Tuesday, November 18, 2003

November 18, 2003

3:49 PM Barb King writes from New York with some helpful thoughts on prayer:

I looked at the referenced article on glancing prayers and wanted to share with you something that my friend Susan does. We used to own a brown van and every time she saw a brown van on the road she would say a quick prayer for the Kings. She tries to find something that will remind her of people and then every time she sees that thing, she prays. After she told me that, I tried it and found it was a good way to remember to pray for people. Another thing I learned long ago when I attended a women’s retreat as a new Christian was to pray “arrow” prayers. Just sending up quick prayers that can be prayed anytime – while you’re driving, exercising, walking into your job etc. It certainly helps to keep your heart and mind focused on God during the day.

12:30 PM Earlier today the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that the state ban on gay marriage was unconsitutional. The decision was not a surprise to those on either side of this issue. Those of us who live in Oak Park should be the least surprised of all. Our fair village has been on the “cutting edge of societal evolution” for a long time. We’ve been ahead of the curve on gay rights, and the rest of the nation is just now catching up with us. I have preached on this topic many times in the last 15 years. You can read my comments here and here and here. A distraught friend alerted me to the Massachusetts decision, saying she was very upset (or words to that effect). I am neither upset nor surprised. As I said, we’ve been fighting this battle in Oak Park for over a decade. Yes, widespread homosexuality is a mark of God’s judgment on a world that has turned away from him. But the Apostle Paul warned us that in the last days “terrible times” would come (2 Timothy 3:1). We should remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 24—speaking of the trend of the entire age, but especially of the sharp moral decline as we approach the last days:

“Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come” (Matthew 24:4-6)

Then he adds, “All these are the beginning of sorrows” (v. 8 KJV). Here our Lord asserts his divine sovereignty over ALL of human history—not just the good parts, or the happy side of life—but he declares his lordship over even the worst things that happen on planet earth. We have not yet reached the bottom morally. There is more to come. Evil having ripped off its benign mask will attempt to do worse in the days to come—and in some cases, evil will win the day, at least temporarily. Someone said it this way: “Do not complain about what you permit because whatever you permit always increases.” Our society has decided to permit homosexuality to be counted as natural and normal, worthy of protection, and ultimately a positive good. And those who dare to speak against it (that is, to defend the morality that all Americans took for granted 50 years ago) are maligned and ridiculed and in some cases, viciously attacked. Today’s decision isn’t the problem. And “gay marriage” isn’t the problem. Homosexuality isn’t even the real issue. It’s just a symptom of an underlying rebellion against God. Much more could be said—and will be said in the days to come. But to all who read these words, know this: Today’s decision is a landmark and a watershed for the further introduction of moral evil in our society, but it does not mean the sky is falling. The sky fell a long time ago, when Adam took the fruit and ate it. The current crisis is just one more bite of the same rotten fruit that started us on a downward spiral in the Garden of Eden. Meanwhile we should continue to do good and to remain optimistic. Chin up and knees down. On one of his speaking tours, Richard Neuhaus was picked up at the airport by a man who kept talking about how bad things were in America and how difficult these times are. Finally Rev. Neuhaus had had enough of the doom and gloom talk. “These may be bad times, but they are only times we are given. And despair is a mortal sin.” He’s right. Whether good or bad, these are the only times we are given—and it is our privilege to serve the Lord today, right where we are, in the midst of widespread moral chaos and cultural confusion. So we give thanks to God for allowing us to live “in such a time as this,” and we pray to be delivered from the sin of despair. Our God is not sitting on his throne wringing his hands today. He’s not saying, “I can’t believe what they did in Massachusetts.” If anything, the Lord laughs at the puny insolence of the rulers of the world (Psalm 2:1-4). And we should laugh too, as a statement of our faith in Almighty God who rules over the universe. 10:52 AM Potpourri … We received over $9700 for the Legacy Campaign Building Fund on Sunday … Two special seminars this Saturday: Bible Study Methods (taught by Davis Duggins) and Safe Relationships (led by Lynette Hoy). For more information, call the church office (708) 386-3900… . Craig Hammond reports that this Friday night the Allied Force high school ministry will sponsor an outreach that involves eating at a number of Chicago restaurants. After closely questioning him, I decided that this is the sort of “outreach” I favor. Wish my youth pastor had thought of this when I was in high school. 8:52 AM Only 9 more days until the Pastor’s Stroll. If you live in the Chicago area, you are invited to join us on Thanksgiving morning starting at 7:45 AM in the Dining Room for a continental breakfast followed by our annual Prayer and Praise service. After the service is finished (about 9 AM), some people go home, but the intrepid adventurers among us stay for the Turkey Trot (a run through the streets of Oak Park and River Forest led by Pastor Davis Duggins) and the much more sedate Pastor’s Stroll (led by yours truly). It’s a walking tour of some of our famous landmarks—including the famous Unity Temple designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, Ernest Hemingway’s home church, the Horse Show Water Fountain (also designed by Wright), plus there is informative commentary, historical anecdotes, and tales from the past. Some of them are even true—I never say which ones are true and which ones are made up. Sometimes I don’t even know myself. This year we’re adding a “Christian Heritage” emphasis to the Pastor’s Stroll. We’ll talk about William E. Blackstone, the Billy Sunday visit to Oak Park in 1918, the time D. L. Moody Preached in Oak Park, and the little-known story of the Oak Park connection with John R. Mott. Plus I will also tell the story of Calvary, our stained glass windows, Phillips Brooks, and the famous Christmas carol, “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” All that, and it’s free, and we do it in about 45 minutes. It’s an ideal way to whet your appetite for a big Thanksgiving dinner.

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