Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Armchair Evangelist

"Armchair Evangelist"

I'm waiting, Lord, for You to act;
I've done all I can do.
From easychair I've made a pact
To win the world for You.

To anywhere I'll go -- no "if's"!
(As long as I can find
A spot to use my spir'tual gifts,
My talents, and my mind.)

For foreign land my tongue is poor;
Their food might make me die.
Most here at home have heard before;
For them no need to try.

The seniors are too stubborn, Lord --
Impossible to reach;
As for the youth, with Bible bored,
They'd rather jog the beach.

The Mormons and J.W. throng
Are far too steeped in error;
For them to ever say they're wrong
Is more than they can bear.

The Buddhists and New Agers too,
You know I'd never win.
Their thinking's turned to mushy goo --
No chance they'd let You in!

Who does that leave? The liberals, God?
Why, they're beyond Your work!
At sodomy those jerks applaud,
At resurrection smirk.

My fam'ly knows my history;
My life offstage they view.
Why should they listen much to me,
When I'm not much like You?

The rich folk see no need for God --
They think they've got it made;
While ghetto dwellers don't find odd
To party once they've prayed.

Invite them here? But they might steal
The quiet from my space;
And if they're poor you know I'd feel
Concerned they'd rob the place!

I'd go to them, but that they'd call
Rude pushiness of mine,
Or else into the mud I'd fall
While hanging out with swine.

The problem, God, You see's with them --
I'm ready as can be!
I just can't find another gem
That You could save like me.

-- Anonymous

Monday, April 28, 2008

Great messages from the "Together for the Gospel" (T4G) Conference

My pastor and four other men from my church went to the T4G conference in Kentucky two weeks ago and came home very encouraged. Since then, I've listened to several of the messages from this conference and have been greatly challenged and encouraged myself. If you are a Christian, I think these messages will put gas in your tank.

Main web site: www.t4g.org

Best place to download the messages (free): http://www.sovereigngraceministries.com/Resources/T4G.aspx

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Oprah, a symbol of American theology

This short YouTube clip about Oprah Winfrey has received more than 5 million views in the last month. While it is focused on revealing Oprah's spiritual beliefs, it should come as no surprise to anyone who knows about Oprah. (For more in depth and scholarly analysis of her beliefs, read this article by Albert Mohler.)

This video winds up saying more about American popular theology than it does about Oprah. She is popular simply because she voices what most Americans (unfortunately) believe in their hearts.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Three Prayer Days

Three special days of prayer are coming up.

April 26: Reign Down USA, a day of repentance. For more information, visit http://www.reigndownusa.com/index2.html

April 27: International Day of Prayer for North Korea. For more information, visit: http://www.globaljusticeprayernetwork.com/

April 27: World Day of Prayer for Zimbabwe

Since there doesn't seem to be a web site for this event I will just post the news as I received it.

SUNDAY APRIL 27, 2008.

A desperate cry from the hearts of Zimbabwe screams across the world. It calls upon all Christians of every denomination in every nation to focus their prayers, in churches, halls, homes or elsewhere, on Sunday, April 27, 2008 on the critical situation in Zimbabwe, a nation in dire distress and teetering on the brink of human disaster.
Let the cry for help touch your heart and mind. Let it move you to do what you can immediately to ensure this DAY OF PRAYER takes place in your country and neighbourhood.

Please pass on this message right now to all the churches and Christian organisations known to you and to the media as well as to everyone anxious to rescue Zimbabwe from violence, the concealing and juggling of election results, deceit, oppression and corruption, and to bring about righteousness, joy, peace, compassion, honesty, justice, democracy and freedom from fear and want.

May a continual strong stream of prayer and supplication flow up to the Lord on behalf of all the people on this DAY OF PRAYER, exhorting His divine intervention throughout the nation.
“It is by making the truth publicly known that we recommend ourselves to the honest judgment of mankind in the sight of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:2)

“Who so putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe.” (Proverbs 29:25)
“Stand fast, and do not let yourselves be caught again in the yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)
“Make no mistake, you cannot cheat God.” (Galatians 6:7)
“Do not be overcome by evil but overcame evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)

Bob Stumbles.
Chancellor, Anglican Diocese of Harare.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Overwhelmed by blessings

Hi friends,

Tomorrow, April 19th, would have been my Grandfather’s 92nd birthday. If they celebrate birthdays in heaven, it will be his first birthday in heaven.

