Wednesday, January 30, 2013
School Districts, School Boards, Superintendents, Principals, Administrators, Teachers, Unions,
Parents, PTAs, PTOs, Booster Clubs, and...
"Train up a child in the way she/he should go;
and when she/he is old, she/he
will not depart from it."
"And God saw that it was good."
"All things bright and beautiful...The Lord God made them all...How great is God Almighty, Who has made all things well."
"Let Us make people in Our image...Let them have dominion over all the earth and over all..."
God knows children need stability, security, and identity.
Therefore, baptismal promises.
His plan to provide for their needs.
He entrusts them to us.
"In presenting your child for baptism, do you confess your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior; and do you promise, in dependence on the grace of God, to bring up your child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?"
Children are baptized or marked off for God because they belong to God whether they know it or not as parents join other adults in the greater family of faith uncommonly called the Church in agreeing to provide examples, education, and environments of loving Jesus by loving like Jesus with the prayer/hope that the child will eventually confirm the truth of belonging to God through Jesus as enabled by the Holy Spirit.
Some churches "dedicate" babies which is kinda like the same thing by definition.
The promises matter very, very, very much.
Maybe that's why some adults don't baptize or dedicate or...
Some adults seem to forget or ignore or defy the call/responsibility of dominion's/stewardship's promises.
Report cards don't lie.
Have you listened to children talking in the cafeteria, classroom, bleachers, mall, and...?
Who showed/taught them to talk like that?
What's up with all of their barking, biting, bullying, bruising, beating, and...bullets?
Who showed/taught them to do that?
Why are they so selfish, separating, segregating, distancing, divorcing, destroying, and my-way-or-the-highway-if-I-don't-get-my-way-I'll-pick-up-my-marbles-and-quit members of churches, clubs, and...?
Who showed/taught them to behave so badly?
Are we that...?
The solution is simple.
Replace the commandments taken down.
Return to the prayer and pledge.
He honors people who honor Him.
People who abandon Him are...
Report cards don't lie.
It's not about more guns or less guns or more taxes or less taxes or bigger schools or smaller schools or...
It's about God's place in their lives.
Who removed Him from their lives?
Are we that...?
"I'm just a reflection of you!"
"Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them...Whoever causes
one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a
millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of..."
Blessings and Love!
Monday, January 28, 2013
"Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought..."
He often warned, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."
And she meant well; but her gift feeds the beast in me.
A beautiful porcelain keepsake for hanging: "Jesus Loves You...But I'm His Favorite!"
It unsettles me because I've often acted not just thought that way.
If it were not a struggle still, would it bother me so much?
The beast must be starved; so it must go.
Just a jest?
Yet, to me, no laughing matter.
My sanity if not soul sways in the balance.
It would have been better if they had come calling with condemnation: "Expecting much more, you've disappointed us."
That's not funny either.
Just closer to the truth.
He always assured, "The road to heaven is paved with..."
"The difference between us is I know I'm a hypocrite."
Blessings and Love!
Sunday, January 27, 2013
I'll never forget praying like this on October 28, 2012:
I've been thinking a lot about what I really need
to be happy; and I realize I'm no different from
I keep thinking I need this or that or her or him
or...to be happy.
I keep thinking I'd be happy if she didn't or if he
didn't or if she did or if he did or if they didn't or
if they did or...
I keep thinking about what I'm thinking about what
will make me happy; and I'm making lists that seem
to grow and grow and grow about what I'm thinking
about what I'm thinking about will make me happy
It hit me.
You hit me.
I'm not happy when I'm thinking about anyone or
anything more than You.
It's my idolatries that keep me unhappy.
You alone are the Source, Starter, Sovereign, and
Savior of my happiness here and now and hereafter.
Thanks for reminding me that I think too much about
what will make me happy when it's only and always
You who give happiness for the asking through Jesus
in whose name I pray.
Paul understood that most basic fact of life: "I have learned how to be happy in any circumstance: fed or hungry, with or without. I can be content in any and every situation through Jesus who is my power and strength."
Then he adds this great news, "Know this! My God will also fill every need you have!"
Simply, as the Psalmist said, "God alone satisfies!"
Job learned that the hard way; and if we've ever felt on the harder side of life, this book inspires trust in God to lift us up after life has knocked us down.
While illustrating faith does not make us immune to the meanness, madness, and misery of life, the book promises light at the end of every tunnel for those who trust Him.
Job goes from riches to rags to riches according to a plan that God explained like this to Isaiah: "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts."
