The Power of the Gospel in Kirsten Powers Life

Kirsten Powers

She is a political analyst, blogger, columnist and commentator. She is a Democrat who regularly contributes to USA Today, Newsweek, The Daily Beast, Fox News and the Wall Street Journal among other publications. She formerly served under the Clinton administration from 1993-1998 and was appointed Deputy Assistant U.S Trade Representative for Public Affairs.

In an interview with Focus on the Family, she shares how she converted from atheism to Christianity. She said: “I was not looking to be a Christian. The last thing in the world I wanted to be was a Christian. I had grown up as an Episcopalian, but not evangelical, born again, or any of those kinds of things. It was very high church, kind of mainline, protestant, episcopalian. I did believe in God, but it wasn’t anywhere near what would come to happen to me later in life.

“When I went away to college, whatever little faith I had, I lost. I ended up graduating from college. I worked in the Clinton administration. All my friends were secular liberals. At this point, I really got even more deeply into an incredibly secular world because now, all my friends were basically atheists, or if they had any kind of spirituality, they were very hostile towards religion, Christianity in particular. So, I really didn’t have any interest in it.

“I started dating someone who went to Tim Keller’s church, Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City. Out of curiosity, I went with him. But I told him upfront that I would never become a Christian; that it’s never going to happen. After about six or seven months, I began to think that the weight of history is more on the side of what [I was hearing at this church] than not. Tim Keller had made such a strong case, that I began to think it’s not even smart to reject this. It just doesn’t seem like a good intellectual decision.

“Really, it was like God sort of invaded my life. It was very unwelcome. I didn’t like it. Obviously, I started having a lot of different experiences where I felt God was doing a lot of things in my life. It’s kind of hard to describe, but I did have this moment where the scales just fell off of my eyes, where I was saying, ‘this is just totally true, I don’t even have any doubt.’ …I don’t really feel like I had any courage when I became a Christian, I just gave in. I wasn’t courageous; I didn’t have any choice. I kept trying to not believe but I just couldn’t avoid [accepting Christ]. If I could have avoided it, I would have. There is nothing convenient about it in my life or in the world I live in. It’s not like living in the South where everybody is a Christian. I live in a world where nobody is a believer. But God pursued me.” Her name is Kirsten Powers.

Article adapted from: Kirsten Powers: How a Liberal Democrat and Former Atheist Came to Know Jesus Christ as her Savior – Gospel Light Minute ^ | 2 June 2013 – Posted on July 14, 2013 5:59:59 AM PDT by Gamecock

The 7 Major Bodily Resurrections in the Bible

Jesus' empty tomb and resurrection image

(1) The Bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” (Matt. 28:1–7)

When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” (Mark 16:1–7)

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words (Luke 24:1–8)

Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; (John 20:1–8)

God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it… and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses… And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all… but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear…explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” (Acts 2:24; 3:15; 4:33; 10:40; 17:3)

and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord… who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification… because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom. 1:4; 4:25; 10:9)

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (1 Cor. 15:3-9)

That he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places (Eph. 1:20)

For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. (1 Thess. 4:14)

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit. (1 Peter 3:18).

(2) The token resurrection of some saints at the time of the resurrection of Christ

And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Matt. 27:50–54).

(3) The resurrection at the rapture

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

 

“Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 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. 15:51–58)

For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. (1 Thess. 4:14–17).

(4) The resurrection of the two witnesses

And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed.They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire. And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth. But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them. And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. (Rev. 11:3–13).

(5) The resurrection of the Old Testament saints

Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead. Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the fury has passed by. For behold, the Lord is coming out from his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity, and the earth will disclose the blood shed on it, and will no more cover its slain. (Isa. 26:19–21)

Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.” (Ezek. 37:12–14)

“At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” (Dan. 12:1–3).

(6) The resurrection of the tribulation saints

Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years. (Rev. 20:4–6).

(7) The resurrection of the wicked dead

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Rev. 20:11–15).

Scriptures taken from ESV. Major Headings adapted from: Walvoord, John F. (2011-09-01). Every Prophecy of the Bible: Clear Explanations for Uncertain Times (p. 452). David C Cook. Kindle Edition.

A Christian Harvard Law Professor Speaks Wisely About His Stage 4 Cancer

Dr. Bill Stuntz Godly Response to His Cancer Diagnosis

William Stuntz 1958 to 2011

My cancer has been promoted: I’m officially in stage 4. My doctors have found two can- cerous nodules—a euphemism for “small tumors”—one on each of my lungs. I started chemo this week. Next week, I’ll see a thoracic surgeon who will, sometime this summer, cut those tumors out. Needless to say, this isn’t good news—though, thanks to medical advances (especially, thanks to those evil drug companies that politicians regularly attack), it isn’t disastrous news either. We’ll see what the future brings.

I don’t have any previous experience with this sort of thing, but judging from what I hear and read, I’m supposed to be asking why all this is happening, and why it’s happening to me. Honestly, those questions are about the farthest thing from my mind.

Partly, that’s because they aren’t hard questions. Why does our world have gravity? Why does the sun rise in the East? There are technical answers, but the meta- physical answer is simple: that’s how reality works. So too here. Only in the richest parts of the rich world of the twenty-first century could anyone entertain the thought that we should expect long, pain-free lives. Suffering and premature death (an odd phrase: what does it mean to call death “premature”?) are constant presences in the lives of most of the peoples of the Earth, and were routine parts of life for generations of our predecessors in this country—as they still are today, for those with their eyes open. Stage 4 cancers happen to middle-aged men and women, seemingly out of the blue, because that’s how reality works.

As for why this is happening to me in particular, the implicit point of the question is an argument: I deserve better than this. There are two responses. First, I don’t—I have no greater moral claim to be free from unwanted pain and loss than anyone else. Plenty of people more virtuous than I am suffer worse than I have, and some who don’t seem virtuous at all skate through life with surprising ease. Welcome to the world.

Once again, it seems to me that this claim arises from the incredibly unusual experience of a small class of wealthy professionals in the wealthiest parts of the world today. We think we live in a world governed by merit and moral desert. It isn’t so. Luck, fortune, fate, providence—call it what you will, but whatever your preferred label, it has far more to do with the successes of the successful than what any of us deserves. Aristocracies of the past awarded wealth and position based on the accident of birth. Today’s meritoc- racies award wealth and position based on the accident of being in the right place at the right time. The difference is smaller than we tend to think. Once you under- stand that, it’s hard to maintain a sense of grievance in the face of even the ugliest medical news. I’ve won more than my share of life’s lotteries. It would seem churlish to rail at the unfairness of losing this one—if indeed I do lose it: which I may not.

The second response is sim- pler; it comes from the movie “Unforgiven.” Gene Hackman is dying, and says to Clint Eastwood: “I don’t deserve this. To die like this. I was building a house.” Eastwood responds: “Deserve’s got nothing to do with it.”

That gets it right, I think. It’s a messed-up world, upside-down as often as it’s rightside up. Bad things happen; future plans (that house Hackman was building) come to naught. Deserve’s got nothing to do with it.

