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June 24, 2012. Living Hope Church in St. Michael-Albertville, MN.  Sunday night service.  This message follows the death and funeral earlier in the week of our congregation’s dear friend Jeremy Erickson.  Many in our church prayed hard for Jeremy’s recovery.  We asked for a miraculous healing, but Jeremy left us for heaven even so.  The death of a loved one raises many questions…

Does God exist?  If so, can he hear our prayers?  Is He simply so HUGE that He doesn’t bother with our little lives? And who is to blame for this loss?  Didn’t we pray hard enough, or correct enough?  Was it sin in Jeremy’s life that caused him to suffer and die?  Or was that God’s plan?  And if he can do anything, but he didn’t choose to heal Jeremy, how can he be good?  Even more to the point… is his heart good towards me?

So many questions.  This message wades into the deeper water, where our theology is tested in a sea of grieving.  In the deep water, God comes to us.

Click on the tab below to stream the audio…

Jeremy Erickson. Entered heaven on June 10, 2012. Thank you, God, for his life and friendship. Jer, I’m looking forward to seeing you again.

through water and fire

November 1, 2011 — Leave a comment

October 30, 2011. Living Hope Church in St. Michael-Albertville, MN.  Sunday night service.  This message is taken from Isaiah 43:1-7. It’s a message to Christ followers who are going through extremely difficult circumstances… times the old testament writers would refer to in poetic, idiomatic language… “going through water and fire.” In these desperate times, Isaiah 43 brings us this encouragement:

Don’t be afraid, because God is with you!


VIDEO NOTES: The video here begins a few minutes into my message after I had talked about my dear friends Jeremy and Jenny Erickson. You can see their picture on the screen behind me as the video starts. Jeremy was in the hospital awaiting news of a bone marrow scan that would eventually reveal a pre-leukemia disorder, and Jenny had just received word that her dad had died in a car accident. That is going through water and fire. I had the Ericksons in my mind as I prepared and delivered this message.  Ongoing prayers for their family are deeply appreciated.

Also on this video, we decided to include some of our closing song. If you are interested in finding it for use in your own church, it is called “Covenant Song,” written by Aaron Senseman, copyright 2000 Stuntman Music (Admin. by Music Services, Inc.)

We ended our service Sunday night in a prayer huddle around Pastor Bob’s son, Joshua Halvorson, who is a Marine being deployed to Afghanistan this week… through water and fire. We will keep Joshua in our prayers, too.



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“through water and fire” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Thankfully, the majority of the five boys under my roof still think, at least to some degree, that girls have cooties.  I’m all for it.

The day will soon be upon me when their vision will be transformed.  Girls will no longer be mystifying, unexplainable… weirdos.  They will soon become equally mystifying and unexplainable… yet irresistibly appealing.  Such is the way of the world, I suppose.

Achhh!  The world! Culture and the flesh… partnering up again to infect the innocent.  My boys’ upcoming hormonal hurricane is just another stroke in the case against this world and all of its carnality and rottenness.  Wouldn’t it just be EASIER if my boys thought girls had cooties… right up until they say “I Do”?

There is a growing movement in the Christian community… a sub-culture within the sub-culture. It is family focused, protectionist, and isolationist.  And it tends to view the world around us as if it has cooties.  Only these cooties have real spiritual power, and once they take root in a believer, they spread like a cancer.  Sucking the spiritual life out of a person with small temptations that lead to moderate indiscretions and overlooked compromises, which easily turn into large scale sin problems, which will eventually grow into full blown apostasy.  Beware the power of this cultural leaven, which is sure to tarnish the whole loaf.  Beware the corruption of culture. The world has cooties, and these bad boys are Ebola to the soul.

So, for protection of the family, Christians don a HAZMAT suit of their own construction, finding support in the Bible for keeping the culture at arm’s length.

What does this cultural HAZMAT suit look like? Kids are home schooled.  Kids are often not allowed to attend a church Sunday School or Youth Group because of the influence of the unregenerate hooligans who attend.  Besides, the spiritual instruction of the children is a PARENT’S responsibility, anyway…  not to be left in the hands of another believer who may or may not share the same scriptural convictions.  In fact, many families are actually deciding against participation in an organized congregation with traditional pastoral leadership, opting instead for home church, led by dad… or maybe shared leadership with a few other like-minded families.  TV, movies, music, etc. are closely monitored for signs of cultural cootie-ness.  And life centers on and revolves around the godly home – the family. Children are “trained up in the way they should go,” and a healthy concern for cultural contamination is modeled and reinforced.

