The Heartbeat
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.

…and a time to die… – Ecclesiastes 3:2

No matter how much we may talk about it, make plans for it (putting "our house in order" physically and/or spiritually), and affirm that it is coming our way, death remains the great mystery of existence. We spend nine months in the womb followed by several years learning the basics of life. The next 20 or so years are spent, generally, pursuing some kind of formal education either to teach us a skill or some specialized knowledge that can be utilized to help us make it the rest of the way through life. Along the way we may live many places, marry and have children, and impact many people for good or bad. And then, in a moment, we are no more. We become a mere memory in the minds of those who knew us. A birth is a miracle to behold, but to witness a death is no less emotionally overwhelming.

Of making many books, there is no end. - Ecclesiastes 12:12b

There is no end to either the making (writing) nor the reading of books. Summertime is an especially good time for both. In this brief article I would like to highlight some recommendations for your summertime reading…

The Autobiography of Malcolm X. If you are like me, you grew up in a world of white privilege. Reading this book about Malcolm Little can help one gain an understanding of life from a very different perspective. It was my reading of this book, now decades ago, that prompted me to want to make a racial difference in this world.

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write…" - Jude 3

If Jude could change the entire focus of a letter he was writing, then please allow me to change my focus for this editorial. For although I was very eager to write to you about Go Beyond (and what was accomplished last week), I find it necessary to write to you about this most momentous day: Mother's Day.

Any more we have celebrations for just about anyone or anything. There's Father's Day, Grandparent's Day, and Secretary's Day. There's Black Awareness month, National Day of Prayer, Earth Day and Pastor Appreciation month. When it gets really hot during summer we speak about Dog Day afternoons. I don't know if that means we should especially recognize our dogs on those afternoons but in our home that would sound about right: recognizing our dog for an afternoon but having an entire month to show appreciation to our pastor (me!). Yes, I like that one.

Making the best use of time, because the days are evil. – Ephesians 5:16

Are you looking for additional time? Then here's an idea to consider…

It was when our son David was first looking at colleges that I became acquainted with Facebook. We were touring Liberty University (where he eventually attended) and were in what I would have called the Student Union building, up on the second floor. There in a room filled with randomly placed couches so as to form numerous places for students to meet and "hang" not a single student was seated. The room was lined with a waist high shelf upon which were an innumerable number of computer monitors and keyboards. Small vertical dividers separated each computer space. These semi-open cubicles were filled with students, one student at each monitor. Not sure what this meant I asked our student tour guide what was going on. "Oh," he replied, "They're all on Facebook." The irony of the situation was amazing to me: a room filled with empty couches, while filled with students standing before computer monitors "interacting" over Facebook.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. – 2 Corinthians 5:10

Recently I met with a 36-year-old fellow that I have known since the time he was in middle school. This is an exceptionally good fellow: a faithful husband, a hard worker, a student of the scriptures, and an asset to any church. While meeting he told me of his prior involvement with a wing of Christianity which is known for its conviction that it is God's plan and decree that Christianity become the dominant force in the world and that Christians, even now, need to begin operating with that end in mind. His interest in "Dominion Theology" (also called Theonomy) led him to, for awhile, moving to Tyler, Texas where he might learn from those have best articulated this perspective on life. While there he became involved in a church that was and is committed to this theological position.

Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. - Matthew 5:16

Well, it is that time of the year…again. That time when we are challenged, as a church body, to do something good for the community. It's called "Go Beyond" and it means not only that we should "go beyond" the four walls of our church facility, but also "go beyond" our Sunday morning meeting. We should "go beyond" what we have become comfortable doing and do something new, or something different, or something difficult for the community. It is all for the glory of God. We're not doing it to earn anything. We're doing it simply because it is good to do and it is good to be joined with other churches in doing something…anything really…that brings us together in blessing our world.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. ~ James 1:22

Recently I was speaking to a church member about church life when quite suddenly he raised the question, "Are we a Christian church?" By this was meant: do we actually DO what we say we are to do, or do we just talk about it? His question was not a disputing of the church's orthodoxy, or its confession, or its presentation of the gospel, or even of the centrality of Christ in the church. This member had, in fact, joined Burning Hearts because of his conviction that Burning Hearts was theologically sound and true to the Word of God. But, is it a Christian church…is it a church that DOES what it knows it should be doing? That was his question.

