Saturday, November 29, 2008

When I Lay My Isaac Down

One of my New Year's resolutions was to read 30 books during 2008. This was a year in which I desperately needed renewal, restoration, refreshment, and sometimes simple escape.

Tonight I finished book #53. This year's reading has been my "salvation." The books have ranged from theological treatises to spy novels.

Tonight I finished a book authored by a dear friend, Carol Kent. Carol is internationally known as a speaker and author. She and Gloria were hall monitors together in the Christian university we all attended just after the ice age (today's term would be "R.A."--resident assistant). Like my bride (they could almost be twins), Carol is an attractive red head, full of life and passion for Jesus. Nearly a decade ago she and her dear husband Gene began one of the most horrific journeys imaginable -- their perfect son Jason (J.P.), a Naval Academy grad with a stellar future, was found guilty of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.

Carol tells the heart-breaking, faith-inspiring story in her book, "WHEN I LAY MY ISAAC DOWN: Unshakable faith in unthinkable circumstances" (Navpress). I highly recommend the book. It was healing and challenging for me on so many levels. I had read parts of it several years ago, but needed it more this year...specifically now.

Tonight I sent an email to President George Bush asking him to consider issuing a pardon for Jason. If you are reading this, would you pause to pray for God's will to be done in this? I understand that my request is one of many thousands.

The themes of Carol's book parallel the study we will finish in church tomorrow morning on Hebrews 11 -- the faith heroes. My sermon will focus on Joseph whose life illustrates the principle that faith focuses on the end of the story.

Faith hears the melody of the age to come and starts dancing now.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Today we're celebrating with the Norwoods at the "miraculous answer to prayer" for their little granddaughter Iliana. Doctors at DeVos Children's Hospital were sure it was cancer and pronounced them "lucky" for the "all is well" final diagnosis. Hmmmmm. We think that God's providencial care, not luck, gets the credit.

At the same time our hearts break with numerous others we love for whom prayers seem fruitless.

Why does God answer the prayers of some and appear to ignore the equally passionate prayers of others? Why are some delivered and others apparently abandoned?

Such is the journey of FAITH. Perhaps we are too quick to identify the "end of the story" when it is not really the "end."

This is one of the key themes in our current "Heroes" series from Hebrews 11.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Today is Mickey Mouse's birthday. Think of the pleasure his creators have brought to people, especially children around the world. Creativity employed to bring joy to others is certain an expression of our being God's image-bearers. How sad when our god-like capacities are used to bring harm instead of good.

Soon we will celebrate Jesus' birthday. "God speed the day when everyone will celebrate."

Monday, November 17, 2008

Election Reflection

The election is over and now the professional pundits and many of the rest of us are reflecting on its outcome.

It's fascinating how many Christians are lining up on opposite "sides" to rejoice or mourn and to assign praise or blame for the outcome...often framing their reflections in clear or even harsh moral and Biblical terms. It's interesting how easy it is to demonize those who don't see the issues as clearly as I do.

Certainly there were and are important issues about which Christ followers should be passionate concerned. However, I confess that too often I have discovered my own failure to listen, to understand, to re-examine, and my propensity to see people, platforms, and parties as if they were worthy of wholesale embrace, rather than as a mixture of relative good and evil. The kingdoms of this world simply are not the kingdom of our Lord.

This morning while researching for the December sermon series, "The Whole Gospel for the Whole World," I came across this sentence from a missional statement:

"The church is the community of God's people rather than an institution, and must not be identified with any particular culture, social or political system, or human ideology."

We cheapen the Gospel and the church when we think it can be identified with any political system or candidate, as if it or he/she embodies the whole Gospel rather than partial and often flawed pieces of it alongside of huge contradictions and compromises.

I had strong opinions in this election and cast my vote after careful thought. However, I would not (though this is not where I have always been) want to identify myself or certainly the church of Jesus Christ with either a donkey or an elephant. My primary focus should be expressed in the prayer Jesus taught us to pray, "let Your Kingdom come..."

