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Pas. Jim's Blog

What I Learned From Heart Surgery - Pastor Welty

Jim Welty

This is part two of a four part blog series based on a message I shared in October, a reflection on lessons learned from my heart surgery. 

 Part 2 The Power of Life and Healing

In my journal on September 7 I wrote the following entry:  “One week ago I walked into the hospital for heart surgery. It’s an amazing process and an even more amazing recovery.   That surgical team could do incredible and awful things to my body for its good because they had the confidence in the power of life,  the power of life giving blood and oxygen flowing through by body bringing healing.  They knew they could tear me apart and put be back together again and that I would be fine.  The body is resilient – life is powerful – God is good. “

A healthy body has an amazing capacity for healing.  Life is a powerful force.

Almost immediately the nursing team worked to cooperate with process.  They gradually removed all the tubes that had been inserted in my body.  The breathing tube was the first to go; it was removed the first day. Then a tube a day got removed until finally the drainage tubes from abdomen were removed causing me to sing for joy.

They had me walking very soon.  My friend Chuck, who had similar surgery in 2011, told me that the first time I walked I would feel like the old man that Tim Conway played on the "Carol Burnett Show".  He was spot on.  There I was with my walker and all kind of drainage receptacles hanging off of it.  Off I went.

Watching my body gradually heal was an amazing process.  By the last day in the hospital, I had no encumbering tubes and was walking all around like I owned the place - greeting all the doctors and nurses.

God created the body with an amazing capacity to heal itself and as I said in my journal, the surgical team could tear me apart and put me back together again because they understand that power. 

God also provided a way for spiritual healing as well.  In scripture we read of the power of the blood of Christ that  purifies us from all sin. ( 1 John 1:7) and that provides redemption.  (Ephesians 1:7) In the incarnation and sacrifice of Christ God exerted a powerful life giving force on our world. Christ’s sacrificial death brought the only healing possible for our sin wrecked lives as Paul noted in Romans 7.

In scripture we also read of the power of the resurrection.  In Acts 2:24 - Peter said of Jesus that  “it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.”  That is an amazing idea to ponder. Death with its awesome power was no match for the Lord of life. That’s the power of Christ resurrection  that overcame sin, hell and the grave

Ephesians 1:19-20 –Paul spoke of God’s “incomparably great power for us who believe” Saying that it was the same power “he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead”

We also read of the power of New Creation.  In 2 Corinthians 5:17 we read, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!"

So even though our spiritual DNA is a problem, the power of Christ’s redemption and sacrifice gives us new life.  There is power in the blood of Jesus, power in the resurrection of Jesus and power in the new creation.

What I Learned From Heart Surgery - Pastor Welty

Jim Welty

Five months ago I went through quintuple bypass surgery.  (August 31, 2017) That forced me to be quiet and still for several weeks and gave me time to reflect on my  experience.  Then the preacher/writer in me took over, and I wanted to share my reflections.  I shared this as a message in church, but now I will share it as four blog installments.  I admit that there is some shameless spiritualization of my experience, but here's what I learned from heart surgery

Part 1 - The Power of Genetics

On August 22 I met with my surgeon.  He informed me that I had 4 vessels that were 90% blocked.  That news was surprising to me.  Then he reviewed my profile.  "You don’t smoke or drink.  You're not excessively overweight.  You exercise and try to eat right."  Then he shook his head and said, "Well, you chose the wrong father

 I made a genetic miss step over which I had no control.  My father had coronary artery disease, and had the same surgery in 1985.  He then lived another 20 years.

Genetics are a powerful force in our lives.  That is why our doctors always quiz us about our “family history”.  They are trying to discover what's lurking around in our closet that might present problems for us.  What are our genetic risk factors.

There is power in our genetics – same is true spiritually.

Spiritually we all inherited a DNA called sin.  David said it this way in Psalm 51:5  Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

We were born into sin.  That is our spiritual DNA our spiritual genetics.  And it’s important for us to acknowledge that truth.  If we aren’t willing to admit that fact, we can never be delivered from our genetics.

