Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Danger of Practical Universalism--David Platt on Rob Bell

My good friend Asa Veek suggested I watch this video the other day and, as usual, it was a good suggestion. I don't know much about David Platt so please don't take this as an endorsement of him. I did look at his church's website for about 15 minutes and he seems to be in line with much of what we teach at Glory of Christ, but again I'm not sure of that. However, I must say that I was deeply moved by this video and I hope you will be too. May God set our hearts aflame to be on mission with him and bring the good news of Jesus Christ across the street and around the world.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Was it Just a Duck or a Messenger of the Lord?

For the fourth time in eight years, Kim was laid off from her job. The implications of this are big for us because she has Multiple Sclerosis and therefore we have to have medical insurance. If we were to pay for it on our own, even with government help, it would cost between $1,000-1,200 per month and we don't have that kind of money.

We've been through this so many times, and have seen the Lord provide every time, that we normally just rest in that, pray, do what we can, and trust him. But we have our days, and a week ago Thursday was one of those days for me. I just felt so stressed out by the whole situation, and I felt so bad for Kimmy for having to go through this again when she's done such an amazing job at work the last couple of years. All day long I was preaching to my heart but I couldn't get it to turn toward the Lord and rest. "Consider it all joy when you face trials of various kinds," "God works all things together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose," "the mercy of the Lord has not come to an end, it's from everlasting to everlasting" (James 1:2; Romans 8:28; Psalm 77).

I preached these things to myself all day long, urging my heart to turn and yet it wouldn't.

That afternoon, while I was sitting on the couch working on a project for church, I looked up and saw a female duck waddling across the yard. I've seen ducks down near our drainage area but I've never seen one in the yard like that. And what struck me most was the casual pace at which she was walking. She seemed happy and content and just enjoying the day. I literally got lost for about three minutes as I watched her waddle along, but then she waddled out of my sight and I went back to my projects--and my stress.

But just a few minutes later she waddled back into my sight, only this time she was on our concrete porch, within three feet of our back door. I smiled. As I watched her make her way over to the far side of our porch and help herself to the food that had dropped out of our bird feeder, the Lord very tenderly spoke these words into my heart:

"Therefore I [Jesus] tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air [OR the duck on your porch]: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

"Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' [OR 'How shall we get insurance for Kimmy']. For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble" (Matthew 6:25-34).

I cannot tell you what depth of peace washed over my heart at this moment. Jesus, my Lord and Savior and Sheppard, made these words live in me and to this day I have known his peace.

Later that evening, Kim and I sat on the same couch and I told her what had happened. Just as I was speaking, guess who waddled back into the yard? You got it, but this time she brought her husband with her! We laughed, and cried, and praised the Lord together, knowing that he was speaking to us through these little ones who were, in our minds, messengers of God.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Prayer Takes Time but it's Time Worth Taking

Prayer takes time, but it’s time worth taking. Jesus is no doubt the best example of this truth for, though he was busy beyond what we can imagine, he always made time to be with his Father. “But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray” (Luke 5:16). In other words, prayer was an integral part of his life. And the reason it was such an integral part of his life was because Jesus loved being with his Father. He needed to be with his Father.
In his book, A Praying Life (NavPress, Colorado Springs: 2009), Paul Miller points out that Jesus’ prayer life was an expression of his child-like dependence upon the Father. This sense of utter dependence is what led Jesus to say that he only did what he saw his Father doing, and only said what he heard his Father saying, and only judged as he saw his Father judging (John 5:19, 30; 8:28; 12:49).
Therefore, “When Jesus tells us to become like little children, he isn’t telling us to do anything he isn’t already doing. Jesus is, without question, the most dependent being who ever lived. Because he can’t do life on his own, he prays. And he prays. And he prays…
“When Jesus tells us that ‘apart from me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5), he is inviting us into his life of living dependence on his heavenly Father…[And] when you know that you (like Jesus) can’t do life on your own, then prayer makes complete sense” (45).
Amen. And it makes sense not only because we need to get energy and things from God in order to live this life, but because we love him who first loved us and long to be with him. Kim and I are disciplined about spending regular time together but it’s not exactly a chore to do so—at least not for me! Quite the opposite, it is one of the high joys of my day to debrief with Kim in the evening, and one of the high joys of my week to date her on Fridays. I love being with my wife and best friend! It’s no duty, it’s love.
Prayer ought to feel like that. As Miller writes, “[Jesus’] prayer life is an expression of his relationship with his Father. He wants to be alone with the person he loves” (45). I’ll say more about that word “alone” next week, but for now let me encourage you—even urge you—to get some alone time with your Father this week. He’s longing to be with you.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Glory & Belief: Live for the Right Glory & You Will Believe in Jesus

