Sunday, July 29, 2007


Recently, while seeking to learn more about a particular movement that calls itself a part of the New Testament church, I went online to do research. In my search, I arrived at a podcast of a speaker speaking to a leadership group of one megachurch in a training session. I am omitting the name, though he is well known within his circles. What I want to address is not a personality issue. It is at the core of much of what plagues the church today. One statement (actually a part of a sentence) nails it and, I believe, condemns it very succinctly. Here is a direct quote from the podcast:
“This is a generation that won’t put up with a gospel that is simply individualism. It wants to have a gospel that is gonna change you and me in our relationships and in the world.” I found myself having a Charlie Brown moment with Lucy pulling the football away and Charlie, from his back, screaming: “Aaaaaaaarrrrrrrgggghhhhhhhhh!!!!” Let me pull out the portion of this quote that caused my consternation. Listen very closely and think, with your mind informed by the Word of God.
Before I do though, I want to affirm that the true Gospel of Jesus Christ does change us in our relationships and the world. There is no question of that. But that is not the issue I’m raising, nor is it the issue that has caused a large portion of so-called believers, in various ways, to follow after wrong doctrine. Here is the part of the quote that cannot go unchallenged: “This is a generation that won’t put up with a gospel that is….” That’s it! That’s the problem! Aaaaaaaarrrrrrrgggghhhhhhhhh!!!!
In case you have not figured it out let me state it clearly. Neither this generation nor any other generation has the right or power before God to pick and choose which gospel it will “put up with.” We don’t get to decide which is the true Gospel. Only God does. He has revealed it in His Word. The call to this and every generation is to go to the Word of God and learn the Gospel which God has established and believe that one. That one is the only true Gospel.
The church falls into massive error when it goes to the culture to learn what the gospel “ought” to be. No, we have it in the “faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” Our task, as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, to live the true Gospel and proclaim the true Gospel before a lost and dying world that desperately needs to hear and believe.
The speaker seemed to make light of a gospel that “only” gives us forgiveness of sins. That was the context of the quote. He was saying the generation won’t put up with a gospel that only gives forgiveness of sins and doesn’t truly change us. As I said, the true Gospel of God does change us. However, let’s not make light of the greatest need we and every other planet dweller have, i.e., the forgiveness of sins. If we learn anything from the true Gospel it is that we are to be eternally, not temporally, minded. Take the long look else we will be a people who have wonderful short-term relationships with no eternal blessing.

It Was a "Sentimental Journey"

In response to popular demand…actually, as the old radio shows used to say, “Keep those cards and letters pouring in”— well, I had “one card” pour in this week. An old friend from high school days queried why I had not written a follow-up to the “Sentimental Journey.” For whatever reason I have been hesitant to blog because it did turn out to be truly a bittersweet experience.
The time with my mother was as good as could be hoped. Though she cannot respond in any way, she did open her eyes and look at me with what I hope was recognition. For a couple of hours I read the Bible and sang some songs. Her condition seems to have worsened and so, at 90 years of age, it’s difficult to see how she could have much longer in this life. My prayer is that she will not linger like this.
Then came the reunion of the Class of ’65, in reality a 60th birthday party for the whole bunch. What an absolute JOY! I must say that at least 75% of the crowd looked vaguely familiar (just kidding). There were a few who have not changed one iota in 42 years. I would have known them anywhere. There were a few who have changed a lot whom I would not have known anywhere. Then there were the rest of us who have changed in the normal process of aging and were recognizable after a quick look (squint actually—they were way too small) at the name tag.
Humility was the order of the day. Of course, I thought that I hadn’t changed much and everyone would know me. How wrong I was! My friend—since 3rd grade, same church, football, basketball, etc.—told me he looked at me for 5 minutes before he knew who I was (and he wasn’t the only one). More humbling than that was my first high school girl friend (nameless to protect the guilty). I walked up to her and said, “I’m Walter.” She still had no idea who I was. We did talk later and laughed about it. At the beginning of the evening we were both suffering “reunion shock.”
For all of you who are planning on attending a reunion after many years of being away—one word of caution. “Reunion shock” is truly overwhelming, at least at first. When we drove up and I saw a crowd of people, I didn’t see one person I recognized. That’s scary. The girl who didn’t recognize me said she was having the same reaction. So be forewarned. But go anyway. You’ll love it.
Now to the real reflection on that experience. As I sat talking with some of my former classmates this truth came to mind: This is not my life now. It was my life then and I have such great memories. But my life now is with my wife and kids and my church family where God has providentially led me through the years. Remembering youth is nice; attempting to recapture it is dangerous. I came away from that reunion doubly blessed. Grateful for old friends and good memories but also profoundly thankful for where the Lord has me now. Who would have ever thought.........waaaayyyyy back then?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Precious Death

