The Heartbeat
Just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment. – Hebrews 9:27

Back in 1983 Ruth and I were still quite young, we had no children, and we had just moved to Lancaster County. I was working as a real estate agent with Century 21 and Ruth was working at Park City Mall at a women's clothing store. Late one Wednesday night I received a phone call from my dad telling me that Mom had been taken to the hospital, had there collapsed on the floor and had been immediately rushed into surgery. Dad sounded very concerned and said, "Pray!" A few hours later he called back with the very brief and tearful message: "Your mother's dead. Come soon." And so it was that both Ruth and I flew the next day to St. Louis where we were picked up at the airport by a member of the church that Dad pastored in nearby Highland, Illinois.

…An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream… – Matthew 2:13

Dreams, and often the content of those dreams, are mentioned many times in the Bible. Besides the very famous dreams of Joseph and Pharaoh (recorded in Genesis), we have the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar (recorded in Daniel) and the dreams of Joseph, Mary's husband (recorded in Matthew). Indeed, in Matthew chapter 2 we have 5 dreams mentioned. All of these dreams are referenced as being a means by which divine truth was conveyed.

The Old Testament prophet Joel prophesied, "And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh: you sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions" (2:28). It was this passage that Peter quoted on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) in support of what the Holy Spirit was doing that day.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. – John 10:10

Let me be clear: I do not consider homosexual activity as the greatest of sins. Pride holds that honor. And the fact of the matter is that many Christians are committing that sin – pride – when they speak condescendingly of the sexual mores of others. Nevertheless it is impossible to take the Bible seriously and not be convinced that homosexual behavior is indeed sinful behavior.

In my years of counseling people, none has been as difficult as those cases where the individual is struggling with their sexual identity. How we view ourselves sexually is basic to who we are. So when that issue is unclear or unresolved in a person's mind it leaves the individual in a place of tremendous angst. I recently heard Pete Buttigieg (the Mayor of South Bend, Indiana who is running to be the democratic nominee for the office of President of the United States) commenting on his emotional struggles, as a teenage boy, as he tried to identify as a boy who should have been attracted to girls but who felt, deep down, a deep attraction to boys. He said that he cried out to God countless times to change how he was feeling. He said he would have given anything to see such a change in himself, but it didn't come. And so when he finally gave in to his desires (he is now "married" to a man) he actually felt relief.

I was actually a bit taken back when my son, Jonathan, began talking about the intersection of a person's time, health and money. I was taken back because when I was not much older than Jonathan I spent some time thinking about the exact same thing. Indeed, at that time, I developed a graph trying to ascertain the point at which those three lines best intersect. I.e., a person's available time generally decreases once children come into their life, but once those children are out of the home, in general (and there are exceptions to all of these points) there is more time available. Money generally increases throughout one's working career – at least what one earns. But come retirement the level of income goes down and any increase is more tied to the cost of living than to any accomplishments. As for health, we've been told that it is pretty much downhill after age 21 or so. Some stay in tremendously good health right into their senior years but the number of men who might boast with Caleb that at age 80 they are just as strong as they were at age 40 would be very, very, few.

Recently I came across a book review in which the writer suggested that the book that was being reviewed (The Civil War as a Theological Crisis by Mark Noll) might provide fodder to those in support of LGBTQ "rights" within the church. Now I have not yet read Noll's book so I am not able to comment on the book nor the reviewer's comment. But I am well acquainted with how the issue of slavery – a key issue in the American Civil War – was viewed so differently by northern and southern white Christians. The northern abolitionists argued that what was being done to the Africans bore no resemblance to the slavery mentioned in scripture and was an affront to God by robbing these people of their freedom and dignity. Those in the south, on the other hand, appealed to the Bible and its allowance of slavery as evidence enough that God was not opposed to the institution of slavery.

As we all know, the south lost that war (and argument).