This morning in my quiet time I meditated on Jesus' words in John 5, especially verses 19-46. The chapter begins with the story of Jesus healing a man on the Sabbath which raised some issues for the Jews, issues which were heightened when Jesus explained himself as follows: "My Father is working until now [God is working on the Sabbath], and I am working" (v 17). With these words the Jews sought all the more to take his life because (1) in their view he broke the Sabbath and (2) in calling God his Father he was "making himself equal with God."

So Jesus expanded his thoughts. "Truly, truly I say to you, the Son of Man [Jesus] can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing" (vv 19-20). And then again a few verses later, "I can do nothing of my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me" (v 30).

In other words, Jesus was living for the glory of his Father rather than his own, and therefore he lived his life in submission to the Father. He lived his life without regard to the approval of others (vv 34, 41) because the smile of God already rested upon him. What more did he need?

With this in mind, Jesus asked the Jews a very penetrating question: "How can you believe when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?" (v 44).

Hmm. If you sought the glory of God you would believe but since you seek the glory of others you do not believe--powerful thought.

When we seek "the glory of one another" we are seeking the glory of ourselves. In other words, we are longing for people to think and speak well of us that we might be exalted in their sight. We are taking our sense of being and worth from the fickle praise of men and women, and since we are the center of our own affections we cannot believe in God who is the Center of all things. Our quest for personal glory blinds us to the glory of the only God and his Son, Jesus Christ.

However, the reverse of this is also true. If we will humble ourselves before our Creator and live for the glory of him who gave us life, we will gain eyes to see his glory, believe that he is in fact the only God, and believe in his Son, Jesus Christ, whom he sent as Lord and Savior of the world.

Live for the right glory and you will believe in Jesus Christ. How do we do that?

(1) To live for the glory of God is to seek the face of God. It is to strive to know God as he is, regardless of our pre-commitments or preconceptions. It is to humble ourselves before the God who is much greater than this universe in which we live.

(2) To live for the glory of God is to listen carefully to God. Jesus did what he saw the Father doing and he said what he heard the Father saying and he judged as he discerned the Father was judging. And the reason he saw and heard and discerned was because he took the time to listen and listen carefully. Because the Father loved him, the Father shared all things with him. When we seek God in truth he will lavish this same love upon us but we must be persistent and patient for his ways are not our ways. There is no way to live for the glory of God if we do not learn the art of listening to God. So read the Bible often and learn to listen well.

(3) To live for the glory of God is to do and say whatever he asks of us. Having seen, heard, and discerned, Jesus then acted by the grace and power of his Father. In love the Father made his will known to the Son. In love the Son did the will of the Father. This same dynamic holds true for all who would live for the glory of God--listen and then do by his grace, for his glory, and because of his love.

(4) To live for the glory of God is to enter into the joy of God. Jesus sought not the glory that comes from others but the glory that comes from God, and he implied by his question that others should do the same. To seek the glory that comes from God is to seek the smile of God, the approval of God, the blessing of God, the testimony of God that we are truly in him and he is truly in us. It is to live for his glory manifested in us. And when the glory of the Father rests upon us like this, we will have a fullness of joy.

God wants our joy more than we want our joy but he knows that the path to that joy is living for his glory rather than ours.