Why, then, are we so prone to think otherwise? This is one of the biggest reasons I believe my faith is true: something deep within us expects, even demands moral order—in a world that shouts from the rooftops that no such order exists. Any good metaphysical theory must explain both of those phenomena: both the expectation and the lack of supporting evidence for the thing expected. The only persuasive way to get there, I think, is to begin with a world made good that was twisted, corrupted, bent. Buried deep in our hearts are hints of the way things ought to be; the ugliest reality can’t snuff them out. Still, that reality exists; it can’t be denied. Christianity sees that reality, recognizes it for what it is—but also sees the expectation, and recognizes where it comes from.

Bottom line: I don’t need anyone to tell me why I’m in the situation I’m in, and I certainly don’t think I merit an exemption from the rottenness to which the rest of the world is subject.

But I do need to know some things. Three, to be precise: first, that I’m not alone; second, that my disease has not made me ugly to those I love and to the God who made me; and third, that somehow, something good can come from this. My faith tells me that the God of the universe suf- fered everything I suffer and infinitely worse. Death and suffering don’t separate human beings from our Creator—on the contrary: those things unite us with our Creator. The barrier became the bridge: that is the great miracle of the Incarnation, the Cross, and the Resurrection. So I need never suffer alone. Job’s story confirms that, far from rejecting the ugli- ness of disease and pain, God embraces those who suffer and takes on their suffering. Beauty and ugliness are turned inside-out. Joseph’s story and the gospels alike show a God who delights to use the worst things to produce the best things. That doesn’t make life’s hells less than hellish. But it does make them bearable.

This isn’t just whistling in the dark—at least, I hope it isn’t. It all makes sense to me: it fits the world I see and feel, with all its shades of glory and misery. And it answers the questions my soul cries out. “Why” isn’t one of those questions.

Article adapted from: http://www.law.upenn.edu/blogs/dskeel/archives/2008/04/ more_cancerstuntz.html#more

[In Dr. Fritzt own words: “I’m a law professor—I teach criminal law and criminal procedure at Harvard—and also an evangelical Christian.That puts [me] in a pretty small, and maybe pretty weird, demo- graphic. I’m also a political junkie and a registered Republican, though I’ve cast as many Democratic votes as Republican ones. I’m interested in all those things—law and legal theory, crime and criminal justice, everything about American politics and political culture, the culture of evangelical Protestantism, and the intersections of various items on that list.] From: http://www.law.upenn.edu/ blogs/dskeel/archives/2008/02/ welcome.html]

 Harvard Law School: Obituary for Dr. Stuntz

William Stuntz, a renowned scholar of criminal justice at Harvard Law School,  an evangelical Christian and a teacher much beloved by students and colleagues, died March 15 after a long battle with cancer.

Stuntz, 52, joined the HLS faculty in 2000 and was named the Henry J. Friendly Professor of Law in 2006. His influential scholarship over the past three decades addressed the full spectrum of issues related to criminal justice and procedure, from the overcrowding of prisons and racial disparities in incarceration to the appropriate role of faith, emotion and mercy in the penal system. He authored three dozen law review articles and essays on criminal law, and published articles and op-eds in the New York Times, Christianity Today, First Things, The New Republic and The Weekly Standard.  This fall,  Harvard University Press will publish a book he authored on the collapse of the criminal justice system.

In a statement to the Harvard Law School community today, Dean Martha Minow observed: “Bill was extraordinary; his wisdom and compassion touched our lives in so many ways, large and small.  His gifts to society through his scholarship and teaching on criminal law and justice changed and improved academic inquiry and policies on the ground.  His scholarship and teaching of Christian legal theory and of confronting life’s burdens inspire people in our community and well beyond it.  He imbued his work and his life with a vision of mercy and compassion.  The Harvard Law School, the larger community of scholars, and the communities connected through Bill’s writings are better, wiser, kinder because of Bill.”

That kindness—and a personal style marked also by good humor and generosity—profoundly affected those who knew Stuntz or knew of him through his writing. As Minow wrote: “Among his many gifts to us was the grace with which he lived his life.  In knowing Bill, we couldn’t help but be reminded to live life as our better selves.  Bill once wrote, ‘We understand that the world is not what it should be, and that our own capacities to understand it are severely limited.’  He described and lived his life in recognition of the need for humility and also for judgment and work to repair what we find around us.  His devotion to family and friends remains legendary. Those of us lucky enough to have been able to consult with him for personal or professional advice will never forget his insights and generosity.”

Carol Steiker, the Howard J. and Katherine W. Aibel Professor of Law at HLS, and a criminal justice scholar who was a close colleague of Stuntz, said: “He was an extraordinary and unforgettable teacher, scholar, colleague and friend. He was someone we’ll all miss, more than we can really say.”

Celebrated for his unusual ability to appeal to a wide variety of legal scholars and others of all political and methodological perspectives, Stuntz was generous with his time and guidance. Colleagues and students were especially struck by his open-mindedness, as reflected in his willingness to listen to a variety of opinions and to change his own when he felt it appropriate. Many observed that his style served as a model for civil discourse.

Extremely popular among his students for his compassion and accessibility, Stuntz was the 2004 recipient of the HLS Sacks-Freund Teaching Award, given by the graduating class to honor a professor for his or her contributions to teaching. In the upcoming week, the the Harvard Law & Policy Review will be publishing a series of student reflections on Professor Stuntz (Read the introduction to the collection at http://hlpronline.com/2011/03/professor-bill-stuntz-in-memoriam/).

From his perspective as a legal scholar and also an evangelical Protestant, Stuntz co-authored a blog that addressed law, politics, and other topics, “Less Than the Least,” with fellow evangelical David Skeel, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. As they noted in their blog, “We are both law professors and evangelical Protestants – a weird combination in our time. We hope it’s also an interesting combination.” Stuntz wrote honestly and lyrically, with humor and wisdom, about his struggles with chronic pain and his long battle with cancer, as well as the role of his religious faith in helping him deal with his illnesses.

Said Skeel: “Although Bill was an enormously influential scholar, and was widely viewed as the leading criminal procedure scholar of the past generation, he may have had an even broader impact writing and speaking about his struggles with cancer the past three years, and with debilitating back pain before that. His blog posts and other writings have been reprinted in numerous church bulletins and widely circulated elsewhere. I’ve never known anyone who lived out the Christian call to love one’s neighbor as oneself the way Bill did. He was an inspiration to everyone who came into contact with him.”

Many readers of the blog, including fellow cancer patients, wrote of being deeply touched by the honesty and compassion that imbued his writing.

A year ago, in March 2010, a large group of his many admirers, including legal scholars, colleagues, friends, and students—“a simply dazzling array of conference participants,” as Dean Martha Minow said in opening remarks—gathered at HLS for a two-day conference, “A Celebration of the Career of Bill Stuntz.” In tribute after tribute, they noted that Stuntz had exerted a tremendous influence on the fields of American criminal justice and criminal procedure while at the same time having a profound effect, professionally and personally, on so many who worked with or were taught by him.

Present at the conference, Stuntz described factors that had led to what he called the “disaster of criminal justice in our time,” in particular, the massive and “racially unfair” prison population in the U.S., but held out hope that the system might become fairer.

