanding that if God is indeed God, He remains in complete control of His universe, using men, women and children, as well as strong storm cells to accomplish His good purposes for His great glory, the good of His people, and the in-gathering of the elect (the process of calling more sheep into His fold [Jn. 10:16]).  Here’s a sampling of verses which proclaim that the God of the Bible is MASSIVE:

“O LORD, God of our fathers, are You not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In Your hand are power and might so that none is able to withstand You” (2 Chronicles 20:6 [notice the declaration that God actively rules, not just stating His right to rule]).

“For the LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it?  His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back” (Isaiah 14:27)?

“Also henceforth I am He; there is none who can deliver from My hand; I work, and who can turn it back” (Isaiah 43:13)?

“At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored Him who  lives forever: for His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to  generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and He does according to His will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand or say to Him, ‘What have you done?’ (Daniel 4:34,35 [Now that is an amazing affirmation from a Gentile king!).

I return to my initial question:  How can we react to the unexpected events of our lives in a God-glorifying manner?  Answer:  By possessing a God-exalting theology which has–as its’ foundation–the understanding that God is absolutely sovereign. 

In conclusion:  REPENT (see a previous blog entry on Bible Dirty Words)!  Grow in your knowledge of God (2 Pet. 3:18).  You–Wehse (that’s me BTW)–spend more time in God’s Word!  Read more authors who bleed-Bible.  Believe and proclaim the God is MASSIVE because the Scripture repeatedly makes that claim!  Finally, make sure that your theology has legs!  Apply the truths of the Bible, beginning with the application of the sovereignty of God by trusting Him and not “making mountains out of molehills.”  Stop grumbing and complaining when God’s plan trumps yours!  OK–now that I am finished preaching to myself, examine your recent actions and reactions.  How BIG is your God?  How biblical is your theology?  What is transpiring in your heart when you find yourself caught in the storms of life?

Aiming the Arrows: McDonalds’ Meeting

I’ve seen her before.   If anyone looks like an addict, she does (very thin, hair matted from lack of cleaning, unmarried, emotionally on edge).  Yesterday she was at McDonalds’ to visit her children.  I heard her make a comment on the phone about not being able to visit her children frequently due to not having enough gas money.  I felt compassion for her, and even more for her children.  The scene made me think of the many children who live in less-than-ideal circumstances.  It grieves me to know that the overwhelming majority of the world’s children will never experience what my own children consider to be a normal existence (the stability of a healthy marriage, a Christian environment, needs provided, a safe place to call home, etc. etc. etc.).  How thankful I am today for how much the Lord has blessed my children.  My hope is that one day they will thank Him as well.

Bible Dirty Words: Repent

Many pastors and authors do not like to use the word.  It’s too confrontational.  They prefer, instead, more “warm and fuzzy” presentation of the gospel such as “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.”  Surely you have seen that approach.  It’s almost…“You’ve got a great life; you just need Jesus as the cherry on the top.”  They usually mean well, being deeply burdened for the lost.  But half-truth is probably worse than no truth at all.  I recently found a tract someone placed publicly (not on my desk from my wife).  As I opened it, I immediately went on my search for the word “repent.”  In other words, was the whole gospel being presented, or just part of it.  To my surprise, one entire section of the tract dealt with the topic of repentance.  I quote:  “To repent means: 1) You’ve changed your mind about what you believe and trust in for salvation…2) You’re changed your mind about the direction you want to go in life in relation to sin and Christ.”  As far as religious pamphlets go, this one ain’t so bad. 

This concept of repentance was brought to my attention again Sunday afternoon as I listened to a sermon from Mark Driscoll (I put the link on the bottom of this entry).  The text was Luke 17:20-37 where Jesus challenged His audience to remember Lot’s wife and to not act as the unrepentant did in the days of Noah.  Lot didn’t look back.  He kept moving in the right direction.  In contradistinction, his wife couldn’t resist.  She had to look back on what she held dear and immediately become a condiment.  Later, Lot would be called a “righteous man” (2 Pet. 2:7).  The people in Noah’s day would not listen to the “righteous preacher” (Gen. 6:9).  They perished as well. 

OK–now for a tad of application before I close.  Have you repented?  Have I?  In 1 Thessalonians 2:9, Paul commended the Christians for turning from their idols to serve the living and true God.  In a sense, that describes our responsibility in the salvation process.  I think, however, it is also a good description of our ongoing duty as Christ-followers.  May today find us believing and repenting to the glory of God.

