A Stage of Fools

Is it really true? Is it as the news is reporting?

Did an American legislative body—the United States Senate—fail to pass a bill that would require doctors to provide medical care to a full term, newborn child who survived an abortion?

Have I awakened in the past, having opened my eyes to a time ruled by the likes of the priests of Molech? Is this merely a dream, a nightmare, a fast-fleeting terribleness of the mind that will certainly dissipate with the very next sunrise? Perhaps I am nothing more than an imagined character in a dystopian novel, one that hears the jackboots stomping, one that smells the gutters incensed by death’s perfumes, one with pages drenched in bloody barbarisms that only the most twisted among us could envision?

No, this is America. I’m awake. I’m aware. I’m beholding an indescribable scene.

One particular party, the Democrat party, has given itself in full subscription to the proposition that even as an unwanted infant—a baby—has beaten the odds and survived a dreadful gauntlet, the darkly doctor of this sinister trade must be allowed to finish what he started.

The Democrats took the victory in the Senate chamber. They’ve assured us that there’s no beating the abortionist. The child was unwanted in the womb. She was unwanted in the birth canal. She remains unwanted in the scattered mess of afterbirth littering the surgical tray.

The Democrats have determined that the doctor must be allowed to finish the task. “This is healthcare,” they say. “It is a woman’s right to choose,” they holler portentously.

The child gasps. The child struggles. The child cries. A swift and unfettering stroke of nays outnumbering yeas and the child dies.

I dare say the infant’s tears are born not only from the pain, but from the sorrow due this nation—for all of us who sit idly by doing nothing. Complaining, yes. Acting, no. And so Shakespeare takes the lead in describing the motive behind each tiny teardrop with the words, “When we are born, we cry that we are come to this great stage of fools.”

Persistence and Determination

If you’ve ever been in my office, then you may know that right behind where I sit at my desk there are bookshelves, and on them, I’ve taped little quotations that I appreciate. Over time, as I’ve pulled books from the shelves, some of the quotations have torn away and ended up in the garbage. The ones that remain are tattered, and eventually, they’ll come off, too. But whatever. I’ll replace them with other tidbits from various folks from across a wide spectrum of thought.

And no matter what I put there or what happens to the paper after I do, I’ll remember the words. I’ll have looked at them so many times, they’ll be written into me.

If you were to look at all of them as a singular item, you’d notice a similarity to the words I choose to put there. In one way or another, they all speak to courage and resolve. For example, there’s one from Father Gabriel Amorth, the Vatican’s chief exorcist. When Amorth was asked if he was afraid of the devil, he answered, “Afraid of that beast? He’s the one who should be afraid of me because I work in the name of the Lord of the world. He is only an ape of God.”

Those who know me best wouldn’t be surprised that a few of the quotations are from Shakespeare. I like Shakespeare a lot. In Act II of Julius Caesar, he wrote, “Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once.”

Apart from the likes of Shakespeare, one of my favorites is from Calvin Coolidge. I’m not necessarily a fan of Coolidge, but he did offer rather memorably: “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not. Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not. Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not. The world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

Okay, so maybe he’s a little off when he says that persistence and determination are omnipotent. Only God is all-powerful. But I think we get his point. He’s trying to say that within the field of any particular endeavor, not even the brightest and most talented have a chance against the one who persists undeterred. The persistent and determined are most likely to win the prize.

As God’s people, how does this measure against us?

Well, first we begin with God. We can actually say that when we consider who God is, persistence and determination are divine qualities. When we think on our Sin, we truly learn this. He has His heart set on us, and so He continues to chase after us with His Gospel. His holy will is laser-focused on what is needed to save us, and He accomplishes it. No one can argue the loving persistence and determination of God to save us as it is revealed in Jesus Christ. Look to Calvary and see for yourself. The passersby cursing and taunting Him as He hung there, and still He cried, “Father, forgive them.”

He loves us when we are most unlovable. He cares for us when in our darkened hearts we want nothing to do with Him. He provides for us even when we reject what we need from Him the most—His grace. In all of this, our God is the preeminent image of persistence and determination.

But now, how about us?

