The Heartbeat
And the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. - Romans 16:20 (ESV)

Well, I went to the enemy's camp and
I took back what he stole from me,
I took back what he stole from me,
I took back what he stole from me.
Well, I went to the enemy's camp and
I took back what he stole from me.

He's under my feet, under my feet,
Under my feet, under my feet,
Under my feet, under my feet;
Satan is under my feet.

(by Lindell Cooley)

It was a few years ago now when I believe we last sang this simple song at Burning Hearts. But when we did, a fellow came up to me at the end of the service to let me know how much he disliked the song. He said he disliked it not because of its simple (and repetitive) tune and words, but because of what it seemed to be teaching. It sounded so territorial to him as if the earth could be divided up into sections of land and we, as Christians, are now engaged in spiritual warfare to "take back" some of that land for Christ.

And he said, Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I shall return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. - Job 1:21 (ESV)

These were the words of Job following the death of his children and loss of most of his wealth. The death of one child would likely have been overwhelming but Job lost all of his children: seven sons and three daughters.

Many years ago I stopped in at the home of a couple whose son had just been killed in an auto accident. The couple was, from my perspective, almost cavalier about it. I later concluded that these two were actually in shock and because of that were responding in a way that seemed incongruous with what had just happened. In like manner, Job may have been in shock when he uttered the above words. It is not that what he said is not true. It is, in fact, all quite true. We simply don't expect such profound truths coming from the mouth of one who should be in such agony.

He who is not with me is against me… – Matthew 12:30 (KJV)

Recently I watched the 2013 film "Jobs" starring Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple Computer. I thought the film was very good and aided in giving the viewer insight into the creative and complex mind of Steve Jobs – who was also a very difficult person to be around. One of the perspectives that came through in the film was that Jobs was all about commitment, total buy-in to what was being done. He wasn't interested in having people at the company who were there just because they needed a job. Even if they were highly skilled, he wasn't interested in having them at the company if there was any question as to their commitment. At one point in the fill Jobs makes the point that "either you are for me or you are against me" – almost an exact quote of Jesus in Matthew 12:30. Jobs wanted people who were truly on the Apple team.

The four seasons have often been compared to stages of life:

    • Spring, representing birth and infancy, is the time when the buds appear on the trees, flowers spring forth from the earth and what had seemed dead suddenly comes to life.
    • Summer, representing adulthood, is that time when everything is up and running, so to speak. It is when the apples get big and ripe, and when the corn gets ready to pick. It is the production time of the year.
    • Fall, representing the senior years of life, is when the days grow shorter, and there is a sense of cold and change all around us. It is harvest time and a time to celebrate but the celebration is truly the feast before famine. It is when the leaves fall to the ground.
    • Winter, representing death, is when the earth grows cold, and still. Soon a blanket of snow will cover everything. It is the time of the year that the ants, bees, squirrels, and wiser men have been preparing for all year long.

An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. – Proverbs 31:10

On this 40th anniversary of Ruth's and my wedding day, it seems very appropriate that I honor her. All praise, ultimately, is due to our heavenly Father who ordained our lives and who by his Son saved us and then by his Spirit led us. But subordinate to my praise to our sovereign triune God for my wife, I offer this praise to my wife.

They say that a 40th anniversary is a "ruby anniversary" (in the way that a 25-year anniversary is a silver anniversary or a 50-year anniversary is a golden anniversary). As I don't have any rubies to offer my wife at this time, she is going to have to settle for this article (plus dinner tonight, some small tokens of love, and our long anticipated trip to Italy in September). After all, if she is "more precious than jewels" then maybe these other tokens of love will prove to be more precious than rubies. Anyway, here are but some of the reasons I honor and praise Ruth…

Come, my son, and see how a Christian can die. – Sir Henry Havelock

On this Father's Day, we men are often challenged. I used to have a fellow, pretty much every Father's Day, sing Cat's in the Cradle by Harry Chapman. It was and is a very convicting sort of song telling the story of a father who was consistently too busy to spend time with his son. And then, when the son had grown up, the son was now too busy to spend time with his dad. So I would have this fellow sing the song. He did a great job at it…and hated singing it every year. Because, like everyone else he said he felt convicted by the words he was singing.

