Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Enjoying the View from The Point

My son took this picture of my wife and me at Trophy Point on the grounds of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. My wife thought I should post it. So here it is.

How to Have a Good Day

Have you had a good day today? Whether you answer yes or no, you can wake up tomorrow morning and choose to have a good day, no matter what the day may bring.

In Colossians 3:12-17, Paul gives his readers some very practical advice for having a good day, a day that will bring joy to both you and your Heavenly Father. If you have a moment, go ahead and read the words that Paul wrote. Then consider these pieces of advice from Paul . . .

1. Be compassionate and forgiving. Think about all the things for which Christ has forgiven you. If Christ has forgiven you, if He has shown you compassion, it should motivate you to do the same for others.

2. Allow love to guide your thoughts, words, and deeds. Think about God's great love for you. Allow his love to overflow into your relationships with others.

3. Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart. Because believers have eteranl security in Christ, there is no reason to be fearful or anxious. This allows us to be a calming influence on others in difficult situtations.

4. Always be thankful. Need I say more?

5. Keep God's Word with you at all times. Read and meditate on God's Word. It will be your guide throughout the day.

6. Live as Jesus Christ's representative. We who are in Christ are called to be His ambassadors. As such, we represent Him in all we do and say. Represent Him accurately.

Things do not always go as planned. Things happen that we do not like. Things happen that hurt us. But we can always choose to have a good day, a day that pleases the Lord.

Tomorrow morning, my wife and I are leaving for Lancaster. My surgery (Take 2) is scheduled for Friday morning. The hospital called today and said that everything seems to be in order this time. I guess that means that they checked the bone and it is the correct piece this time!

As my wife and I were praying with some friends this afternoon, I thanked God for the peace and calmness that He gave me last week when I received the news that the surgery had to be postponed. These were gifts from the Lord. When we made a decision over three months ago to please the Lord in this whole ordeal, we had no idea how much wisdom, strength, support, and encouragement that He would provide in the months that followed. God is faithful!

With a strong network of family and friends who love us, pray for us, provide for us, and encourage us, we continue to place our trust in our Heavenly Father. All the good things that have happened in our lives in the last few months are because of Him!

If you have drawn closer to God in the past few months, it is because of Him.

If you have been encouraged through reading this blog, it is because of Him.

If you have joy in knowing that you have eternal life in Christ Jesus, it is because of Him.

Lord willing, we will be back home by Monday or Tuesday. I look forward to sharing more of what God is teaching me. Until then, make every day a good day - because of Him.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A Life Guided by God

The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD; and He delights in His way. Psalm 37:23

God guides the steps of His children who seek His direction. And He delights in doing so!

As we consider seeking God's direction, it is helpful to know that . . .

God sees all. Our vision is limited, we see only a small part of the big picture, but God sees everything.

God knows all. Things will not always happen the way we expect, but we do not have to worry or fear. When we commit our lives to the Lord and daily seek His direction, we can be sure that everything in our pathway is working together for our good.

God has all power. He promises to be with us and to protect us in every circumstance of life.

What a privilege to have a life guided by God and have Him delight in our way!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

O, What a Beautiful Morning!

At the beginning of the musical Oklahoma, Curly, played by Gordon MacRae, sings: O, what a beautiful morning, O what a beautiful day, I’ve got a wonderful feeling, everything’s going my way.

After a long night, a new day dawns. With the rising of the sun comes a new day filled with life and hope.

This morning many believers around the world gather to celebrate what happened that Sunday morning almost 2000 years ago. But we cannot fully appreciate the wonder and excitement of that Sunday morning until we fully grasp what happened on that Friday afternoon, two days before.

God Himself, through the sacrifice of His Son, paid the price of sin. In Romans 5:8, we read: But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. God did this of His own initiative. There was nothing in us that made us worthy of His grace. Rather, He died for sinners who were only deserving of His wrath. Yet God demonstrated His unconditional love for us by sending His Son to die in our place.

God’s righteousness demanded that sin be punished. Christ’s death satisfied God’s justice, righteousness, and holiness.

Christ’s death on the cross in our place is the highest possible expression of God’s love. That God would send His perfect Son to pay the price for our sin is astonishing. Yet that is exactly what He did. He poured out His wrath on His Son so that He could pour out His love and mercy on us.