I already noted the relationship of our Sin-nature to God’s fortitude. They don’t even compare. And yet, God still calls for us to persist. He says in 1 Peter 5:9 that we are to stand firm against the devil. He says in Ephesians 6:13 that we are to hold the line against evil. In 1 Corinthians 15:58 He says that we are to be steadfast and immovable in and against this world. In James 1:12, God says that as we remain strong during trial, we are certain to receive the crown of eternal life. In Matthew 5:12, Jesus calls for His Christians to endure, knowing that the reward for such stamina is great in heaven. Revelation 2:10 so eloquently chimes that we are to be faithful to the point of death and thereby receive the crown of life.

How can God mandate all of this knowing who we are in our ill-footed weaknesses?

The answer is simple. He must do it through us. Of course with that, I could visit with an equal number of texts that teach this, but instead think on just one.

“For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

Christians already know by God’s Word (at least they should) that the Holy Spirit calls us by the Gospel and sanctifies us with His gifts in order to make us His own. This happens in the ways He says it happens. It happens through baptism. It happens through the Lord’s Supper. It happens through the preaching. It happens by way of His holy Word. In all of these Word and Sacrament means, the Holy Spirit is calling us by the Gospel. These are means of certainty by which God reaches to and takes up residence in us.

In the text I mentioned from Philippians 2, Saint Paul is making the point that as God is at work in us, He is sure to flex the muscle of His divine determination to accomplish His will and work, or as the text describes, “His good pleasure.”

By the way, Paul describes the heart of God’s good pleasure in 1 Timothy 2:4 where he writes, “God desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Jesus gives it even more contour when He says pretty straightforwardly in John 6:40, “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

In the end, do you know what all of this means, how it all fits together in relation to the topic at hand? It means that for believers, by the power of the Holy Spirit through the Gospel for faith in Jesus, the divine attributes of persistence and determination become available to us.

As believers, we can withstand because God withstands. We can persist because God persists. We can endure because the One who loves us and is at work in us endures. We can trust Him as He both mandates and promises, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

I probably don’t need to describe for you just how important this is in today’s society. We’re teetering rather closely to the persecutions experienced by the early church. Christians are being put in jail. Christian business owners are being fined and taken to court for following the doctrines of their faith.

It’s a mess out there. Yes, even here in America.

So what do we do? Maybe the better question is what do we have to lose? What’s the worst that could happen for taking a stand with Christ? Death, I suppose. Death is pretty scary. I suppose to avoid it we could settle into quietly subdued positions of fear. We could remain silent and hope that the storms that threaten the Christian Church will just pass us by. Yeah, we could do that.

Or we could be determined to persist.

“Cowards die many times before their death, but the valiant never taste of death but once.”

“Afraid of that beast? He’s the one who should be afraid of me.”

“Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

Even better—“And I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Blessed indeed,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!’” (Revelation 14:13).

Did you like how the Holy Spirit interrupted and sealed the conversation regarding those who remained faithful until the end? He capped the discussion by inserting, “Indeed!” You need to know that when the Holy Spirit speaks, it’s pretty significant. In fact, it’s something absolutely worthy of resonation throughout the very corridors of heaven itself.

There is no fear in Jesus. I pray you will know and believe this. I pray that when the time comes—no matter what any particular moment may set before you—you will remain faithful. You should know that I pray this for you daily. I know God hears my prayers—that He is hearing your prayers, too—and in that knowledge, I have peace. Even better, I am persistently determined to continue asking alongside Saint Paul the rhetorical question “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

We’re In This Together

Can you believe that Thanksgiving is already upon us? I can’t. It sure seems like yesterday my calendar was set to July, but now, a furious whirlwind having blown through, its pages are open to November—and December is beginning to flutter.

It’s dizzying.

Speaking of, I must confess something to you. It’s a little embarrassing. Although, having recently skimmed the introduction to The Merchant of Venice, which is somewhat built on the platform of embarrassment, I was enlightened to embarrassment’s teaching ability.

Essentially, the Sunday before last, I was (and I suppose I still am) dealing with a pretty bad cold. I woke up feeling terrible, and I think the potential for such a level of terrible was something shared with me on the homebound plane ride from D.C. the previous week. The person right behind me spent a good deal of the hour and half of the flight coughing. I’m almost certain I caught it. But anyway, right before the sermon that Sunday, I took two Dayquil liquigel capsules with the hope that they would help keep me on my toes through the rest of the service and the subsequent Bible studies afterward.