Oh Father, please grant us the grace this day, through Jesus Christ, to live for your glory and believe. And as we learn, faltering on the way as we will, please increase your joy in us. For the glory of your mighty name I pray, amen.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Learning to Talk with our Father

Here's a devotional I just wrote for our church's weekly newsletter: 

For the Christian, prayer is profoundly relational. It is, along with the Word of God, the primary means of communion between God the Father and his children. This is why Jesus taught us again and again that we must become like children if we are to be his disciples.
But what does it mean to become like a child in the presence of God? That is the subject of the fourth chapter of Paul Miller’s book, A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World (NavPress, Colorado Springs: 2009). The chapter is entitled “Learning to Talk with our Father,” and in it he suggests that we become like children in prayer “[b]y asking like a child, believing like a child, and even playing like a child” (37).
Children ask their fathers about everything, and they will ask them for just about anything! Their fathers may or may not grant their requests but the point is that children do not hesitate to ask. So one way that we become like children in the presence of God is to relax, know he loves us, and ask him about whatever’s on our minds.
Second, children have a tendency to believe not only in their parents’ abilities but in their desire to bless the children. Miller writes, “Children are supremely confident of their parents’ love and power. Instinctively, they trust. They believe their parents want to do them good. If you know your parent love and protects you, it fills your world with possibility. You just chatter away with what is on your heart” (38).
Finally, children just are who they are in the presence of their fathers. They’re not afraid to be flighty or to play. So Miller exhorts, “When your mind starts wandering in prayer, be like a little child. Don’t worry about being organized or staying on task. Paul certainly wasn’t! Remember you are in conversation with a person. Instead of beating yourself up, learn to play again. Pray about what your mind is wandering to. Maybe it is something important to you. Maybe the Spirit is nudging you to think about something else” (41).
That’s sound advice. May the Lord teach us to ask, believe, and play in his presence like children who love and trust their Father.

Longing to become like a child in the presence of God,
Pastor Charlie

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Cling to Christ, Conquer the Flesh

This morning in my quiet time I read Joshua 22, among other things and 22:5 really stuck out to me. It reads, "Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul."

Notice the link between the words observe, love, walk, keep, cling, and serve. Of all these words "cling" grabbed my heart the most. Cling is a love word. You don't command someone to cling to a duty you command someone to cling to a person, in this case "the Lord your God." And in the context of this verse, Joshua was encouraging the people of Israel to finish the job of conquering the promised land and I think his point was that clinging to God is the path to conquering the land. They were unable in their strength to complete the task but with God on their side they could do anything. But he's not interested in ritualistic honor, he's interested in love. He's interested in people who cling to him and refuse to let go.

Now, the story of the exodus from Egypt and the entrance into the promised land is a metaphor, played out on the world's stage, for the exodus from the kingdom of darkness and the entrance into the Kingdom of God. In the former case, the people of Israel were commanded to take the land. The Lord alone had the power to deliver it into their hands, and he promised to do so, but he commanded them to be aggressive and TAKE the land. Passivity would not do. But the key to aggressively taking the land was clinging to God. It was their direct relation to him that would win the victory.

In the latter case, this same dynamic holds. Those of us who have come to believe in Jesus Christ, by grace through faith, have been commanded "to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness"  (Ephesians 4:22-24). As it was with the promised land, the Lord alone has the power to win this war against the flesh, but he has commanded us to be aggressive and war against sin. Passivity will not do. But again, the key aggressively warring against our flesh, and conquering it, is clinging to Christ with all of our hearts.

Clinging is the key to conquering.

So, Father, please teach us to cling to Christ day after day and to love him with all of our heart and soul and mind and strength.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Jogged the Maple Grove 5K, 10K, Half-Marathon Today

Last November I started a program called "Couch Potato to 5K in 9 Weeks." I've never liked jogging, actually I've always hated it, but I thought it might be a good way to stay in shape during the winter months when I couldn't ride my bike.

It took me more than 9 weeks to complete the program because I only moved ahead when I was ready, but I did complete it and somewhere along the way I actually started to enjoy jogging. I think the reason was that I allowed my body to adapt to the rigors of it and didn't try to do too much too soon.

So for the last few months I've been jogging 1-3 5Ks per week in the neighborhood and thought it was high time to sign up for an event--so I did! I entered the Maple Grove 5K and completed it in 13:14 or something like that, which is slow but still 1 minute faster than my previous best.

The route started and finished on the track of Maple Grove High School, and as I entered the track for the second time I immediately thought of Paul's words in 2 Timothy 4:7-8, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing."