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity. - Psalm 133:1 (ESV)

Since around the time of our dad's 80th birthday, my two sisters (Shirley and Marilou) and I have been meeting on an annual basis with our dad. For years that meant a week's wintertime vacation in Florida where he lived – something not hard to take! But since his leaving Florida and moving in with Shirley near St. Louis, we have been doing something different each year. Last year was our fantastic trip down the Mississippi River on a large paddleboat named the American Queen (paid for, in total, by our dad). This year we made a "Remembrance Tour" of the places that were dear to our dad and we three kids as children. Thus a road trip from Chicago, up into Wisconsin, the upper peninsula of Michigan, down into the lower peninsula and ending in Highland, Illinois. Here are a few highlights with some lessons to be learned...

And the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. - Romans 16:20 (ESV)

Well, I went to the enemy's camp and
I took back what he stole from me,
I took back what he stole from me,
I took back what he stole from me.
Well, I went to the enemy's camp and
I took back what he stole from me.

He's under my feet, under my feet,
Under my feet, under my feet,
Under my feet, under my feet;
Satan is under my feet.

(by Lindell Cooley)

It was a few years ago now when I believe we last sang this simple song at Burning Hearts. But when we did, a fellow came up to me at the end of the service to let me know how much he disliked the song. He said he disliked it not because of its simple (and repetitive) tune and words, but because of what it seemed to be teaching. It sounded so territorial to him as if the earth could be divided up into sections of land and we, as Christians, are now engaged in spiritual warfare to "take back" some of that land for Christ.

And he said, Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I shall return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. - Job 1:21 (ESV)

These were the words of Job following the death of his children and loss of most of his wealth. The death of one child would likely have been overwhelming but Job lost all of his children: seven sons and three daughters.

Many years ago I stopped in at the home of a couple whose son had just been killed in an auto accident. The couple was, from my perspective, almost cavalier about it. I later concluded that these two were actually in shock and because of that were responding in a way that seemed incongruous with what had just happened. In like manner, Job may have been in shock when he uttered the above words. It is not that what he said is not true. It is, in fact, all quite true. We simply don't expect such profound truths coming from the mouth of one who should be in such agony.

He who is not with me is against me… – Matthew 12:30 (KJV)

Recently I watched the 2013 film "Jobs" starring Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple Computer. I thought the film was very good and aided in giving the viewer insight into the creative and complex mind of Steve Jobs – who was also a very difficult person to be around. One of the perspectives that came through in the film was that Jobs was all about commitment, total buy-in to what was being done. He wasn't interested in having people at the company who were there just because they needed a job. Even if they were highly skilled, he wasn't interested in having them at the company if there was any question as to their commitment. At one point in the fill Jobs makes the point that "either you are for me or you are against me" – almost an exact quote of Jesus in Matthew 12:30. Jobs wanted people who were truly on the Apple team.

The four seasons have often been compared to stages of life:

    • Spring, representing birth and infancy, is the time when the buds appear on the trees, flowers spring forth from the earth and what had seemed dead suddenly comes to life.
    • Summer, representing adulthood, is that time when everything is up and running, so to speak. It is when the apples get big and ripe, and when the corn gets ready to pick. It is the production time of the year.
    • Fall, representing the senior years of life, is when the days grow shorter, and there is a sense of cold and change all around us. It is harvest time and a time to celebrate but the celebration is truly the feast before famine. It is when the leaves fall to the ground.
    • Winter, representing death, is when the earth grows cold, and still. Soon a blanket of snow will cover everything. It is the time of the year that the ants, bees, squirrels, and wiser men have been preparing for all year long.

An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. – Proverbs 31:10

On this 40th anniversary of Ruth's and my wedding day, it seems very appropriate that I honor her. All praise, ultimately, is due to our heavenly Father who ordained our lives and who by his Son saved us and then by his Spirit led us. But subordinate to my praise to our sovereign triune God for my wife, I offer this praise to my wife.

