Wednesday, August 24, 2005

A visit to the ER

Well, I had a nice trip to the ER last night. Must say that it was a more enjoyable experience than I originally thought; it has been over 15 years since the last time I was in the ER. Well, for some reason I find these stories quite funny. I was helping one of our church member’s move, and I slid my hand along a box that had reinforced metal corners. The one corner served as quite a nice knife. When I realized what had happened, I looked down at my hand trying to evaluate the situation. Helping people move, you end up getting cuts all the time, so I figured I would just need a band aid. Not so, not so. As I stood at the edge of this moving truck, I begin to watch as my blood was pouring out onto the street. Against all my natural instincts, I figured it was time to ask for some help.

“Yeah….I could probably use some help here,” I said in my usual calm, quiet voice. Tom and Jim got me some of the napkins we had from the pizza dinner, and I attempted to stop the bleeding. That didn’t work so well, and I bled through those first napkins pretty well. After this though, I climbed down out of the truck and went into the house. I figured I would wash it out and then probably call it quits on the moving for that day, but Ben, in his great wisdom, was like, “You should probably go to the ER, Josh.” I’m not a big fan of going to the doctor in general, so I protested. Of course, this lead to more investigation being needed; after pulling back the cut and seeing the fatty tissue, I reluctantly agreed. I could see more than just my skin, so I agreed I should probably go; also, I’m not a big fan of infections.

Now, the decision had to be made how I was going to get there. I probably could have driven myself, but I would have bled all over my car. This led to another interesting conversation, as Brian and Ben debated who got to drive my car home! I quickly told them, that I had driven my OLD car, so this debate was unnecessary. If it had been my new car, I would have driven myself! ;-) I’ve got red seats you know, so blood wouldn’t stain too bad! Ben decided that his wife would drive me to the Emergicare because that would be a much faster in-and-out than the hospital. Brian quickly added that if I went to the actual ER, I would probably be there until 11 tonight.

The ride to the Emergicare was rather uneventful as I tried to keep from bleeding all over Ben’s car. I’m sure he’ll appreciate that in the long run! Emergicare was an interesting place. I was immediately informed that they didn’t take my insurance, and that I would be paying the full 345 dollars for the visit. I choked on this and asked Alicia if she would just drive me to the hospital instead. I would rather wait many hours than fork over 345 bucks when I have insurance! I guess I am cheap sometimes.

Penrose was actually much quicker than I thought. I had to sit and give the receptionist my information, and attempt to sign the co-pay receipt without bleeding on the paperwork, but it was all good. I was quite surprised when the receptionist asked me “my religious preference” after asking for my address. Don’t we live in a society that separates church and state with a 10 foot brick wall? I asked about this, and the receptionist told me that Penrose was a Catholic organization, so if I was dying, they needed to know what kind of priest to call for me. I laughed and told her I was a Protestant. She then directed me to the After Hours Clinic because that would be much quicker than the ER; this was good.

After I walked down to the After Hours Clinic, Ben calls me up. He found it amusing that my radio was tuned to 106.3 and it was playing Delilah. Mind you, I don’t listen to Delilah, as that show comes on later in the evening, but I do enjoy the soft-rock of 106.3 during the day sometimes. I guess he even called Brian over to hear what was playing on my radio, so now I’m sure I’ll get some grief about that. Oh well, I don’t mind, people usually get a kick out of my random weirdness.

I was called into the actual doctor’s office about 15 minutes later; he gave me some Novocain before stitching me up. While I was waiting for the Novocain to take full effect, I watched a young mother bring her daughter into the clinic. Her daughter had fallen and didn’t get up quickly enough for mother’s satisfaction. I thought for a while that perhaps she was just a bit obsessed as a parent for bring her daughter in to the ER when she just was favoring her arm a bit, but then maybe mothers should be very concerned about their children; it is much better than not caring at all.

After a few minutes of Novocain, the doctor came back and stitched me up. It was relatively painless process as I couldn’t feel that part of my hand. Even though it was my own hand, I found it interesting to watch how skilled he was at tying a knot in that incredibly fine thread. Putting that special stitching needle into my flesh and sewing on my hand should have hurt, I thought, but there was just numbness.

