Tuesday, July 29, 2008

An Example of Prayer

In 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13, we have an example of Paul’s prayers for fellow believers. His prayers are instructive in that they demonstrate for us the importance of praying for one another and they show us how to pray for one another.

Here, Paul prays that God might direct him back to Thessalonica and that these believers might increase and abound in love – for one another and for all. The desired end result is that these believers might be found blameless in holiness.While Paul and his team desire to return to Thessalonica and express this desire to God, they recognize the sovereignty of God and are willing to accept His answer and His timing.

Love is the hallmark of the Christian faith. Love for one another in the church and love for those outside. Following God’s example. For God so loved the world. They’ll know we are Christians by our love.

Boundless love, wrought in us by God Himself, is a pre-requisite for being found blameless in holiness.

As we read this prayer and others like it in the Bible, we learn more about what it means to have a close walk with our Heavenly Father, how to be an encouragement to our brothers and sisters in Christ, and how to love those who are still outside the faith.

If we could just put into practice praying for one another to abound in love – true selfless love - how radically the church, the body of Christ, could change.

It’s the day before my five-day inpatient chemotherapy treatment. Today will be filled with many preparations – blood work at the local hospital, physical therapy, packing, and getting our children to the family that will be caring for them. I usually feel lousy the day before my treatment – anticipation, I guess. But this is the worst I have felt. Fevers. Nausea. Severe pain in both hip joints. Talk about hitting a man while he is down.

But God is in control. He will see me through the pain and discomfort. By God’s grace, I will seek to bring Him glory.

As usual, I will not have access to the Internet while in the hospital. Next Monday, I will attempt to recount my adventures. Until then, may God bless you.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Joy, Thanksgiving, and Our Need for One Another

For what thanks can we render to God for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice before our God on your account, as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith? 1 Thessalonians 3:9-10

Paul gives thanks to God for his fellow believers in Thessalonica and rejoices in their spiritual success. Like Paul, we all owe thanks to God for what He has done in our lives and the lives of the people around us. It is only because of Him that these believers have stood faithful in the midst of persecution. And it is only because of Him that we enjoy the spiritual victories that we do. Because of Him, the believers in Thessalonica can rejoice in tribulation. And Paul can rejoice with them. Their joy is in God and their relationship with Him through Jesus Christ.

Paul earnestly prays that he might see them again. He was delighted to hear about them through Timothy, but the good news of their well being did not erase his desire to see them face to face.

My wife and I can relate. I am sure that you can relate as well.

Yesterday we had a phone call from our son. He had so much to tell us that he did not know where to begin. He told us of his experience in the gas chamber, rapelling down a 75-foot cliff, and the try-outs for the sprint football team. He told us about the other Christian young men he has met and the witnessing opportunities he has had. He thanked his mom for teaching him how to clean and how he and his roommate are often cited as an example of what a clean room should like.

Letters and phone calls from our son are nice. They help reassure us that he is doing well. But they do not quell our desire to see him in person, to hug him, and to look into his eyes as he tells us how he is doing. At the same time, there is so much more that we would like to teach him about life and living for the Lord.

Paul’s desire was to help complete what was lacking in the faith of the Thessalonian believers.

The word complete is from the Greek kartizo: to thoroughly prepare something to meet expectations, to make fit, to equip, to make someone completely adequate or sufficient, to supply that which is missing.

Paul wanted more time with them, to instruct them and build them up in the faith, to help them become more spiritually mature.

Like the Thessalonians, we all need to grow spiritually. We are all lacking. We need to be discipled by those who are further along in their journey as followers of Jesus Christ. And, at the same time, we need to be discipling others who are just beginning their journey.

We need each other. That is God’s design. And as we encourage one another and build up one another in the faith, we can rejoice and thank God for all that He has done, all that He is doing, and all that He will do.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Night in the ER, A Long Drive Home, and A Concern for the Well Being of Others

Last night, I spent my first night (well, four hours - but it seemed like a whole night) in the Emergency Room at Lehigh Valley Hospital. Yesterday evening, about 8:30, I was running a temperature of about 101 and my wife dutifully called the oncologist to report. He told her to bring me in for some tests.

After dropping our two children off to stay with friends for the night, we got on the road at nine and arrived in Allentown a little after eleven. For about four hours, I was poked and prodded and hooked up to IV fluids while we waited for the test results. Everyone was very nice, but I would not rank the visit in my top ten most pleasurable experiences. Not even top one hundred.

At about 2:30 this morning, the attending physician popped in to tell us that all the tests were negative (in a good kind of way - I always have to stop and think about that.), but that it would take about two days for the blood cultures to come back from the lab. As a precaution, I was given a bag of IV antibiotics. By three, we were on our way home.

Of course, my wife was exhausted at that point and we were both too cheap to get a motel room at three in the morning. I don't imagine they offer half-price specials after midnight. So we headed for home, in a lightning and thunder storm. The rain came down hard as she navigated the highways and looked for a safe place to pull over to catch a little nap. But a safe place was not to be found. As we continued to drive, a motel room looked like a better and better option, but we continued toward home.

I have to say that my wife knows how to persevere through her exhaustion. By five this morning, we were back home. Safe. But, if anything, feeling worse than when we left the house last night.

Of course, we slept in this morning. Now we are waiting to pick up our children after church. And waiting for a phone call from our son at West Point.

This morning I read 1 Thessalonians 3:5-8. What jumped out of the page to me was his concern for the believers in Thessalonica. This theme has been evident in his letter. He could not wait (when I could no longer endure it, he writes) to hear how they were doing. So he sent Timothy to find out. Timothy reported that they were doing well, that their faith was intact despite their affliction. And Paul writes, For now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord.

