Friday, August 31, 2007

Uncovered: Ancient Wall of Second Temple

Construction work at the Temple Mount in East Jerusalem has uncovered what is likely the ancient remains of a wall from the Jewish Second Temple.

The construction, an Islamic project approved by Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the state-run Antiquities Authority, is also digging up ancient hostilities.

Reports the Jerusalem Post:
"The Israeli Government is lending a hand to the destruction of one of the most important archaeological sites in the world," said Bar-Ilan University archaeologist Dr. Gabriel Barkai at a Jerusalem press conference.

Barkai said the dig, which involves tractors and other heavy construction equipment (see pictures here and also here), has created a 400-meter-long and 1.5-meter-deep trench [1300 feet long and 5 foot deep] on the site, destroying layers of ancient remains.
Barkai, an Israeli archaeologists from the nonpartisan Committee Against the Destruction of Antiquities on the Temple Mount, said it was unthinkable that the Israeli government would permit such destruction and pleaded for the construction to stop immediately, explaining:
"This is the first time in the history of archaeological excavation in Israel that we have remains that could have been part of the courts of the Temple itself."
Meantime, Jewish responders at the Post's story are upset. Writes one:
"The Arabs are destroying its remnants, erasing any traces of any faith besides there own. The antiquities department under the leadership of the left wing lemmings are poor custodians for all that is holy."
Built by Herod in the early first century, the Second Temple replaced Solomon's Temple and stood during the time of Jesus. It was later destroyed by the Romans in 70AD, about 37 years after Jesus' ascension. Today, the Temple Mount is Islam's third most holiest site and host of the Al-Aqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock shrine.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Is Senator Craig a Hypocrite or Merely Weak?

It's obvious that U.S. Senator Larry Craig's judgment is crooked.

When an elite public servant attempts an anonymous homosexual act in a public restroom, gives a police officer absurd excuses for his actions, pleads guilty to the charge, and then-- when the story breaks-- insists he was innocent all along, and thinks people will buy his story, it's just one more proof of the axiom that "pride cometh before the fall."

But is Craig a hypocrite? Or, is he merely weak?

Idaho resident and minister Douglas Wilson contends hypocrisy:
Sen. Craig has been a public opponent of the homosexual agenda for many years, as he should have been. But it is now apparent that he did so as a flaming hypocrite. Ideally, the senator should resign his office tomorrow morning in disgrace. Failing that, he should step aside before the next election, refusing to run for office again. Washington needs another hypocrite like West Virginia needs coal.
To me, hypocrisy means a person says one thing aloud, but in his heart, he truly believes the opposite. I'm not sure if anyone is capable of judging Craig's motives. For this reason, I lean toward the opinion of weakness, as expressed by James Taranto of the Opinion Journal:
There is nothing hypocritical about someone who is homosexual, believes homosexuality is wrong, and keeps his homosexuality under wraps. To the contrary, he is acting consistent with his beliefs. If he has furtive encounters in men's rooms, that is an act of weakness, not hypocrisy.
Whether Craig is a hypocrite or extremely weak, it's tragically evident that he presently doesn't have the moral strength or character to be a U.S. Senator and is in desperate need of Jesus.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A "Hidden" Gem in Scripture

On September 11, Max Lucado will release his newest book-- 3:16 The Numbers of Hope. From what Tim Challies writes in his review, today's most famous Christian author will encourage millions to ponder the Bible's most famous verse-- John 3:16.

A couple years ago, Bruce Wilkinson turned an obscure verse in the Bible, 2 Chronicles 4:9-10, into the best selling "The Prayer of Jabez." Besides demonstrating the power of hyperventilated marketing, the book showed that if you venture off the beaten path of familiar Bible verses, treasures await to be discovered.

Yesterday I was reading 1 Corinthians and came across a gem of a verse. It doesn't get as much attention as other "famous" Bible passages-- like Psalm 23, but it's worthy of reflection. It's 1 Corinthians 1:30 (NIV):
"It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God— that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption."
There's so much said in so few words:
  • It is due solely to the goodness of God the Father that people may enjoy a personal relationship with his son, Jesus Christ.
  • Jesus is the embodiment of God's wisdom. Want to know God? Want to know true wisdom? Seek to know Jesus.
  • Jesus-- his perfect life, his sacrificial death, his resurrection-- is the sole basis of the believer's:
    • Right standing with God-- no guilt or shame (our righteousness)
    • Strength and ability to live out on earth a holy life-- one that reflects God's character (holiness)
    • Freedom from sin's bondage, releasing us to be conformed into God's image-- a day released in eternity when our desires and actions perfectly reflect God's character (redemption)
1 Corinthians 1:30 isn't a famous Bible verse, but it's a "hidden" gem worthy of reflection.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Vick, Jesus, and Public Perception

After admitting his part in a sinister dog fighting and gambling operation, Atlanta Falcon QB Michael Vick apologized in a post court room press conference and spoke of "finding Jesus," asking for His forgiveness, and turning his life over to God.

