Blog Posts

HEINEN HAPPENINGS – August 2018

Email newsletter of the Heinen family: Brian, Leah, Rebekah, Victoria and Maria

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. (Philippians 1:3-5 ESV)

We pray for our friends and neighbors!  How can we pray for you?  Send your requests to my email address listed below.

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!  Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits… Ps 103:1-2

We have much to bless God for…

–Leah had a good report from the doctor, showing no further damage to her kidneys.  Her diabetes is under control.  She recently had to go through some tests for her heart, which all turned out well.  She has a stress test this week.  Please pray for her struggle with pain and exhaustion.

–Rebekah starts her MSW internship next week.  Please pray for her health, especially her hypothyroidism.

–Victoria continues to be involved in various leadership positions in her church.  She loves the girls in her small group!  She starts her senior year in college next week.

–Maria had a great start to her senior year in high school.  She is involved in the small group Victoria leads and also in the church where Brian is preaching.

–Brian is enjoying his part-time opportunities with hospice, with his denominational district, and with the small church where he is interim pastor.  It is amazing how many wonderful opportunities to share the love and truth of Jesus arise.  Please pray for his neuropathy in his hands and feet to be healed, as well as the wound on his foot, which has been an issue for many months.

–While we are thankful for the opportunities we have to bless our neighbors, we feel that God brought us to this neighborhood for a purpose.  Pray that we will have the time, health, energy, resources, and opportunities to reach these special people with the mercy and grace of our Savior.

The entire family has been blessed by the encouragement, generosity, and prayers of so many friends.  Y’all have been conduits of God’s amazing grace to our lives.  We love you and appreciate you!

–The church, the Appleton Cumberland Presbyterian Church, is very responsive to the ministry of Jesus Christ that is taking place.  While the number of people in the congregation is very small in number, the hearts of the people are deeply devoted to Jesus.  Rebekah and Maria are making a real difference among the children who attend.

church 3

Brian Heinen 802 East 23rd Street, Russellville, Arkansas, 72802
479-886-0765 brheinen1@gmail.com
Follow my journey on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you!

Pastor friends,

I appreciate you!  Thank you for serving our Savior in the power of His Spirit for His glory.  At times, you receive the acclaim and applause of men.  Other times, antagonism is your companion because you minister in Jesus’ Name.  Worse yet, your service and efforts are often met with apathy, even among those who claim the Name of Christ.  Most often, your day is filled with a combination of those things.  May you continue to serve your King with one motive in mind – to hear those precious words, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” directly from His lips as He greets you as eternity begins.

Being Poor

When you are poor, you feel incompetent.  You are told to pull yourself up by your bootstraps, but if you were capable of that, how did you end up poor?  You feel incredibly weak as you see so many others so strong and successful.

You feel incapable.  You feel like you can’t do what millions around you are already doing – being successful.

You feel inferior.  Those millions of successful people who surround you are living the American Dream.  Many of those millions believe that the American Dream is real.  Their favorite athletes and entertainment stars remind them daily that everyone can live the Dream – just believe in yourself enough and you can do and be anything!  The question then becomes, what is wrong with you if you can’t live the Dream?

You feel unlovable. People you thought were friends disappear.  Many are ashamed of you and at times are ashamed to be with you.  When people do talk to you, they treat you as a charity case to be pitied rather than a friend to be valued.  (See “you feel inferior.”)  Thank the Lord for the true friends who sometimes appear out of nowhere to truly be a support.  It is surprising to see friends fall away, but it is even more surprising to see true friends rise up.

You feel like you have no choice.  After all, beggars can’t be choosers.  When people are in the position of offering you help, there is often a sense of superiority that arises on their part.  And to get their help, you better listen and do everything they say or help in the future may be out of the question.  You must accept any job, any place to live, any schedule forced on you, or you look very ungrateful.

You feel blamed.  Just as most in America hold to some form of the American Dream, most Christians have a little “prosperity doctrine” in them.  In other words, people wonder what you must have done to cut off God’s blessing from your life.  Don’t faithful children experience the Father’s love and provision?  What did you do?

You feel like you must share your story with anyone who asks.  You share your story of failure constantly as you appeal to churches and agencies for help.  Everyone has questions to ask and forms to fill out.  Many times, you have to provide proof of income (a record of your failure on paper for all to see) to get a loaf of bread.  Even if you don’t want to ask for help, you are forced to.  You lose all privacy and dignity.

You lose all respect and integrity.  As you share your story, people are automatically suspicious of you.  The assumption is from the beginning, you are trying to take advantage of their generosity.