Paul had great joy in knowing that his fellow believers were standing firm, even thriving, in the midst of hardship and persecution.

I guess I can relate. Each day, I long for some news from our son. When it comes, I rejoice knowing that he is standing fast in the Lord. By God's grace. I rejoice when I hear how he has taken opportunities to witness to others and to help others.

From time to time, I will hear from a former student or a fellow believer that I have discipled. It brings me great joy to hear when that person is walking in the truth. Living wholeheartedly for Jesus Christ. The news motivates me to persevere in the ministry. I imagine that Paul felt the same way.

His life was devoted to knowing Christ and making sure that others knew Him as well. He was concerned for both their physical and spiritual well being. May we have that same loving concern for others as well.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

That I May Encourage Others Also

We had a special treat yesterday. We were able to view a video message from our son, thanks to the Cadet Chapel Choir at West Point. In the video, he is standing with a new friend he has made at Cadet Basic Training. He looks and sounds great. He looks happy. Tomorrow, the new cadets are scheduled to spend the afternoon at the home of a staff member. They will have an opportunity to call home. Needless to say, we are forward to the phone call and have a list of questions to ask him. Many will have to wait until Labor Day weekend, when he has his first opportunity to come home.

As I continue to feel the effects of my last round of chemotherapy [My wife tells me that I still have the look.] and anticipate the next round coming up in four days, my reading in 1 Thessalonians was appropriate for this morning.

In 1 Thessalonians 3:1-4, Paul writes that he has sent Timothy to establish you and encourage you concerning your faith.

The word establish carries the idea of strengthening or fixing firmly. The word encourage means to come along side in order to help.

We all need encouragement. We all ought to be encouragers. It is not God’s design for us to be alone, to be the rugged individualists that America has glamorized. We are meant to be dependent upon on another. We are meant to acknowledge our own weaknesses and rely on the strengths of others, as others rely upon us.

This is especially true in times of affliction, which are a normal part of the Christian life. We are to help each other through, reminding each other of who God is and what He has promised us. We are to keep pointing each other toward Jesus Christ and His finished work in the cross at Calvary. To the love, grace, forgiveness, strength, comfort and peace found only in Him.

My bout with cancer has taught me the importance and necessity of acknowledging my weaknesses and depending on others.

Physically, there are many things that I cannot do for myself. A few weeks ago, I had breakfast with our pastor and deacons at a restaurant that featured a breakfast buffet. The other men had to help me by carrying my plate back to the table. Thankfully, many of the men still have young children are accustomed to doing such things.

It has been the prayers and continual encouragement of others that have enabled my wife and me to keep our focus on Christ and to continually seek to glorify Him. There are times when we get weary and frustrated, but God always provides someone to help establish and encourage us in some way.

And I continually pray that God would somehow use my trial with cancer to encourage others who are going through difficult times. As I am encouraged, that I may encourage others also.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Merry Christmas (in July)!

Merry Christmas (in July)! It is a beautiful day – warm, sunny, and breezy. A nice day to celebrate the birth of our Savior. In many ways, much nicer than the snowy weather we may experience six months from now during our traditional celebration.

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14

If we could condense all the truths of Christmas into only three words, these would be the words: "God with us." We tend to focus our attention at Christmas on the infancy of Christ. The greater truth of the holiday is His deity. More astonishing than a baby in the manger is the truth that this promised baby is the omnipotent Creator of the heavens and the earth! John F. MacArthur, Jr.

We celebrated this occasion for the first time last summer while visiting friends in Michigan.

Today, our celebration – even though it is confined to the four of us - makes it a tradition.
We will read Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth, rejoice at the gift that God has given us in Jesus Christ, enjoy a dinner of stuffed chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans, and even give our children a small gift to open.

So, may you all have a very merry Christmas (in July) and may the rest of your year be filled with the peace and joy found only in our Immanuel.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Apartness and Togetherness

It is said that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Perhaps. All I know is that I do not like being away from my wife. Thankfully, those occasions are rare.

I have a number of good friends that I do not get to see very often. In fact, one such friend is visiting this week and helping us with some home projects. Another good friend is planning to visit in early August.

With good friends, though, I have found that we can pick up our friendships, and many times our conversations, right where we left off. We may be separated by many miles, but we are never far apart.

In 1 Thessalonians 2:17-20, Paul is longing to see his brethren in Thessalonica. He misses them, but has been hindered from visiting.

In his discussion of this passage, Gary Demarest writes,

Togetherness keeps us in touch with reality. Apartness allows us to idealize the relationship. We need both. I find that the togetherness that follows the separation is always very special. The rhythm is very important to growth.

As much as I dislike being away from my wife and being separated from good friends, I have to agree with Demarest. Relationships grow through this cycle of apartness and togetherness. We can learn to appreciate the time apart. And we can look forward to and appreciate the times we are together.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


This morning at 5:00 we awoke to one of the fiercest lightning and thunderstorms I have ever experienced. Safety concerns aside, it was fun to watch the lightning brighten the sky while the thunder cracked, the winds blew, and the rain came pelting down. It was a reminder to me of the power of God.

But that is not my topic for today.

Today, as I was reading 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16, I was struck by the concept of imitation.

Today, we often hear the word in the context of something like, Don’t accept a cheap imitation. But this passage uses the word in its positive sense.

