The Heartbeat
Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. - Matthew 5:16

Well, it is that time of the year…again. That time when we are challenged, as a church body, to do something good for the community. It's called "Go Beyond" and it means not only that we should "go beyond" the four walls of our church facility, but also "go beyond" our Sunday morning meeting. We should "go beyond" what we have become comfortable doing and do something new, or something different, or something difficult for the community. It is all for the glory of God. We're not doing it to earn anything. We're doing it simply because it is good to do and it is good to be joined with other churches in doing something…anything really…that brings us together in blessing our world.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. ~ James 1:22

Recently I was speaking to a church member about church life when quite suddenly he raised the question, "Are we a Christian church?" By this was meant: do we actually DO what we say we are to do, or do we just talk about it? His question was not a disputing of the church's orthodoxy, or its confession, or its presentation of the gospel, or even of the centrality of Christ in the church. This member had, in fact, joined Burning Hearts because of his conviction that Burning Hearts was theologically sound and true to the Word of God. But, is it a Christian church…is it a church that DOES what it knows it should be doing? That was his question.

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' – Matthew 25:40 (NIV)

On this Missions Emphasis Sunday, we are going to be reminded in many ways not only of the great mission of the church (to make disciples of all nations) but also of those servants of God who have given their lives to this mission. When a person becomes a Christian, it generally is not long before that person comes to realize that he or she is part of a very big movement…a movement that is historic, that crosses all barriers and divisions within humanity, and that is global (cosmic even) in its scope. And while every Christian has a part to play in this great mission, there are those who are on "the front lines" of this endeavor. We call them "full time missionaries." Today we'll be reminded of these front-line servants.

The next day he (John) saw Jesus coming toward him, and he said, 'Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! – John 1:29

Christianity is rooted in Judaism. The Bible was written by Jewish authors and pertains to Jewish life. Jesus' earthly parents were Jewish as were all the early disciples.

Since the time of Moses, the Israelites (that were faithful) engaged in the celebration of the seven feasts enumerated in the Torah. These included Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Firstfruits, the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost), the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) and the Feast of Tabernacles (those in bold were the three feasts that required the physical attendance of all males to attend the festivities that took place in Jerusalem: Deuteronomy 16:16). As some of these feasts (Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Firstfruits, for example) flowed one into the other it was not unusual for, at times, the men to gather for two or even three of the feasts at one time. When Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples (Luke 22:7-13), on the night that he would later be betrayed, this undoubtedly is what was going on. Otherwise we would expect the disciples to have been at their own homes, celebrating the Passover meal with their families (several of the disciples heralding from the area near Capernaum, in northern Israel).

So as to avoid any confusion, here are our church plans for the coming two weeks…

GOOD FRIDAY

At 6:30pm this Friday night we will be showing the film, The Case for Christ. This is the true-to-life film about self-proclaimed atheists Leslie and Lee Strobel and how, Lee, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, took Leslie's conversion to Christianity as a personal challenge to prove that her faith was not grounded in fact. He was in for a surprise! This is a very well-acted and made film that will add credence to your own convictions about Jesus and the reality of the resurrection. Free popcorn to enjoy as you watch. Invite a neighbor! Communion following.

And they have conquered him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony… - Revelation 12:11

Do you have a testimony…a story of God's work in your life? I was at meeting recently at which I watched a video of Bo Eason, a former NFL football player, turned motivational speaker, challenge his listeners with this truth: "The greatest asset you possess is your personal story." Well, I have a story and I would like to share it now.

Having been born into a Christian home with a pastor for a father and a very godly mother, I heard the good news of Jesus Christ from a very early age. I do not recall specifically when I first "asked Jesus into my heart," but it was early. I do recall when I was 4 or maybe 5 being at a meeting when the church had a special speaker, an evangelist named Les Nixon, speak. Later that night I prayed with my mother to ask Jesus into my heart. But that probably wasn't the first time I prayed that prayer and it definitely wasn't the last time. (As a side note parents, please consider this! I was only 4 or 5 when I sat through that service that was oriented towards adults, yet it was at that time that I was convicted of my sin. Don't underestimate what your child can take in!)

