The Heartbeat
"And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to reliable men who will be qualified to teach others." - 2 Timothy 2:2 (NIV)

It has been my conviction for the better part of my adult life that 1) there is no such thing as "retirement" from Christian service, and 2) what is best for the church is of far greater importance than what may be good for me. Applied to my own life, these two points are coming into focus. Let me explain…

In less than two years I will be turning 70 years of age. Currently I am in good health and the prospect of me being able to continue serving Christ for many years ahead seems likely. As our Lord taught his disciples about keeping their "hand to the plow" I cannot currently even imagine ever saying, "I'm done." When death comes knocking on my door THEN I will be "done" but hopefully not until then.

But there is this very big work that our Lord is engaged in: the work of building his church. With every generation of new believers comes a call for a new generation of church leaders. Burning Hearts is now in a very stable and growing state. Those who are older are rightly looking to the younger ones to take their place. And the same goes for the position of Senior Pastor.

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." – Ephesians 5:25

If there is any day that a Heartbeat editorial should address the topic of love in marriage it is most certainly today…on this Valentine's Day.

Now, how did this day come to be called Valentine's Day? As you likely already know it is connected to Saint Valentine (and even called St. Valentine's Day on occasion). Saint Valentine was a 3rd century Roman Christian and church leader who was known for his ministering to Christians who had faced persecution at the hands of the Roman Empire. The records and traditions surrounding Valentine are sketchy, but there is general agreement that he was himself martyred around 270 A.D, during the reign of Claudius II. Because of the lack of clear records regarding Valentine, the Roman Catholic Church, in 1969, discontinued any liturgical veneration of him, though his name remains on its list of officially recognized saints.

It was one year ago this week that the elders at Burning Hearts met for our monthly meeting. As part of that meeting I recall writing on a white board some numbers – numbers reflecting the incidence of a coronavirus that had recently been getting a lot of air time on the news. I don't recall what numbers I used but I do remember the upshot of what I was attempting to say, viz., this coronavirus, called COVID-19, is affecting such a small percentage of the world's peoples that we don't need to give our attention to it.

And then I came down with the coronavirus within a month of that meeting. My getting it was so early on that the doctor didn't yet even have the test for it. It would be a couple more months before it would finally be confirmed that "Yes, you definitely had it." But I survived it. It was bad, but not THAT bad.

Unlike the past nearly fifty years, on or near the anniversary date of the famed "Roe v. Wade" Supreme Court decision of January 22, 1973 (which allowed a woman to have an abortion without governmental intervention), there was no large "March for Life" march in Washington D.C. this year. Blame the coronavirus, or the January 6 assault on the Capital building…whatever. But it didn't happen this year.

Has this march made any difference? At last year's march the attendance may have been as large as 250,000. That's a good size group of people to get together for any event. But has it made a difference? Has the steady, unending labors of so many people, over these past nearly fifty years, made a difference? That may be the wrong question.

The prophets of the Old Covenant period were known for being an irritant to the people. They spoke up for justice: for the care of the poor, the widow, and for those who were not the power brokers of the day. Phil Keaggy, the wonderful Christian songwriter and musician, many years ago wrote a song about abortion. It began with these words:

"For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known." – 1 Corinthians 13:12 (ESV)

For a number of years, elder Dave Graves has been doing a tremendous job of posting the weekly church bulletin, the Heartbeat, over Facebook. This has allowed those who are either unable to attend church, or who simply have an interest in what is going on at Burning Hearts, to stay informed. As part of the bulletin is the editorial, Dave has creatively attached a picture or photo that fits with each week's article. Sometimes this is easy; at other times it is a real challenge.

At the end of 2020 Dave sent me a collage that he had made up, making use of the various pictures that he had used through the year with the year 2020 at the center. I was so impressed with it that I said, "That would make a great jigsaw puzzle!" And so it was that Dave ordered a 20"x20" 640-piece puzzle made from his collage. The puzzle came in the mail a week ago and for a number of days I have been in the process of putting the puzzle together. It is not easy. (It should be finished by the time you read this and if you would like to put it together, just let me know and I will pass it on to you!)