Job illustrates the testing that comes to everyone; or as Jesus said, "Rain falls on everyone."
Job provides the key to enduring the worst that life can throw at us so we can come out on the other end to God's better than ever before.
Quickly, Job was a really good man - described by God in glowing terms: "No one else on earth is like him, a man of perfect integrity, who fears God and turns away from evil."
He had everything going for him: health, wealth, and big happy family.
Then along comes Satan who is never up to anybody's good and challenges God, "Do you really think Job would be such a team player if he weren't winning so much? I'll bet he'd turn on you quicker than Bears fans on their quarterback after a few loses."
It's a test that nobody wants to take.
Do I love God only when things are going great in my life?
Do I stay with Him and His only as long as things are going my way?
Will I abandon God and His family of faith if things go south in what I want or need to be happy with Him and His?
That was Job's test; as he lost everything that brought happiness into his life.
Though his friends insisted he must have done something wrong to warrant his misfortune and despite a young prophet who almost got part of it/God right in assessing the moment as just a moment if Job hung in while being hung up, Job knew he wasn't as bad as anybody imagined and decided to keep the faith regardless of how awful things had become in the expectation of deliverance sooner or later and definitely in the end.
That's what happened: "The Lord blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the earlier."
That's the big lesson in Job.
Things may go from good to bad to worse.
Such is life.
We have no clue why it happens.
Oh, we may say God is teaching us some kinda lesson that we'll appreciate when it's in the rearview mirror.
Yet, again, the big point in Job is to hang in with God and He'll hang in with us and lift us up and out to His better than ever before.
Job reminds us of a lesson that a seminary professor said is the main theme of the entire Bible: "Trust Jesus and, in everything else, hang loose."
Or as Paul later concluded, "God works for the good of those who love Him...sooner or later, usually sooner than later, and definitely in the end."
I like how the Psalmist explained it/Him: "I was young but now I am old; yet I have never seen the Lord disappoint the faithful...sooner or later, usually sooner than later, and definitely in the end."
In short, trust God no matter who, what, when, where, or why.
Getting back to our desire for happiness, Mick Jagger began his career by complaining, "I can't get no satisfaction."
Historically and traditionally as well as confessionally, we know no one experiences/expresses happiness apart from God for God alone satisfies - generates/guarantees happiness - as Source, Starter, Sovereign, and Savior.
Again and always, that's what Paul discovered: "I have learned how to be happy in any circumstance: fed or hungry, with or without. I can be content in any and every situation through Jesus who is my power and strength."
Let me put it another way.
Happiness and holiness are parts of the same fabric of faith.
More holiness = more happiness.
Let me put it another way.
As long as we are never happy with how holy we are, we are on the road to more happiness.
As long as we are never content with how close we are to Him, we will remain on the path to that totally true contentment that is ultimately described as heavenly.
...to be continued...
Blessings and Love!
Thursday, January 24, 2013
"Put the word into action...
If you think hearing is what matters most,
you are going to find you have been
Do what it says...
Show me your faith..."
I met her/him in the grocery store.
It had been a long time.
Then she/he asked, "Do you want to know why we...?"
I did not indulge that curiosity; inquiring instead, "Do you recite the Lord's Prayer very often?"
With a smile unable to conceal her/his incredulity, she/he snapped, "Of course, why, of course, yes, all the time; but why do you ask something so silly?"
To betray belief, spice was added, "I was wondering how we can relate to the part about forgiving and being forgiven."
She/he frowned; then walked away.
I wondered how long before...
How long before it's too long?
God knows; and provided hints...
"Idle talk is wasted time...
There is plenty of chattering going on today,
but what we need is action...
God prefers the application of faith instead of pointless conversation."
Sunday, January 20, 2013
Looking out from the pulpit, I saw a clock that was situated to be seen only by my predecessor, successor, or...me.
Though I've been wrong on many things and could remain wrong on this one, I guessed/guess it meant/means I was/am not to worship Him for too long.
While you can decide if it was/remains an inspiration or indigestion, I blurted, "What's up with the clock?"
Then I recalled His enfleshment, passion, resurrection, reign, and the apocalypse of heavenly worship.
Gratitude was/remains the focus.
Whenever I worship, I remember that...moment.
I have not worn a watch in worship since seeing that clock that was situated to be seen only by...
"How shall I receive You into my house,
I that scarce know how to spend one
half hour in true devotion?
Would that I could even once spend
something like one half hour
Groote aka Kempis, Imitation of Christ, 1374
Friday, January 18, 2013
Scratching the Surface
(A Brief and Incomplete Guide to Restoring Relationships)
Some people like fights more than friendships.