God has blessed us in so many ways in the last week that it is overwhelming.

First I need to back up a little bit and tell you that on Sunday morning (the last time Grandpa was visibly conscious), while we were with him, a woman in a wheelchair named Nellie arrived with her caregiver Catherine. They used to sit frequently with Grandpa in the dining room and had grown to love him. (Nellie says “He couldn’t hear well and I can’t speak well so we made a good pair.”) They’d heard that Grandpa was dying and came to pay him a last visit. Nellie held Grandpa’s hand for a while and he blew kisses to her and to the rest of us. He no longer had the coordination to get his hand to his mouth, so it was kind of hitting his chin instead, but we all knew what he was trying to do. Then Catherine said, “I think I’m supposed to sing this song.” And she started singing a really beautiful song about going to heaven. It was wonderful.

We had taken our digital camera along on Sunday and Dad was taking pictures of the facility as well as of Grandpa while he was still conscious. But somewhere between Sunday night and Monday morning, the night Dad spent there, the camera disappeared. As best as we know, we left it somewhere in Grandpa’s room in Assisted Living. When Dad came back in the morning from sleeping in Grandpa’s Independent Living room, it was gone. We looked everywhere, told the facility administrators, etc., but it did not show up. We didn’t tell anyone else, not wanting to cause suspicion to fall on an otherwise wonderful care facility. Perhaps the pictures of Grandpa dying were too sacred and God did not want us to have them? Don’t know. But it was kind of disappointing because we wanted to be able to take pictures of the funeral too. But we committed it to the Lord and kept on going, because we didn’t have time to research buying a replacement digital camera before the funeral.

On Wednesday my aunt arrived. As we were all sorting through Grandpa’s belongings trying to figure out what to do with them – oh, and hey, that has been another real blessing. There haven’t been fights over possessions or money among family members. In fact, the arguments have been just the opposite: “Don’t you want this?” “NO, I don’t have ROOM for that! J” Anyways, as I was saying, my aunt got there on Wednesday, and in the middle of all the friendly chaos my aunt said to me, “Hey, come out to my car with me.” So we went out and she said, “I brought your Mom’s birthday present along and you can stick it in your car. Also, I brought a digital camera for your whole family.” I was utterly surprised. I wasn’t sure if Dad wanted to let out about our lost camera so I went and told him. He started crying and told her the whole story. She was blessed to know that God had used her to bless us at just the right time. I can’t tell you how special this was to us. As it turns out, the new camera is much better than the old one anyways… lighter, smaller, more megapixels, better zoom!

I don’t know why God blessed us with another digital camera in a world where most people have never even owned one… but He did.

Also on Wednesday my uncle’s lifelong friend Bob Littlefield flew out to be with my uncle. It cost him $180 just for the 100 mile taxi ride (he arrived so late that no shuttles were available). But he knew this was a tough thing for my uncle to go through and wanted to go through it with him. Now that’s a friend. You don’t find too many like that.

The memorial service was at ten on Thursday, right in the very elegant auditorium in the facility. Steve Reuchel pastors a church which meets in this room each Sunday (most of its members live in the facility). Steve conducted the service, and it was great!

To set this in perspective, there were no funerals for either of my Dad’s parents. (If there’d been a funeral, practically no one would have come because they had so few friends and family left.) When mom’s mom died 5 years ago, Grandpa did not want to have a big service, so we had a small one in their mobile home park’s clubhouse.

But Grandpa’s was great. Perhaps 30-40 people came. It was touching to meet so many people whose lives Grandpa had blessed during his year in Independent Living. Mom was able to enjoy it, thanks to a door to the outside next to where she sat, which we left partly open so she could have good air. The three of us each were able to share a tribute to Grandpa (and we made it through without breaking down too badly). The gospel was presented clearly, both by us and by Steve, who did a wonderful job. (One good line by Steve: “For Christians, earth is as close to hell as they’ll ever be. But for non-Christians, earth is as close to heaven as they’ll ever be.”) There were unsaved residents and staff at the service. I can’t tell you how thrilling it was to be able to use my grandfather’s death as an opportunity to share the good news about Jesus.

