Monthly Archives: September 2017

Dad’s Coleman

It was quite an experience for a thirteen year-old boy.

My dad, who took hunting, fishing and the great outdoors with a seriousness of purpose and joy of heart fit for Field & Stream, had arranged for my brother and me to join him on a three-day fishing trip to northern Maine.

We would fly – the whole way.

It was July and summer still reminds me of my incredible journey.

I’d never been on a plane. We flew from Harford, Connecticut to Bangor, Maine. Then we jumped on a small plane in Orono, home to the University of Maine, and flew about twenty minutes to a town called Millinocket. But our plane rides weren’t over and my dad had saved the best for last.

We boarded a pontoon plane for the final leg of our journey. I watched the water churn white with foam as the floats glided us across the lake and we mounted up for the clear, picturesque flight over the green wilderness. We had been in the air for nearly an hour when we touched down on Henderson Pond.

It’s important to know that the word “pond” in Maine is not so much a metaphor as it is a misnomer. This was a good-sized lake.

The only way into Henderson was by sea plane. There were no roads, no homes, no stores – and no power. It was a beautiful and tranquil place and the stillness you heard was the majesty of creation.

We unpacked and got settled. As darkness began to envelop our small cabin that first night, Dad took charge. After all, if you were going to be in the middle of nowhere, our dad was the guy you wanted to be with. From a carefully packed box Dad removed the magic that would transform our tiny sanctuary.

It was a forest green Coleman lantern.

As he pumped the small knob to prepare the kerosene for ignition, my brother and I watched in anticipation. The small glow grew bigger and soon the Coleman was shedding its warm light across the room. Then Dad took the lantern and carefully hung it high above the table. It lighted the whole cabin.

Each night was the same – out came the Coleman and behold, there was light.

Had it not been for that Coleman lantern, those three nights in the Maine wilderness would have been pretty dark. But Dad had come prepared and he had brought the light.

When Jesus prayed for his disciples on another dark night in an upper room in Jerusalem, he asked his heavenly Father for light. And his prayer wasn’t just for the men in that room who shared his ministry and would lead his church. Jesus prayed for his church throughout time. He prayed for you and for me and for all those who would be his true followers.

“Sanctify them through thy truth,” Jesus prayed. “They word is truth.” (John17:17, KJV).

Jesus did not ask the Father to sanctify – that is to consecrate and make holy – his followers through emotion or experience; or politics, popularity or fads; or subjective reasoning and relevant argument. Holiness, Jesus knew, comes through the truth and nothing but the truth.

Jesus also knew the sole repository of all truth was the word of God. And so he inextricably linked them as cause and effect, as a hand slips into a glove. God’s truth is the only source of spiritual awareness, wisdom and progress. And God’s word not only contains that truth – it is God’s truth.

Truth is what ultimately matters – not our opinions or feelings or our latest ideas.

Polls and supreme courts can never alter God’s purpose, his mind or his will. It cannot abrogate his truth. Not even slightly. God doesn’t change his mind about his law; he only grieves in his heart at man’s defiance.

God’s word is our light in the darkness.

This is the foundation of Christian faith. Though it is lashed today by the torrents of post – modern cynicism, it stands firm. Peter reminds us that though heaven and earth shall fade away, God’s word shall forever remain.

It is the assault upon the possibility of absolute truth – and the fear and embarrassment of defending God’s word to a culture in wholesale rebellion to it – that has led the Christian church to a slippery accommodation with the world. Paul, who commanded Timothy to “preach the word”, laid down the gauntlet to believers living in pagan Rome: “Let God be true and every man a liar.” (Romans 3:4, KJV).

This must still be our standard and the moral line Christians draw in the shifting sand of public opinion.

Now more than ever, you and I must follow the light of God’s holy and unchanging word.

“We only progress in sound living,” said English preacher Charles Spurgeon, “as we progress in sound understanding.”

Only God’s word can enlighten and instruct our minds and convict and comfort our hearts. Only his word can show us the way.

