Category Archives: Theological Musings

Real Time Reflections from Five Years Ago #14

March 8-10th, 2009

Where is God when liDSC_2264fe hurts? This is the 14th in a series of Real Time Reflections from five years ago today as my family and I were in the throes of an F5 tornado. Some of these reflections will be included in the book I am currently writing regarding our experiences five years ago up to the present time.

Before I write about what occurred on March 8th-10th , 2009 I need to back up to Saturday March 7th when the children all came up to visit me.

Regarding the 7th Karla wrote:

“Mike and I both thought that Saturday was a very good day!  It started after a good night’s sleep for Mike and ended with me getting home for a couple days with the kids.

What a joy it was to have the kids up to visit Mike!  They were all relieved that other than being much thinner, Dad is looking pretty good.  We reserved the dining room so that we could all eat pizza together.  We decided that Mike needs to eat pizza more often because he eats a lot of it!

Then it was off to physical therapy where everyone was impressed that he was walking and going up and down the short set of steps.  The girls were at the gift shop when Mike started, so they didn’t know he was walking.  As they were coming down the hall, you could hear Elisabeth say very excitedly, “Look!  Dad’s walking!”  He was also able to hold a large size dowel and work on picking it up and down.  He ended that session by walking from the therapy gym back to his room.  Quite amazing!

PT was closely followed by occupational therapy.  Mike was pretty wiped out after that, so we got ready to head for home.  He was so happy to get to see the kids!  Luke even played the songs from a piano performance we had missed, which Mike thoroughly enjoyed…”

Later on the 9th regarding the Saturday visit by the children:

“…Mike still has his sense of humor, but some of the nurses don’t.  As the kids and I were getting ready to leave last Saturday, Mike was overconfident in his newly acquired skills and thought he could get from the wheelchair to the bed by himself.  He was not at quite the right angle and was leaning too far toward his weak side and fell over on the bed.  He landed on the heart pillow all open heart patients get so that they can hug it when they cough.  This apparently helps with pain.  Mike just laid down, saying with a smile, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.  Goodnight!”  We all got a good chuckle out of it.  We did need to call the nurse in to help.  We managed to get him upright before she came in.  She asked what he needed, to which he replied, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”  Saying that he’d fallen got quite a rise out of her!  We assured her he hadn’t and was just joking.  She really did need to have a sense of humor!

On a more serious note, Mike said he had another productive day of therapy.  They added another session of speech therapy, which pleased him.  He would like to see things improve more quickly in that area.  He was also able to lift his arm for the first time.  He had not even done that prior to open heart surgery day.  I talked to him at around 8 tonight and he was exhausted.  I am glad he is able to get good sleep now!  I am anxious to see the improvements he’s made when I get back there on Wednesday.”

Why? Why? Why? Safety even in doubt and despair.

 Mike’s first post, post-emergency open heart surgery: March 8, 2009

“After going through serious brain surgery for the removal of a peach-sized brain AVM, experiencing sleep deprivation for what seemed like 100 days on end, a blood infection, at least 22 blood clots in my lungs…one of which was 7 centimeters in length, open heart surgery, and who knows what else (I haven’t even read my own blog for nearly 25 days)  I can honestly report to you all that the  LORD is still my strength and my song.

And that my wife Karla is precious beyond compare!  Not only for enduring all that she has had to go through, but also for updating and informing all of you at the tail end of many rough days.

I am still largely “out” on my right side, meaning I have very little movement there.  The substance of my right side movement is a slight movement in my thumb.  While I cannot yet lift my leg, I can somehow walk…. even unassisted!   I also have good resistance strength.  I am able to resist one way yet not in others.