A woman came to me and asked about the agenda for a meeting.
I said, “It looks like we’ve got at least one tough topic coming up.”
“Oh, goodie,” she said, “I just love a good fight!”
It was one of the most un-non-Christian things that I’ve ever heard in a church.
Sadly, there are people who like to fight, hit, hurt, beat, batter, bruise, bite, and butcher; betraying the darkness in their souls.
There are people who like to distance, divorce, and destroy.
Pride, control needs, lusts, idolatries, hatreds, and other deeply dark pathologies masquerading as arrogant and condescending self-righteousness often cause segregations, separations, and schisms.
Fortunately, Jesus has provided a path to restoring relationships in Matthew 18:15-17:
1. Try to work it out face to face.
2. If that doesn’t work, bring along a few fair and objective
folks who will tell the truth to both of you while insuring
neither of you is tempted to lie about the conversation
to others at a later date.
3. If that doesn’t work, try a committee, board, or bunch of
good folks to sort it all out.
4. If that doesn’t work, isolate and avoid them.
Unfortunately, while our Lord commands us to love and seek reconciliation with even the unlovable people in our lives, some folks are determined to remain irrational, irregular, irascible, and irreconcilable.
God has another plan for them: “Keep up your guard against anyone who is causing conflicts and enticing others with teachings contrary to what you have already learned. If there are people like that in your churches, stay away from them. These kinds of people are not truly serving our Lord Jesus…They have devoted their lives to satisfying their own appetites. With smooth talking and a well-rehearsed blessing, they lead a lot of unsuspecting people down the wrong path” (Romans 16:17-18).
In other words, some people playing out deeply dark pathologies with no desire for reconciliation must be identified, ignored, and isolated lest they infect the rest of the body of believers with their disease.
There’s no place for a rotten apple in a barrel of freshly picked ones.
While our Lord set the example for always inviting, welcoming, including, and loving, He also said there are evil ones who slip into churches like wolves in sheep’s clothing with no desire to be reconciled to Him which is exposed by their irrational, irregular, irascible, and irreconcilable behavior with the rest of His family; causing Him to conclude, “If someone is inhospitable to you or refuses to listen to your testimony, leave that house or town and shake the dust from your feet” (Matthew 10:14).
Allowing the irrational, irregular, irascible, and irreconcilable to infect a church with darkness brings a stern warning from our Lord: “If anyone is a cause of stumbling to one of these little ones who have faith in Me, it would be better for him to have a millstone hung round his neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).
Jesus declares the sternest of warnings for people who are irretrievably irreconcilable: “If you forgive…, your heavenly Father will forgive you…But if you do not forgive…, neither will your Father forgive you” (Matthew 6:14-15).
Restored relationships reflect a restored relationship: “As you do it for them, you do if for Me” (see Matthew 25:31ff.).
When we are reconciled to Him, we are reconcilable with others.
A passion for reconciliation shows intimacy with Jesus.
It’s belief confirmed by behavior.
Remembering we must be reconcilable with everyone to prove reconciliation with our Lord, we will remain reconcilable with even the irrational, irregular, irascible, and irreconcilable; knowing, sometimes with some people, it’s better to talk to God about them than to talk to them about God.
Are you still looking for a different way to do church?
Are you tired of the SOSO RELIGION?
Are you put off by posers in pews, politics, and pulpits?
Are you searching for something/Someone
real, honest, timely, and true to…?
Try our family of faith on the corner of Lincoln and Main!
Sundays at 7:20 and 10:00 a.m.
And so much…
Blessings and Love!
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
A seminarian was sleeping during class; so the professor slammed his hand on the desk and screamed this question, "So what do you think about it? How can the Bible say we have volition yet are predestined?"
The startled fellah blurted, "I knew yesterday but forgot."
The professor lamented, "What a pity. The only man who knew and he forgot."
One of the most annoying paradoxes of Biblical faith - two Biblical truths in apparent contradiction that have generated more heat than light in classrooms, assembly halls, small groups, coffee conversations, and wherever two or three are not always gathered in His name - is we have volition yet are predestined; or changing it around to the same conclusion, we are predestined yet free to choose.
Moses and Joshua urged, "Choose life...Choose who you will serve..."
Jesus said, "I stand at the door of your heart. You must decide if you will open the door..."
Paul concluded, "For those God foreknew, He also predestined."
Putting the paradox together, Paul admitted with gratitude for God's providential care of those who trust Him here and now and forever, "We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan."