But I made a terrible miscalculation. I wasn’t even thinking about the fact that at the conclusion of the Lord’s Supper I was most likely going to be finishing off the remainder of two chalices of wine. And as if that weren’t enough, earlier that morning I’d taken a Gabapentin for my back. Needless to say, by the time I got to the Benediction, I was starting to notice I was having some difficulties.

The first thing I noticed was that both of my ears began to ring while shaking hands in line. At one point, they were ringing so loudly it was difficult to hear what folks were saying. It subsided somewhat when I got into the Bible Study in that I only heard the ringing in my right ear. The next thing I noticed was that during the study there were a couple of moments when I found it somewhat difficult to breathe. Only maybe two or three times, but each time, I turned toward the doors of the ECC entryway to take a deep breath. The last, and perhaps the weirdest symptom, was that I had a hard time remembering any of your names. I don’t know if you noticed, but rather than calling on folks by name, I simply pointed. I did that because I just couldn’t seem to get the names to form. This all continued through the Adult Membership class that took place right after the Adult Bible study.

Yeah, I know. Weird.

I told Jen about it. She wasn’t too pleased with me. Her unhappiness, of course, was driven by concern.

“You should’ve said something,” she said, revealing her irritation. “You could’ve been having a stroke or something!”

“Yeah, I know,” was my reply. “But I just kinda kept on with stuff, anyway.”

Still, I haven’t even told you the awkward part of the story. What actually embarrasses me is that I made a poor decision and drove home while all of this was happening. I was just too busy “keeping on” with things to see that something was maybe more wrong with me than I was willing to admit. And therein lies the center of gravity to the point I want to make by all of this.

In 1 Corinthians 11:31, Saint Paul wrote, “But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged.” I read that in a devotion that very same morning before worship. What Paul means to say is that as sinners, we have a hard time looking at ourselves and seeing that something is wrong. We have a tendency to employ our constricted points of view in ways that see the trouble with others but doesn’t really see the trouble within ourselves. In other words, if we are to be the judges of ourselves, we won’t come under judgment. That’s just a bad way to live.

Still, God knows we do things this way. That’s one reason why He places us into the context of a worshipping community. He sets us down into the midst of a people gathered together by objectively true things. All of us are in it together, and in part, all of us are enabled to continue in it for service to one another. And as a family, it’s supposed to be somewhat natural for us to encourage and build one another up, to reprove and rebuke in love when we’re traveling a road that could be dangerous, and to keep an eye of care turned to one another so that we can be ready in times of need to help. As members of this fellowship of human need, the last thing we want to do is to hide behind a façade of “I don’t need help from anyone. I can do this alone.”

We need each other around here. I need you to keep an eye on me and make sure I’m okay. And you need me to keep an eye on you and make sure you’re okay. We’re in this together. We’re family, and we shouldn’t be so embarrassed to say, “Hey, folks, I think we’re going to just cancel Bible Study today because, well, I’m in some sort of a mind fog and I honestly don’t recognize any of you.”

Well, maybe I wouldn’t say it that way. But, hey, you know me.

In summary, don’t feel as though you must go it alone. You don’t have to. Look to your Christian family. Trust them enough to know that they love you and will be ready to help.

Thoughts from the Airport

I’m writing this while sitting at Reagan National Airport in Washington D.C., and as one sits in such a place, there are plenty of other things to think about. Even better, there are plenty of things to observe—people, restaurants, shops, golf carts letting out siren chirps to get through the crowds without incident, and even some animals. I’m guessing that someone very important is about to arrive on the flight pulling up to my terminal because a rather large contingent of police officers is gathering near the door to the ramp. There’s a small dog in someone’s lap about ten seats away. I’m kind of hoping it isn’t a “comfort animal” that I’ll be sitting next to for the next two hours on the plane.  There’s also a bird hopping from one ceiling joist to the next above me in the domed ceiling. It’s pretty rainy and cold outside right now, so I’m guessing the little guy is trying to keep warm and dry like the rest of us. And as far as I’m concerned, as long as he doesn’t drop anything on me, he’s welcome to stay.