HLS Professor Jeannie Suk ’02, a former student of Stuntz, and a moderator of one of the panels at the conference, said after learning of Stuntz’s death: “He was a wonderful mentor to me since my time as a student at Harvard Law School. He was the one, when I was a student, who looked me right in the eye and told me not to worry about seeing things that might be unconventional or that might surprise or anger people, that it was a good thing if I had those instincts. He encouraged me to develop that and to be unafraid.”

She added, “The whole time I was an assistant professor, he was very ill, yet … he would stop by my office, he would read all my drafts [of articles] and have something to say about them, with great insight. I really think he was one of the main reasons, the primary reason, I became a professor, that I became a criminal law scholar.”

Born on July 3, 1958, Stuntz grew up in Annapolis, then attended the College of William and Mary and the University of Virginia School of Law.  After two judicial clerkships, he was a professor at the University of Virginia for 14 years until he joined the Harvard Law faculty in 2000.

Stuntz was the loving husband of Ruth Stuntz of Belmont, and devoted father of Sarah Stuntz, Andrew Stuntz, and Samuel Cook-Stuntz, all of Cambridge. He also leaves his parents, John and Sandy Stuntz of Annapolis, Md., and siblings, Linda Adamson of Annapolis, Michael Stuntz of Silver Spring, Md., Richard Stuntz of Annapolis, and David Stuntz of Durham, NC, as well as many nieces and nephews, and a daughter-in-law, Elizabeth Cook-Stuntz.

A memorial service will be held at Park Street Church in Boston on Saturday, March 19 at 5:00 p.m. In lieu of flowers, guests should feel free to make donations to International Justice Mission (www.ijm.org) or the Cancer Center Priorities Fund at Massachusetts General Hospital (165 Cambridge Street, Suite 600, Boston, MA 02114-2792).

“Every Day With Jesus is Like A Thanksgiving Holiday” By Dr. David P. Craig

I have so much to be thankful for – now 15 treatments into Chemo and Radiation – almost half way done with my 33 treatments here are my reflections on Thanksgiving Day. DPC

LifeCoach4God

“Thank God It’s Thanksgiving Everyday – Especially on Thursday’s!”

I have always loved the Thanksgiving Holiday. It’s one of the few times of the year where our very large family can come together from all over the United States and enjoy giving thanks for our many blessings. This year more than likely I’ll be having liquid formula through a feeding tube in my stomach. I already had the G-Tube surgically implanted in my stomach this past week. During chemotherapy and radiation around Thanksgiving time will be a time of great testing for me, when according to my Doctors I will be unable to swallow and chew due to the severity of my treatment for throat and neck cancer. Watching every one I love dearest passing around the turkey with all the trimmings will be something my eyes will enjoy, but not my taste buds. However, I’m good with that. I’m…

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Dr. Tim Keller on The Pervasive Influence of Idolatry in the Human Heart

(Nobody has impacted and influenced my understanding of Jesus Christ and God’s amazing grace in the Biblical Gospel than Pastor Tim Keller – you will find more posts by Tim Keller on VLM’s website than any other writer – because nothing is more important than understanding, receiving, and applying the Gospel for closure on our past, present, and future justification and sanctification with the God of the Gospel – And nobody explains the Gospel in a more deep and applicational manner, in my opinion, than Tim Keller – DPC)

“Counterfeit Gods – The Personal Story”

I often get asked how I personally became acquainted with the pervasive influence of idolatry in the human heart.

Like many younger ministers I worked far too many hours, never saying “no” to anyone’s request for my pastoral services. When salary increases were offered to me, I turned them down. When administrative help was offered to me, I declined. I was quite proud of being the kind of person who worked very hard, never complained, and never asked for any help. This regularly brought me into conflict with my wife, who rightly contended that I was neglecting my relationships to her and to my young sons. It also led to health problems, although I was only in my early thirties.

Nevertheless, I continued to feel that the way I was living was noble and good. I believed I was sacrificially committed to the ministry of the Word. I was especially delighted to make sacrifices that nobody saw — not my people or even my family. That made me feel most noble of all. If all this created some problems for me personally, wasn’t that just evidence of how truly devoted I was? It was a very dangerous situation. My future was bleak, though I didn’t know it. In the short run, this kind of ministry workaholism is often rewarded by admiring people all around.

Some well-meaning friends, however, saw the problem and literally “laid the law” on me, showing me that I was violating the commandments of taking Sabbath and of honoring my family. I usually responded with incremental changes that never endured. Others used the modern technique of self-esteem — “You need to think of yourself; you need to do things that make you happy.” I despised that advice as terribly selfish.  I valued self-sacrifice.

It wasn’t until I began to search my heart with the Biblical category of idolatry that I made the horrendous discovery that all my supposed sacrifices were just a series of selfish actions. I was using people in order to forge my own self-appreciation. I was looking to my sacrificial ministry to give me the sense of “righteousness before God” that should only come from Jesus Christ. People make idols out of money, power, accomplishment, or moral excellence. They look to these things to “save them” — to give them the sense of purity, value, and acceptability that only Jesus can give. In my case, I was using ministry (and my own people) in this way.

Without the category of idolatry — a good thing turned into a pseudo-salvation — I would never have been able to see myself. Nothing but the concept of counterfeit gods could have blasted me out of my illusion of virtue and superiority. I thank God for this life-saving insight — though I still struggle mightily with the implementation of what I’ve learned.

*Article Originally posted by Dr. Tim Keller on October 20, 2009 at the excellent resource site: http://redeemercitytocity.com/blog/view.jsp?Blog_param=60

 About Tim Keller and His Absolutely Brilliant Gospel Centered Books:

 In 1989 Dr. Timothy J. Keller, his wife and three young sons moved to New York City to begin Redeemer Presbyterian Church. In 20 years it has grown to meeting for five services at three sites with a weekly attendance of over 5,000. Redeemer is notable not only for winning skeptical New Yorkers to faith, but also for partnering with other churches to do both mercy ministry and church planting.  Redeemer City to City is working to help establish hundreds of new multi-ethnic congregations throughout the city and other global cities in the next decades.

Dr. Tim Keller is the author of several phenomenal Christo-centric books including:

Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Plan for the World. New York, Penguin Publishing, November, 2012.

Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, September, 2012.

The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness. New York: 10 Publishing, April 2012.

Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just. New York: Riverhead Trade, August, 2012.

The Gospel As Center: Renewing Our Faith and Reforming Our Ministry Practices (editor and contributor). Wheaton: Crossway, 2012.

The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God. New York, Dutton, 2011.

The Prodigal God. New York, Dutton, 2011.

King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus. New York, Dutton, 2011.

Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Priorities of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters. New York, Riverhead Trade, 2011.

The Reason For God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. New York, Dutton, 2009.

Worship By The Book (contributor). Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002.

Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road. Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1997.

 

 

Don’t Waste Your Cancer: An Interview With Matt Chandler

Tabletalk (The Monthly Magazine of R.C. Sproul’s – Ligonier Ministries) And Matt Chandler on His Battle with Brain Cancer

Tabletalk: By way of offering a brief introduction of yourself and your family, when was God’s call to serve His people confirmed for you (Matt, cancer free, recently pictured above with his wife Lauren and their three children)?

