2.12.2009

"The Accident"

I wanted to share with you a testimony from my Dad about his and my mom's car accident back in January. Below is the email he wrote a few days afterwards -- I have abbreviated the names for privacy's sake. Once you see the pics and read the story, you'll see that it's truly a miracle that they survived and that they were relatively uninjured. We are all just so thankful to God that He spared their lives. Please continue to pray for them, because they are still dealing with the emotional trauma of the event. Thanks...

"In my distress I cried unto the Lord, and He heard me." (Psalm 120:1)

"My mouth shall shew forth thy righteousness and thy salvation all the day: for I know not the numbers thereof." (Psalm 71:15)



Dear friends and family,
D__ and I want to thank everyone for the tremendous outpouring of love and concern for us after our accident on 1/10/09. The prayers on our behalf, calls, cards, E-mails, visits, food, etc. has overwhelmed us and we are thankful for each of you. It was really a miracle of God's mercy that we survived and that D___ has recovered so quickly from her near drowning.
Telling this story so many times the last 4 days has been emotionally draining but many want to know the details. Here they are and reflections on things we have learned.

On Saturday afternoon, after spending the morning working with Z___, J___ and K___, D___ and I headed to our cabin at Watauga Lake to check on things. We strapped our two Yorkshire Terriers in their carrying case and placed our two birds into the car and took off to the lake. I was getting sleepy and almost pulled over about a mile from the cabin but "thought I could make it." It was cold and drizzling and about a hundred yards from the cabin, I dozed off, ran off the left side of the road and was awakened by D___'s cry. It was too late!! I stuck a power pole; the car spun around backwards and then plunged down a 150 foot bank. We flipped over several times, knocked down another utility pole and ended up submerged in the lake.

We were both disoriented but still alive. D___ immediately began breathing in water. She was able to loosen her seat belt before she became unconscious. There was a small air pocket on my side of the car and I was able to take a breath, loosen my seatbelt and then God miraculously helped me escape from the car and pull D___ out. She was probably underwater for about 2 minutes and when she came out she was totally unresponsive, pale, her eyes fixed open and I really thought she was dead. After some rescue breaths, pulling her to shore and more rescue breaths God spared her life and she began breathing again. After she woke up I went back and tried to rescue our pets but was not able to free them due to the frigid water temperatures causing numbness of my hands so that they would "no longer work."

The longest 30 minutes of our lives was spent getting back up to the road and to our cabin. D___ was hypothermic and having a lot of trouble breathing from water aspiration into her lungs. We were able to get into the basement where there was a phone, heater and some towels. After calling Z___ and 911, help arrived about 30 minutes later.
D___ spent the night in the hospital on oxygen but did not have to be intubated. By the next day her lungs were much better and miraculously neither one of us had any serious injuries except for some bruises, muscle soreness, and one superficial laceration.

We are now home and recovering well physically, but still having a difficult time over losing 4 pets. I'm especially grateful knowing I could have lost so much more. God spared D___'s life (and mine) for which I will always be grateful!!

Some lessons learned:
1) Always wear your seatbelts – had we not had them on, we most likely would have been thrown from the car and seriously injured or killed.
2) If you get sleepy, pull over right then! You may not make it (I didn't!!)
3) Enjoy all the precious things God has given us in life to enjoy (puppies, birds, etc.) They can be gone in a few seconds.
4) Most important - When you have just taken a 150 foot plunge into an ice cold lake and you know you have but a few seconds to live, nothing you have (money, possessions, titles, 401Ks, etc.) can save you. Only our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ can do that. We all have a natural fear of death but we know that unless the Lord returns first, we will all have to take that step sooner or later. Saturday just wasn't our day but being that close has a way of getting your attention! We're glad we didn't have to go without saying bye to our family. Having our family separated would have been heartbreaking, but as Christians going to be with the Lord together would be unimaginable joy.

The day after we got home D___ home from the hospital we got our mail and received the January 2009 edition of Bible Prophecy Insights entitled "What Happens When You Die?" I had read the main article by Dr. David Reagan of Lamb and Lion Ministries before, but this time I read it with renewed interest. It's the best Biblical summary of what the Christian's hope is that I have ever seen. You can pull it up by going to http://www.lamblion.com/ and typing "What Happens When You Die" into the Search engine. If you can't find it, see me and I will give you a copy.

D___ and I don't know why God chose to spare us but we appreciate more that each day and our possessions are gifts to use wisely. We still grieve over the loss of 4 small "friends" that He allowed us to enjoy for the past few years but we pray some good may come out of this tragedy. For us the greatest loss would be that anyone that reads an account of this "miracle" would not know Jesus Christ as His Lord and Savior. That is our prayer for all of you and we thank God for each of you in our prayers.

"O Lord, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: thou hast kept me alive..., To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever." (Psalm 30:3a, 12)
J__ & D___

2.10.2009

TRAAAADITIOOOON! Tradition!



If you’ve ever seen Fiddler on the Roof, you’ll remember our ol’ lovable Jewish friend Tevya belting out that song. With Christmas just behind us and Easter just ahead of us, and with some discussions I’ve been having with friends recently, I’ve found myself thinking about traditions lately. What are they, where do they come from, why do we do them, and why do people have such strong feelings either for or against them?

So, what ARE traditions, exactly? According to the definition I’m after in Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, a tradition is:

2. The delivery of opinions, doctrines, practices, rites and customs from father to son, or from ancestors to posterity; the transmission of any opinions or practice from forefathers to descendants by oral communication, without written memorials. Thus children derive their vernacular language chiefly from tradition. Most of our early notions are received by tradition from our parents.
3. That which is handed down from age to age by oral communication. The Jews pay great regard to tradition in matters of religion, as do the Romanists. Protestants reject the authority of tradition in sacred things, and rely only on the written word. Traditions may be good or bad, true or false. (http://1828.mshaffer.com/d/search/word,tradition)

And, being a Christian, I’m most interested to see what the Bible has to say about traditions. We find passages on both sides of the issue. For example:

Matthew 15:3But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?

and…

2 Thessalonians 2:15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.

There are several other verses regarding tradition, but most of them are along the lines of one or the other of the above. So apparently, traditions in and of themselves are neutral sorts of things – they’re just a medium for conveying a message, like art. (Don’t even get me started on art right now, that’s a post for another day.) So, it basically boils down to this: traditions are okay as long as the meaning behind them is there and is remembered and is something good. The Bible doesn’t condemn all traditions. So, in observing them (or not observing them), we need to examine our motivations and make sure we are doing it for the right reasons.

The Bible makes it very clear that if traditions are to be observed, they are to be supported by Truth and should point us to some truth about God or His plan. Jesus criticized the Pharisees many times for being consumed with the acts of traditions and laws but completely missing the spirit that was behind them. They became empty rituals for them, and they were missing out on the meaning that God had put behind those traditions.

However, the Bible DOES encourage us to keep traditions PROPERLY. The Jews were commanded to observe several different Feasts throughout the year, such as Passover, Pentecost, Feast of Trumpets, Feast of Booths, etc. And when God told them to keep these feasts, He was very particular about what they should do, and how it should be done. The point of all of this was not only to make them remember all the things God had done for them (such as delivering them out of slavery and sparing their firstborns in Egypt during Passover), but also to point them to the Redemption story of Christ (He is our Passover lamb).

Our Bible study group just finished a study on the Feasts of Israel, and if you begin to study them, you will see so many amazing parallels to Christ in them – they all point to Him, His life, His First or Second Coming. It’s truly amazing and encouraging when you begin to see the parallels, and I strongly encourage you to study it on your own. (The study we did was The Feasts of the Lord DVD series by Mark Biltz – listen online or order DVD set here: http://elshaddaiministries.us/audio/feasts.html).

We also observe the tradition of Communion. Communion is a blessing to us – not the physical action of it – but because it serves as a visual reminder that Jesus’ body was broken and his blood shed for us. He told us to do it to REMEMBER that. So we receive Communion to help us remember His sacrifice on a regular basis, and it also gives us an opportunity for self-examination, confession, and reconciliation with God and our brother.

The problem with traditions comes when we lose sight of the meaning behind them and do them just to do them (or when we make up our own meaningless ones that take away from the true message of the real traditions – can anyone say Easter Bunny and Santa Clause???). It’s very much like the Law and Grace. Galatians 3:24 tells us, “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” The purpose of the law is to lead us to Christ! It’s to point out our guilt and complete inability to keep it, and thus to show us how much we need a Savior! The Pharisees became so caught up in trying to keep the law that they became full of self-righteousness and pride and rejected Jesus when He came. They completely missed the point and purpose of the Law, and thus the Law became useless to them. And Jesus criticized them for it. Traditions are much the same way. When we do them just for the sake of doing them, but have no idea why we are doing them or what the meaning is behind them, then they become useless and vain rituals.
(Image borrowed from Despair, Inc.)

So then, how should we, as Christians and as the Church, deal with choosing and observing traditions?

First, we need to examine the ones we ARE observing and make sure that they are founded on Scriptural truth. If they are, we need to make sure that we are explaining the meaning behind them to younger believers and our children as they grow up doing them. This is a key point. I once heard a story about a church that nearly split over a communion cloth. No kidding. This church had been following the tradition of keeping a particular embroidered cloth over the communion elements before the service. When it came time to serve the communion out, the elder would pick up the cloth, fold it, and lay it on the table. After years of doing this every Sunday, someone proposed that they get rid of the cloth since it was getting very tattered. Many people in the congregation were aghast that anyone would suggest eliminating what they saw as a very vital part of their communion service. During a congregational meeting about it, someone finally asked, “Why do we even have a cloth covering the dishes?” No one seemed to know, until an elderly woman spoke up and said, “Well, before air conditioning, we used to keep the windows open in the summer, and the cloth was to keep the flies off!” Needless to say, this particular tradition had no Scriptural truth behind it, the meaning was unknown, and there was no real edification in the observance of it. There’s no point to empty traditions like this, and we need to eliminate them.

Second, we need to make sure that we are observing meaningful traditions, because they serve as wonderful visual reminders of the things that God has done for us, or the things that He will do for us. I’ve never understood churches that only observe communion on infrequent occasions because they’re afraid it will become meaningless if they do it too often. Communion isn’t meaningless. It has an incredible amount of meaning and symbolism behind it. Shouldn’t we, rather than eliminating the tradition, just make sure that we are remembering what Jesus did for us when we partake of it?

There is a trend today in which churches are trying to get away from traditions that are done for traditions’ sake, and that’s probably a good thing in many ways. But in our zeal, let’s make sure we’re not throwing the baby out with the bath water. We must be careful not to throw something out just because it is “traditional.” Many traditions DO have wonderful meaning, such as the communion service, many of the old hymns, and good, solid, gimmick-free Biblical preaching & teaching. It might even be a good idea to adopt some traditions we’re not used to observing, like celebrating the Jewish feasts – not for the “religious” ritualism of them, but because they remind us of Jesus. So let’s keep and add some traditions, but let’s make sure they are scriptural, meaningful, and pointing people to Christ!

("Fiddler on the Roof" image borrowed from a stock photography website.)