Jump over to the Quick Takes page for a further discussion on repentance.  Here’s the Driscoll link I mentioned:

http://www.marshillchurch.org/media/luke/the-coming-of-the-kingdom

Pleasant Places: NO FEAR

Have you ever seen the No Fear brand?  It’s a nice thought, perhaps, but not a reality.  We all have fears.  Try as I might to help him, my eight-year-old still has a fear of a baseball.  We couldn’t even practice today because of it.  We opened our pool is weekend, and I am afraid of the water temperature!  I am going to begin teaching two courses this week, and I admit that I have a bit of fear again (How will I be received?  Will I teach well?  Is my material really better? etc. etc. etc. [I know…I, I, my…pretty self-centered!).  Well, maybe a little bit of fear is a healthy thing, eh?!  I can tell you, however, that I have absolutely no fear of dying.  Death will have no victory over me.  It has lost its sting because of the life and resurrected life of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:53-57)!  I have mentioned previously that the resurrection of Christ on Sunday has profound implications for my life on Monday.  Today is Monday.  My goal has been to do the right thing, to be productive.  My list included mowing grass at home and RCA, working on my Bryan College courses, taking care of some adminstrative tasks for the school and attending TJ’s baseball game tonight at 7PM.  Throughout it all, I rejoice that fear is an emotion that I rarely experience.  I am blessed.  I live in a safe, litttle town in a free nation.  More importantly, my sins have been forgiven (Paul stated that “the sting of death is sin”  [15:58]).  Because of Christ, I need not fear the unexpected events of my life nor my expected death in the future.  I rest in God’s sovereign care.  Now…if only TJ could do the same when a baseball is coming in his direction!

Thanks for reading!

PS–Shoot!  TJ missed a fly ball in Monday night’s game!  However, the Express won again, improving their record to 5-2!

Reflections on the Quest: A Sunday holiday with Monday implications

Well, another Easter is “in the books.”  It was my twenty-sixth as a believer.  Now it’s time to move on.  But how?  How do we go forward from our celebration of the resurrection of our Lord?  The answer is found at the conclusion of “The Resurrection Chapter”–1 Corinthians 15.  Paul  wrote,

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58).

Therefore–In light of what has just been said about the reality of Christ’s resurrection and its’ implication for believers…

My beloved brothers–fellow Christians in Corinth and throughout the world (1:2)…

Be steadfast, immovable–remain firm in the faith, not shaken by external circumstances due to internal realities made possible by timeless truths (like the resurrection of Christ)…

Always abounding in the work of the Lord–faithfully serving the risen Lord of glory (after His resurrection, Jesus commanded the believers to go into the world with the gospel; in this context, Paul follows this exhortation with instructions on giving)…

Knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain–You are making a difference!  God is being glorified and people are being blessed (since Jesus rose again, proving to be the “first fruits” of our resurrection, our service is worthwile).

What difference does the resurrection of Christ make in our lives today?

The answer to that question lies in this encouragement:  Make a difference in the lives of others because of the resurrection of Christ.

Doctrine (1 Cor. 15:1-54) should lead to doxology (15:54-57) resulting in walkology (the Monday-practice of the Sunday-proclaimed Word).  In other words, if we believe, we should sing God’s praise and serve one another. 

Have a great week!

Passion Perspectives: Saturday Night

Christ is lovely in His sufferings when He makes expiation for our sins. But, what, lovely in His sufferings? Lovely when He was buffeted, spat upon, and smeared with blood? Oh, yes! He was most lovely upon the cross because then He showed most love to us. He bled love from every vein. His drops of blood were love-drops. The more bloody, the more lovely. The more Christ endured for us, the more dear He ought to be to us. Osorius, writing of the sufferings of Christ, said that the crown of thorns bored His head with seventhy-two wounds; and Tully, when he speaks of the  death of the cross, shows his rhetoric best by a silence: “What shall I say of this death?” Though he was a great orator, he lacked words to express it.

Nor did Christ only endure pain in His body, but agony in His soul. He conflicted with the wrath of God, which He could never have done if He had not been more than a man. We read that the altar of wood was overlaid with brass so that the fire on the altar might not consume the wood (Exodus 27:1-2). This altar was a type of Jesus Christ. The human nature of Christ, which was the wood, was covered with the divine nature, which was like brass, else the fire of God’s wrath would have consumed it; and all that Christ suffered was in our stead (Isaiah 53:5). We ate the sour grapes and His teeth were set on edge. We cliombed the tree, we stole the forbidden fruit, and Christ goes up the ladder of the cross and died. Ho, how lovely ought a bleeding Saviour to be in our eyes? Let us wear this blessed crucifix always in our heart. “The cross of Christ,” said Damascen, “is the golden key that opens paradise to us.” 

How beautiful Christ is upon the cross! The ruddiness of His blood took away the redness of our guilt. How lovely are those wounds which wounded the red dragon! When this blesssed Rock was smitten, water came out of it to cleanse us and blood to cheer us (1 John 5:6). “When Christ was on the cross,” said Bernard, “then the vine was cut, and salvation came to us in the blood of the vine.” Oh, how lovely is this bleeding Vine! Christ’s crucifixion is our coronation.

