Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Why I Like Visiting Other Churches

When vacationing in Massanutten, Virginia, a couple weeks ago, we attended the McGaheysville United Methodist Church. The pastor was on sabbatical, and one of the parishioners, first name Sarah, spoke. Her first message ever, the Lord used her as she let her testimony illuminate the selected Scripture from Eph 3-4.

I love worshiping at other churches when I’m on vacation. When picking a church to visit, I usually look for one or more of the following:
--smaller church as opposed to bigger church
--different liturgical tradition OR Missionary church where a friend pastors
--church we haven’t been to before.

There’s something special to me about worshiping with people whom I don’t know and whom I’ll probably never see again on this earth, but who are nonetheless my brothers and sisters in Christ and with whom I’ll live in the new heavens and new earth throughout eternity.

The liturgy of this United Methodist Church was more formal than Northside’s. I liked praying the Lord’s Prayer together, and in the KJV. I enjoyed singing more than one hymn during the service. Singing the Doxology as the ushers presented at the altar the tithes and offerings reminded me of doing the same every Sunday at Eastwood Chapel when I was growing up.

I also appreciated the (subtle) Trinitarian format of the service as laid out in the bulletin:
--“We are drawn together by the Holy Spirit.”
--“We proclaim and respond to God’s Word.”
--“We now go forth with the light of Christ.”

Sunday morning public worship is a breath of fresh air, whether I’m at Northside, or in another part of the Fort, or in Virginia, or even in China. It rejuvenates my spirit, raises my eyes to the Lord and his grace, inspires my faith, reminds me of my hope, and increases my joy.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Pride & Prejudice Just Got More Interesting

Click here to see Jane Austen's Fight Club.

Rain

Driving on US 33 from WV into VA a few weeks ago was a wheel-gripping experience. Several factors led to this:
  • mountains, resulting in
  • steep grades up and steep grades down
  • fog and/or mist
  • nighttime
  • and rain, heavy rain.

What an experience that was! The Lord brought us through it, both vans.

Thirty-six hours later we sat in the McGaheysville United Methodist Church, listening to the music director share prayer requests from the pulpit. The biggest “Amen” from the congregation erupted when she praised the Lord for the rain on Friday and Saturday.

My mental eyebrows shot up (maybe even my physical ones), and a literal smile crossed my face as a wonderful reality dawned on me: the very rain that hampered and threatened us less than two days previous was an answer to prayer for the people of western Virginia.

In the end, the Lord was gracious to both groups. He gave our McGaheysville brothers and sisters much needed rain, and he took us Hoosiers through it.

Truly God is good, and God is great!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Letter to My Quiz Coach

Gary Aupperle introduced me to quizzing when I was in middle school. He was my coach for a couple years. For the last several years he has served as Denominational Quiz Director for the Missionary Church.

A few weeks ago he retired from that position. His daughter solicited notes and letters for a memento book in his honor. Below is my tribute to Gary.



Jill,

There’s no question that both quizzing and Gary himself had a huge impact on my life, and the two are somewhat intertwined since Gary was my coach for a few years.

Gary introduced me to quizzing. I hadn’t heard of it prior to him. And what a difference that made! Bible quizzing became one of a handful of things that defined me as a teenager.

Once I found I could be good at quizzing, I quizzed to compete. I wanted to win. I admit that my first priority of quizzing was not to study the Word of God so as to know him better; it was rather to know the Word of God so that I could help my team score more points than the other teams. However impure my motives, though, the Word of God got into me, and boy am I grateful!

For one thing, memorizing several books of the NT helps me even today to place exactly where many different passages are.

Also, the detailed study of Scripture back then has led me to detailed of Scripture today (and the study of today is matched with better motives, which yields greater fruit).

Quizzing even saved me money. When I entered college I was able to clep out of NT survey. Thanks, quizzing!

And what a great social network quizzing proved to be as well. I made a lot of friends during those five years, in the district and beyond, not to mention the countless hours spent with two great coaches/Christians, Carl White and, of course, Gary.

