Goodbye Illinois

Saturday Afternoon Musings

I heard a marvelous message from Psalm 32 from my friend John Crooker, serving as the Interim Pastor at Trinity Church about a month or two ago when I visit Trinity Church. It is always a joy to hear the word of God poured through a godly man’s heart, with a love and desire to serve the people of God. And it is exciting to see a congregation listening, open, and responsive to his labor.

I covet that experience for every congregation and every pastor in America. 

So, as Stephnie and I complete the process of packing and accepting and getting settled in our new call to a new church, we also begin the process of saying goodbye to so many friends in Watseka but also to our friends and children in the Chicagoland area, our hearts are full and our hopes are deep that those we know would love Jesus with their whole heart and follow him.

The day after Easter we are scheduled to close on a house in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Over the month of May, we will be moving things out of storage and into our new home, getting to meet our new neighbors and making room in our hearts for new friends. But we won’t forget you. We miss and love you all and look forward to seeing you again soon, maybe when you come to visit!

With the apostle Paul, we say,

“Rejoice always,
pray without ceasing,
give thanks in all things;
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

—1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

When Fear Threatens to Undo

FearI suppose every pastor has a certain number of “fear-dominated” parishioners. I’m thankful that in my current church there seems to be very few but I know the malady can be debilitating and destructive to gospel living. Christians ought not to be dominated by fear but by hope–an overwhelming hope, no matter what is or isn’t going on around us. 

Christian hope is not dependent on circumstances but on the truth of a resurrected Lord who promises to never leave us, never forsake us, who is preparing a place for us, and coming back for us that we may ever be with Him who is love personified and powerful and sovereign over every situation.

“Fear is not a Christian habit of mind,” as
author Marilynne Robinson put it.

And she is right. 

Or at least, she should be right, but increasingly some Christians, some Christian leaders have been spinning out fear for the flock of America. That ought not to be. We are a people of hope. We are a people of joy. And we should, we must, cultivate those two character traits every day.

“There is no fear in love;  but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loves us.”
                                                                               .(1 John 4:18-19)

“For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have recieved a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!'”
…..                                                                         (Romans 8:15)

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and discipline.”
…….                                                                      (2 Timothy 1:7)

Jesus is alive. Death has no sting. Our debt has been paid. We will live with the greatest lover in the Universe for all of time. With the apostle Paul, preach the gospel to your own soul every day and “Rejoice in the Lord always! Again I say, Rejoice. Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:4-5)

Don’t forget that.

Schindler’s List and the Sanctity of Life

schindlers-list-2

The following is excerpted from THE MEDIAN, volume 23 / #4 (Fall 2016). The Median is the monthly newsletter of MasterMedia International started by Dr. Larry Poland. master Media ministers to the media elite in Hollywood and New York seeking to bring a Christ-like witness to the powerbrokers of Radio, Television, and Film.

Larry was the pastor of Trinity Evangelical Free Church in Redlands, California and dedicated our two oldest children. He is also the pastor I sought out to co-teach a class on preaching with me, the first year that the seminary asked me if I would take over the Preaching I class. I have many great memories of my time in California and working with the College and Career class (Light Company) at Trinity EFCA is among them.

Just in time for Sanctity of Life Sunday, my wife, still waiting for our house to sell in Illinois, sent some mail that included the Median. Here’s the article that caught my attention:

schindlers-list-1On Screen Inspiration . . .

In a climactic scene at the close of the film, Schindler’s List, Oskar Schindler prepares to flee from the Allies after the Nazis are defeated. [Later] The Jewish survivors he has saved want to express to Schindler that by saving them, he has saved humanity. They give Schindler a ring made from their gold fillings, engraved with a quotation from the Talmud . . . “Whoever saves one life saves the world entire.”

Oskar Schindler: I could have got more. I could have got more, I don’t know. If I just  . . . I could have got more.

Itzhak Stern: Oskar, there are 1,100 people who are alive because of you. Look at them.

Oskar Schindler: If I had made more money. I threw away so much money. [laughs, then gets teary-eyed] You have no idea. If I just . . .

Itzhak Stern: There will ge generations because of you.

Oskar Schindler: I didn’t do enough.

Itzhak Stern: You did so much.

Oskar Schindler: This car. Goeth would have bought this car. Why did I keep the car? Ten people right there. Ten people. Ten more people. This pin . . . two people. This is gold. Two people. He would have given me two more, at least one. One more person. A person, Stern, for this. [starts crying] I could have got one more person, and I didn’t! I — I — I didn’t!

This scene inspires deep introspection . . . one reflective response might be, “As I near the end of my life, will my heart be at peace with the assurance that I have given my all for the cause of Christ? Or will my heart be troubled with regret . . . “I could’ve done more!”

I wonder what our generation will say when we look back over the last 45 years of the abortion horror in our nation. Will we have the same regrets that Schindler had? Will we do more to rescue the perishing?

A Promise of Light

A Christmas Meditation

me at Christmas

The Bible opens with the magnificent words, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” 

Majestic.

There is nothing but God and God creates all that is seen and unseen.

Eventually, He creates “Friday’s Child”–man.

Man walks with God in a garden and world designed for him by a loving potter. There is sweet fellowship between man and God, between creature and Creator. 

Creator and image-bearer. Harmony.

But it doesn’t last.

Man chooses his own independent way. Sin and corruption enter the perfection of everything that God had declared good.

And the image of God in man, is broken.

But the loving God, the One whose love is described as a “lovingkindness” goes on a search and rescue mission to redeem His fallen creation.

A promise is made to a man called Abraham, “… in you, all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:3b; 22:18).

And the story begins to unfold.

It is not an easy story.

