Monday, June 29, 2009

Wasting time. Wasting life.

There are so many things in this world that call for our attention. It’s easy to loose focus on the big picture and to get caught up in the “here and now”, isn’t it?. While we rattle off passages like Matthew 6:21 with ease – reminding ourselves that our heart will always be with what we treasure – it is still easy to get sidetracked from time to time. We begin treasuring things we ought not and it just kind of sneaks up on us sometimes. The issue of treasuring up heavenly things is something that I struggle with as much as anyone…maybe more so at times. Work, family matters, friends, entertainment, hobbies, sports, idle time…these are all things that, at one time or another in my life, have drawn most or all of my attention. There is nothing inherently wrong with most of these things, but in excess they have all proven to be self-inflicted gunshot wounds to my soul.

It is too easy to forget that we are, as Peter reminds us in 1 Peter 2:11, merely sojourners and pilgrims in this world. Our desire should not be to “make it” here, but to serve our Lord. It’s so easy to get trapped in this rut of life and forget that we have a higher calling than to just…well, live. As I’ve looked at my life recently I can point to many things – mostly good – that have drawn my affections and my attention. The sad part is that I so easily slide into a rut…I can often justify through my very busy lifestyle a temporary abandonment of the pursuit of a deeper relationship with my God; yet I never miss an episode of a few of my favorite television programs. At times I’ve left off of pursuing a deeper knowledge of the Almighty, choosing instead to catch up with friends on a social networking site and reading the 30 or 40 blogs to which I subscribe. It’s not that those things are bad or unhealthy….at times I’ve simply allowed them to become that way.

May we all commit ourselves to a deeper pursuit of God and to a life marked by sacrifice of self for Him.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lessons from 1 Corinthians 13:Part 2

(See Part 1 here).

A friend once told me that 100% of all marriage counseling can be done from I Corinthians 13:4-8 and I completely agree with him. If we can catch hold of the truths of this passage and put them into practice in our own lives it will radically impact how we do everything in our daily lives. From I Corinthians 13:4-8, I’m going to be looking at the14 characteristics of true love. In this post I’ll concentrate on the first 5.

1. Love is patient
There is no “last straw” with love! In Matthew 18:22 the Lord says that if a brother offends you; you should forgive him 70 times 7 times. What does that mean? Well, an offense is a deliberate, wanton, malicious assault without ANY PROVOCATION. I doubt that any of us have been offended 490 times in our entire lifetime (given this definition); much less 490 times at the hands of one individual! The point is that we are to forgive all the time. If we are to forgive these deliberate offenses, how much more so the inadvertent offenses?

There is utmost patience with love. No offense, no attack, no sin, is to find a response that is not motivated by love. Proverbs 10:12 puts it like this, “Love covers a multitude of sins”. Love suffers long - it covers.

2. Love is kind
This is the positive side. First we see that love can take the negative, but it reacts by showing kindness. Think of the command that Christ gave in Luke 6 – “love your enemies”. Love those that seek your destruction. Love those that hate you. Love those that don't agree with you. Love the sinner. Love the saint. Love the homosexual. Love the heretic. Love without end! Love with agape - a love that would die for these people.

One of the most unnatural things for us to do is to react in kindness to those with whom we disagree. However, not doing so is to fall short of the mark that is laid out for us.

3. Love does not envy
When we see God blessing somebody...when we see someone getting an opportunity that we wanted; we should not envy them that. Instead we are to rejoice with them and for them. Envy leads to bitterness - the cancer of the soul. Bitterness leads to hatred.

4. Love does not boast
Proverbs 13:10 tells us that ”only be pride comes contention”. Love is humble. It does not act rashly nor is it brutish. It is never motivated by pride. In the first few verses of this text, the apostle Paul was following up on how he had finished the previous chapter. He was showing the Corinthians a “more excellent way” to true worship. He said that even if he had the gift of speaking fluently in every known tongue (some 70 languages at that time); and even if he were gifted in the higher language of the angels so that he could converse with them; and even if he could understand EVERY mystery in life - that is to say that he had all the knowledge that could be obtained; and even if he had a faith that could work miracles; and even if he parceled out all his possessions to the poor; and even if he “gave his body to be burned” (referring to the branding of slavery in order to redeem another); if he was motivated by anything other than love - it was all worth nothing! The hard, cold fact is that you and I are either motivated by love or by pride. If our motivation for anything, regardless of how noble, righteous, or selfless it may appear to be, is anything other than love…it is worthless.