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised and we esteemed him not. - Isaiah 53:3

Each year, the Men's Discipleship Group at Burning Hearts has memorized large sections of scripture (approximately 30 verses each year). Among the sections we have memorized none has meant as much to me as our memorizing the 12 verses of Isaiah 53. I come back to those verses again and again in a way that I admittedly do not return to the others we have learned. All have been good, but Isaiah 53 was (and is) in a class all its own. This fits with the point that I have made for years that "While all the scriptures are inspired (by God), not all parts are equally inspiring."

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. - Romans 1:16

In light of the recent killing of students and teachers at the Parkland school in Florida, I had intended on writing an article on gun control. But after viewing Billy Graham's funeral service, I changed my mind.

When I first began pastoring, a graduate of the Reformed Episcopal Seminary in Philadelphia began attending the church. In time, this man and his wife became an integral part of the church and its leadership. For a couple years I met with him every few weeks to discuss theology and church life. And then, quite suddenly, he and his wife moved away. But one thing I will never forget about my interaction with this man was his constant challenge to me to "preach the gospel." It didn't matter what book of the Bible we were studying on Sunday mornings, or what topic I was having us consider, always he would stress to me: "preach Christ, preach the gospel!"

Altogether, Methuselah lived 969 years, and then he died. - Genesis 5:27

I had the privilege of hearing Billy Graham speak, in person, a number of times through the years. Foremost in my mind was when he spoke at the Moody Bible Institute. As a student I generally sat about halfway back in the auditorium (in the "C" grade section!) but on that occasion I tried to get as front and center as I was able.

From the time I was very little, I heard about Billy Graham and our family's connection to him…

1)  My dad, back in the late 1940s, had led singing for some of the Chicagoland Youth for Christ events at which Billy spoke.

When Esau was forty years old, he took Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite to be his wife, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and they made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah. - Genesis 26:34-35

The person we marry can bring either joy to our parents' hearts (think of Ruth and Naomi) or grief. In the case of Esau, his marriage to two (presumably pagan) Hittite women brought grief to Isaac and Rebekah. Through the years, as I have been involved with couples looking to get married, I have stressed that they are marrying each other…and not their future spouse's relatives. At the same time I have also stressed that the relationship they have with their future in-laws is not one that should be taken lightly. Friends, even close friends, tend to come and go through life. But our relatives we tend to always have with us. So while we don't actually marry the in-laws, the brother-in-laws or sister-in-laws, we need to think of them being around for a LONG TIME. So here is some practical advice…

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. - 1 Corinthians 13:13

I had decided to write an article on love when it suddenly struck me that this coming week is Valentine's Day. Interesting coincidence.

My thinking on love was prompted by a man passing on to me a hundred-year old short book on 1 Corinthians chapter 13 entitled, "The Greatest Thing in the World." It was written by a Scottish minister and lecturer named Henry Drummond. Drummond died at age 45 and, from what I have read, pretty much all memory of him would be lost if it were not for that little book. It is a simple book written on a level that nearly any person could easily read in short order.

…Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart. - Ephesians 5:18b-19

I don't know that I would ordinary have watched the Grammy Awards show last Sunday night, but because of the special interest of our son, Jonathan, in Kendrick Lamar, I watched the program. Now, I am no fan of Kendrick Lamar, rap, or hip-hop. To me it barely even qualifies as music. I think of it more as (crass) poetry with a rhythm. I don't like it, I have never liked it and I don't expect that to change. But Jonathan thinks it's great and he really likes Kendrick Lamar (a Christian). As things would be, Lamar won the Grammy for Best Rap Album.

The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.' They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity… - Psalm 53:1

A week ago I wrote an article entitled "Christian Atheism." That article made the case that what we are finding among the growing number of "new atheists" is that while they confess atheism, practically – as evidenced in their lives – we find them teaching, upholding and living by Christian principles. I believe that we should be thankful (to God!) that that is the case. We should be thankful for their inconsistent atheism. This week's article is meant to explore what might happen if these atheists actually started living in a manner consistent with their theological convictions.

The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.' They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity… - Psalm 53:1

For quite awhile now I have been thinking on what has come to be called "New Atheism." This atheism is "new" only in that it is current, growing in influence and having a number of very outspoken proponents. Also, instead of finding itself in its historically defensive position (arguing against what most people thought was quite obvious), this new atheism has become quite bold, offering a polemic instead of a mere apologetic for its beliefs.