Psalm 116:15 "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints." A Scripture I have used countless times, mostly at funerals. I usually list all the reasons why the deaths of believers are precious. Today, in my QT, I "got it" for the first time. Now all of you who are reading this with a big "duh" please have patience. I'm not the sharpest crayola in the box.
As I read Psalm 116 this morning I was struck by the seeming incongruence of verse 15. It seemed totally out of place. In the midst of David saying, "What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I shall lift up the cup of salvation....I shall pay my vows...," up pops this verse. Then David returns to talking of how he will worship the Lord. What on earth does "precious death" have to do with "paying vows," etc.?
Thanks to John Calvin (actually a footnote in Calvin by Hammond) I learned. Then I went back and read the whole Psalm. The context is vv. 1-11. To say that it was a moment of worship for me is an understatement.
Here is what Hammond said: "For their death to be precious is, in effect, no more than that it is, so considered, rated at so high a price by God, as that he will not easily grant it to any one that most desires it of him. Absalom here hostilely pursued David and desired his death, he would have been highly gratified with it, taking it for the greatest boon that could have befallen him: but God would not thus gratify him; nor will he grant this desire easily to the enemies of godly men, especially of those that commit themselves to his keeping, as David here did.”
Absalom wanted David's death but it was too precious to God for Him to allow it. Satan wants the death of every believer and God may one day allow him to kill us. But until that time our deaths are so precious to God that Satan cannot have that prize. In fact, until God is ready to usher us into His presence through "precious death," no one nor anything can take our lives from us.
Oh, my goodness, how the folks in my church who are facing terminal illness need to know the truth and comfort of that. How those I know (and those I don't know) who are facing the threat of death for their faith around the world need to be reassured by that. Our deaths are not only precious to God at the time they occur. They are precious to Him UNTIL that time and He guards them with His sovereign love. Be encouraged, believers.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Reflections on Calamity in Psalm 44

How quickly we often say (I often say) when calamity comes, "Let's not blame God for this." Yet that is exactly what the Psalmist does. He blames God, or better perhaps, he recognizes that God is absolutely sovereign in all things and our times are in His hands and nothing can beset us that is not from His hand under His "omni-control."

And yes, that includes Satan. Did Satan cause extreme calamity for Job? Absolutely. He used a human army, a miraculous fire, another human army and the weather to wipe out Job's children, servants and all that he owned. Amazing—the power of the enemy. Was Satan under God's "omni-control?" No question!

The question is, do I see God's hand in all the circumstances of my life and do I submit my will to His all-knowing, all-loving, all-graceful, sometimes bitter Providence? Do I have the insight of David and Job to see beyond the obvious to the eternal and find God at work even in distress? Do I have Job's humble submission to faithfully praise the Almighty as He gives and takes away? Do I have the boldness of David to call on the Lord to "Rise up, be our help, and redeem us for the sake of Thy lovingkindness?"

Oh, God grant me that grace!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

A Sentimental Journey

Back in the day..........waaaaaaaay back in the day there was a popular song called "Sentimental Journey." Those words and that tune popped into my head as I look forward to taking one of those sentimental journeys this week (D.V.). First, I'm headed to Jackson, MS, where my 90-year-old mother is in a nursing home and, most likely, is nearing the end of her life. My sister, who lives there, says she is going down a lot lately. Having been so far away for all the years of living in California this will definitely be a sentimental journey for it may be the last time I see my mother in this life. The time will be bittersweet, as always, because it has been several years since she has been able to communicate in any meaningful way with us. The last time I was there for a couple of days, earlier this year, she didn't even know I was there, at least, as far as I could tell. The stages and passages of life are bittersweet. I pray and hope she will recognize me this time and know that I was with her.

After seeing her comes another sentimental journey when I travel to Tupelo (that's right, me and Elvis) where my high school class of '65 is having a 60th birthday party. This is the year we all turn the big 6-0. I'm really looking forward to seeing those folks, most of whom I haven't seen in decades. One of the neat things about that group is how much love for them I have after all these years of separation. Actually, we were a rather great graduating class, pardon the pride.

What amazes me, as I contemplate this journey, is how utterly stereotypical I am of the person preparing to go to a class reunion. I'm thinking I need to lose a few pounds and hopefully get to within 50 pounds of my graduation weight. 50 lbs.!!!!!!!!!!! And I've already started to worry about not recognizing folks. In my mind's eye, they all look as they did in high school. Of course, they won't recognize me either. This is really too much confession but I had a nightmare last night about not recognizing people. OK, build a bridge. For now, I'm clinging to the hope that I am nothing more or less than normal.

Sentimental journeys are good for the soul. God has taken me down paths I never would have imagined while a student at THS. It's good to look back on those "olden days" (as my kids call them) with fondness and appreciation for the ones with whom I shared them. My greatest regret is that I was not more of an example of a true follower of Christ then. Perhaps God will grant me the grace of being one now and perhaps God will grant them the grace of forgetting some of my faults from days gone by.