On Friday evening, it seemed that the disciple’s hopes died with Jesus on the cross at Calvary. But Sunday morning came and everything changed. Resurrection morning changed the world for ever.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the foundation of the Christian faith. We worship a risen Savior. We can have a relationship with the living God. No other religion in the world makes that claim. Buddha is dead. Mohammed is dead. The millions of Hindu gods are dead. Jesus Christ, the Son of the One True God, is alive. In Him, we have a living hope, a hope of eternal life with God in heaven.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief. Isaiah 53:3-10a

Today is Good Friday. The day which we remember how Jesus suffered and died on the cross at Calvary to take on sin and death and secure our redemption.

In The Passion of Jesus Christ, John Piper describes fifty reasons why Jesus Christ came to die on the Cross at Calvary. Among the reasons he describes: to absorb the wrath of God, to show His love for us, for the forgiveness of our sins, to reconcile us to God, to enable us to live by faith in Him, to secure our resurrection from the dead, and to rescue us from final judgement.

Reason #17 caught my attention this morning: to obtain for us all things that are good for us. Using Romans 8:32 as his text, he writes: The suffering and death of Jesus Christ guarantee that God will give us all things that we need to do his will and to give him glory and to attain everlasting joy.

In Him, we died to ourselves on the cross at Calvary. And in Him, we live – no longer for ourselves, but for Him. To do His will for His glory. He gives us everything we need to live in such a way. And, living for Him, we experience everlasting joy.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Considering the Unexpected

This is unexpected. To be sitting here at home writing this blog entry.

I was expecting to be in a hospital room recovering from surgery. But it did not happen. The company supplying the piece of tibia to be used for the reconstruction sent the wrong piece. It was discovered as I was being prepped by the anesthiologists. Thankfully, it was discovered before the surgeon began cutting.

Maybe it was the sedatives that I received, but I was not upset at all. I was not disappointed. I was able to accept it as God's perfect will.

When things do not go the way we expect them to go, we need to pray. Instead of being anxious, complaining, being impatient, or getting annoyed, we need to take it to the Lord in prayer.

I'd like to say that I react this way to every inconvenience. I do not. But this time, God gave me victory over my circumstances.

My surgery is re-scheduled for next Friday, March 28th. We will consider yesterday as a practice run.

God delays things for a reason. I heard once that while we wait, God is at work.

Perhaps the reason for the delay is that my wife has bronchitis and would not have been able to take care of me this weekend. Perhaps there are other reasons. We may never know. But we have to trust God's timing.

God stretches our patience to enlarge our souls. - Our Daily Bread, July 29, 2007

Along with the unexpected delay are unexpected blessings . . .

I am able to spend time with my parents who are visting from South Carolina. They came up to take care of our children while I was at the hospital.

I am able to celebrate Resurrection Sunday with my family.

I have an extra week to frolic while I feel well and am able to walk.

As I consider the unexpected events in life, I know that they are only unexpected from our perspective. God sees and knows all things. He is never surprised. And in that, I take great comfort.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Something To Look Forward To

In about 24 hours from now, I will be under the knife. At last, the cancerous mass in my leg will be removed. Lord willing, that will account for all the cancer in my body. But chemotherapy will continue as a precaution. And depending on the pathology report, several weeks of radiation may be added as well. In any case, tomorrow's procedure is the focal point on my treatment.

It is a comfort to know that I am in the hands of my loving Heavenly Father, the One who created me, redeemed me after I turned away from Him, and sustains me through all of life's difficulties.

It is a comfort to know that the man who will be doing the surgery has an excellent reputation for doing this type of limb-sparing surgery.

And it is a comfort to know that so many people are praying for me and for my family.

As I write, my older son is upstairs recovering from surgery this morning to remove his wisdom teeth. Another friend is preparing to undergo surgery for prostrate cancer sometime today. And another friend is preparing for a medical procedure on Thursday. Many are in need of prayer. And what a privilege we have to lift them up before the throne of God!

This morning I read Psalm 63. Verses 3 and 4 caught my attention.

Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise You.
So I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name.

Before I take a short break (Lord willing, only a few days) from blogging, I also wanted to share a verse from Zephaniah.