1. "Even at this point…" During last Sunday's sermon, while making our way through a long list of Bible texts, it appeared that I had two Bible references incorrect. That "threw me for a loop." Rarely have I made that mistake but to do it twice in one sermon…well, there is no excuse. As things would be, the first reference (James 5:3) was actually the correct reference (noting that the "last days" began long ago), while the second (Revelation 7:9, noting the great success and growth of Christ's kingdom) was given as Revelation 9:9. At home, after beating myself up a bit, Ruth said, "Even at this point it shows that there are things you can learn." She was right, even at this point…even after all these years, there are lessons to be learned from mistakes. By God's grace, and with better discipline on my part, I am determined to not let that happen again. My apologies.

Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this. - Psalm 37:4-5

So here we are on the first Sunday of the year (on what may be the coldest Sunday morning in years!) and I would like to direct our thinking way beyond this day, this month and even this year. Let's consider instead five years from now: 2023.

Should grant Ruth and me good health, in mid-February of 2023 our hope and plan is to head to California in a pick-up truck, towing a 30' travel trailer. There, just north of San Diego, we will dip our feet in the Pacific Ocean before walking – yes, walking – east. Approximately 21 miles later that day we will meet up with our truck and trailer. An individual or couple (with us for that part of the journey) will have moved the vehicles earlier in the day and found a good resting spot for the night. The next day we will do the same again. Day and after day, week after week, month after month, until in early September, 2870 miles later, we will cross the beach in Ocean City, New Jersey and again put our feet in the water. This is our planned "Walk Across America." To some it sounds exciting; to others it sounds insane. But that is our plan…our desire.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. – 2 Timothy 4:7

Without question 2 Timothy was written near the end of Paul's life.

Indeed, the book of 2 Timothy is the final writing that we have coming from the apostle Paul. He may have written more at a later time, but if he did it has not survived. And so what we read above is, in a sense, his closing words. In them we see how he was able to look back on his missionary career and do so with some satisfaction. He had run a good spiritual race and was ending well.

Earlier this year, four Green Berets were killed in Niger by Islamist terrorists. While calling the mother of one of the Berets President Trump again made the news by making a remark that infuriated many. Speaking to the mother of Sgt. La David Johnson on the phone, just prior to her son's burial, President Trump supposedly said, "He knew what he signed up for." The comment was taken to be insensitive. President Trump later denied making the statement.

In speaking about the Lord Jesus Christ, the Bible is quite bold in asserting that the second person of the Godhead was fully aware of who he was and why he was here. He knew what he had signed up for when he came to earth.

Give everyone what you owe him…if honor, then honor. - Romans 12:7

This past week one of evangelicalism's giants died: R.C. Sproul. Sproul was known as a solidly Reformed Bible teacher and Christian apologist, an author of some 90 books, and a much sought out conference speaker. I had the privilege of hearing Sproul several times in person. Those familiar with the Truth Project film series (shown here at Burning Hearts in 2016) will recall Sproul as one of the oft referenced speakers.

Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the LORD and spread it out before the LORD. And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD… - 2 Kings 19:14

Bible college students come to learn two big dates in Israel's history: 722 B.C. and 586 B.C. These dates mark the downfall of Israel (the northern 10 tribes) at the hands of the Assyrians and the downfall of Judah (the southern 2 tribes) when they fell to the Babylonians. What these students also come to learn, over time, is that Judah was nearly defeated by the Assyrians back at the time of the fall of Israel.

If there is a betrothed virgin, and a man meets her in the city and lies with her, then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman BECAUSE SHE DID NOT CRY FOR HELP THOUGH SHE WAS IN THE CITY, and the man because he violated his neighbor's wife. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. – Deuteronomy 22:23-24

I had initially thought of writing an article entitled "Another One Bites the Dust" or maybe "They're Dropping Like Flies." The article would have been about the current situation wherein so many American male celebrities are being called out for their past sexual "indiscretions." The article would have, like our current church sign, been a reminder to "Be sure your sin will find you out" (from Numbers 32:23).

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