I think Gratz would approve

Parking on Orange I walked down the alley and crossed King St.  Opening the Literacy Council door I stepped inside and looked around.  “Can I help you?” a woman in the other room asked as she peered around the corner.

“Yes,” I replied, handing her a business card.  “I’d like to know how the people of our church can help others learn how to read.”  Her mouth dropped open, “Oh that’s so wonderful!”

“Several months ago we buried a longtime church member who didn’t know how to read until he was well into adulthood.  He was very bright and had been able to fool his boss for a long time.”
“That’s very common,” she explained.  “People who can’t read often have very good memories and get by with them.”
“It’s something I’ve been thinking about for our church for 15 years; helping people learn to read.  Kinda slow at getting around to it,” I admitted.  “Do I understand that you train the volunteers?”

“That’s right.  And we provide the materials.  Sometime it’s one-on-one, sometimes as a small group.  Sometimes it’s for a relatively brief time.  We have a lot of people who are functionally illiterate.  That is, they can read some words, but not a prescription on a medicine bottle.  Or something on a job application.  We have people who want to learn to read well enough for citizenship.  Or to get their driver’s licenses.  Or for a job.  We have people who want to learn how to read just so they can read the Bible.”
I thought of how Wycliffe Bible translators have seen entire cultures transformed.  Yes, because of the Scriptures, but first they reduce unwritten languages to writing, and then teach how people how to read their own languages.  Who can walk according to the Scriptures if they don’t know what the Scriptures say?  What possibilities!
I wondered, “Would there be people in our community that we could work with, or would it all be done in Lancaster?”

“Oh no, we have people from all over.  There are people many different places waiting for someone to help them.  But there might be some whom people would have to come here to the city to help.”

“Hmm.  Actually, we’re a rural church but a growing number of our people have bought houses in the city–including our youth pastor.  Maybe some of them would be interested in helping those in the city.”  I was getting more and more enthused.  So was she.

“Pastor Rohrer…, is that right?  The woman who handles this just left for vacation a few minutes ago and will be gone all next week.  Is it ok to wait and have her call you when she gets back?”

“That would be fine.  I’ll wait to hear from her.”

“Oh pastor, you have no idea what a blessing this is; it’s like an answer to prayer!” 
I read a book about every five days.  Plus the daily newspaper, a couple of magazines, and articles on the internet.  How radically different my life would be if reading terrorized me instead of filled me with joy: the Bible would have nothing to say to me, I’d know nothing of other cultures, and I’d know only the opinions of those I surrounded myself with.   
So, …let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:16.  I’ll let you know more when I do.  But I think Gratz would approve.

God forgive us

Is Islam the fastest growing faith in the world?  Yes.  Is authentic Islam a physical threat to others?  Well, moderate Muslims will object but I think jihad Islam is more faithful to the Qur’an than their brand.  Is authentic Islam a threat to religious freedom in America?  I believe so.  Do Muslims need Jesus?  Yes.  Who is to reach them?  Us.  Christians, that is.  Is burning their holy book a good way to do that?  Uh…, I doubt it.
A small Gainesville, Florida church caught the attention of CNN with its plans to burn copies of the Qur’an on the 9/11 anniversary.  Dove World Outreach Center stated their purpose on Facebook: “…in remembrance of the fallen victims of 9/11 [ok, that’s good] and to stand against the evil of Islam.  Islam is of the devil!”  Maybe I’ve missed it but I haven’t found any Bible command to symbolically trash other faiths.  And I don’t see how this shows Christian love.  Sounds more like the template of Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist.

Is it really some sort of compromise with the world to stay away from a soldier’s funeral except to pay respects?  Is it a sellout somehow not to brandish signs that rage “God hates fags”, or not to burn the Qur’an?!  Where is the humility?  Do Dove’s professing Christians forget the days when they too were condemned sinners, justly headed for hell?  And that is what some of you were (1 Corinthians 6:11).  And where is the love for Christ that usually spawns a love for lost people?  Where is the sympathy for those whose eyes are blinded by the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4)–as ours once were?

A love for Christ which ignited a love for lost people and reached an Ethiopian diplomat, a Jewish zealot, a Roman officer, a Greek philosopher, and across the centuries has set free millions of others from every tribe, language, nation and religion–including Islam.  Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among the peoples (Psalm 96:3).  e3’s Tom Doyle reports that last year 23,000 American Muslims turned to Christ in faith.  I wonder if the ashes of some charred Qur’ans will make that number soar this year…  Or plummet.  God forgive us.

