The Heartbeat

As there are a number of things that I would like to mention, I will try and cover them here at once…

CHURCH SIGN. Maybe you saw it, maybe you didn't. But this past week, late one night, someone changed the letters on the one side of the church sign from "O THAT OUR FAMILIES, CHURCH AND NATION WOULD HEED PSALM 133:1" TO "O THAT OUR FAMILIES, CHURCH AND NATION DO WEED. PSALM 133:1" I'm guessing that few of you saw it, but in case you did, no, we're not now encouraging people to get high on drugs. I'll give the person an "A+" for creativity. Good to know that at least one person is reading the sign!

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)

Recently I have again been reading through the book of Genesis. A few days ago I was the section where the deceptive Jacob is about to face his brother Esau, the one from whom he had fled many years earlier. You likely recall the story of how, in preparation for this meeting, he separated his great livestock holdings into different groups (figuring if Esau slaughtered the one, the other might escape). Jacob then tried to placate Esau's wrath by offering various gifts, before finally having Esau meet his large family. Upon finally coming face to face Jacob was overcome by the grace shown to him by Esau, his foolish twin brother whom he had deceived or tricked on more than one occasion. Reconciliation having taken place, Esau invited Jacob to return with him to Seir, Esau's hometown. Here is the part that really caught my attention:

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, ‘I find no pleasure in them.’ - Ecclesiastes 12:1

John Wagner, a member of Burning Hearts Community Church since 2013, died this past month. When John first came to Burning Hearts he was mentally sharp, very able to drive his car and known for being more than a little bit feisty. Indeed it was this final element that is probably best remembered when thinking about John Wagner.

John and his wife had five children.  It was during those child rearing years that John, a Roman Catholic, came to understand and embrace the good news of Jesus Christ.  His coming to faith in Christ was part of what some have called “the Roman Catholic renewal.” John’s conversion, at this time, was not from unbelief to belief, but from a non-spirited belief to a born-again experience of Christ and the Holy Spirit.  In the years that followed, John grew in his faith, came to embrace Protestantism (as being equally true compared to Roman Catholicism), and became a church leader. Though he never held the office of pastor or elder he headed up various small group Bible studies and became known for his teaching of the scriptures.

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him. - 1 Corinthians 2:9 (NIV)

A couple weeks ago I was at the church building while a workman, hired by the owner, was on the grounds. I had seen this man before and as he did his work I talked to him. I found out that he was a Christian, attended a church in Ephrata, and was soon expecting to move to another state. As he finished his work and began to pack up his tools he said, “God has given me the gift of prophecy. I function in the prophetic. And if you are willing to accept it I have a word for you.” I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but I nodded my head and said, “Sure, what word do you have for me.” He then said, “It is a word for your church: THRESHOLD. I believe you have been faithful and that you are on the threshold of seeing some great things.” I thanked him for that word and as might be expected I have been thinking on that word ever since.

If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar and his word is not in us. – 1 John 1:10

For centuries the debate has raged as to whether Jesus was "able to not sin, or not able to sin." This is the "Impeccability of Christ" debate. Theologians tend to come down on the latter side, but this is a debate whose winner will not be known until we all get to heaven. But what about us? Well, we don't even have this debate about us for we know our proclivity.

When we come to faith in Christ, we understand (and rightly so) that not only are we freed from the penalty due us for our sins (Christ having born in his body that penalty for us), but we are free from the reign and rule of sin. In Romans chapter 6 the apostle Paul addresses this suggesting that should consider ourselves now "dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus" (v.11). Our own experience – and I have yet to run into someone who has not had this same experience – is that sin(s) tends to hang on to us…plague us…bother us…pull us back and pull us down. It is for this reason that when Bible readers get to Romans chapter 7 and there read about an inner conflict brought on by doing the things we don't want to do and not doing the things we should, there is an almost universal "Amen! I know what THAT is about!"

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.

Upcoming Events

Adult Sunday School
22 May 2022 - 09:00AM
Worship Service
22 May 2022 - 10:30AM
Prayer Meeting
25 May 2022 - 07:00PM
Adult Sunday School
29 May 2022 - 09:00AM
Worship Service
29 May 2022 - 10:30AM