Friday, November 30, 2007

When Wisdom Speaks

The following is from Alex Kurz, my associate at Shorewood Bible Church, in answer to an inquiry about planned outreachs in December. One of our folks suggested we do some neighborhood caroling. Two weeks ago we asked those interested to meet after the morning service. A large group eagerly responded and will being doing this three weekends during December. We also have a Lady's Tea scheduled for the second weekend in December.

BUT: since Christmas is one of the religious holidays that we do not celebrate as an assembly, someone emailed Alex about why we were doing such a seemingly puzzling things. His answer is a classic response of both gentleness and insight—expressing the very heart of what our ministry is all about.

When I got the copy, I thought others should read it too. I think you’ll be happy you did:

Good questions to ask.

I don't believe we are
celebrating Christmas. Our goal is not to celebrate for 3
Sunday's. Rather, it as an opportunity to challenge people that are at
a more heightened level of interest. I am sure that the Ladies Fellowship
has no intention of celebrating Christmas but inviting lost women to hear the

We as an assembly are not caroling for or to
the church, nor are we celebrating the birth of Christ in
the assembly.We have no decorations, trees, or other religious plant
life setup in or around our building.

I do not believe that
what we seek to do for 3 Sundays on the streets of Rolling Meadows constitutes
the "observance of days" or "the esteeming of days." Paul is talking
about "yoke" type membership in the religious system for the purpose of
acceptance and sanctification with God. I don't believe anyone in our group
going out into the streets caroling does so for that purpose. We are not
trying to score points with God but to reach souls for

Personally, I do not believe the mark of true godliness or
faithfulness to the doctrine is measured by some sort of day observance or
lack thereof. Rather, as Paul teaches when referring to these
issues in the books of Romans and Galatians, love is the
core characteristic. A selfless, sacrificial charity toward one
another at the expense of one's own rights, liberties, feelings, and
possessions. In short, the mind of Christ.

Just my perspective. I
welcome any further thoughts.



Thursday, November 29, 2007

Just For Fun: What's Your Accent?

Well, everything hasn't been all serious lately!

I recently was sent a fascinating web site called
What American Accent Do You Have? Try it and see for yourself.

My results? After all these years in the mid-west, fortunately its still the right one! The verdict:

"That's a Southern accent you've got there. You may love it, you may hate it, you may swear you don't have it, but whatever the case, we can hear it."

Have fun!


To Catch Up A Bit

Cynthia is back home after a successful “girl-trip” to Alabama. By all reports they had a grand time. She was also able to be a part of helping her aunt Ida get relocated into a nursing home after a rather difficult illness. Now its back to the grind stone—and, of course, the joy of taking care of me (Prov. 18:22)!

She left Jody and me some of her delicious oyster dressing for Thanksgiving, which we dutifully enjoyed. He stayed here most of the time they were gone. It was nice having him around again. He obviously missed his girls. One of the joys of parenthood is to see your kids grow into good parents. Cynthia and I are three-times blessing in that regard.

For the most part I was able to spend a quiet time studying, answering mail and phone calls. I preached twice last Sunday to see if I my strength would hold up. I got through the messages fine—preaching actually makes a preacher feel better!—but Monday was a real downer. I realized that it was over doing it for the moment, so Alex will be doing Sunday evenings for the rest of the year.

I forgot that we had a special meeting scheduled for next Saturday when I cancelled my October and November preaching schedule. Art Johnson and the saints at Shorewood-South have been working hard to invite southside preachers to give a hearing to the grace message. They targeted over a hundred area preachers with mailings and phone calls offering answers for problems that only right division can solve. We have four sessions scheduled along with a free lunch and drawing for a full scholarship to Grace School of the Bible. All indications are for a good response.