In the second chapter of Zephaniah, the prophet calls the people to repentance. He calls them to obey the LORD’s commands. To seek the LORD, seek righteousness, and seek humility (Zephaniah 2:3). In the third chapter, he describes the future that awaits those who obey these commands. While these promises are written to the faithful of Israel, there implications for us, who, by faith in Christ, have become part of the seed of Abraham and heirs of the promise that God made to Abraham. There will be no more fear. No condemnation.

And in verse 17, the prophet writes:

The LORD your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17

Isn’t that amazing? Isn’t that something to look forward to?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Lessons I am Learning

I have been thinking this morning about the many lessons that I have learned (and am still learning) over the past few months. I have tried to share many of these, but there are others that never seemed to develop into blog entries. Some of these are simply quotes from authors that have captured my interest and caused me to think about my own life and character.

On loving God and others . . . Love is a by-product of knowing God. The more I know God, the more I will love Him. The more I love Him, the more I will desire to be like Him. The more I become like Him, the more I will love others.

On character . . . I cannot succeed in what I do and fail in who I am. John Ortberg

On pain . . . Pain is part of the growing process. My wife has been commenting about how nice it has been to see me walking around without pain, and how difficult it will be to see me back on crutches and in pain again for several months while I heal from surgery. But my body must go through this pain in order to get back to being healthy and whole again. Pain ultimately makes us stronger.

On humility . . . I cannot begin to appreciate God’s greatness until I admit how weak and helpless I am.

On comprehending God’s glory and greatness . . . sometimes, He is just too wonderful for me to understand. Sometimes I just need to accept that some things about God are beyond my comprehension. I really don’t need to understand everything He does to worship Him with my whole heart and mind.

On compassion . . . There is always someone that has a greater need than I. And I need to look for opportunities to listen, to encourage, and to pray with and for others.

On laughter . . . There is a time to be serious, but there is also a time to have fun and to laugh – with others and at myself.

On hope . . . My hope is not without a basis. My hope is in Jesus Christ. My hope is secure.

I was reading and meditating on Psalm 61, one of my favorite Psalms. The first two verses are especially encouraging to me . . .

Hear my cry, O God: attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry to You. When my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Psalm 61:1-2

God is my comfort. He knows everything about me, because He created me. He knows my circumstances and the needs I have. He knows my heart, my mind, my deepest desires. He has not promised to keep me from trouble He has promised to always be with me. God is my anchor. In times of trouble, I am safe and secure. God is my refuge. I find safety in Him.

And here are a few thoughts on the next Beatitude . . .

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Matthew 5:9

We are to love peace and hate conflict. Hating conflict is not the same as avoiding conflict. Being in the midst of conflict is inevitable for those who seek to promote peace. We promote peace by promoting reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). We can only do this if we are first at peace with God. And if we promote peace among others, God promises that He will claim us as His own.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Deep Conversations on the Sidelines of Life

Last night, a friend asked how I was doing. “I’m doing great,” I replied. “No, really, how are you doing?” “I’m great.” “Are you great considering the cancer, or are you great?” “I’m great.”

I used to say that life is great, except for the cancer. But even with the cancer, I’m doing great. Right now I even feel great! That is not always the case. But I am great! It has nothing to do with me or any kind of inner strength. It has everything to do with the fact that Christ lives in me. God is strengthening me. He is upholding me. I am weak, but He is strong. He is my Rock. He is my Redeemer. In Him, I have life. Cancer, in the scheme of things, is merely an inconvenience. At times, a big inconvenience. But God loves me and sees me through this trial, just like any other trial I may face. He sustains. He provides.

I spent this morning with my four-year-old son at an Easter Egg Hunt. While he was hunting eggs, doing crafts, playing games, and listening to Bible stories, I was able to have a conversation with some friends that I do not get to see very often.

When people have the Lord Jesus Christ in common, friendship comes naturally – at least it should. There is a bond that transcends all differences.

We talked about trials in life, like cancer, financial difficulties, and the like. We all have trials. And we talked about God’s grace. Do we really understand the depth of His love and grace? We talked about recent experiences where God, through His people, have showered us with His love and grace. Often times, God brings us to a place of humility where we get a better glimpse of that grace. But how often do we underestimate His grace or take it for granted? His grace is so much greater than our need.

As we were talking, we were also listening to an adult leader read and explain Psalm 23 to the children. The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. With Jesus Christ as our Shepherd, we have everything we need. Sometimes, we just don’t realize it. We’re just like sheep. We’re too stupid to realize how helpless we really are. [Stupid is not a nice word. It’s not allowed in our home. But it really is the most fitting word here.] We just don’t realize how much we need Jesus Christ. Once we decide to follow Him, we begin to understand that He is all we need. He is, as Paul wrote, our all in all.

