The Heartbeat
And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household." ~ Matthew 13:57

The above quote is often abbreviated to "a prophet is without honor in his hometown." This is one of the reasons musicians often seek to schedule a "world tour." For if the people in Denver, or Spokane or London think they are great, then maybe the folks back home in Flint, Michigan will finally take notice. At least that is the hope.

Back in the 1940s, my grandfather (Robert W. Winne) was the president of the local chapter of the Christian Businessmen's Association. This was in the Chicago area, though I don't believe it was for the entire city of Chicago that he was president. As president he had the responsibility of scheduling and overseeing the monthly meetings. Often he invited someone from the outside to come and speak. And so it was that on one particular month he invited Billy Graham, a young preacher who had become involved with Chicagoland Youth for Christ to come and speak to the men. My grandfather promoted the meeting, making certain the businessmen in the area knew of it and who was to be the guest speaker. The month that Billy Graham spoke 13 men showed up at the meeting. I heard about this from the time I was a little boy.

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

This past week was the graveside service for Curt Morris. Just over eleven years ago, Curt, at the age of 46, was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s – dementia, and of a particularly debilitating sort. I had performed Curt and Sandy's wedding in the very late 1980s and when Sandy reached out, seeking help with Curt, for a period of time I had taken on a caretaker role with him. But that was back when Curt was still able to speak and even walk, albeit slowly. When Sandy asked if I might be involved in his burial service I felt honored to do so.

"Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." – 1 Thessalonians 5:18
"Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." – Ephesians 5:20

Many years ago I heard Dr. James Dobson speaking on the radio and he was making the point that while 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to be thankful IN all things or circumstances it doesn't tell us to be thankful FOR all things or circumstances. The trouble with that is, of course, that elsewhere in the Bible (in Ephesians 5:20) we are told to be thankful FOR all things. So while technically Dr. Dobson was correct about 1 Thessalonians 5:18, what he was saying was misleading.

"And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?" And the King will answer them, "Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me." – Matthew 25:39-40

Have you ever visited someone in prison? Visiting people in prison is one of the real joys of a pastor. It is a joy not because the person is in prison but because 1) as a pastor you get to go where others do not, 2) it is one of the most "concrete" of all pastoral experiences (truly being with someone in a difficult time and being able, at that time, to offer solace, comfort and company), 3) it is out of the routine, 4) you get to represent Jesus to everyone – not just the person you are visiting but also all those along the way, and when you make a prison visit, there are a good number of people along the way.

“You’re on speaker phone…”

I was just told I would be the next Senior Pastor of Burning Hearts. I've been carrying this calling and desire to be a Senior Pastor for years--is this actually happening? "Say thank you" Tera mouthed to me as I stood there awkwardly on the phone.

I’m sometimes very bad at responding to good news. When someone gives me a present, I dislike unwrapping it in front of them. I struggle to find the words to express myself at that moment.

I don't really remember what I said when I heard the news. If you were expecting loud cheering on my end, you may have been disappointed. I try to use humor to relieve the awkwardness that I bring to these types of moments when I can't get the right words together. So now, having had more time to process this reality, I wanted to share my thoughts.

Some weeks back we invited a neighbor to our house for dinner. This is a single man in (I would guess) his mid to late 40s. He is in good physical shape and works hard, but he is currently all alone, his children now being adults and his wife having divorced him (or he her…not sure). But, anyway, we invited him to dinner. When, after a few weeks of receiving no reply to our text invitation, I saw him outside and so went over to him, began talking, and then mentioned the dinner invitation.

"I won't be coming," he said. "Not to any dinner at a pastor's house. I know you mean well, but after what I've been through with a pastor and a church, I'm not interested." He then went on for many minutes telling what had happened to him (the pastor ran off with his wife) and how even earlier in life his father – a regular church goer – was a known molester, yet the church never confronted him. "I'm done with organized religion. I think Jesus came to save us from organized religion. So I'm done with it. The church took too much from me, including a large pile of money that I gave to it. But I'm done. So, no, I won't be coming to your house for dinner. You may disagree with me, but that's where I'm coming from."

