Homecoming 2009

461406588_hjvwn-lLast weekend as I was packing for my trip to Russia (where I am right now) both my son, Gavin – Freshman, and daughter, Vanessa – Senior, participated in Redwood Christian School’s Homecoming Banquet.  To our surprise Vanessa was nominated by her peers to be a homecoming princess.

img_6096Of course, we are extremely proud of how God has been at work in her life and the great honor that her fellow students granted her.

Funny thing, though, Ezra, Vanessa’s “friend” was also nominated as a prince.  So, here are some pictures of my kids all dressed up with somewhere to go…Even Adam got into the action…

Wow!  They do grow up fast!

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Struck Silly…

I am in Russia right now, leading a team from our church to do ministry in the town of Ufa, Bashkortostan.  Yesterday, however, we all had the opportunity to visit the Russian WWII Memorial in Moscow.  It was a somber experience seeing pictures and video footage of the plight of Russians fighting for their freedom against Hitler and his armies.  In the Museum were lots of artifacts from that long conflict, but there were some pieces of Art that struck my deeply…

Here is one.  I don’t know what it is called, but I had to have a picture of it as it spoke so many things…

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Doesn’t this picture make you thankful?

Pastors’ Bookshelf…

A couple of days ago I was asked by one in my church family to recommend a good book.  I thought about it for a while and was reminded of four resources that have had a lasting impact on my life and ministry.  So, in brief, I want to make you aware of them and then to tell you a little secret.

So, here are the books, all biographies written and compiled by John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota:

blsj_smallThe Legacy of Sovereign Joy (Luther, Augustine, Calvin) – This was a great way to see how God used these men at key times in church history.  Of all of them I appreciated the insight into Augustine’s struggles as a Pastor.

bcfa_smallContending for Our All (Athanasius, Owen, Gresham Machen) – These three men were tough cookies, who in their time had an incredible impact as they influenced the spread of the Gospel.  It is hard to say who I appreciated more.  Athanasius stood strong, but Gresham Machen had such an impact in such a short period of time.

bre_smallThe Roots of Endurance (Newton, Simeon, Wilberforce) – This was a great read.  All three of these men were unique in their own right.  The tenderness and toughness of Newton, the faithfulness under affliction that Charles Simeon experienced and the perseverance of Wilberforce paint a healthy picture for us to follow.

The Hidden Smile of God (Bunyan, Cowper, Brainard) – I must admit that I really enjoyed reading this one. bhs_small It puts into perspective how God can shine a light in the midst of darkness.  How difficult each of these men had it, but how God worked in them even through adversity.  I especially enjoyed reading about Brainard.

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Now, here is the little secret I want you to know…shhhhh…don’t tell anyone…

These books are the result of John Piper’s yearly biographical studies that he prepares for both his Pastor’s Conference and his church, Bethlehem Baptist.  Each of these biographies is available online here where you will find both transcripts and Mp3’s of his messages (biographical messages).

So, if you are looking for a new book to read, one that will inspire you and encourage you to walk with God, let me suggest these resources.

So, go on…I triple dirty dog dare you with a Don Ott dirty double dog dare on top!!!

Always in His Grip!!

Rod

Big Butts & Hammy’s

Its not every day that the following words come out of one’s mouth – “Honey, some butts are bigger than others…(Slap!)”

Now, I know what you’re thinking… “Seriously Rod, with statements like that you will ruin your marriage.” n11705925_33728816_4168Well, you have a point, but it was a special day, and occasioned me getting up rather early after getting home late the night before.  And, because I wanted to be a blessing and help out I was willing to go hunting for something really special that my father-in-law wanted for his Birthday Dinner.  I first went to Costco, but they didn’t have any.  The night before we had tried Lucky’s and Safeway, but they didn’t have what we were looking for.  Then I was encouraged by some family members to consider going to Swans in downtown Oakland, and as a dutiful family member I ventured there too, only to leave empty handed and having spent $1.50 for a 10 minute stop.

Finally, I ventured to Food Max where I was finally able to talk to someone who could help me.  So, I approached this well dressed male worker and sought his help by saying the following…  “I am looking for some big butts…the biggest butts that you have.” After the initial shock of my question, he smiled, snickered and walked me over to where all the butts are on display so that I could touch, squeeze and handle until I as the customer was content.  Then I chose two and called my wife.

n11705925_33728804_1456Now, there are times when you look back and put the pieces of God’s natural humor into perspective.  Here I was, standing in the middle of a relatively busy grocery store.  I was speaking on the phone with my wife waxing eloquently, but I was talking with the Blue Tooth in my ear.  There was a noise of a fan nearby so I positioned my earpiece closer to my ear and began to speak in a loud voice….now, when you are so intently into a phone conversation in a public place you tend to lose a grasp of all that is going on around you…so it was quite interesting when I said to my wife the following…“I’ve got two very big butts right in front of me…what do you want me to do with them?”