 In Romans 7  Paul commented about his struggle with sin saying (verses 18-20) For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

He went on to exclaim: (verses 24-25)   What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

I cannot deny my physical genetics even though there are parts I might want to deny.  Also no amount of human effort, in the form of diet and exercise, can change my genetics.  So we can’t deny our spiritual genetics.  We were born in sin, and no amount of human effort,  in the form of good works, can change that.   And without admitting that, we’ll never acknowledge our need for a Savior.

Getting Lost in Venice by Pastor Welty

Jim Welty

On July 4 my daughter, Emma, and I arrived in Venice for our Italian adventure.  From the airport we had to take a waterbus to get to our hotel.  I had heard about Venice and seen pictures of it, but seeing it first hand was exciting. 

On our first day Emma suggested that we get lost in Venice which is very easy to do. We were headed to a Venice landmark, San Marco, and we took a circuitous route to be sure.  A day later Emma went to a museum that she was certain I wouldn't enjoy, so she suggested that I visit some churches and get lost in Venice on my own.  Again it took very little effort at all. 

There is a story about a person "from away" asking a Maine resident for directions to some location.  The Mainer supposedly responded, "You can't get theah from heah."  (You can't get there from here.)  That is more true in Venice than any place I've ever been.

Venice is a beautiful and confusing city.  Miles of canals weave their way through the city and interrupt the flow of traffic.  Four-hundred bridges cross the canals at various points in time.  I had a map that I was following, but not every street, corridor or passageway are noted on the map.  Sometimes I would see a wide open passage that seemed very promising and would begin to walk down through it, only to find a few minutes later that I had reached a dead end.  Then I would walk down a corridor barely wide enough for two people to pass each other and would think, "This can't be the right way", but I was wrong and found that the narrow way led to where I wanted to go.  More than once I thought I had reached a dead end and would have to retrace my steps, but just around an unobtrusive corner was my desired destination. 

The preacher in me immediately thought of Jesus' words in Matthew 7:13-14“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." 

 Venice was a powerful illustration to me of those truths.  In following Jesus, the path isn't always clear.  The obvious paths can be dead ends and the obscure paths can be the right way.  It is a walk of faith which is what Proverbs 3:5-6 reminds us,  "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways submit to him,  and he will make your paths straight."

TOP 10 REASONS TO NOT BE BAPTIZED (Continued) by Pastor Welty

Jim Welty

Last week I shared reasons 10-6 of my list of 10 reasons why people should not be baptized.  Obviously my hope is that this rather sarcastic look at this topic will actually convince folks of the importance ofbeing baptized.   This week I offer reasons 5-1.

 Reason 5– Baptism doesn’t make sense to me.

Wouldn’t it be funny if we had a ceremony where all of the participants wore multicolored puffy gowns and flat topped hats with tassels hanging in their eyes?  That sounds a little nutty until you realize that every year thousands or even millions of graduates across the country do exactly that. It doesn’t make sense, but we do it anyway.  Technically the schools could send the diplomas to the graduates in the mail, so why all the fuss?  Graduation celebrates or publicly declares an achievement and rite of passage.

Baptism is a public declaration of a person’s relationship with Christ.  It is a sign of belonging to Christ.  And just as graduation isn’t your education but a symbol of it.  Baptism symbolizes that you have entered a relationship with God by faith in Christ.  Baptism is also an identification with Christ in His death and resurrection.  The Apostle Paul clearly states that connection in Romans 6:4.    We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.    The Greek word for baptism literally means to immerse or dip in under.   So Baptism symbolizes death (going under water) and resurrection to new life (coming out of the water).

 Reason 4– I was baptized as an infant.

Infant baptism is closely connected with family and faith traditions.  It is a very complicated issue on various levels.  God’s word doesn’t speak of infant baptism, rather it speaks of the baptism of households that might have included children.  Baptism is a personal, volitional act.  Infant baptism focuses on the act and the family, not necessarily the faith that led to that act. 