It was a couple years now when Tom invited me to join him in playing some ping-pong. I had not played ping-pong since college days but had always enjoyed playing. And so it was that we started in on what has become a near weekly event. Initially we just played as we had each remembered playing but then Peter Rohrer (a very good ping-pong player) told us about the "International Rules of Ping-Pong": rules like you must serve open handed, the ball rising at least approx. 5-6 inches before being served; you must serve from behind the edge of the table; serves are two each with 11 points winning a game, etc. Since that time both Tom's and my playing have greatly improved. But here are some spiritual applications from ping-pong to everyday life…

1. There is no game if there are no rules. That is, take away the rules for the game and chaos is what ensues. So too in life, there are rules – handed down from God to all of us. Take away the rules, or live as if there are no rules (and no judgment to come), and chaos is what takes place. During that period between when Israel was ruled by judges and then ruled by a king, it says of ancient Israel, "everyone did as he saw fit" (Judges 21:25), that is, each person did what seemed right to them. That kind of relativism doesn't work while playing ping-pong nor does it work while trying to have an ordered society.

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." – Jeremiah 29:11

Much of Evangelicalism has been critical of the "Prosperity Gospel" with its teaching that God wants to prosper his people. Certainly there are Bible verses that teach about God blessing his people. But, it is argued, there are also verses that teach his cursing or his withholding of blessing. In addition we have the scriptures putting before us examples of godly people who faced tremendous hardships, suffering and persecution, our Lord Jesus' life being characterized by a "perpetual cross" (Calvin). Yet, for all of this teaching that helps give some balance to the Prosperity Gospel advocates, Jeremiah 29:11 has become a verse embraced by nearly all Evangelicals. That is to say, the very ones who might criticize Kenneth Copeland for his Prosperity Gospel teaching will themselves quote Jeremiah 29:11 as if it was written for them. At a minimum this certainly seems odd.

People want to apply Jeremiah 29:11, a verse that was not and is not addressed to them, and read it as though it had them in mind. But why THAT verse? How about one of these other verses from Jeremiah instead…

"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." – John 16:33

Recently I was talking to someone about the trials of their life. On many fronts and in many ways they were facing obstacles. It was then that I shared what might be called a "life philosophy" that I thought worth their consideration.

I said, "In many ways and on many fronts, you are facing challenges. Collectively, if you are not careful, you could be overcome by these challenges. The answer is, I think, to learn to change hats." And it was then that I shared my "life philosophy" – how I think any of us can and even should face our personal challenges. I said, "We need to learn to change hats. So we can go from wearing the 'spend time with the children' hat to putting that hat off and putting on the 'fix the car' hat. Later we will take that hat off and put on the 'pay the bills' hat and then the 'eat supper with the family' hat and so forth. We need to own a bunch of hats and learn to take one off and put on another depending on the circumstances. Otherwise, we can be overcome by the challenges of life.

"…You are all one in Christ Jesus." – Galatians 3:28c

At elder Dave Graves' recommendation, I recently read the book The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby, a young black evangelical who has attended Reformed Theological Seminary. I would highly recommend the book for your reading.

I grew up in an area of Michigan that was overtly racist. I can recall hearing many "black jokes" as a child. I don't ever recall my parents telling one of these jokes, but I also do not recall my parents ever speaking disparagingly regarding such jokes or the joke tellers. There were no "coloreds" in any of the public schools I attended.

Between my sophomore and junior years of high school we moved to Phoenix, Arizona. There I again attended the public school but there, in my class, was one black girl. This was a very affluent area. Her parents drove her to school each day…in their Rolls Royce.

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." – Matthew 5:6

We're a number of weeks away from the Sunday that I will actually be dealing with Matthew 5:6, but this is the verse that is on my mind NOW so let's go with it.

Many years ago I adopted Matthew 5:6 as my "life verse." Prior to that I had adopted Romans 8:1, and after Matthew 5:6 I adopted Isaiah 66:2b and then Job 42:12a. It would seem I am a bit unclear as to what my "life" verse should be!