5. Love is not arrogant or rude
Love is not rude or willingly offensive to ANYBODY! There are some people that just grate on my nerves. I tend to be very short with them. They ask me a question and I'll respond with as few words as possible and never even make eye contact with them. THIS IS NOT LOVE! It is not respectful. It is “unseemly” to use the word that the KJV uses here. Love is always respectful. It is ever ready, as the Apostle Paul so eloquently stated in I Corinthians 9:22, to be “made all things to all men that I might by all means save some.”

We've barely gotten through a third of the attributes of love given in this passage and I can already see where I consistently fall woefully short of the standard laid out here. In the next installment of this series I'll look briefly at four more attributes of love.

Lessons from 1 Corinthians 13 :Part 1 of 4

In Matthew 22:34-40 we find an occasion where Christ is once again tempted by the Pharisees. One of them asks Jesus - “What's the greatest commandment in all the law?” Now it must be understood that he wasn't merely referring to the “Big Ten”! Some scholars tell us that the Pharisees of the day said that the Law contained 248 affirmative precepts (“thou shalt’s”) - as many as the bones of the human body. They said that the Law contained 365 negative precepts (“thou shalt not’s”) - as many as the days of the year. That left 613 total laws - the number of letters in the Decalogue. This lawyer asked Christ which of these commandments was number one. Now, some of the learned religious men of the day would say that the mandates about the number of fringes on the bottom of their robes were the most important. Some thought that the laws governing cleanness were of most importance. For one to not keep oneself ceremonially clean was akin to homicide in some of their minds. I suppose that, in a sense, this man was asking which type of commandment was the greatest. Christ's response is interesting. He says that the first and most preeminent command is the first one of the Decalogue – “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.” Then he says something rather startling – “Number two is that you should love those around you as yourself.” This was Christ's message. In Mark 12, this same occasion is recorded and in verse 31 we find this addition, “There is no commandment greater than these”.

This was the message of Christ. This was the mission of Christ. The subject that our Lord said was the most important of all is LOVE. In the ancient Greek language there were three primary words for love: storge - this was a familial love - it was natural. It was often unmerited, but was quite natural and protective - like the love that a mother has for her child. The second type of love that we find in the ancient Greek language is eros. This was a very selfish, possessive, erotic and sensual love. The third type - and most common - is phileo. This is the word that is the second most common found in the NT. It is used some 30 times and refers to a “brotherly love”. These are the only three words that the ancient Greek language contained pre-Christ. Yet, when our Lord entered the scene, there was a new word for love introduced. The earliest Greek writings that contain the word agape are Scripture. I think it was Mark Minnick who (humorously) speculated that when God came to earth in the flesh, He was moved to create a new word describing His love to man.

Agape love is that self-giving love that is not merited. An interesting side note here - this word agape appears in the NT more often than any of the other words for love. It is used over 300 times. A small portion of those times is describing God's love to man. Another relatively small number of times, it is used to describe the way we are to love God - only a few times is it used in that manner. Most often, it is used to describe the way we are to interact with other humans. This idea of agape love sums up the ministry of Christ. His coming to earth in the flesh to die for humanity is the greatest expression of love that we can ever know.

Now, we sometimes have this view of agape love that says that we can never achieve it. That is to say, it is just some “pie in the sky” of which we can never partake. To a point, I suppose that's true. We are limited by our flesh - so we always reach a point of selfishness, retaliation, etc.

Growing up I was taught that this type of love was descriptive only of the love that God shows man and that man is incapable of displaying this love himself. However, over and over again, we are commanded in the NT to exhibit agape love to one another. Christ said often - you can look all through the Gospels - particularly the Gospel of John - and find Christ saying, “love one another”. He told the disciples in John 13 that He was giving them a “new” commandment – “Love [agape] one another". In I John 4 we read a great description of God: “God is love [agape]”. In Galatians 5:22, the Apostle Paul tells us of this thing called the “fruit of the Spirit”. The first thing that he lists is “love” [agape]. All the other components of this fruit are the natural by-products of love. In essence, if we exhibit true, Biblical agape love, the characteristics of joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance will also be exhibited.

