Sunday, July 27, 2008

Life's Quandaries

I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2005 and had radical surgery. Since then my PSA has been monitored, but only this past year with a "super-sensitive test" that has shown rising numbers. Rising levels can almost only mean some presence of prostate cancer somewhere. There is no guarantee of where, and with the values low there is no test/scan that could give any definitive answers. The doctor does think the numbers are low enough to suggest a 90% chance everything is still contained in the original area, and IF SO he is 90% sure he can eradicate (with radiation) anything that is there with minimal damage/side effects.

IF the cancer has been growing — and is aggressive enough — it is possible it has already metastasized elsewhere in other small cells. Again — we cannot know, but only take the next step AND TRUST THE LORD. I said three years ago, and mean it even more today, if I truly trust Jesus for my eternity then I can trust Him for my time, and the way I know I'm doing that is to give Him all my time every day to the best of my ability. That is my part... and to continue to trust Him with the rest.

Friday morning’s Office of Readings (16th week of Ordinary Time, LOTH, vol II, p536) had the following as part of a selection from Augustine’s Confessions:

Behold, Lord, I cast upon you my concern that I may live and I shall meditate on the wonders of your law. You know my ignorance and my weakness; teach me and heal me. Your only Son, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, redeemed me with his blood. Let not arrogant men speak evil of me. For I meditate on my ransom, and I eat it and drink it and try to share it with others; though poor I want to be filled with it in the company of those who eat and are filled; and they shall praise the Lord who seek him.

This takes me to one verse in one of Saint Bernard’s hymns:

We taste Thee, O Thou living bread, and long to feast upon Thee still;
We drink of Thee, the fountain head, and thirst our souls from Thee to fill.

Again, the only thing I can do is surrender and entrust everything to the One who loved me enough to die for me.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


My wife and I were at a conference in Kansas City last weekend. One morning I was struck with a line from the Invitatory in the Daily Office (in a special sense, because I pray the psalm so often):

Today, listen to the voice of the Lord.

I thought back over the years of all the days I have lived presumptuously, desiring/intending to live “for the Lord,” but essentially responding to life out of the cognitive parameters I thought were right (because they were “biblical” and “orthodox”) rather than seeking to respond to the existential life of the Spirit within those parameters.

And now, even as I am aware of new mercies in my life through a fresh seeking of God’s heart, I am also aware of how easy it is to ease into old patterns — maybe with new boundaries — yet living presumptuously and with a static mentality instead of the dynamic of now.

Today, listen to the voice of the Lord.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Another Prayer-Hymn

I am between trips, having gone to SC and Alabama this past weekend, and will be leaving for Kansas City tomorrow for the coming weekend. The former was for family; the latter is to attend a conference at which I'll present a paper.

I'm still thinking of hymns that have molded and sustained me over the years. The one below (by Charles Wesley) was something like the "school anthem" at the Bible College I attended. I knew it even before then, and it has been one of the prayers of my heart since my late teen years.


I want a principle within of jealous godly fear,
A sensibility of sin, a pain to feel it near.
Help me the first approach to feel of pride or wrong desire,
To catch the wand’ring of my will and quench the kindling fire.

From Thee that I no more may stray, no more Thy goodness grieve.
Grant me the filial awe I pray, the tender conscience give.
Quick as the apple of an eye, O God, my conscience make.
Awake my soul when sin is nigh, and keep it still awake.

Almighty God of truth and love, to me Thy power impart.
The burden from my soul remove, the hardness from my heart.
O may the least omission pain my reawakened soul,
And drive me to the Blood again, which makes the wounded whole.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A Great Hymn

I've been "feeding" on one of my favorite hymns:

Jesus, Thy Boundless Love To Me
Words: Paul Gerhardt (translated from German to English by John Wesley)

Jesus, Thy boundless love to me
No thought can reach, no tongue declare;
O knit my thankful heart with Thee
And reign without a rival there.
Thine, wholly Thine, alone I am.
Be Thou alone my constant flame.

O, grant that nothing in my soul
May dwell but Thy pure love alone!
Oh, may Thy love possess me whole,
My joy, my treasure, and my crown!
Strange fires far from my heart remove;
My every act, word, thought, be love.

O Love, how cheering is Thy ray!
All pain before Thy presence flies;
Care, anguish, sorrow, melt away
Wherever Thy healing beams arise.
O Jesus, nothing may I see,
Nothing desire or seek, but Thee!

O that I, as a little child,
May follow Thee, and never rest
Till sweetly Thou hast breathed Thy mild
And lowly mind into my breast!
Nor ever may we parted be,
Till I become as one with Thee.

Still let Thy love point out my way;
How wondrous things Thy love hath wrought!
Still lead me, lest I go astray;
Direct my word, inspire my thought;
And if I fall, soon may I hear
Thy voice, and know that Love is near.