A Christian should be a striking likeness of Jesus Christ.… We should be pictures of Christ.… Oh! My brethren, there is nothing that can so advantage you, nothing can so prosper you, so assist you, so make you walk towards heaven rapidly, so keep your head upwards towards the sky, and your eyes radiant with glory, like the imitation of Jesus Christ. Charles Spurgeon

An imitator is one who follows. The Greek word is related to several English words:

A mime is one who imitates an another person or action.
A pantomime is a theater production which originally was without words.
A mimeograph is a machine which makes many copies from one stencil.

In the New Testament, the word is used to describe someone who follows an authoritative pattern, a standard. In this case, the standard is Jesus Christ Himself, who suffered and died for our sake, and Paul, who himself suffered for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We become imitators of Christ as we become exposed to Him through His written Word and as we follow Him in obedience to the written Word. We pattern our lives after Christ and after the good, godly examples that God places in our lives.

In verse 14, Paul writes that the Thessalonians had become imitators of the church in Jesus Christ. They were following the example set by Paul and his team of missionaries. Like Paul, they were willing to suffer for the gospel. Their actions spoke volumes to the people in the region. Their testimony for Christ was well known.

Actions always speak louder than words.

Like the Thessalonian believers, we are called, as Larry Richards writes, to reproduce in our own way of life those godly qualities that result from salvation and that we see in others. In turn, we are to be clear, living examples of the practical implications of commitment to Jesus.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

True Community

As the assistant pastor of a local Bible church, I have had the joy of starting a new small group ministry. At present, we have two groups started and plan to start several more in the fall.

These small groups provide an opportunity for true Christian fellowship. While some may be drawn by a need to be close to others, we are ultimatley drawn together because of our mutual faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the center and basis of true Christian community. This is Paul's point in 1 Thessalonians 2:13-14.

The basis for all relationships among believers is the Word Of God. We have fellowship with one another because we have received the Word of God. The Word of God works effectively in us. And because of our fellowship with Jesus Christ, we will experience hardship and suffering.

The Word of God refers to both the written word and to Jesus Christ, the Living Word, the Incarnate Word. All true Christian relationships, all true community grows out of our mutual acceptance of the written word and the authority of Jesus Christ in our lives.

Recognizing the centrality of the Word of God, our small group time is centered around the Bible. We read and discuss passages of Scripture and discuss how the truth applies to our lives. Having established that basis, we support and encourage one another in prayer. We help each other through difficult times. And yes, we have fun together. As we grow closer to Jesus Christ and as we have fellowship with Him, we grow closer to one another.

He is the center of our lives. He is the basis of our relationships. In Him we have community.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Defined by Christ

In 1 Thessalonians 2:7-9, Paul compares himself to a nursing mother. In verses 10-12, he compares himself to a loving father.

He writes that he exhorts, comforts, and charges the believers of Thessalonica as a loving father. Like a good father, he firmly yet lovingly challenges the believers to walk worthy of God. To live like children of God. To have a lifestyle that reflects their position in Christ.

He is lovingly reminding these believers that they have been called into God's own kingdom and glory and that they need to live out this reality. Paul gave a similar challenge to believers at the beginning of Ephesians 4.

As wonderful as it is to be a teacher, that does not ultimately define who I am. As consuming as it is to be a cancer patient, that does not define who I am. As a believer, I am defined by who I am in Christ. The challenge as a believer is to know who I am in Christ and to live like it.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Truth Matters. And People Do Too!

It is Sunday morning. I am at home. Low blood counts (and a compromised immune system) prevent me from being around large crowds of people this morning. This is the first Sunday I have missed, except for being in the hospital, in a while. Thankfully, I convinced my wife that it was alright for her to go and take our four-year-old son. He loves Sunday School! Our daughter and a friend are visiting our former church here in town – a church we helped plant eight years ago.

I have a bit more energy today. My appetite is starting to return. And I am probably starting to regain some of the five pounds I lost this past week! My body, overall, is starting to feel normal again.

We had another letter from our son at West Point yesterday. Two letters in two days. He wrote to tell us of his excitement in meeting two other Christians in his platoon and his opportunity to witness to and discuss the Bible with three other guys in his squad. He said that he sees the sovereignty of God in working these things out and the power of the Holy Spirit in enabling him to witness. What an answer to prayer! As a Christian parent, there is always a bit of uncertainty as to how your child (now young adult) will stand for Christ on his own. By God’s grace, our son is learning to take a stand.

In 1 Thessalonians 2:7-9, Paul speaks of gentleness and compares his team to a nursing mother. The sacrificial love of a nursing mother for her child. Here is a man committed to speaking the truth demonstrating that truth does not have to and should not be presented coldly and impersonally. As he wrote in Ephesians 4:15, the truth should be spoken in love. Paul and his team were sensitive to the needs of others. They were willing to give of themselves (as a nursing mother gives herself to her baby). Paul was willing to work, making tents, so that he would not be a burden on those to whom he was trying to minister.

What an example for all believers. Sometimes, in our eagerness to proclaim the truth or defend the truth we can be insensitive to others, cold, and impersonal. We are willing to give the truth but not ourselves. At least, that is my natural tendency. Paul’s example is one of gentleness. Presenting the truth in such a way that people know that you care about them, not just your message. The truth matters. But it won’t matter much to the people we are trying to reach unless they know that they matter to us as well.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Lifestyles of the Messengers of God

Yesterday we received a letter from our son at West Point. He is doing well and continuing to enjoy Beast Barracks. He has becomes friends with a new cadet from another unit. They are both trying out for the Sprint (under 173 pound) football team. Our son is trying out as a linebacker. His mother is nervous. He said he had his first MRE and it wasn't too bad. He is looking forward to field exercises at Camp Buckner in two weeks.