Airports are unusual. But they’re also thought provoking. Looking at the bustle, the never-ending fluidity of things in motion—people moving from one location to the next, seeking a destination and its goals or profits or social company—it’s easy to see how someone like Shakespeare would observe humanity and write: “The very substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream” (Hamlet, II, ii, 11).

I know he’s not writing from a Biblical perspective, but as I’m sure I’ve shared with you before, folks like Shakespeare—and others for that matter—are worthy of our attention because they have a way of setting objective truths before us even though they may be using somewhat of an existential lens to see them. In other words, sometimes the world betrays a knowledge that there are such things as up and down, yes and no, right and wrong. In context, I think Shakespeare wrote this because he knew that deep down inside of every human being, no matter what we’re chasing in this life, it is most certainly transient. They are shadows of dreams that are here one night and gone the next. And something very important to keep in mind is that Shakespeare is using the term “shadow” to imply the presence of something real casting the shadow. This means that behind all of our pursuits, there’s something else at work, something that would drive the human spirit to continue to chase after things that just won’t last.

This is where the Word of God steps in to offer divine insight. We need God to reveal this to us, otherwise we’ll never truly know the inner workings of the things that matter most—we’ll never really know what’s at stake.

Of course we might be tempted right away to say that “Sin” is the driving force behind all of this, but that would be too easily dismissed by anyone here at the airport who is bustling along because he or she is trying to get home to be with family. In that circumstance, I’d keep it simple and say the love of family is what’s casting the shadow. I wouldn’t even be so hasty as to say that the gentleman down a few seats and across the aisle from me right now, someone I’m guessing is a fairly successful politician or businessman, is motivated to move from one locale to the next because of a greedy heart or a lust for power. For all I know, he could be on his way to a charitable event to give away millions to help people in need, and it could be that he can barely contain himself for the joy of such a thing because he knows how it will glorify Christ.

So, I guess that as I sit here trying to parse these emerging thoughts as I type—thinking out loud on my computer screen—in the end, I land on the somewhat general condition of the human heart as the Word of God reveals it. Yes, the heart is corrupt and sinful. As Christians we already know that any pursuit born of the sinful heart is as a filthy rag (Isaiah 64:6). Still, the Bible teaches that God is, by the power of the Holy Spirit through the Gospel, recreating the hearts of believers to be in pursuit of the life to come even as we must keep the proper perspective in our pursuit of things here on earth (Matthew 6:19-34). Without God reaching into us and accomplishing this, even the attempts to get home to be with a loving family are fruitless endeavors because in the end, outside of His redeeming work, everything comes to an end and is lost. Everything in front of me right now is passing away. This means that outside of faith in Jesus, Death will forever separate the family I see right now standing at the desk at Gate 22 asking for help. But for a family of believers—for people in forward motion seeking to get to an earthly home—such a pursuit can be seen as a mere foreshadowing of their eternal home and the eternal togetherness with those they love to be experienced in the joys of heaven with Christ forever.

Maybe I’m overthinking this. Who knows? I guess that’s what happens when you’re sitting in an airport and have nothing to do but type.

Nevertheless, I guess I’d encourage you to keep these thoughts from your pastor in mind. I’m writing them for your spiritual digestion. Chew on the words. And as you do, ask yourself what is behind your pursuits. Better yet, and at a healthier depth, maybe consider if your pursuits are in some way disconnecting you from Christ and the means by which He feeds you with what is necessary for the recreation of your heart and the hearts of the members of your family. If what you are chasing after is separating you from Jesus, by all means, I beg you to jettison it from your life right now! Stop before it’s too late to see that it’s killing you and your family spiritually. Don’t become so invested in such a pursuit that it becomes your all-in-all in comparison to Christ and casts a shadow from very real spiritual starvation and oncoming doom.

I guess since I’m sort of saying it already, I’ll go ahead and say that I find it strange how Christian families dedicate so much time and effort to things that do this, and then a few years down the line, the parents can’t seem to understand why their kids left the faith altogether. I’ll tell you why they left. The parents taught them what was important to pursue. They learned what was important from mom and dad. I sometimes wish I could arrange a meeting between older parents who are now experiencing heartache from this and younger parents who are right in the middle of making it happen. I think it would be a Jakob Marley and Ebenezer Scrooge moment for some. I think eyes would be opened to the dangers, and perhaps this tragedy that’s more than reaching epidemic proportion in churches across America would be somewhat averted, or at least sent into a time of subsiding.