Those comments are getting noticed.

The Drudge Report put in their headline: "Vick: I found Jesus... I have to grow up." A radio commentator said, "Vick says he found Jesus. It's not known if he was open in the end zone." One blogger said mentioning Jesus won't win him any sympathy.

Tragically, Vick has ruined his name. But as he pleaded for redemption, did the name of Jesus get inadvertently dragged down in the public's eye?

Hang with me here for a minute.

On the one hand, when desperate people call on Jesus, some people think, "It's a ploy." Jesus then gets associated with con artists, and if you're not that, why would you call on Jesus, except when you need to exploit him?

On the other hand, let's assume Vick really is genuine in asking Jesus for forgiveness. If the public senses this, do they then think to themselves, "If I ever get myself in a whole heap of trouble, I'll call on Jesus too. But I can't see myself ever doing something that bad."

So if you're not a con or you've never done anything horrible, Jesus isn't really necessary, is he?

Or, is he?

I think one of the reasons that Jesus has such a good reputation is that he gladly welcomes those who don't have a good reputation. Jesus welcomes those who genuinely admit they need forgiveness-- and gladly bestows it.

People might dismiss Jesus because of Michael Vick. But Jesus is never ashamed to have his name associated with desperate people. Jesus is willing to take the chance.

As Jesus himself says, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

Monday, August 27, 2007

Vick Finds Jesus, Admits Guilt

Atlanta Falcon QB Michael Vick pled guilty to charges of dog fighting and gambling in a Virginia courtroom today. He'll be sentenced in December.

Today's events cap off what the Associated Press calls, "one of the most rapid and startling falls from stardom in U.S. sports history." Indeed, when Vick first lied back to April to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell about his five year involvement in the dog fighting operation, Vick had the world by the tail. Money, power, and fame. Now, in four short months, Vick has lost his reputation, millions of dollars, and likely his NFL career.

After admitting guilt before U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson, Vick spoke of finding Jesus as he gave a nearly five minute impromptu apology before the media:
"Dog fighting is a terrible thing and I do reject it. I'm upset with myself. And through this situation I've found Jesus. And I've asked him for forgiveness and turned my life over to God. I think that's the right thing to do as of right now."
Vick's mentioning of Jesus isn't winning him any favor. Writes Michael David Smith at
"If Vick thinks he's going to buy sympathy with a jailhouse conversion, he must think everyone watching is an idiot."
Frankly, I'm skeptical too about Vick's claim. Time will tell.

One thing is for sure.

Vick needs Jesus for a lot more than just sympathy.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Links of the Intergoogle 8-24-07

The best connection of the week isn't really a link, but still, I thought it was pretty neat... my sister saw Paul McCartney in a New York restaurant.

Some stuff I've read:

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Wounding the Wound

Willie Anderson is the Cincinnati Bengal's right tackle on the offensive line. A team leader affectionately known as "Big Willie" because of his 19-EEE shoe size, Anderson has played in 112 consecutive football games despite shoulder and knee injuries.

With the help of "Team Anderson"-- a treatment group of doctors, massage therapists, and chiropractors that Anderson flies in each week during the season-- Anderson has reached #6 on the Bengal's list of consecutive games played.

But that streak, started in 1999, could end on September 10, opening day of the 2007-2008 season, if Anderson's nagging foot injury doesn't heal soon.

The injury occurred in December, late last season. Eight months later, the foot still isn't right. Since time hasn't helped Anderson's foot get better, doctors decided to do something unusual.

They wounded the wound.

According to Anderson
, the doctors, "basically injure the area around the injury to get it to heal back."

The odd treatment is a desperate move.

Says Anderson, "this procedure either works, or bad news comes out."

In this story I think is a lesson for us: When people or organizations face problems that time isn't healing, you may have to wound the wound in order to finally heal it.

Confronting an employee over a lingering problem. Talking openly about a family issue that's been ignored. Being honest with a friend about some destructive behavior.

Wounding the wound is a risky move. It may or may not work. But sometimes, you just have to try it.

It's been a few days since Anderson's unusual procedure. His foot is now out of a protective boot, which is good news, but he's still limping around.