In suffering be Thy love my peace,
In weakness be Thy love my power;
And when the storms of life shall cease,
Jesus, in that important hour,
In death as life be Thou my guide,
And save me, who for me hast died.

Saturday, July 5, 2008


I have been working on a presentation I’ve been invited to give at a missions conference later this month. My topic is the integration of “head and heart” in Saint Paul’s proclamation of the gospel. The basic premise is that formal Christian studies, in something like Pauline theology, puts the focus on cognitive understanding while almost ignoring spiritual formation — at least that is the way seminary was back in my day. Professors live under a pressure of being published, which is the route to recognition and respect in the academic community. Academia is concerned mostly with the “head.”

Students in seminary can learn how to do exegesis and learn theological details of things like superlapsarianism or over-realized eschatology. Some may develop skills of philosophical engagement between non-Christian world views and Christian apologetics. Yet I did not have homiletical classes that stressed the point of preaching being “a dying man speaking to dying people” (this was something I inherited from my semi-fundamentalistic roots). I did not leave seminary having learned, at least not there, how to spend an hour in prayer with the Lord. Maybe it was assumed we would acquire that in another context (but it was not an explicit expectation).

I was fortunate to have models throughout my life whose lives showed something beyond the mere subject being discussed. I had witnessed the power of godliness, and I knew it went beyond an academic theological education. The “head” without the “heart” is cold and sterile; but at the same time, the “heart’ without the “head” is gullible and prone to tangents. One of Paul’s phrases that encompasses both was written to the Ephesians: speaking the truth in love. Truth without love is harsh; love without truth is sentimentalism — it takes both to give authentic Christian witness, and that is only possible in the power of the Holy Spirit.

I had one particular seminary professor that almost always lectured with an anointing of the Spirit. He could give a presentation on the Synoptic problem in such a way that I was drawn into the thrill of belonging to Jesus Christ. One day I asked him how he kept the scriptures fresh in his life. He could quote much of the NT in the original Greek. Surely that much familiarity invited times of casual reading when he could anticipate what was coming before he was through a previous sentence. I have never forgotten his reply: “When I realize I'm too casual when I come to the scriptures, I go somewhere alone and stay on my knees until God breaks my heart.”

Jesus wants us to know him. Jesus wants us to love him. We can’t truly have either without the other.... Head and Heart.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


In the previous post I mentioned the issue of “relative security.” In the news right now are discussions of a threat by Iran to block the Strait of Hormuz, out of which is shipped about forty percent of the world’s oil supply. The U.S. has said such an action would be considered an act of war. One commentator said if the Strait were closed, gas prices in the U.S. would escalate to $8 per gallon overnight.

Either of those scenarios do little to enhance one’s feeling of relative security. Such an extension of war in the Middle East would have unfathomable repercussions. A sudden fuel price escalation of the afore mentioned magnitude would have extreme effects on basic structures we take for granted each day — transportation for food and the general stability of the economy.

It is amazing that, in the intricate interface of global issues, our own society is only one day removed from the potential of utter chaos and a threat of serious famine. We, who have felt so secure — so insulated — from much that plagues what we have called “undeveloped nations,” find we are not as safe as we have imagined.

I, as Amos told Amaziah, am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but as I read God’s Word in the OT prophets, I am struck with the multiple parallels between God’s chastening judgments on those ancient peoples and things we are hearing almost daily in our news. Are we seeking the Lord, asking to hear with understanding what He is saying?

Many professing Christians in the U.S. are saying these are gathering signs of our Lord’s return. I respect that this very well may be true, but I do not respect the blithe way it is often said — as if we can expect a free ticket from the suffering that always accompanies a major work of God on earth. When I read throughout scripture of what happens to God’s people in the midst of world upheaval, I can only pray that Jesus will give me strength and the faith that perseveres.

When Malachi gave God’s Word in anticipation of the First Coming there was reason to take seriously “the fear of the Lord” — the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple. The messenger of the covenant in whom you delight—indeed, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness (Mal 3;1b-3, NRSV). We should not expect the time of the Second Coming to be different in this respect.

The main thing we Christians are called to do in That Day — and any and every day — is to live in the love of Jesus Christ our Lord. Every day I pray for grace to do that, knowing that if I cannot live in His love when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry? (Lu 23;31). I sometimes pray over the words that John Michael Talbot wrote in one of his early songs: When the fields yield full harvest, it’s easy to share; and when you’re insured this world’s friendship, it’s easy to care. But when every nation has crumbled to dust, will you still reach to give the Lord’s mercies or will you kill if you must?

Trusting in our Lord is a far greater issue than temporal security, but I’m afraid the priorities are usually switched, even among many who claim the name of Jesus. Paul told the church long ago that the present form of this world is passing away (1Cor 7:31).

Peter expands on that and exhorts the response of faith: But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed. Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home (2Pet 3:10-13, NRSV).

I know of no better juxtaposition of “security and trust.”

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