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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Now These Are Good Town Signs!

Saw these two in eastern Colorado last week...creative and cleaver...



Monday, July 30, 2012

Not Lost is He

I often speak of "stupid things Christians say." (there is so much material!)


One of the things I cite is, "I was 27 (or 12, or 82) when I found Jesus..."


Guess what?


He wasn't lost!


That's why I love this Tim Keller quote:


"Every religion has a prophet who is pointing people to God. Jesus is the only One who says, 'I am God, and I am coming to find you.'"





The Odd "Couple"

Meet Rocky, our "grand dog" (belongs to and is fed by neighbors, but hangs around our home all the time); and Mr Pumpkin, a cat we've had for a couple years. They have a peaceful coexistence...usually. Caught them Sunday morning while I was having coffee on our front porch:




Saturday, July 28, 2012

Memories of Machasay

My best buddy Rick Cleaver and I have never worked together at a camp until last week...it was a delightful time...this was also the camp at which Janelle staffed and lifeguarded for three weeks...here's a few pics:
                           
                                  Mike, Crystal (also known as "irish" by me), Janelle, and Emily
                                                   Four-legged friends
                                                      Janelle and her little friend Jacob
                               Rick Cleaver and his favorite lifeguard...Janelle Hager!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Why This Horror?

Wise words from Tim Keller:




Horrendous, inexplicable suffering, though it cannot disprove God, is nonetheless a problem for the believer in the Bible. However, it is perhaps an even greater problem for nonbelievers. C. S. Lewis described how he had originally rejected the idea of God because of the cruelty of life. Then he came to realize that evil was even more problematic for his new atheism. In the end, he realized that suffering provided a better argument for God's existence than one against it.

"My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of 'just' and 'unjust'?...What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?...Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too--for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies...Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple."

Lewis recognized that modern objections to God are based on a sense of fair play and justice. People, we believe, ought not to suffer, be excluded, die of hunger or oppression. But the evolutionary mechanism of natural selection depends on death, destruction, and violence of the strong against the weak--these things are all perfectly natural. On what basis, then, does the atheist judge the natural world to be horribly wrong, unfair, and unjust? The nonbeliever in God doesn't have a good basis for being outraged at injustice, which, as Lewis points out, was the reason for objecting to God in the first place. If you are sure that this natural world is unjust and filled with evil, you are assuming the reality of some extra-natural (or supernatural) standard by which to make your judgment. The philosopher Alvin Plantiga said it like this:

"Could there really be any such thing as horrifying wickedness [if there were no God and we just evolved]? I don't see how. There can be such a thing only if there is a way that rational creatures are supposed to live, obliged to live...A [secular]way of looking at the world has no place for genuine moral obligation of any sort...and thus no way to say there is such a thing as genuine and wickedness. Accordingly, if you think there really is such a thing as horrifying wickedness (...and not just an illusion of some sort), then you have a powerful...argument [for the reality of God]."

In short, the problem of tragedy, suffering, and injustice is a problem for everyone. It is at least as big a problem for nonbelief in God as for belief. It is therefore a mistake, though an understandable one, to think that if you abandon belief in God it somehow makes the problem of evil easier to handle.

—Tim Keller from The Reason for God


The Surprise Party That Wasn't

Well, I gave it the old college effort...

After success in surprising my wife yesterday with her best friend's visit from New York; thought we had the thing going to surprise her with a party tonight.

But a few days ago Janelle borrowed my phone to check her facebook; and did not sign out. Careless. I then added to the carelessness by using my phone to use facebook without checking, and sent a message to another friend. Like all good Moms, Jane checks Janelle's facebook frequently...and thus saw a message from me to a mutual friend about the party.

But Jane faked it well...she was afraid I would have a ton of people who were casual acquaintances...but turned out I had reserved a room at a great and varied restaurant; a good friend (Cassie Lumpkin) decorated and did all the other leg work; and 35 folks enjoyed several hours of good food and sweet fellowship.