Anyway keep praying! (posting took 2 hrs)”

As I read these words five years out I think to myself how could it possibly have taken me two hours to write just 184 words? That’s just over 1-1/2 words per minute! I try to choose my words carefully, but that is ridiculous. And it’s not as if I was distracted. I was sitting in a chair focusing all of my mental and emotional energy on this post after an exhausting day of therapy. I think this was the first time that I had really stepped back to take a clear look at the realities at hand. I had just been through brain surgery and massive complications that nearly ended my life, and was just coming to terms with these facts. And they were overwhelming to me. I remember the tears streaming down my cheeks as I wrote this post.

Seeing the children on Saturday had been a huge encouragement for me. But now once again I again had to put them on a shelf emotionally so I could focus on giving them the best possible dad with the best possible functioning when I would be going home in what would turn out to be less than 3 weeks (on the 27th of March). If I let my mind go toward my children I would have been an emotional wreck.

Physical trials and sufferings not only weaken otherwise strong and proud people physically, but they also weaken them emotionally as well. I had no idea how weak I could be. Karla was my greatest earthly support and as I wrote “precious beyond compare.” I still feel that way about my wife of 27 years as the trials have made our marriage stronger and more precious.

Richard Sibbes, a Puritan once wrote in a book called the Bruised Reed, (in the year 1630) “After conversion we need bruising so that reeds may know themselves to be reeds, and not oaks.” Karla and I have experienced this bruising in a way that we will never be able to forget.

As I read from my posting on this day I confidently wrote “I can honestly say to you all that the LORD is still my strength and my song.” I believed it then and I believe it now as I type these words today, five years later. However, this does not mean that my faith did not experience any bumps in the road.

On March 2-3rd, 2009 the Central District of the Evangelical Free Church was having their annual meeting in Des Moines, Ia. Normally I would have attended. I have many friends in the E. Free Church. One good friend of mine took it upon himself to find a quote from a regular Patros Logos article that I had written earlier for the home-school newsletter in our state, (2000-present). He brought it to this conference,  had it put on an 18 by 23 inch poster, which he had laminated…upon which three dozen people expressed their well wishes for us.

The words of mine that were on this placard were as follows: “…God is in control. Regardless of the tribulations and trials we may undergo, all of these tribulations and trials are under the hand of an Almighty God, who is not only all-powerful, but He is also good and loving in all of His ways toward us. Mike Evans, from Brothers Be Empowered By Providence

This friend sent it to me in a round cardboard tube and I had it put up in the room for me to look at. I think it arrived somewhere between March 8-10th.  It was on the wall at the end of my bed. I had previously believed these words and taught this theological truth for many years. Now I found myself coming face to face with whether I actually believed them or not. When the rubber met the road, and I had nothing left in the tank, so to speak, did I really believe that God was in control? Did I really believe that He had a hand in this trial? Did I really believe that God was good and loving toward me in these days?

I lay awake at night staring at these words I had written by my own hand, asking myself these questions. I was uneasy. I was offended. My own words made me queasy. In fact I remember asking Karla to put something over this poster to hide the words…for a day or two. It is a difficult thing to explain a feeling of doubt. But that’s what it was. No doubt about it. It was a doubt based not upon my prior experience or belief, but based entirely upon my present circumstances. I knew better than to let any present circumstance dictate prior beliefs, but it was a struggle. I kept looking at these words, particularly at night when doubts do their dabbling. Wrestling.

I had always told the people I have shepherded over the years the importance of having their doctrine and theology (beliefs about God and His ways) in place before the difficult things came their way. In fact I had even told them that I would not be standing at their bedside after a tragic event quoting Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” On the contrary it has always been my intention to weep with those who wept, not give them a double wound.

Here I was, weak and helpless, brain surgery that had left me paralyzed on the entire right side of my body and unable to speak in the early days…only to be followed by sleepless night upon sleepless night in the ICU, only to be followed by a blood infection, blood clots, and finally emergency open heart surgery. So here more than three weeks from the original brain surgery and I can only move my toe and my thumb a very little bit.

