““Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”
(Matthew 7:7–11 ESV)
I have noted here before that my cats have a feeding schedule that you can set your proverbial clock by.
If you don’t have a proverbial clock you could almost tell time from them as they are quite punctual.
There is no need for an alarm clock as most of us can’t stay asleep with a cat standing on our heads knitting our hair together.
That means it’s 6:00 AM and time to get up…
An interesting thing happened the other day, however.
I rose as commanded and went to get the cats breakfast…and the cupboard was bare.
We were out of cat food.
Now, the way the morning ritual goes is that Miss Kitty sits by her dish on the bed and Chester sits by his dish on the floor as they wait for me to go in the other room and fetch the vittles.
Missy gets fed first because she’s Missy and then Chester chows down after.
On this day, I came back with empty hands and they just sat and stared at me.
After making the proper apologies, I started to get ready to go get breakfast…I would have to get cleaned up, get gas in the truck, go to the store, and come back.
It was going to be a while.
They understood none of this, they only understood that they were hungry.
They were still sitting by empty dishes when I left.
When I came back from the store, they were sitting in the exact same places I left them in and eagerly commenced to wolf down their Friskies without comment.
This, naturally, got me musing about God and my own “empty dishes”.
There are things that I’ve been asking God to do that only He can do for me.
There are needs that need to be met as regularly as I fill the cats dishes.
If He doesn’t fill them, they won’t be filled.
There are the empty dishes of others that I pray He will fill with finances, healing ,hope, and so many other things common to us all.
We all spend a lot of time sitting by empty dishes in expectation.
Sometimes, when we think He’s going to fill our dish, it seems like He has left the building instead.
We sit with our empty dishes and wonder what to do.
Here’s what to do…be like my cats.
Keep sitting there next to your dish in expectation.
Keep sitting there with your empty dish in expectation even if it seems that He’s late…again.
He knows the best time to fill it and His cupboard is never bare.
You’re more than a pet, you’re a beloved child and an heir.
He knows the need…and He loves to meet your needs.
The Friskies is on the way…
Make your own application…
Guilty as charged.
This does not mean I believe in the brotherhood of all religions, it means that I believe that all who confess Christian orthodoxy are family.
The next question would be, how do you decide who is orthodox?
For me, (your mileage may vary) the early church defined the boundaries of orthodoxy in the creeds.
The one I confess in my daily prayers is the Apostles Creed.
I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth,
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
I also affirm the Nicene Creed.
WE BELIEVE in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.
Those are the foundational beliefs of the Christian faith…if you can confess them, you’re family.
Granted, like all families, there are some weird relatives…
These creeds are the basis for Christian unity…most of us also have confessions that detail why we fellowship in different buildings.
Anglicans have The 39 Articles, the Reformed have the Westminster Confession and the Three Forms of Unity, Lutherans have the Book of Concord, etc.
All of the above also confess the creeds I posted.
I appreciate the confessions, but the creeds are the hill I’ll die on.
That’s what it means to me to be ecumenical…
“So Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.’ ” (Acts 10:34-43)
World War II ended in 1974 for Japanese Lieutenant, Hiroo Onoda. That was the year Onoda came out of hiding on the remote Philippine Island of Lubang and handed over his sword. Peace had been made 29 years earlier when Japan surrendered to the United States ending World War II, but Onoda either did not receive or did not trust the news until his former commander went back to Lubang in 1974 to personally deliver the news of peace to him. The Onoda story may provide us with a useful comparison for exploring the proclamation of the Gospel which Peter described as “peace through Jesus Christ.”
Through His death and resurrection, Christ won a cosmic war which pitted the world against God. Christ defeated the powers of sin, death and the devil: “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Col 2:15); “For ‘God has put all things under his feet’ ” (1 Cor 15:27a); and “[Christ] is Lord of all” (Acts 10:36). This is the good news of peace through Jesus Christ.
But Christ’s victory brought more than a cold peace between former enemies, His victory brought, reconciliation and grace. “For in [Christ] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” (Col 1:19-20) Christ’s victory brought the world a gracious God.
Therefore, beginning with the apostles, Christ commissioned His Church to proclaim the good news of peace through Him. Just like the story of Onoda, the good news of peace must be proclaimed and believed if the war is to end and peace and reconciliation are to be made between former enemies. Without this proclamation, humanity is still at war; it is still living under condemnation and wrath at enmity with God. As Paul wrote: “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Rom 10:14)
War creates bitter enemies. For most American Christians, until recently, we have not experienced here at home the opposition which is the byproduct of the war against God. However, the war is showing signs of heating up. We have heard about skirmishes waged against pastors, such as Reformed Pastor Tim Keller and Lutheran Pastor Jonathon Fisk, and against small business owners, who hold traditional views on marriage and sexuality based on God’s Word. If you follow these stories, you may notice there are groups who will settle for nothing less than to discredit, demonize and/or financially penalize Christians who follow God’s Word as traditionally taught on these subjects. To be fair, not all so-called “progressives” on these subjects are publicly opposed to the teachings of Scripture, but there is a vocal, active minority who are.