And I prayed, "Oh Lord, others will run faster and farther than me in this life with you but I want to finish my race. I want to fight the good fight. I want to keep the faith. I want to receive the crown of righteousness you have prepared for me which will be a monument to the glory of your grace. So help me love your appearing more than anything else and live my life with you."

Oh Lord, hear my prayer, and give all who believe the grace to finish this race. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Serving the Right Kingdom in Marriage

Most Friday nights Kimmy and I go out on a date. We're mildly addicted to Applebee's 2 for $20 deal and so we often end up there. Tonight was no exception.

Then after dinner we read a chapter of a book together. Right now we're working our way through Paul Tripp's book on marriage called, What Did You Expect: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage (Crossway Books, 2010). Thanks James and Shelly Vanderlinden for recommending this book to us.

Tonight we read the third chapter entitled, "Whose Kingdom?" It challenges the notion of what we consider to be love and gently--sometimes not so gently--confronts us with the reality that what we call love is often self-love. In other words, it's the "I'll love you as long as you're everything I expect and need you to be" kind of love.It says it loves the other but in truth it is deeply self-interested.

The solution to this devastating problem, Tripp rightly points out, is not other-centered love but God-centered love. To remove ourselves from the center of our affections and place our spouses there is a kind of idolatry. It's putting someone on a pedestal who was not designed to be on a pedestal. It's making an mini-god of a person. However, to remove ourselves from the center of our affections and place God there is worship. It's getting the order of life right. It's the path to communion with God through Jesus Christ. And that communion becomes an ever-flowing fountain of true love that enables us to serve our spouse with joy rather than bitterness and resentment.

Tripp uses two terms here to contrast these loves: the kingdom of self and the Kingdom of God. When our deepest concern is rooted in the second Kingdom we enter into God's vision of our marriage which is much better and more satisfying than our vision. He's right about that. Kim and I have learned this lesson 1,000 times over the course of the last (nearly) 20 years. It was good to hear this truth again and be reminded that the true fountain of our joy is in God's way, not ours.

Tripp asks why God designed things this way and answers with a potent sentence: "Marriage is a beautiful thing that only reaches what it was designed to be through the methodology of painful process" (52). In other words, the very things we think signify the lack of God's grace in our marriages are God's grace in our marriages because he's using these things to make us more like him, less like us, more perfect in love, and more full in joy.

So the application for us today was this: surrender to God and let him have his way in our marriage. In this way he will receive much glory and we will receive much joy. Amen, Lord, help us to put these things into practice.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Becoming Like a Child in Prayer

Here's something I just wrote for our church's weekly newsletter:

Before Easter I wrote a couple of devotionals on Paul Miller’s book, A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World (NavPress, Colorado Springs: 2009). As I said in those weeks, others have taught me more about the nature and purposes of prayer, but Miller has taught me more about the practical aspects of prayer.
Part 1 of his book, which is divided into five parts, is entitled “Learning to Pray like a Child.” In this section Miller highlights Jesus’ many calls to childlike living including that in Matthew 18:3, “Truly, I say to you, unless you become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” This sentence is easy to understand but the question is, what are its practical implications?
Miller writes, “Jesus wants us to be without pretense when we come to him in prayer. Instead, we often try to be something we aren’t. We begin by concentrating on God, but almost immediately our minds wander off in a dozen different directions. The problems of the day push out our well-intentioned resolve to be spiritual. We give ourselves a spiritual kick in the pants and try again, but life crowds out prayer. We know that prayer isn’t supposed to be like this, so we give up in despair. We might as well get something done.
“What’s the problem? We’re trying to be spiritual, to get it right. We know we don’t need to clean up our act in order to become a Christian, but when it comes to praying, we forget that. We, like adults, try to fix ourselves up. In contrast, Jesus wants us to come to him like little children, just as we are” (50-51).
But the issue is that when we come just as we are, we come messy and we don’t like that. Prayer forces us to slow down and look inside but when we look inside we’re confronted with the true state of our lives. This is hard.
However, it’s a hard worth getting through because Jesus wants to be with the real us. He’s not interested in the ideal us. He’s not impressed by our pretending, anymore than he was with the Pharisees or Sadducees. So as hard as it is, Jesus Christ, who is God, is bidding us to come just as we are, and I pray that we will. I pray that we will learn what it means to be like children who are often found rushing into the presence of their Father.