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' – Matthew 25:40 (NIV)

On this Missions Emphasis Sunday, we are going to be reminded in many ways not only of the great mission of the church (to make disciples of all nations) but also of those servants of God who have given their lives to this mission. When a person becomes a Christian, it generally is not long before that person comes to realize that he or she is part of a very big movement…a movement that is historic, that crosses all barriers and divisions within humanity, and that is global (cosmic even) in its scope. And while every Christian has a part to play in this great mission, there are those who are on "the front lines" of this endeavor. We call them "full time missionaries." Today we'll be reminded of these front-line servants.

The next day he (John) saw Jesus coming toward him, and he said, 'Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! – John 1:29

Christianity is rooted in Judaism. The Bible was written by Jewish authors and pertains to Jewish life. Jesus' earthly parents were Jewish as were all the early disciples.

Since the time of Moses, the Israelites (that were faithful) engaged in the celebration of the seven feasts enumerated in the Torah. These included Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Firstfruits, the Feast of Weeks (Pentecost), the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) and the Feast of Tabernacles (those in bold were the three feasts that required the physical attendance of all males to attend the festivities that took place in Jerusalem: Deuteronomy 16:16). As some of these feasts (Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of Firstfruits, for example) flowed one into the other it was not unusual for, at times, the men to gather for two or even three of the feasts at one time. When Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples (Luke 22:7-13), on the night that he would later be betrayed, this undoubtedly is what was going on. Otherwise we would expect the disciples to have been at their own homes, celebrating the Passover meal with their families (several of the disciples heralding from the area near Capernaum, in northern Israel).

So as to avoid any confusion, here are our church plans for the coming two weeks…

GOOD FRIDAY

At 6:30pm this Friday night we will be showing the film, The Case for Christ. This is the true-to-life film about self-proclaimed atheists Leslie and Lee Strobel and how, Lee, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, took Leslie's conversion to Christianity as a personal challenge to prove that her faith was not grounded in fact. He was in for a surprise! This is a very well-acted and made film that will add credence to your own convictions about Jesus and the reality of the resurrection. Free popcorn to enjoy as you watch. Invite a neighbor! Communion following.

And they have conquered him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony… - Revelation 12:11

Do you have a testimony…a story of God's work in your life? I was at meeting recently at which I watched a video of Bo Eason, a former NFL football player, turned motivational speaker, challenge his listeners with this truth: "The greatest asset you possess is your personal story." Well, I have a story and I would like to share it now.

Having been born into a Christian home with a pastor for a father and a very godly mother, I heard the good news of Jesus Christ from a very early age. I do not recall specifically when I first "asked Jesus into my heart," but it was early. I do recall when I was 4 or maybe 5 being at a meeting when the church had a special speaker, an evangelist named Les Nixon, speak. Later that night I prayed with my mother to ask Jesus into my heart. But that probably wasn't the first time I prayed that prayer and it definitely wasn't the last time. (As a side note parents, please consider this! I was only 4 or 5 when I sat through that service that was oriented towards adults, yet it was at that time that I was convicted of my sin. Don't underestimate what your child can take in!)

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised and we esteemed him not. - Isaiah 53:3

Each year, the Men's Discipleship Group at Burning Hearts has memorized large sections of scripture (approximately 30 verses each year). Among the sections we have memorized none has meant as much to me as our memorizing the 12 verses of Isaiah 53. I come back to those verses again and again in a way that I admittedly do not return to the others we have learned. All have been good, but Isaiah 53 was (and is) in a class all its own. This fits with the point that I have made for years that "While all the scriptures are inspired (by God), not all parts are equally inspiring."

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. - Romans 1:16

In light of the recent killing of students and teachers at the Parkland school in Florida, I had intended on writing an article on gun control. But after viewing Billy Graham's funeral service, I changed my mind.

