Sunday, December 11, 2011

I Can't Get No Satisfaction

During our last period of heavy rain I made a disappointing discovery.  While making my way across the parking lot at church I felt a damp sensation inside my shoe.  On inspection I found a hole about the size of a dime in the sole of my black dress shoes.

For some reason or another dress shoes don't seem to last me a long time.  It could be that I am somewhat of a fiscal conservative (another way of stating that is to say that I often by cheap shoes).  You see, I find dress shoes at less than $50 quite tempting.  Of course the down side is they seem to wear out entirely too soon.

As soon as I discovered the hole I thought: That's it!  I'm tired of these cheap shoes that don't even last me a year. 

A few days later I was standing in Dillards - in the men's shoe department.  I must say, Dillards has some of the finest looking men's shoes I have ever seen.  However, they cost a bit more than $50.  The pair that I spotted certainly did.  They were black slip-on's - brand name Brass Boot.  On the sole was a sale price of $99.99, certainly not the most expensive shoe but more than what I usually spend. 

I thought: It's time I get some good shoes; dependable shoes; shoes that will last me longer.  So I bought them.

When I got home, I took one last look at my old shoes.  I turned them over to inspect the hole one last time, and to my utter amazement I saw the words Brass Boot.  Yes!  The shoes I had been wearing ( and complaining about!) were the very brand of shoes that I was craving.

It was then that I remembered the words of Solomon:

All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.( Eccl 1:8,ESV)

I had been blessed to be wearing a quality pair of shoes - shoes that still developed a hole in them - and I had failed to appreciate it, nor be satisfied.

So here's what I'm going to do.  I'm going to take my old black shoes to the cobbler (shoe repair) and see about getting a new sole put on.  Then I will take the new shoes back and exchange them for a brown pair.  And then and only then will I be perfectly satisfied.

Yeah, right!

Pastor Van

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Inequality - A Fact of Life In a Fallen World

With all the protest in our society concerning economic inequality, I thought that perhaps some thoughts from over one hundred years ago might help us as we think this issue through.  Enjoy!

Inescapable Inequality?—J. C. Ryle (1816 – 1900)

J. C. Ryle was an evangelical Bishop who knew how to apply the teaching of the Scriptures to the society in which people lived. In this extract from his work Practical Religion he challenges the developing ideology which claimed that all men should be equal in wealth. Ryle countered such arguments by demonstrating that inequality is a fact of life in a fallen world and can be an instruction toward challenging character development in the poor and the rich.

Many in every age have disturbed society by stirring up the poor against the rich, and by preaching the popular doctrine that all men ought to be equal. But so long as the world is under the present order of things this universal equality cannot be attained. Those who speak against the vast inequality of men's fates will doubtless never lack an audience; but so long as human nature is what it is, this inequality cannot be prevented.

So long as some are wise and some are foolish-some strong and some weak-some healthy and some diseased–some lazy and some diligent-some prudent and some careless; so long as children reap the fruit of their parent's bad behavior; so long as sun, and rain, and heat, and cold, and wind, and waves, and drought, and plague, and storms are beyond man's control–so there will always be some rich and some poor. All the political order in the world will never erase the fact that, "There will always be poor people in the land." [Deuteronomy 15:11]

Take all the property in our country by force this very day, and divide it equally among the inhabitants. Give every man above the age of twenty an equal portion. Let everyone share and share alike, and begin the world over again. Do this, and see where you would be at the end of fifty years. You would have just come back around to the point where you began. You would find things just as unequal as before. Some would have worked, and some would have been lazy. Some would have always been careless, and some always scheming. Some would have sold, and others would have bought. Some would have wasted, and others would have saved. And the end would be that some would be rich and others poor.

Let no one listen to those vain and foolish talkers who say that all men were meant to be equal. They might as well tell you that all men ought to be of the same height, weight, strength, and skill–or that all oak trees ought to be of the same shape and size–or that all blades of grass ought to always be the same length.

Settle it in your mind that the main cause of all the suffering you see around you is sin. Sin is the great cause of the enormous luxury of the rich, and the painful degradation of the poor–of the heartless selfishness of the highest classes, and the helpless poverty of the lowest class. Sin must first be cast out of the world. The hearts of all men must be renewed and sanctified. The devil must be locked away. The Prince of Peace must come down and take His great power and reign. All this must be done before there can ever be universal happiness, or the gulf filled up that now divides the rich and the poor.