This is when I actually began to think of just exactly what the absolute sovereignty of God entails. And this is what I have come to believe. The absolute sovereignty of God is either the most hellish and damnable lie in the universe or the only true source of comfort in any and every trial. The line between these two statements is separated by a razor blade’s width and yet which direction one falls determines everything about how we view God and ourselves. Everything.

I have come to realize that there is no comfort at all in a middle of the road position between these two statements. If there is anything at all that happens in this universe apart from the eternal perspective of One who sees the beginning from the end and takes every possible contingency into account in His providential ordering of everything, in love, then there must be some events that are outside of His governance. And if there are any events that are outside of His governance then I reject the proposition outright as that of an impotent god. An impotent god is no god in my estimation, but rather a god of our own making. God’s got guts. He has a very strong stomach indeed. And yet He is also able to sympathize with us and enter with us in our weaknesses, trials and sufferings.

I realize that this is a wholly inadequate explanation of why evil and suffering exist from the human vantage point (theodicy). It is not my intention to give simplistic answers to complex and unanswerable questions. What had happened to me was not good. God worked good from the depths of our trial, just as He had promised.

But in non-moral things there are ways of acknowledging the coinciding of God’s absolute sovereignty and human responsibility. For example, what is the relationship between what I have said regarding the absolute sovereignty of God and prayer?

I believe with all of my heart that prayer makes a difference in what God does or does not do. I believe that I am alive today because of the prayers of tens of thousands of people throughout the world that were storming the throne of God on my behalf on the day I coded. The blog had 5,790 hits on that one day alone.

But I also believe that God ordained those prayers be made on my behalf. Every single one of them. We are responsible to pray and God is responsible to work His sovereign will (prompting people to pray). Both occurred on that day and every day. Praise be to God!

I had written the words in front of me on the laminated poster during a time of relative ease and comfort. Now they both offended and comforted me simultaneously. I am glad to have had that experience of doubt and wondering if I really did believe it all.

I remember hearing John Piper say in a sermon once how followers of Jesus could rest safely inside the impenetrable walls of Romans 8:28, where nothing could touch them. That was what I was experiencing even in these very real doubts that came on the heels of the most traumatic month of my life. I never want to experience that again…both the trauma and the doubting. But then God doesn’t consult us regarding His plans.

Nothing did ultimately touch me. My faith in God and His plans and purposes in all things are stronger than ever. My understanding of God’s ways, however, continue to be a conundrum in my mind. But then God does not ask me how He should work, does He. Nope, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that He pleases” (Psalm 115:3). From our earth bound perspective God’s ways often if not always seem to be manifestly inefficient. But then again God sees the big picture from the tallest mountain, with nothing but loving purposes in mind.

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Remembering the past as an encouragement for the present and future

I haven’t written a single blog posting since February of this year (2012).  Prior to this I had gone 40 straight months with at least one post.  I still check my blog stats once in awhile and continue to be surprised by what I find.  Word press now has a world map that shows the different countries represented in viewing the blog.  India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Russia, Tajikistan…really?

Much to my surpise there has never been a single day in the last 47 months where there were no hits on my blog.  People use search engines and amazingly find their way to my blog.  So far the blog has received 147,759 page views from 250 postings and has received 1,156 comments.  We had 5,790 page views on February 26, 2009 on the day that I had the emergency open heart surgery to remove blood clots from my heart and lungs after coding, and all of this just two weeks after having brain surgery to remove a peach sized  AVM (arteriovenous malformation) from the left frontal lobe of my brain.  Forty six days spent at Mayo Clinic before coming home.

Not a single day goes by that I don’t remember those harrowing days for me and for my entire family.  I remember the past and see that my life, by all human estimates and conventional wisdom should have ended three and a half years ago….But it did not.  And so I am here, still alive, still at my post, still being a redeemed sinner day after day.

I figured some of my many facebook friends will not even have known about this most important of events in my life…since I haven’t been on facebook all that long.  Now you will.

