Saturday, June 13, 2009
Friday, June 12, 2009
Fighting The Odds
People with strong religious beliefs appear to want doctors to do everything they can to keep them alive as death approaches, a US study suggests.It appears aimed at taking pot shots at religion as it quotes other studies and statistics:
Researchers followed 345 patients with terminal cancer up until their deaths.
Those who regularly prayed were more than three times more likely to receive intensive life-prolonging care than those who relied least on religion.
However, work has been done which suggests that intensive intervention in the last few weeks and days before death may reduce a patient's quality of life.Are they trying to make us look foolish? Perhaps. In fact probably likely, and I think they have a point, up to a point. Of course, as Christians we value life more than almost anything else, but we also know that there is life after death - certainly for adults that have had the opportunity to come to know Jesus Christ. So, why the fight. Is it because we have hope beyond the odds? well, we certainly have that.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that treatments such as ventilator support, resuscitation, having a feeding tube and non-palliative chemotherapy were associated with more psychological and physical distress.
The patients' chances of dying in their preferred place were also reduced.
It may also be because we are capable of love more intensely, thus we feel loss more sincerely. But then, do we make decisions to prolong the life of a loved one artificially because of our inability to cope with the loss, or because it is better for them? And therein lies the questions. It is a huge question about who is making these decisions - often they are not made by the patient themselves.
Having had to, in the last few years make these decisions for someone other than myself, let me just say that the hardest thing is to think about them and not yourself. And yet, it is the most necessary thing.
We may want to keep them, when God wants to take them home. If you are confronted with these decisions, please do not let your own needs cloud God's voice. It's not about you.
Friday Humor - Painful Pun Edition
It all started with the philosopher Juan-Paul Salsa, who wrote, "To Bean, or Nacho to Bean, that is the Queso."
He was followed by his great disciple, Descarta Blanca, who said, "I Pinto, therefore, Cayenne."
Some trace it to ancient Grease, where the great thinker Aristortilla wrote the book Plata's RePulpo.
Meanwhile, over in ancient India, they believed in Chili con Karma - that what Casa round, Carne's around.
And back in the Holy Land, The prophet Masa brought The Ten Comidas:
"Thou Salt not Tequila."
"Honor Tamale and thy Papaya."
"Blessed are the Migas, for they shall Ranchero the Burps."
"Give a man an Enchilada, he'll Taco Mole."
"Arroz is Arroz by Flameada name."
"In the Picante, Guisada Cerveza'd the Hongas and the Verde.
And he saw that it was Food."
I'd like to close by reciting The Lard's Prayer:
"Our Fajita, who art in Huevos, Pollo'd be Muy Bueno. Thy Corona come, thy Chili be Con, on Cuervo it is El Jefe. Forgive us our Tres Amigos, as we forgive those who Seis Salsas against us. Lettuce not into Tomatillo, but Nuevo us from Fritos. For thine is the Gringo, the Agua and the Chorizo. In the name of the Flauta, and of the Flan, and of the Frijole ghost. A-Menudo."
Thursday, June 11, 2009
It Takes Humility To Learn
To be teachable is to have the confidence and humility to know our gifts, power and limitations so that we may rest on God's transforming spirit in the midst of hard choices and chaotic times. [emphasis added]I am not very humble when it comes to academics. It is a bad habit I picked up in graduate school. I was working full time, and class work was just tiring. I soon learned that it was far more efficient to pay an undergrad to take a few notes so I knew what the prof was emphasizing and then do the learning on my own - after all, that is what books were written for. I am still that way to some extent some 35 years later. Lectures just take too long - I can read and absorb much faster than I can listen and absorb.
But what I should not do, and often fail at, is remembering that just because I can obtain information faster on my own, it does not mean the lecturer is not smarter, or more knowledgeable, than me. It is also easy for me to forget that learning is so much more than the mere absorption of facts. There is also, of course, the occasional pity or irritation that I feel for my fellow "students" at how slowly they must accumulate the information as they sit there questioning the teacher over stuff that has been covered 2-3 times.
So when I think about it, all those classes I skipped, I still had something to learn - even if I did get an "A". Seems there is a lot to learn in any learning situation - and sometimes it's not just information. I probably should have sat through those classes, just to learn patience and humility if nothing else. I can tell you this, it would have been a much easier way to learn about humility than some of the lessons that eventually came, and are undoubtedly to come, my way.
There sure is a lot to learn.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
That Puts It Plainly Enough
It is not. This is clear from the following factsWhoa, that's a little blunt!. Torrey's essential points:
- First–The present “Tongues Movement” makes speaking with tongues the one and only decisive evidence that one has the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
- Second–The practical effect of the teaching of the “Tongues Movement” is to make speaking with tongues the most important of all manifestations of the Spirit’s presence and power.