Beware of expecting a millennium to be brought about by any method of government, by any system of education, or by any political party. Work hard to do good to all men. Pity the poor, and help in every reasonable endeavor to raise them from their life of poverty. Seek to help to increase knowledge, to promote morality, and to improve the earthly condition of the poor. But never, never forget that you live in a fallen world, that sin is all around you, and that the devil and the demons are everywhere. And be very sure that the rich man and Lazarus are emblems of two classes, which will always be in the world until the Lord returns.

 (Cited from Kairos Journal)

Pastor Van

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Four Reasons to be Thankful


A Christian brother in another part of the country sent me Four Reasons to be Thankful.  I wanted to pass them along that others my benefit as I did.


  1. First, you can be thankful for what God had done for you through Jesus Christ! "For God commended His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us."  Romans 5:8 Thank you, God!


  1. Next, you can be thankful for what God is doing for you now! "I am come that they might have life and have it abundantly."  John 10:10 Thank you, God!


  1. Third, be thankful for what you know God will do because of His promises! "I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me."  Philippians 4:13 Thank you, God!


  1. Finally, you can always be thankful for what He is doing that you are not even aware of!" "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!" Ephesians 3: 20-21 Thank you, God!


Happy Thanksgiving to all!


Pastor Van


Saturday, November 19, 2011

I Believe!

"In order to have faith, we must know certain facts about ourselves and about Jesus, who he is what he has done for us.  Thus the Apostle Paul asks rhetorically, 'How are they to believe in him whom they have never heard?' (Romans 10:14).  You cannot believe in something you know nothing about.  Saving faith must have an object.  You don't just believe, you believe something.  And throughout Scriptures we find essential truths that must be believed.  Paul writes that we are saved through 'belief in the truth'(2 Thessalonians 2:13).  There are certain doctrines people must hear, understand, and affirm if they want to become true Christians."

Citation: Am I Really a Christian?  (By; Mike McKinley; Crossway, 2011)

It's not just I believe!  What do you believe and whom do you believe in?

Pastor Van

Friday, November 18, 2011

Taste And See That....

My wife is an excellent cook.  Out of all the many dishes that she fixes so well, my favorite is her broccoli casserole.  Kathryn boils the broccoli; takes melted butter and unites it with Ritz Crackers; and smites it with Velveeta Cheese (and smites again!).  Yes my friend, I have tasted and it is good!

I know some will say, Broccoli!  Yuk!  I understand.  That used to be me.  I was once among the broccoli haters.  I stood afar off and said things like, "Anything that has to be covered in that much cheese can't be good."  I made fun of those who ate it, insisting that they were just weak individuals. 

Still my wife wavered not.  Though I resisted and rebelled she continued to make broccoli casserole and invited me to taste and see that it was good.  She would bring it to family functions.  Everyone hoped she would.  They would all dig in, enjoying it, persistently insisting, respectfully so, that I didn't know what I was missing.  It was clear that my ignorance was not going to prevent them from enjoying the goodness.

Then one day it happened.  I can't really tell you the time nor the place, but it did happen.  I was invited yet again to taste - and I did this time.  Suddenly the scales fell off and my eyes were opened.  I tasted and it was indeed good - very good!  I became a believer, a professor.   That which I had once hated, now I loved.  And I am still enjoying it to this day.

The Scriptures say:

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! (Ps 34:8, ESV)

For those of us who have experienced this, O how we long for others to do so as well.  O how we long for our children to taste and see that the Lord is good.  But perhaps your son/daughter has no taste for the things of God.  What should you do?  Continue to put the Lord before them.  Continue to enjoy the goodness of the Lord yourself, all the while inviting them to taste as well.

Now I know that there is a huge difference between tasting broccoli and tasting to see that the Lord is good.  However, I remember in my broccoli rebellion days I would observe everyone enjoying my wife's casserole, and I would quietly think: They certainly seem to be sincerely enjoying this stuff.  Could I possibly be missing something here?  Looking back, their witness to the goodness was quite compelling and not easy to dismiss.

So Christian mom/dad; Christian spouse; Christian co-worker; keep feasting on the goodness of the Lord - and continue to invite others to taste and see that the Lord is good - because He is.

Pastor Van

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Object of Our Faith

"True faith takes its character and quality from its object and not from itself.  Faith gets a man out of himself and into Christ.  Its strength therefore depends on the character of Christ.  Even those of us who have weak faith have the same strong Christ as others."

Citation: The Christian Life; by Sinclair Ferguson

As I've heard before; little faith in thick ice is better than huge faith in thin ice.  It's the object of our faith that matters.

Pastor Van

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Have a Seat

"Before Christianity tells us to do anything, it calls you to sit in wonder and amazement at what God has done for you."