Matt Chandler: I think my story is a bit strange in that my awareness of God’s call on my life to serve His people was a bit lost in me serving His people. I’ll try and explain that. I was very frustrated with my church experiences heading into college. I loved sharing the gospel and loved the God of the Bible, but it appeared to me (probably my immaturity) that my church and I were seeing different things in the Scriptures. I saw atonement and the fear of the Lord, and at church they were teaching us not to drink beer and not to have sex. To be truthful, I wasn’t drinking beer or having sex, and could see that drunkenness was sinful and that God had a plan for sex in marriage. Yet it appeared to me that those were secondary issues that should be addressed after the atoning work of Christ was communicated and understood. I started teaching at an ecumenical gathering while I was in college and assumed I would finish school, become a good lawyer, and teach Sunday school at the local Baptist church wherever I settled (I was hoping for the West Coast). The Bible study blew up numerically, and we were running around one thousand to fifteen hundred students every week. A young woman from that study asked me when I received the “call of ministry.” I was honestly confused by her question. I thought she was asking if the Baptists had literally called me on the phone and let me teach the Bible study. She clarified her question, and it sent all my dreams and plans into another direction altogether. It was at this time that I came to understand that I wouldn’t be spending my life doing law and teaching Sunday school but rather teaching and leading God’s people into maturity by the Spirit’s power and by the proclamation of the Word.

TT: What counsel would you give to a believer on the day he or she is diagnosed with cancer? How about six months after the diagnosis?

MC: One of God’s big mercies in all of this has been allowing me to pastor a young church. I have done multiple funerals every year I have been here, and only one has been for a person over the age of fifty. I learned very early that people need to have a good grasp of God’s goodness and God’s sovereignty. On the day that a person is diagnosed, I try to encourage them in God’s knowledge — that this hasn’t surprised Him or caught Him off guard. I want to remind them that this isn’t punitive, but rather that God is on the move and He can be trusted. Six months after the diagnosis is harder to answer because cancer can go one of two ways. If the man or woman is still in a real fight, I want to draw his or her attention to Hebrews 11 or the story of Abraham being promised a son or even David being anointed king and then running from Saul for all those years before sitting on the throne. I think it’s important to remind people after the initial shock of diagnosis wears off and the wear and tear of treatment settles in that victory for those who are children of God is guaranteed, although difficulty, pain, and waiting might all be very present.

TT: In what ways has your cancer sanctified you?

MC: It’s made me look long and hard at my motives and has drawn me deeply into God in prayer. I am an excellent studier and researcher, and before all this began, I would say a decent man of prayer; but I learned after they told me I only had two to three years left that I knew much more about God than I actually knew Him. The bulk of my sanctification through this ordeal has been the birth of a deep desire for intimacy with our great God and King.

TT: How do you counsel Christians to face death and disease (both those who are personally facing such crises and those who are currently enjoying robust health)?

MC: I simply have tried to point out that we shouldn’t be surprised by death and disease because the Bible is filled with it. As I stated above, an understanding of God’s goodness and His sovereign power are necessary to cope with life in a fallen world. I want to teach people that life is extremely fragile and that there isn’t a person in our sanctuary or listening to a podcast who can’t have his or her whole world change with a phone call or, as in my case, getting up one morning and getting a cup of coffee. Those are heavy truths, and I know they don’t make for feel-good sermons, but it’s better to know these truths than to pretend it’s not reality.

TT: You’ve written that if you had not heard John Piper’s answer to the question “For whom did Christ die?” at the 1997 Passion conference, you would not have had ground to stand on years later when you heard the words “brain cancer.” How did your understanding of the atonement help you deal with such a devastating diagnosis?

MC: Actually, I think my wife, Lauren, said that in a blog she wrote after my prognosis was given to us. That sermon was significant for both of us because up until that point, I’m not sure we grasped the size and holiness of God. That sermon changed the trajectory of both our lives in that it shifted how we saw God and understood Him.

TT: You’ve also written that there were moments last year when you felt you were “punched in the soul” but that you were reminded nevertheless that the disease with which you’re dealing “isn’t punitive but somehow redemptive.” Could you unpack that a little?

MC: I have been very blessed by God in my life. My cancer has honestly been one of the more difficult things to deal with. Lauren and I have tried to trust the Lord in everything, and when we’ve stepped out in faith He has been beyond gracious to us. People come to hear; they give generously to the church, and almost every “idea” we’ve had God has blessed and grown. I can honestly say that ministry and life were pretty easy for us up until Thanksgiving 2009. After I had the seizure and they found the tumor, I thought it would be like everything else had been — easy and would end well. When I first met my neurosurgeon on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, I was ignorantly and maybe even arrogantly thinking that nothing would come of it and that we would just need to watch this thing and see.

I was caught completely off guard when Dr. Barnett told me that it didn’t look good and that we needed to do surgery immediately. That was one of the first times in my life, if not the first time, that things went “worst-case scenario” on me. The Holy Spirit was quick to remind me of great passages on God’s sovereignty and goodness in difficulty. I thought of Romans 8, Hebrews 11, and several others. I wasn’t being punished with brain cancer because I didn’t tell that guy at the gym about Jesus or because I hadn’t read Piper’s latest book, but rather God was at work. He was doing something, and I could be sure that He loved me and in the end I would have increased joy and He would be glorified. Here we are over a year later and that’s exactly what’s happened.

TT: How has dealing with your disease affected your view of God’s sovereignty (or, how has your view of God’s sovereignty affected how you view your disease)?

MC: (Pictured above Matt on a video update to his church after chemo treatment – having lost his hair – which has since grown back) I believe the Scriptures teach that God is aware of every act at every level of the universe. From a star exploding to the rate at which our planet spins to a cell dividing, He knows. I don’t believe in the end that God gave me cancer, but He certainly could have stopped it and didn’t. So I have to believe like Joseph, John the Baptist, and Paul had to believe when they were in prison — that God is working, and what the enemy means for evil, He will turn to good. There have been multiple occasions when God has used this tremendously. The Associated Press let me preach the gospel in an article that ran worldwide. The story has caught the imagination of the media here in Dallas, and we’ve been able to talk about the atoning work of Christ on TV as well as in newspaper articles. That has led to a ton of men and women surrendering their lives to Christ after wanting to talk with me through their own sufferings. If my life gets “cut short” but we get to see new births in the kingdom, then I don’t feel slighted or robbed in the least.

TT: In the late summer/early fall of 2010, you went to Sudan. How did that trip impact your life?

MC: I was deeply moved by my trip to Sudan. I’ve traveled quite a bit internationally but have never seen anything like it. It isn’t even a Third World country. That’s what they want to be. We are connected with some extremely godly men there, and the opportunities for the advancement of a Christ-centered, biblically-strong faith growing in southern Sudan are very real. On a side note, if I had not been diagnosed with cancer, I would not have been able to make the trip. The original diagnosis had us clear my external speaking schedule and opened that time frame for us to go.