One of my favorite professors while I was in seminary was my  New Testament professor Dr. Tom Schreiner.

His dear wife Diane suffered a traumatic (left) brain injury in a bicycle accident on August 17, 2012.  She underwent emergency brain surgery to remove a blood clot and is struggling with speech and cognition.She is entering full time rehab today and can use all the prayers she can get.  I know the family would appreciate it as well.

I see all sufferings differently now, but remain convinced of the truth of Romans 8:28 that “for those who love God all things work together for good”..ultimately that is. This has been my theme since the first seizure that revealed the oddity within my brain…my brain.  Suddenly these things become much more personal when it’s you or someone you love that is on the other side of healthy.

Romans 8:28 does not mean that bicycle accidents and AVM’s are good things.  They are not.  But God is God and is not surprised by anything at all, as all of the details of our lives are micromanaged by an omnipotent and loving Creator who upholds the entire universe by the word of His power and yet stoops to see the faltering sparrow and knows the end from the beginning, because He is already there.  And you aren’t.

Pondering the past and encouraged for the present and future,

Mike Evans

The most important posting I will ever write…and a Christmas greeting

(The following is a re-posting of a blog entry from December 2008…and it is still true…all of it!  My attention was drawn back to this posting because of Noel Piper including it in one of  ten or so articles she referenced in making the observation that Christmas is not a bundle of joy for many people who are in the throes of suffering…all kinds.  Whether it is a chronic physical condition or a piece of universe shattering  bad health news as we received nearly three years ago.   Her blog is way more popular than mine so I took notice when the blog had over 100 hits today! )

Some things in life are more important than outstanding health, but not many. Some things are more important in life than a well functioning family where loving relationships rule the day, but not many. Some things in life are more important than an AVM free brain, but not many. What follows is what is more important to me than all these things combined. 

Please watch the following clip from an ER episode…perhaps the single most powerful moment I have ever witnessed on television.

I’m not sure of the exact context of this clip. We didn’t watch this last season of E.R. All I know is that what this character was expressing near the end of his life was real. This is spectacular acting that sends chills down my spine every time I watch it.

Why? Because I know that what he was expressing was the undeniable truth of which Solomon spoke in Ecclesiastes 3:11 that God has set eternity into man’s heart. There are many ways to suppress this reality but in the end nothing can overcome what is.

The pablum that this liberal chaplain was giving to this man was less than worthless. It was a self-exalting agnostic mindless nihilism where all is meaningless.

This man was afraid of what was going to come next and the “professional” clergy had nothing to bring to the table.  He wondered if atonement was even possible and she answered that it was up to each one of us to interpret what God wants.

He had regrets. He wanted answers. He knew enough that he believed God was real and hell was real, but he wanted answers…someone who could look him in the eye and tell him how to find forgiveness because he was running out of time.

My calling in this life, besides being a husband and father is to be a pastor. My biblical job description as a pastor is, among other things, to preach and teach the whole counsel of God to the people entrusted to my care. My privilege is to provide answers from the Word of God to people who have real questions…like the man in the video clip.

It’s not that I have all the answers to life’s daunting questions, but I believe with every fiber of my being that truth does exist, that God is real, and that we can know with certainty the most important answers in life.

As my family and I walk through these interesting days I find it troubling that some are taking the news about the thing in my brain harder than I am or than we are as a family.

I’ve been open and honest in these postings so you know that we are not cruising above the clouds at 50,000 feet in some kind of cocoon of protection where the sun always shines. Not at all. There are anxious moments and days for us all.  We can bum out and be depressed.  We do bum out and are depressed on occasion.

But I assure you of this. There is no fear. I may have difficulty believing that this is all happening but I do not have fear about this upcoming surgery. I  have moments of anxiety in thinking through worst case outcomes… not a pleasant exercise with my vivid imagination. But we are not living in fear.

