Friday, January 29, 2010

Calvary’s Anthem

Heavenly Father,

Thou hast let me singing to the cross
where I fling down all my burdens and see them vanish,
where my mountains of guilt are leveled to a plain,
where my sins disappear, though they are the greatest that exist,
and are more in number than the grains of fine sand;

For there is power in the blood of Calvary
to destroy sins more than can be counted even by one from the choir of heaven.
Thou hast given me a hill-side spring that washes clear and white,
and I go as a sinner to its water,
bathing without hindrance in its crystal streams.

At the cross there is free forgiveness for poor and meek ones,
and ample blessings that last for ever;
The blood of the Lamb is like a great river of infinite grace
with never any diminishing of its fullness as thirsty ones without number drink of it.

O Lord, for ever will thy free forgiveness live that was gained on the mount of blood;
In the midst of a world of pain it is a subject for praise in every place,
a song on earth, an anthem in heaven,
its love and virtue knowing no end. I have a longing for the world above
where multitudes sing the great song,
for my soul was never created to love the dust of the earth.

Though here my spiritual state is frail and poor, I shall go on singing Calvary’s anthem.
May I always know that a clean heart full of goodness is more beautiful than the lily,
that only a clean heart can sing by night and by day,
that such a heart is mine when I abide at Calvary.

From "The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotion"
edited by Arthur Bennett

Jesus, Celebrating the Sanctity of Life, and the Super Bowl

"A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you." (John 15:20)

"The one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me." (Luke 10:16)

CBS urged to scrap anti-abortion Super Bowl ad featuring Tebow

NEW YORK (AP) -- A coalition of women's groups called on the CBS network on Monday to scrap its plan to broadcast an ad during the Super Bowl featuring college football star Tim Tebow and his mother, which critics say is likely to convey an anti-abortion message.

The ad -- paid for by the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family -- is expected to recount the story of Pam Tebow's pregnancy in 1987 with a theme of "Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life." After getting sick during a mission trip to the Philippines, she ignored a recommendation by doctors to abort her fifth child and gave birth to Tim, who went on to win the 2007 Heisman Trophy while helping his Florida team to two college football championships.

The New York-based Women's Media Center was coordinating the protest with backing from the National Organization for Women, the Feminist Majority and other groups.

"An ad that uses sports to divide rather than to unite has no place in the biggest national sports event of the year -- an event designed to bring Americans together," said Jehmu Greene, president of the Women's Media Center. . . .

The protest letter from the Women's Media Center suggested that CBS should have turned down the ad in part because it was conceived by Focus on the Family.

"By offering one of the most coveted advertising spots of the year to an anti-equality, anti-choice, homophobic organization, CBS is aligning itself with a political stance that will damage its reputation, alienate viewers, and discourage consumers from supporting its shows and advertisers," the letter said. . . .

A columnist for, Gregg Doyel, also objected to the CBS decision to show the ad, specifically because it would air on Super Sunday.

"If you're a sports fan, and I am, that's the holiest day of the year," he wrote. "It's not a day to discuss abortion. For it, against it, I don't care what you are. On Super Sunday, I don't care what I am. Feb. 7 is simply not the day to have that discussion."
To read the whole article, click here.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Haitians' Faith Unshaken by Earthquake

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. (Psalm 46:1-3)

Port-au-Prince, Haiti (CNN) -- The steeple clock at Port-au-Prince's St. Pierre Catholic Church is stopped at 4:53, the hour at which a devastating earthquake struck Haiti nearly one week ago.

The church gates were closed Sunday. The doors shuttered. But it seems Tuesday's quake has only strengthened the religious fervor many Haitians carry in their souls.

"A lot of people who never prayed or believed -- now they believe," said Cristina Bailey, a 24-year-old clerk.

In parks and backyards, anywhere a group gathers, the prayers of the Haitians can be heard. Last week, the call-and-response chanting and clapping that accompany those
prayers pierced the darkness of night and the pre-dawn hours -- sometimes as early as 4 a.m. The singing and praying was particularly intense in Champs de Mars plaza, where hundreds of people have taken refuge. But the scene was repeated throughout the city, with preachers on megaphones exhorting the faithful, who responded with lyrics like "O Lord, keep me close to you" and "Forgive me, Jesus."

Many preachers are telling followers not to lose faith, that God remains with them regardless of what's happened.

