Friday Pastor Andy and I took the men in LeaP II (Leadership training) to a midstate cabin for a prayer retreat.  We had a great time that evening playing games (should Christians be playing Liar??), talking and laughing–some of it continuing late into the night.  We spent all of Saturday morning praying–not even stopping to eat.  In fact, we didn’t eat supper Friday or breakfast Saturday.  In the afternoon on the way home we stopped at a restaurant to break our fast.

On the ride to the cabin there were a lot of good-natured jokes about food.  The banter continued throughout the night–including odd suggestions like trying one of the stuffed heads mounted high on the cabin walls.  The gallons of juice we drank couldn’t fill any gaps and by the time we ordered our food we were famished.  Couldn’t wait until the waitress brought our meals.
Veteran of a 40-day fast, Jesus would have chuckled at how soon we were to eager to satisfy our hunger.  And…, perhaps asked if we were anywhere near as hungry for righteousness. 

Men and women are different

  • I just found out a friend is getting divorced.  
  • Betty and I are trying to help a couple who have signed divorce papers.  
  • More than one or two couples in the church are unhappy with their spouses.  
The reasons why married couples struggle are many and diverse.  There are almost always some main taproots that are spiritual such as pride and unforgiveness.  But what often looks like the main problem is how different men and women are.  Betty and I were married 20 years before we stumbled across a book about this that was a huge help. 

Anyway, here’s Brian Regan to help you–at least for the moment–chuckle over the differences instead of simmer.

The stage is set

Today is Friday.  By Tuesday, we need pledges totaling $1.5 million in order to move ahead with even a partially completed ministry center.  $1.725 million to complete it.  Based on the original pledges–and what’s been added in the last few weeks, that means in the next four days God will have to provide another $209,000–somehow!  Or $434,000 if we’re going to finish off the fellowship hall and kitchen too.

We’ve asked our people to consider giving more than their original commitment.  The elders did so first, and along with some other early responders, promised $258,000.  And we’re praying more will be promised in the next 4 days.  But let’s face it, this is almost unthinkable for our blue-collar congregation living through a severe recession.  And with our $2 million borrowing cap, we won’t be able to just borrow more if we “almost make it”.
The stage is set.  
For a miracle.  The purpose of our church is to glorify God.  Well, if this miracle happens, it’s going to.  There simply doesn’t seem to be any way this can be done–humanly speaking.

The stage is set.

The distraught father asked Jesus to heal his son… “If you can”.  Stunned, Jesus looked at him and retorted.  “If you can!  All things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23).  All things.  Of course, to guard against presumption 1 John 5:14-15 adds the caveat that we get what we want if it matches God’s will.  Well, there’s no doubt God gave us the land.  That…, was a miracle.
So it seems to follow that He gave it to us to build on it.  But to do so, He’ll need to show up in power.  SOMEHOW, to provide.  The stage is set for God to amaze us.  We’ve tried to be good stewards.  For years we’ve done multiple services, video venues, sat people in the lobby and opened the auditorium doors…  Now, it’s time to expand.  But only God can do it.  The stage is set.

39 years of death

On Sunday it will be 39 years that the Supreme Court made it legal for doctors to perform abortions on girls and women who sought them.  Since then, over 55 million mothers have surgically ended pregnancies.  What might have been never was.  With a stroke of the pen the high court overturned state statutes all across America which prohibited what had always been regarded as a ghastly business.

Except by pregnant women who had no plans to be. 

Sarah Weddington’s name is not well-known but she was the attorney who urged Nora McCorvey to become a litigant against the state of Texas in the case that became known as Roe vs. Wade.  During the trial Nora was only identified as “Jane Roe” and did not reveal her role in the case until the 1980’s.  At the time, part of the legal push to permit Nora to abort her baby was fabricated testimony that she had been raped.  In fact–as she admitted in 1987, she’d been pregnant by her boyfriend.  
False testimony, an attorney with an apparent agenda, mythical finds in the Constitution, none of this matters any longer.  Permission to abort is the law of the land.  We who believe human life is sacred because God only made people in His image, can no longer count on government to protect the most vulnerable and innocent in our society.  Police will not stop a mother desperate to get rid of her baby, or arrest a physician making a killing with his/her abortion practice.  And substituting innocuous words like “terminate”, “tissue”, “fetus”, will not make a small baby less a baby, or make a baby who is killed, any less dead. 
This blog entry may be mostly for my soul.  I’ve been somewhat ambivalent about abortion over the years–at least in my response.  There’s no way to justify violence, I’m not convinced demonstrations do anything except polarize and anger people, and the political winds for “right to choose” blow briskly each election cycle.  So what do we do?
Vote your convictions.  I realize it’s harder and harder since elected officials–and those trying to get elected, can be very vague; even reverse themselves.  (I confess I do not use this as a litmus test because being prolife does not guarantee that someone will be a good leader.  I think choosing a candidate–especially to be president, demands looking at the total package before pulling the lever.)  
Support your local pregnancy center.  Whether that’s by giving a financial gift, or volunteering in some capacity whether as office help or in counseling frightened women.  If you know someone who’s pregnant and doesn’t want to be, offer to take them to a center to consider all options.  Prolife people are sometimes depicted as angry people who hate women.  I hope we aren’t.  We sinners who have been rescued by the gospel have no room for righteous indignation.  We should offer the same kind of forgiveness and reconciliation we’ve been offered in Christ, by a gentle God who has every right to be mad at us.    