Eventually, Bengal fans will know if wounding the wound worked.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


No, this is not a football score.

Incredibly, it's the final tally of the Rangers-Orioles baseball game. No major league team has scored this many runs since 1897.

Reminds me: once when I was a kid, my little league team scored 39 runs. Despite all the runs, I didn't get a single hit. In fact, I didn't my first hit until the following season.

Golly, it's nice to know that even big leaguers can be awful once in a while.

The Al Qaeda Reader

Looking for some interesting end of summer reading?

Try this: The Al Qaeda Reader.

Compiled by Raymond Ibrahim, who works in the Library of Congress' Near East section, the book gives you the chance to read for yourself the twisted views of Osama bin Laden and Aymin al Zawahiri.

Bringing together essential texts and documents, the book is divided into two sections: theology-- where bin Landen and al Zawahiri justify their violent vision from the Koran and Islamic tradition-- and propaganda-- where they invoke Western guilt by railing against every imaginable U.S. policy.

From the book description at Amazon:
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of these works is how grounded they are in the traditional sources of Islamic theology: the Koran and the teachings of the Prophet. The founders of al-Qaeda use these sources as powerful weapons of persuasion, reminding followers (and would-be recruits) that Muhammad and his warriors spread Islam through the power of the sword and that the Koran is not merely allegory or history but literal truth that commands all Muslims to action.

In addition to laying bare al-Qaeda’s ultimate motives, The Al Qaeda Reader includes the organization’s propagandist speeches, which are directed primarily at Americans, Europeans, and Iraqis. Here, al-Qaeda’s many "official" accusations against the West are meticulously delineated, from standard complaints such as the Palestinian issue and Iraq to wholly unexpected ones concerning the U.S.’s exploitation of women and the environment.

Taken together, the Theology and Propaganda sections of this volume reveal the most comprehensive picture of al-Qaeda to date. They also highlight the double-speak of bin Laden and Zawahiri, who often say one thing to Muslims in their religious treatises ("We must hate and fight the West because Islam commands it") and another in their propaganda directed at the West ("The West is the aggressor and we are fighting back merely in self-defense").
Want to know more? Check out this excellent book review by Bruce Thorton.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Democratic Hopefuls Talk About Prayer

On Sunday, August 19, the Democratic candidates for President had a debate on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" and one of the questions was theological. Seth Ford of South Jordon, Utah sent this email:
"My question is to understand each candidate's view of a personal God. Do they believe that, through the power of prayer, disasters like Hurricane Katrina or the Minnesota bridge collapse could have been prevented or lessened?"
In other words, can the pleas of humans move God to alter the outcome of a natural disaster?

John Edwards is only candidate who dared answered the question directly:
"I have prayed most of my life; pray daily now. He's enormously important to me. But the answer to the question is: No, I don't -- I prayed before my 16-year-old son died; I prayed before Elizabeth was diagnosed with cancer. I think there are some things that are beyond our control. And I think it is enormously important to look to God -- and, in my case, Christ -- for guidance and for wisdom. But I don't think you can prevent bad things from happening through prayer."
Blogger ThisIsNotSteve makes an interesting observation about all the candidates answers:
Interestingly, but not unexpectedly if one construes their religious effusions as mainly pragmatic, none of the candidates seemed to believe in intercession by God. If Jesus exists in the manner depicted by Christianity, why would he not be able to stop a hurricane? Obviously he would, but it seems likely that the candidates did not want to be ridiculed for believing in magic. It's weird how this country works, most people profess belief in a personal God, but do not believe in the powers that would logically follow if that God did exist. My guess is the majority of this is pragmatically based, as the political consequences of being an open agnostic or atheist would be dire.
Let's review some options.

If you're atheist or agnostic, natural disasters are simply sad events that are part of one's temporary tour through this confusing and ultimately meaningless existence. God doesn't intervene because...well...God doesn't exist.

If God does exist, some would say then that natural disasters show that either God is good, but not powerful; or powerful, but ultimately not good. Either way, such reasoning must conclude that because the Minnesota bridge did collapse and Hurricane Katrina did devastate, God choice of non-involvement must be a sign that He isn't much of God and certainly not kind.

But, is it possible that God is both good and all-powerful-- and natural disasters are a sad, yet necessary part of the world's story? A part of the story that God-- in time-- will redeem to a happy ending?

Scripture declares that the evils of people and the disasters of earth are a problem to which God's plan of salvation is the answer (Romans 8). That salvation was revealed in the person of Jesus, who entered and experienced first hand our world of suffering and sorrow. His resurrection from the dead announces hope to the world-- hope that becomes personal by trusting in Jesus.