I probably will not be able to do all four sessions, so Art will fill in if/when I run out of strength. This is one of those exciting experiences that you simply can’t duplicate! This assembly is a church plant from Shorewood Bible Church. It is in the heart of Chicago's African-American community and is without question a pace-setting black assembly for the grace movement. They have, by the way, already planted a daughter church of their own—which has also done the same! Our original goal was to have at least forty grace churches in the black community in Chicagoland. They are doing their part! Art’s personal friendship—along with his family—has long been very special to me. The saints of Shorewood-South are especially dear and their zeal “to make all men see” is a constant encouragement to my soul.

On the health front: I went to the doctor Monday. He was happy with where I am in the treatment process and indicates that my discomfort level is within the expected range, although on the high side. He said I am at the height of the radiation exposure this week and next week, so my career as a "glow stick" will never be brighter.

I want to again say a heartfelt thanks to so many that have sent cards and expressions of affection and good will. Three stacks over two feet high each sit on my table reminding me of all those who are “helping together by prayer for us.”


Monday, November 19, 2007

Home Alone

Well, I will be in the morning.

Cynthia, Heather and the grandkids are going to Mobile for Thanksgiving. I decided not to make the trip; Jody has to work. So it’s a girls outing. They will be staying at Cynthia’s parent’s home on Mobile Bay, always a relaxing time. We got a call yesterday that her aunt Ida was hospitalized, so she will be able to see and help her for a few days too. Otherwise it will be a family holiday time. Our grandkids don’t get to see their great-grandparents-aunts-uncles and cousins too often, so this trip has been planned for sometime.

I will not be going because my own physical condition has transitioned a bit; not necessarily in a positive way, yet. After the surgery, I had a few days of discomfort from the procedure itself along with a general sense of the “miseries”—sort of like a bad case of the flu along with a great deal of fatigue. Last Thursday I moved into much more “site specific” pain! I won’t say more than that, but you can perhaps get the idea. The fatigue continues but now the pain at times becomes acute, along with a frequency/urgency sensation that aggravates it. Enough of that!

We had a busy week last week. I finally was able to get the Journal to the printer; got six weeks of radio in the mail; answered dozens of letters and hundreds of emails. The office did a mass mailing for the Florida conference along the way too. I taught Sunday mornings and Wednesday night. I still haven’t felt up to doing both Sunday morning and evening—along with all afternoon meetings in between! Alex has done an outstanding job in my absence. Our attendance has also been very good. We actually hit a record last Sunday evening for attendance via the Internet! Also, Sunday evening three fellas showed up looking of me and itching for a fight. They didn’t like something I said on the radio that morning. In my absence they jumped on Alex! He successfully put them to flight, according to reports I received, and sent me word that I missed a good time.

I also started studying in earnest what I think will be our Wednesday evening studies in the new year. We just finished Luke—it took 7 years to the month! Now we are looking at a few carry over issues in early Acts (Acts is really Volume 2 of Luke’s account). I haven’t decided exactly what to do next and have received several suggestions. Our mid-week study is mainly attended by more advanced students and we have traditionally focused on the prophetic program during this time: I’ve taught Genesis, Daniel, Matthew, Luke, Acts, Hebrews thru Revelation on Wednesday evenings.

Some time ago I taught a series on the Messianic Psalms (after we finished II Corinthians and before we got into Galatians). While doing that I got to thinking how helpful it would be to teach through some of the chapters in the Old Testament that summarize the history of the nation Israel. (So much for those who say we never study anything but Paul’s epistles!!).

I started with a list of five chapters; before long it had expanded to 16! It is fascinating how many times the Holy Spirit has recorded a summarized history of God’s dealing with Israel; several of them are actually prophetic in nature, laying out that favored nation’s history in advance!

Needless to say, I’m having a grand time studying through the details of these chapters again. At the moment, I am thinking that we would study through Deut. 32 (Israel’s God given National Anthem), Psa. 78, Psa. 105, Psa. 106, Acts 7, Lev. 26, Lev. 23, and Rom. 9-11. But that would leave out Jer. 3, Ezek. 16, Neh. 9, Gen. 49, etc.!

