Pastor's Blog

…If you hope to accomplish something, better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission, better an oops than a what-if.

…The world has never been a level playing field.  Inequality is the fabric of nature.

…You can’t unite people around the mere idea of unity, merely for the sake of unity, without addressing the things that divide them in the first place.

…Americans up until the Civil War compromised on slavery and avoided abolitionists as divisive radicals.  But abolitionism was a good divisiveness; the compromise allowing the existence of slavery was the evil.  There is a time to be divisive.

…Indecisive people are afraid of making mistakes, but their biggest mistake is to believe in the existence of flawless decisions.  Every decision has a downside -- a cost to gain the benefits -- and the downside sets up your next set of decisions.  That’s how reality works.

...Death is inevitable, and the normal processes of living create the conditions that make dying possible, rendering the plea "if it saves just one life" sentimentalist nonsense.

…If gender is something you can choose, what is feminism fighting for?

…In the earliest stage of the shutdown, Governor Wolf and his experts determined that cement companies were essential but the quarries providing the gravel necessary to make cement were not essential.  This is the only commentary necessary regarding socialism and central government planning.

…Is it better to avoid the news and be uninformed, or to attend to it and be misinformed?

…We often speak of great historical personages rolling over in their graves.  But I think many of the truly great people of the past, if they understood the changes in the world since their time, would appreciate the complexity of the struggles we face in ours -- and would prefer to remain face-up and at rest in their graves.

…I’ll believe it is vital to public health to wear little cloth masks when scientists in the virus labs exchange their space-suit paraphernalia for little cloth masks.

…“We’re all in this together” and “We’re all alone together” are slogans from 2020 that have likely been offered as empty comfort to citizens of hell.

…There is a fine line between contentment and laziness.

…The most difficult challenge of ministry is investing quality time and personal interest in others that would otherwise go to your wife and children, and then to have that investment appear stolen or wasted.

When I came over to evangelicalism from Catholicism, I was surprised to discover hostility to Christmas celebrations.  We needed to be rid of Santa Claus and Christmas trees and mistletoe and gifts and stockings and yule logs – anything that had its origins in paganism.  The devil had touched it and tainted it, permanently rendering it unusable for God’s good ends.

Is the devil that powerful?
Is God that impotent?
Christ redeems us.  He rightfully takes something back.  When our souls were redeemed, our personalities weren’t obliterated; we weren’t turned into completely unrecognizable brand-spanking new people.  We still possessed the same facial expressions, personality quirks, and sense of humor.  Those things were simply redirected to new and better ends.

Christianity does the same thing when it touches culture.  Culture is just the way we live life – our customs and traditions and practices.  The Spirit of God doesn’t generate a purely “Christian culture”.  Instead, He seems to have always taken Roman or German or African or Celtic or Oriental or Jewish ways and repurposed them as tools to new and better ends.

There is no purely Christian culture.  There are only human cultures baptized by the Spirit.

This bothers some evangelicals.  They seem to think that if Colonel Mustard used the candlestick to commit a murder in the library, all candlesticks and libraries must never be used again. 

But couldn’t God redeem the same candlestick and set it up in the library to shine light for people to read by?

Isn’t this what redemption is about?

Some evangelicals worry too much about the devil and what people have done supposedly under his influence and not enough about the fact that Christ has overcome the world.  Is everything about every non-Christian religion demonic and diabolical?  Is the devil’s touch so poisonous as to be able to taint God’s creation and put it beyond the renewing touch of an Almighty Redeemer?

The apostle’s take on unbelieving Gentiles is that they are feeling their way toward God, groping in the dark to find Him (Acts 17.27).  Perhaps some groping in the dark is demonically inspired, but perhaps some of it is the best that a sincere blind man can do.  I don’t criticize my four year old grandchildren for their attempts at writing their names or drawing stick figures;  I post them on my refrigerator and recognize them for what they are.

The best that a sincere blind man can do will be terribly imperfect.  But God is in the business of redeeming and transforming things.  And when He redeems and transforms someone or something, it is taken back to Himself.  The devil loses his power.  Darkness is pushed away by the light.  What looked like a defeat is suddenly a resounding victory.

Merry Christmas to all!  Enjoy your holiday with all of the fixings!

Most of the times God has gotten “personal” with me – or at least where it has felt like He has done so – it has involved providences regarding His Word, the Scriptures.

I have been teaching and preaching publicly for almost 40 years now and have spoken well over 2,000 times.  I have not kept track of the times where, while preaching, an illustration or a particular passage popped into my head uninvited and diverted the sermon.  Some in the congregation well remember me stopping after such a rabbit trail and saying “Now how did I get all the way out here?” -- because I lost my train of thought.  But often after I have wandered down a rabbit trail, a person will contact me and say “That particular verse hit me” or “That illustration was exactly what I needed” or “Were you a fly on the wall in my home this week?”.  That experience is not unique to me.  All Christian speakers experience it.  I take it as a confirmation that the Spirit of God is at work through me in others.  It is a reminder that God is involved with me personally and I find such providences wonderfully encouraging.

Though usually I’m giving the message, on some occasions God works providentially through other speakers so that I receive a message.  A few of those situations have punched so pointedly into my exact circumstances that I can’t help but feel God’s personal touch in them.

I never attended seminary chapel service during my seminary career.  Chapel attendance was not required, and I was too busy to attend.  But one day, I decided to attend instead of studying in the library.  A local pastor was addressing the topic of adultery from the story of Potiphar’s wife attempting to seduce Joseph and was pointing out that adultery is usually driven far more by emotional deficits than by sexual desire.  I thought it was an odd message to preach in a seminary chapel service.

At the end of that same week my wife and I were cleaning the church with another man from the church (In the old church we didn’t have a janitor; people signed up in teams to clean the building!).  As we worked, the man confessed to me that he was cheating on his wife.  That was the first case of adultery I ever had to deal with as a young pastor.  Suddenly the sermon from seminary chapel wasn’t odd; it was completely relevant!  My conversation with him became the first step in the eventual restoration of his marriage.

A second situation where God got providentially up close and personal took place when some folks in the church that I thought were friends had listened to some false gossip about me, and instead of coming to me with what they had heard, they spread it and started a brushfire that led to split in the church, resulting in even more friends turning on me.  I tried to resolve the issues, but people had already made their minds up based on the gossip. 

I felt terribly betrayed and downright angry that “friends” turned so easily and so quickly on me, that they were willing to believe horrific lies about me and didn’t even bother to ask for my side.  I was judged and condemned without a hearing.

Amidst the conflict my wife and I decided to get away to recompose ourselves.  We attended the annual Bible conference of our college alma mater.  We walked into the first session of the conference and the speaker (whom I did not know) announced his subject:  betrayal in ministry. He laid out how Jesus knew Judas would betray him but still served his betrayer by washing Judas’ feet.

That was not a message I wanted to hear.  But the unplanned convergence of my life situation and that message was too coincidental to be mere coincidence.  It was a hard pill to swallow, but the amazing providence of the situation let me know that I was being attended to very personally.

There were no heavenly voices or visions in the situations I’ve related, but in these occasional providences I have felt God’s personal touch and I know that I am loved and cared for.  Such providences become benchmarks that I use to remind myself of God's love for me when He seems to be engaged elsewhere, ignorant of my own plight-of-the-moment.

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