We travelled down to Lehigh Valley for my nadir visit yesterday. As we suspected my blood counts had dropped. But the doctor decided to wait and do a transfusion the next time I am in the hospital for treatment, later this month. We discussed cutting my dosage for the outpatient treatment, like he did for the inpatient treatment, and he agreed. Because there are still some cancer cells floating around in my bone marrow, seventeen rounds is still the goal. That puts my last treatment on December 24.

When we got home last evening, another family came over to enjoy s'mores around the campfire in our backyard. Unfortunately, a sudden thunderstorm forced inside after about fifteen minutes. I think everyone enjoyed at least one s'more, though.

This morning I read 1 Thessalonians 2:3-6. Paul defends his ministry from the accusations of false teachers. He does so, by contrasting his ministry with theirs. Essentially, it is a contrast in lifestyles that should be true of all followers of Jesus Christ.

Truth, not falsehood. Like Paul, we should always speak and stand up for the truth. We should avoid lies, exaggeration, flattery - anything that is not the truth. Others should be able to trust what we say. Of course, we find the truth in the word of God and not in the philosophies of man.
We must be thoroughly grounded in the truth and seek to speak the truth with love. Always.

Pure, not immoral. Like Paul, our lives must be characterized by purity. In this age of socially acceptable immorality, a life of purity stands out in contrast. We must keep ourselves pure by intentionally avoiding anything that is impure, whether it be in the television, Internet, or billboard.

Authentic, not deceptive. We must be open and honest in our dealings with others. Our motivation must be the glory of God and the good of others, not our own selfish ambitions. We must be genuine in our relationships with others.

Like Paul, we have been approved by God and entrusted with the gospel. We are not apostles, but we are to be messengers of God. His message should not be tainted by our falsehoods, immorality, or self-seeking deception. We are to be messengers whose lives bear witness of the glory of God and the transforming power of the message we carry.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Friday Morning Leap and The Power of the Gospel

It is Friday morning. I feel like I have a bit more energy today. But my body is still in a great deal of pain. The thing is the effects I feel are not from the cancer, but from the cure. That is frustrating at times. But often, things have to get worse before they get better. That just seems the way it is.

Pardon this leap, but maybe that's how Paul felt. Things seemed to be getting worse for Him, but as for the spreading of the gospel, things were getting better. People were hearing the message of salvation and lives were being transformed. He was able to take his focus off of his own suffering and look at what God was doing in the midst of it.

In 1 Thessalonians 2:1-2, Paul mentions the mistreatment that he and his missionary team experienced in Philippi. This is described in Acts 16. They were beaten and jailed. Then they came to Thessalonica, where they were did not treated much better. Yet, despite their suffering, they boldly proclaimed the gospel. They knew that their ministry was not in vain.

Because they knew that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes (Romans 1:16). They had no fear. In fact, they had full confidence in the message they were spreading, because it was from God. It was His plan of salvation. It was his way of bringing people into right relationship with Himself and with each other (Gary Demarest). It was His way of transforming lives and relationships.

We need not fear in proclaiming God's message. Whatever we may suffer, our ministry is not in vain. The gospel continues to save people from their sins and transform their lives.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Changed Life Influences Others

My body is weak. This morning, I had to take a nap after walking down the stairs. That simple task drained the energy out of my body. My wife cancelled all of our plans for the day - a visit to the dentist, a physical therapy session, and an afternoon at a friend's pool. All of these will have to wait for another day.

It is another beautiful summer day. Warm, but just enough of breeze to enjoy having the windows open instead of turning on the AC unit. I love these days. Birds are playing in the lilac bush.

We enjoyed the firstfruits from our garden this week - yellow squash and zucchini squash. The tomatoes are coming, but not ripe yet. We have also been enjoying sweetcorn from a local farmer's market. Another blessing of Pennsylvania summers.

In 1 Thessalonians, I read verese 7-10 of the first chapter this morning. Paul writes about how the witness of the Thessalonian believers had a widespread influence in the region. God can use our testimony to make a difference in the lives of others! The way we handle things in our life - especially our difficulties - can be a source of strength and hope for others. As we point to our source of strength and hope - the Lord Jesus Christ.

In verse 7, Paul tells them that they have become examples of those who believe. Role models. The Greek word he uses here suggests that these believers have left their marks on others. I must ask myself - is my testimony for Jesus Christ leaving a mark on others? A positive mark?

In verse 8, he says that the Word of God has sounded forth. These believers have been faithful in spreading the gospel. Am I as faithful?

In verse 9, Paul writes that these believershave turned from idols to Christ. From sin to Christ. This is true repentance. Evidence of a changed life. Am I living in such a way that others can see a difference in me?

In verse 9, he also writes that these believers have become servants of the true and living God. Do I seek each day to serve God? Or do I seek to serve myself?

In verse 10, Paul describes the eternal perspective of the Thessalonian believers - they are waiting for the return of Jesus Christ. This perspective gives them hope. And it motivates them to live for Him in the present. Do I have this same perspective? Do I have a sense of urgency in my witness and in my service to God?

A changed life influences others. What kind of influence am I having?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Joy and Affliction

My body continues to feel the effects of the chemotherapy. Yesterday, I helped my wife with a few small projects in the kitchen, but fatigued quickly. I took two naps yesterday. Mouth sores are being barely kept at bay by daily doses of L-Lysine and baking soda washes. As I suffer these effects, I have to remember all the good days that I have had in the past few months. I have had more good days than bad. And I am thankful for that.