However, if you look at the deeper issue, we should recognize that the enemy ultimately is not the Christians (who are Christ’s ambassadors, and in these skirmishes, may suffer for Christ); the enemy ultimately is Christ and His Word. Unbelievers either have not heard that the war is over, or do not believe that Christ has been victorious. Therefore, for them, the war continues on. As Christians, we may suffer as human representatives of Christ, but we should understand that in this war, our oppressors ultimately are the enemies of Christ and are fighting against God.
And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. (Acts 10:42)
The reality is that the war really is over; Christ has won (Christus Victor); the devil has lost; and God has appointed Christ to be judge of the living and the dead. There may be sinners lost or hiding in the jungle of unbelief, unconsciously following a defeated devil, but the cosmic war is over. Therefore, any temporary persecution that the world may inflict on Christ’s Church or His Christians on account of His Word has no eternal significance for us who are in Christ. On the other hand by continuing their war against God and His Word, unbelievers remain children of wrath. Should they land as unbelievers before Christ’s judgment seat on the last day, they will face the eternal consequences of their unbelief.
Therefore, Jesus has commanded His church to proclaim the good news of peace through Jesus Christ to all nations.
“To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10:43)
The good news of peace through Jesus Christ must be heard and believed to bring forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. He is Lord of all! Sadly not everyone who hears the Gospel comes to faith in Christ, and we who bring this good news, each in our individual vocations, can expect rejection and opposition by unbelievers. However, it is not the messenger but the message and its Author which the world ultimately rejects. Remembering this may help us as Christ’s ambassadors to love our enemies and to bless those who persecute us. For our Lord “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2:4) Amen.
“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’ ” (Isa 52:7) Amen.
He long wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer and still does from time to time since his retirement several years ago. A masterful wordsmith, Lyon’s manner of writing makes me envious as I now attempt to hack my way through this thing called prose. Seemingly able to effortlessly turn a phrase and to captivate his audience with the telling of a story, Lyon has a special gift.
Just to give a quick impression of his talent, I quote a small snippet about him from an article by a current Philadelphia Inquirer sports columnist, Mike Sielski. Sielski is telling the story of the time Lyon reached out to him, at the time a college kid and aspiring sportswriter, and invited him to join him on the job of covering a Phillies game.
From Sielski’s article:
“Then the game begins. The Dodgers’ starting pitcher is Hideo Nomo, an international sensation who is dominating the National League in his rookie season. He lasts three innings. Gregg Jefferies becomes the first Phillies player in 32 years to hit for the cycle. Jeff Juden, the Phillies starter, hits a grand slam, throws a complete game, and conducts his postgame interviews with a cowboy hat on his head and an unlit cigarette dangling from his lips. Daulton tears the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on a seemingly innocuous slide into second base. The Phillies win, 17-4. It is the kind of game that can overwhelm a sportswriter. How do you capture so much? In the press box, the college kid glances at Bill’s laptop and watches these words materialize on the screen:
This all begins to unfurl, this night of madness, at 8:16, when, to a firestorm of flash bulbs from the stands, Nomo pretzels himself into that bizarre contortionist’s windup, stretching like a man just awakening from a long nap, then pivoting until he is turned halfway around, and from that bewildering posture the ball suddenly emerges, hot and hissing.
Bill writes the entire column in 45 minutes. Some things are beyond explanation.”
Lyon, as mentioned at the beginning, still writes from time-to-time for the Philadelphia Inquirer. However, a good many of his columns over the past year have very little to do with sports coverage.
Rather, they are his personal accounts of dealing with Alzheimer’s disease.
His first article was published last June. The series has continued on through his most recent piece published just this past Easter Sunday. Throughout the series, Lyon tells of his travails battling this terrible disease and how it brings pains and humiliation to a man who once prided himself, and still tries to, in his strength and abilities. Amongst many stories, he tells of times like when he can’t find his way home when driving a route he has done so many times before and describes things like the constant danger of navigating the steps he had automatically and flawlessly handled thousands of times before in his home of 42 years.
Lyon has been humbled by this disease. Yet he also maintains a defiant spirit and refuses to give into the affliction. He balks at any thought of conceding defeat and vows to fight to the end. He denies his nemesis (whom he calls “Al”) from gaining full control of his life and keeps on going the best that he can.
I was saddened when I read Lyon’s first article in this series where he publicly revealed the battle he is fighting. I had never met the man and knew very little of him beyond his sports writing. Yet it was still disheartening to hear such bad news from a man that I had a respect for in some regard and felt like I knew in some way.