Jane was ecstatic at the guest list...some friends we'd not seen in 25 years; close friends that we see regularly, and everything in between.

It was a good night.

Jane said I made up for all the birthdays I've missed.

Don't know about that...but I'm grinning!
                   
            Foreground left, Dave and Laura White; Jim and Dorothy Pirie; Foreground right Rick and Sherri
                              Roecker...

   Jessica Schrock at one end of table; Josiah Hager at other, left Andrew and Rachel Johnson; Tim Mosiman, Pastor and Mrs. Rick Sharp; Chris and Christina Hewins; Michael and Brandi Hewins, the Euhlers,

                                     Janelle and Evie Schrock (Jessica's daughter)

God's Handiwork...

The weed thing is from eastern Colorado yesterday (Thursday) morning; the two others are iphone fotos from this Friday morning...Good job, God!





Desire Accomplished!

The Word says "The desire accomplished is sweet to the soul."

Amen.

Janelle and I started the day closing out our time at Camp Machasay in extreme eastern Colorado. It was a great week for me (great three weeks for Janelle staffing/lifeguarding). Rick Cleaver, one of my dearest friends, is the director and it was a joy to serve with him, his wife, and staff.

The day was also Jane's birthday...one of almost all that I was out of town for.

It was a significant birthday...half-a-century!

I really wanted to make it special...

So good friend (and Jane's precious friend) Tarah (Brewster) Auffahamer cooked up a plan. Janelle and I drove three hours to the Denver airport to catch a flight home...to arrive at Kansas City around 5.30pm Thursday night (birthday!). Tarah flew in from New York..but was delayed..instead of arriving ahead of us she arrived a bit behind us..in a different terminal!


But the Lord worked out the details...Janelle and I were just a  tad less than totally honest ("our flight was delayed," "one piece of luggage is missing"). I sent Janelle out to Jane's parked-in-front-of-the-terminal car while I allegedly waited for the missing suitcase...then Tarah found me and I walked out to hug Jane...and turn her around a bit so she couldn't see Tarah until Tarah tapped Jane on the shoulder and asked for a ride.


YES! The scream and tears were a good thing!


After composing ourselves I took them all to the Plaza area of Kansas City to "The Melting Pot" restaurant...Jane, Janelle, Janelle's bestie Sarah Williams, Jacob, Tarah and I enjoyed over two hours of eating fantastic food (and CHOCOLATE!) served fondue-style. I may have to take out a loan to cover the bill..but it was well worth it.

Jane puts up with alot (me is enough)...and sacrifices much to keep us in ministry...and this was just an answer to prayer and effort to honor her!

Ah....sweet success!
                                    Doesn't look like much here: but this was one of three plates
                                   of goodies that ended up  stabbed and dipped into one of
                                      two containers of superb and warm chocolate! YUM!
                              (This after three courses of beef, pork, chicken, shrimp, veggies, salad)
                                      Tarah, Jane-the-birthday-girl, and some old dude...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Highlights in Photos

This two week road trip has been blessed, but looooong. Can't wait to see Jane and Jacob as Janelle and I fly home tomorrow (Thursday...which is also Jane's birthday!) afternoon...

It has been a blessing beyond belief to see God work...and there have been "lighter" moments of blessing also...here's a few:
                                                  This morning walk at Camp Machasay
                                     Pastor's miracle home in Idaho
                        The nicest cross made of pine cones I have ever seen:

                                                                Hee Hee

                                    My Idaho buddy "Jack" - clean

                            Someday's you're the statue, someday's you're the pigeon

                                 In Idaho...nicest one of these I've ever come across

                                                   Early morning Idaho walk..

                                              You Lookin' at Me?

                                               Today's fun at Camp Machasay

                                 Fernwood (Idaho) Community Church where I spoke Sunday

                                              "Jack" - dirty
                                                          Idaho scenery

                                      What else to you expect to find on an Idaho hike?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Three Photos of Blessings

Sunday Morning I preached at the Fernwood (Idaho) Community Church...the pastor was going to drive me to the airport (2 1/2 hrs), but before I spoke he asked if someone in the congregation would take some of their young kids to camp today (Monday) because he had not been home for a couple weeks and had a rather large to do list...