It is not because we are extra special people. It is not because we have an unusual fortitude about us. It is not because of any external thing. Rather, it is because we are followers of Jesus Christ, who gives true and lasting peace.  My Christmas present to all of you who read this blog from all over this world, from many different ethnic and religious backgrounds and educational levels is this:

I am going to let you in on what I might have said to the man in the video on death’s doorstep… who wanted real answers.

First, I would have explained to him how every single person on this planet who has ever been born of woman, except Jesus the Christ, has been born a sinner and thus separated from the life of God. Sin is simply missing the mark of God’s perfect demands. Only a complete fool would deny this reality about himself.

Second, I would explain to this man that there was a baby boy born to a virgin named Mary about two thousand years ago. Before this baby was born an angel appeared to Joseph (who was betrothed to be married to her) in a dream and told him not to fear. The angel also told Joseph to name the baby to be born “…Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). I would tell this man that the very name “Jesus” means “The Lord saves.” This is the reason Jesus, the divine and only begotten Son of the Father, came into this world.

Third, I would explain to this man how Jesus lived a sinless life in perfect obedience to all of God’s Law. I would tell him of Jesus’ roughly three year public ministry where He healed the sick, raised the dead, and loved the lost.

Fourth, I would tell this man with passion in my voice and genuine expression on my face that “Yes, atonement is possible.” At the end of Jesus’ public ministry He was brought before two kangaroo courts, convicted on bogus charges, and sentenced to die a cruel death by crucifixion, alongside two common criminals.

As Jesus hung on the Cross He cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In this moment the Father abandoned His Son. And as Jesus died atonement for sin was indeed made for all who will repent (have a complete change of heart and mind regarding their sin) and put their faith in Christ’s finished work on Calvary’s Cross.

In the perfect sacrifice of Christ’s death He paid the just penalty for sin that we could never pay ourselves. God’s wrath should by all rights have fallen on each one of us but it has been averted for all who surrender themselves to Jesus Christ. Redemption was accomplished, but it still must be applied.  There is no such thing as a universal salvation.  All people will not go to heaven in the end.  All paths do not lead to the same place.  All of the major religions of the world do not serve the same God.

As Jesus breathed His last the thick curtain that divided the Holy Place from the Most Holy in the Jewish temple was torn in two (Matthew 27:51). This signified that access to God was now available directly and only through Christ.

The Apostle Paul would later write in I Timothy 2:5 “There is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…” Apart from this one mediator reconcilation with God is impossible.

Jesus said, as John 14:6 records it, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me.” It may not be popular. It’s certainly not inclusive, but that does not in itself render it untrue.

Finally, I would look this man in the eye and tell him that unless he repents of his sin and puts his faith in Jesus Christ, crucified and literally risen from the dead on the third day, that he will soon enter into an eternity of conscious eternal torment (Matthew 25:41-46) where he will live in a state of perpetual payment of a debt that can never be paid. That’s why hell exists.

I would beg him to consider receiving the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ and not to wait until tomorrow or next year, for no one knows what tomorrow holds. Today is the day of salvation.

I would encourage him, that if God has shown him his need and given him the desire, to do it right now…to pray aloud to God on the spot and tell Him the desire of his heart.  I would encourage him to confess that he is a guilty, lost, and helpless sinner, and with all sincerity ask Christ to save him and take His rightful place as the Lord of his life, enabling him to turn from sin and live for Him. That’s what I would encourage him to pray.

And finally, I would encourage him to begin immediately attending a Bible believing church where the Bible is believed to be the Word of God, where the death, resurrection, and Second Coming of Christ are believed to be literally true, and where the people are filled with grace and love toward one another and outsiders, and where the glory and grandeur of God oozes from its DNA. That’s what I would tell this man. Then I would give him a hug and say “See you later brother,” but only if he believed the biblical truths of which I had spoken and had received them for himself.