They say that a 40th anniversary is a "ruby anniversary" (in the way that a 25-year anniversary is a silver anniversary or a 50-year anniversary is a golden anniversary). As I don't have any rubies to offer my wife at this time, she is going to have to settle for this article (plus dinner tonight, some small tokens of love, and our long anticipated trip to Italy in September). After all, if she is "more precious than jewels" then maybe these other tokens of love will prove to be more precious than rubies. Anyway, here are but some of the reasons I honor and praise Ruth…

Come, my son, and see how a Christian can die. – Sir Henry Havelock

On this Father's Day, we men are often challenged. I used to have a fellow, pretty much every Father's Day, sing Cat's in the Cradle by Harry Chapman. It was and is a very convicting sort of song telling the story of a father who was consistently too busy to spend time with his son. And then, when the son had grown up, the son was now too busy to spend time with his dad. So I would have this fellow sing the song. He did a great job at it…and hated singing it every year. Because, like everyone else he said he felt convicted by the words he was singing.

I have said it for decades now that Ruth is a better mother than I am a father. She is more caring, better at talking with the children, and more aware of their lives and situations. It doesn't mean I care less; it just means she is better at showing care. And in this way I don't believe I'm a lot different than most dads.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. - Psalm 119:105 (KJV)

Over the past month, during the sermon time we have been examining my life verses. The fact that we have looked at four different verses (Romans 8:1, Matthew 5:6, Isaiah 66:2b and Job 42:12a) is itself sufficient to illustrate that one need not have only one life verse or that one's life verse may change over time (as was the case with me). Now here is the question for you: what is YOUR life verse? If someone were to ask you for your autograph and after signing your name you were to write a Bible reference to one Bible verse, what Bible reference would you give? Maybe you say, "I have no idea. I haven't really thought about it."

That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death… – Philippians 3:10 (ESV)

In passing I shared the following story last Sunday. But as I am aware that some people read these articles that do not attend Burning Hearts here, again, is my short story…

For the past couple years I have been getting to know Mitch Hart. Mitch and his wife Sharon attend Burning Hearts on occasion even though it is not their home church (at least not yet!). I have gone to a number of auction sales with Mitch and he joined me at last fall's Hershey Auto Swap. There are not a lot of people I know who have interests in antiques, art, cars, and Christ and so the link with Mitch has been an easy one to make.

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

Given the nature of these many sermons based upon "Pastor Doug's Favorite Bible Verses," one might get the impression that I (Pastor Doug) am all work and no play. Granted my life is not like a lot of other people's: given not only the nature of my work (which can be deadly serious at times (as I deal with the dead and the dying), but of my rather "different" devotional life. But I enjoy life greatly and have come to have a wide variety of interests.

Many years ago I began writing about "My Principles for Success." These principles were few and easy to remember:

1. Work hard
2. Keep yourself pure, and
3. Have fun

As I looked at the lives of those around me – particularly those in Christian ministry – it was clear that, by and large, those who had "crashed and burned" had violated one or more of these principles. Conversely, of those who I knew who appeared to live (either consciously or unconsciously) by these principles, they appeared to be doing well. Their "success" may not have been great, but they were doing well nonetheless.

Today I would like to briefly address the last of these three principles: have fun.

Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air… – 1 Thessalonians 4:16

I do not recall that I have ever addressed the issue of the rapture of the church as head on as I will in this brief article. But suffice it to say there is a lot of false teaching out there in regards to this great event. So let's get right into it…

1. The modern evangelical notion of a rapture as a sudden disappearance of millions of Christians (as presented in the Left Behind series and film) while leaving millions or billions of others behind is a false teaching, unknown until the middle of the 19th century, and should be rightly dismissed by anyone interested in Biblical truth.

2. The Bible DOES teach a rapture or being "caught up…in the clouds" of believers who are alive at the return of Christ. This is what is taught in the 1 Thessalonians 4:16 verse quoted above. But this rapture follows Christ's descent from heaven (presumably to earth), is accompanied with "the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet," and follows the resurrection of those believers who have already died. So this is hardly a secret event. Indeed, if this catching up of the saints is like Christ's own being caught up as recorded in Acts 1:9 (and it seems as though it will be), then it will be very visible to any and all.

