Playful, Pius or Remembered Stuff

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Saturday, December 31, 2011


My wife still remembers sitting in the doctor's waiting room, overhearing a girl with a broken leg who said, "I'm giving up dancing for lent."  Just how impressed did she think God might be with her resolution of self sacrifice?

New Year's resolutions are ridiculous.  The concept itself carries the proof of the insincere intentions.  The fact that one waits until the New Year to make the resolution is the evidence that there is no hearty resolution about it.  I'm going to keep my New Year's resolution to never go sky diving again.  The fact that I have never had a desire to do this, plus the fact that I am 77 years old and have no business trying such a foolish, dangerous thing, makes this resolution most certainly successful.  But what does such a resolution mean?

If something is worth changing in your life, why wait til New Years to make the change?  If it is something wrong or bad, that is to say sinful, then it's worth doing December 30 or January 2 or any other day of the year.  "I resolve to stop killing other people, starting New Year's Day."  No, that won't fly.  Obviously ludicrous, but when we are talking about sin, it is no more ludicrous than saying, "I resolve to stop coveting the riches of others, starting on New Year's Day."  Oh I see, that leaves you one more day to indulge that sin.  Better do a lot of it to make up for the deprivation you will suffer in the future.

It's like Mardi Gras, fat Tuesday, as a day of debauchery and gluttony before the self-deprivation of lent. Does anyone actually suppose God is fooled by such obvious ill intentions?  Does anyone actually want to serve such a small-minded god?  It's only a game quite like the New Year's resolution.

Christian friend, you know your resolution.  I resolve to kill sin more effectively and live more godly.  But, dear friend, we must remake that resolve every day, and alas, more than once each of those days.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Singing apocrypha

You have to realize how doctrinally hard nosed is my church before you will appreciate what I have to say today.  This is the church who chooses not to sing "and opened the life-gate that all may go in" when we publish "To God Be the Glory" in our hymnal.  The committee took the pains to modify Fanny Crosby's first verse to read "that we may go in" instead.  The original could have been construed to mean that Jesus is the Savior of the whole world, meaning every race, tongue and tribe have one, and only one Savior offered to them in the Gospel.  But just to jealously guard the doctrine of election, we needed to modify it.  Okay, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church is doctrinally up tight--even paranoid?  I love this church, and partly for that reason.

What amuses me at this time of year is how we let sentiment, tradition or whatever it is, lead us into singing outlandish apocrypha.  Try "It Came Upon the Midnight Clear" (Trinity hymnal #200).  Where is the Scripture that tells us Jesus was born at midnight?  The hymn makes no reference to Christ or His saving work.  Instead it anticipates a golden age that eventually comes over the earth with peace.  It leaves out reference to the saving atonement because it was written by a Unitarian pastor who didn't believe in the atonement.

How about # 204, "Away in a Manger"?  In the second verse baby Jesus wakes up, but no crying He makes.  How do we know that?  Is it sinful for babies to cry?

"See, amid the Winter's Snow" (#199) has great words, but what's this stuff about winter's snow?  Bethlehem gets plenty cold in late December (too cold for shepherds to be abiding in the field with their sheep), but snow is rare at this latitude and altitude.

I'm not outraged (should I be?).  I'm not crusading for hymn revisions.  I'm simply amused that my doctrinally hard nosed church sings apocrypha this time of year.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Chaplain Lynn Wade

We all have met unforgettable characters during our life.  One of those outstanding humans for me is Chaplain Lynn Wade.  My first knowledge of Mr. Wade came from tough sailors with whom I came into contact in church.  They learned to trust in Christ because of the influence of Chaplain Lynn Wade while they were stationed on  the island of Guam.  It seems he confronted men with the gospel in the most militant ways imaginable.  He was not a roughneck himself.  I remember him as tall and trim--even wiry. He wasn't a buff bruiser, but his voice was strong and demanding.  He was military in personality.

Once when he preached in our little church in Eagle Rock, his tithing sermon was from the text in Malachi that says, "Will a man rob God?"  He made his point indelible by reaching over the railing at the stage, grabbing a handful of money from the offering plate and shoving it into his coat pocket.  Change went jingling and rolling across the floor.  But not a soul who was there missed or ever forgot this message.  Well, at least we didn't forget the illustration.

We were a very small congregation, and I'm afraid we had become a bit lax in our prompt attendance, especially for the evening service.  One night we arrived two minutes tardy (maybe three) for evening service, only to find Rev. Wade's note pinned to the door.  "I was here at worship hour and evidently you cancelled it without giving me notice, so I went elsewhere to worship."

We were so impressed by his zeal for the gospel that we even named one of our sons for him.  Paul Wade Keller was our third son.

I was told by someone who was there that Lynn Wade once rode his motorcycle on the sidewalk in Philadelphia when he was in Westminster Seminary.  When I brought it up to him, he didn't seem to think there was anything funny about it.

During the General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, held in Denver, CO, many preacher's kids were in attendance, and they wanted to have fun.  When Mr. Wade discovered that one of the kids had filled the sugar container with salt, he rose to his feet in the dining hall and bellered out a brief sermon, rebuking whoever it was that had wasted God's good provisions.  It was his own son who had pulled the stunt, however, and I don't think he ever confessed.  It can be tragic when such an intense person cannot balance his life with a sense of humor.  I cannot pretend to know how things developed in their home.  I do know that the children were made to memorize the catechism rigorously.  But I also know that his children rebelled when they had the freedom to do so.  I hope they repented and came back to the Lord in later life, but I just don't know.

Lynn Wade was suffering with cancer and radiation treatments when I drove him to a speaking engagement.  He was lovable because he loved Jesus, and so do I.  But I didn't have to live with him.  He said that the treatment was sometimes worse than the disease.  I think that was the last time we spoke in person.

It is my observation about Lynn Wade, and many other good men since, that gifted men are often also severely flawed men.  I'm sure Mr. Wade brought more men and women to Jesus Christ than I have in all my ministry.  I know that he made an impression on men who would never be fazed by my attempts to share the gospel.  God uses all kinds of people.  The good is all of grace, but personality is part of God's preparation for such ministries.  Martin Luther is a wonderful case in point.