Most Haitians don't feel abandoned, Bailey said. "People don't blame Jesus for all these things," she said. "They have faith. They believe that Jesus saved them and are thankful for that."
Click Here to read the rest of this article.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Finding God's Purpose in Earthquakes

He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:17

News reports over the last seven days:

January 15, 2010 - Earthquake strikes Venezuela (Magnitude 5.6)

January 12, 2010 - Earthquake occurs in the boundary region of Haiti (Magnitude 7.0)

January 9, 2010 - Earthquake rattles Eureka in Northern California (Magnitude 6.5)

“Whence and why?” by Dr. John Piper in World Magazine, 4 September 1999

Weep with those who weep" (Romans 12:15). When love has wept and worked, it must have some answers. Not all the answers, but some. So we turn to the Word of God for help.

No earthquakes in the Bible are attributed to Satan. Many are attributed to God. This is because God is Lord of heaven and earth. "He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him" (Luke 8:25). "He sends forth His command to the earth ... He gives snow like wool; He scatters the frost like ashes. He casts forth His ice as fragments; who can stand before His cold? ... He causes His wind to blow and the waters to flow" (Psalm 147:15-18). "He looks at the earth, and it trembles; He touches the mountains, and they smoke" (Psalm 104:32). "[He] shakes the earth out of its place, and its pillars tremble" (Job 9:6).

And if the devils try to intrude on his control, "He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him" (Mark 1:27).

Earthquakes are ultimately from God. Nature does not have a will of its own. And God owes Satan no freedom. What havoc demons wreak, they wreak with God's permission. That's the point of Job 1-2 and Luke 22:31-32.

God does nothing without an infinitely wise and good purpose. "He also is wise and will bring disaster" (Isaiah 31:2). "The Lord is good" (Psalm 100:5).

Therefore, God had good and all-wise purposes for the heart-rending tragedy in Turkey that took thousands of lives on Aug. 17, 1999. Indeed he had hundreds of thousands of purposes, most of which will remain hidden to us until we are able to grasp them at the end of the age. "How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord?" (Romans 11:33-34). "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever" (Deuteronomy 29:29).

Yet there are possible purposes revealed in the Bible that we may pray will come to pass.

First, the end-time earthquakes in the book of Revelation are meant as calls to repentance to warn people who deny Jesus Christ that a day is coming when unbelievers will cry to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb" (Revelation 6:16).

Second, the end-time earthquakes in Matthew 24:7-8 are meant to be interpreted as "the beginning of the birth pangs." That is, they are a wake-up call to this oblivious world that God's kingdom will soon be born; so be alert and prepare to meet Jesus Christ. God's unilateral taking of thousands of lives is a loud declaration that "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away" (Job 1:21).

Third, the message for all the world is that life is a loan from God (Luke 12:20) and belongs to Him. He creates it and gives it and takes it according to His own will and owes us nothing. He has a right to children (2 Samuel 12:15) and to the aged (Luke 2:29). It is a great gift to learn this truth and dedicate our lives to their true owner rather than defraud Him till it is too late.

Fourth, the power felt in an earthquake reveals the fearful magnificence of God. This is a great gift since "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Psalm 111:10). Most of the world does not fear the Lord and therefore lacks saving wisdom.

Finally, when the earth shakes under your feet there is a dramatic sense that there is no place to flee. In most disasters the earth is the one thing that stands firm when wind and flood are raging. But where do you turn when the earth itself is unsafe? Answer: God.

May the Lord fulfill two other purposes for this painful catastrophe: That Christians repent of worldliness. "I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3). That Christians, around the world, step forward with extraordinary, sacrificial love to show more clearly the mercy of Christ who laid down his life in the midst of the Father's judgment.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Are you religious or spiritual?

Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:10)

Here is a recent posting by Marcia Segelsteinon on World Magazine's website.

One of the more memorable bumper stickers I’ve seen read: “Spiritual people inspire me. Religious people frighten me.” It’s hip to be “spiritual.” It’s pretty easy, too. Light a few aromatherapy candles, close your eyes and breathe deeply. If the subject comes up at the next cocktail party you attend, feel free to disclose your practice of “spirituality.” No doubt you’ll be lauded, or perhaps just gazed upon with wonder. But get on your knees every day to confess your sins and go to church on Sundays to acknowledge the sacrifice that bought your salvation—now that’s another matter.

The Barna Group, a research organization specializing in matters of faith and culture, just released a summary of its findings regarding religion in America in 2009. One of the primary themes that emerged is that, as the report phrased it, “Americans are more interested in faith and spirituality than in Christianity.” Part of that is due, Barna says, to the unfavorable portrayal of Christianity and Christians in the media. Many Americans don’t want to be part of an institutional framework, i.e., a specific church or denomination with prescribed beliefs. In fact, 71 percent of those surveyed said they will “develop their own slate of religious beliefs rather than accept a package of beliefs promoted by a church or denomination.” Only half of those surveyed who identify themselves as Christians “firmly believe that the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles (not the facts, just the principles) that it teaches.”

