The Heartbeat
We are fools for Christ… - 1 Corinthians 4:10a (NIV)

Last Sunday, the children in the elementary age Sunday School class watched a video regarding the life of Jim Elliot. Jim Elliot and four other missionaries to Ecuador were killed back in January of 1956 while attempting to make contact with a remote and savage tribe known as the Huaorani people (though often called the Auca Indians). News of the deaths of these five American missionaries became a major news story back in the U.S. And so it was, in the Sunday School class we talked about what missionaries often have to give up in order to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to various parts of the world. Just consider, they may have to give up:

The LORD called me from the womb, from the body of my mother He named my name. He made my mouth like a sharp sword. - Isaiah 49:1b-2a

Isaiah and Jeremiah were two of Israel's great prophets. They are both considered "latter prophets" for their time of influence came when Israel was in decline. The Assyrians would gobble up Israel in the 8th century B.C., and in the 5th century the Babylonians would do the same to the southern tribes, known as Judah. Isaiah spoke to that earlier period of downfall and Jeremiah to the later period. But these men were similar in that they both believed they were called from before the time of their birth (cf. Jeremiah 1:5) to be prophets or spokesmen for God. Likewise, they believed that God had put in their mouths words that simply HAD to be spoken (Isaiah 6:8-13; Jeremiah 20:9). But in the above quote from Isaiah 49:2a there is a most interesting line: "He made my mouth like a sharp sword."

Thomas answered him, 'My Lord and my God!' Jesus said to him, 'Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.' - John 20:28-29

Most Christian churches would today affirm their belief in the Trinity – that idea that Almighty God exists in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Some even have that as part of their church's name. Yet, if they know the scriptures, they would also acknowledge that the word "Trinity" does not occur in the Bible. Indeed, they might even acknowledge that the concept of the Trinity developed over time and that it was some centuries before the church came to fully embrace it as a foundational expression of Christian orthodoxy. That it took the church several centuries before coming to formally embrace the idea of a Triune God is often used as an argument against the teaching, but I would see it just the opposite. The fact that the church was slow, or reticent, to embrace the concept of the Trinity supports the notion that this was not a teaching that the church WANTED to embrace. After all, "One God in three persons" – how does that make any sense? It is almost impossible to explain. Certainly no one in his or her right mind would choose this as a teaching of the church. If one were starting a new religion, one would certainly not choose to teach as foundational something that is unexplainable.

The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.' – Psalm 53:1

In his book On Guard, Christian apologist William Lane Craig makes the point that traditional atheism has pretty well disappeared. Having been confronted on many levels by able defenders of the Christian faith, philosophical atheists have concluded that it is impossible to prove a universal negative (such as "There is no God."). As mankind's knowledge of the universe is not exhaustive, one can no more say "There is no God" than one might say "There are no 12-legged cyclops." Just because we have never seen a 12-legged cyclops hardly means that in the vastness of the universe there might not be a 12-legged cyclops. In the same way modern atheism is willing to assert that there MAY BE a God or god somewhere in this vast universe. But having not seen that God the modern atheist has now redefined atheism NOT in terms of there being no God/god, but as an unbelief in any God/god. Dr. Craig points out that given this new definition of atheism (which I have above called apisteuism, meaning, no belief), then babies are born atheists, and all our dogs are atheists, as none of these "believe" in God.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die… - Ecclesiastes 3:1-2a

My sister, Shirley, called me this past week to let me know that she had just heard that our aunt Hazel, better known to our family as "Tookie", age 85, had fallen and in falling had struck her head. The net effect of this was that there was severe bleeding on the brain leaving her effectively "brain dead." They were keeping her on life support waiting for her children to arrive at the hospital. Her eldest son, Peter, lives in Madrid, Spain and there heads up a consulting organization to various Christian mission agencies around the world. Peter and his two sisters all arrived within two days, they then "pulled the plug" and within three hours Tookie was dead. The funeral is this afternoon (Sunday). My dad, Shirley, and a number of other relatives are all coming for the service.

