Monthly Archives: November, 2013

Living and Dying Happily in My Comfort – Thanksgiving 2013

Consider today how The Heidelberg Catechism begins.

Q.1  What is your only comfort in life and death?

A. That I, with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, wherefore by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto Him.

Q.2  How many things are necessary for you to know, that you in this comfort may live and die happily?

A. Three; the first, how great my sins and misery are; the second, how I am delivered from all my sins and misery; the third, how I am to be thankful to God for such deliverance.

That is indeed the layout of this great, historic document.  Part one deals with how great my sins and misery are.  Without a doubt, I was a child of wrath (Eph. 2:3).  Part two describes how I was delivered from my sins and misery.  The answer, of course, is found in one proper name–Jesus Christ.  He is–as declared in the first answer of the catechism–“my faithful Savior”!  The third and final part of this confession of faith exhorts me to be thankful to God for such deliverance.  And–I am just that!  I am thankful!

I cannot be more clear than this:  I am not what I once was.  I am not what I shall be.  I am an imperfect child of God being perfected by the Spirit of God using the Word of God.  Born a child of wrath, I have become a child of God (1 John 3:1).  That’s why the past twenty-nine Thanksgiving Day celebrations have proven to be far more significant to me that the first nineteen of my life.  I have been delivered.  I am thankful.

And here’s a brief list–ten reasons for which I am grateful this Thanksgiving:

  • Salvation–A gift I could not earn and can never lose
  • A faithful, loving, productive wife who remains my best friend
  • Four relatively happy and healthy children
  • Full-time employment at a job I enjoy with a boss I respect
  • The opportunity to teach God’s Word on several college campuses
  • Results that my heart is healthy
  • The opportunity to see one of my mentors suffer with authenticity and great trust
  • The news that another baby is on the way
  • Perhaps the best vacation of my life
  • Reconnecting with “old friends” and a “new” church

Gettysburg Address – Happy 150th Birthday!

Thank you, President Lincoln, for an amazing piece of literature!  Thank you for giving “the last full measure of devotion”!

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that this nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

“Become an expert in how good God has been to you.”

I recently heard that admonition from Matt Chandler in sermon based upon Colossians, chapter three.  It’s a good exercise, helping us to keep a proper perspective in such a sin-damaged world.  How often do you make a list of the current blessings in your life?  I don’t do it enough either.  So–with your permission–I’ll take a couple of minutes to do so now.

  • Christ & Salvation–I cannot fathom the hole I would be in today without Jesus.  I could not have, nor would not have, earned my salvation. My justification and sanctification are works of God for His glory and for my good.  And how thankful I am that God perseveres for me.  I am not what I was.  I am not what I should be.  I am not what I will be.  “Thank You, God, for saving my soul. Thank You, God, for making me whole.”
  • The Word of God–The new worldview that I was given in December of 1984 needed a map.  Having grown up without a Bible, you can only imagine how excited I was to be able to read God’s words as communicated through God’s men!  Rarely has a day gone by when I have not fed myself upon the inspired, manna-laden passages and verses of the Scripture.  One of the joys of my life is the opportunity I have to teach the Bible on the campus of a local college.  Sure beats staying home to watch Netflix!
  • My bride–A faithful, loving, encouraging and productive wife is a pleasure beyond my ability to express.  I joked recently on FB that my gazes toward Jodi border upon idolatry.  Sometimes I fear that I cross that line.  Many have been forced to endure singlehood.  Some I know have experienced the life-altering trauma of an unfaithful spouse.  How grateful I am that Jodi Celena Rouse was joyfully willing to change her last name!  As we approach our twenty-third anniversary, I remain “in love” and committed to loving both in word and in deed.  She deserves no less.
  • Five relatively happy and healthy children–Celena, TJ, Dayton, Cascade and Baby Wehse are each blessings from the Lord.  Mind you–they are all sinners and, consequently, cause us and each other much grief.  Yet, how many couples have been unable to conceive?  How many couples in China yearned for a large family but were not allowed to “bear fruit and multiply”?  How many parents have had to bury a young child?  Being afforded the opportunity by God to be the father of these “monsters” is tremendous gift (and responsibility)! I want to be the “Super Dad” one of my tee shirt proclaims me to be.
  • Health–As is obvious, I am not the poster boy example of good health.  On too many occasions, I have valued food over faith and family.  My disdain of exercise since leaving the Army is evident. Yet–in spite of my lack of disciple over the years–Jesus has graciously bestowed to me the health, energy and strength I have needed to work a full-time job and one or more part-time jobs for almost seven years now.  There have been days and weeks in which I did not know if I could lift a finger to do anything productive, but God has been my strength.  Although I am tired, I rejoice that He is not.
  • Provision–We have had “just enough” to survive since our children entered our lives.  During some seasons, we have had a little bit more than enough.  Many months we have had little bit less than enough.  Yet, on the majority of our days, our food, shelter and clothing is not a concern.  God has provided.  He has provided through my employment.  He has provided by the assistance offered by our government.  He has provided by compassionate family members and friends.  And–He has done this knowing full-well that we often do not “Seek first His kingdom and righteousness” (Mt. 6:33).  Millions of people around the globe are hungry today.  We are not. Thank  You, Father, for taking concern for Your children–Your imperfect, weak children.
  • Freedom–I had a dear friend named Doug.  He was a delightfully cranky man who came to saving faith in Jesus later in life.  Doug had served in the military during the Korean War.  Doug loved God, God’s Word, his wife, me and our country.  He knew the United States wasn’t perfect, but he also knew that living in the US sure beat living in China, a nation where personal liberties are the exception, rather than the rule.  As a result, Doug became irritated when he heard individuals complain about our nation and lump us in with all the other nations of the world.  My friend had been around long enough to understand that freedom is a good thing!
  • Safety–Let’s be honest, Dayton, TN isn’t Bogota, Columbia.  The United States isn’t Somalia. Yes, I live in a world marred by sin.  Just about anyone is capable of the unthinkable.  Which mall is next?  Which school shooting will we hear about soon?  Surely the world is getting worse, not better.  But how thankful I am to live in a quiet, sleeply town in Tennessee!  One thing is sure–the good guys with guns completely outnumber the bad guys with guns here!  Peace of mind is a gift from God.
  • Word Press–I do not pay a dime for this website.  Neither am I censored.  My friends at Word Press have allowed me to freely speak my mind, entry after entry; year after year.  I don’t want to take this service for granted.  God has been pleased to use this outlet to encourage many over the past several years.  Thank You, God, for this avenue of ministry.  Thank you, Word Press, for allowing me to speak my heart and my mind.