Either way, be encouraged to know that even as we fail to pursue Christ, He still pursues us. He’s doing it right now through these words. Listen to Him. Know that He loves you, and know that His love casts a huge shadow in this life, and it is one that promises safekeeping for the next (Psalm 17:8). Don’t stand outside of that shadow. I can promise you, in the sweltering heat of this mortal life, it’s much better in the shade of Christ’s love.

Our New Heraldry

It may sound a little nerdy, but I’ve set myself a goal of reading a little bit of Shakespeare every day until Christmas. I’m doing this because I’ve been feeling a little like I’ve been using some of the same words too often in my writing, and I know one sure way to expand one’s vocabulary is by reading from finer literature.

I took some time to read a little bit from Othello this morning, which is one of Shakespeare’s tragedies, and I came across a line that caught my attention.

“Our new heraldry is hands not hearts.” (III, iv. 48)

First of all, this caught my attention because of the word “heraldry.” Of course, I know the word “herald.” It can be both a noun and a verb. At Christmas time you’ll hear it used both ways in one of our most beloved hymns. You’ll hear of angels calling “Hark!” as they serve to herald the good news of the birth of Jesus. Shakespeare uses it here in a way that I’ve never used it, calling various messages into a general school of heralding that has one very important reason for existing.

Second, it caught my attention because of what it actually meant in context, especially since I’ve been spending some time in the adult bible class on Sunday mornings talking about how it’s one thing to believe something, but it’s something entirely different to act on that belief. It’s one thing to preach and teach and claim allegiance to the Gospel while living as though the Gospel has no real sway in your life. Here in this particular sentence, the listener is being urged by a different kind of message. The one speaking is beyond the moment of a rallying cry. He is now heralding that your heart is useless in any cause if you are not also willing to offer your hands to the effort. If you’ve been listening in the adult bible class, you’ve heard this. And I’ve said this same thing before, just in a different way, especially as it meets our efforts to engage as a congregation in challenges both internally and externally. You’ve heard me say before that it’s of little value for you to say to anyone going into a challenge in which you, too, are more than capable of helping, “I’m with you in spirit.” I can assure you that while it sounds nice, it isn’t enough to best the opposing forces, and it might not be all that inspiring to the rest of us in the darkest hours of the sweat and tears of the challenge. What’s needed is for you to get into the match and take every opportunity to drive the effort forward toward the victory, to jump in alongside and help, to rend your hands and not just your heart.

And by the way, all of this should already sound very familiar to any of the regular church goers within earshot of this particular heraldry. I’m not saying anything new, and neither was Shakespeare. Saint James already made this point to the Christians in the second chapter of his epistle when he wrote:

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds” (James 2:14-18).

You and I both know we won’t always find ourselves courageous enough to take that little step from comfort into discomfort for the sake of doing what’s right in service to the truth of Christ and His Word. It won’t be easy, especially when it means our reputations could be scarred, our relationships could be jeopardized, and maybe even our pocketbooks made a little thinner. But there’s one thing I can tell you for sure: You’ll never find the courage to live a life born of the Gospel if you aren’t being fed by the Gospel. You’ll never be able to flex the muscle of Christian freedom, service, love, mercy, and all of the other wonders that come from being a child of the living Savior unless you remain a branch firmly attached to Him as the nourishing vine.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5)

Jesus wasn’t just saying something that sounded nice. He meant those words. And what’s truly spectacular is that such a heraldry from Jesus Himself has an innate power to convince you to believe the very point His precise vocabulary is in place to communicate.

God’s Word has the power not only to retool you to be one who is mindfully praying for and supporting the effort, but also to be one struck by a courage for rising from your knees, suiting up, and getting into the game.

My prayer for you at this very moment is that you will hear the Lord’s Word, that you will be moved by the Gospel of His wonderful sacrifice for your sins, and you will respond by this wonderfully rich grace to pitch in and help where you can—whether that be by way of your diligent prayers, your tithes and offerings, or your physical service. Stirred by the Gospel, these efforts become good works in the eyes of God because they are efforts born of a humble faith that knows and clings to Jesus alone for salvation.