"My beloved speaks and says to me: 'Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away.'" – Song of Solomon 2:10

Song of Solomon (also called Song of Songs) is, by any standard, sexually provocative material. I recall hearing long ago a person say, "The Puritans preached more from Song of Songs than from any other book." I doubted that to be the case back then and I doubt it still. But if they did make great use of the book they likely taught, as many others have taught, that the book was meant to be an allegory of Christ's love for his bride, the church. Christ, after all, is portrayed by the apostle Paul in Ephesians chapter 5 as a husband to the church. He's the husband and we're the bride. I personally highly doubt that Solomon had that in mind when he penned his "song," but it is true nonetheless.

"Be sober minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." – 1 Peter 5:8

Last week I wrote about the various revelations that are coming out about the now deceased Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias. The bottom line of these revelations is that it would appear that Ravi was not the straight arrow that we all thought him to be. There was a dark side to Ravi's life – a side filled with lust, adultery and deceit. In that way, as noted last Sunday, Ravi is hardly – we are sad to say – unique.

For the past number of weeks I have, in my daily devotional time, been in the book of Psalms. As you likely know, a great number of the Psalms – about half – were written by David. David has, to me, always been a bit of an enigma. On the one hand we have this truly heroic, godly man who is "a man after God's own heart." As that kind of man, David again and again, in the Psalms, speaks of his own purity, integrity and trust in the LORD (e.g., Psalm 17:3; 18:23; 26:1; 40:8; 56:4,11; 86:2; 101:2). And yet we all know "the rest of the story": of his adultery with Bathsheba, plot to see Bathsheba's husband dead, and deceit regarding the whole affair. Psalms 32 and 51 reveal a contrite man who is now confessing his sin openly before God and man. And so we are left with this conflicted view of David: on the one hand numbering him among God's greatest of servants while on the other hand being candid about his moral failures.

"Be sober minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." – 1 Peter 5:8

Apparently I was living with my head in the sand because prior to last Sunday I was totally in the dark regarding revelations of wrongdoing on the part of the now deceased Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias. Since then I have read a number of articles and the gist of them is this: that RZMI (Ravi Zacharias Ministries International) has concluded that the charges of illicit sexual advances and abuses on Ravi's part are credible and likely true. A full investigation is being carried out at the present time but later this month, RZMI has promised to release a full and transparent report. So in the words used around our home, "another one bites the dust."

Let me think about this now…

I have never dealt with anxiety well. Even writing that sentence- and seeing its unfortunate truth- makes me anxious. How easier this life would have been if we could see exactly what we were to do at the exact moment God wanted us to do it. I sometime foolishly believe that I must be in a minority. Surely most take steps in confidence, as I can only see the outward fruit and success of others around me. Then 2020 happened, and I realized a lot more people have my same problem. The constant thought worldwide became, “When will this end?”

At the time of writing this, it is Tuesday, December 22, 2020, and I had a terrible Monday night. Everybody has terrible nights, and its selfish to think my night was worse than anyone else’s, but as selfish people, we are affected most strongly by our own troubles. Jolted awake at midnight with worry about a potential job change decision, things went from bad to worse. Thoughts on top of thoughts kept a restless body awake, with the added bonus of an upset stomach from worry. At 3:13 a.m. my phone lit up with an email notification from Doug telling all of us that Bob Haehnle had passed away earlier that night. I thought about Diane, and I prayed for her. Then I felt guilt as if my own COVID case was the reason Bob got sick in the first place. That led to thinking about my other friends who became sick because of contact they had with me. The spiral continued.

"Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." – Luke 21:28

This has been quite the year!

They say that in many ways, Elvis Presley is even more popular today than he was back in the 1950s and 60s. He has always been either liked or disliked, with little room between those two points. I for one have been on the "liked" side. How about you?

