Monthly Archives: April 2009

Something the Lord Made

DVD Box The finest made-for-television film that I have seen in 2009 has to be the HBO production Something the Lord Made (2004). It is the dramatic story of two men—one a wealthy white chief surgeon, the other a poor black lab technician from Tennessee. Together, as a remarkable and inseparable team, they achieved a monumental medical breakthrough. One, the white surgeon, received international accolade when he became the first surgeon to operate on the human heart. (The title comes from the response of some clergy, who argued that the heart should never be operated on since it had an unusual place as the seat of the soul.) The second man in the story, an African-American with nothing but a high school diploma and apprentice type training as a carpenter, excelled all expectations to become the vital assistant to the famous Dr. Blalock. (Thomas and Blalock met in Nashville when Blalock began his career at Vanderbilt University Medical

By |April 30th, 2009|Categories: Film|

Columbine Ten Years Later: The Story of Two Pastors Who Were There

A recent issue of Newsweek (April 20) provided a very moving account of the lives of two pastors who ministered to the grieving during the time of the Columbine High School massacre ten years ago. This is “the rest of the story,” or at least a significant part of it. Christians should pay attention to this story.

The two pastors cited in the article could not be more different. One, the Rev. Don Marxhausen (at the left below), is a Lutheran (ELCA) minister who is described by the article as “liberal-minded.” The other, Rev. George Kirsten (at the right below), is the senior pastor at West Bowles Community Church, an independent evangelical congregation. The article notes that these two pastors, from differing ends of a theological spectrum, are “still haunted by the school massacre.” This is an understatement to say the least.


Marxhausen arrived in Littleton in 1990 and built St.

An Update on My Friend David Stopke

Many of you have been praying for David Stopke since I wrote two earlier blogs about him and the accidental shooting on April 17th. He took a turn for the better on Thursday-Friday of last week, after surgery was canceled due to fluid in his lungs. His lungs are clearing up now day-by-day. He is more alert and has even asked to "go home" soon. Today he asked for ice cream. With continued improvement the surgery on his neck will take place tomorrow, one week late but given all that has happened this is really, really good news. Please keep praying for David and his family. I believe he has the will to live and our prayers have been an instrument the Father has used to touch him in this tragedy.

By |April 28th, 2009|Categories: Personal|

The Soloist: My Favorite 2009 Film, So Far

Arts_soloist_584 The Soloist, starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Jamie Foxx, is my favorite movie in 2009, at least so far. Likely there will be better movies but this one touched me very deeply. The Soloist tells the true story of Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx), gifted cellist and former Julliard student whose schizophrenia derailed his musical goals. Steve Lopez, a Los Angeles Times columnist, befriended Ayers and eventually told his story, first in his column and then in a book which led to the movie.

Ayers went from Julliard to the sidewalks of Skid Row in L.A. The story is both fascinating and tragic. At the same time it has a beauty to it that gives dignity to the many homeless people we all ignore every single day. (L. A. has more than any city in America.) To say that Jamie Foxx deserves an Academy nomination for best actor, based on this performance, is an understatement. If the judges are fair, and remember

By |April 28th, 2009|Categories: Film|

Taxation and Politics: Are You Fed Up Yet?

IL Flag The morning paper sometimes ruins my breakfast. Such was the case a few weeks ago when the Daily Herald ran a front page story with the title: "Five Myths Told By Illinois Politicians." I am not surprised that there are such myths. I am just surprised at how blatant they are and why almost no one in my state cares, or seems to care. Here are the five myths:

1. The Illinois Lottery pays for public education

This line was fed to almost every state in America that has a lottery. (Which states do not have them? I guess there are a few left but I am not sure.) The lottery began in Illinois in 1974 but the money wasn't earmarked for education until 1985! But the law has a huge catch in it. The lottery money does not get added to the budgeted funds. The legislators can spend it elsewhere by taking from the state's education budget

By |April 27th, 2009|Categories: Politics|

Dealing With Criticism

Hands I learned a long time ago that anyone who entered the Christian ministry would have to deal with criticism. The late Vance Havner once said a minister needs the heart of a saint and the hide of a rhinoceros. I have found that to be true. My problem has been that I do not always handle criticism very well. I think about it too much, focus on the offense unduly, and then beat myself up. Sometime I turn against the critic in my spirit and grow to deeply dislike them. All of these responses, though common, are clearly wrong.