Here’s an honest moment for you… that sounds AWESOME.  We actually DO home-school our kids (for a number of reasons), and I LOVE my family.  So I would love to hunker down with them and make my boys and my bride our primary platform for Christian fellowship.  I hate the effect of sin on our culture, and it breaks my heart to see my boys’ innocence lost as we have to help them understand murder, lust, greed, perversion…  My kids light my world – and so does Amy.  If I could pull it off somehow, I recognize the draw of the HAZMAT suit. I wish… often… that I could more adequately shield my family from the cooties of the world.

Can you understand, from a Christian point of view, why this isolationism has appeal and is gaining steam?  Doesn’t it make sense in this perverse culture not to “conform to the pattern of this world” (Romans 12:2) and to “go out from their midst and be separate from them?”  (2 Corinthians 6:17)

In other words… to be OUT OF the world, and NOT OF it.

BUT...  (and this is a BIG “but…”)

Honest question:  is the culture our enemy?

Should we circle the wagons and don the HAZMAT suit and protect our kids from a case of the cancerous culture cooties at the cost of cultural engagement?

I can’t answer that question for you.  I have good friends who have gone the isolationist way.  I know families – good families – who love the Lord and are doing their best to honor him by reflecting a DIFFERENT way of life – a separate and distinct, transformed life with their family.  BUT…

I have some significant concern as I see this trend growing – gaining strength – a movement away from not only culture, but even from organized church fellowship in many cases.  I see intentional disengagement from the world we live in, with all of its hurt and need.  And lost people.  Dying people.  Damned people.

With humility, I submit we take our cue from Jesus Himself on this issue.  He did not come to condemn the world (John 3:17) – and his harshest words were not for the culture around him.  Christ came as a transformer of culture.  He came as a Redeemer – literally to “buy back” from the tyranny of slavery the souls of dying men and women in His culture and in ours.  Jesus didn’t endorse or participate in a separatist lifestyle.  Instead he used positive illustrations from culture as parables.  He participated in His culture, engaging it, and shining a light into its dark corners.  In His last hour of freedom before being captured and taken to his death, Jesus prayed in John 17 for ALL believers… both then and now.  And what was that prayer?

“Not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one.”

Like I said before, it is not my place to choose for you how to live out your faith.  But I submit this for consideration… CULTURE is not our enemy. Sin is.  Satan is.  I see culture as a theater in which God’s glory can be displayed – to both the redeemed and the resistant.  Instead of being OUT OF and NOT OF the world, maybe we are called to be IN, but NOT OF…  Maybe in order to be salt and light, we need to rub shoulders with the needy people in dark places.  If not us, who will go? Culture is a minefield.  It is dangerous, without question.

I submit that we need to embrace the danger inherent in engaging our culture, for the sake of the Gospel.  And instead of relying on the safety of a subculture to protect us or our children, let’s echo and trust Jesus’ prayer on our behalf.  No more HAZMAT suit.  No more cooties.  Our family will be a redemptive force in the lives of those we rub shoulders with on purpose.


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“the world’s got cooties! get it off! get it off!” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

There is a team of artist-historians called StoryCorps who are recording and illuminating the stories of everyday real people.

This is the story of Danny and Alice.  Danny is dying.

I have three thoughts:

(1)  I love my Amy.  I love her.

(2)  Everybody, everybody, everybody dies some day.

(3)  I Thessalonians 4:13-14 >> “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.  For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died.”

    

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“danny loves annie :: danny is dying :: hope stronger than wishes” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

I have a friend whom I love.  He is a mirror.  When he creates art, it’s like he’s holding up a big mirror toward heaven at just the right angle, so when I look at his art, I just see God loving me in the reflecting part.

Jeremy Erickson  ::  Dakota Skies

To know Jeremy more deeply, visit JeremyErickson.com.  And you do want to know Jeremy more deeply.  His life/art/story/faith/God will make your life more beautiful.

Thanks Jer, for letting me post this here.  The honor is mine, brother.

    

 

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“dakota skies :: jeremy erickson, art, and mirrors” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

It was September, I think. 2007.  I remember realizing that I couldn’t even talk on the phone.  Coughing blood.  My “asthma” was beyond me.  Feeling dizzy.  Asked my father-in-law to bring me to the ER.  Blood Oxygen level was at 84%.  Doctors considered a ventilator.  Checked into the ICU…

EKG wasn’t right.  Something wrong.  Pulmonologist introduced a new team leader.  A cardiologist.  My heart was failing.