 The Apostle Paul argues that a relationship with Christ is not from physical descent or through ritual acts but through faith.  You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.   Galatians 3:26-27

In some cultures parents arrange marriages for their children.  There is no individual choice.  Infant baptism is a nice ceremony and a nice rite of passage, but it is chosen for the person by the family.  A person’s relationship with God is by faith.  Believer’s baptism accompanies that.

 Reason 3– I don’t want to do it until I feel like it.

Feelings are important or we would all be robotic in our lives.  But feelings aren’t always a reliable determiner of our conduct.  Discipleship goes beyond feelings to obedience.  So when we are baptized, it should be for the right reason, but we may also need to have your comfort zones stretched in response to the love of God.

In Acts 2:38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

 Reason 2– I look funny when I’m wet.

Yes you do.  We all do.  But when we are truly identified with Christ.  What difference does that truly make?

Reason 1– There is no good reason.

In Acts 8 we read the story of an Angel sending Philip out into the desert to minister to a man identified as the Ethiopian eunuch.  Philip led this man into a relationship with Christ.   Let’s join the story:  As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?” And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him.        Acts 8:36-38

Why shouldn’t you be baptized?

TOP 10 REASONS TO NOT BE BAPTIZED by Pastor Welty

Jim Welty

Using my gift of sarcasm and love of irony, I came up with a list of 10 reasons why people should not be baptized several years ago.  Obviously my hope is that this “Letterman- like” list will actually convince folks of the importance of this.    This week I offer reasons 10-6.

 Reason 10 – I’m OK just the way I am.

I saw a T shirt one day with a picture of the cross on it and a caption that read:  If I’m ok and you’re ok – explain this.  The truth is we are not OK which is why Jesus died to make us new.  Baptism symbolizes the new birth.    (See John 3)

Reason 9– I already had a bath today.

The book of Hebrews tells us that the blood of Christ cleanses us from a guilty conscience.   (Hebrews 9:14)  In the book of Mark Jesus spoke of the inward pollution of the soul.  (Mark 7).  Baptism is like a spiritual bath that involves internal cleansing.  It is an outward expression of the inward reality. 

T.M. Lindsaysays:  Baptism signifies that just as washing with water cleanses the body, so God in Christ cleanses the soul from sin by the Holy Spirit and that we are to see in this cleansing not merely pardon but also an actual freeing of the soul from the pollution and power of sin and therefore the beginnings of a new life.

Reason 8– I don’t have to be baptized to have a relationship with God or join the church.

That’s exactly right.  And to be married we never have to tell our spouse  that we love her/him. We never have to buy gifts for our spouse or plan a special evening out with her/him.  We never have to do any of that to fulfill the minimum requirements for marriage.  But love for that person causes us to want to do nice things for her/him.

Some churches require believer’s baptism for church membership.  Some even require it to receive the Lord's Supper. While I feel strongly about the importance of baptism, requiring it sounds like legalism – not love.    I never want to see anybody getting baptized to fulfill a requirement but to respond to love.

Reason 7– Baptism is a ritual,  and I don’t like rituals.

Rituals or traditions that are repeated over and over again become void of meaning. Have you ever sat down to dinner as a family; someone has offered thanks for the food, and everyone digs in.  Part way through dinner someone asks:  Did we pray already? It’s happened to all of us who regularly give thanks for our meals. 

The same can happen with the ordinances of The Lord’s Supper and Baptism.  Instead of focusing on Christ’s sacrifice and God’s love, we can get so focused on the act that we lose the meaning. 

In the Bible circumcision was one of those rituals that had lost some of its meaning.  The Apostle Paul spoke of that in Colossians 2:11-12 - In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature,  not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ,  having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. The new circumcision is circumcision of the heart and baptism is an expression of that.

Reason 6– Pastor Jim might drop me or hold me under.

I haven’t lost one yet.

Next week, I'll share reasons 5-1.   And on Sunday, June 18, I'll be sharing a message about baptism from 2 Kings 5.