When my wife is away I don’t sleep much or well. I have never been able to lie in bed when I’m awake; I would rather get up and do something. So, while the house is quite and the holidays draw people’s attention, I should have several days worth of time to give to uninterrupted study. I’m gona have a great time! Besides, I still can’t get too far from the facilities anyway!


Wednesday, November 7, 2007

First Flurries

Yesterday we awoke to reports of the first sightings of snow flurries in our area. Not much; not everywhere; but enough to signal more to come. Winter is on the way!

I was also feeling better yesterday—at least, better than Monday! But then the devil is always in the details—which were finally spelled out for me after the implant procedure. It seems I’ll be rather restricted for the first two weeks; then they shared the nugget that the real symptoms from the implants begin to appear after 7-10 days and will last for at least two months!

For the technically inclined, I received 89 Cs-131 Isotopes with a per seed activity of 3.21 mCi. This equates to a total activity of 285.69 mCi with a measured exposure at three feet of 0.12 mR/hr. The half-life of the Cs-131 is 9.7 days and it should be inactive in a little over two months after the implantation. Energy: 29 KeV; total dose: 115Gy. The seeds are contained in titanium and are permanently in place.

One of the restrictions they gave me was for two weeks not to lift, push or pull over 10 pounds. This is so as not to dislodge the seeds until the prostate has time to heal and they are securely embedded. Well, that wasn’t hard to take since it allowed me to get out of some yard work that needed to be done this week! But: its was also easy to forget. So, Tuesday I “forgot” and wound up moving something that was far heavier. You guessed it. I almost immediately felt the strain and today have had a bit of a problem. After visiting the doctor’s office this morning, I decided (actually, Cynthia decided) I should rest again today.

While laid aside, I have been able to do some reading. Sunday evening I began the Robert Ludlum novel, The Bancroft Strategy. I finished it Tuesday afternoon. It turned out to be quite a morality play, as well as a page-turner of a thriller.

Tuesday evening I finished Cornel West’s Democracy Matters (I started it two weeks ago and got interrupted—its not “light reading”). West is, in my estimation, the leading black intellectual of our time. He describes himself as a committed “follower of Jesus,” but does so from what used to be called a Modernists viewpoint. Although not a Bible Believer, he is a steadfast believer in democracy and a penetrating thinker about culture from the philosophical view of Christianity. If you want to understand the reason the Black community (as a whole) views cultural things in fundamentally different terms from the White community, and what those differences really are—then you need to at least read West. I must confess that he makes me think, and keeps me balanced by reminding me I am not always right!

West’s critique on “Constantinian Christianity” and its use as a cover for imperialism, by itself makes this book worth the read. His treatment of the impact of Jazz is too!

Now I am on to Evangelism After Christendom, by Bryan Stone. This is a dissertation on reclaiming evangelism in what is termed our “post-modern/post-Christian” era. Beginning, as it does, with the declaration, “The church can no longer assume as it once did that the surrounding culture will assist in the task of producing Christians,” and moving on to the assertion that evangelism must encompass the “subversive activity” of the gospel, made me want to read this book!

Interestingly, he too has a section on “The Constantinian Story” of Christianity. This is, of course, a carefully crafted euphemism for Romanism—the institutionalizing of Christianity into an imperial religion.

Well, I guess that lets you know my mind is still working even if other parts of me are having problems. I just watched the midweek study from Shorewood via the internet. Alex did a grand job teaching on prayer; the connection was good. Interesting to see what folks are seeing when we are doing our thing!


