Earlier this week, while visiting Great Smoky Mountains National Park with my family, I was reminded of the fact that no matter how dark things are in the valleys, the sun is always shining above the clouds. Anyone who has ever flown in an airplane knows this, of course, but we don’t often have the opportunity to experience it in a car. With the temperature hovering around 30oF and a thick fog settling over the park, it was not a great day for scenic views. In the morning we drove over 75 miles through dense forest on a road that ran along a swiftly flowing stream. We could see the stream, the trees, and the landscape around us but, looking up, we could not see the hilltops or the sky or the sun. In fact, the cloud-cover was so dense at higher elevations that everything was covered with a heavy layer of hoarfrost. Although eerily beautiful, it was as if all the colors were muted and the world was dominated by grays, browns, and whites.
Last week I had the privilege of preaching at the installation service of a dear friend who has been in the ministry for over a decade and has just taken a call to one of the largest and healthiest congregations in his denomination. He is a very gifted man, and I am confident that the Lord will bless his ministry there. I have the feeling that his congregation could sit back and relax and that things will run pretty well for the foreseeable future. Of course, there will be the challenging shepherding situation here and there, the wayward child of the congregation who needs attention, disagreements about what Sunday school classes to offer next quarter, discussions about how much to give to this or that missionary endeavor, debates over how much to spend on the update to the nursery, and a hundred other similar types of issues to address. But, by-and-large, the congregation will hum along and everyone involved will enjoy a comfortable situation. They will receive a high degree of pastoral care from the pastors and elders. They will hear good preaching on a consistent basis. They will have interesting Bible studies and classes to attend. The church will […]
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:34, NKJ).
Today is C1D1 for me. That stands for “Cycle 1, Day 1,” the first day of the first cycle of a 14-month, clinical trial to treat recurrent chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). CLL is a blood cancer caused by a proliferation of white blood cells called lymphocytes. Healthy lymphocytes produce antibodies that help our bodies fight off infections. Some years ago one of my lymphocytes acquired mutations that caused it to divide out of control. As a result my bone marrow and lymphatic system are crowded with non-functional descendants of that original aberrant lymphocyte. This makes it difficult for my body to make healthy blood cells, and, a result, my immune system is weakened and I am anemic. If left untreated, those cancerous white blood cells will destroy my immune system and my ability to get oxygen to my cells.
“Let all things be done decently and in order” (1Corinthians 14:40, NKJ).
As our denomination prepares for the annual meetings of Synod next week, the difficult task of reading and digesting a mountain of reports and of organizing my schedule to accommodate being gone for the better part of a week is upon me. While I do enjoy visiting with friends whom I’ve not seen for many months, I must confess that church meetings are not something I look forward to with much anticipation. Sitting in one room for hours, parliamentary procedure, eating institutional food, sleeping in a dorm room, listening to seemingly endless debates and reports – none of it really appeals. After about a day and a half, I am ready to give up and go home. But this year I am heading to our annual meetings with an altered perspective and renewed appreciation for the blessings of ordered and faithful church government.
Every time another Islamic terrorist blows up something or someone, political and media leaders speculate as to the root causes of jihad. What possesses people to sacrifice themselves for the sake of killing others? Former Muslim, Nabeel Qureshi, whose 2014 autobiography Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity describes his journey from committed apologist for Islam to born again Christian, has written helpfully this week in USA Today about the root causes of the radicalization of young Muslims.
The human genome has around three billion base pairs of DNA, and yet our best estimates are that this massive amount of DNA only includes about 20,000 protein-coding genes. These genes amount to a mere 1.5% of the total genome. Scientists have known that some portion of the remaining “non-coding” DNA has regulatory functions but the vast majority of the genome appeared to have no function. When I started a PhD program in molecular biology in 1992, the functionless DNA was sometimes called, “junk DNA” and was considered an artifact of evolution. “No intelligent being would make a genome this inefficient” was a common refrain.
Nearly twenty-five years later it turns out that “junk” is just another name for our ignorance.
Last spring I was working at home when I received a call from a number that I did not recognize. I let it go to voice mail. The same number called again so I decided it might be important and answered. On the other end of the line I heard a strange female voice asking me if I had a daughter, who was an Indiana University student. When I answered in the affirmative, the voice told me that my daughter had been run over by a car while walking on campus and that she was going to the hospital in an ambulance.
The play of the week in the National Football League was not a spectacular, one-handed touchdown catch or a dramatic kickoff return. No, it was a botched fake punt that some pundits are calling the worst play ever called.
A number of years ago a new family in our congregation had just completed the membership class and was preparing to join the church. They were planning to present several children for baptism. Having heard me say in the membership class that for us the mode of baptism is not essential, the father requested immersion for his kids. Somewhat embarrassed, I had to explain that, although we accept any baptism done with water in the name of the Triune God in a true branch of the visible church (whether by immersion, dipping, pouring, or sprinkling), we practiced sprinkling. He was a bit disappointed that we were not a “full service” operation, but agreed that his kids would be sprinkled. That incident prompted me to be much clearer about our position on the mode of baptism in subsequent classes. Although the mode of baptism is not essential, we practice sprinkling. And we practice sprinkling, not because we are too cheap to install a baptismal Jacuzzi or to rent a local swimming pool. No, we practice sprinkling because it is biblical and because it seems to pick up the Old Testament symbolism of ceremonial […]
Several months ago I received the following email from a former student at Indiana University.
“You do not remember me but I was in one of your Biology classes at IU. I teach science and frequently integrate information from your class. Before I joined the Army, you loaned me a book from your church. As I was unpacking at our new house I found it. I cannot tell you how influential you were for me but years ago, as I was reading it, I was saved and baptized while serving [in the military]… Anyway, I would like to return the book to you if you wouldn’t mind giving me the best address to do so. I am truly sorry I have kept it so long!”
This was a student I taught nearly 15 years ago, who was prompted to join the military in the wake of the 9/11 bombings. In nearly 20 years of college teaching, I’ve had numerous opportunities to minister to students in various ways. I’ve given out a lot of books. I could remember this student, but I could not remember what book I’d given out. What book would I give to a young […]