And Catherine and Nellie came up at Dad’s request and Catherine sang her song again. You can watch it here: http://picasaweb.google.com/CharacterComputing/GrandpaFuneral/photo#5190667025919326930 . You can see other pictures from the service here: http://picasaweb.google.com/CharacterComputing/GrandpaFuneral (taken with the new camera!).

People were so nice to us and brought cards and food. The staff treated us almost like royalty.

It’s so hard to put this all into words. Maybe the service sounds kind of bland to you, but for us, it was terrific! I wish you could have been there. Bob Littlefield did record the whole thing with his digital camcorder so maybe we’ll be able to get it up on the Internet some day.

But here is the bottom line. Shortly after the funeral, the thought hit me: “Wow, if God rewarded my Grandpa’s faith with such a wonderful funeral, when my parents die, we are going to have fantastic funerals, because their zeal for the Lord has been tremendous!” And then close on the heels of that thought, “Wow! I want to live all-out for Jesus, because I’ve seen the end, and it’s worth it!”

Thank You Jesus for Your faithfulness to my Grandpa. He didn’t deserve Your love (nor do we) but we are sure grateful that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”. Amen!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Death is swallowed up in victory!

Hi friends,

My grandpa went into eternity today at about 7:15 AM. We did not find out until shortly after his passing, so no one was actually in his room with him when it happened. But we did get to see him before the funeral home arrived to pick him up. It was the first time I had seen (in person) and touched a corpse which had not been “dressed up” by make up. There is no question that a corpse is a ghastly sight. The skin has a greenish color (probably produced by the combination of yellow skin and blue, deoxygenated blood vessels) and looks kind of waxy. When I felt his head, about an hour and a quarter after his passing, it was still quite noticeably warm. For some crazy reason, perhaps because of hymn lyrics like “when the death dew lies cold on my brow”, I was expecting him to feel clammy.

But it’s been another day of rejoicing. This has turned out about as good as I can imagine a death ever being. Let me catch you up to date on what God’s been doing.

By Sunday evening, Grandpa was non-responsive, his breathing was somewhat heavy. We did not expect him to live out the night.

Dad spent Sunday night in the facility. One of the great blessings was that Grandpa did not have to go to the hospital. He was able to be cared for until the end right in the same facility where he’s lived for the last year. He moved from Independent Living to Assisted Living on Friday, and died on Tuesday. Dad slept in Grandpa’s suite in Independent Living. (Grandpa’s furniture and possessions had not yet been moved to Assisted Living.)

Monday morning, Dad checked on Grandpa and he was breathing easier, but still totally non-responsive. Dad went into the office to talk to them about Grandpa and they were calling 911 right then for apartment 388. Apartment 388 is where some other great Christian friends of ours live. So Dad ran up to 388 and prayed for them before the paramedics arrive. It turned out the husband had (they thought) a blood clot in his leg. Later in the morning Dad went over and visited them in ER and prayed for him some more. An ultrasound showed he did not have a blood clot (although there was evidence one might have been there in the past). They told our friend to take baby aspirins and sent him home the same day.

When Mom and I arrived on Monday morning to pick up Dad, one of Grandpa’s pastors, a deacon, and his hospice nurse all showed up about the same time. We had a really nice visit with all of them. The hospice nurse was the one who had worked with him on Friday when he had first arrived in Assisted Living and she was amazed at how much he had declined over the weekend. She said she thought he probably had had a blood clot go to his lungs, and that was what had caused them to fill with fluid.

Monday morning my uncle went to work, not planning to come just yet, but two people at work (including his boss) encouraged him to come immediately. So he got on a plane, flew to Phoenix, rented a car, and arrived in Cottonwood by about 5:30. He went in and knelt by Grandpa’s bed and was praying and talking to Grandpa and releasing Grandpa to God, and Grandpa squeezed his hand! This was really amazing, and a great encouragement to him.

My uncle spent the night in Grandpa’s Independent Living apartment and he was the one to discover this morning that Grandpa had died. He called us and we went right over. Another pastor came and prayed a great prayer and encouraged us some more.