(Gospel: Recovering the Power That Made Christianity Revolutionary; by J.D. Grear; B & H Books, 2011)

Pastor Van

Monday, November 14, 2011

Delivering Good News

Alan Stewart is an associate professor in the Department of Counseling at the University of Georgia who has studied death notifications for 14 years.  Stewart says death notification lingers.

 "Oftentimes, people will never forget the way they got the news," Stewart says.  "If it's done properly, they'll be able to get through the mourning process.  But a bad notification can get in the way of them going through the mourning process.  It can create a sense of ill will toward the person who notified them."

Last year in the USA, 32,788 people died in motor vehicle crashes.  That's 32,788 times that a parent, a spouse, a sibling, a friend had to be told bad news.  Since 1988 MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers) have trained police officers in death notifications.

It matters how bad news is delivered.  It also matters how good news is delivered.

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work,  to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:1-7)

First let's agree that all Christians are to further, or advance, the good news of the grace of Jesus Christ.  We are told in Paul's letter to Titus how to deliver this news: "be gentle, show perfect courtesy."

One of the complaints from those who received bad news was that the person who delivered it just simply dropped the bomb in a cold, uncaring, inconsiderate manner.

It's interesting that the characteristics of gentleness, peaceable, and humility (courtesy), are all characteristics which are used to describe Jesus.  As His followers, we are to follow His example.

On what basis does Paul insist that we behave in such a way?  Because "we ourselves were once..."  It was Karl Menninger who once said, "It's hard for a fish who is no longer on the hook to remember what it's like to be on the hook."  The Scriptures provide for us a humble reminder that we ourselves were once a mess.  We must never forget this as we deliver good to news to those still on the hook.

Another thing we must remember when we are delivering life notifications is that we who were so messed up are now loved and accepted by God, "not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy."  Remembering this will keep us from excluding anyone; it will prevent us from coming across in a cold, condemning manner.  When you realize that you are in by the grace of God you can deliver good news with the confidence that there is hope for everyone, no matter how messed up they are.

Do you have someone to deliver good news to this week?

Pastor Van



Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tiny Gifts and the Wisdom of God

At the beginning of 2011 we began preaching through the O.T. book of Ecclesiastes on Sunday evenings.  To be honest, it was a huge challenge, yet at the same time very rewarding.

This past Sunday evening I covered Eccl. 11:1-6.  The main points were:

In Order to Gain You Must Venture

Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days. (Eccl 11:1)

The Stifling Effects of Looking for Perfect Conditions

He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap. (Eccl 11:4)

Someone said, "A ship is safe in the harbor, but that is not what ships are built for." We can try to play it safe, but that's not what we're built for; we're built to walk by faith in a mighty God in the midst of the uncertainties of life.

We Must Remain Steadfast In Our Labor for the Lord for It Is Not In Vain

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Cor 15:58)

We may not know fully how God will use our gifts, even the smallest, or our labors – but He will.

It was here that I was helped greatly by the thoughts of Ray Stedman.  He recalled the story of Jesus observing the people throwing their money into the temple treasury.  One woman threw in two pennies, two mites, the smallest coin in Israel.  Yet of her Jesus said, "This poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others."

Stedman remarks:

"Two mites are hardly a drop in the bucket compared with the wealth that may have been put into that treasury that day.  What did Jesus mean?  What he said was literally true.  That story from the lips of Jesus has been repeated all over the earth, in every culture.  For two thousand years it has been told again and again.  It has motivated more people to give than any other story ever told.  Thus it is true that in the wisdom of God that tiny gift was so multiplied that it has outweighed all the giving of any single gift from any individual, no matter how rich, throughout the history of Christendom." (Is This All There Is  - Answers From Ecclesiastes; Discovery House Pub. 1985)

Be steadfast; continue on; your labor and your gifts are not in vain.

Pastor Van

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Occupy Heaven?

By now you have heard about Occupy Wall Street (OWS), a people-powered movement that began on September 17, 2011 in Liberty Square in Manhattan's Financial District, and has spread to over 100 cities in the United States. Among the numerous issues that are being protested is economic inequality.  The protesters' slogan, "We are the 99%", refers to the difference in wealth and income growth in the U.S. between the wealthiest 1% and the rest of the population.

Presumably, the protesters assumption is that society would be better off if everyone enjoyed economic equality.  Secular utopianism suggests that human happiness is accomplished through some sort of redistribution of wealth resulting in an engineered economic equality.

But is this true?  Does human happiness come from everyone having the same thing? 