- Third–The “Tongues Movement” leads its followers to seek for speaking with tongues more than any other gift, while the Bible plainly teaches us that we ought rather to seek some other gift than this.
- Fourth–The leaders of the “Tongues Movement” persistently disobey the plain teaching of God’s Word in the matter of speaking with tongues in public assemblies.
- Fifth–The “Tongues Movement” has been accompanied by the most grievous disorders and the grossest immoralities.
Torrey wrote this in 1913!
Now, I cannot argue with him much in his essential points, but his tone is remarkable and troubling. After his fifth point, something I agree with, he goes on to call the movement "demonic."
Here is my concern. Torrey argues, rightly I believe against the "tongues movement" because it is not efficacious - that is to say because it is accompanied with "the grossest immoralities." I have seen it and I agree. But we have seen such issues in virtually everything - from Catholic priests, to Baptist preachers. No one has ever done the statistics, but I would agree with Torrey that Pentecostalism in general has a higher percentage of this kind of issue than other movements, but why is an important question. There is an emphasis on the sensual (tongues is nothing if not sensual) and, importantly I think, there is a lack of accountability in the movement in general. That accounts for things more than the gift of tongues itself, or even the pursuit thereof.
But the bottom line is this - if effectiveness is important, how effective is Torrey's tone here? Does his tone reach out in grace to those that may be misguided by the problems associated with the charismatic movement? There is only condemnation, there is no grace.
There is a problem with plain speaking.
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
Be A Man
Still Looking for a Few Good Men"When I was growing up, there was a sense among all the men that they had a responsibility to boys, even those who were not their own sons. Call it that “tribal” feeling—that men, all men, were charged with ensuring the next generation grew up straight and true, into better men than the generation that spawned them.I think Dan is on to something here. Rites of Passage matter, but they are not the whole story. Later in his post he says:
God help us—what happened to that ideal?
Back when I was at Wheaton, I wrote a paper on a thesis of my own devising concerning the implications of the loss of rites of passage within the Church.
That rite meant something. When you successfully navigated it, the world changed. Adults expected more of you. You could sit on church boards and make decisi0ns along with the rest of the adults. And the men in the church treated you like one of their own.
I’d like to think that I was one of those old school guys, like the kind I used to know. But I’m not really. I realize that the ideal started fraying with my generation, that we were the first boys that had an uncertain manhood awaiting us. Feminism was on the march, the drug culture was firing up, and so was the culture of privilege and entitlement. Somewhere along the way, manhood did a nosedive and has not recovered. [emphasis added]I don't think men have gone away, they have just gone into hiding. You see, part of being a man is not to strike a woman - physically or emotionally, or spiritually. Real men defer to women, they always have and they always will. It is ingrained in us, it has to be. It is so easy for any of us to overpower a woman that it is near instinctive not to.
So, when a woman sticks her head up and acts "all liberated," I for one am going to go away with my toys. I am not going to challenge her. I am supposed to defer to her.
Rites of passage have largely gone away because women found them "barbaric." "Well, sure honey, whatever you say."
My point is this - I don't think men CAN reassert themselves until women are willing to lay down, just a little. Men don't do conflict with women - to do so denies the biggest part of us that is a man.
So, I don't think the church needs to reassert rites of passage. I think the church need to reassert God's designed order for men and women. Women need to learn how to be women, not try and act like men.
Now, I can hear my PCA brethren ask me how I can be PC(USA) if I feel this way. Well, just because I think women should be able to be elders, does not mean I think very many of them will take up the offer. I think a female perspective is valuable and should be heard. But I also think that if women were raised to be genuine women, not many of them would want to play in that arena.
Anyway, back to the point. If men and women are properly balanced, I think the rest of it will take care of itself.
Monday, June 08, 2009
The Case For Anger
I must confess that anger doesn’t come easily to me.I find it all too easy to come by. But we both agree:
But if we can find a way to use our anger, putting it under the discipline of God, it can become a force for good.Because of his very different personality, Mark comes at the issue in an entirely different fashion than I did, which makes his sermon valuable reading for anyone that read mine. His three mainpoints
- Holy anger, first of all, has to do with zeal for God.
- Holy anger is also about love for others.
- Holy anger is productive and useful.
Note the lack of self or self-expression in any of that! This is perhaps the key point for our Christian lives in general, it's not about us. Where anger goes wrong is that it is usually about us feeling wronged, rather than about objective wrong. Which makes Mark's concluding remarks so powerful:
Today, commit yourself to harnessing your holy anger—the anger that comes not from selfishness, but from the love and passion of God for people in need around you--and using it in positive, productive, proactive ways.
Burn for God and let the world see the glow of Jesus’ love in you.
Sunday, June 07, 2009
Sermons and Lessons
JOHN 3:3 - Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he can not see the kingdom of God.