I share this with you all because it is part and parcel of who I am. Many of you don’t much about me at all. I’m just the guy with the bogus thing in the brain.   That’s not really who I am. I am first and foremost a redeemed sinner who is a child of the Most High God, who awaits an eternal home in glory, not because of anything I have done, but because of God’s mercy alone.  If nothing else this AVM has given me the opportunity to share with all of you my understanding of the real meaning of Christmas and to learn some new and cool big words.   Thanks for reading and thanks for your continued interest in our lives.

I, and my dear wife Karla, extend our desire for you all to have a Merry Christmas.  Please feel free to contact me by email if you would like to speak to me about these matters more personally. I would be delighted to do so.

Ten Questions on the Ten Year Anniversary of 9/11

Ten Questions on the Ten Year Anniversary of 9/11 by Pastor Mike Evans

1.Where were you on September 11, 2001? 

I will never forget it.  It was a Tuesday morning, my day off back then, and I was working on the front porch roof of our 117 year old house, stripping off four layers of shingles, when about ten minutes before nine Karla came to the bedroom window and told me what had happened.   She explained that a jet airliner had flown directly into the north tower of the World Trade Center and it was on fire.   I was stunned, but I didn’t even stop working.  My mind was racing.  Then, 17 minutes later at 9:03 another plane crashed into the south tower.  Then again at 9:38 a plane crashed into the Pentagon in Washington D.C.  Is this the end I wondered to myself.  So many questions.  Later that afternoon as I was still working on the roof I looked up and Air Force One flew directly over our home with the President inside, headed to Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha.  When all the dust had settled there were 3,182 people that died from the events of that day.

2. Where was God?  God was omnipresent just as He always has been and always will be.  God was still on His throne reigning perfectly in wisdom, power, and love.  Psalm 115:3 says “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.”  9/11 didn’t cause God any alarm whatsoever.   When God spoke to Moses from the burning bush He called him to be the deliverer for Israel from their 400 years of slavery to Pharaoah.  God even told Moses the name of the Person who had given the orders so that he could tell the Israelites who had sent him:  “God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”  “Tell them that ‘I AM’ has sent me to you.”” (Exodus 3:13ff.)  Jesus said in Matthew 10:29 “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  And not one falls to the ground apart from your Father.”  God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

3. What difference did it make in the spiritual climate of the U.S.? In the short term there was an enormous spike in church attendance.  One article suggested that fully half of the entire adult population in the U.S. attended a religious service the Sunday after 9/11.  A massive but momentary surge of spirituality occurred as Americans were forced to come face to face with the fragility of life.  Ed Young who is the pastor of Fellowship Church said “After 9/11 we had 20-some odd thousand people show up…..I was disappointed somewhat that more didn’t stick because we dropped to 16 or 17 thousand the next weekend and then the weekend after that to about 14,500,” he said. “By November things were pretty much back to normal in terms of church attendance.”  C.H. Spurgeon used to speak of the “spiritual spasms” that people have in the face of tragedies.  They come and then they are quickly gone.

4. What is the proper role of government in events such as this?  Well, that’s a very good question and the Bible has a good answer.  Romans 13:1ff. says “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities.  For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God…rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad.”  The U.S government has been a terror to terrorists these past ten years. There is a God-ordained role of the government which includes the U.S. military to defend ourselves from terrorists. By the latest count 6,137 Americans serving in the Armed Forces have lost their live since 9/11, nearly double the number of lives lost on that fateful day back in 2001.  We are not to put our trust in horses or chariots or “smart bombs.”  Our trust is to be in the name of the Lord our God.  We must strive to maintain an attitude that is consistent with the Bible’s teaching in Romans 12 where Paul writes “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” 

5. How do we begin to make any sense from the ashes of 9/11?  In Jesus’ day there was a tragic event that occurred where a tower collapsed in Siloam and killed 18 people.  Luke 13:1-6 tells of this event.  Jesus asked His audience “Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”  The point is this: We are all sinners in need of redemption in the presence of a holy God.   The sheer scope of the human pain and suffering that occurred on 9/11 and the years following…is staggering.  There have been far greater death tolls in earthquakes and tsunamis since 9/11…. 250,000 alone from the earthquake and ensuing tsunami that shook the Pacific Rim in 2004….but nothing has affected the collective psyche of Americans as this has done.

