Saturday, January 12, 2019

Praying for Cancer Patients

Right now we have several people on our church cancer prayer list so I decided to read a book called “Loving your Friend Through Cancer” by Marissa Henley. In this book, the author provides an excellent list of things to pray for—though I found it interesting that she does not say to pray for healing. It is OK to pray for healing too!  

It's a very good book. I highly recommend it.  Here is my summary of her list (Since the author always uses “she” or “her” I will too but these obviously apply to men as well). 
  • Pray that she will feel closer to the Lord (Ps 62:1-2; 63:5-8; Isa 41:10)
  • Pray for wisdom for family and friends to know how to support and encourage her (James 1:5)
  • Pray for relief from her feelings of isolation (Josh 1:9; Ps 42; 56:8; Heb 13:5)
  • Pray for wisdom in medical decisions (Ps 112:7-8)
  • Pray that God will sustain and even strengthen her marriage through it all (Eph 5:22-23)
  • Pray that she would put her trust in the Lord and not in any particular outcome (Isa 43; Jer 31:3; Rom 8:38-39)
  • Pray that she would feel free to ask for help and support when she needs it (Phil 4:19)
  • Pray that she would not be anxious for the future but would feel joy and peace as she grieves the loss of her health (Lam 3:21-24; Rom 15:13; Phil 4:6-8)
  • Pray that she will be transformed and sanctified for God’s glory through suffering (Rom 8:28-29; 12:1-2)
  • Pray that God will prepare her to comfort others with the comfort she is now receiving (2 Cor 1:3-4).

Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas and miracles

Many people struggle with the miracles in the Christmas story, primarily the virgin birth but also the angelic visits to Joseph, Mary and the shepherds. In this age of science, modern educated people just can’t believe in miracles anymore. Or so we’re told.

Last week, ABC affiliate, KVUE TV in Austin Texas broadcast a story about how eleven year old Roxli Doss came down “an inoperable brain tumor…called diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, or DIPG.” DIPG leads to “decreased ability to swallow, sometimes vision loss, decreased ability to talk and eventually difficulty breathing.” The diagnosis was certain and there was no cure. The report says that “At that point, all Gena and Scott Doss could do was pray for a miracle.”

And that’s what they got! The last time the doctors did a brain scan, all traces of the tumor had vanished. Doctors are amazed and have no explanation. The Doss’s do. They are giving the glory to God! You can read the story here:

This kind of thing is not nearly as unique as many might think. A world-class Biblical scholar, named Craig Keener, traveled around the world collecting first-hand, eyewitness miracles stories and wrote an outstanding two volume book entitled, Miracles. It even contains a devastating critique on the philosophical arguments against miracles. If you have time to read the 1,248 pages I think you will find it to be uplifting, faith-strengthening and intellectually challenging. 

Monday, December 10, 2018

Worship Christ the New-born King

The American Revolution had just begun when six year-old James and his parents left home in England to be missionaries in the West Indies. James’ experience in boarding school was not pleasant, but life went from bad to worse when word came that both of his parents had been killed at their mission post. Sent back to England, James was shuffled from place to place until his teenage years when he set out on his own. After trying to sell his poetry, working various jobs, and spending some time being homeless, he eventually got a job for a radical newspaper. When the editor had to flee the country for publishing material the British government didn’t like, James took over the job. Following in the footsteps of the previous editor, James was later charged with writing an article inciting British people to take sides in the French Revolution. James was sentenced to do jail time.
When he got out, James had still not learned his lesson. Two years later he was again in trouble with the law for writing about a riot by workers in a local mill. The government thought this was contrary to the public interest and sent him back to jail. While in jail this time, he wrote a book called “Prison Amusements.” Much to his surprise, when he got out six months later, his book had become a best seller and he was something of a celebrity. As a devout Christian, he used his paper and new influence to advocate for causes like the plight of chimney sweeps and the abolition of slavery.
He also began using his paper to publish his poems and hymns, which received enthusiastic response. So, in 1816, after re-reading Luke chapter 2 in preparation for writing a Christmas article for his paper, James sat down and began to write,

“Angels from the realms of glory,
Wing your flight o’er all the earth;
Ye who sang creation’s story,
Now proclaim Messiah’s birth!
Come and worship, Come and worship,
Worship Christ the new-born king.”

And that, as Paul Harvey would have said, is the rest of the story about how James Montgomery, an orphaned, once homeless “jailbird” used his talents to write one of the most beloved hymns of the Christmas season.

This Christmas season, while we share in the joy of Christmas greetings and gifts, feasting and family, lights and music--Don’t forget to “Come and worship Christ the new-born king.”

(Re-written based on Stories of Christmas Carols by Ernest Emurian, Baker, 1958)

Monday, December 3, 2018

What a Christmas!