Tom and Ben were anxiously awaiting my presence in waiting room--it was flattering. I must indeed be blessed to have friends that would wait for me there when all I’ve done is just cut my hand.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Planned Parenthood

You know, my pastor is right when he suggests the things in the news tend to agitate us. I’m not sure how I ended up reading Planned Parenthood’s mission statement, but I did. This part of the statement absolutely infuriates me.
"Reproductive freedom—the fundamental right of every individual to decide freely and responsibly when and whether to have a child—is a reaffirmation of the principle of individual liberty cherished by most people worldwide. It helps ensure that children will be wanted and loved, that families will be strong and secure, and that choice rather than chance will guide the future of humanity."
I guess I shouldn’t really even be surprised anymore when humanism as a religion is so prevalent in our culture. And I’m sorry, but anyone who denies that humanism IS a religion has simply missed the boat.’s 4th definition of religion is “A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.” Humanism is definitely a cause; their cause is themselves, and they most definitely pursue it with zeal (at least some of them, but any religion has more and less dedicated adherents). This dialog they spew forth about not being a worldview and being inclusive is a lie. They aren’t after tolerance, or inclusiveness, all they are after is having their worldview exalted to the position of being a state sponsored religion.

The reason for seeing humanism in Planned Parenthood’s mission statement is simple. The statement about “choice rather than chance” guiding our future presupposes that humanism, and even more specifically, Darwinism is true. If humans don’t bring order to our world, then everything is just chance. The presuppositions have already determined the answer to the question. Planned Parenthood has presupposed that Christianity is not true, and henceforth it can have nothing to say about abortion. The ironic and rather interesting thing about this is that they then need Christianity to define all their high-sounding terms in the rest of the statement. May I ask what love means to Planned Parenthood? It can’t be the Christian’s definition of love because that has already been presupposed to be false. Humanism isn’t going to help it much either as it can’t even figure out why man exists in the first place much less what love between humans should mean. So essentially, we have a rather pious sounding statement about all children being wanted and loved that has no meaning. And what is “the principle of individual liberty cherished by most people worldwide?” Our founding fathers, coming from a Christian background, could talk about real liberty because they had a God who was higher and had revealed laws that gave man liberty without reducing society to anarchy. Do the Chinese have a concept of individual liberty that is cherished, or how about Sadaam? It seems that they really want to borrow from Christianity again. Lastly, why should we care about having families that are strong and secure? This is blatantly a Christian idea again. Christians desire strong and secure families because they provide protection from so much and they are a God-given means to raise up the next generation.

I propose that Planned Parenthood’s mission statement be rewritten as the following:
Reproductive freedom—our deep felt desire that we be able to live irresponsibly, outside of our means, and without consequences for our choices—is a reaffirmation of the pleasure seeking life so desired by most people worldwide. It helps ensure that all children will be born when it is most convenient for us, and we irrationally hope that our choices won’t land the human race in ruin.
Doesn’t have the same high sounding effect does it?

Monday, August 22, 2005

The hatred of responsibility

One of the classes I had in high school was an American History class. Because I was graduating in 2000, there was a lot of focus on the last 100 years or the last 1000 years, so we were required to compile a list the most influential events of the past 100 years for this class. Each student was then required to present their top ten list. I still remember how shocked I was when one girl’s most influential event of the 20th century was Woodstock. Although I wasn’t alive at the time of Woodstock, I just couldn’t believe that a three day, hippy music festival could possibly be the most influential event of the 1900s. I’m by no means an expert on what this event meant to people, but I imagine it is safe to say that it was not a shining light of responsible behavior.

It is a sad testimony to our culture that much of what this concert seems to represent is still present in our culture. We still hold to the motto of “make love, not war.” Although, what is really meant by this is that want pleasure now and not responsibility. We have chosen the opposite of what Moses chose.
Hebrews 11:24-26 By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. (NKJV)
You see, looking to the short term is much easier than seeing the end result. The examples of this in our society are unmistakable. We have abortion on demand. Rather than seeing the value of that life, people prefer to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin. Only later do they learn how much this hurts them. People refuse to join themselves to the church and submit to its discipline; rather, they prefer to jump from church to church seeking an emotional high. The consequences of this are that people never really get any of the meat of Christianity. Couples are committing to marriages where the vows are in terms of “as long as I love you.” Whatever is most convenient--that is the best.