I have said it for decades now that Ruth is a better mother than I am a father. She is more caring, better at talking with the children, and more aware of their lives and situations. It doesn't mean I care less; it just means she is better at showing care. And in this way I don't believe I'm a lot different than most dads.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. - Psalm 119:105 (KJV)

Over the past month, during the sermon time we have been examining my life verses. The fact that we have looked at four different verses (Romans 8:1, Matthew 5:6, Isaiah 66:2b and Job 42:12a) is itself sufficient to illustrate that one need not have only one life verse or that one's life verse may change over time (as was the case with me). Now here is the question for you: what is YOUR life verse? If someone were to ask you for your autograph and after signing your name you were to write a Bible reference to one Bible verse, what Bible reference would you give? Maybe you say, "I have no idea. I haven't really thought about it."

That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death… – Philippians 3:10 (ESV)

In passing I shared the following story last Sunday. But as I am aware that some people read these articles that do not attend Burning Hearts here, again, is my short story…

For the past couple years I have been getting to know Mitch Hart. Mitch and his wife Sharon attend Burning Hearts on occasion even though it is not their home church (at least not yet!). I have gone to a number of auction sales with Mitch and he joined me at last fall's Hershey Auto Swap. There are not a lot of people I know who have interests in antiques, art, cars, and Christ and so the link with Mitch has been an easy one to make.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. – Ecclesiastes 3:1

Given the nature of these many sermons based upon "Pastor Doug's Favorite Bible Verses," one might get the impression that I (Pastor Doug) am all work and no play. Granted my life is not like a lot of other people's: given not only the nature of my work (which can be deadly serious at times (as I deal with the dead and the dying), but of my rather "different" devotional life. But I enjoy life greatly and have come to have a wide variety of interests.

Many years ago I began writing about "My Principles for Success." These principles were few and easy to remember:

1. Work hard
2. Keep yourself pure, and
3. Have fun

As I looked at the lives of those around me – particularly those in Christian ministry – it was clear that, by and large, those who had "crashed and burned" had violated one or more of these principles. Conversely, of those who I knew who appeared to live (either consciously or unconsciously) by these principles, they appeared to be doing well. Their "success" may not have been great, but they were doing well nonetheless.

Today I would like to briefly address the last of these three principles: have fun.

Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air… – 1 Thessalonians 4:16

I do not recall that I have ever addressed the issue of the rapture of the church as head on as I will in this brief article. But suffice it to say there is a lot of false teaching out there in regards to this great event. So let's get right into it…

1. The modern evangelical notion of a rapture as a sudden disappearance of millions of Christians (as presented in the Left Behind series and film) while leaving millions or billions of others behind is a false teaching, unknown until the middle of the 19th century, and should be rightly dismissed by anyone interested in Biblical truth.

2. The Bible DOES teach a rapture or being "caught up…in the clouds" of believers who are alive at the return of Christ. This is what is taught in the 1 Thessalonians 4:16 verse quoted above. But this rapture follows Christ's descent from heaven (presumably to earth), is accompanied with "the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet," and follows the resurrection of those believers who have already died. So this is hardly a secret event. Indeed, if this catching up of the saints is like Christ's own being caught up as recorded in Acts 1:9 (and it seems as though it will be), then it will be very visible to any and all.

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived… 1 Corinthians 2:9a

While I am certain the apostle Paul did not have in mind the events in an individual church's life when he penned the above words (from 1 Corinthians 2:9) they certainly seem to fit what we are going through. Now I don't think I have ever before written an article that centered on the church's finances. If I did, it probably was about our lack of funds. But this article is about the church's money and something truly wonderful.

For last Sunday, our weekly collection – a collection based upon a $4,037 weekly budget – was an astounding $23,225! Wow! If I recall correctly, our previous record giving for any particular week was around $9,000. This blew that previous record to smithereens. Just how or why there was such a record giving for that Sunday is unknown. But for all who ever worry about such things, and for our "finance people" who track these sort of things closely, there is a great sigh of relief and expression of gratitude not only to those who gave but to our God.