Based on this research, George Barna writes, “The purpose of faith, for most Americans, is not so much to discover truth or to relate to a loving, praiseworthy deity as it is to become happy, successful, comfortable and secure. For a growing percentage of citizens, their sense of spirituality, more than Christianity, facilitates those outcomes.” It reminds me of a conversation I had with my grandmother, a retired missionary with whom I studied the Bible regularly. When I was in college, she asked me why I went to church. I thought about it and replied that it made me feel good. She gently reminded me that the purpose of going to church is not to make me feel good; it’s to make God feel good, as it were, by worshipping Him.

Friday, January 8, 2010

“If the World Hates You . . . “

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you." (John 15:18)

"3 Malaysian churches attacked in Allah dispute” - Associated Press, 2010-01-08

Religious tensions in Muslim-majority Malaysia turned violent Friday with firebomb attacks on three churches following a court decision that allows Christians to translate God as Allah. "Allah is only for us," said a poster waved at one of at least two protests outside mosques in Kuala Lumpur on Friday, the Muslim holy day. Many Muslims are angry about a Dec. 31 High Court decision overturning a government ban on Roman Catholics' using "Allah" for God in the Malay-language edition of their main newspaper, the Herald. . . .

Since the court ruling, hateful comments and threats against Christians have been posted widely on the Internet, but the attacks in suburban Kuala Lumpur, the capital, mark the first time that the Allah controversy has resulted in vandalism. In the worst incident, the ground-floor office of the three-story Metro Tabernacle Church was gutted by a firebomb thrown by attackers on motorcycles, police said. The upstairs prayer halls were undamaged. Two other churches were attacked hours later, one suffering minor damage while the other was undamaged. At least one other church canceled its Friday Mass and locked its doors, fearing an attack. "We never know what might happen because the situation is so tense," said the Rev. Father Paulino Miranda of the Church of Divine Mercy in Shah Alam, the capital of Selangor state.
"Q & A: Brit Hume" - Christianity Today, 2010-01-06

Fox News analyst Brit Hume received backlash this week over his suggestion that Tiger Woods should turn to Christianity.

"Tiger Woods will recover as a golfer. Whether he can recover as a person, I think is a very open question," Hume said on the show Fox News Sunday. "The Tiger Woods that emerges, once the news value dies out of this scandal, the extent to which he can recover, seems to me, depends on his faith. He's said to be a Buddhist. I don't think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith. So my message to Tiger would be, Tiger, turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world."
"Why Brit Hume Comment on Tiger Woods is Creepy, Wrong" – U.S.. News and World Report, 2010-01-08

It takes a religious zealot to strap explosives around his or her waist and, murmuring prayers, blow up a CIA facility in Afghanistan, or take down an airplane over Detroit, or steer a jet into the World Trade Center. Or, for that matter, to treat the world to Crusades and Inquisitions and the kind of faith-based savagery we've seen in places like Belfast, Bosnia, Beirut, and Jerusalem. That is what made Brit's comments so creepy: the self-certainty that "my god is better than yours." Hume has the right to yak. People get paid to say all sorts of provocative things these days. I have no doubt that some of his best friends are Jewish, or Buddhist, or of a different Christian denomination. I am sure he loves all wogs, in his way. But, jeez, what a stupid thing to think.
“But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved." (Mark 13:9-13)

Monday, January 4, 2010

As for Me and My House, We Will Serve the Lord!

The last three weeks we were again blessed to spend the holidays together as a family at home on Vancouver Island. The year 2010 will mark the 17th year that we responded to God's call to serve our Lord in full-time vocational ministry. Since that time we have been deeply humbled and eternally grateful to have served Jesus at seven different churches in four different states in the U.S. (Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois) and one province in Canada (British Columbia) - along with a number of short term mission trips to four different countries (Philippines, Brazil, Mexico, Uruguay) and countless hours serving in prisons, campgrounds, Christian retreat centers, and rescue missions.

I emphasize we were called by God in 1993 because wherever God has sent us, each member of our family ultimately becomes involved in some aspect of ministry. Nancy has always served the our churches as a pastor's wife, in women's ministry, on worship teams, and personal friend to many - but even more so as my best friend and greatest support. As they grew older, our children have always served our churches, most often in the areas of youth and worship. Currently Eric is attending seminary in Boston and serving a church plant there, and Jennifer has just finished her seminary studies on campus also in Boston and is in the process of seeking a full time ministry position. Micah is currently serving Arrowsmith Baptist on the youth ministry team, worship team, and as a sound technician. By God's grace truly I can say: "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

Botzet family 1993

Botzet family 2010

Friday, January 1, 2010

January 1, 2010 - The Promise of God for Port Alberni, BC

"When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth." (Genesis 9:16)