Article Information:

From: Tabletalk Magazine – From Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. © Tabletalk magazine. Website: http://www.ligonier.org/tabletalk. Email: tabletalk@ligonier.org. Toll free: 1-800-435-4343. Interview published on July 1st, 2011.

 About Matt Chandler:

Matt Chandler serves as lead pastor of the Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas. He has become a leader in the evangelical world through his ministry at the Village Church, the Acts 29 Church Planting Network, and his teaching at multiple conferences. Matt is known to a wider audience most recently through his faithful witness to Jesus Christ while battling a malignant brain tumor. Chandler is also the author of the teaching series Philippians: To Live Is Christ & to Die Is Gain; and his excellent first book published by Crossway, entitled: The Explicit Gospel.

Dr David P. Craig on the Question: “Am I Pastor or a Life Coach?”

Answer: “I’m a Pastoral Life Coach”

About the picture above: From the left [me] David P. Craig; in the middle – my uncle Enrique – the brother of my mother – and a faithful disciple and evangelist of Jesus, and on the right, a church member named Jorge. I had just preached on what family relationships from Ephesians 5 :22 -6:4 look like when Christ is at the center of them. It was a tremendous honor to preach in Spanish with several family members present on my mother’s side. My family has a long history of church involvement – planting; preaching; and service in Quilmes – a large city in a suburb of Buenos Aires. I had just returned from a week of training pastors in the Northern part of Argentina – Jujuy; and was about to do some training with some young church leaders at A Christian Camp Facility in Buenos Aires.

In January of 2006 I had returned from a trip to South America to train pastors and missionaries (almost all of them were bi-vocational; in the Province of Jujuy on the Northern Argentinean and Southern Bolivian border. I have been on such trips in Europe, Asia, the Caribbean, and many times in Argentina (the land of my roots – My parents were born there and I have adopted many of their customs – especially drinking an Argentine tea called “mate;” becoming a soccer fanatic – especially of River Plate and Quilmes, and of course their national team (Messi is the Best!); and loving all foods Argentine – especially “asados” with “entrana” and chorizos; empanadas, bocadillos, tortilla, and gnocchi. I also grew up learning “Castellano” – the Italian sounding Spanish of the Argentines – full of slang – they have a unique word, phrase, or idiom for everything!

Both of my grandfathers were preachers. My dad’s father – John Craig (my youngest son, Johnny aged 16, is named after him) – was a Plymouth Brethren missionary who was born in Belfast, Ireland and spent over 50 years in Argentina and Uruguay planting churches, being an itinerant preacher, and making disciples (I’ve spoken in parts of Argentina where people have told me that my grandfather led them to the Lord and discipled them – it always brings me to tears of joy). John Craig died at the age of 86 and he was still pastoring a church in the Province of Tucuman in Argentina shortly before his promotion to Heaven.

My mom’s dad – Saul Moreira (of Portuguese heritage) was a beloved Bible teacher and expositor of the Bible. Everyone loved to hear “Don Saul” teach – children, co-workers, and the various “Hermanos Libres” churches in and around Quilmes – a large suburb of Buenos Aires  La Boca is most famous for the “Boca Juniors Football Club” and the dance known worldwide as the “Tango.”

About the picture above: My Grandfather – Saul Moreira – was one of the project supervisors of the building of the bridge pictured above “Puente Transborador” – built in 1914 is one of the most recognized bridges in all of South America. The Bridge is located in what many consider the heart of Buenos Aires – “La Boca.” The La Boca neighborhood was so named for its position at “the mouth” of the Riachuelo, and its role as the port of call for thousands of immigrants from Italy, Spain, and other European countries in the 1800’s and early 1900’s. It’s within walking distance from of the birth of the “Tango” in El Caminito, and the home of the famous Boca Juniors Football Club).

When I was 17 years old (almost the age of my youngest son) I was a soccer, football, basketball, and baseball FANATIC! On any given day you would see me with a ball in competition depending on the season – I was fiercely seeking a victory in one of these sports. Growing up in the 1970’s and 1980’s in Huntington Beach, CA., I was a diehard Laker fan (during the Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird era); a HUGE Dodger fan -during the Dodgers vs. Cincinnati Red Machine; when the St. Louis Rams were the L.A. Rams and played in Anaheim; and the L.A. Galaxy didn’t exist and we had season tickets for the L.A Aztecs. I still vividly recall going to the L.A. Coliseum and witnessing the amazing offensive and defensive skills of some of the best players in world soccer history – Johann Cruyff, Pele, and Franz Beckenbauer.

About the picture above: My room in Huntington Beach in 1975.  I was ten years old and already a sports fanatic. Notice the Rams (in L.A. back then) souvenirs on the left and the Los Angeles Dodgers souvenirs on the right. There is a 10th Anniversary Houston “Astrodome” pennant on my desk, and I’m reading a baseball world series magazine from 1975. I still love the Dodgers; wear Hawaiian shirts; but prefer the San Diego Chargers to those “traders” – the St. Louis Rams.

In my junior year of High School I was involved in a serious car accident. My best friend at the time was driving his Jeep and we were cut off by a drunk driver after the first day of baseball season my junior year. My dad and mom were on a business trip in Europe at the time. My older sister and the great staff at the hospital in Fountain Valley took terrific care of me. I suffered numerous broken ribs, bones, and had a lot of stitches in my head. I can remember shaking in bed at the hospital for a week straight and had a migraine headache for the next three months that subsided gradually so I could take catnaps here and there.

It was during that time that I received my calling to the ministry. Up until that year I was dreaming of either being a pro soccer or baseball player. Before the car accident I made my decision to focus on baseball and have a terrific junior season at Liberty Christian High School in Huntington Beach. I had dreamed about being a Los Angeles Dodger with the goal of taking over Bill Russell’s job at shortstop  The reality is I was a good baseball player, but not “great.”  I think if I had focused on being great at one sport instead of being “good” at four sports – I would have had a chance to make the pros (I ended up playing soccer in college for 3 years in Portland).

About the picture above. From about 1975 to 1980 my family would get about 20-30 games of season tickets during some of the Dodgers best years. The first Dodger game I went to was in 1974 and Ron Cey “The Penguin” hit a home run against the New York Mets to win the game in the 9th inning. I was imediately hooked on the Dodgers.Here is a picture of the “Fabulous Four: Ron Cey – 3B; Davey Lopes – 2B; Bill Russell – SS; and Steve Garvey – 1B.

I missed all of baseball season my junior year. During that summer – I started thinking more seriously about my life.  I had been a disciple of Jesus Christ since I was six years old.  I always loved the Lord, went to church weekly, loved going to “big church” (my pastor was the well-known Bible expositor – David L. Hocking. I’d rather hear “Pastor Dave” preach the meat of the Word than “watered down” Sunday school lessons designed for children who’d rather play with lincoln logs, than listen to a teacher. From an early age I’ve always loved apologetics and anything to do with the Bible, Theology, the Gospel, and the Church for whom Jesus gave His life.

However, the summer of 1983 was different from any previous summer in my short life. My passion for sports waned, and God gave me a renewed passion to know Him intimately and magnify Jesus in the proclamation of the Gospel. My senior year of high school I didn’t play any sports for the first time since I was six years old. I realized that I was a follower of Christ second, and a sports idolater first. I needed to repent of my sin of “sports idolatry” and was struck by what the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So whether you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.”

