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Here I Stand

An old friend, knowing that I have four daughters, who love Disney princess movies, recently sent me a poem he had written in honor of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.  His poem is actually an adaptation of the popular song, “Let it Go” from the Disney movie “Frozen.”

Hearing the line, “Here I stand and here I’ll stay” from the song made him realize the entire song could be modified to describe Luther’s experience of finally coming to terms with what it means to be saved by the righteousness of Christ through faith.

Luther struggled for years to come to terms with the righteousness of God.  Finally, the Holy Spirit opened Luther’s eyes to understand what Paul meant when he wrote in Romans 1:16-17, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.  17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith’” (NKJV).

Reflecting on his experience some time later, Luther wrote, “Before these words broke upon my mind, I hated God and was […]

“The Best We Can Hope For”

“Great news! That’s the best we can hope for.”  So began a recent email from a friend responding to the results of a bone marrow biopsy I had last week.  Back on August 25, 2016, I began a clinical trial to treat chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), a disease I have been battling for the last four years (see more here).  Having been treated once already, I became a relapsed patient last summer.  By God’s grace, the treatment options have improved tremendously since I was treated the first time with chemotherapy.  The trial protocol called for a bone marrow biopsy last week.  This procedure is a more definitive test for the presence of leukemia cells in the place in the body where they begin life.  We already knew that the treatment seemed to be working from very sensitive blood tests.  The bone marrow biopsy came back negative – no detectable cancer cells in my blood or bone marrow.  Thus, my friend’s response. 

Things May Get Messy

Next week on March 29 and 30 Rosaria Butterfield is coming to speak to the Christian community in Bloomington, IN (more information here).  Rosaria is a gracious and engaging believer who has written two very helpful books on the power of the gospel to transform our lives.  In Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, she tells the story of her own, dramatic conversion to Christ.  In Openness Unhindered, she explores the need for every person to find his or her true identity in Christ.  In the process of telling some of her own story, she makes it clear that the gospel has the power to seriously disrupt our lives in ways that are not always neat and tidy.  Calling her own conversion story a “train wreck” she has a lot to teach the church about what it means to work with people whose lives are being made new by Christ.  When she walked away from her former life as a tenured English professor at Syracuse University, all she had left was her dog and what she could fit in her car.  God quite literally blew up her previous relationships and support systems in the process of making her His own.

In […]

Who Built That?

President Obama famously said while campaigning in 2012, “You didn’t build that,” as a way of emphasizing the role of government in the success of various business ventures.  While seeming to undercut the value of risk-taking and initiative, the former president did stumble upon a biblical truth that everyone in the church needs to keep front and center.

He Sees All

If you haven’t watched the 3 minute video released by Live Action earlier this week, take the time and do so (http://liveaction.org/abortioncorporation/).  It reveals empirically yet another aspect of Planned Parenthood’s deliberate efforts to deceive the public about what it does.  I am not sure that Planned Parenthood actually deceives that many people, but they do try to provide some type of moral cover for those who would support their horrific efforts to blot out life in its most vulnerable stages. 

Above the Clouds

Earlier this week, while visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park with my family, I was reminded of the fact that no matter how dark things are in the valleys, the sun is always shining above the clouds.  Anyone who has ever flown in an airplane knows this, of course, but we don’t often have the opportunity to experience it in a car.  With the temperature hovering around 30oF and a thick fog settling over the park, it was not a great day for scenic views.  In the morning we drove over 75 miles through dense forest on a road that ran along a swiftly flowing stream.  We could see the stream, the trees, and the landscape around us but, looking up, we could not see the hilltops or the sky or the sun.  In fact, the cloud-cover was so dense at higher elevations that everything was covered with a heavy layer of hoarfrost.  Although eerily beautiful, it was as if all the colors were muted and the world was dominated by grays, browns, and whites.

The Blessing of Being Uncomfortable

Last week I had the privilege of preaching at the installation service of a dear friend who has been in the ministry for over a decade and has just taken a call to one of the largest and healthiest congregations in his denomination.  He is a very gifted man, and I am confident that the Lord will bless his ministry there.  I have the feeling that his congregation could sit back and relax and that things will run pretty well for the foreseeable future.  Of course, there will be the challenging shepherding situation here and there, the wayward child of the congregation who needs attention, disagreements about what Sunday school classes to offer next quarter, discussions about how much to give to this or that missionary endeavor, debates over how much to spend on the update to the nursery, and a hundred other similar types of issues to address.  But, by-and-large, the congregation will hum along and everyone involved will enjoy a comfortable situation.  They will receive a high degree of pastoral care from the pastors and elders.  They will hear good preaching on a consistent basis.  They will have interesting Bible studies and classes to attend.  The church will […]

C1D1

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things.  Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:34, NKJ).

Today is C1D1 for me.  That stands for “Cycle 1, Day 1,” the first day of the first cycle of a 14-month, clinical trial to treat recurrent chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).  CLL is a blood cancer caused by a proliferation of white blood cells called lymphocytes.  Healthy lymphocytes produce antibodies that help our bodies fight off infections.  Some years ago one of my lymphocytes acquired mutations that caused it to divide out of control.  As a result my bone marrow and lymphatic system are crowded with non-functional descendants of that original aberrant lymphocyte.  This makes it difficult for my body to make healthy blood cells, and, a result, my immune system is weakened and I am anemic.  If left untreated, those cancerous white blood cells will destroy my immune system and my ability to get oxygen to my cells.

In Praise of Church Meetings

“Let all things be done decently and in order” (1Corinthians 14:40, NKJ).

As our denomination prepares for the annual meetings of Synod next week, the difficult task of reading and digesting a mountain of reports and of organizing my schedule to accommodate being gone for the better part of a week is upon me.  While I do enjoy visiting with friends whom I’ve not seen for many months, I must confess that church meetings are not something I look forward to with much anticipation.  Sitting in one room for hours, parliamentary procedure, eating institutional food, sleeping in a dorm room, listening to seemingly endless debates and reports – none of it really appeals.  After about a day and a half, I am ready to give up and go home.  But this year I am heading to our annual meetings with an altered perspective and renewed appreciation for the blessings of ordered and faithful church government.