So to answer the question, could our prayers lead God to prevent or lessen natural disasters?


Consider this. The Minnesota bridge was that State's most heavily used bridge. It collapsed during rush hour. Why didn't more than 13 people die?

This too. If prayer does "work," how are we to count the number of disasters that didn't happen?

Yet disasters do happen.

When they happen, we'd do well to take Jesus' advice.

Monday, August 20, 2007

What Do You Emphasize in the Bible?

The Bible contains 66 books, 1189 chapters, and over 31,000 verses.

So what is its overarching idea? What are its grand themes? What do people need to know?

Pastor Matt Chandler of the Village Church in Highland, Texas has an interesting list of nine essentials:
• That we would see that the greatest problem in the universe is not mere moral failure – but a failure to honor God (Romans 1:21)

• That we would understand that discipline will never bring about love – but love always brings about discipline (Galatians 3:5)

• That we would realize that children of God are not under wrath – but mercy (Romans 9:23)

• That we would find that the fullness of all things – including life and joy – is in Christ (John 10:10)

• That we would experience a holy discontentment with where our lives are – and espouse the hope of what our lives can be (Romans 8:20)

• That we would recognize that God has purposefully placed us here – at this time, in this place – for His glory (Acts 17:26)

• That we would develop a taste for truth – even difficult ones (Psalm 119:11)

• That we would embrace Biblical Christianity – not American evangelicalism (2 Timothy 3:5)

• That we would believe in the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit – and desire them earnestly (1 Corinthians 14:39)
What would you emphasize?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Character Quote

There's nothing sadder than a Christian who isn't living the life of Christ. Or even worse, is the Christian described by my Aunt: "You've got just enough of Jesus to make you miserable."

This truth has been on my mind lately as I prepare to start a sermon series in 1 Corinthians. So when I heard this quote by Pastor John MacArthur, it made an impression. Here it is:

"Your character confirms your confession."

Friday, August 17, 2007

Overheard After Church

Said one lady to another after church:

"Now that my kids are done with school and out of the house, I've replaced them with flowers. I now talk to my flowers, take pictures of them, and send them off to my family."

That's one way to handle the empty nest!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

When School Starts, So Do the Tears

Today is the first day of school in our community and throughout much of Kansas. This article was originally published in the Little River Monitor-Journal on August 23, 2001.

This past Monday morning, August 20, was a big day for picture taking and tears. All over town, Moms were weeping and Dads were snapping photos. What was all the common about? It was the first day of school!

Many kids were probably wondering why Mom and Dad were acting so weird, while humoring requests to stand still for one more snapshot. But if the truth were known, the kids were nervous too. Usually when emotions run high, kids cry and parents stay calm. But on the first day of school, the roles reverse!

So on Monday, I conducted an informal survey with parents. "Did you cry today when you sent your kid(s) to school?" Several said, "Yes." They cry every year on the first day of school. One parent, who cried last year, said she didn't do so this year. But then she added, "But I did cry last night." A veteran parent said her crying stopped around 8th grade, but welled up again at high school graduation. Not everyone cries. I saw one couple enjoying a special day in Hutchinson. They said, "We're not crying. We're celebrating!"

The beginning of school certainly is an exciting time. Little minds get their imaginations stirred. Bigger kids ponder future careers. Football and volleyball athletes dream of making big plays. The beginning of school makes us realize that in the midst of routine, everyday living, our kids really are changing. In fact, they're moving toward a place in life where we adults stand today.

Scripture tells us that growing is something that even Jesus did-- "And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men" (Luke 2:52). Did you notice the four growth areas of the greatest person who ever lived? Jesus grew intellectually ("in wisdom"), physically ("in stature"), spiritually ("in favor with God"), and socially/emotionally ("in favor with men"). Reaching our potential demands that we emphasize not just one, but all four developmental areas.

Think of your maturity in each of these areas-- how are you doing? How are you kids doing? As author and teacher Howard Hendricks writes, significant life change requires that some of our values and habits be retained, refined, rejuvenated, or just plain rejected. Certainly in the spiritual realm, the churches of Little River-Windom-Andover are eager to help you know God and his Son, Jesus Christ.

During the summer, everyone scatters out in their own direction-- vacations, camps, and reunions. But in the fall, we resume familiar pathways-- milo harvest, football games, church attendance, and school. In the midst of it all, our life is slowly turning. When you notice the change-- celebrate the moment. Shed a tear, take a picture, and seize the chance to grow.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Humorous View on the End Times

A woman once asked a Bible teacher, "What's your view on the end times? Are you a premillennialist, an amillennialist, or a postmillennialist? I want to know before I listen to you speak."