Up until my junior year of high school I had been a selfish “sports-aholic,” primarily living for the thrill of victory and to avoid the agony of defeat. I had been living for my glory first, and Christ’s second. I was convicted by the Holy Spirit of this rebellious state and moved by the Holy Spirit “to be transformed by the renewing of my mind” (See Romans 12:1-2).

Over the summer I started asking and wrestling with these questions:

“What if I had died in that accident?”

“What have I accomplished in life that will actually last for eternity?”

“What will I do that will last for eternity for the rest of my life?”

“What things will last on into eternity when I die?”

“Why did God create humans for in the first place?”

“How many people do I know that have I never told about Jesus?

There were many more questions like those above. However, my senior year was different. I started going to a Christian Book store called “Pilgrim’s Progress” and started devouring theology books by J.I. Packer, R.C. Sproul, David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and many others. While all my friends were going on dates and spending money on movies – I was saving money to buy more books. I studied Greek that fall in a discipleship relationship with my Bible professor in High School – he was a Talbot Seminary student at the time (I would eventually earn my Master of Divinity at Talbot in 1991); I started teaching a junior high Sunday school class in my church; I was witnessing to everything that breathed – I even practiced on my cocker spaniel – “Carlitos” and my cat “Jinx.”

Two defining moments happened to me in the summer of 1983. The first was through an evangelist that you’ve probably heard of – Luis Palau. Billy Graham, Bill Bright, and Luis Palau have planted more seeds of the Gospel than perhaps all the other evangelists of history combined. Luis Palau was passing through on his way to Los Angeles and came over for dinner one evening. Anyone who has ever eaten my mom’s cooking, would NEVER pass up an opportunity to eat her food! If she were younger (she’s 80 today – and still cooks up a storm), I’m convinced she would have her own show on the Food Network and be more popular than Paula Dean or Giada DeLaurentiis!

About the picture above: Luis Palau has literally preached to more people than anyone in the history of Christianity next to Billy Graham – and he’s done it in perfect Spanish and English.  I haven’t heard or seen much of Luis since our days at Multnomah – but I will be forever indebted to Luis for recommending I attend Multnomah University. I received some great training there. However, the best gifts I received were some of my life-long godly friends – who are all comrades in the ministry of the Gospel around the world. Luis Palau’s nephew George Palau, who with his wonderful wife – Stacey – runs an orphanage in Mexico is one of those very close friends. George is one of the greatest servants of Christ I’ve ever known. I have learned much more from him, than I ever will from Luis. Nothing against Luis. But one of the great things about being a Christian is that we all impact one another up close in the context of community – especially when we minister to those who are suffering and in great need. George drove all the way from Mexico yesterday to spend the day with me. I love George, Dave Steele, Eddie Remley, and Mark Wilks, as if they were my very own brothers – and in Christ we are a “band of brothers.” 

Luis Palau is one of the few “big name” Christian heroes that I really respect and admire. He is one of the few pastors I know that is the same in his home, as when he is in front of a crowd of 100,000 people. What you see or hear from Luis is what you get. He practices what he preaches, and is quick to repent when he blows it. My parents grew up in the same Plymouth Brethren (“Los Hermanos Liberes”) church as Luis in Quilmes, Argentina and have known him since he was very young.

Getting back to the dinner. My mom made her famous Caesar salad, homemade spinach ravioli with her amazing Osso-Bucco and meat-sauce, and we had her amazing homemade “dulce de batata” for dessert (I remember – because these are three foods I never eat anywhere else – because no one comes close to preparing these items as well as my mom). After this very filling and satisfying meal Luis and I went for a long walk. I picked his brain and remember asking him, “Luis, how do you know if you are being called to the ministry?”

I honestly can’t remember his exact reply. I just remember that he affirmed my calling and recommended that I attend the same college he attended when Ray Stedman (author of the very influential book “Body Life” and, at that time Pastor of the influential Peninsula Bible Church in Northern California) helped bring a young Luis to the United States to be pastorally trained – because he heard Luis preach on a trip to Argentina and saw how gifted he was. Ray Stedman made it possible for Luis Palau to go to Multnomah School of the Bible in Portland, Oregon. The school’s motto was, “If it’s Bible you want, then you want Multnomah”.  Luis encouraged me to visit the school and noted and affirmed my passion to know the Word and to make Jesus known.

The second “defining moment” for me came in letting my parents know that I believed and felt overwhelmingly that God was calling me to full-time ministry. God was blessing my teaching, evangelism, and discipleship with youth. I couldn’t imagine doing anything more worthwhile for the rest of my life. I wanted to make my time and life count for what would matter for eternity.

A few days after my walk and talk with Luis Palau, I sat down at approximately 11:30 a.m. at the kitchen table with my mom. My parents are godly people. My dad has worked hard since he was seven years old and he has had several successful businesses in Argentina, England, and the United States. My dad has always been incredibly giving and very involved in ministry. I don’t ever remember getting up in the morning not seeing my dad with an open Bible and drinking mate (Argentine tea). My dad has been an elder and on the Board of several missions around the world. He devours theology, and manifests all the fruit of the Spirit. There is not a single man on the planet that I admire, respect, and desire to be more like than my father. He has been such a good model and such an influence in my life – that I could probably write a whole book on his influence for good in my life.

Meanwhile, getting back to the table with my mom. My dad was working in his office – he added an office to the garage over our Huntington Harbor home, so he didn’t have to drive to Los Angeles anymore. I sat down with my mom and was hesitant to bring up my “calling” for fear that my parents would think I was “loco.” I thought I would share it with my mom first before bringing it up to my dad. My plan up until that summer had been to get a baseball scholarship to a Pac Ten (now Pac 12 or whatever they call it) school, preferably UCLA (Go Bruins! – largely through John Wooden’s influence in my life – his book “They Call Me Coach” was the first book I read from cover-to-cover; John Wooden pictured below)), and to major in Business Administration. I never thought of being anything but a professional athlete – my only difficult decision was I wanted to play all four major USA sports – baseball, football, basketball, and soccer! I’m sure hockey would have been in there too, but nobody except for Canadians knew what that was in the 1980’s – until we won the Olympics in the “Miracle on Ice”!

About the picture above: John Wooden won 10 National Championships as a coach of the UCLA Bruins Basketball team. Wooden had some great players; but he was also able to make great players make other players even better. I think John Wooden (a committed Christ follower) would have been a great pastor as well. He is a perfect model of a life coach – committed to Christ; committed to bringing out the best in individuals; and their teams, churches, and organizations. Everybody wins when they have a good coach. John Wooden was simply the best!

I would literally dream almost every night, and daydream in my classes in school of throwing the over time touchdown pass in the last seconds of the Super Bowl to lead the Rams to victory over the Steelers; hitting a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth in the seventh game of the World Series before the home crowd in Los Angeles over (who else?) the New York Yankees; shooting a three-point shot in over time to win the NBA championship for the Lakers against the Celtics.  I dreamed of taking the Americans all the way to the final in the World Cup and beating Germany, Argentina, or Brazil by scoring a hat trick in bringing the World Cup to the USA for the first time. I even remember in my dreams calling my cousins Ariel and Martin in Argentina to apologize to them for beating their homeland in their favorite sport!