Study the Word and You’ll See

I mentioned yesterday after worship that because I’d spent a good portion of last week trying to adjust to a new medication, I didn’t actually get to the meat of the sermon writing process until early Sunday morning. That rarely happens, but when it does, I don’t like it. I don’t like it because I don’t feel as prepared with the text, at least not as prepared as I think a preacher should be. Still, I used the time I had at my disposal, and I kept close to a more simpler pace of just observing the scene in the text and then being what I am as a Christian man—someone who is excited to know Christ, a witness who wants to tell you what I’ve seen and heard, a friend who wants very much to introduce you to Jesus. Working from this perspective, the task of preaching is really rather eventual. It has a way of coming alive. It has a way of becoming otherworldly and beautiful, and it has the potential for causing anyone to feel a little like Andrew running to tell his brother Peter, or Philip running to tell Nathaniel, “I have found the Messiah!”

But this reminds me of something else, too, and a guy by the name of O.C. Edwards poked at it when he wrote: “When you come right down to it, the idea that the most exciting message the world has ever heard can be presented in a way that makes it sound old hat and dull is mind boggling. There are probably only two circumstances under which that could happen. First, we are uninteresting, or second, we find the gospel uninteresting. In either case, something ought to be done about it.”

Truth be told, he’s talking about those who are called to preach. Nevertheless, I think his words still resonate for all Christians in a practical way, especially as the Church finds herself more and more immersed in a culture of religiosity where the Gospel is just one thing among many things, and often considered as not all that important in comparison. To say it another way, Christians are not immune to portraying to the world that we like the Gospel, but we don’t necessarily love it. When this is true, it affects the way we communicate Christ to others.

Maybe another, more practical way to think about this would be to consider something that Richard Hays, a New Testament professor at Duke Divinity School, once said about one of his former professors, Alvin Kernan:

“When I was an undergraduate at Yale University, students flocked to Alvin Kernan’s lecture courses on Shakespeare… Even though it was the late 1960s and we were living in an atmosphere charged with political suspicion and protest, none of this overtly impinged on Kernan’s lectures. Kernan was not a flashy lecturer. What, then, was the draw? He loved the texts.”

In other words, Kernan was an expert on Shakespeare, but being an expert didn’t make him a productive communicator of Shakespeare. Hays sheds a little more light:

“His teaching method, as I remember it, was simply to engage in reflective close readings… delineating their rich texture of image and metaphor and opening up their complex themes – moral, philosophical, and religious. Often, Kernan would devote a significant part of his lecture time to reading the text aloud, not in a highly dramatic manner, but with sensitivity to the texts’ rhythms and semantic nuances. I would often sit in class thinking, “Oh, I hadn’t heard that in the text before.” And I would leave the class pondering the problems that Shakespeare addressed: love, betrayal, fidelity, sacrifice, death, and hope.”

Quite simply, Kernan was in love with and devoted to the texts of Shakespeare. When he wasn’t teaching Shakespeare, he was reading Shakespeare and enjoying it for himself, and this directly affected his telling of the story to others.

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it” (Luke 11:28). I’m sure I’ve shared with you before that the word Jesus uses in the Greek for “keep” is one that relays a defense of something considered to be invaluable and most precious. Considering this, while at the same time knowing that by faith, a Christian is in the deepest of loves with the One who spoke the words, we learn something very important.

And here’s where I’m going to suggest that you follow Kernan’s example and immerse yourself in the study of something you love…

Consider joining the Sunday morning adult Bible study because regular study of the Word of God is crucial!

Now, don’t stop reading here. Keep going.