Monday, November 5, 2007

Everything Is Fine

Everything is fine in Florida and Illinois. David's surgery was successfully; its was not perforated, so that was a plus. My doctors were happy with the way my implants went; I trust I will be, too, after a few days of recuperation! I came home with a bag of meds to take over the next two weeks, along with a list of restricted activities. Once again, when the docs say there'll be only "slight discomfort," they really mean its gona hurt like heck! Cynthia suggests if I'd experienced real pain, I wouldn't think its so bad. I countered that if she had a prostate she might reconsider. She's no doubt right; but I'm not giving in for a couple of more days!

Thanks again for all the cards, emails and phone calls filled with well wishes. Your are very dear to us and we rejoice in your fellowship. I'll be making like a glow stick for the next few months, but the good news is I wont be harmful to anyone near me. Just think, if I get a hug I might even light up for you!


Sunday, November 4, 2007

I've Been Upstaged!

We just got a call from Stacy telling us that David (our youngest son) has been admitted to the hospital with appendicitis! They will do surgery on him in the next hour or so. All I could say is that he couldn't stand me getting ahead of him! But emergency surgery is a bit much. They expect him to do well with the surgery, so that is encouraging. Stacy and the boys (Nathan, 3 and Bryant, 2) will be waiting on dad "hand and foot" as soon as they can get him home. (Hint, hint!!)

I also talked to Brother Ray Watson (of Maryville, TN) this afternoon. Ray has been in the hospital for several days for tests to locate the cause of headaches and other pains. Seems they decided he has artery blockage that will need to be cleared in the near future. He is home at the moment and was able to preach this morning (preaching always makes a preacher feel better!). Pray for Ray and Betty--they're a team we need to keep on the battlefield.

By the way, we had a great service this morning at Shorewood. Almost every seat was filled and the children's ministry was overflowing. Alex will teach this evening. I'm going to watch via video--unless I'm "indisposed" by then!

The Day Before

Today is the day before I have the implant surgery. I have quite an unpleasant set of instructions for this afternoon, evening and early morning tomorrow. The only things I can eat until after the surgery either is clear liquid or something designed to make things come out of me! At least I’ll be able to do these things to myself!

Brother Mel always says, “If it tastes good, spit it out!” Well, everything I’m taking in today must be REALLY GOOD for me.

I do want to again say special thanks for so many friends who have sent cards and expressions of well wishes. To have so many have you on their heart and in their prayers is a humbling experience. This is especially true when it encompasses such a personal issue. When people pray for me and the ministry of the Word we carry on, I know it is really an expression of thanks for what the Lord is doing in and through our labors. It is touching beyond words to have, in my present situation, folks praying for me simply out of personal concern. I am (and continue to) learning to accept this, too, as from the Lord. As I mentioned in the study “Don’t Waste Your Cancer,” one thing not to miss is the opportunity to accept love from others who give it out of genuine hearts. Thanks--from my heart.

I report to the clinic at 6:30 a.m. tomorrow. They tell me I’ll be home (Cynthia will be there, of course, to drive me) by mid to late afternoon. My doctors told me to expect “only minor discomfort.” BUT: he told me that on two previous occasions and it turned out that both times I hurt like #%$@&^% (yea, go ahead a fill in the blank!!) for three or four days. So, since he hasn’t personally had this procedure done on him, I ain’t believing nothin’ he says on the “comfort” front. I talked to a friend yesterday who had this procedure 6 or 7 years ago. He reported he felt poorly for sometime. We’ll see how it goes.

One thing for sure: I will not be slackening the pace of our ministry. Although I have taken a bit of a breather during October and November, I’ll be back on the road in January 2008. Also, I only plan on being out of the Shorewood pulpit Sunday evening and Wednesday. I’ve already prepared radio through the end of November and will be resuming TV taping the first week in December. The latest Grace Journal went to the printer this week.

That about gets you up to date. I’ve been answering questions about what and why I am following the course I’m taking. Suffice it to say I’ve researched multiple ways of dealing with prostate cancer. What I am doing is my best judgment for my situation. The natural/nutritional path I’ve been following for sometime will continue and, in fact, I’ve already begun to expand on it. We are “fearfully and wonderfully made,” and our Creator has placed within our make up a marvelous capacity to heal. I’m doing all I can to enhance that capacity.