After a few moments of reflection, the Bible teacher answered, "I'm a pan-millennialist."

"A pan-millennialist?" The woman responded. "I've never heard of that view before. What is it?"

The Bible teacher replied, "It's confidence in God that it'll all pan out in the end."

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

We Forget, But God Does Not

One thing is for sure about the past-- it's easy to forget.

Earlier this summer I enjoyed a wonderful reunion with a childhood friend who grew up next door to me in Ohio. We hadn't seen each other since high school. I marveled at all that he remembered: The street hockey games we played, the names of neighbors in our cul-de-sac, funny incidents from our high school days. Those memories were stored in my brain and ready for recall-- but I had forgot.

Not long ago, my daughter was doing dog training at 4-H and I was talking to another parent. The adult said, "You probably don't remember, but when my 16-year-old daughter was 6, she tried really hard to convert you when we were attending your church's auction." A six-year-old girl evangelizing a pastor. That is a funny scene-- but I had forgot.

A month ago, I ran into a young lady who occasionally attended our church during her high school days. Now in her 20's, she's married with kids. After leaving our community, she and her family are now living here. As we talked she asked, "Do you remember writing me a note a few years ago?" I had to confess that I didn't-- I forgot.

So the other day this dear young lady in the Lord stopped by our home. And she brought along something to show me and my wife-- the note. It was handwritten and on the church's card stationary. I had composed it four years ago. But she saved the note because the words spoke truth in love to her heart.

There are some things about our past we'd like to forget-- and do. But there's some things about the past we'd like to remember. I can recall many good things, however I certainly can't remember them all.

But I'm glad the Lord does.

"God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them." --Hebrews 6:10

Monday, August 13, 2007

A Sermon About Sleeping

“This Sermon is…Yawn…Going to Sleep”
August 12, 2007
Pastor Ted Weis
Little River Congregational Church

Today you’re going to hear a sermon about a topic that I bet you’ve never before heard addressed in church. If you listen to preachers on the radio, I’ll bet you’ve never heard them talk about this topic either.

And yet, you will devote about 1/3 of your entire lifetime doing this particular activity. In fact, it’s likely that at one time, you’ve done this activity in the middle of a church service.

Today’s sermon…yawn…is about sleep.

And someone in the pews said to themselves, “Finally, a sermon about what sermons do to me!”

On Thursday I told Jean Galyon that my sermon was about sleep and she responded, “Don’t put us to sleep.”

So why talk about sleep? With all the great issues— like sin and salvation—heaven and hell—that need to be preached— and will be preached from this pulpit, why should we take a Sunday to talk about something as mundane as sleep?

Well, consider this: You will spend about 1/3 of your time on earth snoozing away. For example, if you live 75 years, you will spend about 25 of those years sound asleep. Often in church we talk about the time we are awake— the 2/3 of our life. But is God the Lord over 2/3 of our life or is He Lord over all of our life?

During my two weeks of vacation time, I slept in nearly every day. It felt great. After waking up late one morning, I got to wondering, “Does God in His Word have anything important to say about sleep?” Now that I’m back at work, I did a little study on the subject.

So as we reach the end of summer— the traditional time we carve out time for a little extra sleep— and get ready to start the school year—where we apply ourselves to a disciplined sleep routine— let’s take one Sunday to think about what God’s Word has to say about sleep— that 1/3 part of our life that rarely gets considered.

The first question I wonder about is this: “Lord, why do we need sleep? Why are we— and much of the animal world— made this way?” Interestingly, the Bible doesn’t give any explanation. My best guess is that sleep is simply part of God’s ordained rhythm and routine that God stamped into creation. In Genesis 1-2 we read that God created the heavens and the earth in six days and on the seventh day, God rested.

Sleep is part of the pattern God gave us. Sleep orders our time, divides our time, and gives energy to our waking time. Sleep is part of God’s created order— one aspect of creation that God declared, “Good.”

Physically, you know that sleep rests the body. But did you know that sleep also allows the body to grow and heal? For example, when the brain is idle and free from the duties of consciousness, the body's cells focus on growing, healing, and strengthening the immune system.

With school getting started this week, students should note that those who get a good night’s sleep tend to perform better on tests than those who stay up all night to cram. When your body is asleep, your brain is storing and ordering the information you’ve gathered during your waking hours— what scientists call memory processing. This is also why sometimes you go to bed with a problem and wake up with the solution.