Now, it is at that point that at least three ladies, who were previously minding themselves inspecting and selecting merchandise, turned and looked at me in horror.  At that moment my wife asked me a question about the size of the butts, to which I replied, “Honey, some butts are bigger than others…”

Well, Rod returned home, big butts in hand and this afternoon we celebrated my Father-in-Law’s 73rd birthday with over 20lbs of ham, some scalloped potatoes, yams, corn, salad and some killer lemonade.

So what is the moral of the story?  It is this… “Hands free shopping can be dangerous to your health!”

“Double-Minded” – College Retreat

n11705925_33728828_7054This past weekend I ventured to the region of Yosemite, to the town of Volcano to spend three days with our college students.  In attendance were five young ladies – Amber, Chelsea, Aly, Katie, Marissa – and ten young men – Ben, Zack, Brian H., Brian S., A.J., Jayson, Eddie, Stephen, Alex, Myself (o.k. so I’m not young, but I felt young).

We were blessed to be in extremely comfortable facilities, a beautiful three bedroom house with a very open floor plan so that we could all interact together on many fronts.  We spent lots of time playing games, laughing, sharing stories.  n11705925_33728805_1667The group really enjoyed group pictionary evidenced by a 3 hour stint into the wee morning.

Thankfully, we didn’t encounter mounds of snow where we were staying, but on Saturday we did venture up the road about 1/2 hour to where the snow was 4-5 feet deep and a playground for all.  This is where my facade youth status crumbled before me.  I am no match for jumping and bouncing, energetic college students.  I was exhausted by simply walking in the snow, which at times, swallowed my leg whole and left me helpless at the descending snowballs headed in my general direction.  At the house we often spotted “flocks of deer” innocently roaming in the woods and carefully searching out food.  To be in the mountains and woods was a great time of refreshment.

n11705925_33728822_5563I was asked to teach at the retreat, having taught the year prior too.  This year the theme was “Double-Minded” and I focused on two main issues:

  • First, I wanted to give the students tools so that they would be more equipped to sit across the table with friends who were going through trials and difficulties.  I wanted them to see that God speaks to every situation and that he is always wanting us to ask the question, “What will please God in this trial, struggle, decision.”
  • Next, I wanted them to understand that in order to help others effectively, we have to be willing to be helped by God ourselves – in other words, “The best counselor is a good counselee.”  So, we spent time in James discovering what it means to be “double-minded” (exercising faith with doubt) and seeking to realize all the voices that are screaming at us, how they influence us, and how they subtly affect our decisions and orientation, even our view of God and His Word.  n11705925_33728825_6289Then we moved to Psalm 1 and considered the affect of living among the “counsel of the ungodly (wicked)”, the “sinners” and the “scornful” and the need to be like a tree planted in God’s Word.  We also took a session to examine three voices that have affected the thinking and attitude of our culture, the voices of Sigmund Freud, B.F. Skinner and Carl Rogers, and compared them to the teaching of Scripture.  In another session we examined the influence of our hearts focusing on the “idols of the heart” and how the battle for all of us is the idol that we are worshiping.  We closed our teaching by using Elijah as a case study for how an effective servant of God can turn on a dime simply because their heart is bowing in worship to other idols rather than worshiping God.

So, in conclusion, we realized that being “double-minded”, i.e. trying to live our lives listening and following two different and competing voices, only leads to instability (cf. James 1:8 ) and that what God was calling us to was “Single-mindedness” which leads to stability and is a reflection of a faith that does not doubt.

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Now, I must say this clearly, loudly and for all to hear:  “Our College Students are Studs” to use a Jere Lester expression.  I was thoroughly pleased with their love for God, seriousness about His Word, desire for holiness and willingness to work on the struggles that God was revealing to them.  They are our future and I commend all who have had a part of molding and shaping their lives with God’s Truth.

I look forward to serving our College Students again…

Removing the Cancer that Matters

In life there are always a select few people whom you call friend and have a life long affection and connection with.  For me, one of those people is Steve Henning.  Steve is a year older than me, graduated from Springfield Christian High School like me and also graduated from Bob Jones University like me.  It wasn’t, however, until I was serving as Senior Pastor at Baptist Fellowship Church in Waterford, Michigan, that our treasured friendship began.  It is a long story that I’ll share at another time, but I took my wife to visit with Steve and his wife Christine in 1998.  Since then we have grown in our love for one another and have sharpened each other in our Theology and service for God.  He and Christine are trusted friends and right now my heart is grieving for them as we have learned the news that Steve has been diagnosed with colon cancer.

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Below is a note that I received a couple of days ago…and I want to share it with you, to be an encouragement, especially to those who are struggling with your own physical issues, and although you don’t know Steve, you will be glad that you read it through to the end.

My Dear Friends,

I write you this short letter to advise you of my condition.  So many of you have written to me and I regret that I have not been able to respond to each note.  I do cherish, however, each of your letters, for they have been a great source of encouragement.

body_believe2Before I get into my condition, I do want to take the time to glorify our Father and His Son Jesus Christ.

First, my sins are eternally forgiven.  While my follies and sins have earthly consequences of discipline and pain, I rejoice in the fact that the righteousness of Christ is so real to me that I know that not one of my follies and sins will affect me eternally, for my sins and iniquities are remembered no more.

Secondly, our Father has granted rest most nights to me His child, assuring me that I am one of His beloved.

Thirdly, I praise God for a continued ministry among His people. He has allowed me to preach His Word and pray for His work, glory and people.

Fourthly, God is worthy of my praise for bringing me into the fellowship of the saints, saints like you.  How glorious will be our eternal state of unity of purpose and energy in praising and worshiping Him, whom having not seen, we will see with eyes of flesh and touch with our hands, and kiss with our mouths.  Speaking honestly, I only desire to worship at the feet of Christ and bathe them with tears and kisses of gratitude.  He is so good.

Fiftly, I thank God who is absolutely sovereign. He saved me by His choice and by His choice, I have cancer.  While He may take away my cancer because He is the Ruler of both heaven and earth, I rejoice that His sovereignty cannot extend to point of taking away that good work which He has begun in me.  I praise Him for being the sovereign God who has promised to preserve me and to continue to mold my wretched self to be someday totally conformed to the breathtaking, beautiful image of Jesus Christ.

Finally, I praise the Lord for a peace which surpasses my current understanding of my condition.Now as to my condition.  I am at a very advanced stage of cancer.  I have a very active tumor in the colon, as well as five tumors or metasteses in the liver.  My latest ALP test which reveals the state of the bile ducts has increased considerably,  In itself, it means nothing except that the bile ducts are working far less that they were even a month ago.  There is more pain in my upper abdomen and back, as well as in a few joints.  My bouts with nausea and dizziness are almost constant, with some relief every three or four days.  I find that sleep helps immensely.

the-crossToday, I met with the surgeon, who is a brother in Christ and a member of the church here.  He desires to do surgery on the colon and then follow that up with six months of chemotherapy to endeavor to shrink or make disappear the tumors in the colon.  The statistics that he has given me of a complete cure or ten-year survival are 20%.  My wife and I have decided not to do this and opt for a second option which will consist of surgery on the colon, as well as radio-sonic treatment in which radio waves will be used to kill the tumors.  This in itself does not kill the seeds of cancer, only the plants, to use a botanical metaphor.  Our desire is to use the extra time that this might give us to allow for the alternative treatments that we are using to show some effect.

My brethren, I know that God is not bound by statistics.  I know that healing is possible.  Saints from all over the world have written to me saying that they are praying.  Some have even expressed great confidence that God will miraculously intervene.  Such is my wish.  If that is so, why has he not done so?  Well, a biblical principle is that God is more loved, praised and glorified for forgiving big debts, rather than small ones.  This is what the pharisee Simon needed to learn.  Those that are forgiven little, love little.  Those who are forgiven much, love much.

Yet with all that having been said, God has already given me His Son to reconcile me to Him.  In sending His Son and granting me ears to hear and a heart to understand and commit itself to the truth of the Gospel, He has done the big thing already.  Curing my cancer pales in comparison.  So I ask that you continue to pray for me and my family and the works I so love here in Costa Rica, but I encourage you even more so to be boasters of the glories of the saving work of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I love you all,
Steve Henning

praying-hands3Steve, I am always amazed at how God gives us stability and strength in Him during trials like this.  I am encouraged and strengthened by God’s love for you and your complete and total trust in Him.  Christine, Sarah, Steve Jr., Shelby, Seth and Stacy, please know that an army of God’s children are upholding both you and your daddy right now.  We love you all.

Steve…you are a true friend and a Godly example…I love you…and I join you in affirming the greatest news, the sweetest sound ever heard…

“21He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Cor. 5:21