Yesterday, at PT, I exceeded my goal of 130 degrees of rotation for my right knee - the right knee is now as flexible as the left knee. Now, we will focus on strength training. I did ten minutes on the stationary bicycle. It felt good.

This morning, I read 1 Thessalonians 1:4-6. In verses 4-5, Paul reminds the Thessalonian believers that they were called by God through the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. In verse 6, Paul writes,

And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having receieved the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit.

Here, he describes the joy that believers have, even in the midst of affliction. The call of God through Jesus Christ is a call to sacrifice and suffering. Obedience to God is costly. But there is joy in the midst of affliction. Joy in knowing Jesus Christ. Joy in knowing that as we suffer for His sake we will be drawn closer to Him.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Faith, Love, and Hope

Faith, love, and hope. Paul uses these three words together in Romans 5:1-5, 1 Corinthians 13:13. Galatians 5:5-6, Ephesians 4:1-4, Colossians 1:3-5, and here in 1 Thessalonians 1:3:

remembering without ceasing your work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the sight of our God and Father.

Paul refers here to the Thessalonians’ work of faith. Faith as the basis of all that we think, say, and do. Trusting God for wisdom, strength, and provision in all things. Faith as a way of living. Living by faith. Faith that produces good works.

Labor of love. Love as an action and not a feeling. Love as a choice. Love that is intentional. Agape love. Love that seeks the best interest of others. The kind of love that Paul describes in detail in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

Patience of hope. A confident expectation in the promises of God. Hope in Jesus Christ. A hope that provided a proper frame of view for all of life. Enduring all things with hope. Knowing that life is full of opportunities for loving God and others.

Faith is seen by its works; love, by its self-denying exertions; and hope, by its patience and endurance (Pulpit Commentary).

Faith rests on the past; love works in the present; hope looks to the future (Lightfoot).

It is Tuesday morning. The birds are singing, and so am I. Even though I am not feeling as well as I have lately, I am singing because I know that God is in control. H. H. Pierson put it this way,

I sing through the shade and the sunshine. I'll trust Him whatever befall; I sing for I cannot be silent - My Father planned it all.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Monday Morning Thoughts

Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 1:2,

We give thanks to God always for you all, making menton of you in our prayers.

He wanted his brothers and sisters in Christ in Thessalonica to know that he, Silas, and Timothy were regularly praying for them. He recognized the importance of praying for one another in the Body of Christ.

As this was important to Paul, it should also be important to us - to cultivate mutual networks of prayer for the encouragement and edification of one another. Prayer binds us together, with God and with one another.

Yesterday morning, our Senior Pastor spoke on The Law of Love from Romans 13:8-10. The purspose of this passage is to renew our thinking (a la Romans 12:1) in relation to love. Paul calls us as believers to think of ourselves as debtors when it comes to love. Because of what Christ has done for us, giving s eternal life when we deserve death, we owe a great debt - to others. I owe others love!

Yesterday evening, our pastor did a devotional message on 2 Kings 4:42-44. We learned how important it is to be faithful in tough times, that God honors faithfulness, that even though what we offer seems inadequate, God makes up the difference.

Good stuff to chew on for the week. Challenging to put into practice, as I seek to pray for others regularly, love others by putting their needs first, and be faithful even in difficult situations. But God has equipped me to do these things. And He has give me His grace for when I fail.

Monday morning. It is the fifth day in my chemotherapy cycle and I am starting to feel some fatigue. Not as bad asI have in the past, but I suspect that my blood counts have decreased. There is a funny taste in my mouth and a wierd feeling in my stomach. A better description escapes me. I do not feel nauseous, but I do not feel normal.

My knee and ankle joints continue to improve in mobility, and my quad muscles continue to get stronger - due to physical therapy. Still, there is little or no healing in my leg because of the effects of chemotherapy. That will have to wait until chemotherapy is completed. My surgeon does not seem worried, and neither am I.

I continue to anticipate the new school year. I plan a little each day. I anticipate getting more involved in the ministry of our local church as the summer progresses. I feel like things are improving. I feel like my body is recovering from this cancer.

I will continue to trust God with my future, because He has been faithful to me thus far. That's my personal experience. But as I read my Bible, I know that He has always been faithful. He can be trusted.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

God Has Invited Me

Come, Christians, join to sing Alleluia! Amen!
Loud praise to Christ our King; Alleluia! Amen!
Let all. With heart and voice, before His throne rejoice;
Praise is His gracious choice: Alleluia! Amen.

In a few hours, our family will be getting dressed and traveling about seventeen miles to gather with other believers to sing loud praises to Christ our King. Also to pray together and to listen to the Word of God.

As I began reading Paul’s first letter to the church at Thessalonica this morning, I was reminded, in verse one, of the significance of the church.

He writes to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and to the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Greek word that is translated church refers to a group of people who are called out by God to gather for the purpose of meeting with God. God Himself initiates the gathering and invites all who will call upon Jesus Christ as Lord.

When I call upon Jesus Christ as Lord, I am choosing to give Him absolute authority in my life. The authority that He rightly deserves as my Creator and Redeemer. But I have a choice.

Today, I choose to gather with fellow believers because Jesus Christ is my Lord and He calls me to come together with others who also choose to call Him Lord. We gather to praise and glorify Him. We gather to be built up and encouraged by one another through singing, praying, and the teaching of God’s Word so that we will be prepared, for the rest of the week to glorify God by loving Him and loving others.

God has invited me. So I will come.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

He Is Always Near

We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks!
For Your wondrous works declare that Your name is near.