The psalmist exclaimed in awestruck gratitude:

“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105, KJV).

In a world growing darker by the day, that’s even better than Dad’s Coleman.

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Rider on the Storm

It’s happening.

Again.

As I write this, Hurricane Irma, a massive Category 5 monster, is taking aim at the islands south of Florida. It could hit the Sunshine State – either coast – by this weekend.

The governor has already declared the entire state a disaster area.

Or Irma could veer toward the Gulf of Mexico and strike Mississippi or Alabama.

Nobody knows for sure. Meteorologists call the various possibilities “models.”

People wait. They prepare. They pray. Nobody can control what Irma will do. Where she will go. How hard she will hit.

He can.

He does.

Nothing underscores for humankind its utter impotence than an impending storm. We plan and orchestrate everything else. We prepare for storms the best we can but it is a reactive mode we’re all in.

The elements send us scrambling in fear and dread – gathering, filling, hoarding, hovering and fleeing.

When it comes to the weather, we’re out of control.

God alone rules the forces of nature. The order he made he commands. His omnipotence rises above our weakness. His sovereignty breaks in powerful display upon our frail dependence.

“In his hand are the depths of the earth,” writes the psalmist, “and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land” (Psalm 95:4-5, NIV).

Hurricane Harvey rained down devastation upon the Texas coast, reminding us again of how vulnerable we all can be in a matter of hours. We looked so small; God so big.

In the boat with his frightened disciples, engulfed in terrifying tumult, Jesus stood to stop the storm. “Peace, be still,” he ordered. The sea turned as calm as glass; the air as soft as a whippoorwill on a summer night.

The silence of peace.

It all happened instantly. God simply turned the dial on his universe.

Jesus looked at his disciples and smiled. “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

Instead of being reassured, they grew even more fearful. Looking at each other in amazement, they said:

“Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”(Mark 4: 39-41, NIV).

Rich Mullins gave us the iconic praise:

“Our God is an awesome God! He reigns from heaven above.”

Harvey taught more than the awesome power of an awesome God.

It taught us, too, of the faith and resilience of its victims. In the face of incalculable loss and the threat of death itself, these men and women looked to God, the Maker and Ruler of it all, for strength, protection and guidance.

For all the Harveys of this world, the Psalmist offers timeless hope:

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof” (Psalm 46: 1-3, KJV).

Jesus never promised that the winds and the rains would never beat against our house. He told us that if we built our house upon the rock, it would stand in the midst of the storm.

While many lost their homes in Harvey, many also clung to the Rock of Ages who would take them through the deep waters.

The God who created the world, the God who commanded the storms, is the same God who would protect them and their families. This was their prayer. This was their plea to a God who is not on only all – powerful, but all – loving.

Harvey united the nation. Most disasters do.

On a Sunday morning, our pastor invited the congregation to the front of the church to pray for all those affected by the storm. He read the proclamation by President Trump setting aside a National Day of Prayer for the victims.

Here was a reminder, in a deeply divided country, that while we may vote as many, we pray as one.

It shouldn’t take a national catastrophe to unite America. It shouldn’t require a tragedy to lead us back to God. But Harvey did and that was good.

Very bad events can also bring out the very best in people.

Thousands of their fellow citizens did something to help the suffering Texans. Our daughter Suzanne, who lives in Longview, Texas, challenged her husband Casey to shave off his very pronounced beard if she could raise at least $1,000 for the Harvey relief effort.

In less than twelve hours, they were headed for Houston, towing a trailer- full of goods.

Casey was clean-shaven.

They sent back some great pictures.

Suzanne’s mother and I were proud of them. More importantly, we knew the Apostle James would have been too. Nothing so endears people to the Christian faith as when they see it put into action.

The extraordinary compassion of others – their sacrifice and generosity in the face of overwhelming suffering and need – is a reminder of our shared humanity and the image of God stamped upon every human life.

How often the worst in nature brings out the best in man.

People helping people.

The God of Nature is the God of love. This is his world. He made it. He rules it. He works even the bad things together for good.

“He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.”

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