As I move to Gary himself, I move beyond just his influence on me in terms of quizzing, for I knew him beyond just his role as coach. Gary was one among a few who taught me passion for God’s word. He did this in quizzing, but especially in his expository preaching on Sunday nights at Avalon. His preaching was one of two or three factors that wooed me into a love relationship with the Bible during my late teens.

Gary taught me by example the fine art of conversation. I remember him taking me out to eat on various occasions when he was my youth pastor, and he would pepper me with questions, showing me that good conversationalists show more interest in others than in talking about themselves.

And I think it was because of Gary’s ministry as my youth leader and then as senior pastor at Avalon that caused me to begin to think about the possibility of going into ministry myself.

Further, when I ended up in youth ministry, how could I not help but think of Gary’s ministry to me as a template for my own ministry to youth? (It usually worked like this: I would reflect on what Gary did with us, and then I would reject that and do the opposite. Okay, not really. That’s something else I think Gary reinforced in me—sarcasm.)

In short, I love quizzing, and I love Gary. What a servant! Well does Gary exemplify 2 Cor 4:5: “For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (NIV).

Sincerely,
Kent

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Independence=Freedom?

I smiled as we crossed into Pennsylvania a couple weeks ago. Two signs maybe only a few hundred yards apart told a funny story.

The first said,
Welcome to Pennsylvania
The State of Independence

The second said,
Fasten Your Seat Belt
It’s Your Life
It’s Our Law

So are we free or not? Apparently we’re not free to unhook that seat belt.

Maybe some other time I’ll get on my seat belt soapbox; you know, the rant I take up about seat belt laws as representative of the continued infringement of government; but not today.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Martyn Lloyd-Jones Sermon on the 2nd Beatitude

"Blessed Are They That Mourn"
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Mt 5:4
“Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.”
(My notes)

Contrast with the world: The world does all it can to get away from mourning, but the gospel says, “Happy are those who mourn.”

This is a spiritual mourning, not a natural mourning as if for someone who has died. All the Beatitudes have reference to a spiritual condition and a spiritual attitude.

Sadly, spiritual mourning is not as much in evidence in today’s Church as it once was.
  • One reason is because the Church is reacting against a false notion of puritanism.
  • Another reason is that there is a current notion that in order to attract the lost we must put on a happy face.
  • The ultimate reason is that we have a defective doctrine and conviction of sin and also a shallow view of joy.
  • Therefore, there is little effective evangelism.

In light of all this, it is important to know what Jesus means when he says, “Happy are those who mourn.” Let’s look at the NT, and let’s start with Jesus first.

  • We are created to be like Christ. What was Christ like? There is no record of Jesus laughing. There is anger, hunger and thirst, and weeping. He was a “man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” There’s indication he looked much older than he was (Jn 8:57), but no assumed brightness and joviality.
  • In Paul’s teaching, we find Paul’s recurrent experience of spiritual anguish in Rom 7:14ff., Rom 8:23, 2 Cor 5:1. He tells Timothy and Titus that the old men are to be sober, grave, and temperate, and the young men are to be sober minded. There is no glib joviality here.


What does it mean to mourn?

  • It follows naturally from being poor in spirit. We see God and his holiness and the lives we are meant to live, and we see our helplessness in doing so, and we mourn.
  • We also see our sins. As we examine our lives at the end of each day and see how far short we have fallen, we mourn, experiencing what Paul details in Rom 7.
  • We also mourn the sins of others. That is what Jesus did as he approached Jerusalem (Lk 19).
  • This mourning is the antithesis of the world which, as Jesus puts it, “laughs now.” Even in war, the world tries to be happy.

But we don’t stop there, lest our picture be incomplete. For mourning leads to true happiness. In what sense? Happy in a personal sense.

  • At conversion: The one who mourns his sinfulness and hopelessness looks for a Savior and finds Christ, his perfect satisfaction. “That is the astounding thing about the Christian life. Your great sorrow leads to joy, and without the sorrow there is no joy.”
  • Throughout the Christian life: mourning for personal sin and sinfulness throughout the Christian life leads rejoicing when eyes are lifted once again to Christ.
  • The blessed hope: There is the joy of knowing there will be a new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.