Psalm 75:1

Asaph, the writer of this psalm, gives thanks to the LORD. He knows that God is sovereign. He is transcendent - above all His creation in glory, honor, power, majesty, wisdom, and understanding. Yet He is immanent - personally involved with His creation. When Asaph says that "Your wondrous works declare that Your name is near" he is acknowledging God's presence among and involvement with His people.

But the saints in the Old Testament did not experience a personal, permanent presence of God's Spirit like New Testament saints. New Testament saints, and this includes all of us who have trusted Christ as Lord and Savior, have the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit within us.

The Holy Spirit is our Comforter, our Teacher, our Helper, our Intercessor, and the Giver of Gifts.

Look around. Look within. God is near.

Another day dawns. Another day to learn more about our Savior and to grow closer to Him. To answer His call for this day. To know His power in witnessing. To fellowship with Him in His suffering. To be a humble servant in His name.

I am not sure what this day will bring, but I know that it will bring opportunities to demonstrate my faith in Christ and my faithfulness to Him. Only by God's grace and the presence of His Spirit will I bring honor and glory to the One who called me, saved me, and redeemed me for eternity. Today, I will trust in Him. I will depend on Him. I will call upon Him for wisdom and strength. He is always near.

Friday, July 11, 2008

I Choose to Follow You

I have been meaning to post this for a month now, and have finally gotten around to it. One of my older son's passions is playing the guitar and writing songs. Here are the lyrics to a song that he wrote for his high school graduation. He played it for his guests at his graduation party in June.

God, you’ve brought me through another year,
And now I find myself right here
At a crossroad in my life.
I have so many choices to make.
Which road am I going to take?
And now I’m crying out to You.

God, I need You every day.
I want to go to the straight and narrow way.
I need Your strength not to compromise;
I want to do what is right in Your eyes.
I will follow this road to the end.
I lay down my will; on You I depend.

I offer my life, a living sacrifice,
All to bring glory to Your name.
All to bring glory to Your name.

God, help me now not to stray;
For wisdom, Lord, I earnestly pray
To discern the right from wrong.
My whole life in front of me;
I know I can’t always see.
And now I’m crying out to You.

No matter what it may cost,
Even when all else is lost,
I choose to follow You,
Knowing that You will bring me through.
I choose to follow You.

It brings me great joy to know that he means every word of this. That he knows his own weaknesses and that God is his strength. That he needs God's wisdom to discern right from wrong. That He must trust God even when He cannot see Him working. That he has chosen to follow Him at all costs. That he has made a decision to glorify God above all else.

I know he will fail at times. We all do. But because He has made a choice to give His life for Christ, I know that His Savior will see him through.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

This Day Belongs to Him

I recently read and am now re-reading Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He gives some good advice for beginning each day in a way that that dedicates our day to the Lord:

For Christians the beginning of the day should not be burdened and oppressed with besetting concerns for the day's work. At the threshold of a new day stands the Lord who made it. All the darkness and distraction of the dreams of night retreat before the clear light of Jesus Christ and his wakening Word. All unrest, all impurity, all care and anxiety flee before him. Therefore, at the beginning of the day let all distraction and empty talk be silenced and let the first thought and the first word belong to him to whom our whole life belongs [emphasis added].

This is my first day, post-chemo. The treatment went well yesterday. As did my appointment with the oncologist. As it stands, the plan is to complete the full 17 rounds of chemotherapy. That puts my last treatment on December 24, Christmas Eve. I began on December 22 of last year.

I am very excited about beginning the new school year. Each day, I try to do a little bit of planning for each of the six courses I will be teaching. It is a lot of work to plan for six different courses, but I like the variety. Each class period brings something new. I have missed the daily interaction with my students and the joy of working together with other teachers dedicated to seeing our students grow in Christ-likeness.

I am also very excited about getting more involved with church ministry - new member classes, teacher training and evaluation, small groups.

God has been very good to me in the past six months. He has provided for every need (usually through generous brothers and sisters in Christ) and has taught me many lessons through His Word and through the trials I have encountered. No matter what happens in the next six months - whether or not things go as I have planned - I know that He is in control, that His plan is perfect, and that I can trust Him completely. Not only is this true for the next six months of my life, but for this day as well. This day belongs to Him. And I belong to Him, who created me and redeemed me for His glory.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Chemo Eve, A Safari Hunt, and Another Quote

Time passes quickly. Another three weeks have passed and it is time for another chemotherapy treatment. This time, a one-day (half day, really) outpatient treatment. Typically, my body (my mind) starts to anticipate the treatment the night before. Chemo Eve. I lose my appetite and start feeling queasy. But not this time. I feel great. Except for my hip from Monday's "I forgot I couldn't walk" episode.

With our older son away and our daughter at camp this week, we have been enjoying time with our younger son. Last night, my wife hid his stuffed animals in the upstairs rooms and he used his flashlight in the dark to go on a "safari hunt." Today, they are going to the Lehigh Valley Zoo while I am receiving my treatment.

Lately, I can't help but to think how great it is to be alive! And not only that, but to know that I will live eternally with God in Heaven because of Jesus Christ. And God wants to use me, despite my failings, to bring glory to Himself.

In the Scriptures, God is frequently represented as searching for a man of a certain type. Not men, but a man. Not a group, but an individual. When God does discover a man who conforms to His spiritual requirements, who is willing to pay the full price of discipleship, He uses Him to the limit, despite his patent shortcomings. J. Oswald Sanders

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A Phone Call and Fuel for the Flame of God

Last evening, the men in our small group were sitting around the dining room table. We just started to pray when the phone rang. I could hear a voice on the answering machine upstairs that sounded like my son's. We were not expecting him to call home from West Point until the 11th. The phone rang again, and I jumped up from my chair - interrupting the prayer - and took a step toward the kitchen phone, forgetting that I could not walk! With some help, I was able to pick up the phone and talk to our son for two minutes before handing the phone to my wife.