One of Elvis' most famous Christmas songs was I'll Have a Blue Christmas Without You. That has to sum up how many will be feeling this Christmas when they are unable to be with their loved ones. Some, in hospitals or under nursing care, will have few if any visits from loved ones. Still others will simply not be making their way to Grandma and Grandpa's house this year. COVID-19 has, of course, been the culprit in all of this. We can only hope that come next year, we will be done with COVID-19, COVID-20 and any other coronavirus that may be waiting in the wings.

"Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God." – Romans 13:1

So, to wrap up this discussion, to date we have stated that

1. The enactment of "mandates" on the part of governmental officials does not rise to the level of laws made by legislators

2. None of this rises to the level of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which prohibits Congress from enacting laws that would harm the "free exercise" of religion.

3. The use of masks as a means of stopping the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus has been questioned by many within the medical community. It may SLOW the spread, but it remains likely that most Americans will, mask or no mask, sooner or later come down with the coronavirus.

4. The enacting of mandates regarding masks has been issued out of a desire to protect the overall U.S. population. Such mandates are not on the level of asking any of us to sin. So why not just comply?

5. We may comply but there is an inherent warning to us in such compliance and that is that we may be stepping onto to a slippery slope of lost rights, of handing over to the state more than it should have.

"Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God." – Romans 13:1

Picking up where we left off last week, as the issue of wearing masks has not become law, the question is whether or not we need to even heed any mandate regarding the wearing of a mask. Whether or not one heeds the enforcement of the mask mandate at a local business may determine whether or not one can do business with that company. But our focus here is strictly on the question/issue of churches and the wearing of masks.

In Lancaster County it is not unusual to, on occasion, pass an Amish buggy. These buggies are not significantly different from what one would have seen 100 years or more ago…with two exceptions. The modern buggies have displayed on the back of their vehicles large triangular-shaped warning signs AND come equipped with battery operated flashing lights that can be seen from both the front and the rear of the buggy.

"Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God." – Romans 13:1

Romans 13 is the clearest and strongest New Testament passage challenging believers to live in obedience to the government. As all governments owe their very existence to Almighty God, it follows that we should do as they say as they are God's instruments for justice. But practical philosophical problems abound here. For if God has ordained the governments that exist…

Then on what basis can or should any of us vote to change them? The Puritans used to say, "He who grieves about the weather, grieves against God" as God is over the weather. If in the same way God is over the governments that exist then on what basis can any of us grieve, vote against or rally against the government that we have? Given this as a presupposition, there should never have been an American Revolutionary War.

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” – Colossians 3:2

It was about 13 years ago now that I became quite convinced that the U.S. was on the verge of going to war against North Korea. Various news reports seemed to support my conviction. I was certain that perilous times were right around the corner for both nations. Clearly I was wrong.

My error was prompted by two things: 1. What I was selectively watching, listening to and reading, and 2. My feelings. Thus my "conviction" was predicated upon faulty information and my gut-level feelings about what I had read. In the end, both were misleading.

"God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." – 1 Peter 5:5

Like Franklin Graham, I viewed Donald J. Trump's victory in 2016 as an intervention by God into the future of America. I was amazed how Trump overcame obstacle after obstacle (usually found in the form of some asinine comment made by him or yet another revelation of a dark event in his past) that had stood in his way. That he actually made it all the way to winning the presidency seemed almost miraculous. And so I hoped and prayed for his good success. As I said to a friend at the time, "Donald Trump has the capacity to become either one of America's greatest presidents or one of its worst."

Last November (2019) we weren’t wearing masks or social distancing. Then in 2020 came the pandemic and much has changed. Yet, there are some things that will never change…the church for one thing.

My husband and I live in a retirement community and since this is an older age community, there have been restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 virus. As a visitor driving on to our campus, now you must check in to have your temperature taken and answer questions similar to the requirements at any medical facility to determine if you are safe for the older residents who reside here. Social distancing and masks are still mandatory like many other public places.