Thanksgiving is about a week away.  What are your plans?  Time with family?  An annual feast?  Football (Go, Packers)?  Enjoy it all.  However, let me commend you to “Become an expert on how good God has been to you.”  He has not treated us as our sins deserve. I’ll be singing that song for an eternity.

When Work is Worship

Due to the fact that Cascade was recovering from hand, foot and mouth disease, I stayed home with her on Sunday.  My worship that morning looked different than  Jodi’s.  While Jodi gathered with God’s people at our church, I listened to several sermons.  However, as I was listening, I cleaned in the kitchen and made soup for lunch.  At one point–as I was washing some dishes–it dawned on me that something almost mystical had happened.  I had transitioned from work to worship. Or–to put it more accurately, my work had become worship.

I know that I have been commanded to do no less.  Paul wrote, “Whether, then, you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).  In the book of Colossians, he wrote that I am to do my work “heartily.”  Then he added, “as to the Lord.”  My calling is clear.  I am to do the right thing at the right time in the right way for the right reasons.  And, when I live this out, I am engaged in the purpose for which I was created–worship.

My guess is that you are familiar with the opening verses of Romans, chapter twelve.  The Apostle Paul transitioned his readers from theology to application with the principle being described above.

“I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Rom. 12:1).

Life as worship.

Consider the following, posted online by Matt Jury:

“Everything you do in life, whether it is as simple as talking to your children, sitting in your house, or walking down the sidewalk (including all of the attending words, thoughts, emotions, attitudes, and motives), is an act of worship, showing everyone around you how much (or little) you value Christ (see also 1 Cor. 10.31). You worship either Christ or self. There is no aspect of life that does not reflect this worship. Thus, all of life is worship” (See link below).

Does our life compliment our confession or contradict it?  That’s something to consider as another “work week” comes to its conclusion.

http://lifeisworship.com/life-is-worship/

Free Your Inner Nightingale

Pejorism

Have you heard this term before?  At times, I fear it has accurately described me. One of the meanings is “to possess a negative attitude.”  It’s a condition of pessimism. The glass isn’t even 1/2 full.

Slowly read the following poem by one of my favorite poets, Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861). It is entitled Exaggeration.

WE overstate the ills of life and take
Imagination (given us to bring down
The choirs of singing angels overshone
By God’s clear glory) down our earth to rake
The dismal snows instead, flake following flake,
To cover all the corn; we walk upon
The shadow of hills across a level thrown,
And pant like climbers: near the alder brake
We sigh so loud, the nightingale within
Refuses to sing aloud, as else she would.
O brothers vainly, in a plaintive mood,
The holy name of GRIEF!–holy herein
That by the grief of One came all our good.

Perhaps there are both objective and subjective aspects to a poem. If so, it is appropriate to ask two questions while reading a work: What does this poem mean? & What does this poem mean to me? I sought to answer those questions when I read Browning’s words.  I love how it commences: “WE overstate the ills of life…” The capitalized “WE” is Elizabeth’s way of  including herself in the mass of humanity which is naturally prone to constant complaint. I trust you have clearly seen that propensity in  your own life.  I sure have seen it in mine.  “We sigh so loud.”

