I love VBS! I love seeing the kids doing fun stuff and learning good stuff in the process. This past Monday I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Rhonda Mitchell over at the “Imagination Station” explain to the kids how the body works and how we are “wonderfully complex” (a reference to Psalm 139.14). And then she had them stuff a cloth “G.U.T.S.Y. Bear” (God’s Unique, Talented, Special You!) with fiber stuffing, a paper heart, and a string for guts. The kids then drew faces on their bears and glued googly eyes on them. One creative young man, Logan Gamache, decided to make a frog instead of a bear by gluing the eyes where the ears where. At his age I was prone to doing the same sorts of things. Yes, this young fellow will go far!

Speaking of googly eyes, here’s what happens when a creative young Bulgarian man, Vanyu Krastev, has too much time on his hands and too many googly eyes in his pockets: 

 

 But I digress…

This past Sunday after Chris and Kay Lynn announced VBS, I stated that when I was a kid all we had was catechism. But that’s fun, too, isn’t it? Let’s see…here’s the first Q&A of the Heidelberg Catechism (written in 1563 and still in use today in some Presbyterian and Reformed churches):

  1. How do you come to know your misery? A. The law of God tells me. (Romans 3.20 & 7.7-25)

What?” you say, “it’s more fun for kids to learn about how they are wonderfully complexby way of stuffing a cloth bear as opposed to memorizing how youcome to know your misery’?” That’s fun, too, isn’t it?

OK, OK…we’ll leave well enough alone—for now.

And thank you so much, Chris, Kay Lynn, and everyone else who helped teach kids, feed kids, corral kids, get kids wet, and otherwise help out with VBS.

 

April 2, 2017

As I prepare for my message this Sunday, titled, “Jesus and Demonic Possession,” it occurred to me how little personal experience I have with this subject.  I myself have never been possessed by an evil spirit (acted like it at times), nor has anyone in my immediate or extended family (when my kids were two I wondered about them), nor for that matter have I’ve ever seen anyone act anything like the stories of demon-possessed people in Scripture.  Not even when I lived in Cuba, where some folks practiced Santeria (an unholy mixture of African animism and “Christianity”) did I experience anything like that. 

I have, however, studied the subject over the years, both out of morbid curiosity and academic interest (is there a difference?), even as far back as my high school days in the 60’s.  You see, I was educated by Jesuits, an order of the Roman Catholic Church which to this day regularly practices exorcisms.  I vividly remember listening to my public speaking teacher simultaneously scare and entertain us with stories of demon-possessed people and exorcism rites when he was a missionary in India.  And of course, listening to him meant we had less school work to do. 

Speaking of Jesuits, Pope Francis, a Jesuit himself, advises priests to refer people to exorcists if they suspect demonic activity is at work in any of their parishioners.  But he cautions that they should first be examined by medical professionals to ensure that they receive the medical attention they need should their ailment be of a psychiatric nature rather than a spiritual malady.  In spite of some significant differences in the way Pope Francis and I see things, I must admit that there’s some wisdom to be found here.

I also find that some people are either overwhelmed with thoughts about demons, as though they were evil spiritual gnats incessantly swirling around their heads, 24/7.  Alternatively, others completely ignore the otherworldly rascals as though they did not exist at all.  Both are wrong, and by not knowing the truth both open themselves to Satan’s lies and influence. 

This reminds me of something I read a while back in the preface to C.S. Lewis’ satirical/apologetic novel, The Screwtape Letters,

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist and a magician with the same delight.”

I wholeheartedly agree.  And I find that the best antidote to Satan’s influences on me, which is to say, tempting me to sin and trying to get me to believe his lies, is prayer coupled with reading, studying, meditating, and believing God’s word.  God’s word is the absolute truth, and knowing and believing His word is the highway to freedom (John 8.31-32). 

Speaking of God’s word and the truth…  I am taking my message for this Sunday from the story of the Gerasene Demoniac in Mark 5.1-20.  I like this story because it illustrates God’s grace and mercy poured out on a poor helpless victim, one who was delivered from the worst form of the devil’s influence—demonic possession.  And once delivered he traveled throughout ten cities in the region where he lived filled with joy and telling everyone he ran into about all the good that God did for him.  Talk about a happy ending!

 

 

 

March 26, 2017

Just over three years ago, February 2, 2014, to be exact, I started teaching a series at Rio West which I titled, “The Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, According to Mark.”  The title for this series was taken from Mark 1.1 which reads, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”  I picked the gospel of Mark because it’s concise, and I determined that it was important to teach through the life of Jesus.  He is, after all, “the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12.2).  Made sense to me!

Well, I got as far as chapter 6, vv. 30-44 , on October 11, 2015—and then the merger thing got started, we got busy, and “Mark” became another name on our phone list—make that several names.  FWIW, that last message I taught on Mark is the story of Jesus miraculously feeding the five thousand—with only five loaves and two fishes—a miracle of Biblical proportions (duh)!  Now, 21st century medical science has been able to replicate some medical miracles, albeit nowhere near as effective or efficient as how Jesus healed the sick.  But replicating food is something we can’t do.  Not yet, at any rate.  But there’s good news!  In the 23rd century humanity—or humanoid-anity—will have invented the food replicator.  Don’t believe me?  Then check this out:

.  See, I told you so!  Until then we’ll just have to work overtime to afford an extra bag or two of groceries.

But I digress…  Over the next three Sundays Pastor Dan and I will be teaching from Mark’s Gospel.  The three messages are:

  1. Sunday, March 26:  Jesus and the Unpardonable Sin – Mark 3.22-30,
  2. Sunday, April 2:  Jesus and Demonic Possession – Mark 5.1-20, and
  3. Sunday, April 9:  Jesus and His House – Mark 11.15-19.

I will be teaching the first two and Pastor Dan will teach the third one.  After that comes Easter!  Pastor Dan and I will be co-teaching on Easter Sunday.

Well, I suppose I should say something about my message for this Sunday, “Jesus and the Unpardonable Sin,” from Mark 3.22-30, before I sign off.  Are you ready?  Got a pencil and notepad ready (electronic or caveman-style)?  OK, here it goes… 

If you’re concerned about having committed the “unpardonable sin” then you haven’t done it!

That’s it.  That’s my message for this Sunday.  Now that you’ve read it here you can relax and take this Sunday off and pig out on pancakes.  But not donuts.  Eating donuts is the unpardonable sin!

Seriously, I’ll have much more to say on this subject—and grace, and faith, and discipleship—this Sunday, which I pray will be a means of grace to you and edifying to your faith in Christ. 

PS:  Save the pancakes for another Sunday when Pastor Dan is teaching.  I jest, of course, as always.