We have volition yet are predestined.
We are predestined yet free to choose.
Whatever way we look at it/Him, it doesn't sound logical; which, of course, reminds us that He is Source, Starter, Sovereign, and Savior and we are not.
Fortunately, as the Psalmist applauds Him, God as Source, Starter, Sovereign, and Savior works through the paradox for our benefit: "I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken."
Though fully grasping this paradox is out of our reach, a celebrating sense is God's predestination is always positive for those who trust Him; yet there is the sobering sense that we are completely responsible for the consequences of our volition or freedom to choose for good, bad, or...
Really, I don't get it/Him.
All I get is it's always best to trust Him and pray and labor to do the right thing as modeled by Jesus in the manual of Holy Scripture.
The story of Esther comes to mind.
She was predestined for her moment in His story ("...made queen for such a time as this...") yet she had to choose to be used for her moment in His story ("I will join you...I will go...If I die, then I die!").
Let's go to the story that illustrates the paradoxical mystery.
It reads like a gothic novel, soap opera, or new mini-series for FX or AMC.
The incumbent Queen Vashti disobeys an order from her husband King Xerxes to be paraded around like a trophy wife, loses her crown, and a Persian beauty contest is held to find her successor.
The young and beautiful Jew Esther beats out the other contestants, wins the king's heart, and becomes queen.
Older cousin Mordecai, who had adopted Esther after her parents died, is a big part of the story because he told Esther not to divulge her ethnicity because of Persian prejudices epitomized in the story's scoundrel Haman who was "promoted to a rank above all his fellow nobles" and ordered Mordecai to bow down before him in homage. While Mordecai worked for the government and thwarted an assassination conspiracy against the king by two eunuchs who "were angry over some matter," his faith as a Jew prohibited him from showing such worshipful deference to anyone in keeping with the first few commandments of the big ten.
This infuriated Haman so much that he decided to knock off Mordecai along with every other Jew in the empire: "Haman wasn't to be satisfied with killing only Mordecai..."
Never underestimate the bloodlust of people who hate people who love God.
When Esther caught wind of how Haman had tricked the king into issuing a death penalty for all Jews, predestination ("...made queen for such a time as this...") and volition ("I will join you...I will go...If I die, then I die!") merged as she risked her life by approaching the king without invitation ("...any person who approaches the king...without being invited is sentenced to death. That's the law!") to gain attention as the first step to intervening on behalf of Mordecai and exposing Haman's evil character.
It worked: "The king was pleased when he noticed Queen Esther...[He asked]...'What is your request? I'll give you anything...all you need to do is ask...'"
Essentially, she asked for two parties to set up Haman's demise before he could do any damage to the Jews.
I said this story reads like a gothic novel, soap opera, or new mini-series for FX or AMC!
And it gets even more complicated as the king has a bad night between parties, can't sleep, goes over some government papers, notices that he hasn't rewarded Mordecai for saving his life, asks Haman what to give somebody who has done great service for the king with Haman thinking the king is talking about him as he suggests a robe and horse, and then orders Haman to take one of his robes and horses to Mordecai to express his appreciation in a reversal of fortune as he is now forced to pay homage to someone who wouldn't give it to him.
While I don't know for sure, which is kinda like figuring out most gothic novels and soap operas and mini-series on FX and AMC, the first party seems to have been set up to keep Haman off guard while the second party is when Haman learns about the consequences of messing with God's chosen people:
King: "What do you want, Queen Esther? I'm willing
to give you anything."
Esther: "All I'm asking is for you to spare my life
and the lives of my people."
King: "Who has targeted your people?"
Esther: "The man responsible for these actions is
wicked Haman. He is vile, and the enemy to
Report: "Haman has prepared a 75-foot pole for
execution...He was hoping to use it to hang
Mordecai, the man who spoke up and saved
King: "Well, hang him on it!"
Report; "So they took Haman and killed him and
displayed him on the pole that he had made
ready for Mordecai."
Esther had risked her life to save her people as God's predestination and her volition came together to honor Him and help her/His people.
One last thought.
Esther is the only book in the Bible that doesn't mention God by name; proving, as a missionary once said, "A life lived for Jesus speaks louder than any verbal testimony."
Let me put it another way.
Esther shows how behavior confirms belief and belief determines destiny.
Or as I once heard, "What's deep in the well comes up in the bucket."
What a person does is more convincing than what a person says.
Esther proves being Godly can be seen without being said.
...to be continued...
Blessings and Love!