I'm very glad that the eschatos is not in the hands of any politician or party, and want to remember that my primary loyalty is not to any one or anything other than to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A great story from the November issue of CT: A 19th century Russian priest named Father John of Kronstadt did what most of his fellow clergymen refused to do . . . visit the villages that surrounded their cathedrals. The villages were filled with chronic poverty which had fostered a debauched despair that made the rural areas treacherous. But Father John would enter the slums and get down in the gutters. He would find some guy sleeping off whatever he had done the night before, would cup his chin, look him in the eyes and say, “This is beneath your dignity. You were created to house the fullness of God.” Wherever Father John went revival broke out, because people discovered who and whose they were.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

November 5, 2008

Dear President-Elect Obama,

Congratulations on your election as President of the United States of America! You have inspired millions with your vision for the future of American.

I promise to pray for you regularly as you assume the honor and responsibility God has entrusted to you. I will pray that God will protect you and your family, give you great wisdom as you govern, and use you to make a positive impact on our country and the world.

I appreciate your confession of faith as a follower of Christ and your desire to bring the values of your faith into your leadership.

It is thrilling that you have become the United States’ first black president. I am so happy for this wonderful accomplishment and its symbolic importance in the history of our nation in its ongoing journey to abolish the horrible sin of racism and its tragic consequences in our society. Thank you for all you have done to encourage unity in our land. Thank you also for your evident concern to address issues relating to poverty, education, and care for God’s creation.

Please give serious consideration to the legacy you will leave for decades and generations with regard to human life. You have the opportunity to become the Abraham Lincoln of the pre-born, or to be the facilitator of the genocide of the pre-born. Few things you do will be more important than the legislation you encourage or veto in this regard and the judges you appoint.

We will all give account before God of what we did with the opportunities and privileges He gave us. Please consider the implications of Proverbs 24:11, 12 in the Holy Scriptures (particularly with regard to the pre-born): “Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, ‘But we knew nothing about this,’ does not He who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not He who guards your life know it? Will He not repay each person according to what he has done?”

I believe that you could be one of America’s great presidents. You have come to this office in a time of crisis and opportunity. I pray that you will seek and follow God’s wisdom and surround yourself with godly counselors.

Dr. William J. Rudd

Tuesday, November 04, 2008


As I write this, America is going to the voting booth.

Regardless of one’s political leanings, I suspect that most of us are anxious to have the election over with. We’ve been bombarded from all sides with the need for reformation in our country – change, out with the old, in with the new. I don’t know of any candidate who is running on a “status quo, no change” platform. Everyone seems to want things to be reformed. We just don’t all agree on what and how.

Is it possible that the church of Jesus Christ must continually be reformed? Ultimately we are or should be being reformed into the image of Christ. That calls for a lot of change. In about 30 A.D. Jesus burst on the scene in Israel with a message of reform. The New Testament letters were virtually all targeting specific ways in which the church needed reform. Jesus’ seven letters to the seven churches of Asia (Revelation 2 and 3) near the end of the first century were nearly all calls for reformation.

The famous Protestant Reformation in the 16th century is famous for the radical change it brought about in the church as is the consequent and subsequent reformation in the Roman Catholic church.

Do we need reformation? Does our church need reformation? Or do we think the church as it is and as it does is a perfect reflection of what Jesus desires? Is Calvary Church passionately and effective carrying out Jesus’ mission in West Michigan and around the world? If Jesus wrote us a letter would He simply congratulate us for having our act all together, or would He call us to reformation with the kind of strong language we see in Revelation 2 and 3?

Status quo or reformation -- what do we need? What will be the result of keeping things as they are? What will be the result of reformation? What price will we pay if everything stays pretty much the same? What price will we pay if we follow the path of reformation?

What is the standard by which we determine if reformation is needed and how it should take place?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Real Story.

I included this quote in my sermon this morning. I taped it in my Bible across the page from the very last chapter of the Bible, Revelation 22. It comes from the last paragraph of the last of the books in The Chronicles of Narnia:

“But the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is not the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”