Sin complicates everything.

Disobedience complicates every life.

The whole Old Testament is in many ways a story of tragedy, woe, corruption, idolatry, unfaithfulness, arrogance, and darkness punctuated by a few short flickers of light.

And yet, the God of the promise remains true.

Darkness increases.

400 years of silence from God between the last writing prophet and the coming of Messiah. A wilderness wandering of His people ten times longer than the Exodus from Egypt.

Israel lays down by the waters of Babylon and weeps (Psalm 137:1) The hymn writer captures the broken and longing heart for God’s redemption.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel.
That mourns in lowly exile here
Until the Son of God appear

All the families of the earth will be blessed through the one people of one small tribe, one family, one line, one man, one more-than-man, the One incarnate Son of God, sent to save His people from their sin (Matthew 1:21).

Then, “in the fullness of time” (Galatians 4:4) “God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law”.

John’s Gospel opens with New Testament light shining all the way back to Genesis and the creation story and illumining every future moment of time.

“In the beginning was the Word, and Word was with God and the Word was God” (John 1:1). The fulness of time has come. The Messiah walks the earth! 

The incarnate word.
The light.
The glory.
We beheld His glory (John 1:14).

God kept his promise. All the families of the earth are blessed in Him. 

Shout that out this Christmas.

It’s what Christmas was made for.

Spirit of the Living God, Break Me in Pieces

Holy Spirit 2

For all the “broken” people who know the reality of need:

“You see,” Dr. Iverson said, “If you are broken, you don’t have to ask to be used.  God delights to use broken people.  That’s the only way to be filled [with the Spirit] and it’s the only way to become useable.”

See this link for the article: Spirit of the Living God, Break Me in Pieces

How to Meditate on the Trinity

Ythe-valley-of-visionThe Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions is one of those works that is a model of meditation on the great doctrines of Christ. Edited by Arthur Bennett, each prayer is laid out in poetic formatting on just two pages. There are sections on:

I.    The Father, Son and Holy Spirit
2.   Redemption and Reconciliation
3.   Penitence and Deprecation
4.   Needs and Devotions
5.   Holy Aspirations
6.   Approach to God
7.   Gifts of Grace
8.   Service and Ministry
9.   Valediction 
10. A Week’s Shared Prayers
.             [broken into AM and PM]

It is a small book, easily fitting in a woman’s purse or the glove box of a man’s truck, but it is packed with 400 pages of daily helps to take your heart to the throne of grace. I highly recommend it. You can get it on Kindle for $5, or paperback for $13, or leather bound for about $23. A great buy at any of those prices. Here’s chapter 1 below.

THREE IN ONE, ONE IN THREE,
GOD OF MY SALVATION,

Heavenly Father, blessed Son, eternal Spirit,
I adore thee as one Being, one Essence,
one God in three distinct Persons,
for bringing sinners to thy knowledge and to thy kingdom.

O Father, thou hast loved me and sent Jesus to redeem me;
O Jesus, thou hast loved me and assumed my nature,
shed thine own blood to wash away my sins,
wrought righteousness to cover my unworthiness;
O Holy Spirit, thou hast loved me and entered
my heart, implanted there eternal life,
revealed to me the glories of Jesus.
Three Persons and one God, I bless and praise thee,
for love so unmerited, so unspeakable, 
so wondrous, so mighty to save the lost
and raise them to glory.

O Father, I thank thee that in fullness of grace 
thou hast given me to Jesus, to be his sheep, jewel, portion;
O Jesus, I thank thee that in fullness of grace
thou hast accepted, espoused, bound me;
O Holy Spirit, I thank thee that in fullness of grace thou hast
.   exhibited Jesus as my salvation,
.   implanted faith within me,
.   subdued my stubborn heart,
.   made me one with him for ever.
O Father, thou art enthroned to hear my prayers,
O Jesus, thy hand is outstretched to take my petitions,
O Holy Spirit, thou art willing  to help my infirmities,
to show me my need,
to supply words, to pray within me,
to strengthen me that I faint not in supplication.
O Triune God, who commandeth the universe,
thou hast commanded me to ask for those things
that concern thy kingdom and my soul.
Let me live and pray as one baptized into the threefold Name.

“O happy day to be loved by the Father, washed by the Son and indwelt by the Spirit. Lord, make my heart rejoice in the wonder of both who You are and the grace You have given me both in my remaining time in Illinois and my future ministry in South Carolina. For the glory of Your Name, I ask it. Amen.”

John Piper’s Advice for Pastors (or anyone who teaches the Bible)

preaching[1]

Good teaching is not an accident. It is part of a process that begins in a bowed spirit, proceeds through a rigorous process of study, bathed in a spirit of prayer, and anticipating the empowering of God. John Piper’s advice has always been helpful. Pray with me and for all those around the world burdened with the task of opening up the word of life to hungry hearts. Pray that we would be diligent, faithful, humble and bold. Pray that we would depend upon the Spirit of God to change lives.

“Gladness and gravity should be woven together in the life and preaching of a pastor in such a way as to sober the careless soul and sweeten the burdens of the Saints.”

—John Piper, in The Supremacy of God in Preaching, 52.

John Piper’s advice for pastors (or anyone who teaches the Bible)

  1. Admit your utter helplessness not only for the task at hand but even to breathe without Him.
  2. Pray for help. Beg for insight, power, humility, love, memory. (Pastor John rises 3.5 hours before worship and then spend two hours reading and praying over the text again.)
  3. Trust God to empower for His glory based upon some specific promise in His word.
  4. Act in confidence that God will be with you to fulfill His word for His glory.
  5. Thank God for the privilege of preaching His word.