Monday, July 31, 2006

What If? A Contemporary Parable


What if today you found yourself standing at the edge of a crowd assembled just outside the gates of Heaven? A heavey silence is in the air as if something quite unexpected is about to happen.

Suddenly, the gates of Heaven part and two heavenly beings (too small to be cherubim and with too few wings to be seraphim) make their way toward the crowd. Each of them seems to be carrying a clipboard and a pencil. As they meet each person, they appear to jot something on the clipboard and then seem to direct the recent interviewees into one of two lines. This is obviously to you as you assumed Heave would be a place of unity without lines and segregation. It is obvious as you observe the faces of those around that they are troubled, too. "This is Heaven, right?" you think to yourself. "What a ridiculous question- I remember the time and the place, and I even wrote it down in my Bible. I attended church faithfully, I taught Sunday School, I left tracts with my tips, I did the things I was supposed to and didn't do the things I was not supposed to. If that is not evidence of my faith, what could be?" These thoughts seem to add some comfort to your mind, yet those spirits keep making their way through the crowd, and the two lines keep growing- although the left line at a much higher rate than the right.

As those around you begin to realize what is going on, they begin to look a little uncomfortable, as well. The shifting of weight from one foot to another, the fussing of hair, and the fidgeting of fingers in pockets creates a deafening sound of silence that finally breaks as you nudge your beighbor (his name tag reads "Jack") and hoarsely whisper, "What's going on?" Jack shrugs in obvious ignorance, but some of your courage rubs off on him. He nudges his neighbor ("Joy") and soon the whole crowd is rumbling in a kind of holy thunder. A few moments pass- seconds, minutes, hours, months, you're not quite sure- and then Joy whispers something to Jack, and then Jack is at your ear. "It seems as if there have been changes in policy around here. Don't worry, we are difinitely in Heaven. It just appears that some adjustments have been made for the eternal accommodations of its guests," Jack whispers.

You swallow hard, relieved somewhat, but not yet entirely secure. Jack apparently senses your uneasiness and continues, "It appears that many of us have completely lost our appetite for the things of Heaven. Let's face it- not many Christians ever really enjoyed the few moments of prayer, worship, and service we experienced on earth. Not many of us really longed to linger in the presence of Christ and sit at His feet and rejoice in His glory. Those moments when we attempted to love our 'brother' always ended up so awkward, and sometimes forgiveness just felt so unfair- sometimes it might best to let the other guy weat it out a little, let him realize just how bad he is."

You ponder and nod, and Jack continues. "You have got to admit that it was difficult to trust Him down there. First, it's 'rejoice' and it's 'suffer,' next it's 'lost your life' and it's 'gain it'. Now, you're supposed to 'live' and then you're supposed to 'die.' It would have been nice if He could have just made up His mind, and let us get on with our lives- at least that is what some are saying. That's why He is making the change." You are getting impatient by now as you see only a handful of people left in the crowd and the beings are getting closer.

"What change!?" you blurt out in a voice one-decibel too loud for polite whispering. "Right, right, I'm getting to that," Jack continues. It seems that He has decided to finally catch up to the times and recognize the rights of each man's will. Democracy has achieved its greatest victory and He is giving in. Each of us will be given a choice it seems- and both of those are better than the alternative, if you know what I mean. Not that you can feel too sorry for them- they certainly deserve it. I wonder if they get choices down there...."

You are completely frustrated now, and just as you about to grab Jack by the collar and shake the answer out of im, one of the beings calls his name. You are the only one not yet being attended to. Joy was called just before Jack, and you watch as she happily makes her way to the short line. You take a deep breath and step forward in anticipation of your name being called.