Suppose I put the question to this audience, and ask how many believe in the Word of God, I have no doubt every man and every woman would rise and say, “I believe.” There might be an infidel or skeptic here and there, but undoubtedly the great mass would say they believed. Then what are you going to do with this solemn truth, “Except a man be born again, he can not see the kingdom of God,” much less inherit it? There are a great many mysteries in the Word of God. There are a great many dark sayings of which we have not yet discovered the depth. But God has put that issue so plainly and simply that he who runs may read if he will. This third chapter of St. John makes the way to Heaven plainer than any other chapter in the Bible; yet there is no truth so much misunderstood, and the church and the world are so troubled about, as this. Let me just say, before I go any further, what regeneration is not. It is not going to church. How many men think they are converted because they go to church! I come in contact with many men who say they are Christians because they go to church regularly. It is a wrong idea that the devil never frequents any place but billiard-halls, saloons, and theaters; wherever the Word of God is preached, He is there. He is in this audience today. You may go to church all the days of your life, and yet not be converted. Going to church is not being born again. But there is another class who say, “I don’t place my hopes in going to church. I have been baptized, and I think I was regenerated when that took place.” Where do those persons get their evidence? Certainly not in the Bible. You can not baptize men into regeneration. If you could, I would go up and down the world and baptize every man, woman, and child; and if I could not do it when they were awake, I would do it while they slept. But the Word says, “Except a man be born again” - born in the Spirit, born in righteousness from above - ”he can not see the kingdom of God.”
There is another class who say, “I was born again when I was confirmed. I was confirmed when I was five years old.” But confirmation is not regeneration. A new birth must be the work of God, and not the work of man. Baptism, confirmation, and other ordinances are right in their place, but the moment you build hope on them instead of on new birth, you are being deceived by Satan. Another man says, “That is not what my hope is based upon; I say my prayers regularly.” I suppose there was no man prayed more regularly than Paul did before Christ met him; he was a praying man. But saying prayers is one thing, and praying is another. Saying prayers is not conversion. You may pray from education; your mother may have taught you when you were a little boy. I remember that I could not go to sleep when I was a little boy unless I said my prayers, and yet perhaps the very next word I uttered might be an oath. There is just as much virtue in counting beads as in saying prayers, unless the heart has been regenerated and born again.
There is another class who say, “I read the Bible regularly.” Well, reading the Bible is very good, and prayer is very good in its place; but you don’t see anything in the Scriptures which says, “Except a man read the Bible he can not see the kingdom of God.” There is still another class who say, “I am trying to do the best I can, and I will come out all right.” That is not new birth at all; that is not being born of God. Trying to do the best you can is not regeneration. This question of new birth is the most important that ever came before the world, and it ought to be settled in every man’s mind. Every one should inquire, Have I been born of the Spirit? - have I passed from death unto life? - or am I building my hopes of Heaven on some form? In the first chapter of Genesis we find God working alone; He went on creating the world all alone. Then we find Christ coming to Calvary alone. His disciples forsook Him, and in redemption He was alone. And when we get to the third chapter of John we find that the work of regeneration is the work of God alone. The Ethiopian can not change his spots; we are born in sin, and the change of heart must come from God. We believe in the good old Gospel.
What man wants is to come to God for this new heart. The moment he gets it he will work for the Lord. He can not help it; it becomes his second nature. Some say, “I would like to have you explain this new birth.” Well, I might as well be honest, and own right up that I can not explain it. I have read a great many books and sermons trying to explain the philosophy of it, but they all fail to do it. I don’t understand how it is done. I can not understand how God created earth. It stag¬gers me and bewilders me when I think how God created nature out of nothing. But, say the infidels, He did not do it. Then how did He do it? A man came to me in Scotland, and said he could explain it, and I asked him how those rocks are made. He said, “They are made from sand.” “What makes the sand?” “Oh!” he replied, “rocks.” “Then,” I asked him, “what made the first sand?” He couldn’t tell. Notwithstanding the philosophy of some people, we do believe that God did create the world. We believe in redemption. We believe that Christ came from the Father, and that He grew up and taught men. We believe He went into the sepulcher and burst the bands of death. You may ask me to explain all this; but I don’t know how to do it. You ask me to explain regeneration. I can not do it. But one thing I know - that I have been regenerated. All the infidels and skeptics could not make me believe differently. I feel a different man than I did twenty-one years ago last March, when God gave me a new heart. I have not sworn since that night, and I have no desire to swear. I delight to labor for God, and all the influences of the world can not convince me that I am not a different man. I heard some time ago about four or five commercial travelers going to hear a minister preach. When they got back to their hotel, they began to discuss the sermon. A good many people just go to church for the purpose of discussing those things, but they should remember that they must be spiritually inclined to understand spiritual things. Those travelers came to the wise conclusion that the minister did not know what he was talking about. An old man heard them say they would not believe anything unless they could reason it out, and he went up to them and said: “While I was coming down in the train this morning I noticed in a field some sheep, some geese, some swine, and cattle eating grass. Can you tell me by what process that grass is turned into hair, feathers, wool, and horns?” “No,” they answered, “not exactly~” “Well, do you believe it is done?” “Oh, yes, we believe that.” “But,” said the old man, “you said you could not believe anything unless you understood it.” “Oh,” they answered, “we can not help believing that; we see it.” Well, I can not help believing that I am regenerated, because I feel it. Christ could not explain it to Nicodemus, but said to him, “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof; but canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth.” Can you tell all about the currents of the air? He says it is everyone that is born of the Spirit. Suppose, because I never saw the wind, I say it was all false. I have lived nearly forty years, and I never saw the wind. I never saw a man that ever did see it. I can imagine that little girl down there saying, “That man don’t know as much as I do. Didn’t the wind blow my hat off the other day? Haven’t I felt the effects of the wind? Haven’t I felt it beating against my face?” And I say you never saw the effects of the wind any more than a child of God felt the Spirit working in his heart. He knows that his eyes have been opened; that he has been born of the Spirit; that he has got another nature, a heart that goes up to God, after he has been born of the Spirit. It seems to me this is perfectly reasonable.