When I first began pastoring, a graduate of the Reformed Episcopal Seminary in Philadelphia began attending the church. In time, this man and his wife became an integral part of the church and its leadership. For a couple years I met with him every few weeks to discuss theology and church life. And then, quite suddenly, he and his wife moved away. But one thing I will never forget about my interaction with this man was his constant challenge to me to "preach the gospel." It didn't matter what book of the Bible we were studying on Sunday mornings, or what topic I was having us consider, always he would stress to me: "preach Christ, preach the gospel!"

Altogether, Methuselah lived 969 years, and then he died. - Genesis 5:27

I had the privilege of hearing Billy Graham speak, in person, a number of times through the years. Foremost in my mind was when he spoke at the Moody Bible Institute. As a student I generally sat about halfway back in the auditorium (in the "C" grade section!) but on that occasion I tried to get as front and center as I was able.

From the time I was very little, I heard about Billy Graham and our family's connection to him…

1)  My dad, back in the late 1940s, had led singing for some of the Chicagoland Youth for Christ events at which Billy spoke.

When Esau was forty years old, he took Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite to be his wife, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and they made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah. - Genesis 26:34-35

The person we marry can bring either joy to our parents' hearts (think of Ruth and Naomi) or grief. In the case of Esau, his marriage to two (presumably pagan) Hittite women brought grief to Isaac and Rebekah. Through the years, as I have been involved with couples looking to get married, I have stressed that they are marrying each other…and not their future spouse's relatives. At the same time I have also stressed that the relationship they have with their future in-laws is not one that should be taken lightly. Friends, even close friends, tend to come and go through life. But our relatives we tend to always have with us. So while we don't actually marry the in-laws, the brother-in-laws or sister-in-laws, we need to think of them being around for a LONG TIME. So here is some practical advice…

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. - 1 Corinthians 13:13

I had decided to write an article on love when it suddenly struck me that this coming week is Valentine's Day. Interesting coincidence.

My thinking on love was prompted by a man passing on to me a hundred-year old short book on 1 Corinthians chapter 13 entitled, "The Greatest Thing in the World." It was written by a Scottish minister and lecturer named Henry Drummond. Drummond died at age 45 and, from what I have read, pretty much all memory of him would be lost if it were not for that little book. It is a simple book written on a level that nearly any person could easily read in short order.

…Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart. - Ephesians 5:18b-19

I don't know that I would ordinary have watched the Grammy Awards show last Sunday night, but because of the special interest of our son, Jonathan, in Kendrick Lamar, I watched the program. Now, I am no fan of Kendrick Lamar, rap, or hip-hop. To me it barely even qualifies as music. I think of it more as (crass) poetry with a rhythm. I don't like it, I have never liked it and I don't expect that to change. But Jonathan thinks it's great and he really likes Kendrick Lamar (a Christian). As things would be, Lamar won the Grammy for Best Rap Album.

The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.' They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity… - Psalm 53:1

A week ago I wrote an article entitled "Christian Atheism." That article made the case that what we are finding among the growing number of "new atheists" is that while they confess atheism, practically – as evidenced in their lives – we find them teaching, upholding and living by Christian principles. I believe that we should be thankful (to God!) that that is the case. We should be thankful for their inconsistent atheism. This week's article is meant to explore what might happen if these atheists actually started living in a manner consistent with their theological convictions.

The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.' They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity… - Psalm 53:1

For quite awhile now I have been thinking on what has come to be called "New Atheism." This atheism is "new" only in that it is current, growing in influence and having a number of very outspoken proponents. Also, instead of finding itself in its historically defensive position (arguing against what most people thought was quite obvious), this new atheism has become quite bold, offering a polemic instead of a mere apologetic for its beliefs.

1. "Even at this point…" During last Sunday's sermon, while making our way through a long list of Bible texts, it appeared that I had two Bible references incorrect. That "threw me for a loop." Rarely have I made that mistake but to do it twice in one sermon…well, there is no excuse. As things would be, the first reference (James 5:3) was actually the correct reference (noting that the "last days" began long ago), while the second (Revelation 7:9, noting the great success and growth of Christ's kingdom) was given as Revelation 9:9. At home, after beating myself up a bit, Ruth said, "Even at this point it shows that there are things you can learn." She was right, even at this point…even after all these years, there are lessons to be learned from mistakes. By God's grace, and with better discipline on my part, I am determined to not let that happen again. My apologies.

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