You feel dumb.  Those offering help sometimes treat you this way, acting like they need to school you in all kinds of matters, mostly unrelated to why you are poor.  Everyone you talk to feels like they have the right to offer you advice (and you better listen!).  You feel like you always have to listen to those who are in a position to offer you help. And you quickly learn that there are always strings attached to gifts.  There truly is no such thing as a free lunch.

In summary, when you are poor, you feel inhuman.  Subhuman.  Like you are a different species.  There is nothing so dehumanizing as being poor – other than being extremely rich.

When you don’t feel human anymore, you feel isolated from humans. You become utterly desperate and do anything to survive. You start acting like the animal you are.  You don’t enjoy what humans enjoy.  Sunsets don’t take your breath away because you constantly feel like you’ve been socked in the gut and are unable to breathe​. Music doesn’t lift your soul to another plane.  Food loses its flavor.  Laughter doesn’t come naturally.

I have one request as you read  this: as you help the poor out of the goodness of your heart because our Father reached out and helped you when you didn’t deserve it, please do this one simple thing – treat those you are loving as fellow human beings made in the image of God, just like you.

Presents or Presence?

The fickle children of Israel quickly traded in the true and living God who delivered them from slavery for a golden calf formed from their own hands.  Before we are too critical, let us remember the multitude of times that we substitute gods of our own making for the God who truly delivers.  We all seem to prefer gods we can control over the God before whom we must bow.

Moses and God had the type of relationship where “the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Ex. 33:11).  May we all have this type of relationship with Him!  God confided in His friend, expressing His deserved anger: “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people.  Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you” (Ex. 32:9-10).

Rather than enjoying God’s new, Moses-centered plan, Moses spoke to his Friend, reminding Him of the covenant promises that He made to the nation He called to be His own, and asked Him what the Egyptians would think of a God who delivered His people from slavery to let them perish in the desert.  “And the LORD relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.”

The relationship between God and His rebellious people was still fractured.  The LORD said to Moses, “Depart; go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give it.’  I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.  Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; but I will not go up among you, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people” (Ex. 33:1-3).

God was promising the people the benefits of their deliverance from slavery with one stipulation – God, the Deliverer, would not be with them.  He was offering the Hebrew people His presents, but not His presence.  God would be true to His promises and give the Jewish people what He promised them, but because of their rebellious hearts, a righteous, holy God could not dwell with them.

I think many people today would love this deal.  Get the blessings of God without having to be accountable to God?  Enjoy the stuff without having to listen to His commands?  Many would jump at the chance.

But Moses understood that this life having the stuff of God without the presence of God is really no life at all, because God does not just give us life, He IS our life.  Here is Moses’ response:  “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I, and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” (Exodus 33:15-16).

Moses knew that what makes the people of God the people of God is not the blessing God gives to His people, it is having God, Himself.  Do we understand this?

Being Thankful

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.  I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High. (Psalm 9:1-2 ESV)

Facebook is increasingly becoming my prayer list.  I enjoy praying for dear friends and family that I have known for years and also for more recent colleagues and acquaintances.  This time of year, amid holiday get-togethers, vacations, family celebrations, and various ministry events, I praise God for how He has blessed so many of you!  While I rejoice with those of you who now are rejoicing, my heart and my prayers do go out to those of you who now are searching for God’s blessing.  May you see His face clearly very soon!

I love seeing the pics of your beautiful family members.  Some of them are transitioning into new and exciting chapters of their lives.  What a joy to be surrounded by those you love.  Thank you for sharing the news and views concerning your travels both at home and abroad.  What beautiful and fun places you have the wonderful opportunity to enjoy.  Some of you are traveling because you have been given the incredible opportunity and responsibility to share the Word of God among every tribe, tongue, and nation so that Jesus is glorified.  What a gift to be able to do so!  Enjoy!  Celebrate!  Be blessed!

At the same time, why not pray for the many in our own nation and the vast majority of people around the world who will never experience such blessing.  And above all, remember the One who is the giver of all good gifts and the One who blesses us with every spiritual blessing through His Son, Jesus Christ!  Everything you are, everything you get to do, and every experience you live is but a gift from Him.  Why not thank Him today?

For Me?

