Old Methodist Church Buildings

Dotted throughout the Midwest are old Methodist Church buildings. Should you travel through the many small country villages, more often than not, you will see a simple white building close to the main intersection of the town. The presence of these buildings is a testimony to the work of the Methodist itinerant preachers during the early days of our country.

Because there were so few people in the country, it was difficult for the people to support a pastor. So, itinerant preachers would ride their circuits on horseback. They would stay a few days and preach the gospel in one town. Then, they would continue on to the next village, preaching the same messages. Eventually, they would make their way back again.

Over the years, the few pockets of believers in these villages would often come together, pool their resources, and build their own buildings as resources would allow (often taking years). So, when you see these buildings, think of the men on horseback, who endured great hardship to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to those in the country.

How lovely on the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who announces peace
And brings good news of happiness,
Who announces salvation,
And says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” (Isaiah 52:7)

Every Water Molecule

While on vacation this summer, we saw some incredible waterfalls in Rocky Mountain National Park.  As I watched the water rush down the rocks and heard the thunder of the rapids, I was thinking about the path of each individual water molecule.  Each molecule found its way down the waterfall, adding it’s own little part to the whole.

Then, I thought of how God’s word is like a waterfall.  The LORD says, …

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.  (Isaiah 55:10-11).

Every portion of God’s word is like a water molecule.  As it goes out (in print, in conversation, on the internet, etc., …) it will accomplish exactly what God intends for it to accomplish, adding it’s little part to the whole of human history.

Are You With Me?

In the years prior to their marriage, Francis and Edith Schaeffer lived apart from each other, but wrote to each other daily.  In these letters they wrote about everything:  the details of life, their thoughts on current events, and their vision for a future together.  What a great way to force a couple to communicate their thoughts in preparation for marriage!

Anyway, during these days, news of the beheading of John and Betty Stam rippled across the American church (see yesterday’s blog entry). Francis wrote to Edith, “Edith, a point blank question:  You and I and our children may face what the Stams faced. … are you with me even to that?”  He was ready to do anything and go anywhere for the Lord (Isaiah 6:8).  He was merely checking to make sure that Edith was along for the ride. She was. (Edith Schaeffer, The Tapestry [Waco: Word Books], p. 159, 178).

Stars Everywhere

The Hubble Space Telescope is fascinating. Placed in orbit in 1990, it has given many scientists much to think about, as it has given images undistorted by the Earth’s atmosphere with almost no noise pollution.  I especially love the Ultra-Deep Field pictures that the telescope has taken. Scientists pointed the telescope in some of the darker portions of the night sky, zoomed in as far as they could and shot pictures.

What did they see? More stars and more galaxies. The pictures tell us that wherever we might look there are more and more and more stars and galaxies awaiting our discovery. The glory of God is out there, just waiting to be seen by us. God invites us to see it.

“Lift up your eyes on high
And see who has created these stars,
The One who leads forth their host by number,
He calls them all by name;
Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power,
Not one of them is missing” (Isaiah 40:26).

I can’t wait for the James Webb Space Telescope (due to be launched by 2018) to show us more of His glory.

Mercy or Merit?

There are two cards that you can play in life. You can play the mercy card. Or, you can play the merit card.

The merit card goes like this. You try your hardest to live the best life that you can. In the end, you stand before God and He rewards you (or punishes you) in accordance with the way that you went. The mercy card goes like this. You confess before the Lord that you are bankrupt and in need of mercy. You plead that God will be merciful to you, the sinner, through Jesus Christ.

The good news for those who play the mercy card is this: God will justify those who plead for His mercy (Luke 18:9-14). The bad news for those who play the merit card is this: Even the most righteous among us will be ruined as we stand before the holy Lord God, Almighty (Isaiah 6:1-5).

Which card are you going to play?

The Folly of Idolatry

The Bible often mocks the futility of idolatry. Consider the following:

Their idols are silver and gold,
The work of man’s hands.
They have mouths, but they cannot speak;
They have eyes, but they cannot see;
They have ears, but they cannot hear;
They have noses, but they cannot smell;
They have hands, but they cannot feel;
They have feet, but they cannot walk;
They cannot make a sound with their throat. (Psalm 115:4-7)

We know how foolish it is to take a hunk of wood, cut it in half, and roast our meat over the fire with the one half, while making graven image to worship with the other half (see Isaiah 44:16-17).

We may mock. We may laugh. We may think that we are better than they, because we see the folly of it all. And yet, we may very well be blind to our own idolatry as well. The Bible says that greed and covetousness are idolatry. Any time that you have a desire to possess wealth only for yourself, you are making idols as well. Any time that you want something that you don’t have, you are making idols in your heart.

John Calvin was right on when he said, “The human heart is a factory of idols” (Institutes of the Christian Religion I:XI.8). We make plenty of idols for ourselves. We just don’t see its folly.

The Proud Axe

What causes a tree to fall?  To be sure, the axe will cause the tree to fall. But, apart from the man swinging the axe, nothing will happen! The axe is powerless, unless it is in the hands of the lumberjack. So also are we powerless, unless used by God. May we not forget it. God said, “Is the axe to boast itself over the one who chops with it? Is the saw to exalt itself over the one who wields it?”

Shortly before Assyria destroyed Israel, God called Assyria, “The rod of My anger.” He said, “I send it [Assyria] against a godless nation [Israel] and commission it against the people of My fury.” In other words, God said, “I am the lumberjack. Assyria is the axe. And Israel is the tree. I am the one who will cut Israel down.” And yet, the king of Assyria boasted as if God wasn’t even in the equation. He said, …

“By the power of my hand and by my wisdom I did this,
For I have understanding;
And I removed the boundaries of the peoples
And plundered their treasures,
And like a mighty man I brought down their inhabitants.”

The end of the prideful Assyrians wasn’t good. You can read all about it in Isaiah 10:5-19. May we not be like a proud axe.