Thursday, January 16, 2014

Thirsty in West Virginia

I'm a proud native of West Virginia.  I grew up in St. Albans, about 20 miles west from where a chemical spill impacted the drinking water for about 300,000 people in the Charleston area.  Although I now live in the Bluegrass State, I have family members who dealt directly with the water shortage.  In fact, my nephew parlayed the event into an opportunity to become a social media, "Johnny on the spot," reporter...here and here.

I have been watching the situation develop from a distance via the national media and social media. What happened in the Kanawha Valley was tragic and extremely difficult for all involved.  But its a challenge to sort through all the stories, reports and rumors.

Emotional rants and rumors are unhelpful in crisis. But they have become so common with the rise of blogs, Facebook and Twitter. In a few seconds one can make an accusation or statement that millions might read and believe. [Btw, not everything on the internet is true.]  However, I get it, this was a situation that elicited extreme emotions.  But sometimes our emotions distract us from solving problems and engaging in helpful dialog.

What is helpful in a crisis like the one in WV is clarity, compassion and thoughtful suggestions offered in a calm and winsome manner.  This editorial is a great example. It was written by a high school classmate of mine.

As is often the case, there is also good that comes from tragedy.  From this water event we see neighbor helping neighbor, an awareness of our weakness and a recognition of how blessed we are by modern conveniences but so utterly dependent on them.

Additionally, tragic events offer an enlightening glimpse into our broken world.  Clean water is essential to survive in this life and not everyone has access to it.  But water is not our greatest need.  Although the water has been restored to my friends and family, there are still many thousands who are still thirsty, spiritually speaking.  This water crisis is yet another reminder that what we desperately need is the "living water" that will satisfy the deepest longing of our souls...to be reconciled to God.  My prayer for the thirsty in West Virginia, and around the globe, is that they will heed the words of Jesus to "repent and believe the gospel."

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Old Way in the New Year

The other day I put a frozen donut in the microwave for about 9 seconds.  I was hoping to enjoy a warm, soft, sweet treat...really fast. It didn't quite work out.  At least it was fast.  The treat, on the other hand, was not so good.  There were warm spots, hot spots and even some nearly-frozen spots in the donut.  Not what I was anticipating.

The microwave is a great modern invention. It serves a purpose, but not every purpose. Sometimes the old way is still the best way. It would have taken a bit longer, but my donut warmed thoroughly and evenly in an oven would have hit the spot.

Many times I try to "microwave" my spiritual food too. Quick bites of Bible here, a fast nibble of truth over here, instead of sitting and savoring the Word of God.  What I end up with is comparable to my half-warmed donut.  Its not satisfying at all.

Modern technology has given us new ways to access the Bible and lots of helpful information. A few clicks will allow you to read Scripture, commentaries or articles...really fast. I am not saying that reading the Bible on your computer or smart device is less spiritual.  However, we need to avoid the traps that come with the "quick and easy."

At the beginning of 2014, many of us are considering what we will do differently and hopefully better.  Evaluating our habits, setting goals and making adjustments are really good things. Allow me to suggest, with regard to our devotion to the Word of God, that we resolve to follow the old way in the new year.  Plan to open your Bible (I still favor the ones with words printed on an actual page) and meditate, ponder, underline, study, chew on, consider and apply Scripture.  Allow it to thoroughly warm and nourish your soul.

Through Jeremiah, God told a stubborn people, "Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you will find rest for your souls." They chose to ignore Him.

I'm not a prophet, but I suggest we take the ancient paths in 2014.  And I pray you will be blessed!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Heart of Repentance

Although I'm pretty sure no one is listening (or reading ), I'm going to say this out loud, I struggle with sin.  This statement wouldn't come as a shock to those closest to me, because sadly they see it.  What I'm saying is that although God reached into my life 18 years ago and gave me a new heart, there is still some work to do.  And thankfully God is doing that work, day by day.

Not surprisingly, God uses His word to do much of this work.  In addition, He uses others...even those who have been dead many years.  That was the case today. Let me explain.

I have a copy of Charles Spurgeon's daily devotional, Morning & Evening.  I don't read it every day.  Frankly, I don't even read it weekly. But today, I picked it up and read this morning's entry.  The scripture text was Joel 2:13, "Rend your heart and not your garments."  I nearly fell off the sofa.  This is exactly what I needed to hear.  I needed to be reminded about biblical repentance.  Here are Spurgeon's words that really drove the message home for me:

"The text commands us to rend our hearts, but they are naturally hard as marble: how, then, can this be done? We must take them to Calvary: a dying Saviour's voice rent the rocks once, and it is as powerful now. O blessed Spirit, let us hear the death-cries of Jesus, and our hearts shall be rent even as men rend their vestures in the day of lamentation."

So in my mind's eye, I looked to the cross and there was my Savior!

The prophet Joel explains why we can have confidence that our repentance will be accepted by God. Because He is "gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness." What a blessing!

So, it is not in the outward anguish or religious act of kneeling at "an old fashion alter" that signifies our turning away from sin. But rather the heart-level, Spirit induced, honest assertion that our sin is an offense to God's holiness. That we despise this offense and desire, more than anything, to abandon it.

