I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Happy New Year! Thanks for walking with me over the past twelve interesting months yet again!
Here’s a quick fly-over from our year together:
One year of serving at Grace on worship team, AWANA, nursery, teaching adult SOD!
10th Anniversary of teaching on the collegiate level!
25 Years of Marriage!
Teaching Romans at Church!
Cubs win! Cubs win!
Trump won! Trump won?!
Thanksgiving & Christmas Day!
God’s provision through our jobs!
Plus Celena, TJ, Dayton, Cascade & Cadence!
What a year! Did I miss anything big? It has been a rather eventful year for me personally (25th wedding anniversary and the anniversary of my 10th year teaching college students). It has also been a full year for us as a family (puppies, school, vacation). Without a doubt, we have experienced the grace and mercy of God. No, the year has not been without its challenges (I think of TJ’s health issues, raising a toddler, and the sins of seven people living together under one roof). But we would be sinful to complain as day #365 rapidly approaches its conclusion. The Lord has not treated us as our many, many sins deserve. We have been greatly blessed and we are looking forward to living 2017 together. But first…
“The true meaning of Christmas is to cheer people up during a cold and depressing time of year. That means lots of food, getting together with family and friends, giving each other gifts, being kind to others, and helping those in need.”
Those are the thoughts of blogger, atheist and humanist Staks Rosch in a 2013 article on The Huffington Post blog (see link below). He continued:
“Whatever excuse you want to use to celebrate the winter season is great. Jews celebrate a day’s worth of oil that lasted eight nights. As excuses go, that’s pretty weak, but if it makes people happy, great. Celebrate long-lasting oil, the tilt of the Earth’s axis, the birth of a mythical figure, a funny episode from a sitcom, the Flying Spaghetti Monster (sauce be upon him), Human Light, or even Star Wars Life Day. Whatever you celebrate, have a happy holiday season.” He concluded with a tribute to the famous and now deceased Christopher Hitchens (a hero to all those who hate religion).
As you might imagine, I do not appreciate Mr. Rosch’s comments. In particular, I think he is a bit naive to state that Jesus was a mythical figure. Even the Jewish historian Josephus acknowledged that Jesus actually lived when we believe that He did.
Jesus truly was a Jewish man, born in Israel over two thousand years ago. The real question is whether or not He was who He claimed to be. One of the men that walked with Him for three years was from the fishing village of Bethesda located on the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee. His name was Peter. As Peter sensed the end of his life approaching, he wrote two letters. We know them as 1 & 2 Peter. In his second epistle, he wrote the following:
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty (chapter one, New American Standard Bible [NASB]).
Another eye-witness stated it this way:
14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth (John, chapter one, NASB).
Several years later, the same author would write the following to one of the early congregations:
What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life (1 John 1:1; NASB).
If the New Testament is clear about anything, it is that Jesus of Nazareth walked among us!
However, in order to believe what He claimed about Himself and what others (Peter, John, Paul, etc.) taught, you must be given a gift–the gift of faith. Knowledge takes us to a point. Faith completes the journey. But faith, according to the Scripture, is not something we can create ourselves. It is a gift, given by God (Ephesians 2:8). And, I contend, it is the greatest gift one could receive!
Have you received it?
Have you asked God for it?
You may be content to be–like the atheist author quoted above–an unbeliever. Please know, I am not more intelligent than Mr. Rosch. In fact, he could probably run circles around me intellectually and defeat me in an argument with one arm tied behind his back. But I have received something he has not–the gift of faith. It really is that simple. I was given a gift and I opened it. I believed. That’s why Christmas is more to me than “lots of food, getting together with family and friends, giving each other gifts, being kind to others, and helping those in need.” Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate all those activities mentioned! BUT I APPRECIATE JESUS CHRIST EVEN MORE!
And that is what makes my Christmas worth celebrating.
For another perspective than the one offered by The Huffington Post, consider:
Chattanooga recently witnessed a horrific event. A bus carrying grade school students crashed, killing six and injuring many others. Words cannot express the grief experienced by so many in the community following the accident. On the next day, I was listening to a talk radio station out of Chattanooga. The host of the show that morning encouraged everyone of every faith to find a place to get alone and pray. He went on the state that individuals who were not religious should think positive thoughts because, like prayers, they make a difference. He even mentioned that it was a proven phenomenon.
I would question the validity of whatever study was performed.
My positive thoughts will not improve your negative day.
Without a doubt, I can bless you if I communicate to you (face-to-face, email, Facebook, text, etc.). If you know that I’m in your corner, that can make a world of difference. But my simply thinking kind thoughts about you or for you isn’t going to assist one bit.