So before I preached I suggested perhaps it would be good for the pastor to have Sunday afternoon and evening "off" to relax with his family etc and asked if someone would be willing to give me a ride to the airport.

After church my new friend Pete volunteered. I said, "Yes, thank you." Then the pastor said something like, "Well, you could have ridden in my rusty car with the squeaky front brake, but instead you can ride in Pete's car...and we walked around the corner to discover this:


      Got to Denver at midnight, slept for a few, then picked up rental car and drove three hours to Camp Machasay where I am speaking to junior highers and Janelle has worked for two weeks already, and finishes up at this location at the end of the camp Thursday (when we both fly home in time for Jane's birthday!)...you might say I'm a little proud to watch her quizmaster!

                                  One of several horses that provide rideability for campers..and me?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Camp Reflections

Morning has broken here at Pinecroft Camp in Washington state...and in a couple hours the campers, staff, college ministry teams, and I will head out. Will it be a stereotypical camp "high" that evaporates even as the cars and buses leave? Or has Spirit of God done lasting, genuine work here (as opposed to "decisions")? Don't know. But trusting that professed faith and spoken commitments were genuine, and thus lasting...though not easy. (As I tell the campers frequently, if you're Christian life is "easy" I'd question your faith, and at least be certain that something was desperately wrong). It is not about "your best life now," it is about sacrifice, inconvenience, and great joy. Last night I preached on Jesus' view of discipleship from Luke 14.25ff. I urged the teens to let the Bible say what it says. At the end of the message I prayed and said no "heads bowed, eyes closed" idiocy; if God was prompting them, provoking them, pushing them to cross over the line from "typical 'Christianity'" to discipleship...on Jesus' terms...to step out, come forward, read and pray over a "Disciple's Creed" that I had put together, and spend some time in prayer... I then went to the back of the chapel. For several moments no one moved...then one young man went and knelt...and for a half hour or more trickles of students came. There was very little noise; an occasional sound of weeping...cabin leaders and others prayed with, hugged, cried with teens. It was a holy moment. Were some responding to "peer pressure" rather than Spirit pressure? Beats me. As in most things, I'll not let what I don't know mess up what I do know. God worked. Later we gathered around the virtually obligatory camp fire. A few teens shared things that I can not share here; far too intimate, personal, and only for the moment. But I ask you to pray for these teens...leaders...staff...and, yeah, me...as we leave this taste of heaven and go back to real life 101. I preach tomorrow at a church in Idaho, and then fly to Denver, pick up a car, and drive three hours to a junior high camp (at which my daughter is working - please pray also that her expensive camera is found...don't know if stolen/misplaced/whatever...God does). As always, for those of you who support the ministry to which the Lord has called Jane and me in finance, prayer, or both...heartfelt gratitude. With no source of income other than missionary support and any honorariums that come in...your gifts make ministry possible, while your prayers make it powerful.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

"Who" , not "What"

Wise, cautionary words from J. I. Packer:


"We need frankly to face ourselves at this point. We are, perhaps, orthodox evangelicals. We can state the gospel clearly; we can smell unsound doctrine a mile away. If asked how one may know God, we can at once produce the right formula: that we come to know God through Jesus Christ the Lord, in virtue of his cross and mediation, on the basis of his word of promise, by the power of the Holy Spirit, via a personal exercise of faith. Yet the gaiety, goodness, and unfetteredness of spirit which are the marks of those who have known God are rare among us—rarer, perhaps, than they are in some other Christian circles where, by comparison, evangelical truth is less clearly and fully known. Here, too, it would seem that the last may prove to be first, and the first last. A little knowledge of God is worth more than a great deal of knowledge about him."

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Chaos of Church Discipline

Chaos?

No...at least not in churchs of which I am aware. I can count on the fingers of one hand....with a few left over, churches which I know practice church discipline.