The being calls your name, and you look into its face and then divert your eyes to its feet and then to the clipboard. "Welcome to Eternity," the voice states plainly. "You have been granted a final choice for your eternal satisfaction and pleasure. Close your eyes, and I will allow you to see one option of what Heaven could be. I will fill your mind with the images of every earthly pleasure and fantasy you have ever desired. Close them fast and dwell on all that would make you happy for all eternity. Close them and from darkness will ermerge every wish, every dream, every want fulfilled. This can be Heaven for you. A Heaven without want, but a Heaven without Him. Now open your eyes and look to the left. If this is your Heaven, join that line and it will be accomplished as you wish." You open your eyes and see Jack waving to you from the left line- the long line. The spirit speaks again, "Now, lift your eyes and see the Son of Man." You look up and see HIm, the One who came for you and died for you. You look up and see Jesus- that is all.


If heaven contained all the beauty and pleasures that one could imagine, but Christ wasn't there, would you still want to go? Lord, make us pilgrims and strangers to this world, and may Christ be the desire of our weary hearts.

Now, obviously, we know based upon the Scriptures, that a Heaven without Christ would still be a form of Hell. Obviously, Heaven is not this way. However, consider the words of this "parable" very carefully and ask yourself, "If heaven were this way, which line would I be choosing by how I'm living my life?"

Only one life, twill soon be past
Only what's done for Christ shall last.

Ravinia and Fellowship

This Friday and Saturday, I went and visited a former student at Maranatha who was my roommate about 3 1/2 years ago. We hadn't seen each other in about 3 years, though he has visited Maranatha a couple of times since deciding to go to college locally (Chicago-ish). We had a blast this weekend just hanging out, talking theology, music, ecumenicalism, as well as getting to see his heart and passion for the salvation of souls.

I also met his wife. They've been married for about 7 months now. I'm so glad to see all of my friends with good, godly wives. It was a joy to meet her, talk to her, find out about her life and how God has brought her to the place she is currently at, spiritually. She is very much perfect for my friend.

While there in Chicago, my friend's dad, through another family at his church, was able to procure tickets to go the Ravinia Music Festival, held nightly by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra throughout the summer. On our particular evening, the music presented was Shostakovich- Symphony No. 15 in A major and Tchaikovsky- Symphony No. 5 in E minor. This was the first time that I have had the opportunity to hear an orchestra of this caliber live (MBBC takes trips every semester to see the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, but I have always needed to work, instead).

Shostakovich's piece was not one which I was familiar with. It had some very complex meterical ideas in the last two movements. The thing that surprised me the most however was how tonal it was. I have heard and played other works by him and have had a hard time enjoying them, but this piece was readily enjoyable upon the first hearing of it. Like the previous two symphonies before it, Shostakovich is preparing musically for his impending death, due to failing health. However, unlike the other two symphonies, this one was less macrbre in sound (at least, according to my program notes as I have not listened to either of those symphonies...yet). It seems as though Shostakovich was more positively looking towards death in this symphony, based on my hearing of it. With quotes from William Tell Overture in the first movement and Tristan and Isolde in the fourth movement, it was quite a fascinating piece to hear.

As for the Tchaikovsky No. 5, hearing this piece brought back a host of memories from almost 2 years ago now when the MBBC Orchestra did the Night of Russia concert, featuring the works of Tchaikovsky, of which Symphony No. 5 was but a part. Most memories were pleasant, until the Chicago Symphony Orchestra started the third movement, of which I am still unable to play to this day. Though I wish we could have, the woodwinds were too exposed and I was too faulty in my playing of that movement for us to play it in our Night of Russia concert. Needless to say, I was wishing I currently had the ability to play it as the professional 1st chair bassoonist had. This next sentence is to my friends who play french horn: you would have much enjoyed the solo in the second movement. By all accounts, my ear claims it was played perfectly, if not near to it. The tone of the professional french horn player was someting that every french horn player at MBBC would be drooling over.

Saturday morning, I went to a prayer/ breakfast meeting with my friend, who is a member of the Gideon Bible Society. The prayer meeting and breakfast were both very encouraging. It was a spiritual blessing to talk with these men and to see their passion for lost souls and the need to get God's Word out to those who are stumbling in the darkness of this world. I have to admit some concerns about the more ecumenical nature of the Society, which I would be uncomfortable with if I was a member. On a personal level, however, these were good, godly men who I have no problem counting as my brothers in Christ. It was a blessing to pray with them and to talk with them about our Great God.