I know what you’re thinking: “The force isn’t strong with this one.” Exactly! I reject the new age spiritualism adopted by the talk show personality who described himself as a Christian–Druid–Universalist (I’m serious).
Thankfully, we do not need to resort to an Americanized form of eastern mysticism when we, our loved ones, or strangers are suffering. The triune God listens to His people when they pray! He condescends to hear the requests of those to receive His Son. And, hallelujah, He answers in the affirmative far more than in the negative. In other words, His children hear “Yes” much more than they hear “No”!
Knowing this, how often should we pray? Paul commanded us to “pray continually” and be devoted to prayer (1 Thess. 5:17; Col. 4:2). Jesus instructed us to pray specifically and repeatedly (Luke 11:1-13). And we should especially pray when we learn of tragedies such as the bus accident in Chattanooga. God is everywhere and He is all-powerful. He can assist and comfort those in great sorrow and, most importantly, He can draw people to Himself through very dire circumstances.
The fact that we do not pray more reveals a very inadequate theology if not a very small faith.
This is a remarkable story. It is entitled, Dollywood Employee Finds Burning Bible Page After Wildfires (Travis Dorman, author).
“As soon as I got down on the ground, I noticed it was a Bible verse, and I was like holy crap,” McCord said in a phone interview on Tuesday night. “It was in a puddle of water. I said, ‘I want to take care of this the best way I can,’ so I gently scooped it up and carried it out the best I could.”
McCord, 24, sat on the bench where he found the paper, and called Carver over. Their work partners, Dollywood wardrobe manager Angela Davis and employee Kimberly Moore, had left to go to the restroom, McCord said.
In silence, the pair pored over the page, the edges of which were burned black, rendering many words illegible. But parts of the right side of the page were preserved enough to get the message across: it perfectly reflected, McCord said, the tragic natural disaster that had thrust Gatlinburg and Sevier County into the national spotlight the night before.
“O Lord, to thee will I cry: For the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and the flame hath burned all the trees of the field,” the page reads, according to a picture of the page posted on McCord’s Facebook.
“At first, we didn’t know what part of the book it was from,” McCord said on Tuesday night, “but we saw bits and pieces about fire and scorching the land, and how the beast groaned and roared for help.”
The page appears to be from the first chapter of Joel from the King James version of the Bible.
“We were like this is unreal, this is unbelievable,” McCord said. “When we had both fully read it, we looked at each other — and I will never forget this moment — we both burst into tears. I was ghost white, and we just prayed. There was nothing else to do.
“Still to this moment, almost four hours after the fact, I don’t have words for it.”
McCord posted a photo of the charred Bible page on Facebook, and four hours later, he was contacted by Dollywood public relations workers who told him the post had been shared more than 50,000 times. McCord had no idea, he said: His Facebook showed less than 1,000 shares.
McCord wasn’t a highly religious man prior to his discovery — he didn’t go to church every Sunday or read the Bible often — but he said he has a relationship with God that shapes his morals and how he treats other people. He was impacted by the discovery because he said he knows several co-workers who lost their homes in the chaotic blaze. He intends to frame the Bible page, and now, he said he may re-examine the role religion plays in his life.
Angela Davis, reached by phone on Tuesday night, corroborated McCord’s story, saying when she returned from the restroom, she saw him with the Bible page. It was burned, brittle, wet and in two pieces, she said. Kimberly Moore also corroborated the story, recalling the same details as Davis and McCord. Misty Carver did not immediately return requests for comment.
McCord said he knows people may doubt the truthfulness of his story. He emphasized he is not an official spokesman for Dollywood, and he does not speak on behalf of the park or its employees. He just wanted to share the story to give people hope.
“I wanted to share this message because it brought me to tears. I wanted to share this message because I think that faith and hope is very powerful in a situation like this. There are hundreds of people that are displaced and that have lost their homes. Most of these people will cling to faith. By no means was I trying to get social recognition. … I would say to anyone who wants to call it fake, call me. Please call me. It is something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
The article above, quoted in its entirety, is from The Knoxville News Sentinel website on November 30th. Here’s the link:
You can probably guess what stood out to me. “He said he may re-examine the role religion plays in his life.” Wouldn’t we all?! We should especially do so after considering the context of Joel, chapter one. God had come in judgement and, as the prophesy continues, the Lord will do so again in the future.