One of the most sickening things about all this is that Christians seem to be no different. Surveys about divorce show that Christians are just as likely to get divorced as are non-Christians. So much for the idea of being salt and light in a dark world…

I wonder if much of the Christian problem here is a misinterpretation of Matthew 18:2-4 and similar passages.
Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (NKJV)
This teaching does not idolize everything about children! It only tells us that we must be humble like little children; little children don’t think that they know it all and neither should Christians, but if you begin to believe that all of the Christian life is represented as being a little child, then you will not be inclined to take on responsibility. In fact, you’ll probably eschew it. I guess people miss Christ’s teaching when he doesn’t commend the behavior and attitude of children.
Matthew 11:16-17 “But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their companions, and saying:
‘ We played the flute for you,
And you did not dance;
We mourned to you,
And you did not lament.’(NKJV)
This characteristic of children, the inability to make up their mind, is not commended. Don’t be like little children in this way. Be humble like little children, but don’t be irresponsible like them.

The author of Hebrews said something related.
Hebrews 5:12-14 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (NKJV)
Christians are to grow up and take on adult responsibilities. We all start out as babes, but we should not stay there. This is fool hearty and destructive to our society. Our churches need men and women of integrity and stability who have trained their senses to make judgments. I pray that the church begins to grow up and ditches this current hatred of responsibility that we seem to have acquired from the culture at large.

Check out Matt Powell’s sermon on Genesis 49; he talks some about this idea in there.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

The consequence of obedience

I’ve heard it a thousand times. A man reaps what he sows. Paul’s statement in Galatians does not go unnoticed.
Galatians 6:7-9 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
We know exactly how this is to be applied too! Those unbelievers who walk in the flesh will reap judgment from God. Our God is not mocked; the disobedient will get what is coming to them.

Too often though, we overlook the other part. Those who sow to the Spirit will reap life everlasting. There is a consequence for those who seek after Godliness—for those who obey Christ’s commands. What did Christ say to the disciples in Mark 10 when they asked about themselves?
Mark 10:28-31 Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.
I’m pretty sure this doesn’t mean what the modern “name it claim it” types want it to mean. You probably will not get a hundred dollar return on every dollar you give to a charity. No, I think Christ is saying that the things you do have will be more enjoyable, and you will actually get to enjoy them!

I wonder if anyone else has ever noticed that when you are faithful in tithing and giving that you don’t spend much time worrying about money anymore. It isn’t that you have a ten fold increase in your income, or that you win the lottery, or some other “miracle” occurrence, but there seems to be enough to pay the bills still. Kind of like the widow of Sidon that gave Elijah to eat of her last bit of oil and meal; she never abounded in food, never had a huge nest egg stored up, but she had food for many days. And you know what, the things you buy with your money seem to be more enjoyable as well. God delights in providing for his people as they obey his command.

Ecclesiastes 5:12 tells us that “Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep.” We often fail to realize that a calm and restful night’s sleep is as much a gift of God as great riches. And, I would almost say a better gift! What good are millions of dollars if my entire life is then consumed with worry about how to preserve my fortune? No, those who obey Christ may not be reward in ways everyone can see, but they are rewarded—and oh is the reward sweet!

The problem people have with this is that the cost is high initially. We live in a culture that wants it now, or they don’t want it at all. Even in business, people are always looking for the “low hanging fruit.” It is a common saying, but “nothing worth doing is ever easy.” There is a lot of discipline involved in putting the old man to death. People who believe this is an easy task have obviously never really tried. What I want to suggest here though is that the reward for doing this is very great. Those who give liberally to the church are probably going to worry less about money. Those who respect God’s law about sex outside of marriage are probably going to have a more fulfilling marriage. Those who don’t steal to make money will enjoy that nice steak dinner with a guilt free conscience. Those who aren’t always coveting their neighbors’ possessions will be more content with what they have. Of course, all these require first submitting yourself to the law of God, and acknowledging that his way is best—not the instant gratification way.
Malachi 3:10
Bring all the tithes into the storehouse,
That there may be food in My house,
And try Me now in this,”
Says the LORD of hosts,

“If I will not open for you the windows of heaven
And pour out for you such blessing
That there will not be room enough to receive it.

Just don’t look for the blessing in the lottery ticket; look for it in something with a bit more real value!

Friday, August 12, 2005

Ah home

I’ve been on a series of business trips and vacations for the past four weeks now, and I have to say I miss home. As much fun as it is to see new places and visit new people, there is something special about home. A person can be comfortable there; they can relax and talk with the people closest to them. They know what to expect. This should be the place you can retreat to when you’ve had a bad day at work.

