Friday, December 31, 2010


As I sit here on the verge of another year, I cannot help but think of all those we've left behind. At least a couple of times this season, I've had opportunity to remember the notables from American life and culture who passed away in 2010. The thing that really struck was how familiar their faces were to me. They were not players from some another era. They were people I grew up with, people whose names and faces I've known all my life.
And now they are gone.
I've lost a lifetime this past year.
It's times like this that really hit home; times that make a person stop cheering with the clock moves past midnight, and begin to wonder who we will lose in the coming year.
Although none of us wants to admit it - we're too busy celebrating - the thing New Year's really demonstrates is our own mortality. One more new year. One less new year we will live to see.
Yet at the same time, it's also one more year nearer heaven, one more year nearer Christ, one more year nearer His kingdom.
The souls who've gone before us, who surround the rainbow throne of God's immaculate glory, do not have calenders as do we, but they do have events. And the next big one for them, the thing they have to anticipate is the rapture and all that follows. The passing years here mean something altogether different to them than to us. They know life doesn't have to end the way it does here.
Some day there will be no more looking back. It can't come quick enough.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Am I Glad That's Over!

What a year. I am exhausted just thinking about it. 2010 began with our church in some of the lowest lows we've ever known. We finished the year in the best condition yet. Who'da thunk it?
Apparently, God did.
It's not just that the Lord provided for our heavily damaged building and literally saved our church from complete physical destruction. He provided people. We did something beyond all human thought, possibility or comprehension.
We grew. We grew under the worst circumstances. We grew more than we've ever grown in a year before this year.
What caused all this? Quite frankly, I think it is because in the midst of all our troubles we revisited how we were praying, and we learned to pray much more and much better than we have before. The right prayer was not an issue of technique, but of asking the right thing in the right way, and being certain that we were living right all along. And we learned to ask what God wanted us to ask. We prayed with new boldness, new confidence, and we stopped looking at all the rabble around us. That's not much of a secret, but God heard our effectual, fervent prayer and He answered over and over and over again.
It was the worst of years, it was the best of years, and God brought us through. Unforgettable.

On Review ...

When I crossed the barrier from middle age to the Big 6-0 and Semi Senior Status, I couldn't help but begin wondering if maybe, just maybe I was beginning to approach retirement age. For a few fleeting moments my wife and I began to consider what retirement would look like. But a funny thing happened on the way to the rest home. We ran across the personification of the energizer bunny: a missionary who is ready for anything but quitting. Never mind that he's up into his eighties.
When this dear brother began to preach at our church, he detailed how the mission board had "retired" him sixteen years ago. That's sixteen years of continual travel, Bible teaching, preaching and assorted other items of ministry past his "retirement" (a dirty word).
Suddenly, I feel like a teenager.
The ministry is that odd occupation where one never really becomes good at it until his hair is white enough, or so it seems. Yes, I know Spurgeon was about eighteen when he began preaching at New Park Street Chapel, and yes, he was a roaring success from the beginning. But even Spurgeon confessed to still learning how to preach well up into the years of his ministry. And he died before age sixty. Maybe Spurgeon was just ahead of his time.
All I know is that notions of retirement have died. Not that I know how long I'm going to pastor our present church. I really don't know how it's going to work out, or how long the work will take. I would like to bring the church to clear stability and let someone else take it forward.
But then, what would I do? All I can say is that I'm definitely going to do something. Preachers have to preach, and this preacher is not about to quit just when I'm beginning to get the hang of it.
After all, I'm only sixty, and "retirement" is a dirty word.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Death in the Family

When our dog died last week, I experienced all the feelings of losing a member of the family - because in a very real sense, that is exactly what it was. I still can hardly believe the dog is gone. I find myself yet hearing the tinkle of her collar and looking for her automatically when I come down stairs in the morning. I buried Champ in her collar, wrapped in the pad where she lay when she died. She was the best. I will never own another dog the rest of my life.
Saying goodbye to the family dog after twelve years could not help but generate thoughts about her and bring back questions I've heard from other people who've lost pets. Now, the questions are personal and very close to home. Will we ever see our dog again? Do all dogs go to heaven? I used to answer those questions in the negative and usually I was quite certain. I have a reason now to be a bit more careful and reflective. Maybe I was wrong.
The Bible is very silent about the destiny of animal life in eternity, which, if you think about it, is rather fascinating in itself. I'm sure people in the Bible had pets and that people in the ancient world domesticated animals. I'm sure they had all the same questions when their pets died. So what's the answer?
Frankly, I don't know and I won't know until I get to heaven. The only near answer I have is the one supplied from Romans 8:21: "... the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God." If creation itself is redeemed by the death of Christ, perhaps animals go to heaven when they die. There certainly will be room enough. Any place in eternity that can hold more people than we could number can also hold more animals than we could number.
But I don't know. I can't know. I would like to see Champ again. Being reunited, being able to see her bound up to me again with that perpetual smile would be one of the sincerest delights in the sheer joy I will have of being reunited with all my loved ones. I miss them all, and I look forward to seeing them all again.
Why not the dog too?