Forget the pipe dream of secular utopianism for a moment and let's focus on the future glory of those whom Christ has redeemed.  According to the Scriptures, one day, every beleiver will stand before the judgment seat of Christ:

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 Cor 5:10)

Scripture also teaches that there will be degrees of reward for believers.  But wait a minute; won't our reward inequality affect our future happiness?

I find Wayne Grudem's comment very helpful here:

"But we must guard against misunderstanding here:  Although there will be degrees of reward in heaven, the joy of each person will be full and complete for eternity.  If we ask how this can be when there are different degrees of reward, it simply shows that our perception of happiness is based on the assumption that happiness depends upon what we possess or the status or power that we have.  In actuality, however, our true happiness consists in delighting in God and rejoicing in the status and recognition that he has given us."  (Bible Doctrine, Zondervan, 1999)

Be at ease dear saints; there will be no need for a Occupy Heaven movement:

 "…in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Ps 16:11)

Pastor Van

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tied to the Mast

Here's an excerpt from a new book by Timothy Keller and Kathy Keller entitled The Meaning of Marriage.  Enjoy!

Wedding vows are not a declaration of present love but a mutually binding promise of future love.  A wedding should not be primarily a celebration of how loving you feel now – that can be safely assumed.  Rather, in a wedding you stand up before God, your family, and all the main institutions of society, and you promise to be loving, faithful, and true to the other person in the future, regardless of undulating internal feelings or external circumstances.

When Ulysses was traveling to the island of the Sirens, he knew that he would go mad when he heard the voices of the women on the rocks.  He also learned that the insanity would be temporary, lasting until he could get out of earshot.  He didn't want to do something while temporarily insane that would have permanent bad consequences.  So he put wax in the ears of his sailors, tied himself to the mast, and told his men to keep him on course no matter what he yelled.

What can keep marriages together during the rough patches?  The vows.  A public oath, made to the world, keeps you "tied to the mast" until your mind clears and you begin to understand things better.  It keeps you in the relationship when you're feelings flag, and flag they will.  By contrast, consumer relationships cannot possibly endure these inevitable tests of life, because neither party is "tied to the mast."

This is good stuff!

Pastor Van


Monday, November 7, 2011

Rats, Crickets, and Sinners


I ran across an interesting article from NPR entitled Invasion of the Mind-Controlling Zombie Parasites.  Now I'm not into sci-fi stuff but I decided to check this out and see what all the fuss was about.  It turns out there is such a thing as zombie parasites.  In fact, they claim that mind-controlling parasites are all around us; and that the number of creatures that can be affected is "huge". 

While they claim that we don't know the half about the world of parasites, one example that's becoming a little more understood is Toxoplasma gondii.  Toxoplasma basically makes rodents somewhat fearless around cats; with even evidence that they're attracted to the smell of cats.  Now the last time I checked, rats that like cats most often get eaten.

What makes rats behave so recklessly?  Mind-controlling parasites - that's what!

Then there are organisms called hairworms in crickets, who when they begin to reach maturity inside the cricket, make it begin to act erratically.  Crickets that would normally avoid, say a pond, take the suicidal plunge into the water - to the delight of the bluegills!

What would leave crickets so confused?  You guessed it - mind-controlling parasites.

This news shouldn't surprise us. In fact, these parasites are a result of an invasion - the invasion of the principle of sin into the world.

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man... (Rom 5:12, ESV)

And because of this invasion, we have answers to other questions.  Questions like:  Why does the husband/wife run off and leave their family for someone else?  How is the lobbyist able to have the congressman in his hip-pocket?  Why does the college student live a double life?  

Consider Paul's comments in Ephesians 2:1-3

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

We live in a world where people blame an assortment of things for their behavior: the environment; genetic determinism; ADHD; even mind-controlling zombie parasites (Yes it's true!  There is evidence that they attack humans as well.)

As convenient as it may seem to blame our behavior on something outside of us, the truth is , the blame lies with us – within us – our sinful heart.

But there is good news.  Jesus Christ died for sinners:

…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8)

Christ died, not for reckless rats or confused crickets, but for ungodly sinners – like me! – and yes, you too.

Pastor Van



Thursday, January 27, 2011

Our Catalyst For Change

Are there areas in your life where you know you need change?  Aren't we all interested in finding the catalyst for change?

In an article entitled "Why Emotion, Not Knowledge, is the Catalyst for Change", Dan Health and Chip Heath state: "It takes emotion to bring knowledge to a boil."  They illustrated their point with the following:

Urologist Leon Bender became frustrated when he took a South Seas cruise and observed that the crew was more diligent about hand-washing than the staff at his own hospital.  Frequent hand-washing by doctors and nurses is one of the best ways to prevent patient infections, and studies estimate that thousands of patients dies every year from preventable bacterial infections.