When was the last time you read this short Old Testament book? If it has been a while, you might think of this as a nudge to do so! As you read it, pay particular attention to the warnings (like “awake…weep…wail” [1:5]). There is indeed an appropriate way in which to respond to God’s judgement and/or discipline. There is also a way in which to live in light of the coming “day of the Lord” mentioned by Joel. Like the young man who found the burned Bible page, we should re-examine the role religion plays in our own lives. More specifically, we should live today in such a manner that we are prepared when God’s wrath is truly realized. And, there is no safer place to be than in His Son–Jesus Christ!
I was heartened to hear of God providentially working in such a way that Mr. McCord found part of the Scriptures. It is understandable that he and his co-worker burst into tears when they made the connection from what they were experiencing to what they just read. But I very much hope that this is just a beginning, a re-birthing time for their relationships with God. May the story also be used in our lives to help us examine our own spiritual health (or lack thereof). Remember–not everyone survived the fires in the area.
PS-Please be praying for those who have lost loved ones and for those grieving from losing important and sentimental possessions (homes, pets, photos, etc.).
If you have studied the history of the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States, you most assuredly have seen the name of William Bradford. He was one of the leaders of the group that sailed the treacherous waters of the Atlantic on the Mayflower.
Bradford was a member of the separatist movement in England and part of the segment which decided to head to the New World. His wife, Dorothy joined him. Their young son remained behind due to safety reasons. Sadly, Dorothy would fall from the ship and drown just prior to the landing in Cape Cod in 1620. Bradford would be elected governor of Plymouth after the death of John Carver and was re-elected every year thereafter. He remarried in 1623 to a widow named Alice Southworth. They would have three children.
In 1630, he began writing Of Plymouth Plantation. It’s a bit of a tough read if you are not well-verse in original King James-ish English (not the cleaned-up, modernized English in the King James Bible you may read at home). Honestly, it’s both boring and fascinating at the same time. What really stands out the me, however, is Bradford’s vibrant faith in Almighty God. Consider the following:
I may not here omit how, notwithstand[ing] all their great pains and industry, and the great hopes of a large crop, the Lord seemed to blast, and take away the same, and to threaten further and more sore famine unto them. By a great drought which continued from the third week in May, till about the middle of July, without any rain and with great heat for the most part, insomuch as the corn began to wither away though it was set with fish, the moisture whereof helped it much. Yet at length it began to languish sore, and some of the drier grounds were parched like withered hay, part whereof was never recovered. Upon which they set apart a solemn day of humiliation, to seek the Lord by humble and fervent prayer, in this great distress. And He was pleased to give them a gracious and speedy answer, both to their own and the Indians’ admiration that lived amongst them. For all the morning, and greatest part of the day, it was clear weather and very hot, and not a cloud or any sign of rain to be seen; yet toward evening it began to overcast, and shortly after to rain with such sweet and gentle showers as gave them cause of rejoicing and blessing God. It came without either wind or thunder or any violence, and by degrees in that abundance as that the earth was thoroughly wet and soaked and therewith. Which did so apparently revive and quicken the decayed corn and other fruits, as was wonderful to see, and made the Indians astonished to behold. And afterwards the Lord sent them such seasonable showers, with interchange of fair warm weather as, through His blessing, caused a fruitful and liberal harvest, to their no small comfort and rejoicing. For which mercy, in time convenient, they also set apart a day of thanksgiving. . . .(See reference below).
Those of us living in the Southeast, USA can relate to the need of rain! Many of us are praying regularly for it. Thankfully, like the Puritans, we believe that while God is completely sovereign, He does indeed both hear and answer prayer!
I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
Those are the comforting words from Psalm 121. God bids us to pray. We pray. He answers.
“Behold, now, another providence of God. A ship comes into the harbor,” wrote Bradford. I trust that we, too, can say that we have seen and experienced “another providence of God” after “another providence of God” during the first eleven months of this year. God has not treated us as our many, many sins deserve.
And we give thanks.
Yes! Another goal completed for 2016! Blog entry #700 was completed as soon as hit my “Publish” button!
Believe me when I state that I had no idea if I would continue posting my thoughts on this WordPress site when I started! I enjoyed writing, and I liked the thought that my kids would have an additional avenue by which to learn about whatever it is I consider to be important.
Now–with the number 1000 in my sights (probably six years away), I believe I shall continue. My hope is that my children and, possibly, future grandchildren will be encouraged by what they read. The majority of my posts are my personal interactions with Scripture. Some include my observations from what I see in our culture. Still others might be described as my commentary on the news of the day. Regardless, I hope that all who read are encouraged to examine the claims of God’s Word.
