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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Death

"Death always comes too early or too late".   Old English Saying

Let's begin with something obvious: if you live very long at all, you will one day experience the pain of losing someone you care about.  It stinks, but there it is.  Death is a part of life.  Or, as death row inmate Robert Alton Harris put it so colorfully, "You can be a king or a street sweeper, but everybody dances with the Grim Reaper".

Most of the time (thankfully) we get some advance warning.  Perhaps our loved one is sickly, or is up in years, so we know that what must happen can't be far off.

But we aren't always so "lucky".  Sometimes death intrudes suddenly, without warning or mercy.  Maybe it's a heart attack (my grandfather)....or a car wreck (my friend Jackie)......or a suicide (a sister-in-law).   But whatever it is, it's always raw.  "They just can't be gone!", we protest.  But of course they are, and whatever was left undone or unsaid will remain so.

During my time as pastor of my first church I became friends with a family who lived nearby.  They were decent, down-to-earth people who welcomed and loved my family the whole time we were there.  We drifted apart with time, but through the miracle of the internet we were able to exchange the occasional hello or birthday greeting.

Saturday evening that mother sat down to dinner.  She would never get up.  She was 62 years old.  Joan was healthy, active, and surrounded by extended family.  Not that it mattered: she was dead before the ambulance arrived.

This very morning I stumbled upon this line: "[French philosopher] Pascal....saw the obsession with entertainment as the offspring of the fallen human desire to be distracted from any thought of mortality".  In other words, do you wonder why pro athletes earn more than school teachers?  Why everyone knows Justin Bieber, but not Justin Martyr?  Why there are a gazillion channels on your cable TV?  Because there's no escaping the cold hand of death, and most of us just can't bear to think about that.

But we should.  And in doing so we honor the One who conquered it, and who will one day raise us from it, that we may dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Sheltered

According to this article, around 100,000 Christians are killed for their faith each year.  I for one am not going to obsess over how many of them are "real" Christians.  The fact that almost 2,000 people die each week for the crime of professing faith in Christ is something that should shock and sadden any decent person.

I also am reminded of how sheltered I am, and how incredibly blessed to live where I do, and when I do.  I have things to worry about, mind, but being martyred on U.S. soil is not high on that list.  I pray for these my brothers, and thank God for their faithful witness.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Evil

For many, the greatest stumbling block to faith is the alleged incompatibility of belief in the existence of a good and powerful God with the amount of evil we see in this world.  The "problem of evil", as it is often called, is as old as man himself, and much ink has been spilled trying to resolve it.  Here is a brief but helpful article on the subject.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mother's Day

We finished the spring semester at our Bible institute Thursday evening.  We've been studying the New Testament this go around.  To be honest, the class already knows the Bible pretty well, so it's a challenge to keep things fresh and teach them something they don't already know.  I don't know if I'm always successful, but we do have some good discussion each week, and enjoy each other's fellowship.

This semester I decided to mix it up a little.  Each week I gave everyone 1 ticket for attending the class.  Then last Thursday we had a drawing.  The grand prize was "Willmington's Guide To The Bible" (in Spanish).  I've had this resource for years, and it's a great tool for the serious student.  The lucky winner was Ramon.  ¡Felicitaciones hermano Ramon!

Then Saturday evening some of us men at FBC prepared a Mother's Day dinner for our wives.  We're not professionals, but we decorated as best we could, and served steak and fixings.  If the reaction of the ladies is anything to go by, it was a big success.  

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Melting Pot

If I were a betting man, I could win a lot of money with this question: what is the most ethically diverse city in the United States?  New York?  Los Angeles?  Chicago?  No, sirree.  The most ethically diverse city in all of the US is Houston, Texas.  Yes, Houston, Texas.

This past weekend I and two friends from FBC were in Houston to have a look.  There are many possibilities for ministry there, and we were wanting to see if we should get involved.  Let me tell you, it was an eye-opening trip.  We visited a Muslim mosque, a Buddhist temple, and a Hindu temple.  We ate Vietnamese sandwiches and Iranian shish kebob.  We prayer walked in Little Chinatown.  And to top it all off, we were joined on the trip by folks from Chile, Paraguay, Honduras, and Mexico.

The world has come to us (we were told that there are high schools in Houston where over 200 languages are spoken!).  It is a golden opportunity for the American church, and we simply cannot squander it.

As it happens, our adult choir performed its spring musical Sunday.  It was called "Grace".  How appropriate, I thought.  I spent all weekend learning more about sincere but misguided people who are striving with all their might to earn God's favor.  We, on the other hand, rest in the work of Christ, who took our place and bore our shame.  It's called grace, and we should never tire of celebrating it.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Living SENT

One of the principle things that drew me to Texas was the knowledge that I would be able to connect those who want to help with those who need it.  Last week, through a series of circumstances, I met a local Hispanic pastor who had been praying for people to help him reach his community.  Like many pastors down here, he does the best he can with the meager resources that he has.  Anyway, I went by his place to have a look, and it's a great place to do ministry.  It looks like we'll be able to send a couple of teams his way this summer, and that feels pretty good.

Last weekend I was in Dallas (Euless) for the annual SENT Conference, sponsored by our state convention.  The theme of SENT is world missions, and I enjoy rubbing shoulders with like-minded brethren (and sistern).  There are always several workshops to sit in on and ministry booths to visit.  This year there was a lot of talk about the changing face of our state.  The Texas of popular imagination is cowboys, tumbleweed, and J.R. Ewing.  But this is rapidly changing, as folks from all over the world come here to work, study, and raise a family.  And believe me, they aren't all baptists.  

Speaking of missions, let me recommend a book to you.  It's called "Serving With Eyes Wide Open: Doing Short-Term Missions With Cultural Intelligence".  The subtitle sums it all up pretty well.  Read this, and you'll save yourself, and probably some poor missionary, a lot of grief.