As I have worked through Scripture I have noticed that every man or woman of God whose story is told in any detail was likely criticized. Moses and David, two of the greatest leaders who ever lived, were profoundly criticized. Poor suffering Job was judged and criticized by his friends. (With friends like those who needs enemies?)

But the

By |April 26th, 2009|Categories: Unity of the Church|

Criticism: Have We Crossed Over the Line?

One of the favorite pastimes of modern Americans in general, and many Christians in particular, is judging or criticizing others. We seem to relish the opportunity to find fault, assign blame or just plain criticize others. This is so common in everyday conversation that it is like a plague in the social system of our culture. This may be one reason why I think we handle politics so poorly. I know this is why we handle a lot of theological differences so badly. We believe that we must be right and thus the other person must be wrong. We then reason that we have a right, indeed a responsibility, to discern what is wrong and thus we judge/criticize the person (people) who teach what is wrong.

Two People I think we can safely summarize the biblical teaching regarding criticism in the following way: God's people are to exercise judgment in legal and church matters (cf. Dt. 16:18-20; Lev. 19:15; Ex. 23:6-7). And

By |April 25th, 2009|Categories: Unity of the Church|

Focusing on the Church Outside the Walls

Emergent churches often receive considerable attention in the press because they offer an element of surprise to readers who know little or nothing about them. One such church, with the fairly typical emergent type name of Fusion Church, meets in a Chicago suburb about a 45-minute drive from my home. Fusion Church is in Lake Zurich (IL). It was featured in an article in our suburban paper on the Monday following Easter. Because Fusion represents many of the "trends" we find in similar "emergent" churches this story is worthy of some comment and response.

Logo Fusion is a small, non-denominational (though connected to various ministries) congregation that is five-years old. It is a thoroughly orthodox congregation in its beliefs and ethical commitments. Fusion says, about itself:

We are a group of people from all walks of life
attempting to follow Jesus. We recognize following
Jesus is a 24/7 commitment, done in God's power,
with the support of intimate relationships [community].
It has incredible implications on how we

By |April 24th, 2009|Categories: Emergent Church|

An Update on David Stopke

Thanks to scores of you who have prayed for David Stopke and the Stopke family since I posted their story a few days ago. I have now been to Las Vegas and am back home again in Illinois. David was able to hear me speak to him on Tuesday and heard my prayers for him. His eyes filled with tears as he tried to thank me several times. He could move his head and clearly acknowledged my presence there. It was so moving to spend these moments with him. Other visits did not elicit the same kind of response so I am profoundly grateful I had this first one on Tuesday around 1:00 p.m. local time. I wish I could have been there much longer but I was able to accomplish my pastoral desire to minister to him in this hour of life and death.

Today and tomorrow (April 23-24) I am working with two film producers a film for an ACT 3 video. We hope to produce three different versions: 1) A longer version for a DVD

By |April 23rd, 2009|Categories: Personal|

Prayer is Irksome

Cs-lewis  We must be honest about it, prayer is difficult for all of us. No one is immune to this great difficulty. Only immature Christians think otherwise. C. S. Lewis wrote:

Well, let’s now at any rate come clean. Prayer is irksome. An excuse to omit it is never unwelcome. When it is over, this casts a feeling of relief and holiday over the rest of the day. We are reluctant to begin. We are delighted to begin. While we are at prayer, but not whole we are reading a novel or solving a crossword puzzle, any trifle is enough to distract us. And we know that we are not alone in this.

For too many of us prayer is something to check off our “to-do list.”  It is a daily duty but not something we truly enjoy doing. But the necessity of prayer is seared into our hearts by words like those of the apostle Paul: “Pray without ceasing” (1

By |April 22nd, 2009|Categories: Prayer|

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