The Heartbeat

Once again the elders held their annual retreat. This was the first year that we actually went away, staying at a cabin in the middle of about 125 acres of woods.

In our four sessions we discussed "the good, the bad and the ugly" (parts of church life. The good, by the way, WAY OUTWEIGHED the bad or ugly. So that's good news!), the future in terms of space and outreach, the future in terms of leadership and vision, and finally the various areas of ministry within the church and any personal issues that we felt needed to be discussed.

In the area of outreach, we spent some time. As some of you recall from a survey taken of the congregation a few years ago, close to 95% of our church membership is involved in some aspect of service within Burning Hearts. This finding (which still holds true) dispels the notion that 20% of the people do 80% of the work, at least here at Burning Hearts. Yet even with this high of a rate of service, internally we are in real need of nursery workers, toddler time workers, and social committee members. We hope that you might consider taking on one of these areas. Most require, at most, an hour or so a month.

O Lord, open my lips and my mouth will declare your praise. – Psalm 51:15

1. When we came to Lancaster we had almost nothing. We had a pick-up truck (on which we were making monthly payments), two school loans, and almost no money. Fortunately we had no credit card debt. These many years later now own a house (unfortunately we still owe some on it), lots of furniture, several cars, no school loans, no credit card debts and still almost no money. But on paper we are a lot better off than when we came!

2. These 36 years brought for us 5 children and now 5 grandchildren. All were born healthy, and almost all have a heart for the Lord. During these same years we lost 3 of our 4 parents.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. - Matthew 6:33 (NIV)

It was during my first year at Westminster Theological Seminary, while living on the second floor of a dormitory building on the campus of Beaver College (now called Arcadia University) that I had a knock at my door. I went to the door and an international fellow (who I guessed was studying at the American Language Academy) said to me in very broken English:

"Five dollar?"

What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. – James 4:14b

It was in 1982 that Ruth and I moved from Germantown (on the west side of Philadelphia) to Lancaster County. Through a set of God-ordained circumstances we came to live at the house in which we still live: a truly great 18th century stone house located about a mile from Park City Mall. When we bought the house it was a wreck. I almost immediately replaced 16 panes of broken or missing glass, used 69 tubes of caulk to seal things up and repainted the house, inside and out, using approximately 100 gallons of paint. Later came added closets, bathrooms, new roof, new electrical wiring, remodeling the third floor, etc. The wood floor in what we call the family room was in terrible condition so around the time that Sarah was born we had it completely carpeted.

Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. – Exodus 20:8

We have, over the past few Sundays, been driving home the point that is made in Hebrews chapters 7 and 8 that with the coming of Jesus this world came into a "new covenant" period. As the word covenant means law, the point has been made that we are no longer under the old law…the old covenant…the Law of Moses. Well meaning Christians are often heard or seen touting the message that we should post the Ten Commandments in public places and, as noted last Sunday, most Christians, if asked, would quickly affirm their conviction that we should obey the Ten Commandments. But it is nigh unto impossible to find an Evangelical Christian who actually lives by the Ten Commandments. And it is here that I am writing about, in particular, the fourth commandment: to remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.

I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers… - Romans 9:3

This past week I noticed a spot in our yard, not far from the barn, where some honey bees were establishing a colony in the ground. We have had a number of such bee colonies in the past (in a soffit, in a hay bale, within an old rail road tie) but we have never had one in the ground. But sure enough, there they were going in and out of a 3" hole in the ground. I apparently got a little too close in checking out their situation for suddenly three bees attacked me and stung me: two on a leg and one on my left elbow. This got me to thinking about that age-old suggestion that when a bee stings you it will die. So I checked it out and here is what I read…

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. – Romans 8:14

This past week, in a very concrete way, Ruth and I were reminded of our need to be led by the Spirit of God. Without getting into details I can tell you this: that a situation was put before us wherein we felt that we needed to confront someone about something that was going on in their life. The confrontation was enough of a challenge but the ramifications of that confrontation could have been very great (and financially challenging for us). But after discussing it we went ahead and did what we knew we needed to do. The person whom we confronted could have given us grief…major grief. But instead, they acknowledged the problem and graciously said they would change. We were overcome with gratitude: both to God and to the person. What could have been a disaster was averted. And now all is well.

Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6 (KJV)

I grew up in what I considered a privileged home. Compared to the other children in my school class, I felt as though we were rich. We owned a house on many acres, with an inground swimming pool; we had horses and carriages, and a private pond stocked with lots of fish; we had a maid who weekly cleaned our house. There was never a lack of things to do or explore. But there also was never a lack of work to be done. And so my responsibilities included: making my bed, drying the dishes, taking out the trash, mowing the lawn, cleaning the pool, watering and feeding the horses and cleaning out the stalls. As a young teenager, at times I felt overworked. Looking back I would I was overworked. And because of that, I have been careful to demand far less from my own children. But this much I know and that is that all that work taught me not only how to work but also a great sense of responsibility. Yet there were times when I was not so responsible.

Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. - Psalm 127:1

I'm all for making plans. I'm all for dreaming and visioning and thinking big. I'm all for finding a purpose…a goal…something to shoot for and going after it with all you have. I recently watched a short video in which Arnold Schwarzenegger challenged the viewers to set goals for their lives and then to work hard at accomplishing those goals. He said, "You will never get anywhere with your hands in your pockets" (i.e., doing nothing. So do something!).

But Psalm 127:1 is a stiff reminder that unless God is in it…unless God is at the heart of what we have dreamed, planned and are working hard to accomplish…it is all vanity and will ultimately come to nothing. What a tragedy it would be to work one's entire life with a clear vision towards some goal, some aspiration, some dream, only to find, at life's end, that it was all for nothing.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together… - Hebrews 10:24-25a

In our family's favorite movie (What About Bob?) Bob Wiley is a man with a myriad of psychological problems. We learn, early in the film, that Bob has been through a long list of psychologists and psychiatrists. Dr. Leo Marvin is his most recent. Dr. Marvin's vacation with his family is interrupted when Bob shows up and while clearly irritated at Bob's presence, Dr. Marvin gives him a good prescription: "Take a vacation from your problems."

…For we are members one of another. - Ephesians 4:25

Why join a church? If, as the scriptures teach, we are already "members" of God's church – His body – why is there any need to go through some man-made construct that we call church membership?

Let us be clear: the scriptures do not speak about church membership. What they do speak about, however, is inclusion in the church community. Consider the following scripture passages:

O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? – 1 Corinthians 15:55

Having, at times, gone years without a funeral, to have two deaths within as many months – and very unexpected deaths at that – has been more than a little disconcerting. Not that any of us have lost sight of the bigger picture (and what death for the believer ultimately implies), but still…what a surprise.

In 1 Corinthians chapter 15 the apostle Paul addresses the topic of death and the resurrection in greater detail than we find anywhere else in the scriptures. There Paul argues not only in defense of the reality of Christ's resurrection but also in regards to the implications of Christ's resurrection for everyone else. Death is the great enemy of life but the end of human death is in sight. "For as in Adam all (people) die, so also in Christ shall all (people) be made alive" (verse 22).

It was a week ago tonight that I walked back into the house that I had left a week and half earlier. For about 10 days I had been with Steve and Renee Hoey and their daughter, Nicole Bennett, in Alaska. This had been my second visit to Alaska and as many of you prayed for us while we were gone and even financially contributed to our going, it seems right that I should give you a report. This is that report which I would like to offer under a number of headings…

VAST: That is the word that first comes to my mind when reflecting on Alaska. It is SO big, SO mountainous, SO tree filled, SO unpopulated. People have often spoken of Texas and how everything in Texas is big. But in Alaska it is even bigger. What an amazing purchase the U.S. government made when it paid Russia 2 cents an acre (in 1867) for all that land!

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. - Ephesians 6:4

It is interesting how, in the scriptures, there is a real lack of talking about the virtues of fatherhood. It's not like speaking about mothers. There is no Proverbs chapter 31 for men and fathers. Rather, what we find in the scriptures are plenty of examples of rather poor fathers…

  • Aaron's sons offered "strange fire before the Lord."
  • Eli's sons were no-goods from the beginning.
  • Samuel's sons were no better.
  • David had Absalom, who rebelled against him
  • Solomon (the supposedly really wise man) raised Rehoboam
    • a true idiot of a son

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. – Matthew 6:21

It was a dozen or fifteen years ago that I attended the Street Rod Nationals East event that is held annually in York, PA. This is what most people would call a "hot rod" car show. It is incredibly impressive. Most of the cars were from the 20s to the 50s and all were highly customized. The amount of design work, body sculpturing, chroming, painting and putting in engines much bigger than the cars had originally is just amazing. As part of the event there is a time when most of the cars are driven around York in a parade. Car after car after car…wow!