But the thing that I liked (and still like) about Matthew 5:6 is that it spoke to the issue of a deep longing. The verse isn't about merely eating and drinking in righteousness; the verse is about a LONGING for righteousness. When people LONG for things they tend to be thinking on them all the time. The guy in the old Western movie who is out in the desert, dying of thirst, isn't just a little bit thirsty…he is DESPARATE for water.

"But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word." – Isaiah 66:2b

Six weeks from now you who are members of Burning Hearts Community Church are going to be asked to vote not only on the budget and list of officers for 2022 but also on whether or not Justin Kabakjian should become the next Senior Pastor. (In addition you may also be asked to vote on a proposed revised Statement of Faith but the elders have yet to make a decision about that).

I want to be very clear about this: The elders and I are in full support of Justin taking on this role. Will Justin preach the same way that I (Pastor Doug) have preached? No. Will he approach a text in the exact same way? No. Will his mannerisms, use of humor, stories, or emphases be the same? No. What we believe will be the same is that Justin will handle the word of God with respect not only for God and His word but for His people as well.

When in 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the doors of the Wittenberg Chapel we can be quite certain he had no idea what kind of Pandora's box he was opening. His "protest" led to the eventual founding of literally thousands of non-Roman church denominations. The Roman Catholic Church may be able to speak, via its pope, with one voice, and the Orthodox Church the same to a lesser degree, but Protestantism has no single voice. So whatever you may WANT to hear, you can likely find a Protestant church that will satisfy you.

This raises the question "What should one look for in a church?" Whatever you want you can find, so what should you want…what should you look for?

1) Look for a church that is doctrinally sound. Charles Spurgeon, the great English 19th century preacher, once wrote, "There is no such thing as good novel (meaning new) theology." If you find a church that is teaching things you have never heard before, it is likely they are teaching things that are not good. The greater church of Jesus Christ has had two thousand years to refine its understanding of the teaching of scripture and some very erudite minds have dedicated themselves to that task. Stick with a church that is founded on the Bible and the clear teaching of the Bible as it has been taught through the centuries.

"The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." – Lamentations 3:22-23

As many of you know, I am one of those who had a reaction to receiving a coronavirus vaccination shot. I received the first of my two Pfizer shots on March 27 of this year. By the next day I felt greatly fatigued and not "right." This continued into May when Burning Hearts' Men's Discipleship Group does their annual 5k runs. During both runs I felt as though I could not get my breath. I wrote it off to just getting older, but I couldn't understand why there should have been such a marked difference between this year and last year. Finally, a few weeks later I went to see the doctor. He immediately spoke to me about my heart being out of rhythm. I told him about how all of my fatigue and shortness of breath began the day after my first coronavirus shot. Although I have had some heart issues since around 2004 or 2005, these past issues were always easily corrected by a small pill. But with this, the arrhythmia had become chronic and no pills, sleep or rest would seem to change it. The doctor's opinion was that the COVID vaccination shot had "triggered" (his words) atrial fibrillation in my heart. And so, he sent me to a cardiologist.

I have, in the past, addressed at length the topic of Christian atheism. This is the sort of atheism that we see in western society today. It is a respectful atheism: recognizing the rights of others, caring for the oppressed and seeking to be moral – all themes of Christianity and not of a consistent atheism. A purely materialistic view of life (consistent atheism) promotes "survival of the fittest" in a fierce competition against all others to be at the top. We can be thankful that the atheism we are seeing is so inconsistent, having been bred and surviving within a greater Christian milieu.

This article is not about this inconsistent Christian atheism, but about its counterpart: atheistic Christianity. Atheistic Christianity is the sort of Christianity that is seen all too often in the church. Here are its marks…

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." – Romans 8:28

In so many ways, these seem to be very troubling times…

  • The Taliban retaking control of Afghanistan
  • The coronavirus mutating so as to form a more aggressive Delta variant
  • Children being required to wear masks to attend public school
  • A national debt that is astronomical and growing rapidly
  • Unrest in many major cities
  • Hundreds of thousands of people entering the country illegally
  • Yet another earthquake in Haiti

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

Last Sunday was a big Sunday in that I was able to announce, on behalf of the board of elders, that we are prepared to recommend Justin Kabakjian to the congregation as the next Senior Pastor at Burning Hearts. You all will have the opportunity to vote on that recommendation at the October 31 congregational business meeting. If approved, Justin will take over my place on January 1, 2023. We are excited about this.