Thankfully today the Lord sent a strong wind. Mom has been getting really sick from the odors in the facility, but because of the strength and direction of the breeze today, we were able to open the windows wide and she was able to stay inside for a couple of hours without much damage. The temperature and weather right now is just gorgeous, it’s the kind that makes people move to Arizona!

The memorial service will be Thursday at 10 AM. Pray that the gospel will be clearly presented in the service and that God will continue to use this as an opportunity to cause others think about eternity.

Pray for wisdom and continued strength as we sort through his personal belongings and decide who gets what. I don’t anticipate any arguments (the peaceful relationship between Mom and her brother and sister is another great blessing) but it is still a lot of decisions to make, and some of the decisions will be emotional.

The people who work in the facility have been really nice and extremely helpful with this whole process. Like I said at the beginning, if you’re going to die, I can’t imagine a much better way for it all to work out.

Pray for my aunt as she arrives tomorrow. Since she wasn’t able to see Grandpa, it may be harder for her emotionally. (He’s being cremated.)

I’ll write more comprehensively about Grandpa’s legacy after I’ve had time to catch my breath from the immediate.

Thanks so much for your prayers.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

My Grandpa will be with Jesus soon

Hi friends,

My mom’s Dad, 91, will be with Jesus soon. Although in one sense that is not a surprise due to his age, what has been surprising is how quickly he’s gone from functional to dying. As recently as Thursday (3 days ago) he was basically “normal”. He’s had back pain for a number of years, which has gradually been getting worse slowly over the years. During the past few weeks, the back pain has been getting worse substantially more quickly, which has been very baffling. He went through a series of pain medicines which didn’t help the pain until now, starting Friday, he has been bedridden and on morphine. The morphine does help the pain but it has side effects. This morning we got a call that his lungs are filling with fluid and he’s running a temperature.

We went over and spent several hours and it looks like Dad will spend the night with him. There were several poignant moments which I hope to write about in more detail later. Grandpa (when he was awake, which was not a whole lot of the time – the morphine makes him drowsy) recognized us, could talk just a little, and was happier than I have seen him in years. I mean that. It was really kind of surreal. When awake, he seemed to me almost glowing with joy at the thought of going to be with Jesus (and Grandma). We sang him some hymns, prayed, cried, and read Scripture aloud.

Praise the Lord that:

o Dad and I were not in jail this Sunday. Normally we go into the jail the 2nd Sunday of every month, but we just changed our schedule starting this month to the 3rd Sunday.

o Grandpa has not gone through a protracted stay in bed. He is relatively comfortable and if you’re going to die (which all of us will, unless Jesus comes back before then) this is not a bad way to go. He’s in an assisted living facility and not in the hospital.

Prayer requests:

  • Being in the facility where Grandpa is being cared for is very tough for Mom’s chemical allergies. She wants very badly to be with her Dad to assist as much as she can, but due to all the fragrances and chemicals in use, it will take a toll on her. She was in there for about 4½ hours today (which is a really long time for her) and will doubtless be going back at some point. (We’re still figuring out the timing of all that.)
  • Mom’s brother and sister who will be coming in from out of state.
  • That we will be a witness to the other elderly people and caregivers in the facility. Hopefully they will see something in the way Grandpa dies and in the way we handle it that is different from what they see in non-Christians.
  • Wisdom in making last minute decisions that may arise about Grandpa’s care.

Thank you friends!


Saturday, April 5, 2008

What's wrong with __________?

Sometimes as Christians we get caught up in debates about whether certain activities are OK. These debates can be time consuming and unproductive, as one side agues "It's nowhere specifically forbidden in Scripture" and the other side tries to build a case based on implied principles of the Bible.

I've realized there may be a simpler way to look at this issue. Maybe before we ask "What's wrong with _______?" we should ask "Is there anything I am commanded to do that I'm not doing?" The fact we have time in which to pursue debatable activities may be a sign that we're unconsciously neglecting something that is commanded.

Here are just four commands of Scripture that I tend to neglect. Maybe you can think of other examples.

This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. -- Joshua 1:8

[P]ray without ceasing -- 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you -- Matthew 28:19, 20

Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth. -- Genesis 1:28

If I just did these four commands I think that would pretty well use up any time I had for questionable activities! What do you think?

Quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible.