“Is it Gonna Burn” The temporal status of the things of this world

Today’s Musing is a first for a budding author. Jeffery VerWay studies business at Bob Jones University and has a goal to visit all 47 South Carolina state parks before graduating in December.

I finished my 1:00 class today to look down at my phone and see a notification from the Wall Street Journal, “A terrible fire is burning at Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.”

I didn’t think much of it but decided to click on the notification and see what it was. One of the most prominent gothic era buildings was up in flames. The world looked on as it could do little to nothing about this historic monument being destroyed. The roof sustained major damage including the collapse of the famous spire towering over the rest of the cathedral.

A building that endured since the 12th century and withstood many wars including two world wars had sustained severe damage in just a few hours. This is not the first-time man-made wonders have fallen before their creators in the history of the world.

In 1912 the Titanic struck an iceberg, and the ship deemed unsinkable disappeared below the waves to the bottom of the Atlantic.

The Hindenburg, a massive blimp, crashed shortly after takeoff in 1937 as it went up in flames.
 
Just recently in 2016 a wildfire spread through the state of Tennessee and caused devastating damag e and casualties to famous landmarks, towns, and cities in the Gatlinburg area.

All these great and beautiful creations by man were destroyed in just a few days or even hours, so what can we learn from this?

Everything in this world is temporary.

From an early age many people will learn that life on this earth is temporary. James 4:14 “You do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”
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Christians must be careful in this life to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts. The things of this world, including the people around us that we allow to influence us so much, will soon perish.

I used to sing the old hymn, Is It Goona Burn? in youth group and Sunday School on occasion. The song illustrates well James 4:14. The song talks about how God’s people squander their time on earth and waste it with the things of this short life. The chorus then goes on to ask, “Is it gonna burn? What you build in this life, is it gonna burn? Will you lose it all, when your work is tried will you lose it all? Will you enter the kingdom as one, to whom the Lord will say well done? Or will you cross over into his land, burned and scarred with an empty hand? Is it gonna burn?”

When we die, we take nothing which we cumulate in this life. One man may be a billionaire while another starves to death on the street, but when they both die, they will stand before God facing the same judgement.
So, what are some things Christians should keep in mind when it comes to the things of this world?

• Having possessions is not a bad thing.

There  were many rich people in the Bible, and those with wealth were not condemned by God. There are many examples to look to and many to learn from as well. The rich young ruler that asked Jesus what he must do to enter Heaven was too attached to his riches and not willing to let go of them to follow Jesus. This is when our things take control of us. They must not take first place from God and become idols. An example to follow is that of Joseph, who when given control of everything the superpower Egypt had to offer was still selfless in his actions and provided for those in need. Money is a great tool when we control it. It is a deadly weapon when it controls us.


• Christians should be wary of wasting their time on this earth.

God put us on the earth to glorify him. Christians should live out their lives looking to obey this commandment and not just to satisfy ourselves. We play this out by sharing God’s Word with others and giving Him the glory in all that we do. Do not be attached to the temporal things that distract us from what really matters. As the credit card commercials say, “Chase what matters.”

• Enjoying the things of the earth is not inherently evil.

Just because the things of the world take so much of our time and attention away from what we should really be paying attention to doesn’t mean they are always sin. Because of the fall mankind has a way of perverting everything we touch. This includes temporary  things. Things like marriage have been perverted by those deciding marriage is for them to decide the definition. The world takes things, stuff relationships, buildings, and anything that we decide is more important to us than God in the moment and make them into our own personal time wasters. This is one expression of when they are sinful. God wants his people to enjoy things in their life. Afterall he gave us his beautiful creation and great things like food and family to enjoy. Like the old man said, “enjoy the things of the earth, as far as conscience will allow.”

• Remember our true treasures lie in Heaven.

Ultimately in life Christians need to think about their eternal life that approaches. We should not take these things in our short lives and put them above the things that will be in eternity. Stop and think for a moment about what you are valuing more than eternity. For me it is friendships with unbelievers. I worry more about my reputation and not wanting to be seen as that guy who only talks about Jesus, so instead, I will just not talk about my faith so that I fit in. Don’t waste your life feeling this way. Pray to God and ask him to help you remove the things from your life that are distracting you from Him.

While the world mourns that which is temporary and short, celebrate the gift you have been given that is forever in eternity.

As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing

Your One Shining Moment. Are You Ready?


Even the most uninterested enjoy One Shining Moment.

For nearly 30 years, CBS ended the 67 game NCAA men’s basketball tournament with a montage of emotions, faces, game highlights, and big moments accompanied by the pop song, One Shining Moment, a catchy tune whose opening line is “The ball is tipped.”

When Virginia’s Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy celebrated their overtime victory, they celebrated both the championship and the recovery from last year’s tournament game of infamy.

Millions worldwide saw Guy’s semifinal heroics when he scored six points over the last seven seconds of the game, including three clutch free throws before 70,000 fans. Guy stepped to the line with less than one second on the game clock and trailing Auburn University by two points.

The first of his three attempts drew his team within one. When he made the second, he tied the score. The third shot provided the winning margin, sending his University of Virginia to the first title game in school history. Thomas Jefferson would be proud.

One Shining Moment highlights one great play, but that one great play is made by doing the same basic actions again and again. I don’t know Kyle Guy, Matt Mooney, Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, or any of the terrific players competing in this year’s tournament, but I do now the game of basketball. I know for a fact that every player on every team has been working on his basketball skills for at least a dozen years or so. Running, dribbling, passing, catching, jumping, shooting, and lifting – all the necessary moves that went into each player’s One Shining Moment.

I guarantee when Kyle Guy hit the corner three late in the semifinal game and when he stepped to the free throw line for those pressure packed shots, that was not the first time he took and made those shots from those spots on a basketball court. Granted, it’s the first time he’s done that in a final four matchup, but it wasn’t the first time he’s done it as a basketball player. If asked, I suspect he’d say he’s made those shots thousands of times in a gym, a driveway, or on a playground.

You don’t develop the ability to make those shots in a high level, high pressure situation without making those shots countless times in less intense moments. There is a correlation to Christian discipleship.

When we face a great opportunity, a passionate temptation, or a significant trial, our responses in the moments will be the result of the myriad of minor actions over a long period of time.

Think about it:

  • You don’t develop a theology of death when your mom dies that carries you through the pain of the moment. Your theology of death must be established long before the tears begin to flow.

  • You don’t learn to defeat lust when the image flashes across your television screen or the phone in your hand. You must have rehearsed your battle plan when the dopamine wasn’t flooding your brain cells.

  • You don’t establish a worldview at the moment of exposure in the classroom. You must have practiced viewing creation through the prism of God before a teacher persuaded you that perversion is progress in human development.

  • You don’t determine if your recent increase in income will promote materialism or the mission of Jesus Christ the day you get a raise. You must have put in place when you were working for minimum wage what your approach to money and riches will be.

As a former athlete, I can attest that ball handling drills in the driveway, chasing down clanged shots on a windy playground, and conditioning a body for a season that is six months away can be little fun. No fans cheer you on in those instances. The hours are lonely, tedious, frustrating, and ultimately rewarding.

I’d love to ask Kyle Guy or Matt Mooney about all the hours he put in to his basketball game and if he regrets any of it. You already know the answer.

Developing spiritual maturity that allows you to shine like Jesus in your One Shining Moment happens in daily practice of your Christianity.

Choosing to read your Bible today. Choosing to spend time in prayer with God today. Choosing to gather with God’s people on the Lord’s Day unless providentially hindered. Choosing to connect with another Christian disciple today so your iron is sharpened by his. Choosing to deny self today. Choosing to submit to the Holy Spirit today.

Choose to engage today in the basics of Christianity so in the moment when you need your Christian maturity, you’ve already taken that shot thousands of times.  

As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.


Our Need for Refreshing Prayer


Our church is in the middle of our Spring Prayer Refresher. Each of the words is useful in the life of our church.

Spring Here in Minnesota the last of the snow mounds have only inches remaining as the warm sun melts their cold peaks. Spring brings new life from the grass in the fields to the branches of the trees. As the days warm, we want our hearts to warm toward our God, his word, and his will for our church.

Prayer Moses prayed. Hannah prayed. Daniel prayed. Mary prayed. Peter prayed. The early church prayed, and our Lord Jesus prayed. We must make intentional effort for added seasons of prayer.

Jonathan Edwards of The Great Awakening fame helps us with why we should give these days to corporate prayer.

I have often said it would be a thing very desirable and very likely to be followed with a great blessing, if there could be some contrivance, that there should be an agreement of all God’s people in America, that are well affected to this work, to keep a Day of Fasting and Prayer to God; wherein we should all unite on the same day…Some perhaps may think it’s being all on the same day, is a circumstance of no great consequence; but I can' t be of that mind…It seems to me, it would mightily encourage and animate God’s saints, in humbly and earnestly seeking God, for such blessings which concerns them all; and that it would be much for the rejoicing of all, to think, that at the same time, such multitudes of God’s dear children, far and near, were sending up their cries to the same common Father, for the same motives.Jonathan Edwards, 1742

Did you catch Edwards’ words? “(Corporate prayer) would mightily encourage and animate God’s saints.” We want that in our church, right? We long for the encouragement of each other. We hope for each of the church to live the Christian life joyfully and robustly within our Christian community and to a lost world. Prayer is the catalyst for both.

Refresher Our church calendar gets full most years during the months of March and April. Regularly during these months, we welcome a guest team or itinerant ministry to be with us for a week of meetings. Usually, these weeks our wonderful and often, exhausting.

Like every other Christian church, the Passion Week, occurring during the months of March or April, is a major time in the life of our church. Our Good Friday and Easter Sunday worship calls together our collective energy and resources for the promotion of these two days. The emphasis can be draining.

The corporate prayer of our Spring Prayer Refresher is different. While it is true that prayer is hard work (Luke 22:44), prayer also refreshes the individual Christian (Acts 16:25; Matthew 14:23) and the church (Acts 2:42). I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say the common experience of us who participate in these days of corporate prayer is to feel spiritually refreshed but not physically drained.

I hope you will make every effort to come together for prayer. Let’s remember the teaching of Jesus, to pray always and not become discouraged (Luke 18:1).

As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.

Will You Consider Christian Higher Education?

In 2018 across the United States more than 20 million students enrolled in nearly 4600 colleges or universities.

Like most everything else in the 21st century, education is changing, maybe not as fast as other established norms, but higher education is changing nonetheless. For example, there was a time when a student had to leave home to go to college or at least drive his beater Chevy across town to the local junior college. Not any more, now a student can sit in mom’s kitchen and take online classes leading to a four-year degree. Higher education has changed; some changes are for the good while others are not.

Amidst all the change, I still believe in the idea of Christian higher education.

It is hard to know exactly how many students attend Christian colleges or for that matter, how many Christian colleges actually exist, but we can make some observations. For example, Christian colleges are everywhere. You can attend a Christian college in Hawaii or Maine, and in every state between. If you want to attend a small school, there is California Christian College, a Fresno campus of 43 students. If a large school is your preference, there is Baylor University in Texas where more than 16,000 matriculate each semester. If you want to go away from home, you might consider Alaska Christian College. If you want to stay close to home in Minnesota, you can choose from Augsburg, Bethel, Crown, Gustavus, Northwestern, and many more that self-identify as Christian colleges. Of course, the names in this paragraph show how broad a spectrum “Christian” is when it comes to higher education.

Christian higher education can be very expensive. Because they are private colleges and universities, generally Christian institutions do not receive tax dollars to lower costs. If you want a Christian education, you will have to pay and pray. The cost of room, board, and tuition at my alma mater has risen nearly 400% since I enrolled in the fall of 1983, far outpacing inflation. Skyrocketing costs are the reality across the landscape of higher education.

Despite the changes and the costs, I still believe in Christian higher education. Three of our four children matriculated to a Christian university. The one who did not wanted to go to a Christian college but the opportunities for her were not the same as her siblings. I hope students and their families will consider the option of Christian higher education first. Here are a few reasons.

The Formation of a Worldview

College professors, textbooks, and fellow students shape how young adults understand their world. How a Christian interprets the culture and how a non-Christian interprets the culture is dramatically different. What happens on a college campus goes a long way to establishing how one makes choices, sets directions, and evaluates life. A Christian higher education serves the young student as he develops his worldview.

The Benefits of Christian Community

Not every student at every Christian college is true disciple, just like our churches. However, a genuine Christian college makes much of the Christian community. The college chapel hosts preaching that encourages, challenges, corrects, and informs. Dormitory life can be a place for genuine discipleship as believing women and men share life together, living out the one another statements of the New Testament in close quarters. While online dating sites mitigate the necessity to physically go where other single Christians are, finding a spouse on a Christian college campus may be second only to finding a spouse in your own church.

The Potential for the Local Church

Every study on what happens to high school students in the church when they graduate reports a shockingly high number who leave the church during their college years. The church is losing its college students. Can an education at a Christian college protect against this? There’s no guarantee, but one would hope it would.

God’s plan for the work of the gospel is not the Christian college. God’s plan for the work of the gospel is the local church. As a pastor my hope would be that Christian colleges would serve the local church by providing additional training to the students we send to them, so that when they return to us, they commit themselves to the work of the gospel in the local church according to their giftedness and skills.

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I speak from a voice of experience. Brenda and I know the challenge to Christian worldview the educational experience at a non-Christian university presents. It is a big deal that required weekly and sometimes daily conversations with our college student. There can be no exaggeration how dangerous the constant attacks on the Bible and on the Christian lifestyle can be to a young Christian woman or man. The choice to choose a secular higher education must be made understanding the risks.

Our student who did not have the privilege to attend a Christian university expressed over and again over the course of her college career the longing for Christian community. Her siblings told her of their chapel and classroom experiences, and she met their Christian friends. Her non-Christian college could not provide a similar atmosphere.

One final word, not everyone can or should pursue higher education. For those who do, an education at a Christian college may not be the right option. I respect that. Yet, in the changing world of higher education, I still believe in Christian higher education and thank God for the possibilities that education affords.

As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.

Jesus Christ Exalted in the East - India Trip Tidbits

For security reasons, I purposefully limited my stories from India while I was in country. The situation there is vastly different than my previous visit in 2010. Christianity Today reports on the growing opposition to Christianity at the highest levels of government.

Radical Hinduism and Indian nationalism are driving factors in the increasing levels of unrest and instability Christians face…one of the fastest and most intense increases seen.

India’s Hindu nationalism has been growing since the election of nationalist Narendra Modi to prime minister in 2014, and was highlighted by the election of nationalist president Ram Nath Kovind last summer.

Under Modi, religious freedom violations against Christians—such as social exclusion, abuse, and imprisonment—have spread unchecked. In 2017, Open Doors counted more than 600 persecution incidents, though “most cases actually remain unreported, so the true number is much higher,” the organization said. (At the same time, Compassion International’s 589 Indian centers serving 145,000 children were shut down without explanation.)

Local authorities now feel empowered and emboldened to act against Christianity, local churches, and any and all outside or western influences in local churches or parachurch ministries. For example, if a local church applies for a building permit, the only way the permit will not get lost is if a bribe accompanies the application, and that still may not be enough to keep the project moving forward.

Officials are constructing Hindu temples funded by the national government at a furious rate. Where a strong non-Hindu influence exists in a village or community, officials build the places of idol worship across the road or on an adjoining property to the Christian church. From there they can disrupt the gatherings of the local church.

Thankfully and by God’s grace, I did not experience any opposition, but my hosts were careful not to create situations where problems might arise. I did not preach at any open air evangelistic meetings or in places where there was not a trusted, established church and network of Christian leaders. My hosts purposefully darkened the windows of the car so as to conceal my white skin.

At 1.3 billion the population of India is nearly four times that of the United States. The overwhelming majority bows down to idols of varying shapes and sizes. Most of the populous knows nothing of the saving grace of God by the work of Jesus Christ on the cross.

The Deceiver has convinced the masses that Christianity is a Western religion. Of course, this is a lie, one of untold numbers of lies the Wicked One uses to keep humanity in darkness.

Christianity is an Eastern religion. We in the West are the outsiders. We experience this over and again in our preaching and study of the Bible. Western preachers spend so much time in sermons explaining ideas in the text that Indians and others from the East know intuitively.

For example, a local church pastor in India spends virtually no time explaining the idea of head coverings in 1 Corinthians 11 (see the picture to the left). He simply reads the text and makes the applications to his local church. When a pastor in America or other parts of the West preaches 1 Corinthians 11, he will spend a significant amount of his sermon explaining the idea before attempting any application. The same is true for texts that allude to sheep and shepherds, the comparisons between wheat and chaff and the blowing wind, David’s seeing Bathsheba from his rooftop, and so many more.

There are many good things to observe about the church in India. They sing like you can only imagine. The buildings are full for Sunday gatherings and special events midweek when the American comes to visit. They listen intently to the preaching of the Word of God for more than one-hour while sitting crossed-legged on concreate or marble flooring.

But the church of India has significant weaknesses too. The church is highly susceptible to false doctrine. Many of its pastors have only basic Bible training. The church members must resist the love of the world and the fascination with Bollywood, the largest film producer in Indian, an industry that puts out more films than any other in the world, nearly 2.5 times the number produced by the United States.

The contribution of our church to the work of the gospel in India is small in total dollars. We support four mission works across the country at a total of less than $5,000. Maybe we will be able to do more. While the number is not significant, the impact of the gospel in India is significant.

I met generational Christians and a woman recently converted from Hinduism. Her husband remains unsaved. I met fathers attempting to lead their families in the worship of the living God and away from the worship of idols made by man’s hands.

I met children orphaned or impoverished who live in the children’s homes we help fund. In these homes, they receive provision and protection and are learning of the person and work of Jesus Christ. Many of them have professed faith.

I met college students whose life goal is to return to their villages in rural India, villages where two-thirds of the population of India live. Away from the megacities of Mumbai and Delhi are villages of thousands with no light penetrating the darkness. Our giving, our prayers, our sending of pastors to encourage and train contributes to the expanse of the gospel.

There is more to tell, but be certain, Christians in India need your prayer support. And be certain, God is using your giving to expand the work of the gospel in India.

Today’s Lunchtime Musing will not appear on social media for reasons stated above. Please be careful how you share the contents.

As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.