Those are the words of Puritan Thomas Watson (The Puritan Pulpit:  The English Puritans:  Thomas Watson, Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 2004).  I don’t wax that eloquent!  I love the line at the conclusion of the section:  Christ’s crucifixion is our coronation.  Indeed!  Sunday moring you will have the opportunity of gathering with followers of Jesus Christ who love to sing of His glorious resurrection.  Sing with them! 

Happy Easter, and thanks for reading these Passion Perspectives!

Passion Perspectives: Saturday Afternoon

He deserved the death penalty.  And there he hung, stretched out on one of the cruelest execution tools ever invented by man–a cross.  His pain was reaching levels he never dreamt possible.  As it increased, so did his anger.  Not knowing whom exactly to target, he began hurling insults at Jesus. 

“Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us” (Lk. 23:20)!

Before Jesus spoke, however, another voice was heard.  The other criminal began his rebuke,

“Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong” (Lk. 23:40, 41).

Somehow (surely the evidence of the ministry of the Holy Spirit) this man understood the absolute innocence of Jesus.  The criminals deserved their punishment.  Jesus did not.  Talk about an understatement– “this man has done nothing wrong”! 

Then–looking from the other criminal to Jesus–the enlightened man had a request.

“Jesus, remember me when you come into Your kingdom.”

The word had spread.  Jesus claimed to be a king.  The sign above His head announced, “The King of the Jews” (Lk. 23:38).  Undoubtedly confused as to how a king with a kingdom was dying at his side, the man pleaded for grace.  And don’t we love the response he was given?! 

“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Lk. 23:43).

Death.  Glory. 

Consider the following verses written  to all those who would put their faith in the person and works of the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ:

“For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with Him” (1 Thess. 5:9,10).

“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.  I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to dpart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Phil. 1:21-23).

“So we are always of good courage. We know that when we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please Him” (2 Cor. 5:6-9).

The believer who perished on the cross next to Jesus needed just enough faith to die well.  The disciples required quite a bit of faith today–the day between Jesus’ death and resurrection.  We all need faith now as we await the Lord’s glorious return.  As we wait, however, we wait with with the wonderful assurance that our death will prove only to be the doorway to the presence of Christ.  The criminal entered into paradise the moment he died.  The Apostle Paul was convinced that his death would be “gain” due to the fact that he would be “at home with the Lord.”  I enjoy that same confidence as well. 

I hope you are having a great weekend, meditating upon the Lord Jesus Christ!

Passion Perspectives: Saturday Morning

Client:  Jesus Christ.

Date:  A.D. 33 (immediately after His resurrection).

Itinerary

1.  Return to a glorious reunion with the Father. 

2.  Receive adoration and praise from the angels and angelic beings.

3.  Greet the thief who died on the cross next to Him (Lk. 23:43).

4.  Proclaim victory to the captives “in prison” (1 Pet. 3:18-20).*

How’s that for a Saturday?!  Do not think that Jesus was inactive as His earthly body lay silent in the borrowed tomb.  Jesus had places to go, people to see.  The party had begun!  We cannot imagine the depths of His emotions as He returned to heaven to re-establish face-to-face fellowship with the Father.  We unable comprehend the festive atmosphere as the conquering King returned to the City of God (Heb. 11:10, 16).  We can only guess the response of the overwhelmed and fully-forgiven thief as he saw the holy, holy, holy (Is. 6) Son of God greet him, saying, “I told you that you would be with me today in paradise.” 

What a trip!  What a day!

Celebrate Him today! 

*Theologians are divided on their interpretation of 1 Pet. 3:18-20.  Some versions of  the Apostles’ Creed include the line, “He [Jesus] descended into hell.”  I’m not sure where Jesus went.  I am sure of the message.  It was one of victory!  There is not much confusion, however, on 2 Peter 3:18.  I hope that my Passion Perspectives entries this week have helped you to obey that verse!

Walking on Walnut

Homosexuals.  Lesbians.  A disappointing sunset.  My walk on the Walnut Street Bridge with TJ wasn’t exactly what I expected.

It wasn’t a complete wash, however.  TJ was fascinated with the pigeon above our bench that had the genuine potential of dropping a bomb on us. 

I suppose an hour with my second born monster was not a complete waste of time.  We laughed.  We ate ice cream.  We talked about coon hunting.  We listened to a radio show on the way home which discussed the fact that the death, burial and resurrection of Christ was just that–fact. 

And thus–my 2011 Good Friday comes to a conclusion.  I’m tired from a lot of brain work today (I spent several hours preparing for upcoming courses I will be teaching).  Jodi is worn out from physical work both inside and out (we’re hosting an Easter brunch on Saturday).  Hopefully–and I mean this sincerely based upon what transpired earlier this morning–Cascade will not be bouncing on our bed acting like a kitty cat before we are truly ready to get up!   

I hope you have had a good day.