Susquehanna Valley Pregnancy Services:
Cornerstone pregnancy Center:

Some thoughts on Tim Tebow

Since my son now lives in Colorado Springs, I feel the need to take an interest in Colorado football.  (That, plus my Redskins are out of contention.  And in need of a quarterback.  I don’t do sports’ posts.  Usually.)  
Yesterday I watched my first Tim Tebow game.  Putting an exclamation point on his trademark comebacks, he completed an 80-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas in the opening salvo of OT to send the banged up Steelers home to think about what might have been.  Tebow and his Broncos get ready for the top-seeded Patriots.

As the game ended, the gritty quarterback who’s brought college tricks to the big league and made them work, sank to the ground in prayer.  Taking a knee to celebrate beating Miami in OT in October, what’s become the 2nd year quarterback’s MO became an iconoclastic trend mimicked by admirers around the country.  In fact, last month the Global Language Monitor website accepted “Tebowing” as a word–akin to getting print in yesteryear’s Webster’s Dictionary.
Tim has taken a beating in the press–both sports and conventional, because…, well, it’s hard to know where criticism of him as a quarterback ends and criticism of him as a Christian starts.  He’s admittedly a very unconventional quarterback.  And yes, next weekend may bring the Bronco miracle to an end.  But I wonder how much flak he’d attract if the man was an agnostic.  That he’s an outspoken Christian seems to gall a lot of people.  Why?  What are they afraid of?  
Look, I confess that every time some winning Christian athlete uses the first 10 seconds of an interview to throw out the name Jesus Christ, I’m a little embarrassed.  First, it can suggest that Jesus is for winners and against the losers.  Second, it can sound more like the guy’s trying to score points for gutsiness than proclaiming God’s fame.  Third, sometimes these same athletes show up in the news with DUI’s, or pulling a gun at a party, or otherwise trashing what they said yesterday on national TV by what they did today.
I’m not seeing that with Tim.  In fact, I wonder if that’s what troubles his critics.  He’s a likable football player who tries hard to win, who is humble about his successes and circumspect about his failures, who respects opponents and seems to genuinely love others, is doing some good things with his money like building hospitals in the Philippines, and a competitor who kneels to pray.  His words in interviews are unapologetic but nonconfrontational, and…, well, he seems genuine.  And seems to have figured out how to pursue winning without letting it define him–or his Savior.  Earlier in the season with his team down to the Bears in the fourth quarter, a mic’d up Tebow prayed as he headed back out onto the field, “No matter what, win or lose, Lord, give me the strength to honor you.”

In other words, he’s too good to be true.  Unbelievers are more comfortable with people of faith who fail because it seems to validate their faithlessness.  What they don’t get is that the gospel is only for failures.  At some point, Mr. Tebow’s image is going to take a legitimate hit when he does or says something to mar his testimony.  He’ll regret it, and the rest of us will wring our hands at the public blow to Christianity.  Maybe instead, we should rejoice because it just might allow the real gospel to go public and make the issue the man Jesus Christ instead of the man Tim Tebow.  It may happily restate that the gospel has always been the good news of Christ’s work, not ours.  And that the gospel is not just for unbelievers, but also for Christians–who regrettably but inevitably still sin.  After all, Jesus always lives to intercede for us (Hebrews 7:25).

The New Year

Welcome, 2012!  Some people I know are very glad to see you send 2011 packing.  Last year they lost a job, or buried a husband, or tried to end their lives, or watched their marriage disintegrate, or got deployed, or watched a romance fall apart, or… [feel free to fill in the blank].  
I hope that many people get to walk a different path this year.  “God, mend their relationships, heal them, provide work for them, dig them out of that financial hole, give them a new friend, may they see daylight at the end of the tunnel.”  But the gritty truth is that like last year and all the years before it, skulking in the shadows of times of joy and happiness, lie disappointments, regrets, sorrows, and tragedies that mean to appear at the most unwelcome times.  What then?   

I know we’re all ready for prosperity.  But the rest?  …I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.  In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me.  Writing this from prison makes the author credible.  Suffering’s been his experience, not simply a hypothetical possibility.  In fact, his bona fides include frequent beatings, being stoned and left for dead, whippings, threats from his own people, being shipwrecked, sleepless nights, threats from robbers and rivers, and being cold and exposed to the elements (2 Cor.11:23- 29).
Paul insists that for the Christian there’s more to life than simply hanging on for dear life when the bottom falls out.  What he means is not that Christ is an invisible swim buddy who keeps you from emotionally drowning, but that by going to the cross for us, the worst life can throw at us has been rendered toothless.  Which puts everything else in perspective.