You know, I wonder if this isn’t the reason people are more stressed today. People don’t want to go home anymore it seems because home isn’t a comfortable place to rest after a stressful day—it is a place that causes more stress. In fact with so many broken homes, it is no wonder people work later, spend more time at bars and other places like that. If home isn’t a place you look forward to returning to, then you’ll find an excuse to not return. My question is where will you find relief from the stress of the day if it isn’t at home? The bar can’t provide that kind of rest, and neither can work, so where do people go? I’m sure the gym can provide some, but that is really just a different kind of work.

Even the church doesn’t provide substitute enough for the home. I would even suggest that the church is built with family units—it is built with homes. How can we expect the church to flourish in a land with so many broken homes? We live with our families seven days a week, not one day a week. If strong families are built, it would seem that strong churches could then be built.

Sorry, no answers today as I look forward to finally getting to enjoy home...only questions.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The beginning of wisdom

Proverbs tells us that the beginning of wisdom is to fear God. This god isn’t some abstract concept that you make up in your mind; no, this is to fear the one true God. This is the God who has spoken in the Bible. I think a corollary of the fear of God is the simple recognition that I don’t know everything. This makes sense of course because a wise man is one who accepts instruction—he is able to learn from a rebuke. Proverbs 9 teaches this very clearly.

This would seem to indicate that the first step for a Christian who seeks wisdom is to acknowledge that there is a God, and that I’m not him. This sounds so simple to say, but I can’t count the number of times that I’ve said this with my lips and then promptly retreated to the recess of my own mind to try to understand something.

Lately, I’ve begun to see how well this idea fits into so much of what Jesus taught about righteousness. He blatantly told the Pharisees that he had not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Of course if they had realized who exactly it was that they were talking to, they would have also recognized how sinful and unwise they were. Notice the subtlety to what Christ says in John 9.
Jesus said, "For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind." Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, "Are we also blind?" Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, 'We see,' your guilt remains.
(John 9:39-41)

If they had recognized their own blindness, they would have fled to Christ for forgiveness of sins, but instead, they claimed to already be both righteous and wise. Christ does not say that they weren’t blind, but simply that they said “We see.” They were unwilling to recognize their own blindness. Let’s remember that that wisdom is not hidden in ourselves or out there in the world somewhere—wisdom is hidden in Christ and his words.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Covenant children and camp

This past week I attended my first Heidelberg Youth Camp. Other than the fact that I was consistently loosing sleep, it was a great time. The teaching was excellent and I enjoyed meeting a broad range of people from the RCUS. I say this was my first HYC, but I have been to Christian camps before. Being raised in a Southern Baptist church, I attended my share of camps. There was one glaringly obvious difference with this one though, and that is what I want to comment on here.

The difference was in how the children were addressed. They were taught as part of the church--holy children of believing parents. In fact, the theme of the camp, “Set Apart,” was even about this. They were told over and over again that the promises are committed to them as much as to their parents and that is the reason they should live Godly lives. This fits perfectly with Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 7:14: “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.” The children are holy by reason of their baptism and their believing parents. Of course, this doesn’t mean that they are saved. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone, but just as the children of Jews were set apart, so believers’ children are set apart from the world. They are different!! What a comfort it must be to Godly parents (I am not one yet, so I can only speculate) that to them as well as to their children the oracles and promises of God are committed. God takes such an interest believers that he even in a special way cares about their children! The Heidelberg says it well.
74. Are infants also to be baptized?

Yes. For since they, as well as their parents, belong to the covenant and people of God, and both redemption from sin and the Holy Ghost, who works faith, are through the blood of Christ promised to them no less than to their parents: they are also by Baptism, as a sign of the covenant, to be ingrafted into the Christian Church, and distinguished from the children of unbelievers, as was done in the Old Testament by Circumcision, in place of which in the New Testament Baptism is appointed.

This was not the case with the Baptists. Now I know a lot of them are much better in practice than their doctrine should allow, but on this issue, they are pretty consistent to their own teaching. The focus of those camps was always to get as many of them “saved” as possible. Altar calls were given every night and success was measured by how many responded. The children were treated as if they were outside the covenant, outside the church, and without hope. They treated their children no differently than if they were simply unbelieving pagans living in their home and under their supervision!

Praise be to God that “the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”