If we are to have agape love; if this type of love - to God first, and then to man - is the absolute most important thing we are to put on as Christians, I suppose we had better find out what it is! One definition of agape love that I found is “an intense desire to please God, and to do good to mankind; the very soul and spirit of all true religion; the fulfilling of the law, and what gives energy to faith itself.” However, I think it is difficult to formulate a concise and precise definition of agape. Instead, I’m going to use my next several posts to examine a passage of Scripture that perfectly defines this love for us by means of description.

In the first 8 verses of I Corinthians 13, we begin reading about the nature of love. In these 8 verses there are 14 characteristics of love described. It’s these that I will focus on in the next several blog posts:

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.” (NKJV)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Jon and Kate Gosselin: A predictable tragedy.

Jon and Kate Gosselin announced last night on their hit show, Jon & Kate plus 8, that they were separating. A bullet flashed on the screen at the end of the episode announcing that legal proceedings to dissolve the 10 year marriage were initiated yesterday. Now I rarely talk about television programs but this has my attention for a variety of reasons.

First of all, they have claimed the name of Christ often. Bob Bixby blogged about the issues with this some time ago. Rather than spending any time discussing this, I will simply urge you to read his very good article on the subject.

Secondly, this “celebrity” couple demonstrates some horrible thinking in regards to marriage and it is put on display for the entire world to see. Comments such as, “I need to do what’s best for the kids and for me” were uttered by both parties in various ways during the interview segments of the program last night. This demonstrates a basic misunderstanding regarding an approach towards marriage and it betrays a fundamental selfishness. By the way, there has never been a marriage that broke up that didn’t have, at its core, selfishness (by one or both parties) as the catalyst for the breakup. Our first focus in the family is to be on our spouse. If both spouses in a marriage are committed to putting the others needs and desires in front of their own, the marriage will be a strong and thriving one. When that focus shifts, regardless of the reason, the marriage is a failure regardless of whether or not it ends in divorce. Jon and Kate laid that out in the open for the entire world to see last night.

Finally, the ultimate selfishness was in their determination to keep “the show” going. I would have been thrilled if their announcement was something along the lines of, “We are quitting the show in order to work on our marriage and to begin working on healing our family.” Instead, they are choosing to keep themselves and their children in the public eye for as long as they can continue to collect.

While this show has always been interesting to me and I’ve watched it off and on over the years, I was grieved at what I saw last night. Regardless of how it was worded, two individuals who have made a habit out of putting their selfish wants ahead of their spouses needs chose to continue doing so and to continue to keep their kids “exposed” to the world. Horrible decisions. I would say that I hope the money is worth it, but I don’t.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Separation, Cooperation, and Confusion: A Rambling Rant by Yours Truly!

I’m starting to understand more and more that the term “fundamentalism” means something different to nearly everyone who claims to be a fundamentalist. To some it is best described as a separation from certain things or a separation to God. Both these views tend to end up being described by rather large “lists” of do’s and don’t’s which differ depending on the person, the church, the culture, etc. To others fundamentalism is more of a philosophical system of earnest contention for truth and radical separation from error. This is the best approach in that it can certainly serve to keep one’s feet firmly planted under them in an ever-changing world. What I mean by that is that there is no need to constantly address whatever new “thing” might be out there and to modify your “list” accordingly. This is because the focus will tend to be towards an inward commitment rather than an outward conformity. But even amongst those who view “fundamentalism” as a philosophical approach to life and church, there is still plenty of disagreement.

One of the main areas of disagreement amongst many fundamentalists comes down to the ever-controversial issue of separation. My experience is that the overwhelming majority of fundamentalists will teach and practice primary separation but beyond that things begin to get controversial and murky. Some on one side will say that there is a call to separate from anybody who doesn’t separate from the people / groups that we clearly need to separate from. On the other side there is a call of “foul” claiming that secondary (and beyond) separation is a downward spiral that, ultimately, leads us to have to separate even from ourselves! Then the first group will come back and say, “we don’t advocate this so called secondary separation….it’s all primary separation in that the brother who isn’t separating from those we are separating from is in disobedience….”. And it goes on and on…

I’m actually getting off what I want to be the point of this post, so I’ll take a step back.