We also talked about times when people seem to rip out our heart and stomp on it, and how much that hurts. And we were reminded that Jesus Christ knows what that feels like. He knows, because we do that to Him. It made us stop and think. And shed a tear. Because we rip and stomp.

Deep conversations on the sidelines of life are good for us. They remind us of how great our God is. They remind us that we are not alone in our trials. They remind us of the need to pray for and encourage fellow believers, and to reach out to those who have not yet embraced the love and grace and Jesus Christ.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

On Plants, Preparing for the Unexpected, and the Pure in Heart

It is a beautiful March day, cold but sunny. There are hints of spring, but winter is not over. I remember this time of year from our days in Atlanta. On sunny March weekends, the local plant nurseries would be filled with people buying spring plants. During the week, frost would come and kill all the newly planted flowers. The next weekend, the nurseries would once again be filled with people buying plants.

We are often lulled into a false sense of security. We think that everything is going well, then the unexpected occurs. An unexpected bill. A diagnosis. An interpersonal problem. We know that unexpected things are going to occur, yet when they do occur, we are usually caught off guard. While we cannot predict the timing or the exact nature of these events, we should expect the unexpected.

And, to a certain degree, we can be prepared. Daily time reading the Bible. Prayer. Keeping in fellowship with other believers who will encourage us and hold us accountable. All of these daily disciplines will help us mature as believers and be better prepared for the unexpected. Keeping our focus on God daily will help us to keep our focus on Him during the unexpected trials.

My surgery is less than a week away. On Tuesday, the surgeon’s assistant reviewed the procedure with me. At this point, I do not think about the procedure or about the pain that my body will have to endure, but I think about how God has brought me through my treatments thus far and how thankful I am that he has given us skilled surgeons that can repair the damage to my bone caused by the cancer. I have a sense of peace and assurance because God has promised that He will never leave me nor forsake me (Hebrews 13:5).

Thoughts on Matthew 5:8 . . .

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Matthew 5:8

To be pure in heart is to be clean and holy. Without a clean and holy heart, we cannot see God. The only way to have such a heart, and to see God, is to receive forgiveness and cleansing from Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ alone has a pure heart. Only in Him can we be purified. Only in Christ can we have a pure heart. Only in Christ will we see God. Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6).

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Showing Mercy

It is nice to be home.

Today was a day to play with my younger son, to catch up on e-mails, to work on an unfinished project for my older son’s graduation, and to prepare for my sermon on Sunday [Our senior pastor graciously allowed me to step into the pulpit this Sunday.].

We had a great dinner together, all five of us. Hot chicken wings – our own, finely-tuned recipe. Now the older two children are off to youth group, my younger son is in the bathtub, and my wife is doing dishes. I decided to take a moment to post this entry to the blog.

It has been a few days, but here is are my latest thoughts about the Beatitudes.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Matthew 5:7

According to Lloyd-Jones, mercy is pity plus action. A concern about the misery of others leads to a desire to relieve it. Mercy manifests itself in acts of kindness toward others. When we recognize God’s mercy toward us, we are moved to demonstrate mercy toward others.

This verse brings to mind Paul’s command to be imitators of God in Ephesians 5:1-2. We are to grow in likeness to God as we follow the example of our Lord Jesus Christ. Day by day, we are to become more like Him – and this includes the demonstration of mercy toward others.

As I encounter others who are suffering, particularly those who are suffering from the effects of cancer, I have a greater desire to do something to relieve it. My wife and I have discussed ways that I can serve cancer patients after my own battle is over. But I am also seeking ways that I can help relieve their suffering now. I know I can pray for and with others. I can offer encouragement from God’s Word. But there are probably other things that I can be doing to help relieve the pain of my fellow man. I trust that God will show me the ways.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

High Priced Accomodations and a Priceless Network of Friends

No more Red Roof Inns or Econo Lodges for me and my wife! Not after the weekend we just had. We spent three nights in a $12,000 a night room in suburban Allentown. Let me tell you about our room.