Thursday, November 1, 2007

Yea, I Caught It Too

After posting the previous article I noted that the clock had turned up the next day before I got it on line. Just shows ya that I work late!

November 1 is, on the religious calendar, All Saints Day. Reformation Day is October 31. Just so you have something more appropriate for today, here is a link to the words and music to a grand old hymn, For All the Saints. Make sure you have your speakers turned on so you can hear the soaring melody that goes with this triumphant hymn. We rarely sing this hymn–in fact, I can’t remember the last time we sang it in a service, but it stirs the soul. A hymn like this is a good reason to not throw away those old hymnbooks!

One verse that I especially like:

O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
All are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!


A Day To Remember

On October 31, 1517 an obscure monk named Martin Luther, desiring to spark theological discussion over the medieval practice of selling indulgences, nailed his 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. That happened exactly 490 years ago. The spark he set off ignited a flame that spread across Europe and launched the Protestant Reformation. By challenging the church’s authority and its doctrine, Luther reclaimed for Christianity the central doctrine of salvation–justification by faith alone. Here is his own testimony:

I greatly longed to understand Paul’s Epistle to the Romans and nothing
stood in the way but that one expression, ‘the justice of God,’ because I took
it to mean that justice whereby God is just and deals justly in punishing the
unjust. My situation was that, although an impeccable monk, I stood before God
as a sinner troubled in conscience, and I had no confidence that my merit would
assuage him. Therefore I did not love a just and angry God, but rather hated and
murmured against him.

Yet I clung to the dear Paul and had a great yearning to know what he
meant. Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice
of God and the statement that ‘the just shall live by his faith’ [Rom. 1:17].
Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through
grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to
be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. The whole of
Scripture took on a new meaning, and whereas the ‘justice of God’ had filled me
with hate, now it became to me inexpressively sweet in greater love. This
passage of Paul became to me a gate of heaven….”

Later he wrote the hymn that came to be the “battle-cry of the Reformation,” A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. (Click on one of the links after the word “Listen” at the top of the page to hear a majestic version of this incomparable hymn). In his book on the history of gospel hymns, Ira Sankey (co-worker with D. L. Moody) tells the following story:

In 1720 a re­mark­a­ble re­viv­al be­gan in a town
in Mo­rav­ia. Jes­u­its op­posed it, and the meet­ings
were pro­hib­it­ed. Those who still as­sem­bled were seized
and im­pris­oned in sta­bles and cel­lars. At Da­vid
Nitsch­mann’s house, where a hund­red and fif­ty per­sons
ga­thered, the po­lice broke in and seized the books. Not dis­mayed,
the con­gre­ga­tion struck up the stan­zas of Lu­ther’s
“And though this world, with devils filled,Should threaten to undo
us;We will not fear, for God hath willedHis truth to triumph through

Twenty heads of families were for this sent to jail, in­clud­ing
Nitsch­mann, who was treat­ed with spe­cial se­ver­i­ty.
He fin­al­ly es­caped, fled to the Mo­rav­i­ans at
Herrnhut, be­came a bi­shop, and af­ter­wards joined the
Wes­leys in 1735 in their ex­pe­di­tion to Sa­van­nah,

If Martin Luther had done nothing else but give us this hymn, we would still sing it and be forever in his debt. Those stirring final words put steel into the soul of every Christian because they remind us of what matters most:

Let goods and kindred go,
this mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

On this Reformation Day 2007, we pause to give thanks to God for Martin Luther and for the recovery of the gospel truth that we are declared righteous in the eyes of God solely on the basis of what Jesus Christ accomplished for us in his bloody death and victorious resurrection. We are saved

By grace alone,

Through faith alone,

In Christ alone.

And because of this we are not alone. Amen!