Separation from sin and separation to holiness….this is the call that we all hold dear and the goal towards which we all strive. The scope of our cooperation and fellowship is with others who have this as the overarching philosophy to why they do what they do. But we all know that, even within the same stated goals, there are differences. So where do we draw the line. I think this is important and it gets awfully sticky.

I find myself drawing lines at different places than I thought I would several years ago. For instance, a man-centered philosophy – whether that’s demonstrated by a purely hyped-up emotional approach towards “worship” or by a shallow and “issues” dominated approach to preaching – is a place where I might draw a line. However, when it comes to the opportunity to be involved in a joint endeavor to present the Gospel to an entire community, I might not stand so firm on this (this seems like a consistent stance with early Fundamentalism, by the way). I would personally separate from any church who takes a radical KJVO approach as quickly as I would a church that embraces the pragmatism of the Emergent Church scene.

As a family we are making difficult decisions in this realm right now. I find myself asking questions like, “is it any better to associate with the irresponsible and liberal approach to the scriptures that leads one to believe that a woman who wears pants is in sin than it is to associate with the liberal and irresponsible approach to the scriptures that leads one to question the inerrancy of scripture?” We tend to wink at certain travesties when they occur in our own ranks; however, the method that gets one to an asinine belief on women’s dress that I mentioned above is not merely a matter of interpretation. It’s a fundamental flaw in thinking and is indicative of deeper issues - such as putting one’s personal hobby horses above true fidelity to the scriptures.

One of the issues that I see in fundamentalism is that we are quick to separate from anything that doesn’t “look right”, but we will rarely do anything about the liberalism that has infiltrated our own ranks. We slammed Billy Graham’s brand of “easy believism” for years, but the “superstar” fundamentalist evangelists were given a free pass in this regard. If Graham had never left Fundamentalism he would be a hero in the movement today – even with his approach. We are quick to call out men like Bill Hybels for the pragmatic approach he has taken and for the lack of any real doctrine in the churches that have come out of there, but we turned a blind eye to Jack Hyles and the lunacy that came out of Hammond for decades. If a group questions the inerrancy of the Scripture we are quick to point them out as liberal compromisers, but those who take the extreme position on the King James Bible and engage in bibliolatry are generally winked at. We point to the liberalism that leads some to abandon all standards when it comes to modest dress, yet we say nothing about the liberalism that leads some to claim that a woman wearing pants is an abomination.

Personally I think all these things need separated from. I no more wish to be associated with some church that has a Saturday night service complete with a heavy metal band and a mosh pit than I do a church that takes a radical KJVO position and doesn’t “allow” women to wear pants. Both are liberal. Both have perverted the issues of personal liberty. Both do a great deal of harm to the cause of Christ. I don’t mean to harp on the same sets of issues, but they are weighing on me today.

With that said, where is the line to be drawn? Is there a place for fellowship or, more accurately, cooperation with some groups who are skewed on some of the more “minor” issues? I think there is, but I think that great caution needs to be used. I’m of the mind that cooperation on some levels can serve to righteously further the cause of Christ without “tainting” us. It seems that some want to equate cooperation with endorsement and agreement, but those terms are not synonymous. A practical example would be to go back to the last World War. The United States and the Soviet Union were in “cooperation” with one another for a common purpose, but that cooperation was certainly not indicative of a deeper agreement…maybe not the best example, but a practical one when it comes to this issue of cooperation versus agreement. I would wager that most people – inside and outside the church – understand that.

Forgive my rambling. Actually, I think that most of my posts are nothing more than extended periods of rambling….I just don’t always recognize it!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The "worship issue": a clarification (I hope).

I just got around to reading a blog article that linked unfavorably to a post of mine from several weeks back. The blog that linked back here is one I’ve read a time or two since it was launched. The writers there are all pastors (I think) and they have, from time to time, some great insight on some matters, although they are certainly part of a more “hyper” strand of Fundamentalism as far as I can tell. That said, I want to readdress something I’ve hit on several times here over …worship style. I’m not sure that I have managed to make my point a matter of fact - judging from comments both here and elsewhere - I'm certain that I've absolutely failed at making my point!