I now find myself rooting for Bill Lyon in his battle. His attitude and outlook has been inspirational as he wrestles with this harrowing condition. I don’t know where the man stands before God or in any religious faith as I can’t recall any references of significance to such in his writings. But I pray that God would strengthen him in his journeys and that if it hasn’t happened yet, that he would come to faith in Jesus Christ.
Why do I write about Bill Lyon today? I really don’t know. I don’t have any cogent application or attempted lesson to impart, and I don’t have some specific grand topic to put up for discussion before the community. I had been thinking about writing about Lyon for a couple months now but really wasn’t sure where to go with it. I still don’t know where to go with it.
Maybe there was a need to tell this story for someone who needed to hear it for some reason unknown to me. Maybe there was some kind of need of my own to put my thoughts about Lyon into written form that I have not yet recognized. Or maybe I’m just grasping at something to fulfill my weekly article. I’ll leave it up to God to decide.
In the meantime, God bless all those who are either personally stricken by Alzheimer’s or similar debilitating conditions, or care for people close to them with such conditions. May God have mercy.
Now, I’m not going to link to these comments/titles as they probably wouldn’t receive the gift of intelligent traffic well..but here are some highlights.
“Disgruntled former Calvary Chapel pastor Michael Newnham [aka the “Phoenix Preacher’] – Critic of Chuck Smith and advocate of Brian Brodersen – Comes out of the closet, declaring, “Why I AM (becoming) An Anglican” in a recent post.”
“he and alot of his friends are Catholic contemplative promoting, emergent & ecumenical.”
“Phoenix Preacher [interesting name] is basically entering the left/liberal wing of the Catholic church.”
“I’ve debated with Michael many times over the years. He was always a strong proponent of the “lordship salvation” false gospel that leads to hell, which also came primarily from catholicism through its daughters calvinism and arminianism (Michael was a calvinist). So I made a comment on his anglican post that he is just taking the natural next step from the “lordship salvation” heresy to Rome. He’s always been a fake, he was never a Bible believer. He was a “traditions of man” believer”
What would an ODM be without a conspiracy theory?
“Interesting that Newhan, being such a Fan of BB and his new direction for CC – that it’s the Anglican COE that BB is in bed with in his ‘Creation Fest’ UK… small world after all.”
“With Phoenix Preacher, I think Calvary Chapel serves as a “home to Rome” mechanism anyhow, maybe he’s still taking orders? “
Then there are the historians…
“Michael Newnham and me have debated quite a bit. He is an angry man that has a warped view of church history. He makes excuses for Rome and their idolatry because he knows that if he admits that the Church of Rome has been the Whore of Babylon since 196 AD, then that legitimatizes the Protestant daughters.”
About the only thing these folks got right was the name of the blog and my name…and they couldn’t always spell that correctly.
Now, I admit to being very amused by this stuff… because I can afford to be.
These wild hillbilly rants have no real effect on the rest of my life.
Others are not so fortunate…and that’s why we will continue to try to bring correction when we see other brethren attacked with lies and fantasies and without cause by the ODM’s and their ilk.
Many of you were with us years ago and shared in the story of Bryon Mondok and how he and his wife took over the care of their granddaughter Allie after a tragedy. You can get caught up on Allie and the family here…
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2. I watched parts of a bunch of online services yesterday…there were altar calls galore, but no celebrations of the Lord’s table and no mention of baptism.
It was all just slightly more uniquely Christian than joining the Elks Club…
3. I’m still waiting for someone to use Bonhoeffer’s quote for an altar call…”when God calls a man, he bids him to come and die”… now, if you’re ready to die we’ll wait for you as the band plays another chorus…and another…and another…
4. The cost involved in crafting these incredible “experiences” and media ministries mean that part of every service has to be an infomercial for the next one…marketing is part of the “liturgy”…
5. I lose my lunch every time I watch an altar call and the pastor demands that people come down to the front because Jesus demands to be acknowledged publicly. I thought that’s how they explain baptism…
6. It’s not my fault I’m cranky…this winter has gone on far too long and someone asked me to watch three hours of George Bryson lectures…
7. It causes me great sadness to know that lots of pastors judged the worth of their ministry by how many turned out yesterday… both positively and negatively.
8. I haven’t thought this through yet, but mega churches may provide something we are sadly missing as a culture, that being the shared experience. When I was a younger man we all watched the same TV shows, listened to the same few radio stations, and generally all drank from the same cultural wells. That gave us a common cultural ground that helped hold society together. In losing that, we’re coming apart and see our differences more than what we hold in common. Perhaps mega churches bring some of that commonality back to those who attend…
9. From my Facebook page… “Following Him means your life will be a succession of Good Fridays of sacrificial love desperately waiting for Easters of resurrected hope…because He rose, you will too. He promises…”
10. Another one…”When life hurts (and it often does) remember Easter isn’t just coming, it’s an accomplished fact.”