Bender and his colleagues tried a variety of techniques to encourage hand-washing, but the staff's compliance with regulations was stuck around 80%.  Medical standards required a minimum of 90% and Cedars-Sinai was due for an inspection from the accrediting board.  They had to do better.

One day, a committee of 20 doctors and administrators were taken by surprise when, after lunch, the hospital's epidemiologist asked them to press their hands into an agar plate, a sterile petri dish containing a growth medium.  The agar plates were sent to the lab to be cultured and photographed.

The photos revealed that wasn't visible to the naked eye: The doctor's hands were covered with gobs of bacteria.  Imagine being one of those doctors and realizing that your own hands – the same hands that would examine a patient later in the day, not to mention the same hands that you just used to eat a turkey wrap – were harboring an army of microorganisms.  It was revolting.  One of the filthiest images in the portfolio was made into a screen saver for the hospital's network of computers ensuring that everyone on staff could share in the horror.

Suddenly, hand-hygiene compliance grew to nearly 100% and stayed there.

Someone might ask: Wouldn't it be great if there were something that could take a picture of what's going on inside our soul?

Well my friend – there is.  It's the Bible – God's Word.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Heb 4:12-13)

Pastor/author Paul Tripp commented:

"The Bible is God's great scalpel.  It is able to cut through all the layers of who I am and what I'm doing to expose my heart…The Bible by its very nature is heart-revealing.  For that reason, Scripture must be our central tool in personal growth and ministry."

So thank God, there is something that can accurately reveal the gobs of sin hiding in the recesses of our heart.  Not only does God's Word expose the invisible grime of our soul, God's Word also washes us:

"…as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word…" (Eph 5:25-26)

Someone might say: "Then why don't we see more change?"  The answer is most likely a potential problem that we are warned of by the author of the book of Hebrews just a few verses before he writes about the exposing power of God's Word:

"Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts." (Heb 4:7)

To harden the heart is to make up one's mind what you're going to do, and be unwilling to show any flexibility in your thinking when confronted by God. 

Change is hard, it's needed, and it's possible – and our catalyst for change is God's Word.  But if we are to ever be changed we must not harden our heart when God speaks.

Pastor Van




Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Fear Not - Someone is Praying for You

This is what we know: Jared Loughner, 22, a community college dropout, has been charged with five federal felonies, including the attempted murder of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in a mass shooting that left six people dead and 14 wounded.  Court documents allege that Loughner had actually targeted the congresswoman.

This horrible tragedy has left many lawmakers on edge.  While many take pride in meeting their constituents without any armed protection, the events in Arizona have left some having second thoughts.  Some are ratcheting up their security while others who have conceal-and-carry permits are planning on carrying their guns with them more frequently.

How does a person deal with the awareness that a ruthless, determined, unseen enemy is bent on doing them harm?

There was an occasion in which Jesus warned his disciple, Peter, about such an enemy that had targeted him.

"Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers." (Luke 22:31-32)

Jesus speaks Peter's name twice, stressing the seriousness of the matter.  Satan, the enemy of Peter and all those who will trust in the Savior, demands a shot at Peter (look at Job 1).  Satan wants to "sift" Peter; he wants to pick Peter to pieces; take him apart; resulting in Peter's faith being drained away to nothing.

Satan wants to bring Peter to ruin.  This is Satan's desire for every Christian - total ruin.  This is a serious matter and we live with this reality every day.  This disguised "angel of light" lurks and roams about "like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (this is how Peter would later describe his stalking enemy).

How can we face the day with any degree of confidence when we know there's a lion on the loose; one that's stalking us?

"...but I [Jesus] have prayed for you that your faith may not fail."

Notice that Jesus doesn't say, "I've prayed for you and Satan will never mess with you."  No, Satan is allowed to deal a blow.  Peter will ultimately deny Jesus.  But Peter's failure is a failure of nerve, not a heart denial of Jesus.  This is because Jesus has prayed (interceded) for Peter that his faith would not be drained away to nothing.  Peter will turn again to a better faithfulness.  Satan fails to destroy Peter because Jesus had interceded for him.

I think is completely reasonable for believers today to expect such intercession:

Consequently, he[Jesus] is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Heb 7:25)

Knowing Peter's upcoming failure, still, Jesus interceded for Peter.  And praise be to God, because Jesus lives to make intercession for us, we can face tomorrow – in spite of a roaring lion who stalks us.

Pastor Van