We have a law that no man shall be elected President unless he was born on American soil. I never heard any one complain of that law. We have Germans, Scandinavians, foreigners coming here from all parts of the world, and I never heard a man complain of that law. Haven’t we got a right to say who shall reign? Had I any right when I was in England, where a Queen reigns, to interfere? Has a foreigner any right to interfere here? Has not the God of Heaven a right to say how a man shall come into His kingdom, and who shall come? And He says: “Except a man be born again, he can not see the kingdom.” How are you going to get in? Going to try to educate men? That is what men are trying to do, but it is not God’s way. A man is not much better after he is educated if he hasn’t got God in his heart. Other men say, “I will work my way up.” That is not God’s way, and the only way is God’s way - to be born again. Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people. You take an unregenerated man in Chicago and put him on the crystal pavements of Heaven, and it would be hell. A man that can’t bear to spend one Sunday among God’s people on earth, with all their imperfections, what is he going to do among those who have made their robes white in the blood of the Lamb? He would say that was hell for him. Take the unregenerated man and put him into the very shadow of the Tree of life, and he wouldn’t want to sit there. A man who is born of the Spirit becomes a citizen of another world. He has been translated into new lift, taken out of the power of darkness, and translated into the Kingdom of light. Haven’t you seen all around you men who had become suddenly and entirely changed?
Just draw a picture: Suppose we go down into one of these alleys - and I have been into some pretty dark holes down here in this alley that used to lie back of Madison Street, and I have seen some pretty wretched homes. Go to one of those rooms, and you find a wife, with her four or five children. The woman is heart-broken. She is discouraged. When she married that man he swore to protect, love, and care for her, and provide for all her wants. He made good promises and kept them, for a few years, and did love her. But he got led away into one of these drinking saloons. He was a noble-hearted man by nature, and those are just the ones that are led astray. He has now become a confirmed drunkard. His children can tell by his footfall that he comes home drunk. They look upon him as a monster. The wife has many a scar on her body that she has received from that man’s arm who swore to love and protect her. Instead of being a kind-hearted husband, he has become a demon. He don’t provide for that poor woman. What a struggle there is! And may God have mercy upon the poor drunkard and his family is my prayer constantly! Suppose he is here in that gallery up there, or in the dark back there, and you can’t see him. May be he is so ashamed of himself that he has got behind a post. He hears that he may be regenerated; that God will take away the love of strong drink, and snap the fetters that have been binding him, and make him a free man, and he says, “By the grace of God I will ask Him to give me a new heart.” And he says, “0 God, save me!” Then he goes home. His wife says, “I never saw my husband look so happy for years. What has come over him?” He says, “I have been up there to hear these strangers. I heard Mr. Sankey singing ‘Jesus of Nazareth passeth by,’ and it touched my heart. The sermon about being born again touched my heart, and, wife, I just prayed right there, and asked God to give me a new heart, and I believe He has done it. Come, wife, pray with me!” And there they kneel down and erect the family altar.
Three months hence you go to that home, and what do you find? All is changed. He is singing “Rock of Ages, cleft for me,” or that other hymn his mother once taught him, “There is a fountain filled with blood.” His children have their arms upon his neck. That is Heaven upon earth. The Lord God dwells there. That man is passed from death unto life. That is the conversion we are aiming at. The man is made better, and that is what God does when a man has the spirit of Heaven upon him. He regenerates them, re-creates them in His own image. Let us pray that every man here who has the love of strong drink may be converted. Unite in prayer with me now and ask God to save these men that are rushing on to death and ruin.