Longing to become like a child,
Pastor Charlie

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

On the Name of this Blog

Every once in a while I re-post an entry about why I named my blog as I did. For whatever reason I'm in the mood to do that now so here it is! Hope you have a wonderful day.

I took the name "Born of the Word" from the 1528 document, The Ten Conclusions of Berne, written by the Swiss reformers Berthold Haller, Francis Kold, and Ulrich Zwingli. Here is the full text of the first of their conclusions:

"The holy Christian Church, whose only Head is Christ, is born of the Word of God, and abides in the same, and listens not to the voice of a stranger" (Creeds of the Church, John H. Leith, ed., John Knox Press, 1982, pg. 129).

This sentence ignites a sense of worship in my heart for at least three reasons. First, I was came to know and love Jesus Christ as I read 1 John, particularly 1:5-6 and 3:4-10:

"[1:5] This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. [6] If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth...[3:4] Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. [5] You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. [6] No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. [7] Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righ teousness is righteous, as he is righ teous. [8] Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. [9] No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. [10] By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother."

Since I became a Christian while reading this passage, the theological formulation, “The holy Christian Church, whose only Head is Christ, is born of the Word of God…” is not merely a formulation to me, it is descriptive of the story of my life. And it does indeed ignite worship in my heart!

Second, my life in Christ has ever been sustained and nourished by the Word of God, in fact, the more prominent the Word the more pronounced the growth. I cannot tell you how these words from Deuteronomy 31:6 and Hebrews 13:5 held me when my mother died and it seemed that my whole world was falling apart: "I will never leave you or forsake you." Or how these words from Hebrews 13:8 sustained my faith in the midst of deep intellectual crises: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." Or how these words from Matthew 28:20 humbly emboldened me in the fires of church planting: "And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

Indeed, my journals testify abundantly to the fact that, by the mercies of God, I have been sustained and nourished by the Word of God in triumph and trial, in health and sickness, in strength and weakness. And this does indeed ignite worship in my heart!

Finally, I love living in that truth that “The holy Christian Church…listens not to the voice of a stranger.” Consider the wisdom expressed in 1 Corinthians 1:18-25:

“[18] For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. [19] For it is written,

‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’

[20] Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? [21] For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. [22] For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, [23] but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, [24] but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. [25] For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

A few weeks ago I was with a group of church planters in Dallas, Texas. During a "paradigm stretching exercise," a few of the planters expressed that they would love to expose their church planting protégés to the greatest leaders in the world, one of whom was Donald Trump.

I must admit that I did not handle myself as well as I could have, but rather blurted out, "Who in the world is Donald Trump when we have access to God Almighty, through the Lord Jesus Christ?" I cannot imagine Jesus or the apostles or the early church consulting the likes of Donald Trump concerning corporate growth or leadership development.

And just this week, I had the privilege of having lunch with Tony Jones, Doug Padgitt, and John Piper. While I appreciated and learned from some of what the former two shared in the conversation, I wondered what will be the implications of the fact that from the earliest days of their movement (the Emergent Church), they spent a lot of time, energy, and resources consulting the likes of Jacques Derrida.

Now, I spent several years of my life grappling with the work of Derrida and others, and I do have a certain kind of respect for them and their work. But in the end, “…the wisdom of this world is folly with God” (1 Corinthians 3:19), and thus it is not wise to build our house on that wisdom. (Additionally, I fear that these men are repeating the mistakes of others like Paul Tillich, John Cobb, and liberation theologians who took as their points of departure existentialism, process philosophy, and Marxism, respectively. The Word of God is able to stand on its own, both in terms of its analysis of and solutions for the human condition, and it does not need the buttress of the wisdom of the world.)

There is great joy and freedom and power in forsaking the wisdom and ways of the world in favor of the wisdom and ways of God, and therefore I delight to embrace the language and spirit of the early reformers: “The holy Christian Church…listens not to the voice of a stranger.” And this does indeed set my heart to worship.