What hope does the person have who doesn’t believe these things? Look at your world; read your newspaper. There’s no hope. You can’t bank on education or on the UN. All has been tried and has failed. Only the Christian man who mourns for his sins and is comforted experiences true joy, the joy of Christ now and the future blessed hope.

[My notes don't do the sermon justice. The book is a wonderful compilation of perhaps the best sermons preached on The Sermon on the Mount.]

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Random Thoughts

To me politics is important, but ministry is more so. So I downplay politics in my ministry except in general terms (example: “abortion is wrong”). I don’t want to turn people away from the gospel I preach and teach because of my partisan advocacy. I have brothers and sisters in Christ who are Democrats, and I have brothers and sisters in Christ who are Republicans.

I may have to close my blogs if and when I ever candidate to pastor someone else. Some of my posts may be too serious / funny / immature / shallow / political / conservative / liberal / Arminian / Calvinist / tentative / radical / (fill in the blank) for a pastoral search committee. I may be giving a pastoral search committee too many reasons to say No to me.

Why does my local news feel Lindsay Lohan’s going to jail is something they need to report? In truth, they’re probably doing an excellent job of reporting the news most of their viewers want to hear. Alas, alas.

Do Denver-dwellers like to vacation to the flat Midwest in order to see flat land?

Why does the bank balk at counting change amounting to $1100? They have change-counting machines. They’re too busy? But isn’t changing money their business? If they won’t do it, what are we supposed to do? Bring it in a few dollars at a time?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Random Thoughts

Height is relative. A McDonald’s employee at my south office asked me (in wonder), “How tall are you?” That was nice to hear. I used to hear it all the time, but took it for granted. What I usually hear now is, “Your son's taller than you, isn’t he?” So like I said, height is relative.

Parenting is harder than it looks. Parenting is also more important than it seems. If I fail in this and succeed in everything else … so what?

We need another global warming conference to convene so that the temperatures will cool down.

The kids and I watched America’s Got Talent the other night. It’s entertaining for a show, but several of the acts I would not pay to watch on their own. Like the harmonica player they sent through. He was good, but when it comes to going to a show in Las Vegas (or even here in the Fort), I don’t care how good he is, I wouldn’t go to an hour-long harmonica show even if it were free.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

4 Views of 1000 Years

The Meaning of the Millennium (editor Robert G. Clouse) brings together 4 differing views of the millennium which is taught in Revelation 20. As typical in this popular format, each contributor lays out his position, and each of the other three critique that view.

As is also (unfortunately) typical in this format, the contributions seem uneven. George Ladd’s contribution on historic premillennialism and Anthony Hoekema’s on amillennialism are well-done, but Herman Hoyt’s on dispensational premillennialism doesn’t seem to be a standard defense of that view, and Loraine Boettner’s argument needs more Scriptural arguments, including a discussion of Rev 20 (although in one of his critiques he briefly comments that he essentially agrees with Hoekema’s interpretation).

The critiques are also a bit uneven. Ladd is almost rude (“direct” is probably a better term) at points, and Boettner does more expounding of his own views in his critique of Hoekema than he does of interacting with Hoekema.

All that aside, the volume is helpful in laying out the positions (though I feel like I need better presentations of the dispensational premil and the postmil positions).

Briefly defined,

Premillennialism: Christ will return at the beginning of the millennium, which will last 1000 years before the establishment of the new heavens and new earth. Within premillennialism, there are significant distinctions between the historic view and the dispensational view.

Postmillennialism: Christ will return at the end of the millennium. The gospel will continue to be preached and the kingdom will continue to advance until the world is essentially Christianized. Once we reach an essentially Christianized world, then begins the millennium at the end of which Christ will return. Then the final judgment occurs, and the new heavens and new earth are established.

Amillennialism: We are living in the millennium now, that is, the church age between the 1st coming of Christ and the 2nd coming of Christ. Rev 20:1-6 is a picture of the current age. At the end of the millennium/this current church age, Christ will return, there will be a general resurrection, a final judgment, and then the establishment of the new heavens and new earth.