6.  What difference did it make in my preaching or thinking?  I found myself thinking how comforting it was to have my soul anchored  to the immovable, unchanging, and indestructible God of the universe and what it must feel like not to have faith in such a God.  So to that extent my preaching was informed by this reality.  But my thinking about God, my theology did not change one iota.  But it was a good gut check.  Our family has had several of these kinds of gut-checks in recent years.  Good theology works in fair and foul weather alike.  The thing about truth is it’s always true, even when it appeared that the apocalypse was upon us

7.  How has your attitude toward Muslims changed since September 11, 2001?  The pastor of Grace church in suburban Atlanta (Buddy Hoffman) told his elders that they could make a choice.  He said “We could view Muslims as the enemy, or the prize.”   The “prize” of the Muslim world makes up more than 1.5 billion people in 3,358 people groups.  Joshua Project’s list of the 20 least-reached people groups include 19 Muslim people groups.  One family from our church is serving in the Arabian Peninsula in one such group.  If you are a hater of Muslims as a whole your heart is not right before God.  Muslims, as whole,  are not the enemy, but even if they were a Christian response would be to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matthew 5:44). How this command is to be wedded alongside the government’s role of protecting its citizens is not easily answered.

8.  Why are Evangelical Christians not being represented in the memorial service at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.?  Tony Perkins is the President of the Family Research Council and he said that 3/4ths of Americans identify themselves as Christians with 1/3rd of that number claiming to be evangelical Christians.  Others included in the program are a Buddhist nun, an Imam, a Hindu priest, the president of the Islamic Society of North America, a Muslim musician, an Anglican priest, but not a single evangelical Christian.  Perkins goes on to say “It is historically inaccurate that in times of mourning that Americans pray to the Hindu God or the God of Islam…(rather) they pray to the Judeo-Christian God-and specifically Jesus Christ.

9. What have you done personally not to waste 9/11?  For my part I attempted to bring a God-centered perspective to this tragedy…challenging my fellow local pastors to do the same.  If your theology (which simply means the study of God..what you believe about God) is true, then it will always be true.   I took advantage of the two Sundays following 9/11 to bring some perspective to this horrific event.  The first message on Sunday Sep. 16, 2001, was titled “Safely Inside the Walls of Romans 8:28.”  The next Sunday the title of the message was “Attack on America: What Would Jesus Do?”

10. What promise from God stands true forever:From the message I preached on September 16, 2001 titled “Safely Inside the Walls of Romans 8:28” I said “The magnificent promise of Romans 8:28 is a massive oak tree in a forest of little saplings.  The God behind the promise is a Mighty Fortress in an uncertain and evil age.  My friends, believe this promise!  It is true!  And when tragedy strikes or affects your life or family in any way your faith will yet remain.  Why?  Because your feet are firmly anchored in the God revealed in Scripture, a God who causes all things to work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.   May each of us live our lives this week and for the rest of our earthly days safely inside the fortress of Romans 8:28.”  Amen.

 

Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus…one of the Most Powerful Songs Ever Composed!

George Frederick Handel wrote the most powerful oratorio ever written in my estimation. It is called The Messiah and was originally composed for Easter.  The highlight of Handel’s Messiah is the now famous “Hallelujah Chorus.” The words are profound and yet few in number.  The entirety of the Hallelujah chorus is as follows: 

Hallelujah!

For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.

The kingdom of this world

Is become the Kingdom of our Lord,

And of His Christ,

And He shall reign forever and ever.

King of Kings, and Lord of Lords,

And He shall reign forever and ever.

Hallelujah! 