My hope for this lengthy explanation is not primarily that you'll understand why I named my blog, "Born of the Word," but that your heart will, like mine, be set to worship as you ponder the mercies and wisdom and power of God, displayed in the Word of God. I look forward to reading your comments.

For the glory of Christ, and the upbuilding of His church,

Tragedy at the Giro d'Italia

In the world of professional cycling there are three "grand tours" every year, so called because they span a period of three weeks and cover over 2,000 miles each. They are the Giro d'Italia (May), the Tour de France (July), and the Vuelta a Espana (August).

Yesterday was stage three of the Giro and I was quite excited to watch it. It was my day off, I had paid to get both live and on demand access, and I just couldn't wait to curl up with my favorite drink and take it all in. The race was going quite well. There was enough climbing on the day to spread the riders out on the road and it was hard to predict how the stage would end.

But as the riders were descending a switchback road on their final approach to the finish line, a young Belgian named Wouter Weylandt lost control. It seems that he caught his left pedal on a wall and launched over the bars, falling about 20 feet down to the next level of road and landing straight on his head.

The race doctor just happened to be following Welandt's group at that time and therefore got to him almost immediately. But the trauma was severe. Unfortunately, television producers allowed images of the Belgian to be broadcast across the world--I can't imagine being the one who allowed that to happen--and without going into detail, let's just say the images were horrific. I knew, the announcers knew, anyone who saw the images knew he wasn't going to make it.

And he did not.

The doctors worked on him for 45 minutes or so right there on the road but sadly Welandt died and was later taken to the hospital by helicopter. This is the first death in a grand tour since 1995 and the first in the Giro since 1986.

Yesterday was a very sad day at the Giro and today will be too. The tour will go on but stage 4 will be a ceremonial ride rather than a race, and Welandt's team, Leopard Trek, will be allowed to cross the finish line first in his honor.

One way we can honor Wouter Welandt is reflect on our own death, on the brevity of life, and give whatever we have left on this earth to Him who created us. As the Bible says, "For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes" (James 4:14). And again, "A voice says, 'Cry!' And I said, 'What shall I cry?' All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the LORD blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever" (Isaiah 40:6-8).

And the heart of the word of God to humanity is Jesus Christ. As the Bible says, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son [Jesus Christ], that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

"And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God" (John 3:16-21).

I pray that the shadow of Welandt's death will drive many to the light of God in Jesus Christ. May the Lord be near to the Welandt family, the Giro d'Italia, and all those affected by this tragedy.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Humble Boldness

Today after lunch I read the April 2011 edition of The Voice of the Martyrs magazine. This issue highlights the plight of our fellow Christians in Vietnam and includes the story of a Bible School that was recently destroyed only weeks after graduating its first class. I went online a found a summary of the story which I'll paste below, along with a link to their website, but first I just have to say how touched I was to read of the humble boldness of these people.

Although they constantly face severe persecution for the sake of Jesus, they continue to pray, share the good news, and give Bibles to any and all who will take them. It's plain to see from the stories, and accompanying pictures, that these precious souls are filled with the love of Christ and are willing to let that love overflow through them no matter what the cost. They are humble, they are bold, and their suffering is not in vain. One day their light and momentary afflictions will give way to an eternal weight of glory that's quite literally beyond comparison, and thus I pray that they would receive daily grace to look beyond the things that are seen and live in light of the things that are unseen (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Here's the link to the website and the story which you can find by searching the site for "Vietnam":


VIETNAM: Officials Bulldoze Mennonite Bible School, Beat Pastor Unconscious
Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang, human rights lawyer and chairman of the Legal Committee of the Vietnam Evangelical Fellowship, was arrested by police on Dec. 13 just minutes before his home and Bible school were demolished by authorities. Pastor Nguyen was held at an undisclosed location after being beaten with batons until he fainted. He was released later that day.

Pastor Nguyen has been jailed three times. He and five other church leaders, known as the "Mennonite Six," were imprisoned in 2004. Nguyen was accused of practicing non-sanctioned religion and operating an unauthorized Bible school.