And God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth, and subdue it, and have dominion… – Genesis 1:28

The above scripture is often referred to as "The Cultural Mandate." This was the original command given by God to Adam and Eve. To those who believe in the authority of scripture, there is no question but that Adam and Eve (and those that followed after them) were commanded by God to become "lords" over the earth.

Several weeks have now passed since our annual involvement in Go Beyond (a county wide, multi-church effort to bless our county by means of various practical acts of kindness). As in former years, my "thing" has been not only to help pack meals (with the agency GAIN) for refugees in Africa or Syria, but also to be involved, daily, in picking up roadside trash. This year, the help with the trash pickup was a bit sparse, but the weather was more than conducive to helping make the daily two-hour shift tolerable. I believe a total of 43 gloves were picked up this year (the record was 47, from last year) and the trash collected that week completely filled Burning Hearts' dumpster twice.

…and a time to die… – Ecclesiastes 3:2

No matter how much we may talk about it, make plans for it (putting "our house in order" physically and/or spiritually), and affirm that it is coming our way, death remains the great mystery of existence. We spend nine months in the womb followed by several years learning the basics of life. The next 20 or so years are spent, generally, pursuing some kind of formal education either to teach us a skill or some specialized knowledge that can be utilized to help us make it the rest of the way through life. Along the way we may live many places, marry and have children, and impact many people for good or bad. And then, in a moment, we are no more. We become a mere memory in the minds of those who knew us. A birth is a miracle to behold, but to witness a death is no less emotionally overwhelming.

Of making many books, there is no end. - Ecclesiastes 12:12b

There is no end to either the making (writing) nor the reading of books. Summertime is an especially good time for both. In this brief article I would like to highlight some recommendations for your summertime reading…

The Autobiography of Malcolm X. If you are like me, you grew up in a world of white privilege. Reading this book about Malcolm Little can help one gain an understanding of life from a very different perspective. It was my reading of this book, now decades ago, that prompted me to want to make a racial difference in this world.

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write…" - Jude 3

If Jude could change the entire focus of a letter he was writing, then please allow me to change my focus for this editorial. For although I was very eager to write to you about Go Beyond (and what was accomplished last week), I find it necessary to write to you about this most momentous day: Mother's Day.

Any more we have celebrations for just about anyone or anything. There's Father's Day, Grandparent's Day, and Secretary's Day. There's Black Awareness month, National Day of Prayer, Earth Day and Pastor Appreciation month. When it gets really hot during summer we speak about Dog Day afternoons. I don't know if that means we should especially recognize our dogs on those afternoons but in our home that would sound about right: recognizing our dog for an afternoon but having an entire month to show appreciation to our pastor (me!). Yes, I like that one.

Making the best use of time, because the days are evil. – Ephesians 5:16

Are you looking for additional time? Then here's an idea to consider…

It was when our son David was first looking at colleges that I became acquainted with Facebook. We were touring Liberty University (where he eventually attended) and were in what I would have called the Student Union building, up on the second floor. There in a room filled with randomly placed couches so as to form numerous places for students to meet and "hang" not a single student was seated. The room was lined with a waist high shelf upon which were an innumerable number of computer monitors and keyboards. Small vertical dividers separated each computer space. These semi-open cubicles were filled with students, one student at each monitor. Not sure what this meant I asked our student tour guide what was going on. "Oh," he replied, "They're all on Facebook." The irony of the situation was amazing to me: a room filled with empty couches, while filled with students standing before computer monitors "interacting" over Facebook.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. – 2 Corinthians 5:10

Recently I met with a 36-year-old fellow that I have known since the time he was in middle school. This is an exceptionally good fellow: a faithful husband, a hard worker, a student of the scriptures, and an asset to any church. While meeting he told me of his prior involvement with a wing of Christianity which is known for its conviction that it is God's plan and decree that Christianity become the dominant force in the world and that Christians, even now, need to begin operating with that end in mind. His interest in "Dominion Theology" (also called Theonomy) led him to, for awhile, moving to Tyler, Texas where he might learn from those have best articulated this perspective on life. While there he became involved in a church that was and is committed to this theological position.

Upcoming Events

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
BraveHearts Breakfast
12 Sep 2020 - 07:00AM