Have you considered writing? There are many forums which would allow you to share your faith and what you believe others would benefit from reading. I’ve got my blog. A friend of mine writes books. Another friend is a poet. Many still keep diaries.
As I consider my family tree, I do not have any written proof that any of my forefathers were genuine followers of Christ. And, we know very little of what they did or what they thought. Simply put, they lived and they died. The only legacy left was their biological children. That cycle stopped with me. It took a miraculous work of God, of course. He invaded my life–unannounced and uninvited. And one of the results is that I very much care that there truly is proof to convict me of being a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am on a mission to communicate to those who will walk in my footsteps, those who will bear the name “Wehse.”
I would encourage you to consider your own legacy today. What will you leave for tomorrow? Think on it.
And thanks for stopping by the blog.
Number 700! Bam!
I have two admissions to make. Now that we are several days removed from the historic election which took place on Tuesday, my guess is that I am probably not going to lose friends over my admissions. Hopefully, you won’t even be upset with me (or “unfriend”me!).
Admission #1: I did not vote for Donald Trump. Although I am a long-time registered Republican, I could not bring myself to vote for the Republican nominee this year. As you might imagine, I did not vote for Hillary Clinton either. After doing my research, I decided to vote for a candidate you probably never heard of: Mike Smith. Smith, a conservative independent, received 7,244 votes in TN. I am not sure of his total nationally, but he didn’t come close in vote count to Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson (the third place finisher). In short, my vote (I trust, like yours) was a conscience vote. And, because I live in Tennessee, I had the freedom to “let my conscience be my guide.” Tennessee was going to vote for Trump on a massive scale. Everyone knew it. Final results have 61% in favor of Trump; 35% for Clinton. Had I lived in North Carolina, however, my decision would have been different. I would have voted pragmatically. The state was up-for-grabs and I would have felt the need to “take one for the team” by voting for the platform. Thankfully, enough voters turned out to put the state in the red (51%-47%). So, for the first time in my voting lifetime, I voted for a 3rd party candidate. It felt odd and good at the same time! But I can tell you this now: I am really hoping I can vote for Donald Trump in the 2020 election. I hope he proves himself to be an effective and wise leader who acts and reacts rationally, not with some of the knee-jerk decisions we all saw during the campaign. And that leads me to my second admission.
Admission #2: I am going to pray more for President Trump than I have for any other president in my lifetime. I’ve prayed for our leaders in the past, but not to the extent that I am committing myself to now that Mr. Trump won this year’s election. I’m not exactly sure why, but I feel as if God will genuinely hear and work through my prayers (something I should always believe) and that this man especially needs my prayers. He needs wisdom. He needs self-control. He needs discerning counselors. And–I want the freedom to live my life without harassment. Consider these words from the Apostle Paul,
First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.
Those words at the beginning of 1 Timothy, chapter two, give us a great rationale for praying for President-Elect Trump and our government, doesn’t it?! We should indeed pray for wisdom for our leaders and self-control and for God to provide for them godly and wise counselors so that God is glorified and we are blessed. Without a doubt, we desire to be able to lead a peaceful, drama-free life marked by personal holiness and honorable behavior.
Here’s how The Message renders the passage:
“The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live.”
I won’t ask who you voted for on Tuesday. But I am tempted to ask if you are going to join me in regularly (if not daily) praying for our president and our leaders. They need Christ and we can bless them by obeying our Lord!
Several years ago, I buried “family devotions.” After years of chaos, dealing with grumpy babies or disinterested children, I put an end to the misery.
(I can only imagine what you think of me at this point! I can kiss goodbye any hope I may have held for a future leadership position in any Christian institution. I must be a pagan.)
Our family no longer sits down in an official capacity to read the Bible, discuss our readings and pray. And, O, what a relief it is!
Did you know that you actually cannot prove the concept of “family devotions” from the Bible? Seriously, there isn’t a verse commanding fathers to gather their children in the living room after dinner for an hour at-home church service. Instead, we find the admonition to parents to consciously, and often, instruct their kids in the truth of God’s Word. If you’ve been around Christianity for any length of time, you know which passage I am about to quote.
4 “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Isn’t that the Scripture you anticipated me mentioning?! Deuteronomy 6:1-9. Here’s Eugene Peterson’s rendering of the same passage in The Message:
4 Attention, Israel!
God, our God! God the one and only!
5 Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that’s in you, love him with all you’ve got!
6-9 Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates.