The room was finely appointed, with laminated wood floors, a beautiful mosaic art piece on the wall, and many high-tech amenities. The bed was very comfortable. The staff was quite attentive. At the push of a button, staff members were prompt in meeting all our needs. Room service was available from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm.

Despite the quality of the room and service, I do have a few complaints. For some reason, the staff insisted on interrupting us several times each night. We found that to be annoying at times. Also, the management insisted that my wife sleep on the sofa bed in the room rather than with me in the comfortable, high-tech bed that I enjoyed each night.

On Saturday night, we enjoyed a fireworks display from our sixth floor window. Well, actually it turned out to be a series of electrical transformers exploding on a nearby street.

You probably know that I am not actually talking about a hotel room, but about my room at Lehigh Valley Hospital. In all seriousness, the room was quite nice and the nursing staff was excellent! We are very pleased with the care I have received at the hospital.

When we arrived at the hospital on Friday night, my white blood count was almost zero and my hemoglobin level was half the normal. Apparently, I felt much better than I actually was. Over the weekend, I received IV antibiotics and two units of blood. By Sunday, my blood counts were rising and I was feeling much better. It is true. The life is in the blood.

One funny story. If you have my warped sense of humor. On Sunday, Merrily went out to get me lunch. She called me when she was out, but reversed the numbers and got the morgue. When she told me what happened, I told her that I did not realize that my condition was so bad.

I was released early Monday afternoon. Instead of driving home, we went to Lancaster, spent the night at a motel, and went to my doctor’s appointment this morning. We met with the surgeon’s assistant to finalize plans for my surgery on the 19th. Then we went to Lancaster Regional Hospital for pre-op work. By noon, we were on our way home.

After an unexpected hospital stay and a re-arrangement of the family’s weekend plans, we are back together at home. That is always a good thing. We are thankful for God’s care and provision. We are thankful for the prayers of many, from Pennsylvania, to Michigan and Ohio, to South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, to Kentucky, and to Brazil. God’s people are lifting us up! We are thankful for close friends who are willing to re-arrange their schedules and make sacrifices in order to care for our children, help us with transportation, and do whatever they can to help lighten our load.

Each time I enter the hospital, the admitting nurse asks what kind of support system I have. I tell her I have the best!

Cost per night at a Red Roof Inn: $72
Cost per night at Lehigh Valley Hospital: $12,000
Cost of a strong network of praying friends: Priceless

Friday, March 7, 2008

Friday Thoughts

Thoughts on Matthew 5:6 . . .

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Matthew 5:6

Jesus tells us that of we want to find true happiness, if we really want to be satisfied, we must hunger and thirst for righteousness. Cravings for food, pleasure, power, and things are never really satisfied. They always leave us wanting more. Think about how difficult it is to eat just one potato chip!

To hunger and thirst is to be in desperate need. We must realize our deep and urgent need for the righteousness of God.

This desire for righteousness is only found in a person who has been born again by the Spirit of God. God places within that person a new heart and an appetite for righteousness (John MacArthur).

A desire for righteousness is a desire to be right with God. It is a longing to be holy.
In longing for holiness, we must put aside everything that hinders us from seeking the Lord.

Jesus promises that if we seek righteousness, we will be filled. We will be given what we desire. We will be satisfied. In Christ, we have everything we need. He is our all in all (Colossians 3:11).

Thoughts about routine days and unexpected events . . .

Many days are filled with routine. Our faithfulness and persistence in the routine mark our character. When one is faithful day in and day out, we know that person as one who is dependable. That is a person that can be counted on to get things done.

And each day there are unexpected events. Things that interrupt the daily routine. Things that reveal and test and, ultimately, strengthen our character. These are things that we cannot anticipate, but we can prepare for – by being faithful and persistent in the routine times.

Team sports provide us with good examples. Players spend hours and hours at practice working on the basic skills – dribbling, passing, shooting. Hour after hour, as they persist, the players improve their abilities in all these areas. In a game situation, a well-practiced team will make good passes, avoid double dribbling, and sink foul shots. Evidence of practice. If they had not practiced, they would not be prepared for the game. But where the hard work really shows is in the unexpected events of the game. The fast break. The steal. The last-second shot. The overtime. Players that have been faithful to practice often shine during these unexpected moments, because they are prepared for the unexpected.