I listened to a sermon a couple days ago and the pastor told the story of someone on his staff visiting a member of their congregation.  The man is the owner of restaurant.  When the pastor arrived at the restaurant, he asked the man how he was doing.  The man replied, “I am on this side of the dirt eating BBQ.”

Life could be worse.  The nightingale within began to sing.

Has your nightingale been singing lately?  Or, do you need to be reminded of God’s command in Philippians 2:14 – “Do all things without grumbling and disputing.”  Those words of Paul are found within a context which compliments Browning’s last line.

“By the grief of One came all our good.”

In other words, due to the sufferings of Christ, I have been greatly blessed.  I am the recipient of much good.  I need to be thankful for that incredible list!  I need to be positive because all of the positive things which have happened for me and in me and even through me.  I need to allow the nightingale to sing.

“I am on this side of the dirt eating BBQ.”

Mayor of Toronto: It’s time to grow up!

You’ve probably seen the news this week about the mayor of Toronto.  He had to apologize for not being truthful regarding an incident a year ago when he smoked crack cocaine.

Yes; he actually inhaled.

He stated that he “sincerely, sincerely, sincerely” was sorry about it, and that it would never “ever, ever, ever” happen again (I am simply, simply, simply repeating his repeated words)!

I loved his excuse.  It was during “one of my drunken stupors.”  That must be comforting to the citizens of the great city of Toronto!  Your undisciplined mayor admits to having drunken stupors. About a year ago, he also smoked crack.  Then he lied about it. I often why we are increasingly becoming cynical towards politicians.

He does not care what I have to say.  The Mayor does not know I even exist.  But if he did, my message would be simple, simple, simple:

It’s time to grow up!

Seriously; a certain level of maturity is expected out of a man.  When I was a teenager, I had “drunken stupors.”  During my high school years, I smoked pot and experimented with other substances.  But then something radically changed me.  The wind of the Holy Spirit sovereignly blew upon my spiritually dead bones and I was born anew (See John, chapter three and Ephesians, chapter two for how Jesus and Paul describe what I experienced).  I became a Christian.  My worldview of naturalism was replaced with Christian theism.  And, my actions and reactions began to change.  I began to bear fruit.  I began to grow up.  I began to act like a man.

Without a doubt, the Mayor of Toronto needs a supernatural work in his life. Yet, even atheists can transition from frat-life to adulthood.  Should the Lord choose not to redeem this man, my hope is that mature individuals in his life will be able to effectively communicate to him that the time has arrived for him to act his age.

I think the time has come for a lot of men to grow up.  Our world needs more men committed to glorifying God by making a difference in the lives of others.  I want to live that kind of a life.  I want my sons to follow in my footsteps.

Let us heed the words of Scripture:

“Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.”
1 Corinthians 16:33; New American Standard

“Keep your eyes open, hold tight to your convictions, give it all you’ve got, be resolute”
1 Corinthians 16:33; The Message

God, the All-terrible

We are studying the book of Job in church on Sundays.  This morning as our pastor was pointing something out, my attention was drawn to a short passage with a big message.  This is the rendering of Job 25 from The Message:

Bildad the Shuhite again attacked Job:  “God is sovereign, God is fearsome– everything in the cosmos fits and works in his plan. Can anyone count his angel armies? Is there any place where his light doesn’t shine? How can a mere mortal presume to stand up to God? How can an ordinary person pretend to be guiltless? Why, even the moon has its flaws, even the stars aren’t perfect in God’s eyes, So how much less, plain men and women– slugs and maggots by comparison!”

You probably remember the context.  Job’s buddies were offering their advice on Job’s suffering.  In the process, they weren’t very compassionate.  However, their doctrine of God wasn’t completely askew.  They clearly understood that God is BIG.  Bildad’s words above prove that to be the case.

When I was reading this morning in Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain’s memoirs, I came across the following passage:

“The Commander of the Division presiding, – the senior chaplain called beside him. The boom of the great-minute guns beats against our hearts, the deep tones echoing their story of the years.  Catching the last note of the cannon-boom, strikes in the soulful German ballad, with that wondrous ‘Russian Hymn’ whose music we knew so well:

‘God, the All-terrible, Thou who ordainest
Thunder Thy clarion, and lightning Thy sword’

that overmastering flood of whelming cords, with the breath-stilling chromatic cadences, as if to prepare us for whatever life or death could bring” (“Bayonet! Forward”, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Stan Clark Military Books, 1994, p.259).

Chamberlain’s overly-descriptive language isn’t what drew my attention, of course.  It was the appositive employed to describe God.

“The All-terrible.”

Without a doubt, the meaning is not a negative one.  Rather, the hymn writers were teaching that God is great; that He is exceedingly BIG.  He is, quoting Bildad (and Eugene Peterson), “sovereign” and “fearsome.”

Not a bad thing to be reminded of on the Lord’s Day.