After all, to discipline one has to judge. And, golly gee, we aren't supposed to judge, are we? Gee whiz, we might hurt someone's feeling? It really isn't affecting/infecting the church that much...

Church discipline must be exercised..but it must be done correctly.

Here is some solid information to help in that effort:

Jonathan Leeman, “Appendix: Mistakes Pastors Make in Practicing Discipline,” Church Discipline: How the Church Protects the Name of Jesus (9Marks; Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), 139–40:
Pastors sometimes make the following mistakes regarding formal church discipline.
  1. They fail to teach their congregation what church discipline is and why they should practice it.
  2. They fail to practice meaningful membership, which includes (1) teaching people what membership entails before they join; (2) encouraging casual attenders to join; (3) carefully interviewing everyone who wants to join; (4) giving regular oversight to all the flock; and (5) maintaining an up-to-date membership list that accurately reflects who is present at the weekly gathering.
  3. They fail to teach their congregation about biblical conversion, especially the need for repentance.
  4. They fail to teach new members as they enter the church about the possibility of church discipline, and that preemptive resignations don’t work.
  5. They fail to ensure that the church’s public documents (bylaws, constitution, articles of incorporation, etc.) address the procedures of church discipline, thereby exposing the church to legal risk.
  6. They fail to follow the steps of Matthew 18 or 1 Corinthians 5, depending on the circumstance. In a Matthew 18 situation, for instance, they fail to begin the process by confronting sin privately.
  7. They misjudge how quickly to move toward formal discipline, either by dragging their feet or by rushing into judgment.
  8. They fail to adequately teach and explain to a congregation why a particular act of discipline is necessary.
  9. They tell the congregation too many details about a particular sin for which they are recommending discipline, embarrassing family members and causing weaker sheep to stumble.
  10. They treat the processes of church discipline entirely as a legal process with little consideration for shepherding the unrepentant individual’s heart.
  11. They give little attention to the differences between kinds of sinners and how that might affect how long a church should bear with a pattern of sin before proceeding to subsequent stages of discipline (see 1 Thess. 5:14).
  12. They forget that they too live by the gospel’s provision of mercy, and therefore prosecute the discipline from a posture of self-righteousness. Other mistakes follow from this wrong posture, such as an overly severe tone and standoffishness.
  13. They fail to truly love the sinner . . . by not begging the Lord for his or her repentance.
  14. They demand too much from a smoldering wick or bruised reed. In other words, their stipulations for repentance are too high for someone who has been deeply enslaved in sin’s grip.
  15. They fail to properly instruct the congregation on how to interact with the unrepentant sinner, such as how to relate to him or her in social situations and how to pursue his or her repentance.
  16. They fail to invite the disciplined individual to continue attending services of the church so that he or she might continue to hear God’s Word (assuming there is no threat of criminal harm). Also, they fail to inform the church that everyone should hope for the disciplined individual to continue attending.
  17. They put the responsibility for leading the discipline process entirely on the shoulders of one man, the senior pastor, thereby tempting individuals in the church to accuse the senior pastor of being personally vindictive.
  18. They fail to have sufficient elder involvement in the congregation’s life, such that the elders are unaware of the state of the sheep. This failure of formative discipline will inevitably weaken the church’s ability to do corrective discipline well.
  19. They fail to teach God’s Word on a weekly basis.
  20. They allow the congregation to approach a case of discipline with a wrongful spirit of retribution, rather than with the loving desire to warn the unrepentant sinner about God’s ultimate retribution to come.
  21. They pursue discipline on nonbiblical grounds (playing cards, dancing, etc.).
  22. They pursue discipline for any reason other than for the good of the individual, the good of the church, the good of the onlooking community, and the glory of Christ.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Reflecting on Camps