Sleep is very much a physical activity— an earthy activity. We all need it. And even Jesus slept. In Matthew 8 and Mark 4, the Gospels tell us of that time when, after a long day of preaching to the crowds, Jesus was in a boat— deep in sleep.

Unlike some religions— that claim the body is inherently evil, utterly useless, or something to be escaped—the Judeo-Christian faith teaches great respect for the human body. The body is something God made good. At Christmas, when Jesus came down from heaven to earth, he came in human form. As the carol “Away In the Manger” says, “The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.”

The body is physical, but it is spiritual as well. What you do with your body and how you take care of your body matters to God. The Apostle Paul tells believers in 1 Corinthians 6:19 that, “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you, whom you received from God.”

So for the remainder of this sleepy little message, let’s consider five spiritual principals surrounding the physical activity of sleep.

Here’s the first— and it has to do with everything you do leading up to bedtime. How you live in the day affects how you sleep at night. In Proverbs 3:21-24, the wise father urges his son to live according to godly wisdom. He says: “My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight; they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck.” And then, the father tells his son the benefits: “Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble; when you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.”

The story is told of a shoplifter who once wrote a department store and said, “I've just become a Christian, and I can't sleep at night because I feel guilty. So here's $100 that I owe you.” Then he cryptically signed his name. And in a little postscript at the bottom he added, “And if I still can't sleep, I'll send you the rest.”

Here’s the Good News from Proverbs: Obey God in the daytime and it’ll lead to better sleep in the nighttime.

Here’s the second principal from Scripture about sleep: When it’s time for bed, take the time to pray.

When I was a child, I prayed the prayer that I now teach my children: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep…”

Psalm 4 is a bedtime prayer. After a long distressful day, David turns to God before he goes to bed. In verse 1, David pleads with God for relief from his problems: “Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer.” At the end, verse 8, David has found his hope in God and so he declares, “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.”

Before you go to bed, take the time to pray.

The next truth you’ll hear about sleep is one that surprised me. It’s surprising because my bet is most people don’t think about this aspect of their sleep, yet the Bible devotes significant time to it.

It’s that time between lying down on your bed and the time you eventually fall asleep. And so here’s the principal. # 3. What you think about in bed reveals the deepest longings of your heart. When you’re lying in bed, before you sleep, your mind is thinking about many things— and Scripture reveals it’s often the things you care about most.

It’s very interesting, the Bible often stops to observe this particular moment in bed, for it is there—lying in bed, that the heart ponders, meditates, and plots.

For example in Psalm 63:6-7, the psalmist echoes the thoughts of the righteous: “On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings." In contrast, Psalm 36:4 says about the wicked, that, “Even on his bed he plots evil; he commits himself to a sinful course and does not reject what is wrong.”

In Today’s Christian Woman, Marilyn Fais says, “I recently wrote to a close friend explaining that I had problems sleeping at night. When her next letter arrived, I learned that she has this problem as well, but uses her wakefulness to pray for loved ones, listing her prayer concerns alphabetically by first names. Now as I drift off, lovingly praying for Adriana, Alan, Amelia, and Amy, I feel surrounded by loved ones and I smile. I'm not just counting sheep ... I'm counting His sheep.”

What do you think about as you lay in bed, before you sleep? Tonight, do as Psalm 4:4 suggests: “When you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.”

Eventually, you do fall asleep. And at some point in your sleep cycle, you dream. Here’s where we find principal # 4— Sometimes, God speaks to His people in dreams.

This is a fascinating truth—one that I can’t completely understand or explain. The ancient culture of the Egyptians and Babylonians were fascinated with dreams. But the Hebrew people, who wrote our Old Testament— and Christians in the New Testament— they were not so preoccupied with dreams. Still, the Bible has many stories where God speaks to people through dreams.

Ecclesiastes 5:3
tells us that, “dreams come when there are many cares.” Within those many cares, God speaks to people.

For example, in Genesis 28, Jacob sees a ladder reaching up to heaven. And on it, angels are going up and down. And in that vision, Jacob is assured of God’s presence. In 1 Kings 3, God in a dream asks Solomon what he wants as new king of Israel. Solomon says he needs wisdom. In response, God says, “I thought you were going to ask for riches, but since you asked for wisdom, I’ll give you both wisdom and riches.” In the Christmas story, Joseph is about to divorce Mary for infidelity, but in a dream God tells Joseph, “No,” it’s not as it appears. This situation is my doing. Mary is pure and righteous. Take her as your wife.” And in Matthew 27:19, as Pilate is about to condemn Jesus to death on a cross, his wife comes to him and says, “Don't have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.” Even today, Joel Rosenberg in his best selling book Epicenter claims that many Muslims are coming to faith in Christ through dreams—being convinced that Jesus Christ is God who came in human form, died on the cross for the sins of the world, and rose again.