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived… 1 Corinthians 2:9a

While I am certain the apostle Paul did not have in mind the events in an individual church's life when he penned the above words (from 1 Corinthians 2:9) they certainly seem to fit what we are going through. Now I don't think I have ever before written an article that centered on the church's finances. If I did, it probably was about our lack of funds. But this article is about the church's money and something truly wonderful.

For last Sunday, our weekly collection – a collection based upon a $4,037 weekly budget – was an astounding $23,225! Wow! If I recall correctly, our previous record giving for any particular week was around $9,000. This blew that previous record to smithereens. Just how or why there was such a record giving for that Sunday is unknown. But for all who ever worry about such things, and for our "finance people" who track these sort of things closely, there is a great sigh of relief and expression of gratitude not only to those who gave but to our God.

Jesus said to him, 'No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.' - Luke 9:62 (ESV)

I don't know about you, but I am very much driven and defined by various Biblical life themes, injunctions or challenges. For example, the above quoted verse (Luke 9:62) – a verse that I summarize with the words "Hand to the plow" – gives me direction. It means don't quit, don't look back, don't look around (at others) and don't complain. Just do your job and do it to the best that you are able. "Stay the course" would be another way of summarizing this verse. It is what helps give me tenacity to keep going.

Here are a few other life themes…

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. - James 1:22 (KJV)

For the fifth year in a row, Burning Hearts has the opportunity to join with other churches in the county by doing various acts of kindness in our community. We won't receive any pay for these acts of kindness. Few if any will thank us. Indeed we may go completely unnoticed. But we will make a difference.

So for six days – May 6 to 11 – we can each do something to bless others. Many of these things could, of course, be done at other times. But most likely we would not do them at other times. And so by joining with others from Burning Hearts as well as with those from other churches we will find a mutual encouragement to be of service in this way. Here then is how YOU can get involved…

  1. Roadside trash collection. Each year, Pastor Doug has headed up this effort to rid routes 283 and 30 of the roadside trash that visually pollutes our area. About one ton of trash is collected each year. There are both morning and evening collection times this year, each session lasting approximately 2 hours.

    Doug says he would appreciate the company. But with it or without it he is committed to doing it each day, Monday through Friday.

  2. Packing meals. This is actually a fun activity as, for 2 hours, you pack meals of beans and rice that will go to feed people in parts of the world where the meals you pack may literally mean the difference between life and death (by starvation).

  3. Donate blood. There are four different times and places where the blood drives are taking place.

  4. Saturday morning Citywide Cleanup. Again this year, an effort by many, many hundreds of people will help bring greater cleanliness to every street and every sidewalk within Lancaster city. This year's cleanup will start immediately after our Bravehearts' breakfast time (8 am at Gracie's)

So there you have it. The sign up sheets are in the lobby. I encourage you to sign up for something – one thing, at least. Or you can do nothing. But be reminded of the verse above: "Be ye doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves."

What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be… - 1 Corinthians 15:36-37a

Like you, I was stunned this past week at seeing the famed Notre Dame Cathedral go up in flames. It was and is still truly an iconic structure with its "flying buttresses." What will become of the congregation that called that building its church home, I do not know. But I do know that anyone who knows anything about a church knows that the building is not the church. The 17th century Quakers of Philadelphia indirectly taught this truth by calling their church buildings their "meeting houses." Today, many exhibit their ignorance of this by calling a church building a "church." But no building is a church. So, like those 60+ congregations in India (that we heard about on Missions Sunday) that have had their church building destroyed this past year, and like those three congregations in Louisiana that recently have had their buildings burned, the church that called the Notre Dame Cathedral its church home will go on. It may actually be the better for what has happened. During the meantime, as President Macron of France has pledged, the Notre Dame Cathedral will be rebuilt.

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, ALWAYS ABOUNDING IN THE WORK OF THE LORD, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. - 1 Corinthians 15:58

These are busy days for Burning Hearts. Beyond the regular schedule of Sunday morning (Sunday School and church service), Wednesday night prayer meeting, and various small group meetings during the week, just consider:

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