Oh yeah – sorry, sidetracked – back to the table with my mom. When I told my mom about the stirring in my heart, my desire to know the Scriptures, my passion to proclaim Christ, and my desire to attend Multnomah in Portland – she began to sob. I was thinking to myself, “Oh no, now I’m in trouble – there goes the family business.”

My mom came around the table and gave me a big hug and went and got her Bible and read from 1 Samuel 1 – the story of Samuel’s being dedicated to the Lord (I encourage you to read it). She read the entire chapter to me out loud and then after reading the last three verses of chapter 1 and the first 2 verses of chapter where Hannah says and prays the following:

And she said, “Oh, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to the Lord. For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.” And he worshiped the Lord there. And Hannah prayed and said, “My heart exults in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord. My mouth derides my enemies, because I rejoice in your salvation. “There is none holy like the Lord: for there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God.” (1 Samuel 1:26-2:2)…

She came and hugged me, and said that Hannah’s was her story and Samuel’s story was my story. Rachel (my mom) told me that the doctors told her she would never have a child again. She lost two children due to complications between my sister – Miriam – and myself.

I never knew the story of my mom and dad’s loss until this day, at this moment, at the table in our kitchen. In short, my mother had always wanted six children (two of them I will meet for the first time in Heaven one day). I have two brothers – Daniel, 15 years my senior and George, 10 years older than me; and a sister that’s 8 years older than me – Miriam. One child my mom lost was never named (but will have a name that Jesus has given according to Revelation), the other was named Michelle.

My mom went and got my dad from the office and she shared the story of how she prayed that if God gave her another child – she and my dad would dedicate him to the Lord – just as Hannah had dedicated Samuel. Talk about a confirmation! We all wept and prayed, and thanked the Lord for His answers to prayer to my faithful parents prayer to bring glory to the Lord Jesus Christ.

About the Picture above: My parents have been the biggest influences on my life spiritually. My dad, Daniel, will be 90 in January; and my mom, Rachel, will be 81. They prayed for me before I was born. They read the Bible to me from the time I was a baby (and still quote it to me on the phone or every time we are together). They are my biggest heroes in life. They are going to be married 64 years on December 4, 2012. My parents have always been my biggest fans, but better than that – they have been huge fans of Jesus, His Church, and the spread of the Gospel around the world. They have had a lot of difficult times financially, physically, and have lost almost all their life-long friends. And yet they always have a smile on their faces and exhibit the peace of God that surpasses all understanding. I love them with such admiration, appreciation, and respect that I will never be able to convey in words. I am a Christian today because of the sovereign election of God in eternity past; and love and follow Jesus because they modeled His love and grace when I was growing up, and continue to do so, to this very day. I can’t think of two people who better model what the Apostle Paul said, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Jesus Christ.”

Since that day I have gone on to earn a B.S. (at Multnomah); a M.Div. at Talbot School of Theology; a doctorate and doctoral work in Theology and Pastoral Leadership at Westminster Seminary in Escondido, and Northwest Graduate School in Seattle. I have been a youth and senior pastor in California and Washington State. I have traveled to more than 30 countries on missions trips and training pastors and missionaries. I have discipled dozens of men. My best education was one I never purposely applied for, but have most definitely been “accepted” to. It’s proverbially called “The School of Hard Knocks.” I would concur with the great Reformer Martin Luther who summarized his learning in this way, ““Suffering has made me a better theologian than any book I’ve ever read.” However, I don’t think I’ve seen the tip of the iceberg of what God has entrusted unto me as a steward of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The questions I asked earlier are questions I’m still asking. Having been diagnosed with cancer recently and beginning radiation and chemotherapy in the next week, I pray that God will continue to change me and conform me to His Son. I pray that whether I live another forty-six years, or only have days to live for him – that people will know, see, and hear about my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I desire more than anything that all my family members would know and follow Jesus. I firmly believe with the sentiment, “This life will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”

I have lived a wonderful life. I have been bruised and broken, but not crushed. I am becoming stronger through life’s trials and tribulations. Since the age of seventeen all I’ve ever wanted to do, is know Jesus intimately and make Him known.

This past year I’ve been doing some “life coaching” through a non-profit ministry I established called Vertical Living Ministries. I started this Pastoral ministry with the help of some wonderful people who have sacrificially contributed generously, so that I can make multiplying disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ around the world. I have trained people one-on-one and in small and large groups, discipled men and women, and trained people in Christ-centered living through this ministry.

I originally established Vertical Living MInistries to provide training for leaders in poor countries. We who live in America have access to so many good resources by way of books, conferences, Bible Colleges, and Seminaries. I have been to countries where pastors share one Bible amongst themselves and have absolutely no training or access to any resources whatsoever. However, now with my cancer, I really don’t know where God is calling me. However, I know that I will always be a pastor. I am a shepherd. I have had Jesus shepherd me, and I simply want to find other sheep who will follow hard after the Good Shepherd.

I call myself a Pastoral Coach because I want to encourage Christians to make Christ number one in their lives. I love “life” coaching because I can help disciples of Christ focus on the following nine areas of Christo-centricity.  Just as we talk about  a Planetary system that’s Helio, and not Geo-centered, I like to think of life functioning best when our lives revolve around, and in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

(1) Spiritually – Your Relationship to God through the Lordship of Jesus Christ. My main focus here is to help people understand the life transforming ramifications of the Gospel in your life: past, present, and future ramifications for today. Most Christians only remember or hold on to their past, or future in Christ and forget how the Gospel needs to be lived out on a daily basis – we are continually learning to repent and grow in our faith with Christ at the center of it all.

(2) Marriage – Your triune covenantal relationship with Christ at the center. Marriages can work for two unbelievers, and even sometimes when an unbeliever is married to an unbeliever. However, it was designed by God to not be a marriage of two, but of three. I help couples to practically make Christ the center of their “solar system” in their marriage.

(3) Family/Parenting – How to be a Christ-centered family and raise Children that love Jesus above all else. For many parents, their children become “idols.”, especially for women.  Their identity, security, and significance is oftentimes wrapped up in the performance, success, and behavior of their children. If their children are doing well – they are doing well. However, if a child rebels or is unsuccessful in life – they take it personally, and lose their way. Many “empty nesters” – especially women, become depressed and feel like life is meaningless when their kids move out of the home. I help parents to see that our security and significance needs to be properly placed in submission to the Lordship of Christ. Only God never changes. If we place our security in our kids or anything else – we are in big trouble. In raising our children we are merely short-term stewards of what is rightfully God’s. The greatest thing we can do as parents is to model Christo-centricity for our children. I’m grateful that my parents modeled and taught me daily that the most important thing in life is my relationship with and service unto Jesus.