What we had not expected to have to announce was the report (that we ourselves just recently learned) that the building in which we are meeting is being sold. Eurofins has had its eyes on this building for years and now it appears that due to an offer that the owner felt he could not refuse the building will likely change hands before the end of this year. Our lease (good until the end of 2024) will remain intact. We cannot be forced out. So, on the one hand, we have almost 3.5 years to enjoy this building that we have put so much time, labor and money into. On the other hand, that 3.5 years may feel like it is flying by.

"Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?…neither the sexually immoral…" – 1 Corinthians 6:9

It was 39 years ago next month that Ruth and I moved from Germantown, PA to Lancaster County. Prior to moving here we had come out to Lancaster many times before – mainly for auctions. Even now, while walking through our house, I can point out item after item that we bought in those first few years of marriage at an auction held somewhere here in Lancaster County.

Anyway, when we moved here we moved into the house in which we are still located. So, 39 years in the same house! (That's not a record but it is a rarity.) The house worked out great for our growing family, but once the kids began moving out we began thinking of how we might make the house pay for itself. And so now, for many years, we have had two apartments: a first-floor rear apartment and a second-floor apartment. Both are very private with private entrances.

"But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." – Philippians 3:20

Back when I was attending Westminster Theological Seminary, I spent a summer working as a youth pastor at a small Baptist Church near Pontiac, Michigan. Actually my job was two-fold: youth pastor AND church custodian. (Those were two jobs that worked in opposition to each other!)

As I was the custodian, I had some say in how things were set up, how they looked, etc. One thing that I didn't like was that at the front of the auditorium was a large U.S. flag on an upright flagpole. And so one day I moved the flag to a back room.

That was over 40 years ago so I don't recall all the particulars exactly, but in my mind, not more than a day or two went by before I was called in by the pastor. Why had I moved the flag?

"Who has believed what he has heard from us…?" – Isaiah 53:1

For some time now I have been making my way through the book of Isaiah as part of my devotional time. Recently I again read Isaiah 53. As a Christian, try as hard as I can, I simply cannot understand that chapter as anything other than a prophetic passage about Jesus. I know that unbelieving Jews have suggested it is speaking of Israel as a nation, but it sure sounds a lot more like a prophecy about Jesus. Indeed, the fact that a reading of Isaiah 53 is skipped over in synagogues today implies that even most Jewish leaders are troubled by it (thinking that, yes, it sure does sound a lot like Jesus).

So here is my question: why don't modern Jews just accept that that is what Isaiah 53 is about? Why don't…why won't…modern Jews accept Jesus as the promised Messiah?

"Do not be deceived…" – 1 Corinthians 6:9b

Everyone wants to be accepted. The irony of this entire issue of transgenderism is that the kind of acceptance that our society has expressed towards the transgender is rooted in what has historically been seen as Christian love and an understanding of God's grace. In church life we are all quite quick to confess that "we are all sinners, saved by grace." That notion of grace is what is behind our western society's acceptance of all "sinners."

There is a problem with this, however, and Alexander Pope (1699-1744) summarized it well in a short poem:

Vice is a monster of so frightful mean
As to be hated; needs but to be seen
Yet seen too oft – familiar with her face
We first endure, then pity, then embrace

Upcoming Events

Bravehearts Breakfast & Annual Trap Shoot
08 Oct 2022 - 07:00AM
Adult Sunday School
09 Oct 2022 - 09:00AM
Worship Service
09 Oct 2022 - 10:30AM
Prayer Meeting
12 Oct 2022 - 07:00PM
Adult Sunday School
16 Oct 2022 - 09:00AM