…Contend for the faith…for certain people have crept in unnoticed…ungodly people who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality… - from Jude 3-4

This past week, in a highly anticipated meeting, delegates from the United Methodist Church voted by a narrow margin to uphold the "Traditional Position" of the church in regards to sexual matters. By this they again affirmed their belief that marriage has been ordained by God to be between a man and a woman and that marriage is the only proper context for sexual expression. This vote came as a great disappointment to many within the global body of United Methodists and in particular to the more liberal U.S. council of United Methodist bishops. If it were not for the fact that the United Methodist Church has a substantial number of churches and church members on the African continent, the vote would have undoubtedly gone in a direction that would have affirmed the LGBT community in their lifestyle choices. But the African church remains much more conservative and admittedly "Biblical" than its European and American counterparts. But just in case one thinks, "Well, that issue has finally been settled" within the United Methodist Church, opponents of the decision vowed that they will bring it up again for a vote at the next annual convention. And for all the disagreement among the delegates, there was an overriding sense of agreement on one point, namely, that the United Methodist Church will soon be fracturing, with one or both sides leaving to form a new denomination.

For I am confident of this very thing that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. - Philippians 1:6

God has me on a journey I didn't choose but I've learned so much along the way.

Several years ago God began stripping me of all I had depended upon, starting with my husband's death and then with the loss of my own health. As I have become weaker and weaker I am more aware of my total dependence on my Heavenly Father for everything including my next breath.

As God is weaning me from the allure of this world, my fellowship with Him gets sweeter. Praise and thanksgiving now more readily come to my lips. My failing health has also given me many opportunities to share my faith and eternal hope with doctors and nurses. The farther He leads me the greater has been my acceptance of how He is perfecting me for the life to come.

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, 'Brothers, what shall we do?" Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized every one of you… – Acts 2:37-38
The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved…" – Acts 16:29-31

Last Sunday I asked for your prayers as I was going that afternoon to the Ephrata Hospital to present the gospel message to a woman (Carol) who is dying. When I arrived at the hospital I found the room quite full of people. Ideally, in my mind, I would be talking to Carol privately. But as that is what I found that is what I went with. I introduced myself and quickly learned that Larry Mellinger had let Carol's husband, Don (who was there) know that I would be coming. I said, "Did Larry tell you WHY he wanted me to come?" Don seemed somewhat unclear as to why that was so I said, "Larry is concerned, Carol, for your eternal soul and so he wanted to make certain that you heard God's message of salvation as presented in the Bible. Carol, would it be okay with you if I told you that message?" She said it would be okay. And so I gave a 15 minute or so overview of the Bible's story: creation, fall, law, redemption (salvation through Christ's death for sinners) and application. When I had finished (I somewhat rushed as it was clear Carol was having trouble staying with me: she was very groggy being drugged up for pain relief) I said, "Have you ever asked Jesus to come into your life, forgive you of your sin, and be your Savior?" She nodded no, she never had. I then said, "Is there any reason why you would not want to ask Jesus to save you today? Would you like to ask Jesus to save you?" It was then that Don spoke up and said, "Yes, I would!" Carol said the same. I asked if anyone else in the room desired to do so. No one responded. So I had us stand in a circle holding hands and I led in a time of prayer giving both Don and Carol the opportunity to pray out loud – which they both did.

Then the Lord said to Moses, 'See, I have chosen Bezalel, son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability, and knowledge…– Exodus 31:1-3a

There is currently a Men's Book Study taking place at Burning Hearts wherein the men in that group are studying (reading/discussing) the book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, by Mark Noll. Professor Noll and his book had a marked influence on our own Tim Martin and because Tim spoke so highly of the book it seemed like it would be worth our time to read it. And so the study group.

Noll's main point is that, for whatever reason, Christians, by and large, long ago abandoned the worlds of academia and the arts. Noll's principle focus is academia but this article is about the arts.

Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not 'kissed him'. - 1 Kings 19:18

The above was God's response to Elijah when we felt as though he was all alone – God's sole man in the entire nation of Israel. Without question, times were tough in those days for any who were willing to take a stand for God. One might have expected to feel as Elijah did if they had been in Assyria, Babylon or Egypt. But this was Israel: that nation that God had called out from all the other nations. This was the land of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – the land where the people's ancestors had walked with and talked with God. How could things have devolved so quickly into such paganism and idolatry? And so we read of Elijah's depression.