VOM sources state that the attack appeared to be carefully planned and well-coordinated. It follows a recent series of critical reports about Pastor Nguyen that appeared in a government-owned newspaper. Leaders and Bible college students linked with Pastor Nguyen have come under intense pressure from officials to give up their association with the Mennonite church.

Please Pray! 
We join VOM Australia in praying for Pastor Nguyen and his family who now are left stranded with no home or Bible College. Pray for all the students that have been scattered back to their own villages that they will continue to trust in the Lord. Pray for all the pastors, leaders and families to remain calm throughout this time. "Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory" (Ephesians 3:13). 

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The Mercy of Christ Displayed in a Wedding

Last Saturday I had the privilege of attending the wedding of Andrew Sheppard and EuKyoung Cho at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. It was a very worshipful wedding, and I was particularly touched during the lighting of the unity candle.

After Andrew and EuKyoung used their individuals candles to light the unity candle, they faced one another and allowed the tops of their heads to touch. As I watched them enjoying the moment, the reality of Jesus Christ receiving his church as a bride hit me like a ton of bricks. I both cried and worshiped.

To think that One so holy and mighty as Jesus would receive us who are sinners saved by grace as though we were a pure, spotless bride--well, that's just beyond comprehension to me. Who can imagine such amazing grace?

So congratulations Andrew, EuKyoung, Steve and Dawn, and the rest of the family. May the Lord grant you his mercy as you celebrate what he's done. And glory be to your name, Jesus Christ, so great and might, and yet so gracious and merciful. There is none like you.

Revelation 19:1-9--"After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, 'Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.' Once more they cried out, 'Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.' And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, 'Amen. Hallelujah!' And from the throne came a voice saying, 'Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great.'

"Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, 'Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure'-- for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, 'Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.' And he said to me, 'These are the true words of God.'"

Monday, May 02, 2011

The World Rejoices, Intercessors Grieve


I've been praying for Osama bin Laden for nearly ten years now. Even as I write I'm remembering several prayer meetings wherein we pleaded with the Lord to reveal himself to this man. Don't get me wrong, I abhor the life he lived and I grieve at what he's done. I, like most Americans, was outraged on 9/11/01 and wanted him to pay for his actions with his life. And yet, as I processed my feelings with the Lord I came to see that my sin is also great and that bin Laden, like me, was in need of a Savior. So I began to pray for him and hope against hope that Christ would win glory for himself by pouring his mercy upon him.

I didn't hear the news until this morning. Part of me doubted it was true. Part of me rejoiced that justice has been done. Part of me grieved that a lost soul could no longer be saved and is now in hell where he will grieve and gnash his teeth forever.

Whatever your reaction to his death, be careful not to rejoice too much, and be sure to search your own soul. Consider the words of Jesus from Luke 13:1-9.

"There were some present at that very time who told him [Jesus] about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, 'Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.'

"And he told this parable: 'A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, "Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?" And he answered him, "Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down."'"

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Catherine Rivard--Bible Translator vs. Wild

Today at church, during our monthly meal, a young woman named Catherine Rivard presented her ministry to us. She's a linguist and Bible translator who's preparing to go to Papua New Guinea with Wycliffe Bible Translators. Her assignment is to put the Bible into the common language of one of the people groups there, although she's not yet sure which one. I was surprised to hear that there are over 800 different languages spoken in that small country (about the size of California), over 300 of which do not have the Bible in their language. And by the way, Catherine said that these many languages are not similar to one another, that is, they're not dialects, but are in fact quite different from one another. Hard to believe but apparently true.

So when she arrives in June she will first go through a training which will cover (1) culture, (2) language, (3) Bible translation, (4) medical skills, and (5) survival skills--yes, I said survival skills. She may be put in life-threatening situations and they want her to know how to make it out there. I guess it's a sort of "Bible Translator vs. Wild" kind of thing!

I was quite touched when she said that it would take 8-20 years to complete the translation project once she starts. This young woman, in the prime of her life, is laying it all down for Christ that others might know him and love him and serve him. and perhaps someday go to other nations for him. May the Lord richly bless her and grant her the power to fulfill her calling.

Catherine, you really inspired me today, thanks for humbly sharing what the Lord's doing in your life.

Here are two links, one to Catherine's blog and the other to Wycliffe.