Say to all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth month and in the seventh, for these seventy years, was it for me that you fasted? And when you eat and when you drink, do you not eat for yourselves and drink for yourselves? (Zechariah 7:5-6 ESV)

Every time I read this Scripture I am reminded to ask the Holy Spirit to show me what my motives are as I work, worship, and just plain live.  Why do I do what I do?  This question is especially applicable to my religious life, as it was to the Jewish people addressed here.  Why do I sing songs of praise, to honor God, or to make myself feel a certain way?  Why do I do “up front” ministry, to get everyone gathered to focus on Jesus, or to see me?  I can do these things – good things – with selfish motives.  When I do, I rob God of His glory.

In the original Hebrew, the “for me” is repeated.  “Was it for me that you fasted – for me?”  What a haunting echo.  Why do I do what I do?  One question helps when asking this question.  What would I do if no one said anything to me about my up-front ministry?  About my singing?  (Actually, I really hope no one ever listens to me sing.)  About my religious activity?  If I was never noticed, never thanked, never complimented, would I still do what I do?  People who are doing things for themselves rather than Jesus tend to give up if their actions don’t gain the personal attention they seek.

I am not saying that we should not thank others for what they are doing.  Thank them!  Encourage them!  It is sinful if you don’t.  What I am not saying is that it is your job to keep others humble by your silence about what they do.  What I am saying is, “What is your response when people are silent to you?”

Valuing Life – A Pastor’s Perspective

I have always valued life – or so I thought.  I remember from my teen years on how I believed the Bible when it said that I was made in the image and likeness of God.  I was thankful that I was “fearfully and wonderfully made” by my heavenly Father and that He had “formed and covered me in my mother’s womb.”  I worked for a time at a ministry in Texas called “Last Days Ministries,” which had a branch of the ministry called “Americans Against Abortion.”   I served in the print shop there, and one of the most popular tracts that we printed was called, “Children – Things We Throw Away.”  Later, when I became a pastor, I faithfully ordered bulletin inserts for “Sanctity of Life Sunday” and preached how as God is the giver of life, He alone decides when our lives should end.  I was a hospital and nursing home chaplain and served on the ethics committee of our local hospital, and often had to help the sick and suffering see that even their lives had great value and that to end their lives prematurely would be a tragedy.  Yet, none of this prepared me for that trip to my wife’s OB-GYN.

We were expecting our second child.  Our Rebekah Hope was 2 at the time, and we had waited 5 years for her to be born.  We went to our 20 week appointment and looked forward to seeing our little one on the ultrasound.  As the nurse midwife viewed the screen, I noticed that she didn’t respond to my wife’s jokes and that her face turned very pale.  She excused herself and ran out of the room.  A few minutes later, she returned with the doctor, an immigrant from Czechoslovakia who was always smiling and pleasant.  He, too, was serious and silent – until he worked up the courage to tell us the news.  They couldn’t find any kidneys in our baby.  As such, the amniotic fluid would not be replenished once it was used up.  Without amniotic fluid, the lungs wouldn’t develop, as the lungs are strengthened when the baby in the womb breathes that life-sustaining liquid in and breathes it out.  He immediately set up an appointment for us at the Ohio State Medical Center.

On our first appointment, we met with two doctors who both assumed we were coming in to set up a time to abort.  They were shocked to hear my wife, Leah, explain that she believed that the same God who gave her baby life could heal her baby, but that even if he didn’t, it was not her right to end a life that He had given.  They explained to her that the baby would probably be carried close to full term but would die soon after birth and that each time she felt the baby kick, she would be reminded that she was carrying a baby with a death sentence.  “Why go through the heartache?” they asked her.  “Why risk your own health?  Why not end it now and try again?”  They introduced us to a geneticist who would “test” fetuses in future pregnancies and could tell us when to abort until we could get one that was healthy.  My wife stood firm.  Over what seemed to be never-ending visits to many different doctors, the professionals realized that they couldn’t change my wife’s mind.  Her courage amazed me.  Her faith humbled me.  We soon became a “teaching” case because of this rare disease.  I looked forward to the hours of ultrasounds, realizing that seeing my daughter on the screen might be the only chance for me to get to know her.

Our little Christina Joy lived one hour after the delivery.  She peacefully stopped breathing in our arms not long after we heard the hospital sound system play the bells that celebrated the birth of a child.  We put her tiny casket in the trunk of our car and drove her ourselves to Wisconsin, where she was buried next to my own brother, who had also died in infancy.  Not knowing if we would be able to have more children, God has since blessed us with Victoria Grace and Maria Faith.  O, how I value their precious lives!  And how I value the courage of people like my wife, Leah, who have the faith and strength to live out their convictions and who stand up and let their voices be heard.