Archive for October, 2009

This thought came to my mind as I was part of a ministry opportunity recently.  A couple I was having supper with asked a lady and her son to come over.  The son is only a few years younger than me but is very incapacitated.  He was in a car accident when he was 18, and he’s never been the same since.  He is confined to a wheelchair and has only about 50% brain capacity.  I guess that’s a demonstration of the mercy of God, because it keeps him from fully realizing what he’s going through.  It is interesting that his cupholder says “this is not the life I ordered”, but I think his mom got him this (though she’s very content with what the Lord has given to them). 

At supper Shawn sometimes had a hard time swallowing, resulting in some unexpected mealtime noises.  Thankfully, God helped me not to be improperly distracted or disturbed by them.  I know there are some handicap people who have even greater difficulty as they eat, and I am grateful that my experience was extremely mild. My heart also went out to the young man.  But as I was thinking about some of the mildly unpleasant things we were experiencing, I began thinking about Jesus’ washing of the apostles’ feet in John 13.  I reflected on Jesus’ service to the apostles.  No doubt their feet smelled.  No, I didn’t get that from the Greek.  All guys’ feet smell!  But Jesus didn’t allow the unpleasantness of their feet to keep Him from doing a humble act of service to them.  I also need to be willing to experience unpleasantness at times in my service to Him. 

After being with Shawn for the evening, I was also thankful that the Lord has not taken away the abilities He’s given me and that I can use them in service to Him.  I did enjoy getting to know Shawn, too.  He has a good sense of humor.  He knows the Lord has died on the cross for his sins, and he really enjoys singing hymns and spiritual songs.  It was such a blessing to hear of his testimony, in spite of his limited mental capacities. 

On a deputation note…  There are three churches that are very close to voting about support for me, and there are at least 7 others here in PA that are seriously considering me.  Please pray!

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The truth of this quotation from James Fraser’s book Mountain Rain was illustrated with powerful clarity recently.  A lady affiliated with Bibles International is presently visiting her children in Bankok, Thailand.  She had surgery 6 months ago and was still experiencing pain because of it.  But the doctors were unable to determine the cause.  While in Thailand she experienced intense abdominal pain and lost a life-threatening amount of blood.  She was admitted to ICU at a Thailand hospital.  By the grace of God she was linked up with a gastroenterologist who had much experience in and knowledge about her condition.  In fact he had development a procedure for dealing with it.  As far as he knows he’s the only gastroenterologist in the world using this procedure.  By doing this he was able to stop the bleeding without even having to open the abdomen.  Our friend is currently healing in ICU. 

What amazes me is that this older lady and her husband would go to Thailand according to the will of God, experience this health difficulty, and intersect with the only doctor in the world who can deal with the problem in a very uncomplicated way!  We think that we are safe in America.  Apparently, the safest place for this woman was Bankok, Thailand, and the Lord directed her there at just the right moment!  What an amazing God!  We truly are safe in the will of God, no matter where that leads us. 

On a personal note, I’m in Kittanning, PA, for the week.  I had great meetings at a missions conference in Enola two weekends ago and enjoyed my time at Union Baptist church this past weekend.  Union is over 200 years old.  It’s been an independent, fundamental, Baptist church all this time.  Not many churches can say that! 

There are at least 5 PA churches that are seriously considering taking me on for support.  Please pray for these relationships to be formed up, if it’s the Lord’s will.

I had a good time at the University of Pittsburgh on Saturday at a French Immersion Program.  It was a good opportunity to hear nothing but French for a couple of hours.  I wish they had such a thing in Michigan.  I’m getting back together with these French-speakers this evening for some casual conversation in French. 

Tomorrow I lead the Bible study at Union Baptist here in Kittanning, so please pray for God to work in this time.  On Thurs I have to drive to Cleveland for a meeting with various people in BI and BMM.  Please pray for safety as I travel there and back.  On Friday I drive to eastern PA for a missions conference, so I need prayer for safety that day too.  Lots of driving!

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Being Like the Berean Jews??

Now that I have a blog, I have a public venue where I can voice some of insights in Scripture that the Lord has given through my study of Scriptures.  We often hear that we are to be like the Berean Christians because they searched the Scriptures daily to see if the things that Paul said were so.  As Luke says, the Bereans were “more noble” than the Thessalonians.  Because this is the common way to understand this passage, ministries and churches use “Berean” in their name, desiring to promote such a spirit among the believers.  Of course, this is an extremely honorable and godly goal.  However, it is based on a misreading of the passage.