I’ve often been critical of the worship style that typifies Fundamentalism. Actually, at times I’ve been fairly critical of the entire liturgical style that typifies the movement, but that’s not the point here. In a couple of my recent posts I mentioned the lack of emotion and “realness” in the typical fundy worship service. I mentioned this as a major issue in my criticisms of the movement and one of the chief issues that are serving to drive many of us away. Now, I’ve had difficulty articulating my thoughts on this one, so I’m going to attempt to be a tad more thorough in my explanation this time around. I’ll start with a story about the very first contemporary worship service I ever attended.

Nine or ten years ago I was given tickets to go hear a very well-known preacher speak at a large non-denominational church in Wichita, KS. If I mentioned the name of the man most of you would know who he is. He can be heard on most conservative Christian radio stations and I’m guessing that most of the folks who might come in contact with my blog would have a favorable opinion of him (as do I). I arrived at this service in eager anticipation to hear the Word of God opened and exposited….but first I had to “endure” a very painful “worship” service.

This church had a huge platform and they had a rather large band and 8 or 10 worship leaders. I was not familiar with most of the songs that were being sang but I was invited to sing along as the lyrics appeared on the several large screens scattered throughout the gargantuan auditorium. I found most of the lyrics to be “fluffy” with a song here and there that actually contained some deeper theology. About 20 minutes into the song service the mood suddenly changed. The guy sitting at the drum set put his sticks down and walked off the stage. The grand piano began playing some very soft music. The lights in the auditorium were dimmed slightly and, in unison, about 70% of those in attendance raised their hands (I would estimate that there were approximately 3,500 people there). The words came up on the screen and I realized that we were exiting the “praise” portion of the music service and entering the “worship” portion.

The whole thing was so contrived and rehearsed that it instantly set me in an extremely bad mood. The emotional manipulation was as bad as anything I’ve ever seen from the most “Finneyesque” evangelist that Fundamentalism can offer up. It ticked me off! I walked away thinking that I’d rather be around the rote, regimented, emotionless services found in Fundamentalism than to be seen as one who embraces this brand of emotional “trickery”.

Now I share that story because I want any who read this to understand that I don’t view “emotions” as the end all in worship. Nor do I believe that open displays of emotion are the only real signs of true worship. That type of thinking would be ludicrous and it’s certainly nothing to which I subscribe.

So, you might be asking, what’s the big criticism of the typical worship service in Fundamentalism? My big criticism is that we have typically done all we can to eliminate any emotional engagement whatsoever (until invitation time). We do this in several ways. First of all, we insure that there is no music that might get one to “tapping the toe”. Secondly we break things up with announcements, offering, greetings, a “stand-up routine” from the pastor, and very few comments from the music director (except those designed to get a laugh). The closest thing to continuity that the typical fundy music service has is that there might be a central theme to the chosen songs. But oft-times there is so little thought given to the songs being sang that anybody could get up and lead the music – just pick three or four songs that are in 4/4 time and everything’s OK.

Frankly, I have little use for both styles that I’ve mentioned above.

Now let me be clear on something here…I don’t wish to remove personal responsibility from the parishioner in regards to an engagement of the heart in worship. Those who know me best know that I take these matters seriously. For years I’ve practiced a careful and prayerful preparation of my heart prior to entering the worship service. I attempt to focus on the words of the songs being sung and will often sing them as my hearts prayer (should the lyrics lend themselves to that). Often I will leave off singing with the congregation in order to meditate a bit on the words we are offering up. I personally get “choked up” regularly when attempting to sing songs like “Alas, and did my Savior die?” or “Amazing Love”, or “Amazing Grace” or the like. However, just as the attempted manipulation at the service I first described upset me, so too does the constant interruption in the typical Fundamentalist service. Unfortunately we aren’t typically led in worship….we are just led in singing.