(4) Vocationally – Your Work in the World and with the Church. Most women have the idolatry of “motherhood.” Most men see their significance and security in their work. Their identity is wrapped up in their position, possessions, and provisions for their families. Well, what happens to the man who loses his job, gets physically incapacitated, or runs into midlife.  You’ve been working at a job for 30 years and come to realize that you were climbing the wrong ladder that was leaning up against the wrong wall in your “prime” years? Men and women both have pseudo securities – or what the Bible calls “idolatry.” I try to teach people how to view their talents, passions, skills, abilities, and hobbies as unto the Lord. Ultimately, God is our boss and we will spend the bulk of our lives working – but do we find the pleasure of God in our work? Few things excite me more than seeing businessmen or women shine brightly for the sake of Christ in the context of making a profit that will last for eternity in the lives of others.

(5) Health – Taking care of your body that God will use on this earth until the day of your final glorification. This is one of the most neglected areas for Christians. It’s very easy to get out of balance in what we eat, how we exercise, and being responsible with the stewardship of our bodies. I love what C.S. Lewis says, “You don’t have a soul, you are a soul. You have a body.” In other words, we are dualists. We have an immaterial part of us, and we are housed in a physical body that must be maintained. Sometimes, we can’t control what happens to our bodies (Doctors don’t know how I got cancer). However, even if we have ailments and age, we still need to be responsible in taking care of our bodies as best as we can, so we can serve Jesus as long as we can, and as effectively as we can, while we “house” the soul.

(6) Friendship – Your connections and building bridges with others as you reflect Christ in your community. Too many people are wrapped up in work, family, and get isolated outside of community. I thank God for the emphasis on community by many churches. However, if you want to have friends, you must be a friend. Nobody models this better than Jesus, “a friend of sinners.” Friends are so important – especially in tough times. Having friends and family means the world to me especially when the “going gets tough.” I firmly believe that especially among pastors (health and friendships are two of the most neglected areas in this list of nine – and that it’s what will “do them in” during mid-life or their retirement years).

(7) Financially – Your stewardship of God’s resources. I can honestly say that having to give away or sell more than 6,000 theology books in the past five years, going from a 3,400 square foot house we owned to a 1,600 square foot condo we rent, and having to give away all our pets (four cats and a dog) have been some of the hardest things to go through, but also some of the best. Money and possessions (having control) is a huge idolatry in our culture. Simple is better. Jesus left earth for Heaven literally naked – and so will we. However, are you content with only Him and nothing else? Look at the difference Jesus made two thousand years ago, and is still making today. He owned nothing and left no possessions behind. Nothing “owned” Him. What owns you? I believe that generosity exhibits the nature and character of God perhaps more fully than any other trait. For example, I don’t think it’s coincidence that the most famous verse in the Bible is about the greatest sacrifice and the greatest gift: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Aren’t you glad God is a giver? How about you? I believe that Tim Keller is dead-on here when he says, “Idolatry is just a failure to obey God, It’s setting the whole heart on something besides God… Where your money goes most effortlessly, that’s where your heart really rests.” In my life I’ve found peace and rest not in the economy, but in Jesus alone – and He never changes – satisfaction is truly found when you realize that when God is all you have, He’s all you really need.

(8) Mentoring – Investing in Others Using your unique Skills, Gifting, Talents, Personality, and Passion. I’m forty-six years old and have never really been formally discipled or mentored by anyone. That’s a tragedy of the first order. I firmly believe that every single man and every woman has strengths and skills to teach future generations, but these don’t typically happen without intentionality. I train people to use their unique gifts, passions, abilities, skills, and so forth and pass those on to future generations – with intentionality. It really upsets me to no end to see how self-absorbed we’ve become. We have our I-pads, I-pods, and I-phones, and have become “I-focused”! Don’t get me wrong – I love technology, but for many it’s become an obsession and an idol. We need to become more focused on Jesus and others if we want to make a difference that will last into eternity. I love what Paul says about Jesus in Philippians 2:4-5, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.”

(9) Discipleship – You’re investing in the Spiritual Growth of other followers and would-be followers of Christ. Nothing gets me more riled up than the lack of lifestyle and intentional discipleship taking place among Christians. Again, without intentionality this just doesn’t happen. I have asked men in their twenties up until their eighties if they have ever been discipled by another man – In thirty years of doing ministry I hear “Never” or “What are you talking about” at least 90% of the time. This is unconscionable! And yet, the great commission is all about “making disciples” of all nations. Are you intentionally making disciples in your circle of influence with your children, friends, neighbors, spouses, family, co-workers, teammates, and fellow students?

It is my prayer and hope to take the baton that has been passed on to me from my godly heritage in these nine areas. I hope that God will use my cancer to further the Gospel. I desire to teach, preach, and live for the glory of Christ while I have breath.

My life verses are 1 Timothy 4:16 where the Apostle Paul says to Timothy: “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

Acts 20:24, where the Apostle Paul proclaims, “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus Christ, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”

And Romans 8:16-18 & 28-30, where the Apostle Paul declares, The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us… And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

It’s been about 13 months since I last preached – I haven’t had any invitations. And yet the passion of my soul is to preach the Gospel. Sometimes I feel like a Pastor who is a dinosaur in the 21st century, fast-paced Church. I have tried to get a job in a modern church for the past 13 months – in churches that appear to want CEO’s, not Shepherds; Programs, not Preachers; is more concerned about being politically correct and pragmatic than Theologically correct and Christ-centered. Whether I end up pastoring again in a local church or life coaching, I can’t help but be what I am – dependent on God’s mercy and grace as I battle cancer. Since the age of seventeen all I’ve ever wanted to do, is to know Jesus and to make Him known.

I love Him because He first loved me. I love the gospel and to declare it with my whole heart, mind, and soul. I love to shepherd people – not because I’m a great shepherd, but because I have a Great Shepherd! His name is Jesus! As long as I have breath I will declare Him among the nations. I will serve Him because He came to seek, serve, and save me first. He is my peace, and He is the hope of all nations. He will reign on the Earth again, and I will reign with Him. Until that day, I believe wholeheartedly with these words of Paul David Tripp:

“No matter how great your weakness is, God’s power is greater. No matter how out of control your life is, God’s sovereignty is greater. No matter how alone you may feel, God’s presence is greater. No matter how out of control your life is, God’s provisions are greater. No matter how deep your sin is, God’s grace is deeper. No matter how foolish your foolishness is, God’s wisdom is greater. The same sovereign God who planned the details of your life sent his Son so you would have what you need to face what He willed for you.”

According to the New American Oxford Dictionary a “Pastor” is “one who gives guidance to someone.” A coach is “a tutor who gives private or specialized teaching.” It is my desire to guide people with the experiences and education I’ve received and to teach them of Jesus at the center of all of life. Whether in a local church as a pastor, or in the Church universal as a “pastoral life coach.” I only want to invest in that which matters for eternity. All these years I have preached the Gospel – how one can have peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Now as I battle cancer, it is my desire to preach with my life and suffering how to have peace with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Once again I quote from the Apostle Paul,

For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 6:19)

“For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (12 Corinthians 5:14-15).

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:8-14).

 Sola Scriptura! Sola Fide! Sola Gratia! Solus Christus! Soli Deo Gloria!

 (Scripture Alone! Faith Alone! Grace Alone! Christ Alone – To God be the Glory Alone!)