If you read Acts 17:1-13, you will note first of all that Paul followed his normal pattern of beginning his ministry in a new city by presenting truth in the synagogue.  In Thessalonica Paul reasoned for three Sabbaths, “explaining” and “giving evidence” to the Jews.  Though some Jews were persuaded, most of the Jews apparently were not, so they stirred up things to such an extent that Paul and his company had to leave.

When Paul entered the synagogue in Berea, on the other hand, he was met with a more sympathetic crowd.  The Jews in the synagogue were “more noble-minded”, in that they showed “a willingness to learn and evaluate something fairly” (Louw and Nida’s definition of the Greek word behind “noble-minded”).  When Paul presented the two key truths of the gospel (that according to the OT the Messiah had to suffer and rise again, and that Jesus of Nazareth is that Messiah), the Berean Jews were willing to listen to Paul’s teaching and then examine the OT to see if it was in fact true.  Because they were willing to go through this process, they were confronted with truth and came to believe it.  Verse 12 says that many Jews were converted.

The key verse that supposedly talks about the Berean Christians is v. 11.  Clearly, this verse is speaking about the Berean Jews and compares them with the Thessalonian Jews, who incidentally pursued Paul to Berea and stirred up the crowds there as well.  In other words, the ones who examined the Scriptures daily were Jews at the time and were not yet Christians. [I changed “believers” to “Christian” in this sentence, thanks to Eric’s helpful response to my post. Thanks, Eric!]

This week in my devotions I was struck by another insight about this issue that also gives further clarity.  This “Be Like the Bereans” teaching is an implicit “degradation” (can’t think of a better word) of the Thessalonian Christians, because supposedly they were not as noble-minded as the Berean Christians.  I don’t think anyone would say this explicitly, but this is basically what they are saying implicitly.  But as I read 1 Thessalonians, I am struck by Paul’s praise for them by the way in which they received his preaching as the Word of God, not just as the word of men.  The Holy Spirit clearly came with power as Paul preached the gospel to them.  Therefore, I think I would be very content to “be like the Thessalonians.”

Having said all this, I will clarify by saying that we all should be those who examine the Scriptures as we hear preaching, because we want to be assured that we are hearing truth (and because we want to act on it if it is in fact truth).  But I don’t think we should use Acts 17:11 to teach it, at least, not if we want to teach the exact truths of Scripture.

In conclusion, I want to testify to how much the Lord has impressed on my heart recently the power of truth.  I remember being struck by this truth when I was reading Judson’s testimony about converting from a Congregationalist to a Baptist.  He and his wife (in spite of her protests) were exposed to the truth about baptism and changed their convictions, in spite of their own personal inclinations and the difficult results that they would have to face (having to break ties with their Congregational co-missionaries and churches back home).

Of course, there are truths in Scripture that are even clearer than mode of baptism–the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ; and many other orthodox teachings.  I hope I never underestimate the power of truth if it is just taught simply and clearly.  God’s Spirit can accomplish amazing works in such a situation.

I praise the Lord for giving me opportunities to proclaim the truth on deputation.  I had a good meeting in Crossingville on Wed with a small group of believers and then with a little larger group in Enola last night.  It was a joy to preach a message on Matt. 4:4 that I have given numerous times before on deputation.  I get to sit under preaching this evening at the missions conference and will be able to minister one more time in SS tomorrow morning.  Then I have a week of no meetings before I minister again in Kittanning on Oct. 25.

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Thanks for your prayers for Friday’s chapel.  Most of the students seemed to pay attention, so we’ll see if it will bear fruit.   I pray the Lord will give me grace to deny self and take up my cross daily as well.  I need to allow that sermon to continue echoing in my mind. 

Today I spoke in Spanish class about diversity.  I don’t like using that word since it’s politically worn out, but it captures what I wanted to talk about.  I wanted to expose them to some of the diversity that I’ve seen in my overseas travel.  I wanted them to see that people can be quite different from Americans and that we should respond rightly to those differences.  We should also have the right attitude towards those near to us who are different.  I used 1 Cor. 4:7 as my text, even though that verse has a different point in Paul’s discussion with the Corinthians.  Who made us to differ from another?  What do we have that we didn’t receive from God?  Since we received all things from God, why do we boast as if we didn’t receive it? 