Last Sunday was our annual congregational business meeting as well as our 10-year celebration. It is humbling to be reminded that the building of the church is Christ's principle work today and that we are part of that. As for the congregational meeting, for the second year in a row, by a unanimous vote, all officers were affirmed and the budget was approved. This may not seem significant to you but as one who has been at nearly 40 of these meetings and NEVER saw things being approved by a unanimous vote it is really quite amazing.

As suggested at the meeting, this November is a very busy month for Burning Hearts, so let me explain what I mean…

This is a big Sunday. If we weren't still in the midst of the coronavirus, the elders have agreed that we would be doing more to highlight this day. So, presuming things have returned to some sense of normalcy by next summer, hopefully then we will have a more official "celebration": inviting former members and attenders to come, hearing from some who may now be far away, rejoicing in God's mercy and goodness to us through these years.

Much has changed for many in these 10 years. For example:

  • A number of our earliest people are now with the Lord (Doris Carter, Jim Cohen, Jeanne Coleman, Diane Dickson, Zach Flick, Doris Flick, David and Esther Livingston, Marian Luce, Fran Pollack, Larry Ross, Tom Solanto, Susan Stover, and John Wagner (did I forget any?))
  • Just consider that every child you now see at Burning Hearts under the age of 10, did not even exist back when we started!
  • And, of course, a number of people moved away or have moved on.

I recently ordered copies of a book – one book for each family unit here at Burning Hearts. The books are a gift to you. And what is the book? It is entitled Reconstruction in America. I will tell you WHY I ordered these books for you all, but first let me give you a bit of my personal background as it relates to race relationships.

I grew up in Michigan, attending all-white schools and an all-white church. The only black person I came to know back then was a black maid who came to our house one day a week to clean. I was too young and naïve to be aware of racial tensions, problems or injustices. I do recall that there was a man who attended the church my dad pastored who was part of the John Birch Society. I didn't know what that meant, but I knew it had something to do with opposing Martin Luther King, Jr.

During the summer between my sophomore and junior years in high school we moved to Phoenix, Arizona. There I attended a high school that had only one black student: a girl, whose parents brought her to school each day in their Rolls Royce.

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" – John 21:15 (NIV)

Following the resurrection of Jesus Christ, there are recorded for us a number of times in which the disciples interacted with Jesus. In John chapter 21, the recorded interaction took place following the disciples, at Peter's prompting, having just spent a night fishing – a night in which they caught nothing. Come early morning, they were ready to quit when a man on shore called to them, challenging them to cast their net on the right side of the boat. They did so and brought in the haul of a lifetime: 153 large fish! To any fisherman, this was truly a fisherman's dream catch. Realizing that the man on shore was Jesus, they immediately headed in. Bringing ashore some of the fish they cooked them and ate. It is at this point that Jesus asked Peter the question noted in the quotation above: "Do you truly love me more than these?"

The following are thoughts on a variety of unrelated subjects, in no particular order...

COVID-19

The recent statement by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) that only 6% of the 200,000+ deaths attributed to the coronavirus involved people without known co-morbidities is huge. What this means is that if you are free of the list of co-morbidities (such as obesity, diabetes, COPD, etc), the likelihood of you getting the coronavirus and dying from it is statistically negligible.

Nursery Worker Volunteers

Nursery coordinator Patti Stone says that while she is still open to more volunteers, the nursery is currently fully staffed. Thank you!

Kitchenette

Within a week of announcing the need/desire for some donated cabinetry for our yet to be installed kitchenette (after January 1), we had a generous offer of exactly what we were looking for! So another Thank you!

Upcoming Events

Young Adults Sunday School
01 Aug 2021 - 09:00AM
Older Adults Sunday School
01 Aug 2021 - 09:00AM
Worship Service
01 Aug 2021 - 10:30AM
INEVITABLE Musical
01 Aug 2021 - 07:00PM
INEVITABLE Musical
02 Aug 2021 - 07:00PM