He said that he loves Cadet Basic Training! And that he is doing well. It was certainly good to hear his voice and know that he is enjoying this experience.

As I think aboout the young men and women serving in our military, and as I think about the duty of Christians to serve God and others, I am reminded of another quote.

The wick exists only to be consumed. If it survives, it has failed of its purpose. There is no such thing as costless spiritual service. As we minister to others, virtue will go out of us. Ours is the privilege of offering ourselves as fuel for the flame of God. J. Oswald Sanders

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Benefits of Troubles

This evening, I am sharing a devotional on James 1:2-8 with our small group. Here are some thoughts on this passage . . .

We have a tendency to try to get out of trouble prematurely. We want to do everything and anything we can to get out of hot water. To find a way of escape. But often, God wants us to remain in that situation. God wants to use our troubles.

In verse 3, James writes, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.

The Greek word that is translated “patience” in the NKJV is hupomone (hopeful endurance, patient endurance, waiting), derived from hupomeno (to stay under, remain, persevere, endure).

God uses our troubles to put our faith to the test. To prove and strengthen our faith. God does not use our troubles to impair us but to improve us.

In verse 4, James conrtinues, But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

God uses our troubles to bring us to spiritual maturity. We must learn to submit to the will of God. Have no way but His. To resist avoiding His righteous dealings with us. Believing that He always does what is good and right and just.

Torrey lists ways that our “troubles” may be beneficial:

In promoting the glory of God - John 9:1, 2, 3; 11:3,4; 21:18,19
In exhibiting the power and faithfulness of God - Ps 34:19,20; 2Co 4:8, 9, 10, 11
In teaching us the will of God - Ps 119:71; Isaiah 26:9; Micah 6:9
In turning us to God - Deut 4:30,31; Neh 1:8,9; Ps 78:34; Is 10:20,21; Ho 2:6,7
In keeping us from again departing from God - Job 34:31,32; Is 10:20; Ezek 14:10,11
In leading us to seek God in prayer - Jdg 4:3; Je 31:18; Lam 2:17-19; Ho 5:14,15; Jonah 2:1
In convincing us of sin - Job 36:8,9; Ps 119:67; Lk 15:16-18
In leading us to confession of sin - Nu 21:7; Ps 32:5; 51:3,5
In testing and exhibiting our sincerity - Job 23:10; Psalms 66:10; Pr 17:3
In trying our faith and obedience - Ge 22:1,2; He 11:17; Ex 15:23-25; Deut 8:2,16; 1Pe 1:7; Rev 2:10
In humbling us - Deut 8:3,16; 2Chr 7:13,14; Lam 3:19,20; 2Co 12:7
In purifying us - Eccl 7:2,3; Is 1:25,26; 48:10; Je 9:6,7; Zech 13:9; Mal 3:2,3
In exercising our patience - Ps 40:1; Ro 5:3; James 1:3; 1Pe 2:20
In rendering us fruitful in good works - John 15:2; Heb 12:10,11
In furthering the gospel - Acts 8:3,4; 11:19-21; Php 1:12; 2Ti 2:9,10; 4:16,17

When we encounter “troubles,” we must be patient. Trust in God. Wait upon Him. Expecting Him to work – in His time and in His way.

Like David, we must be able to say, My times are in Your hand (Psalm 31:15).

Or, I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined to me and heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth – Praise to our God; many will see it and fear, and will trust in the LORD (Psalm 40:1-3).

Sunday, July 6, 2008

This and That

We have been enjoying some beautiful days here in northeastern Pennsylvania. Warm days. Cool Nights. Just enough rain to keep the plants growing.

Outside our front window, we regularly have a half dozen or so birds at the feeder. And playing in the lilac bush. And a few hummingbirds.

I am feeling amazingly well. For that, I thank God.

A few nights ago, we enjoyed a campfire. We cooked hamburgers and hot dogs over the open flame. Fresh sweetcorn, barbecued beans, and watermelon rounded out the meal. It was all topped off with s'mores, a family favorite.

Yesterday we received a postcard from our older son. Our first word from him. He ays he is enjoying Cadet Basic Training at West Point. He especially enjoys the physical training. He also wrote that he is kept very busy.

At least one letter for him leaves this house each day. We want to encourage him as he pursues this opportunity to serve God and our country.

This morning, a friend at church gave us a small bucket of cherries that he picked up near Seneca Lake. What a treat for a summer day!

In our household, we have much for which to be thankful. We thank our God and Father who provides us with every good thing we need. And we praise Him, who alone is worthy to be praised.

Finally, words from Charles Spurgeon:

My happiest moments are when I am worshiping God, really adoring the Lord Jesus Christ, and having fellowship with the ever-blessed Spirit. In that worship I forget the cares of everything else. To me it is the nearest approach to what it will be in heaven.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

First Priority

Priorities. We each have 24 hours in a day. Most of us have limited resources. The way we use our time and our resources is a reflection of our values, our priorities – what is really important to us.

The struggle with priorities is not new. In 520 B.C., God spoke to His people through the prophet Haggai and urged them to “consider your ways.”

The temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians in 536 B.C. In 538 B.C. King Cyrus allowed the exiled Jews to return to Jerusalem and begin re-building the temple. But 15 years later, the work had not been completed. The people got their priorities out of whack.