Rating: 3 stars (out of a possible 5)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Elmhurst Whiners

My high school alma mater, Elmhurst High School, situated at the corner of Ardmore and Sand Point, closed a few weeks ago.

I’m amazed at the outpouring of sadness in connection with the school’s closing. I’ve seen it on Facebook, read it in the newspaper, heard it on the radio, and seen it on the news. Lawsuits have even been filed against Fort Wayne Community Schools for the closing.

Now I can understand current students being upset. My nephew and several of my neighbors have to attend different high schools next year, most of them Northside. That means whole new wardrobes. Trojans out, Redskins in. Red and gray out, red and white in. (I suppose they could just invest in a bottle of bleach.)

But what’s with all the alumni moaning and groaning? We hated high school! It’s like ex-cons bemoaning the closing of Alcatraz. I don’t get it.

Further, there’s so much more to life than high school. I’m over 20 years out of high school. I rank several things above my high school experience: like marriage for instance, children, career, and friends … even that trip out west, John Kerry’s concession speech, that amazing steak dinner the other night, and the recent passing of the neighbor’s pesky mutt.

Of course, maybe some EHS alumni don't lead the exciting life I do.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics Applies to Marriages, Too

The love that a newlywed couple shares does not sustain a marriage. The cliché “the honeymoon’s over” is cliché for a reason.

This was brought to the fore of my thinking the other day as a friend and I watched a DVD of Robert Lewis talking about challenges to a good marriage. One of those challenges was something he calls a “creeping separateness.” “We” becomes “I,” “us” becomes “self,” common interests become his and her interests, "together" becomes "you" and "me."

I remember a schoolteacher here in Fort Wayne who was going to be retiring soon. Her husband worked in Indy and was renting an apt. there where he lived during the week. He came home on weekends. She expressed the idea that retiring and actually living with her husband every day might be kind of a chore. I was incredulous. (I was in my first year of marriage at the time.)

The key to overcoming creeping separateness, according to Lewis, is doing things together, and he has several recommendations.

I can see this whole reality in my own marriage. We can get busy—both of us—in our own spheres, even within the same house; so busy that we have little chance to talk except to exchange need-to-know information.

So today’s session was my 857th reminder that marriage doesn’t just automatically maintain “wedded bliss” status. It takes work; it takes my time and attention. My love for Sara can’t withstand the test of neglect.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Same Kind of Different As Me More Different Than Same

Same Kind of Different As Me is the story of two men, the co-authors, Ron Hall and Denver Moore, from disparate backgrounds who became friends at the instigation of one woman, Debbie Hall, Ron’s wife. Ron and Denver each wrote individual chapters, and the chapters go back and forth with each man’s way of telling the story.

Denver was essentially a modern-slave, living in Louisiana, picking cotton for “the Man” and owning virtually nothing himself. The story he tells is incredible. Ron became a multi-millionaire as an art dealer. (Bonus: Denver's way of talking is preserved in the book.)

Through Debbie’s work at a mission, Ron and Denver met. In fact, Debbie had seen Denver in a vision prior to their actually meeting him for the first time.

Points of interest for me:
  • Denver’s background story—a segment of life I didn’t know still existed
  • Debbie’s forgiveness of Ron when he had an affair and her (successful) determination to make their marriage work—I blogged about that elsewhere
  • Supernatural visions and knowledge—including Debbie’s vision of Denver before they meet him, Denver’s messages from the Lord during the time of Debbie’s illness

Spoiler Warning: If you're planning to read the book, you may not want to read this next part.

Some of the last third of the book or so lagged a bit for me. It details the cancer and eventual death of Debbie Hall. This part seemed a bit drawn out to me, but not enough for me not to recommend you reading it.

First line: “Until Miss Debbie, I’d never spoke to no white woman before.”

Last line: “So in a way, we is all homeless—just workin our way toward home.”

Rating: 3 ½ stars (out of 5)