Jesus said to him, 'No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.' - Luke 9:62 (ESV)

I don't know about you, but I am very much driven and defined by various Biblical life themes, injunctions or challenges. For example, the above quoted verse (Luke 9:62) – a verse that I summarize with the words "Hand to the plow" – gives me direction. It means don't quit, don't look back, don't look around (at others) and don't complain. Just do your job and do it to the best that you are able. "Stay the course" would be another way of summarizing this verse. It is what helps give me tenacity to keep going.

Here are a few other life themes…

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. - James 1:22 (KJV)

For the fifth year in a row, Burning Hearts has the opportunity to join with other churches in the county by doing various acts of kindness in our community. We won't receive any pay for these acts of kindness. Few if any will thank us. Indeed we may go completely unnoticed. But we will make a difference.

So for six days – May 6 to 11 – we can each do something to bless others. Many of these things could, of course, be done at other times. But most likely we would not do them at other times. And so by joining with others from Burning Hearts as well as with those from other churches we will find a mutual encouragement to be of service in this way. Here then is how YOU can get involved…

  1. Roadside trash collection. Each year, Pastor Doug has headed up this effort to rid routes 283 and 30 of the roadside trash that visually pollutes our area. About one ton of trash is collected each year. There are both morning and evening collection times this year, each session lasting approximately 2 hours.

    Doug says he would appreciate the company. But with it or without it he is committed to doing it each day, Monday through Friday.

  2. Packing meals. This is actually a fun activity as, for 2 hours, you pack meals of beans and rice that will go to feed people in parts of the world where the meals you pack may literally mean the difference between life and death (by starvation).

  3. Donate blood. There are four different times and places where the blood drives are taking place.

  4. Saturday morning Citywide Cleanup. Again this year, an effort by many, many hundreds of people will help bring greater cleanliness to every street and every sidewalk within Lancaster city. This year's cleanup will start immediately after our Bravehearts' breakfast time (8 am at Gracie's)

So there you have it. The sign up sheets are in the lobby. I encourage you to sign up for something – one thing, at least. Or you can do nothing. But be reminded of the verse above: "Be ye doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves."

What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be… - 1 Corinthians 15:36-37a

Like you, I was stunned this past week at seeing the famed Notre Dame Cathedral go up in flames. It was and is still truly an iconic structure with its "flying buttresses." What will become of the congregation that called that building its church home, I do not know. But I do know that anyone who knows anything about a church knows that the building is not the church. The 17th century Quakers of Philadelphia indirectly taught this truth by calling their church buildings their "meeting houses." Today, many exhibit their ignorance of this by calling a church building a "church." But no building is a church. So, like those 60+ congregations in India (that we heard about on Missions Sunday) that have had their church building destroyed this past year, and like those three congregations in Louisiana that recently have had their buildings burned, the church that called the Notre Dame Cathedral its church home will go on. It may actually be the better for what has happened. During the meantime, as President Macron of France has pledged, the Notre Dame Cathedral will be rebuilt.

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, ALWAYS ABOUNDING IN THE WORK OF THE LORD, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. - 1 Corinthians 15:58

These are busy days for Burning Hearts. Beyond the regular schedule of Sunday morning (Sunday School and church service), Wednesday night prayer meeting, and various small group meetings during the week, just consider:

We are fools for Christ… - 1 Corinthians 4:10a (NIV)

Last Sunday, the children in the elementary age Sunday School class watched a video regarding the life of Jim Elliot. Jim Elliot and four other missionaries to Ecuador were killed back in January of 1956 while attempting to make contact with a remote and savage tribe known as the Huaorani people (though often called the Auca Indians). News of the deaths of these five American missionaries became a major news story back in the U.S. And so it was, in the Sunday School class we talked about what missionaries often have to give up in order to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to various parts of the world. Just consider, they may have to give up:

The LORD called me from the womb, from the body of my mother He named my name. He made my mouth like a sharp sword. - Isaiah 49:1b-2a

Isaiah and Jeremiah were two of Israel's great prophets. They are both considered "latter prophets" for their time of influence came when Israel was in decline. The Assyrians would gobble up Israel in the 8th century B.C., and in the 5th century the Babylonians would do the same to the southern tribes, known as Judah. Isaiah spoke to that earlier period of downfall and Jeremiah to the later period. But these men were similar in that they both believed they were called from before the time of their birth (cf. Jeremiah 1:5) to be prophets or spokesmen for God. Likewise, they believed that God had put in their mouths words that simply HAD to be spoken (Isaiah 6:8-13; Jeremiah 20:9). But in the above quote from Isaiah 49:2a there is a most interesting line: "He made my mouth like a sharp sword."