Four years ago I was sitting in a church service at a Fundamentalist church. The regular song leader was not there and neither was the backup. The pastor asked another man if he would take care of the music and he indicated that he would. Now this man wasn’t a particularly good singer and he didn’t know how to “wave his arms” correctly, so he just got up and did what he knew how to do. He spoke to us of the great love of our Savior and how amazing His grace really is. He spoke of forgiveness and how incomprehensible it all is. As he led us in songs about these truths he paused often to read the lyrics to us and to reference supporting scripture. In other words, he did all he could to engage us in worship…he helped us to focus our minds on our God. No drums, no hand raising, no emotional plea, no 45 minute invitation….just worship. This brother – without saying the words – urged us to engage our intellect as well as our emotions in corporate worship. It was a wonderful time with God’s people!

I called for a balance in this area in one of my recent articles. I suggest that, perhaps, we need to rethink our approach to worship. We need to rethink our roles as parishioners as well as leaders. Find the balance! While there is a danger in falling into a rehearsed and “forced” worship, there is an equally egregious danger in falling into a regimented, emotionless, dead “worship”.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Don't call me a Fundamentalist....I'm a fundamentalist!

Is it possible to be a fundamentalist without being a Fundamentalist? Let me try that question again… Is it possible to be a fundamentalist without being in Fundamentalism? I think that’s a better way of asking my question…

I think that people on both sides of the never-ending “IFB / CE” debate tend to forget some key points. We “young guys” for instance tend to forget that being a “fundamentalist” means something more than just an adherence to the Fundamentals whereas some tend to forget that being a “Fundamentalist” is more than just an issue of separation.

In the last 150+ years Fundamentalism has adopted separation as one of her major hallmarks. This is a righteous stance insofar as it coincides with biblical teaching. Too often those of us who have grown more and more enamored with Evangelicalism want to assign the moniker of “historic fundamentalist” to everybody we like regardless of whether or not they actually fit the bill (i.e., practice separation).

Now I realize that, in the beginning, Fundamentalism was a movement designed to correct and reform rather than to separate, but that ship has long sense sailed. The downward spiral of mainstream “religiosity” demanded a more robust response, and Fundamentalism responded appropriately with a stance of radical separation. Now this separation wasn’t from folks who just did things a bit “differently”; rather, it was from apostasy, doctrinal error, disobedient brethren, and theological compromisers. These days of course, “separation” has taken on completely different meanings. Some Fundamentalists refuse to acknowledge or fellowship with other fundamentalists based on things like: denominational affiliation (Fundamentalism was a non-denominational movement until the last 80 years or so), music standards, bible versions, and even issues of dress. These things notwithstanding, the doctrines of personal and ecclesiastical separation are both important and vital.

In recent years it seems to me that some groups who are decidedly outside of the Fundamentalist movement practice a more biblical separation model than many of those who are part of Fundamentalism. Taking it a step further, I think that there are as many groups outside of Fundamentalism who legitimately fit into the mold of “historical fundamentalist” as there are within the movement (btw, some of these groups aren’t even Baptists!).

I say all that to get to this point: the idea of “leaving Fundamentalism” is more about identification with a movement (or nonidentification) than it is about a change in philosophy and ideals. While I can make a statement to the effect that I will one day leave Fundamentalism (the movement), I will always remain a fundamentalist (the idea)…this is by conviction.

If our brothers who depart from Fundamentalism are still practicing fidelity to the Word, exhibiting separation from the world and worldliness, remaining sound in there doctrinal beliefs, practicing separation from apostasy and disobedient brethren, maintaining and exhibiting a belief in the inerrancy of Scripture, demonstrating a passion for souls and working to reach the lost for Christ, holding to an orthodox theology, and living a life that demonstrates a deepening relationship with the Savior, we need to encourage them, rejoice with them, and maintain a proper fellowship with them…..not spit on and separate from them!

I guess that this is the most frustrating part of this conversation as far as I’m concerned. Too many of us are more concerned with keeping guys in a loosely defined, non-structured movement than we are in encouraging them to remain faithful to the things that actually matter. Fundamentalism (the movement) may well shrivel up and die; however, fundamentalism (the idea) will not. As a matter of fact, fundamentalism (the idea) has been alive and well for much longer than has the movement…

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A new baby, a big scare, and the Good Shepherd.

Excuse the rambling nature of this post....I'm a bit tired and my brain isn't quite working right just yet!