I am thankful for how gracious God is to His children.  He is still doing a work in me.  I'm thankful too for Mr. Spurgeon who, just this morning, pointed me to the heart of repentance.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Springtime Under the Steeple

I snapped a few shots around the church the other morning.  Who doesn't love dogwoods in the Spring?!  The changing of seasons provides us with a glimpse into the power and glory of God's creation.  As wonderful as it is, the taint of sin is still present.  Consider what awaits us when all of this is redeemed.

Love Springtime.  Hate allergies.  "I will glory in my Redeemer!"

Monday, April 22, 2013

It Is Not Death to Die

Today I preached the funeral for a man I first met about six years ago.  He lived a mile from our church and only visited 2 or 3 times.  We had developed a friendship.

A few weeks back I sat with a church member in a hospital room as their spouse passed from this life.  It had been a long and difficult road. 

A week ago tragedy struck our nation and many were injured and several lost their lives.

Week by week our prayer list is full of those who are grieving and suffering.  Death is all around us.

As the Apostle Paul sat in Roman custody he wrote, "For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain."  The longer I walk this earthly road the more I feel and see the effects of sin and the fall.  That is why I am so thankful for the mercy and grace of God.

While I love my family and much about my life, I know that in entering glory and the presence of Christ there is so much to "gain."  That is why the words of this song are so poignant for the follower of Jesus.
It Is Not Death to Die (Henri Malan/Bob Kauflin)


It is not death to die
To leave this weary road
And join the saints who dwell on high
Who’ve found their home with God
It is not death to close
The eyes long dimmed by tears
And wake in joy before Your throne
Delivered from our fears

O Jesus, conquering the grave
Your precious blood has power to save
Those who trust in You
Will in Your mercy find
That it is not death to die

It is not death to fling
Aside this earthly dust
And rise with strong and noble wing
To live among the just
It is not death to hear
The key unlock the door
That sets us free from mortal years
To praise You evermore

© 2008 Integrity’s Praise! Music/Sovereign Grace Praise

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Just plain Gone!

Quite by accident I have learned that the wise guys at Google are "retiring" Google Reader.  Who do I complain to about this?  This is worse than the time I stopped by a local BBQ joint only to find a handwritten sign on the door that said, "Sorry, out of business!"  What?!  You can't just up and shut something down when there are people starving for BBQ or poised to read the latest blog.  Its just not right!

I'm really quite low tech.  I obviously have a computer and know how to use it, mostly.  That's  about as far as it goes for me.  I have a cell phone, but not a smart phone.  I don't have a "tablet" unless you count the actual paper one I carry in my briefcase.  I do use Facebook (mainly to spy on my kids).  I stay comfortably connected via my chosen means of communication and I DON'T LIKE CHANGE!  Google Reader has served me well.  I'm used to it.  Now, I can't access my subscriptions via the handy link-thing-drop-down-box at the top of my email page.  It just vanished, without so much as a warning.

I get the sneaking suspicion that me and 2 old dudes in Montana are the only ones who really care...and they're still using dial-up.

If I'm in YOUR Google Reader...well I guess you will have to find a new place to, whatever you call it.  The times they are a change'n  Next thing you know, you'll be able to talk to someone through video on your computer screen, like George Jetson did. Crazy stuff.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Good News for the World

The Great Commission (or Jesus' famous last words) gets a lot of press among evangelicals, and rightly so.  After all Jesus was giving his disciples and us marching orders.  Although opinions may vary on the primary aim of the local church, most agree that making disciples through the gospel is of utmost importance.  But what is "the gospel?"  [there is actually a nice little volume by the same title]

In case you are unfamiliar with it, let me give you a brief summary of the gospel:

The gospel is the good news that actually starts with some pretty bad news.  Mankind is completely ruined because of sin.  Because of our sin we all face the judgement and wrath of God, and rightly so.  There are no good deeds or religious acts that we can do to make ourselves acceptable to God.  However, God in His grace and mercy provided a way for our sin to be removed and His wrath to be appeased through His Son, Jesus Christ.  Jesus lived a perfect life and died sacrificially on the cross in the place of sinners. In demonstration of victory and power, Jesus was raised from the dead.  His sacrifice for our sins was totally sufficient and accepted by God the Father.  Everyone recognizing their hopeless condition, their offense of sin against God, turning from their sinful/selfish life and believing in Jesus Christ - they will be "saved" and made right with God. Jesus takes our sin and we receive His perfect righteousness when we repent and believe.  Believing in Jesus is the expression of faith, resting one's entire life on what Jesus accomplished by His sinless life, purposeful death and victorious resurrection.  Having come to believe in Jesus, the "born again" Christian will remain a faithful follower of Jesus forever.  All of this is a gracious work of God.
Perhaps more could be said about the gospel and one can certainly elaborate some of the details.  But the heart of this truth is seen in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  This is the good news that we are commissioned to share, it is for the whole world.  I noticed that in addition to the US, there are individuals from many other countries who find there way to this blog.  While I suspect most visit here without genuine interest in my thoughts, I understand the power of the gospel and the reach of the Internet.  So I publish this post in an effort to reach the world with the good news.  My prayer is that someone will read this wonderful truth and embrace Jesus as Savior and Lord.  To the glory of God!