While out and about at Target on Saturday, we had the opportunity to pass out some Tracts/ Gospel of John booklets to the those at the registers taking our money. I'll be honest with you, given what I've seen here in Watertown as far as response to tracts, I didn't really expect much as I handed mine to the lady that took my money. We got to the registers, and I just went straight to the first line that seemed the shortest, and just as the lady was cashing out the order in front of me, I noticed another lady a line over who looked bored out of her mind. So, I went around to her line and had her ring up my order. As she took my signed receipt from my debit card, I asked her if she'd like something to read in her spare time, and she said sure. She took it, and no sooner was I by the exit doors waiting for my friends, and she was reading it. But, as she opened it, I noticed her bend down closer to the book and it appeared as though she was intensly reading what was before her as she opened the book to the page asking if she knew the meaning of her life (which then leads into a Gospel presentation). I went ahead and left with my friend's wife, as she checked out of her line next, and we walked to the car. When my friend came out five minutes later, he said that as he walked out of the store, she was still reading it. PRAISE THE LORD! I don't know if that woman accepted Christ or not, but we determined on the way home that something should be put in the back of the booklets so that someone could call his church after reading that literature. This would allow someone who's read it to get plugged in to a good godly church, should they receive Christ as Savior. If nothing else, maybe they'll visit the church after reading the material and receive Christ as Savior after hearing God's Word preached at church.

All in all, it was a very fun, enjoyable weekend. Spiritual blessings abounded both Friday and Saturday as we spent time together. Though I hate the fact that I lost out on a lot of money by not working this weekend, the eternal blessings I recieved were worth far more than what I lost out on monetarily. These memories will stick with me for the rest of my life. As a believer, I always enjoy hanging out with my friends far more than working in the world.

Once my friend's wife has the pictures developed and sent to me from her camera (I about kicked myself several times throughout the trip for not bringing my own), I will post a group picture of all of us at Ravinia.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Pastoral Finances

I found this link through Sharper Iron today, but thought that perhaps some might have missed it. Though I can't agree with all of the theology that is presented in some of the comments, I can say that from a strictly financial standpoint of a pastor who is looking to deal with issues in his church, this might be sound advice.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Prayer and God's Sovereignty

I was organizing a lot of things now that I've finally had some time to get everything moved around and have been able to settle into my new place of residence for the next couple of years until I finish school. While rummaging through my Bible materials storage box, I found amongst the files this quote. Thanks to Dr. Dave Saxon, who provided this quote by displaying it on the bulletin board just outside his office.

Prayer assumes the sovereignty of God. If God is not sovereign, we have no assurance that He is able to answer our prayers. Our prayers would become nothing more than wishes. But, while God's sovereignty, along with His wisdom and love, is the foundation of our trust in Him, prayer is the expression of that trust."
- Jerry Bridges, Trusting God

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Team China 2

For updates on all of the Team China efforts, click here. This website has a listing of all the various schools who are involved and various things to bear in mind as you think about the members of each team. To update what I stated previously, I didn't know that Piedmont Baptist Bible College also sent some students on this trip. It's wonderful to see what's happening through these trips.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Team China

Just thought you should know to keep in mind those from the various Bible Colleges who are currently overseas with Team China. Keep them in mind as they teach students from all various ages, as well as for those specifically who have been called upon to teach in an area of China that has been closed to English language and culture until this point. May they be able to speak with confidence and boldness as they have all been asked to teach about our culture, our customs, our holidays, and our beliefs.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Sports Ministry 2

Okay, just so you don't think I'm TOO biased to Maranatha, I thought it'd be a great idea to post the blog for the Northland Women's Soccer Team as they are now in Germany picking up where MBBC's women's team left off. Thanks to Oliver Meyer- Pastor of Freie Baptisten Gemeinde Erlangen- for providing this link. NBBC Women's Soccer Team blog

Also, in case you haven't been checking, Josh has provided TONS of updates and pictures. Read the blog and rejoice with the soccer teams over God's goodness through their ministry in Germany! Discipleship Through Athletics