But this is to get ahead of myself. To understand how this glorious piece of music came to be, we must understand a few things about the man himself. 

Handel was born in Germany in 1685 and from early years, his musical talent did not go unnoticed. After flunking out of college, he moved to Hamburg at the age of eighteen and began to write operas. He quickly became very popular writing oratorios which were intended to be dramatic musical presentations of biblical stories written for choruses, but featuring strong soloists as well. Handel became known as the “king of the oratorios.” 

His fame continued to spread, but not to his head it seems as he maintained a genuine humility about his achievements.  This, in spite of the fact that he was only twenty-five years old and was by this time becoming known as one of the leading composers in all of Europe. Handel was in his groove, fulfilling his calling in life to be both a musician while at the same time using his musical skills as a way of propagating his faith in Christ. 

In time, the top musicians in England sent Handel an invitation to join them in London. Soon after joining his colleagues in London, Handel was appointed as the director of the Royal Academy of Music, a very prestigious honor. Now he had achieved everything. Fame, Fortune, and a Following. But beneath the surface, Handel’s life was beginning to unravel. 

In a matter of years, Handel went from the pinnacle of success to the pit of despair. During this season of life, Handel’s health began to unravel which led to less productivity which led to unpaid bills. This continued until there appeared to be no way out.  

George Frederick Handel was a legally blind “washed-up has-been” living in poverty, frail as a hummingbird, mired in a deep depression, suffering from the debilitating effects of several strokes, mired down by rheumatism and barely able to walk, with his best work (or so he imagined anyway) long since passed. And this all before he had even reached the ripe old age of 40!  

Just when there appeared to be no way out, Handel received a letter from the Duke of Devonshire, a man by the name of Charles Jennens. He conceived the idea of holding several benefit concerts in Dublin to provide funds for the support of several jails and a hospital. Jennens had the vision to prepare an oratorio on the most important stories in the Bible that centered on the Messiah. Jennens had the vision but neither the talent nor the time to begin or complete this work. Handel did.  

In just twenty-four days Handel completed this masterful work with a deep sense of God’s presence guiding him every step of the way. He wrote, “I did think I did see all Heaven before me and the great God himself.” 

It is impossible to remain seated when either singing or hearing the “Hallelujah Chorus.” The only two appropriate postures are prostrate on the ground as before the presence of a king, or standing as before the presence of a king.  

The Messiah gave Handel a second chance at life, but more than that, it has given all of humanity one of the most powerful songs ever written.  

Handel went on to live another seventeen years after completing the Messiah before his death in 1759. Handel died just as all mortals do. But his music, inspired by the living God, lives on (some of this information gathered from the book More Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas, 2006 Ace Collins, pp. 13-20). 

Listen to the “Hallelujah Chorus” by clicking on it.

Still stirred by the simple yet profound words,

Mike

Baptisms and Burritos

What a glorious day two Sunday’s ago was for Karla and me.   On Sunday July 11, 2010 I had the distinct privilege of baptizing 3 teenagers during the morning service.  Three people who put their stake in the ground, as it were, to publicly declare their desire to identify themselves with Jesus Christ in His life, death and Resurrection.  Two of these teens happened to be our two oldest sons!  I didn’t ask Benj and Luke if it was ok to publish these pics for the whole world to see…but  I don’t think they even check out my blog.

Plus, we talked to them about how important it was for baptisms to be public…for the whole world to sit up and take notice and perhaps even to hold them accountable for the step that they took!  Not that Benj is afraid to be noticed. 

As we send Luke off to the University of Minnesota next month..to major in chemical engineering, it makes our hearts glad to see that he is taking this important step of obedience in following the Lord Jesus Christ in baptism…especially in the field of engineering.  

After the morning service we enjoyed a potluck meal together with the special kinds of foods that are unique to rural areas like Earlham! (Just in case you were wondering where the title of this post came from)

  Thanks to a couple of friends from church we have these pictures to show all of you.