In our walk with Christ, spiritual growth happens as the result of consistent, daily discipline: praying, reading the Bible, serving others, fellowshipping with other Christians, etc. The faithfulness in the daily routine builds our character, and forms us into the image of our Savior. And it prepares us for the unexpected events.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Guarding Against Infection

I am feeling down today. Physically depressed. Each day this week, I have had less strength than the day before. My blood counts are low. I am running a low-grade fever. I am tired.

The nurses have cautioned me to avoid any contact with people that are sick. I am quite vulnerable to infection right now.

Spiritually, we must always be on guard against things that infect our soul. We are always vulnerable to wordly influences. How easily our minds can be filled with thoughts that turn us away from God.

That is why Paul cautioned us in Philippians 4:8 to dwell upon things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent, and worthy of praise.

Today's beatitude . . .

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5

Meekness is often confused with weakness. Meekness is better defined as strength under control. It is a strength produced in believers who are under the control of the Holy Spirit.

Meekness is where humility and self-control meet. - John MacArthur

A person who is meek is satisfied with what God has given him.

A man who is truly meek is a man who is always satisfied, he is a man who is already content. - D. Martin Lloyd-Jones

A person who is meek does not insist upon his own rights, but readily gives up his own rights to serve others and to glorify God.

Jesus said that the meek shall inherit the earth. Lloyd-Jones comments that there is both a present and a future reality here. There is the present reality that the person who is meek already has everything he needs because he is satisfied with what God has given him. But there is also the future reality that the man who is under the control of the Holy Spirit will receive salvation and inherit eternal life.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

An Ordinary Day

As I mentioned yesterday, I am looking at the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) in my daily devotions. Here are some thoughts on verse 4.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4

Mourning here refers to grieving over my own sin. John MacArthur, citing 2 Corinthians 5:10, describes mourning as the godly sorrow that produces repentance leading to salvation. This kind of sorrow produces repentance and results in forgiveness. To be comforted, in this context, is to be forgiven from my sins. As I must come to a place where I see myself as I really am, spiritually impoverished, before God, I must come to a place where I realize my sinfulness before receiving forgiveness. I need to be truly sorry, not just for the consequences of my sins, but for the sins themselves. Only then, can I receive forgiveness from God. Being forgiven, I can experience great joy!

Because of the kindness of others, my wife was able to enjoy “an ordinary day” at home with our four-year-old son on Monday. This got us to talking about ordinary days. Today, my wife shared with me these quotes she read.

The very pleasures of human life men acquire by difficulties. – St. Augustine

There are times when the entire arrangement of our existence is disrupted and we long for just one ordinary day – seeing our ordinary life as greatly desirable, even wonderful, in the light of the terrible disruption that has taken place. Difficulty opens our eyes to pleasures we had taken granted. – Elisabeth Elliot

In other words, we cannot truly appreciate the ordinary days without having experienced the days filled with disruption.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Some Advice and A Reality Check

Almost every day I hear about another person afflicted with cancer. Immediately, I pray for the person and his or her family. And every time, I ask myself what advice I can offer this person.

If I could pass along three pieces of advice to a person recently diagnosed with cancer, these would be the pieces:

First, understand that you will receive a lot of advice. Well-intentioned friends, family members and co-workers will share with you an experience with a particular doctor, a treatment, a nutritional supplement, etc. Remember, most people that offer you have good intentions and are only trying to help. Be discerning. You may receive some good advice, but be careful. Do your own research. In the end, you and your doctor(s) will have to make the important decisions about how your cancer will be treated.

Second, remember that you are not the only person affected by this cancer. It affects your spouse, your children, your parents, the rest of your family, your friends, your neighbors, your co-workers, and others of whom you may not be aware. [I am not sure, but I think that cancer hits a nerve with us because, more than any other disease today, it reminds us of our own vulnerability.] Resist the temptation to get all self-focused and take on a woe-is-me attitude. Yes, you have cancer, but you are not the only one hurting. Think beyond yourself. Think about how you can comfort the people around you that are hurting as well. Take time to talk to your family and friends. Share this experience with them. The prayers, support, and encouragement of others is an important factor in your recovery from this affliction.

Third, take some time to honestly evaluate your relationship with God. This is not a time to fool around with eternal matters. Are you trusting Him during this trial of life? Who is Jesus to you? Are you trusting in Him as your Lord and Savior? If this cancer takes your life, will you spend eternity with God or apart from God? Do you know for sure? If you have questions, please e-mail me or talk to a Christian friend or pastor. These questions cannot wait.