Thomas answered him, 'My Lord and my God!' Jesus said to him, 'Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.' - John 20:28-29

Most Christian churches would today affirm their belief in the Trinity – that idea that Almighty God exists in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Some even have that as part of their church's name. Yet, if they know the scriptures, they would also acknowledge that the word "Trinity" does not occur in the Bible. Indeed, they might even acknowledge that the concept of the Trinity developed over time and that it was some centuries before the church came to fully embrace it as a foundational expression of Christian orthodoxy. That it took the church several centuries before coming to formally embrace the idea of a Triune God is often used as an argument against the teaching, but I would see it just the opposite. The fact that the church was slow, or reticent, to embrace the concept of the Trinity supports the notion that this was not a teaching that the church WANTED to embrace. After all, "One God in three persons" – how does that make any sense? It is almost impossible to explain. Certainly no one in his or her right mind would choose this as a teaching of the church. If one were starting a new religion, one would certainly not choose to teach as foundational something that is unexplainable.

The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.' – Psalm 53:1

In his book On Guard, Christian apologist William Lane Craig makes the point that traditional atheism has pretty well disappeared. Having been confronted on many levels by able defenders of the Christian faith, philosophical atheists have concluded that it is impossible to prove a universal negative (such as "There is no God."). As mankind's knowledge of the universe is not exhaustive, one can no more say "There is no God" than one might say "There are no 12-legged cyclops." Just because we have never seen a 12-legged cyclops hardly means that in the vastness of the universe there might not be a 12-legged cyclops. In the same way modern atheism is willing to assert that there MAY BE a God or god somewhere in this vast universe. But having not seen that God the modern atheist has now redefined atheism NOT in terms of there being no God/god, but as an unbelief in any God/god. Dr. Craig points out that given this new definition of atheism (which I have above called apisteuism, meaning, no belief), then babies are born atheists, and all our dogs are atheists, as none of these "believe" in God.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die… - Ecclesiastes 3:1-2a

My sister, Shirley, called me this past week to let me know that she had just heard that our aunt Hazel, better known to our family as "Tookie", age 85, had fallen and in falling had struck her head. The net effect of this was that there was severe bleeding on the brain leaving her effectively "brain dead." They were keeping her on life support waiting for her children to arrive at the hospital. Her eldest son, Peter, lives in Madrid, Spain and there heads up a consulting organization to various Christian mission agencies around the world. Peter and his two sisters all arrived within two days, they then "pulled the plug" and within three hours Tookie was dead. The funeral is this afternoon (Sunday). My dad, Shirley, and a number of other relatives are all coming for the service.

…Contend for the faith…for certain people have crept in unnoticed…ungodly people who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality… - from Jude 3-4

This past week, in a highly anticipated meeting, delegates from the United Methodist Church voted by a narrow margin to uphold the "Traditional Position" of the church in regards to sexual matters. By this they again affirmed their belief that marriage has been ordained by God to be between a man and a woman and that marriage is the only proper context for sexual expression. This vote came as a great disappointment to many within the global body of United Methodists and in particular to the more liberal U.S. council of United Methodist bishops. If it were not for the fact that the United Methodist Church has a substantial number of churches and church members on the African continent, the vote would have undoubtedly gone in a direction that would have affirmed the LGBT community in their lifestyle choices. But the African church remains much more conservative and admittedly "Biblical" than its European and American counterparts. But just in case one thinks, "Well, that issue has finally been settled" within the United Methodist Church, opponents of the decision vowed that they will bring it up again for a vote at the next annual convention. And for all the disagreement among the delegates, there was an overriding sense of agreement on one point, namely, that the United Methodist Church will soon be fracturing, with one or both sides leaving to form a new denomination.

Upcoming Events

Prayer for Sight and Sound
26 Jul 2020 - 04:00PM
Prayer Meeting
29 Jul 2020 - 07:00PM
All Church Hike
16 Aug 2020 - 01:00PM
Annual Church Picnic
30 Aug 2020 - 10:30AM
Fall Bible Study
10 Sep 2020 - 07:00PM