Sitting in Kansas City airport awaiting flight to Spokane via Phoenix to speak at a Senior High Camp. Thinking over the past thirty-plus years of camp speaking... As always, amazed that I get to do what I get to do...(and convinced that is one reason...perhaps the major reason I get to do what I get to do) Not a "numbers" guy; don't keep records. Can't even remember the first camp at which I spoke...could be Missions Outreach camp in Bethany, Mo or Circle C near Kansas City...or something/someplace else... Crescent Lake Bible Camp in Rhinelander, Wi remains my favorite camp; for many reasons. There are at least two camps at which I used to speak that wouldn't call on me for silent prayer anymore. Their "philosophy" of ministry has evolved...or rathewr devolved...over the years. I was told I wouldn't be asked back to one of them because I "used too much Bible." But other camps are loaded with amazing memories...Beulah Beach in Sandusky, Ohio...great staff, great memories..some not so great...one horrendously hot summer in an ancient "tabernacle" sans air conditioning...one week when we lived in tents and were under the tender administrations of a Marine drill sergeant... TimberLee in Wisconsin...where the director is a long-standing friend who I first met at another camp. Men O Lan (Korean Kamp) in Quakertown, Pa...where many of today's campers are children of campers I had the first years I was there (I've had the joy of being there every summer since 1988) and will be going back next month. LeTourneau near Canandaigua, NY...went there in 1986 to preach, had a couple meetings and counseling sessions...resulted in us moving to NY for 21 years... Circle C in New York (as opposed to Kansas)...great conversations with a man who had been in ministry for half a century or more... Many other camps flow through my grey matter... And cause me to again thank God and to ask Him for a couple more decades of such ministry...if I can remain effective for the kingdom. And does the Spirit bless the preaching? Yup. But it seems to me, after over 220 weeks of camp speaking (best guess) that He also blessed the one on one conversations that happen while fishing, volleyballing, walking, just plain hanging out with teens away from chapel. I've written before about the dangers of Christian camping; but the pluses outweigh the minuses, and camp ministry remains a highlight of my life...

Friday, July 13, 2012

Be Careful What (Christian) Music You Listen To...

Spoke at the Lighthouse youth group in Paola, Ks Wednesday.

The director asked me to talk about music, and making decisions on what to listen to and what not to listen to.

I did.

I also mentioned that we (not "they") need to be discerning regarding "Christian" music.

To me it has nothing to do with loudness, beat, or any of that other closet-racism stupidity.

It does have to do with the lyrics, and what the song is "teaching."

Afterward a young lady asked me for an example.

I said that, off the top of my head, one of the dumbest songs I've ever heard is sung (and I assume written) by Michael W. Smith. This is not an attack on Smitty...I watched him when he was keyboardist for a teen girl named Amy Grant...

But this song is screwy. Won't bother to say why...listen to/read the lyrics and think (it took the senior high girl a little while to see what was goofy with the song):



Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Song/Prayer Before the Sermon

New to me, thanks to Tim Challies for this:



There are a few hymns—just a few—that have been written to be sung as a petition to God immediately before the minister opens God’s Word. A favorite of mine is John Newton’s “Prayer for the Ministry of the Word.” It can be sung to any number of tunes including “Amazing Grace.” The best lines come right at the end. After asking that God would bless both the preacher and the hearers, the song concludes that if God is to do all this, “So shall the benefit be ours / And thou shalt have the praise.”


Thy promise, LORD, and thy command
Have brought us here today;
And now, we humbly waiting stand
To hear what thou wilt say.
Meet us, we pray, with words of peace,
And fill our hearts with love;
That from our follies we may cease,
And henceforth faithful prove.
Now, LORD, inspire the preacher’s heart,
And teach his tongue to speak;
Food to the hungry soul impart,
And comfort to the weak.
Furnish us all with light and power
To walk in Wisdom’s ways;
So shall the benefit be ours,
And thou shalt have the praise.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Many a (sad) truth said in jest...

This is from James Emery White


GQ Magazine once highlighted the greatest jokes.  One was religious in nature.
 
Here it is:
 
Comedian Emo Philips tells of walking across a bridge and seeing a man standing on the edge, ready to jump off.  He ran over and said, “Stop!  Don’t do it!”
 
“Why shouldn’t I?” he said.
 
“Well, there’s so much to live for.”
 