God spoke to the people through Haggai and asked: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house [the temple] remains in ruin?” Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways.” (1:4-5). The people were more concerned with their own homes and their own personal comfort than they were with doing the will of God. As a result, they suffered. The more they worked for themselves, the less they had.

There is great futility in putting ourselves before God. Only by putting God first will all our needs be met. Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matthew 6:33). God must be given first priority.

2500 years later, we still struggle with priorities. Our jobs, our families, and our hobbies all compete for first place in our lives. But we must make a decision to put God first.

Ultimately, the people responded to Haggai’s message with repentance and obedience. By 516 B.C. the temple was completed. As we examine our priorities, will we respond in the same way? Will we respond by changing our priorities and obey God by putting Him first? Will we make Him our first priority?

Friday, July 4, 2008


It's July 4th. Independence Day. A day to celebrate freedom. For Americans, freedom from tyranny. Freedom to live as we choose. Freedom to say what we think. For Christians, freedom from sin and its penalty. Freedom found only in Jesus Christ. As we celebrate our freedom today, here are some words to consider . . .

It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians, not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ! - Patrick Henry

The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: that it connected, in one indissoluble bond, the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity. - John Quincy Adams

Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers and it is the duty as well as the privilege and interest, of a Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers. - John Jay, 1st Chief Justice of Supreme Court. One of the three men most responsible for the Constitution

The reason that Christianity is the best friend of government is because Christianity is the only religion in the world that deals with the heart. - Thomas Jefferson

We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people . . . it is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. - John Adams

Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever. - Thomas Jefferson, inside the Jefferson Memorial

So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Habakkuk's Faith

At the end of his book, Habakkuk writes this hymn of faith . . .

Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines;
Though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food;
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls -
Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

The LORD God is my strength;
He will make my feet like deer's feet, and He will make me walk on my high hill.
Habakkuk 3:17-19

Can we say, like the prophet Habakkuk, that we would still rejoice even if everything around us collapsed? All that we know as normal and predictable vanished? Would be still be committed to God? Would we still desire Him? Would we still find our joy in Him?

Habakkuk found his joy, his strength, his security, and his hope in God alone. It was faith in God that him to stand firm through difficult times, even the coming Assyrian invasion.

It is our faith in God that will allow us to endure any hardship that comes our way, today or in the days to come. The just shall live by his faith.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

We Have Everything We Need to Live for Him

Some thoughts on 2 Peter 1:3-9 . . .

As His divine power has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness . . . (2 Peter 1:3a)

We have been given everything we need to live for Him. For everything that He has called us to do. To think, speak, and act in way that brings Him honor and glory. Everything.

Faith. Virtue. Knowledge. Self control. Perseverance. Godliness. Brotherly kindness. Love.

Yet, verses 8-9 imply that there are people that know the Lord, but whose lives are ineffective and unproductive. Because they are missing these essential character qualities. They lack a true understanding of the gospel, that Christ died and was resurrected so that they would possess these qualities. They have a poor understanding of their true identity in Christ and need to be reminded of the resources that they have in Him. Nearsighted and blind, they have forgotten that they have been cleansed from their past sins. They lack assurannce of their salvation.

In the larger context of Peter’s epistle, we learn that Peter presents a model of the Christian life, a model in which God saves us and redeems us, not so we can separate ourselves from the evil world that exists (as some may desire to do), but so that we can glorify Him in the midst of a fallen and evil world. And Peter says that we can expect to suffer as we do so. Christ did. We will.

Having everything I need to live for Him, I can stand strong as I battle cancer. My son has everything he needs to get through Beast Barracks at West Point. The open air evangelist can stand strong as she proclaims the gospel on the city streets. We can engage our culture with confidence, knowing that God has empowered us to be agents of change in a world that has turned its back on Him and His Word.

We have everything we need to live for Him.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Letting Go, Part Two

We did it. We let go yesterday. Our son took his first big step in joining The Long Grey Line.

It was a long day. A morning of what the Army calls hurry up and wait. The lines were certainly long, with many young men and women anticipating the day before them. An afternoon of waiting for the parents. Waiting to see their children transformed. An afternoon of transformation for the new cadets. Haircuts. Uniforms. Learning to salute. Learning to march. Learning to make a bed.

By 5:40, the initial transformation was complete and the waiting was over. Thirteen hundred new cadets marched past the crowds of parents and friends and stood in front of the monument on Trophy Point to take their oath. The crowds cheered. The band played. And then they retreated to the mess hall. And the crowds retreated to their cars.

We were all reassured by the Superintendent, Commandant, and Dean of Academics that our young men and women would be cared for well. That they would receive one of the best educations available. That they were now part of the West Point family.

We let go. With sadness that we would no longer enjoy the daily interaction with our son. But with great joy that he has given himself to a greater cause. The cause of protecting and defending the freedoms that we enjoy in this country. And the cause of Christ, who came that all men might, through faith in Him, enjoy eternal freedom from sin and death.

The verse on our calendar yesterday was from Proverbs 22:6, Train up a child in the way that he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it. While this is not a promise, it is generally true that proper early training provided by parents ensures that a child develops lifelong habits and attitudes that lead him to live a godly life. As our son's training at West Point builds upon the foundation that we have given him, we can only pray that he does not depart from it. That he continues to choose to live for Christ and for Christ alone.

We let go. Physically. But not emotionally or spiritually. We will continue to pray for and encourage our son to be, as the Army says, all he can be. All that God made him to be.