Viral Cardiomyopathy.  My heart muscle caught a cold, and the virus weakened it.  Enlarged it.  My heart was pumping less than 50% of normal capacity.  I was looking at a life with very little running, lifting, or salt.  I was looking at a shorter life.  More tests.  A few months later, we decided to pull the trigger.  I’m now the proud owner of an $80,000 defibrillator, just below my left collarbone.  Just in case…

Fast forward to a year and a half ago now.  I’m meeting my friend Brian from church for lunch.  In an hour I have an echocardiogram scheduled.  I’ve been feeling weird – ankles swelling some.  Not good signs.  I’m expecting bad news.  Heart weakening.  Start considering transplant.  Braced for reality.  Before we eat our beef lomein and sesame chicken, Brian prays for our meal…

“And Lord, heal Josh’s heart.  Amen.”

That whacked me like a truck.  I’d stopped praying that prayer a long time ago.  It’s not that I doubted God’s power.  I just thought He had decided.  He had heard all our early prayers for healing.  And still… no.  Still we needed the defibrillator.  Still no progress.  Still 50% capacity.  So to hear someone just flat out ask God to heal me made me realize how little I was excercising my faith.

“Brian… that nailed me.  I haven’t even asked Him for healing in… a long time.” 

Fast forward an hour and a half.  Nurse checking my echo.  “What… when did you have cardiomyopathy?  What was your ejection fraction again?  Just last year?  Hmm…”

Enter the cardiologist. 

“Son… your heart is as good as mine.  Perfect.  I can’t explain it… I can’t take credit for it.”

Shock.  Awe.  Worship.  “I know Who to give to credit to.  We’ve been praying that I would be healed.”

Doc looks at me over his bifocals.  “I think you’re right about that.”

– – – – – – – – – – –

I tell that story for only one reason:  to give God the credit.  He healed me.  It is a medical miracle.  My heart is totally normal.  God did that.  Because He is God and He is GOOD.

But I also tell that story because He could have chosen NOT to heal me.  And if THAT was His choice, He would still be God.  And He would still be GOOD.

I don’t know how I rate.  I get to see my boys grow up and marry.  I get to grow old with Amy.  I get to play with grandkids.  At least that’s my plan.  But if not, God is still God, and He is still good.

Today I saw this story about Zac from Newspring Church, thanks to Carlos WhittakerIt speaks for itself…

 

No matter what.  Do you believe that, too?

 

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miralces, healing… or not :: god is good by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Matt Chandler is the Lead Pastor of The Village Church, a church in Dallas, TX.  His Thanksgiving Day didn’t exactly go as planned this year.  On Thursday morning, Matt had a seizure and woke up in the hospital.  After a battery of tests, a two inch wide tumor was found in his brain, and his only viable course of treatment was potentially life-threatening surgery to remove the growth.

This Sunday, before undergoing surgery, Matt talked (in this video) with his church family… and with believers around the country who were lifting him and the Chandler family up in prayer.

NOTE: All copies of Matt’s video greeting to his church before surgery have been removed from YouTube at the request of his church.  To see his faith-filled message, visit The Village Church website and watch it here.

Thank God for faith like this.  I can’t imagine facing my fragile mortality eye to eye without an assurance of Jesus’ advocacy on my behalf.  Faith that God is strong and real and mine.  I know that the Bible tells us – God tells us… Do not be afraid.  But if anything would shake me it would be cancer.  My family has fought it together.  My very closest friends have fought it together.  Cancer is ugly.  And I’ve seen it up close.  And I don’t want it.

But “whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say… it is well with my soul.”  Only faith does that.  For my non-believing friends, I don’t want you to miss out on this very real benefit of knowing Jesus.  Fear is overwhelmed by faith.  When things are clicking and the world is beautiful, we have reasons to shout our praise to God.  But when the very real pain and heartbreak and fear come close – we still have reasons to shout our praise to God.  Only faith does this.  Only Jesus.

Some day I will write about what it means to share one another’s burderns – what is was like to watch and walk with a close friend battling cancer.  But not today.

Someday I will write more about my own eye to eye look at my fragile life – and about the defibrillator in my chest that reminds me everyday.  But not today.

Today Matt Chandler is showing us the strength that comes from deep, foundational faith.  Cancer can scare me in my weak moments.  But faith brings irrational peace, and it turns cancer on its head.  Matt Chandler will never be the same after this.  As his faith sustains him, it will be increased.  Exponential blessing for Matt.  Exponential blessing for the Church.

UPDATE 12/28/09 >> Prognosis is cancer.  Read the latest from his church and keep up to date here >> http://bit.ly/6scEvL

God protect and bless Matt and his family.  Increase my faith, Lord, by whatever means necessary.  May Your goodness be revealed, may you receive the glory, and may Your Church have ears to hear you in times like these.

 

 

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“matt chandler addresses the village :: cancer, faith, strength” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.