It’s mysterious, but dreams are simply one of the ways that God uses to break into our world and speak to people. My only word of application here is this— if God speaks to you in a dream— you’ll know it!

After a time of sleep, we eventually wake up—and so this sermon has come full circle. Here then is a final principal about sleep: God gives you sleep, so you can serve God with strength. Psalm 3:5 declares, “I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.” Proverbs 19:15 says, “Laziness brings on deep sleep, and the shiftless man goes hungry.” Psalm 127:2 declares that while the unbeliever toils day and night to get what he wants, the Lord provides for his people with a regular work day, “for He grants sleep to those He loves.”

The purpose of sleep is rest, but we should not covet sleep to the point of becoming lazy. God gives you sleep so you can have strength for work. So when the daylight comes and you get out of bed, serve the Lord with gladness.

I trust this sermon about sleep has kept you awake and made you think about your sleep and your habits leading up to bedtime. You heard five principals about sleep. Let me now take those five statements and wrap them into one big idea. Here it is: God cares about your sleep.

If you’re having trouble sleeping, it could be due to a moral problem— an issue of sin that you need to admit to God. Confess your sin and 1 John 1:9 promises that God will “forgive your sin and cleanse you of all unrighteousness.” Maybe you’re not sleeping well because you’re worrying about something. The problem is significant and for that reason, it’s a problem best given over to God. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:33-34: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Or, it’s very possible that your sleeping problem does not have a moral component. Maybe it’s a physical problem— like sleep apnea or problems due to shift work. You might consider visiting your doctor and reviewing the condition of your bed and your bedroom.

Physical rest is important. God cares about your body’s rest. In addition, God also cares about your spirit’s rest.

Worries of the soul often take a toll on the body—and especially the ability to sleep well. Does your body and soul have the rest that comes from knowing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? He is the God that Psalm 121:4 declares, “Never slumbers or sleeps.” You can trust in His providential care.

In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus invites us to Himself: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

That promise of rest— it’s for your soul— and it’s also for your body.

There’s an old prayer that the church of old has prayed for its sleep and dreams. I invite you pray it for yourself today:

“Be off, Satan, from this floor and from these four walls. This is no place for you; there is nothing for you to do here. This is the place for Peter and Paul and the holy Gospel; and this is where I mean to sleep now that my worship is done, in the name of the Father and of the Holy Spirit.

In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ [God] send me your Spirit; instill the wisdom of your Holy Spirit into my heart; protect my soul and body, every limb in my body, every fiber of my being, from all possible harm and all traps the Devil may set for me and every temptation to sin. Teach me to give you thanks, O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” [Euchologium Sinaiticum. "Worship in the Early Church," Christian History, Issue 37]


Friday, August 10, 2007

Links from the Intergoogle 1

After two weeks of vacation away from the Internet, there was lots of fresh reading material.

Here's some stories and thoughts I found interesting:
  • Who are the unhappiest of all the self-employed? Answer: farmers.
  • In Millionaires Who Don't Feel Rich, the New York Times finds a hilarious modern edition of unbelievers described in Psalm 127:2. In vanity, they work way too much, striving for that elusively nice home life.
  • A simple, biblical, powerful way to transform your life. Really.
  • Feminist Naomi Wolf admits that porn hurts women and ruins relationships: "For the first time in human history, the images’ power and allure have supplanted that of real naked women. Today, real naked women are just bad porn.” Tim Challies offers an evangelical response.
  • Ever wonder if changing a baby's diaper is "spiritual"? Read what Luther says.
  • I hate blogs for this reason too.
  • A former pastor shopping for a church finds reasons to like both mainline and non-mainline churches.
  • "My Favorite Verse That's Not in the Bible," is a provocative article by my former professor and mentor Dr. Dan Wallace.
  • Craig Groeschel share one, two, three, four, five excellent leadership lessons from his baseball dad.
  • A large sized, God-inspired manifesto to live by.
  • Dr. Robert Gagnon, an outstanding biblical scholar who has courageously made the case that homosexual practice grieves the heart of God, offers practical advice on how the church should handle issues of membership and ordination.
  • Douglas Wilson illustrates with vegetables his optimistic appraisal of John 3:16.
  • NFL training camps are ramped up, which means I'm spending more time at my favorite NFL website--

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Deerest Thanks to God

The LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. --Psalm 121:8

Last night's 40 minute drive home from Hutchinson was quite an experience.