What do you think it was like for Mary to have had to tell her parents and her fiancĂ©, Joseph, that she was pregnant? At first Joseph didn’t believe her and I seriously doubt that her parents did either. I can’t help thinking that there must have been feelings of anger, family disgrace, and gut-wrenching disappointment with Mary. Whether this lasted for days, weeks, or longer we do not know, but it must have been a very difficult “Christmas season” for a young girl like Mary whose reputation was being unjustly trashed! Then there was the three or four day trip to Bethlehem on a donkey or in a wooden cart. That had to be difficult (to say the least) for Mary who was nine months pregnant! And how do you think Mary might have felt when her baby was not born in a nice warm home in a semi-comfortable bed like other babies. He was born in a dirty stable where animals ate, slept and did their business! Finally, Mary and Joseph soon found out that their baby’s life was in danger from the ruthless King Herod. What a Christmas!!!
Someone recently put a sign in one of the restrooms where I work that asks, “How has God blessed you this Christmas?” Ideally, Christmas is a time of happiness and joy—but that is not always the case for many people. For many, the Christmas season is a time of painful memories, disappointments, or difficult family relationships. If Christmas time is hard for you, that doesn’t mean God has forgotten you or is angry with you. Much to our chagrin, God’s blessing sometime comes through suffering, as it did for Mary.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Extraterrestrial life

There is an organization known as the SETI Institute (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) founded by Carl Sagan. This is not some wacko alien conspiracy group but Ph.D. scientists searching disparately for signs of life in outer space.

In my files I have a cartoon depicting two people sitting under a star-lit night sky. One of them says, “I wonder if anybody out there is trying to contact us…”  In the lower right corner of the frame is a drawing of the Ten Commandments. In the next frame, the same person says, “Maybe they’ll visit our planet someday…”  In the lower right corner is a drawing of baby Jesus in the manger.

What SETI searches for, we proclaim—There IS intelligent life in outer space. This is the season when we celebrate how that Life came to live among us, being born in a manger. Happy beginning to your Christmas season!

Monday, October 29, 2018

Attack on a Jewish synagogue

The nation was stunned this past week after deadliest attack on the Jewish people in U.S. history. Eleven people were killed in a synagogue in Pittsburgh.The murderer was a vile anti-Semite. We might dismiss him as simply deranged—and he certainly was—but a CNN article cites a source saying that anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. surged almost 60% in 2017!

Although the church has a deplorable history of anti-Semitism, in my opinion, an attack on Jews is also an attack on Christians. Jesus was Jewish. All of the Apostles were Jewish. In fact, the very earliest church was almost entirely Jewish. In Galatians 3 Paul says that if we are in Christ, we are Abraham’s descendants and joint heirs of the promises God gave to Abraham. In Romans 11, Paul likens non-Jewish Christians to wild olive branches grafted into a Jewish olive tree through Christ. Christians are spiritual Jews!

Although some Protestants argue that when Israel rejected Jesus, God rejected Israel, that’s not what Paul says. In Romans 11 Paul asks, “Did God reject his people?” In the context “his people” is clearly referring to unbelieving Jews. Paul answers, “By no means!...God did not reject his people….” I’m not sure how much clearer he could be!  In fact, Paul’s love for his fellow Jews is so great that in Romans 9, he says that he would actually be willing to go to hell if that could somehow save his unbelieving Jewish contemporaries!

We stand with all decent people everywhere in condemning this slaughter and call for the strongest legal means possible to put an end to our nation’s anti-Semitic surge. We also join with Christians everywhere in praying for the survivors of this terrible tragedy.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Seeker Sensitive Churches and the preaching of the Gospel

Al Mohler is president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary—the largest seminary in the world. In his book, “He is not Silent,” Mohler says, “Though most evangelicals mention the preaching of the Word as a necessary or customary part of worship, the prevailing model of worship in evangelical churches is increasingly defined by music, along with innovations such as drama and video presentations. Preaching has in large part retreated, and a host of entertaining innovations have taken it place” (24).
In context, Mohler is certainly not criticizing the use of music in worship. He is criticizing churches that increasingly replace preaching with various forms of entertainment, often in an effort to increase attendance. Responding to such churches, Mohler goes on to quote from A.W. Tozer who pulls no punches:
“Any objection to the carryings-on of our present golden calf Christianity is met with the triumphant reply, ‘But we are winning them!’ And winning them to what? To true discipleship? To cross-carrying? To self-denial? To separation from the world? To crucifixion of the flesh? To holy living? To nobility of character? To a despising of the world’s treasures? To hard self-discipline? To love for God? To total committal to Christ? Of course, the answer to all these question is ‘no’"(26).
A bit too judgmental? Perhaps. Food for thought? Absolutely.