It’s a blessing to be in a basement apartment that has a great view of a beautiful, colorful landscape out the windows.  What a peaceful place to stay!

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Loss and Denial

Please pray as I speak in chapel today at 1:30 on the true characteristics of discipleship. 

My time in Life Skills class went well yesterday.  I’ll be speaking in Spanish class on Mon about differences among people and how we should respond to them.

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Christian Colleges

Last evening I decided to accompany a group of Christian high school seniors on a trip to a college fair in Saegertown, PA.  I was disappointed that none of the schools were there that I have grown to appreciate–Bob Jones, Northland, Maranatha, or Faith.  Piedmont, Applachian, Crown, and Pensacola weren’t there either.  Instead, it was schools like Cedarville, Regent, Taylor, Valley Forge, Roberts Wesleyan, Tyndale, Geneva, Baptist Bible College, Lancaster Bible College, etc. 

I visited almost every booth and was amused as the representatives tried to figure out exactly what station of life I was in.  They weren’t sure to ask if I was looking for a college for myself or for my son.  The latter wasn’t exactly flattering, because I would need to be at least 40 to have a son ready for college.  But I sympathized with their consternation and didn’t get upset at all. 

I wanted to get a feel for the characteristics of Christian colleges and universities outside of fundamentalism.  No surprise that all of them featured CCM.  All but one that I can remember made sure that there was at least one picture of students jamming in “worship.”  A number of them said that they don’t require incoming students to sign a faith statement.  Almost all said that they accept students from any denomination (I should have asked them if they accept Muslims). 

One (Regent) even said that they allow a Catholic priest to come on campus once a week to conduct mass.  This is the school where Pat Robertson is the president (for one more year).  It’s also the headquarters for CBN and The 700 Club.  When I asked the rep if she considers Catholics to be Christians, she said that she knew ones who are, but she was quick to add that she didn’t want to get into a theological argument.   Neither did I, but I did want to at least ask her if the Protestant Reformation meant anything to her. 

I’m glad I was able to go so that I could learn more about Christian schools.  It grieved me greatly, though, to see how ecumenical and worldly these schools are.  Students may come from conservative homes and churches, but by the time they walk out of these school doors, they are much more at home in the typical contemporary church, where demoninational differences are minimized and where the services are catered to felt needs.  One rep came crom a conservative Christian Missionary Alliance church but now attends The Father’s House, where they serve you water with cucumbers or lemon (as she was proud to note).  According to her, the worship has all the smoke, lights, and noise.  Surprisingly, the pastor preaches for around 45 minutes. 

I’m glad I got to say a few words to the students in the van on the way back.  One girl was wanting to go to Regent because they have nice rooms to stay in, but I strongly encouraged her to reconsider.  Thankfully, a girl asked me if I would recommend BJU.  Without hesistation I said “Yes!”  They are already familiar with BJU through LINC.  I also recommended the schools I mentioned at the beginning. 

What a blessing that there are still fundamental schools that have not compromised with the changing face of Christianity.  We definitely need to pray for God to lead good students to these schools and that He would continue to keep their doors open.

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Schedule Filling Up Again

Here I thought I’d be in Butler, PA, with very little to do for two weeks except for speaking at the chapel for First Baptist Christian School on Fri afternoon.  But today, my schedule just increased with four new events.  Tomorrow evening I’ll be presenting my ministry at Perry Baptist Church in Hadley.  On Thurs I’ll be speaking in the Spanish class at FBCS.  On Tues of next week, I’ll be attending an event at Slippery Rock Baptist Camp so that I can meet a pastor or two.  On Wed of next week I’ll be presenting my ministry at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Edinboro.  Three of these four new events are thanks to Pastor Maitland here at F’irst Baptist.  He sure knows how to get people connected!

Now I need the Lord to help me know what to do this Sunday and two Weds in October (21 and 28).  We’ll see how the Lord works all that out! 

The greatest part about how things developed today is the fact that I was pretty discouraged at the lack of success I was having with calling pastors.  In most cases, I just got an answering machine or someone to take a message.  In one case, the secretary said the pastor looked at my brochure and had no interest in scheduling a meeting.  Quite discouraging!  But the Lord so graciously lifted my spirits by helping me to get two new meetings and two other events, all only hours after getting no where on the phone!

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