Archive for February, 2022

HEALED

February 27, 2022

A 102-year-old invalid saint was healed Friday afternoon, and this Lord’s day she is worshiping in the church eternal. For five and a half years I have been visiting Marjorie Lopshire monthly. For that entire time, and for 12 years prior, she spent her days in her wheelchair at a card table, Bible and devotional reading within reach, beside her bed in the living room of the home where she had lived for over half a century, cared for by her devoted daughter. Her vision was bad, her hearing was worse, and her hands were paralyzed and minimally functional. Her memory files were a bit musty, tho no more than mine. There was nothing wrong with her mind. It was at her front door where I learned that all you have to do to make an old saint happy in shut-in ministry is to show up. I also learned how to keep the conversation going between a 78-year-old former fighter pilot whose swagger is now stooped and slow, but whose arrogance is still untamed, and a 100-year-old outspoken elder’s widow and mother of three: just interview her–explore every bunny trail with questions, then listen.

Marjorie rode her own motorcycle. She was a golfer. She got a hole-in-one once and I marveled anew every time she told the story. She remembers, as a little girl, standing with her uncle in front of a Christmas tree at his home in Chicago as he told her about his time on the campaign staff of Abraham Lincoln. He concluded his story with, ‘…and that is why you must always vote Republican.’
She said, “And I always have.” For her 100th birthday I arranged for her to receive a birthday greeting from the President of the United States, a Republican.

Marjorie wrote numerous articles for our church periodicals over the years. For her 102nd birthday her daughters gathered several of them up and published them in a book. She was overwhelmed with joy and gave me a copy as a gift. I asked her if she would please autograph it. She painstakingly signed her name with her nose nearly touching the book, then looked up at me, handed me the pen and said so sweetly, “Would you please dot my ‘i’s?”

We always ended our time together with devotions and prayer. She got the most wide-eyed angelic look of concentration on her face as I read scripture to her (picture above). When we prayed I put my hand on top of her permanently clenched fist resting on the table and she moved her other hand on top of mine. I then put my hand on top of the stack and we prayed with stacked hands. On my departure she always expressed the most heart-melting appreciation for my visit.

Marjorie often reminded me that she prayed every day that God would heal her. I always replied that indeed he would, either in this life or in heaven. On her deathbed, after I finished reading the 23rd Psalm and praying with her, I reminded her of her daily prayer for healing and told her that she would be healed very soon. She could not reply to anything I said, but her eyebrows arched and her eyes went from a half-open glassy stare to wide-eyed angelic, a profoundly moving image that will never get musty in my memory file. An hour after I left she was healed. 

As I left her presence for the last time on Earth, she bequeathed to me, via her daughter, her favorite piece of pottery art that she had made and fired in her own kiln many years ago–praying hands. Sometimes arrogant old men cry too.

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15).

See you in church.

“…DETERMINED PERSEVERANCE…”

February 20, 2022

My friend’s unbelieving friend was on his deathbed at an early age this past week. My friend emailed him a powerful personal gospel invitation as he lay on the threshold of eternity. If ever a soul would be receptive to the gospel invitation, surely this was the time. My friend shared his very moving email with our men’s Bible study group and asked us to pray for this man’s salvation. The man’s only reply to the invitation that it was so good to hear from him… and nothing more. Tragically, 36 hours later he was dead.

J.C. Ryle said, “The thing that ought to fill us with surprise [and overwhelming sadness] is the obstinate unbelief of the ungodly, and their determined perseverance in the way to ruin.” Jesus himself even “…marveled because of their unbelief” (Mark 6:6).

Unbelieving friends ask, “How could a good God send anyone to hell?” He sends no one to hell, they get there by obstinate unbelief and determined perseverance in the face of unequivocal warnings and an open invitation to freely avoid it and enjoy an eternity of the extreme opposite. It’s the worst possible human tragedy.

My friend and I prayed that before the guy drew his last breath he saw the light. The thief on the cross, in his dying moments, confessed belief in Jesus and was in Paradise with him before the day was over. But don’t presume that you will be given the opportunity at the last moment, my unbelieving friend. In the words of the ghost rider in the sky, “cowboy, change your ways today,” your mind may be muddled on your deathbed. There may well not even be a deathbed. Our Sovereign God has innumerable ways and every right to withhold your next breath or disable your mental capacity without further notice.

“Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live…”(Isaiah 55:3).

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36).

“Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).

See you in church

THE EVERLASTING THRILL OF VICTORY

February 13, 2022

“Bengals in the Super Bowl” is not a common alliteration. What a delightful diversion from real life in a hard winter for the fans and a real bonding moment for the citizens of Cincinnati! I’m not the football fan I used to be, but Joe Burrow is every high school quarterback dream I ever had come true, and I derive great vicarious pleasure in his success. I wish him and the Bengals well, and I wish it were Super Bowl Saturday instead so I could watch it real time without getting crossways with the Fourth Commandment–“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy”(Exodus 20:8-11). In my renewed fan-dom I have been looking for divine loopholes in God’s Word all week and have found none. Nor did I find any wiggle room in my go-to Westminster theologians (WSC Q/A # 57-62). I’ll wait till Monday and watch the YouTube Super Bowl highlights, minus the uneventful parts, the insufferably long halftime debauchery, seemingly endless inane commercials and overwrought commentary–just the best football that can be seen.

When the thrill of victory has faded,  the message that will endure was printed on kicking hero Evan McPherson’s T-shirt at the post-game press conference of the game where he kicked the Bengals into the Bowl–GOD IS GOOD. Indeed. He has promised me a personal victory, not a tentative vicarious one, that I did not/can not earn. The date has been set but he hasn’t told me what it is, just to be ready. The thrill of victory will far exceed that of a spectator sport and will never wane, not a silver trophy that tarnishes with time but an “unfading crown of glory.” So in the holiness of this Sabbath rest we’ll be worshipping the God who has promised the everlasting thrill of victory in Jesus. We owe him that and so much more. It will be a Super Sunday. They’re all super. GOD IS GOOD.

See you in church

REPENT

February 6, 2022

Naptime, summer of ’49. I was 5 years old and awake, listening to Vaughn Monroe on the radio singing Ghost Riders in the Sky, and Mom was humming harmony in her angelic soprano to his melodious baritone. I’ve never forgotten that moment and that classic song (#1 song of 1949), but it was years later before I came to appreciate the import of the lyrics. They were a cowboy’s mournful warning from an airborne gaunt-faced ghost rider from hell who was chasing a cattle stampede: “If you wanna save your soul from hell a-riding on our range, then cowboy change your ways today or with us you will ride, trying to catch the devil’s herd across these endless skies.”

“Change your ways” is the literal translation of the Greek word rendered “repent” in the Bible. Repent, cowboy. Both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ began their preaching ministries with “Repent, the kingdom of God is at hand.” Change your ways, the kingdom of God is at hand.

On our best day we fall far short of perfection and therefore fail to meet the requirements for admittance to the Mansions of the Lord. That’s why we need to repent, to change our ways and trust in the only perfection that exists–Christ alone and his atoning sacrifice on the cross. “I’m good enough” won’t get your ticket punched. If you were good enough Christ wouldn’t have needed to die on the cross. That horrific method of execution is a profound graphic witness to God’s abhorrence of sin. His only begotten Son voluntarily dying that way as atonement for the sins of his chosen is a profound graphic witness of a saving love beyond comprehension. Infinite wrath meets infinite love at the cross–Amazing Grace! Ignoring or denying this salvation by Christ’s death, the only way that exists (John 14:6), is an egregious insult to God–a sin of the highest order that makes a shipwreck of your soul.

Aside from God’s clear command to his followers to warn unbelievers or else (Ezekiel 3:18), what kind of friend would I be if I did not do my utmost to warn you of your horrible fate if you do not believe and put your faith in Christ? J.C. Ryle said, “It is no real kindness to keep back the terrors of the Lord.” God forbid we should be standing in different queues on Judgment Day and you are shouting to me in utter anguish, “Why didn’t you tell me?”

I’m telling you now, unbelieving friend. If you want to save your soul from hell, repent–change your ways today. The consequences of noncompliance are much worse than riding hard a fire-snorting horse chasing red-eyed cows with brands still on fire…forever.

[Jesus said,] “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:17–18).

[Jesus said,] “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5).

“God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Matthew 18:13).

See you in church.


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