“Like what?”
 
“Well, are you religious?”
 
He said, “Yes.”
 
I said, “Me too!  Are you Christian or Buddhist?”
 
“Christian.”
 
“Me too!  Are you Catholic or Protestant?”
 
“Protestant.”
 
“Me too!  Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?”
 
“Baptist.”
 
“Wow, me too!  Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?”
 
“Baptist Church of God!”
 
“Me too!  Are you original Baptist Church of God or Reformed Baptist Church of God?”
 
“Reformed Baptist Church of God!”
 
“Me too!  Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915?”
 
His new friend replied, “Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915.”
 
To which Philips replied, “Die, heretic!,” and he pushed him off.
 
Funny?  Yes. 
 
But only because it’s so often sadly, tragically, true of our spirit.
 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Thinking About Lists...

This morning I was  in a meeting with six brothers who I respect greatly.

Some of the discussion got a bit, well, heated. That's okay, because these are passionate followers of Jesus Christ and none of us think we've got it all together. Thus there will be disagreements, but those disagreements are discussed agreeably...

One of the guys shared that he thought the priorities of a church are:

1. Worship
2. Discipleship
3. Evangelism

I said that I didn't like the "list" for the same reason I had and have difficulty with the phrase "Jesus First." The latter used to be the slogan for Jerry Falwell and Liberty University (and I think it purely coincidental that Jesus First and Jerry Falwell had a sort of similarity :)

If Jesus is "first" I have to come up with what is second, third, eighty-fourth etc..

Of course the trinity often exposed is "Jesus, Others, Yourself" or "Jesus, Family, Church" etc.

Therefore I don't like any list that indicates that one aspect of spiritual life is more important than another.

Rather I favor the concept of "Jesus central." Everything else in life should flow out of relationship and subjection to the Lord.

The Navigator "Wheel" depicts it visually:

So...what do you think? Do you have a "list" that works for you, or.....


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Die, Dumby!

Ah, this reminds me of the way I often try to "improve" my Christian living...yes, there is discipline, yes there is "working out your salvation," yes there is "picking up cross daily..."; but the primary thing is "As you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, so walk/live in Him..."
To be "born again" requires death; to live daily requires death...the gospel is for all of life, all of time...

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

change...Change....CHANGE!

I absolutely love these guys...and I love this song...
And I pray I "change" as I grow in grace and knowledge...
And I pray, desperately, that we have a change in November!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Too True - Re: Christian Camp

Just found this...after more than thirty years of speaking at Christian youth camps for 5 - 7 weeks each summer I think I've earned the right to say this is all too accurate:

Sunday, July 1, 2012

D-Ship

Just concluded one of the best weeks of my life.

Was invited to participate/assist in the inaugural "Rising Up" session at Crescent Lake Bible Camp in Rhinelander, Wi. Started by my great friend Joshua "shua", it is designed to facilitate honest community, enable lasting spiritual growth, and to combat the "camp" highs that crash so quickly after campers return to real life 101.

Our group was small...ten...and the ages ranged from 21 to 14. Oh, yeah, and some old dude.

We did some fun camp stuff.

But the focus was community.

Too often we forget that Jesus worked with a dozen, and had an "in crowd" of three.

We strive for numbers. I understand that those who have to pay the bills want numbers to help pay those bills.

But after this week Shua and I concur...smaller is better. I envy these guys because they get to continue for another week. Shua is hoping to schedule several two-week sessions next season.

Many were broken in their honesty. It was a joy to be able to pray specific "sniper" prayers rather than vague "shotgun" prayers.

We became an organic family. My buddy Joe Petsch and I had to leave yesterday; and late last night the crew called us and pestered us...like family should.

It was unique because I was not the "speaker," but rather a participant. It was unique because they couldn't even cover expenses..but Shua invited me and I already knew a few of the participants.

It was unique because I believe all of us will remain family...distant by geography but close in heart.

I can't share details; that would betray the family.

But I can publicly praise God, thank Shua, and thank the other "family" members for allowing me to be a part.