I wonder if he gets what we don’t

Last year Brandon sent me this link and the comment, “He almost gets it”.  I know what he meant because Penn Jillette (of Penn & Teller) is a comedian/illusionist who doesn’t believe there is a God.  But I wonder if there’s something he does get that we don’t.  Or maybe forget.

How much do you have to hate someone…?  Loving lost people is not automatic.
For nearly a year I’ve been sensing this message from God: “You’ve become so risk-adverse that you’re not leaving me with much of a window in which to work.”  He used Andree Seu’s 11-7-09 World editorial Taking Risks for the Gospel to make an incision in my soulI pulled it from the magazine and have been dragging it back and forth between home and church office, afraid not to be near a message I need to hear repeatedly.  

I was never what anyone would call an evangelist, but I used to hope for, think more and pray about talking to people about Jesus.  I cared about their need for the gospel.  What happened?  For one, it feels like life has taken on a fairly structured rhythm and I wonder if there’s any room for some new music; am I still available to the Spirit for the unexpected?  Am I reluctant to take evangelistic risks?  Oh sure, I talk with people about Jesus every Sunday, but they’re mostly sympathetic.  It’s around the guys who seem ready to flip me off that I clam up.  And yet, Jesus came for the sick–not the healthy.  I’m OK with the healthy, but getting flipped off would just ruin my day.

Knowing I have too tamed my life is why I’ve started going to the local bar.  This too is my community.  My field.  In this timeless establishment by the tracks are people Christ loves…, and has asked me to love.  Men, if you’ve got a Saturday lunch or evening free, give me a call.  Before we go we’ll pray, then we’ll order a good meal–maybe some wings, talk to people, shoot some pool, and talk with people–maybe even offer to pray with someone.  Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mysterry of the gospel… Ephesians 6:19

By the way, the rumor that Penn has become a Christian is false.  But we can still pray.

When it’s your son

West Point class of 2010

Tuesday we said goodbye to our soldier son as he headed for his first duty after West Point.  Time to start paying back the US army and the US taxpayers for his education.  Next to his trailered yellow crotchrocket, we hugged him.  I had to let him go before I…, well, you know.  With school and his 60-day leave behind him, it feels like this is the inaugural step to what we dread most: overseas deployment.  
How can a father think sanely about a soldier son?  I am so proud that Cameron is willing to bravely serve his country.  But I would give anything to keep him out of harm’s way.  Is it possible for a father to love both his son and his homeland? 

This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him (1 John 4:9).  This Father loved both his Son and a doomed race; both His Son…, and us.  Glory to God!!! 

                                                    

Flaunt Christ’s brand!

  • It wasn’t that many years ago I didn’t even know what a blog was. Oh that’s right, the word’s only 13 years old (n. abbreviation for “weblog”, a running journal posted online for all to see and comment on—often with hyperlinks.)
  • It wasn’t that long ago that I would have laughed at a suggestion to blog. Course I also laughed at the idea of trading my datebook for an electronic gizmo until several back to back scheduling disasters made me desperate.
This blog is mainly for the flock of Keystone Evangelical Free Church in Paradise, Pennsylvania whom I love deeply (see my blog title). For a while now, God has been turning my “like” for the church into a love for the only thing Christ died for.

[I welcome appropriate comments but this site isn’t a democracy. I will delete ungodly or meanspirited stuff.]

Friday night we baptized 3 children and one young man in Ron & Tina Bare’s pond. Baptism is such a packed symbol: washing dirt away, dying, being buried, rising again with Christ… It’s a way of publicly flaunting the brand Jesus put on you. I know sometimes adults wonder how much children understand about the baptism they’re undergoing. Probably not a lot. Then again, I think I’ve only been really grasping its enormity in the last 10 years.

I also think that every child who goes under the waters is something of a rebuke to adult believers who’ve refused to be baptized. On Friday one of the girls being baptized was so scared her whole body shook as she told about 70 people that Jesus had forgiven her sins. Yet she went through with it.

So why is it some Christian adults postpone obeying this order Jesus gave—or ignore it altogether?

Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them (“them” are the folks who say “yes” to the gospel) in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…

Afraid of the water? Afraid of being in front of people? Afraid of…? I think of what some Christians in certain countries face when they choose to get baptized, it’s like agreeing to wear a target; from then on it’s open season and they’re the prey.

From Jesus’ day to this one, baptism has been the treasured mark of a believer. I’d love to brand some more on October 15, 2010, our next baptism. Maybe the adults will outnumber the children!