This morning, I began a devotional study of the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12). Over the next few weeks, I will try to include some brief thoughts from my study.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3).

God’s standard is perfection. Moral perfection. By myself, on my own, it is an unattainable goal. One of the biggest mistakes I can make in life is thinking that I have something to offer to God. I need to see myself as I really am. In myself, I have nothing worthy to offer to God. Just filthy rags. I must begin with a new attitude. Poor in spirit. A humble spirit. My only hope is in Christ, and His perfect righteousness. I am a desperate sinner in need of a Savior.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Living Outside the Box

It is another beautiful day!My daughter and I left the house at 6:30 this morning. I stopped by the local hospital to have blood drawn, and then we went for breakfast. Despite all the great diners in town, my daughter chose McDonalds. I agreed. And then I took her to school.
After visiting with my colleagues for a few minutes, Bill arrived and we headed down to Lehigh Valley. A great drive. Great conversation. And a great lunch afterward! The lunch afterward is usually the best part of the trip!
My wife and younger son were waiting for me when I got home. It is good to be home. It soon will be time to build cars out of Legos and ducks out of Tinker Toys [This will certainly warrant a future blog entry and possibly a sermon illustration.].
A few quotes and random thoughts I've been thinking . . .
What I’d have settled for, You’ve blown so far away. What You brought me to I thought I could not reach. Rich Mullins
Have you ever thought to yourself that you are settling for too little in life? I’m not talking about settling for a smaller paycheck, or an older model car, or a smaller house. But settling for a comfortable existence when there are far more exciting things that can be done.
Sometimes, we put our lives inside a box and are often afraid to live outside the box. Because the box is safe. The box is comfortable. But life should be more about taking risks and less about living in the box.
Living outside the box involves loving people more. I mean really loving people. Right where they are. No matter who they are. It involves stepping out and serving others. It involves sacrificing for others.
When we live outside of the box we discover things about ourselves, others, and God that we never knew were possible.
Jesus said, Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. John 15:13.
When I try to control something too tightly based on my own little ideas, I miss all the creativity and serendipity in life . . . How often when I insist on my own way I miss a way that is far better. John Ortberg
Tinker Toys and Legos await . . .

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Home Again

After posting last night’s entry, I realized that I should probably not try to write when all of my neural synapses are not firing properly. But today is another day.

It is Saturday morning. This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24). We had a good night’s sleep in our own bed. Our four-year-old son joined us a 6:30 this morning and proclaimed that he was glad that we were home. A few hours later, we began my daughter’s fourteenth birthday celebration with cinnamon rolls and presents.

Our two older children are upstairs panning an afternoon outing with friends. My wife is playing a game with my younger son on the living room floor. In a few minutes, I will be accepting an invitation to play with Legos and Tinker Toys.

It is good to be home. It makes me think about how good it will be to be welcomed into our eternal home. If coming home to this house feels good, how good will it feel to finally be living in the home that was prepared for me by my Heavenly Father? Beyond imagination.

New subject.

As a pastor and a teacher, it is a blessing to hear how others are following Christ. John said it well when he wrote, I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth (2 John 4).

This morning I read a newsletter from a Stefanie, a former student now serving on a music ministry team. She describes her experience in India and shares this from her first day there:

I had decided to climb to the roof of the building, and while there I was able to have a 360o view of the skyline of India! It’s one of those “words cannot describe: moments. I was just overwhelmed. Questions such as “Why did God bring me here?” and “What could I possibly do here?” started to pop into my head. Satan was attacking, but God intervened. He reminded me that He has a purpose for all that He does, and that He would be able to use me if I would just be willing to let Him lead and to trust in Him fully.

God painted the most beautiful sunrise that morning. I had never actually been up before to witness the dark, star spotted sky be transformed into colors of pinks and oranges. Beyond amazing!!! I knew in those few moments that if God could create a beautiful picture such as that sunrise, He could use me, despite whatever doubts I had in my head! Praise God for His patience and power.

Thank you, Stefanie, for sharing the lessons you are learning. May each of us increase in our understanding of God’s sovereignty and the graciousness of His allowing us, as His children, to have a part in His eternal plan of redemption.

Faith sees the invisible, believes the unbelievable, and receives the impossible.
- Corrie ten Boom