First, I witnessed one of the most incredible lightning storms of my life. White streaks of light that spread through the sky-- like the way a spider crack spreads through a car's windshield. And then, dozens of bolts of lightning that struck the ground. There were moments where the light and darkness was flickering so quickly, it looked like a stage effect from a rock concert. Then, after driving out from the middle of the storm, I watched the storm from the distance and saw incredible displays of exploding light. Just amazing.

It was hard keeping an eye on the road-- the entertainment in the sky was so intriguing. Suddenly, an adult deer in the left roadside came into view. "Oh no," I thought, "that stupid deer is going to run right into me." I was motoring along at 60 mph. If that deer kept moving toward the road, there was no way I could safely get out of its way. I would have hit it head on.

It's incredible what the mind can think of in the snap of a moment. I thought of the horror of hearing the deer hit my car, the airbags exploding, the mangled front end of my car, the time it would take to call the sheriff, get estimates for the car, and finally getting it fixed.

And then, instead of continuing toward me and the road, the deer simply stopped and turned back the other way. I zoomed on by. Nothing happened. I was safe. And I said, "Lord, thank you so much."

After that short prayer, a thought occurred to me. "You said that word of thanks to God. Well and good. But soon, you'll forget ever saying that prayer. Meanwhile, if that deer really did hit you, you'd be dealing with the mess of that accident for months. God in his kindness spared you of all that. You'll probably forget all this blessing later, so I just wanted to remind you of it now."

So knowing that three months from now, I won't be getting a call from the body shop saying, "You're car is done," let me say this now while I still remember-- thank you, "deerest" Lord!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A Story About Why Jesus Told Stories

Jesus told a lot of stories. In fact, he told so many that Jesus' disciples in Matthew 13 asked him why. Read Jesus' answer in Matthew 13:10-17 and then check out this little story below. It's a good explanation of how truth and facts are enriched by stories and parables.

Truth, naked and cold, had been turned away from every door in the village. Her nakedness frightened the people. When parable found her she was huddled in a corner, shivering and hungry. Taking pity on her, Parable gathered her up and took her home. There, she dressed Truth in story, warmed her and sent her out again. Clothed in story, Truth knocked again at the villagers' doors and was readily welcomed into people's houses. They invited her to eat at their table and warm herself by their fire.

Jewish Teaching Story
Taken from The Story Factor by Annette Simmons

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

How to Witness Without Really Witnessing

While on vacation in Ohio, a Christian friend who works as a home health aide told me about an incident at work: "I was marveling to my patient how she handled her difficulties. And then, the patient replied, 'I can't complain here because the way you get into heaven is to work really hard at it.'"

The patient's false belief about eternal life quickly changed the admiration of the Christian aide into shock. My friend said, "I wanted to tell her that good works don't save you, but if I did that, I could get in trouble with my job."

So how can you be faithful to Christ, yet faithful to your employer? Is it even possible?

I think it is. In fact, Jesus himself shows us the way.

Tell a story.

When you tell a story, you can be direct, yet indirect at the same time.

Here's what I suggested. Next time you visit this lady in her home, tell her you heard this story:

Once upon a time there was a man who came upon a vending machine that said, HEAVEN. The man said, "Wow, I'd like that." So the man reached into his pocket and took out a coin of good works. He put it into the vending machine and pressed the button.

But nothing came out. He pressed the button again, banged on the machine, but still nothing happened.

So the man reached into his pocket again and put another coin of good works into the machine. "It just needs another coin," the man said. But each time the man put in a coin and pressed the button, the vending machine still did not respond. Discouraged, but determined, the man kept putting in his coins.

Then one day, an old man walked by and noticed the man who had been standing at the vending machine for so long. The old man asked, "What coins are you putting into this machine?" The man replied, "These good work coins." The old man responded, "Oh, lots of people have tried those coins. But they don't work in this machine."

Then the old man reached into his pocket and pulled out a coin with a picture of Jesus on it. "Here, try this coin. You only need one. It works every time."

And it did. And the man walked home very happy.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Back In the Saddle

After two weeks of vacation, it's back in the saddle.

My gang traveled from Kansas to Ohio to see my side of the family. The kids enjoyed seeing their nephews and nieces. They went to the pool a lot. My wife and I got some special time away. I saw some old friends. And after 20 years, I got to play a round of golf at Coldstream Country Club, the private golf course I worked at during my junior high and high school years.

Now, the pastoral work of shaping souls resumes.

It's nice to go away. And it's great to come back home.