God’s Word through His servant Moses is rather clear regarding the responsibility of parents, isn’t it?! The truth of the Word of God needs to be an integral part of child-rearing. That looks differently in all of our families, but instruction in the fear and admonition of the Lord should be experienced in each. How does it look for us? Well, Sunday morning we all attended Sunday School and church together. Each night Jodi prays with the younger children. Last night Dayton and I discussed the events and individuals of the Protestant Reformation. Tomorrow night our kids will be involved in AWANA or the youth ministry at the church. And then there are the day-to-day conversations like what took place yesterday evening. Jodi took four of the kids to a local camp for an activity (I won’t use the word “Halloween”). Dayton is a bit anti-social like his father so he wanted to stay home. I remained back with him and used it as an opportunity to bless my amazing wife by doing her laundry and working in the kitchen. And I also spoke with my son about what motivated me to do so. I informed him that I was “on mission” and challenged him to do the very same all of his life.
To glorify God, bless people and prepare for eternity.
That’s why I do what I do. But you know that I often fail in the process. Dayton has his struggles as well. Yesterday he allowed his sin to reign for a while and his mother and I had to reprimand him. I spoke with him about repentance and our need to stop the wrong, apologize, and begin the right. When we realize that we are off mission (or when someone clearly points it out to us), we need to change our course! If that isn’t an application of the Deuteronomy passage, I’m not sure I know what is.
Now at this point some might object, saying, “That’s all the time in God’s Word you are providing for the children?” Officially, it might be. But I am comforted by two other pieces of the puzzle on the board. The first is the curriculum we utilize in their education. Classical Conversations aptly weaves in the reality of the existence of God in their materials and practice. Secondly, I write articles on this blog for them. Sometimes I’ll read an entry to them, hoping something sticks as a result. Mostly, I hope they will read them after I am gone and be encouraged by my passions and by my reflections upon the Bible and life.
I won’t ask you what you think of our approach to raising our children. But I would sure welcome your prayers for us! We are not perfect parents! You could not count the number of our mistakes over the years! Most assuredly, we will make some today. But, we’re trying! And we’re pointing them repeatedly to Christ. And–hopefully–our example is more positive than negative.
Raising kids is hard. In fact, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I am grateful today that the one Lord whom we love has given us His words and He is BIG enough to water and grow the many seeds we are planting. That truth gives all parents hope.
PS–Can you believe I called my kids “pigs” in the title?! You should see their bedrooms (well, maybe not Celena’s)! I MAY HAVE used that reference out of context! And, I do love my five hogs!
PPS–You know as well as I do that the picture above is staged!
HAPPY REFORMATION DAY!
One of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther appears below.
I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And then, while I slept, or drank Wittenberg beer with my Philip [Melanchthon] and my Amsdorf [Nicholaus von], the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that never a prince or emperor did such damage to it. I did nothing. The Word did it all.*
You probably knew that Luther also taught and spent time with students and served as pastor. He kept busy much of his life. However, his point is still valid. What he could not do, what an earthly ruler could not do, God did! God weakened the papacy and brought about a reformation through His Word!
Due to God’s sovereign plan, imperfect men began to once again preach and teach His perfect Word! Post Tenebras Lux. After the darkness, light! Having heard the truth for the first time in their lives, people began to protest. Protestantism was born.
So many Americans today still consider themselves Christian or Protestant. They do so because they know they are not atheists or adherents to another religion. Consequently, the term has lost a bit of its significance. Christian used to mean disciple or follower of Christ. In the past, protestant meant holding to a faith and practice based upon the Scripture, not the edicts of councils and popes.
Another Latin phrase associated with the Reformation is Semper Reformanda. It means “always reforming.” Each October 31st (the date that Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the Castle Church door in Wittenberg) should serve as an opportunity for our self-examination.
Do I call myself a Christian? Do I say that I am a Protestant? If so, I need to evaluate my relationship with the Word of God. So many self-professed believers in God (they would call themselves “Christians”) do not spend any significant time reading and studying God’s Word. Thus, many of their beliefs and actions are in opposition to the ethic promoted by the Scripture. Even worse, although they know about the Lord, they do not know Him. And there is a difference! Furthermore, they think that their individual faith is sufficient and choose not to regularly gather with others for the purpose of mutual edification and worship.
So, what am I doing with God’s Word? What am I doing with it TODAY? Will any time be set aside to read it and contemplate how the stories and truths relate to my own life? Thanks to the reformers (men like Wycliffe, Luther, Melanchthon and Calvin) we have the Bible in our own language. We can understand it! But it is difficult to do if the book isn’t opened. The best way to honor those who risked their lives that we might possess the truth is to open The Book.
I’ll conclude with another Luther quote from his Tabletalk:
“Oh! how great and glorious a thing it is to have before one the Word of God!”