Through the study of God’s Word, not only is the Christian fed from the divine wellspring that gives true wisdom for salvation, but there’s another product of the effort that many might overlook, and it’s that it provides a depth for a multitude of discussions. And when one is truly prepared, one is much more confident and convincing. Again, what I mean is that there’s a genuine difference between someone who knows about the Ark of the Covenant and someone who has spent time in the Word admiring its golden dimensions. There’s a difference between someone who knows about the Israelites being pursued by Pharaoh and someone who, through deliberate study of God’s Word, has had the opportunity to be led in a way that sees the fear in the Israelites’ eyes and feels the quaking ground—the rocks trembling and the dust rising—as Pharaoh’s army charges toward them in pursuit. There’s a difference between knowing the story of the feeding of the five thousand and being so aware of the implications of the event that one can begin to hear the rumbling stomachs of the hungry crowd and be concerned. It’s one thing to say so nonchalantly, “Yeah, Jesus died on the cross,” but it’s something altogether different to study Saint Paul’s words regarding the depth of the event, and by this, to be led to envision the blackened clouds of darkness and to feel the stern breezes casing the scene at Golgotha. I could go on and on, telling you how Easter is just one thing that happens every year for so many Christians, and yet for those immersed in the study of God’s Word, it is an emotionally jostling celebration that sees the absolute unexpected become reality—Sin and Death have been done away with forever—and it’s a reality that applies to us right now!

Like I said, I could go on and on about this stuff, but I suppose I’ve already written way more than most people might be willing to read. With that, I pray that you’ll take these words to heart and that you’ll think about joining the adult study on Sunday. My words are given here in love as they are given from someone who, like Andrew and Philip, has met the Messiah and truly wants for you to meet Him, too.

Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse

As always, I pray all is well for you this week and that the approaching Fourth of July holiday will be a joyous one.

I had an interesting occurrence this past week, one that, of course, stirred a particular thought that I’d like to share.

During Philip Haney’s visit here at Our Savior, I managed to have a quick conversation with a pastor with whom I’m friends online but have never actually met in person. It was nice to visit together in person, and while we were talking in my office, at one point his eyes shifted to the shelf beyond my desk where I keep all of my classical literature volumes. If you’ve ever been in my office for any length of time, then you’ll know I have reasonably full assemblage of Dickens and Shakespeare and Twain and so many others—all the good stuff. But as he was observing the selections from a short distance, he noticed lying sideways across the top of editions by Hemingway, Hawthorne, and Poe an obviously well-read volume entitled The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead by Max Brooks.

Yes, you read that rightly. I have a book that I read pretty regularly about how to survive a zombie apocalypse.

“What’s a guy like you doing reading a book like that?” was the tone of my friend’s commentary.

The essentials of my answer:

While the book is written with a tone of complete seriousness, it’s easy to see how it deals with itself and its own momentousness as being nothing short of laughably entertaining. With that, it’s not entirely uncommon for me, before wading into challenging moments of great seriousness, to first read from Psalm 27 or 32, and then to measure my own emotions by flipping through Brooks’ volume for some satirical levity. In other words, after receiving the right comfort for my soul from the Lord, I’ll say to myself before things get a little crazy, “Well, it could be worse,” and then I’ll turn to a chapter about how important it is in a zombie apocalypse to keep one’s hair short lest the undead have one more thing to grab in close-quarters combat.

Yeah, I know. Silly, right? Still, I share it because it leads to a deeper point, at least for me—and I hope I can explain it properly.

God speaks by way of His Word regarding the ultimate peace we have in Jesus, how it overcomes all things. This Word actually changes us to know that there is nothing that this world can throw at us that is so powerful that it can conquer our Lord and His promises. Giving this serious consideration, that’s what I mean when I read the zombie guide and say, “Well, it could be worse.” Sure, things can always get worse. Zombies are the perfect example. But still, the promise is that even if we suddenly find ourselves surrounded by them, the promises of God do not change. There’s still nothing that can ever be so overwhelming in the life of a Christian that it can actually usurp God’s loving might and His efforts to keep us in steadfast in His Son, Jesus Christ.

Christ died that we might have eternal life—not a zombie-free life. With that in mind, and as silly as it may sound, I really can make my way into some pretty threatening situations without getting too flustered, overly-bothered, or angry. In fact, after reading about strategies for protecting a two-story home from a ghoulish horde, a smile and a lighter step comes a little more easily when talking to someone who’d much rather call me an enemy than a friend. And trust me, a kindly, easier smile in such circumstances is much more fruitful than one that is forced.

With that, take what you can from this casual rambling from a fellow human being who struggles with sin in this world and the challenges it brings just as much as the next person. And I suppose you can be assured that if you ever need a good handbook on zombies, I’m your guy.