This has been a unique week around the Murphree house. A week ago today we welcomed our fourth child, Liam Sean Murphree, into the world. His mom, dad, and three siblings immediately fell in love with him. We spent all day Friday taking turns holding him and just looking at him. We had some minor concerns since he just wouldn't eat and seemed to be breathing extremely rapidly. But the hospital staff assured as that everything was OK, so we quickly dismissed the concerns from our minds.

Saturday morning at about 4:30 I was awakened by a ringing phone. My wife called me and, with tears, told me that something was wrong with Liam and that I needed to get up there. When I got there I found him alert but on oxygen. The doctor told me that he thought he had pneumonia, but that they were going to transfer him to another hospital as a precaution. Within 90 minutes I was on the interstate following an ambulance to a different city with a larger hospital that was equipped with an NICU unit. Within 60 minutes of arrival they had shot x-rays, put him on a high dose of nitrogen rich oxygen and hooked him up to an IV. What they had found was a severely dehydrated boy who was having difficulty breathing due to limited lung capacity. His right lung was perforated and, as a result, air had escaped the lung. The escaped air had gathered around the outside of both lungs and had began to compress them. His right lung was compressed enough that the doctor used the word "collapsed" in describing it to me. He had likely developed the issue during birth and every breath he had taken had actually made the problem a little worse. In essence, every time he took a breath he was actually losing lung capacity.

Over the next couple of days we had a lot of ups and downs. My wife wasn't able to get released out of the other hospital and get to the new one until Liam and I had already been up there for about 6 hours. By the time she got there, Liam was under a large hood on a heating table and completely "out of it". Every time he would wake up and cry there was nothing we could do about it but rub his arm.....we wouldn't be able to pick him up for several days.

Sunday the doctor informed us that the oxygen mix they had him on wasn't remedying the problem and his lungs were getting worse. So the next step was to put a tube into his chest to begin to pull the air out and, hopefully, assist in healing the perforation. So less than three days after his birth, our son was going to surgery. Needless to say, Sunday was a bad day.

Over the next couple of days Liam began to gain lung capacity back. Soon the chest tube was able to come out, the oxygen hood came off, and we were able to hold him again. On Tuesday he finally started to eat. Today they pulled him completely off of oxygen and we found out that he is recovering so well that we may get to bring him home before the end of the upcoming weekend!

I've learned a few lessons about being a child of God during this week. In my sleep deprived sate I'm going to attempt to mention a coupled them...

First of all we have the ability to cast all our cares at the feet of our God. Not only are we able to do this, but we are actually expected to! Leaving our cares at the feet of the Almighty is one of the most amazing privileges we have as children of God.

Secondly, we have this wonderful "freedom" from anxiety. It would be foolish for me to claim that I wasn't concerned through most of this week. However, I didn't find myself "stressed" or worried. On the contrary, I found myself fleeing to the Psalms and then singing praises to my mighty God! The fact that we can praise the Lord for difficult times and enter into prayer to Him with a heart of thankfulness is amazing to me! Even when our hearts are heavy, the Great Comforter reminds us to be thankful for the bountiful benefits that the Lord shows to us daily.

There's a song that has been a tremendous encouragement to me this week and I've been singing it nearly nonstop. It's from the PSALMS CD from Sovereign Grace Music and is based on the 23rd Psalm. It is entitled "The Lord Is":

The depths of Your grace who can measure?
You fully supply all I need.
You restore my weary soul again and again;
And lead me in Your righteousness and peace.

You’re with me through every dark valley.
There’s nothing that I have to fear.
You are there to comfort me again and again;
Protecting me, assuring me You’re near.

The Lord is
The Lord is my shepherd!
The Lord is
The Lord is my shepherd!
I shall not want.

You gave Your own life for my ransom;
So I could rejoice at Your side.
You have shown Your faithfulness again and again;
There’s nothing good that You will not provide.

The Lord is
The Lord is my shepherd!
The Lord is
The Lord is my shepherd!
I shall not want.

I will dwell in Your house
All the days of my life.
I will dwell in Your house
All the days of my life.

And You watch over me;
You take care of all my needs;
Lord, You provide in every situation.
So I'll sing:

The Lord is
The Lord is my shepherd!
The Lord is
The Lord is my shepherd!
The Lord is
Lord, You are my shepherd;
I shall not want.