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD – Psalm 33:12a

This past week (while the media was making much of some Roman Catholic boys and their confrontation with some native Americans in Washington D.C.) New York State's governor, Andrew Cuomo, signed into law the nation's most liberal, far sweeping overhaul of its laws regarding abortion. Now, in New York, a woman may obtain an abortion right up to the point of her delivery. That is to say, now a fully developed child, nine-months in development, may be cut to pieces and thrown away with the state's blessing. This is so repulsive that it should make every American hide his or her head in shame. Yet in New York it was celebrated, the Freedom Tower's spire, at the governor's insistence, being lit up in pink.

The Bible is clear that God offered to Israel two options: blessing or cursing. Proverbs 3:33 reads, "The Lord's curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the dwelling of the righteous." If that is true, and not just wishful thinking, then here are some implications that I can see from this new law enacted in New York…

I will use treatment to help the sick according to my ability and judgment, but never with a view to injury and wrongdoing. Neither will I administer a poison to anybody when asked to do so, nor will I suggest such a course. Similarly I will not give a woman a pessary to cause abortion… ~Hippocratic Oath

Oh how times have changed. Though ascribed to for over two millennia, Hippocrates' oath (from the late 4th century B.C.) is no longer used by the vast majority of medical schools. Versions of it or those similar to it (the Osteopathic Oath, the Declaration of Geneva, the Oath of Maimonides, etc) have now taken its place. And, no surprise, these more modern versions have deleted the words highlighted above.

A pessary is, according to Webster's dictionary, "a vaginal suppository." What the Hippocratic Oath intended to prohibit was a doctor's use of any sort of abortifacient. The irony of our current age is that the very ones who long ago were kept from causing harm to the unborn are now the same ones bringing the harm. The very ones who labored "never with a view to injury" are the ones by whose hands the greatest of injuries now take place.

What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. – Ecclesiastes 1:9

The "Grandfather of Contemporary Christian Music," Larry Norman, once wrote a song entitled "Nothing Really Changes." It was a very creative piece suggesting that while the externals may change (e.g., long ago they drove chariots, today we drive Corvettes), in the most basic ways "Nothing really changes. Everything remains the same. You are what you are 'til the day that you die."

This seems to fly in the face of my father's oft repeated line about how nothing stays the same. In the 36+ years that Ruth and I have lived in Lancaster County that certainly seems to be the case.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. - Hebrews 13:8

When I had just turned two years old, my parents gave me a train set for Christmas. It was a Marx set with an engine and five cars. That was in 1954. My grandfather was a semi-professional photographer and filmmaker and filmed some wonderful 16mm footage of that Christmas. Recently I took out that same Marx train, put it together, and let the Rausch children play with it. It was really quite amazing to watch that train go around the track just as it had 64 years earlier. I could not help but think, "Boy, they sure don't make things to last like that anymore! 64 years. That was a toy that was made to last."

We Christians have a message that is particularly well heard at this time of the year. It is a message that is nearly 2,000 years old: that God sent His only-begotten Son into this world to redeem this world by His own blood. John 3:16 was written over 1,900 years ago but it still rings just as true as when it was written:

And a sword will pierce through your own soul also… Luke 2:35a

The birth of Jesus was, and is, an event to celebrate. Our Christmas celebrations all hark back to that event. Even an unbelieving world gives an acknowledgement to that birth, with shepherds worshiping and angels singing.

Luke, the doctor-historian, made it clear in the preface to his account of Jesus' life (as written to Theophilus) that he wanted to give "an orderly account" of what took place in regards to the life of Jesus. Apparently he interviewed Mary, the mother of Jesus, before writing his account.

Like any mother…and maybe a first time mother in particular…Mary would have been not only relieved at the birth of Jesus but also very happy to see her child was healthy and physically fine. The amount of joy she felt was certainly great. And then to have had the shepherds show up! What likely began as a really bad night (no place to sleep; getting stuck in a stable/barn (cave?)) ended as a really great night. And then, to have given birth so close to Jerusalem made the dedication of her son a lot easier than it otherwise would have been.

Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? – Psalm 85:6

I would define "revival" as a stirring of the hearts and lives of God's people that results not only in repentance from sin and a fresh filling of God's Holy Spirit, but that also overflows to the lost: convicting the lost of their sin and need for a Savior.

It was many years ago now that I read, in fairly rapid succession, three books on the topic of revival. Those books were:

The Puritan Hope by Ian Murray. This book traced what took place among the Puritan (plain Protestant) churches in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries and how the vibrant spirit seen in those churches led to a belief that God was yet going to do a great saving work among the Jewish people.

And Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king. – Matthew 1:5-6a

When I was growing I recall hearing my preacher father tell the story of a fellow pastor whom he knew. If I remember the details correctly, both this man and my father were pastoring churches in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan at the time. Anyway, something happened at this other pastor's church that prompted the church to call a special meeting. At that meeting, several people made strong accusations against the pastor. The pastor did not answer the accusations. What he did do was begin to cry. I don't know what happened to the church or the pastor in the end. But this much I remember and that is that this pastor later recounted the events of that meeting to my pastor father. And when it came to his recounting how he broke down and cried he said, "I was crying not because of the things that were being said against me but because of the things that were not being said. That is, for all the charges that were made against me I knew that before God deep down I was and am a far worse man than any of those charges would have suggested."

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. - 1 Thessalonians 5:18

As many times as I have read William Bradford's account of the Pilgrims and their first year in Massachusetts, I am still quite taken back by what I read. Bradford, who had become governor of the small colony of those who had survived the difficult trip across the Atlantic, was faced with the nearly impossible task of overseeing this group that was ravaged by death and disease. Later, Bradford would write of that first year (1620-21), "In two or three months (nearly) half of our company died, especially in January or February…That of the 100 and odd persons scarcely fifty remained." In fact, of the 102 who had boarded the Mayflower, only 44 were still alive by the fall of 1621. It was then, in late September or early October, after having shot some wild turkeys with their muskets (and the "ninety Indians" having brought five deer), a joint festival of Pilgrims and Indians was held. And what was the purpose of this festival? According to William Bradford it was that they might feast on the fruits of their labors, "thanking God Almighty for HIS CARE AND PROVISION for them." It is those words in caps that get me every time. Over half the people were DEAD and they were gathering to thank God Almighty for "His care and provision for them."

I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind. - Ecclesiastes 1:14

This past week's fires in California have reminded me of the comment that is often made about "straightening chairs on the deck of the Titanic." As with the Titanic, so too I am sure that no one in Paradise, California, thought – just a week ago – "Everything we own will be gone a week from now." A week ago the people were likely mowing their lawns, raking leaves or washing their cars. We say, "Oh, my…if they had only known what was coming their way!" As with the sinking of the Titanic, how differently things would have been for those 1,503 people who perished that night…if they had only known before they got on board what the night of April 15, 1912 would bring.

Some years back I read Phil Vischer's book, Me, Myself and Bob – a book I highly recommend. Phil was the creator of Veggie Tales. The book traced the rise and fall of Big Idea: how the company came into being, lost (in his opinion) its original vision and eventually headed into bankruptcy. At the end of the book Vischer writes about how his idea of "vision" changed. In the early years, his vision was marked by things like how many new films could be produced in a year or what new product line items might be produced. After it all came crashing down, Phil's vision for the future changed to a deep desire to know God…a Philippians 3:10 sort of vision. It reminded me of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church's sign on the outside of their building where it says, "OUR VISION…PROVERBS 3:5-6."

Phil's book rang true to my heart. For by the time I read it I had grown very weary of the "church growth movement" and its emphasis upon being purpose driven (Warren), goal oriented, etc. So much of what I read sounded more like secular business plans than any seeking after the face of God. Also it all sounded so self-engrandizing, regardless of the fact that it was being done "for the glory of God."

…Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. – Matthew 6:10

Once again we are faced with an election. And once again we are being told "this may be the most important election of our lifetime." You may believe that but I've been hearing that same line for the last 40 years. I'm not suggesting that this election is unimportant; I'm simply suggesting that I get tired of the hype.

When is the political wrangling ever going to end? Who is going to lead, who is going to win, who is going to save? Will it ever end?

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