Thursday, September 26, 2013
"Do you want to be healed?"
I text Bible verses to two men on a daily basis.
Exhortation/Encouragement...depending upon the Spirit.
Like all of us in some way, both need healing.
Like all of us in some way, I often wonder if they really want to be...
No, I do not understand the Biblical paradox of predestination/volition.
I have a hard enough time trying to understand peanuts.
Yes, I do believe in predestination.
Yes, I do believe in volition.
Considering predestination is more about His business than mine, I concentrate on volition.
And unless proven wrong by somebody who actually reads the Bible more than Arminius or Calvin, I'm gonna take full responsiblity for the consequences of my choices and urge others to the same.
I ain't gonna blame predestination or poor potty training for the consequences of my bad choices.
But, uh, I do give God all the praise and thanks for the graces that have overcome the consequences of my bad choices...and urge others to the same.
I am convinced until proven otherwise by the book not books about the book that it's no secret in the book when it comes to experiencing His better in time before His best in a heavenly kinda way.
It's simple if it's by the book.
It's no secret.
Lest we forget, God wants everybody to be saved in an existential as well as eternal kinda way.
The texting follows...
Jesus asked, "Do you want to be healed?"
1 Samuel 2:30: "Those who honor Me, I will honor. Those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed."
2 Samuel 23:5: "Is not my house right with God? Has He not made with me an everlasting covenant, arranged and secured in every part? Will He not bring to fruition my salvation and grant me my every desire?"
Read 1 Samuel 2:30 again.
Do you see the connection to 2 Samuel 23:5?
Again, hear Him ask, "Do you want to be healed?"
Who is lying?
Who is telling the truth?
Who, then, is healed?
Blessings and Love!
Monday, September 23, 2013
Scratching the Surface of Romans
Something inside cheers whenever I enter a restaurant and see people praying before digging in.
Of course, I can't keep it/Him to myself.
You know how that/He goes: "You will tell everybody about Me...here, there, and everywhere!"
Really, if we're really convinced He is who He says He is, we can't keep our mouths shut about Him.
All of that nonsensical talk about faith being a private matter was started by people who really aren't convinced He is who He says He is which is why they have so little to say about Him.
Let me be precise.
A religion about Jesus is a private matter; for it is knowing something about Him without really knowing Him on a personal level.
A relationship with Jesus cannot be contained in the privacy of the heart or mind because it overflows into conversations, conduct, and countenance.
So getting back to those inside cheers whenever I enter a restaurant and see people praying before digging in, I'll often blurt, "Outstanding! You must really love Jesus!"
Now here's the really, really, really revealing realities of the immediate responses to my outside not able to contain what's on the inside when I see people praying in a restaurant and draw everybody's attention in earshot to 'em.
The people who really love Jesus smile and nod and get almost gitty about it/Him.
The people who have no clue about Jesus just sit and look like their steak turned out to be liver.
Annnnnnnd the people who don't really love Jesus - the posers - along with the people who are His enemies - the antagonists - squirm and scowl and sometimes even scorn.
From as early as I can remember as a believer then undershepherd, the best way to take a person or group's spiritual temperature is to start talking about Jesus by name.
Talk about separating the sheep from the goats!
It's like the cartoon that hangs on the door to my study.
It depicts two guys waiting for a bus with one sporting a T-shirt that blurts, "Let's Talk About Jesus!" He says to the fellow in more conventional attire, "It guarantees me an entire seat to myself."
Truth is the Church (authentic believers) as opposed to church (posers) consists of people who are just like Paul: "I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ''The righteous shall live by faith.'"
That's the theme of the apostle's letter to the Romans.
That's the theme of Christianity.
We are not ashamed of Jesus!
We can't keep our mouths shut about Him because He is Lord and Savior and the path to personal peace here and now and forevermore!
Like Paul when he got it/Him, we're psyched to tell people about Jesus because He is the saving power of God: "the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes."
Like Paul when he got it/Him, we're psyched in knowing Jesus is for all not just some of the people: "the Jew first and also the Greek."
In other words, Jesus is Lord and Savior of all who believe in Him as Lord and Savior without any partiality or favoritism for color, class, or culture.
That faith/confidence/trust enables us to live confidently in the assurance of eternal life: "The righteous shall live by faith."
Because of Jesus, we are not afraid of anyone or anything here and now and forevermore!
That's the theme of this letter!
That's the theme of Christianity!
Feel the supernatural excitement of knowing Him as Lord and Savior as translated and paraphrased by other versions of the Bible!
Get out your multiple translations/paraphrases or google Romans 1:16-17.
That's why Christians are sooooooo psyched.
We're not afraid!
We have Jesus!
That's why Christians like Paul could/would/must write/speak/act so boldly and fearlessly and convincingly and compellingly.
Only awesome reverence for God!
That's why Christians like Paul could/would/must write/speak/act so boldly and fearlessly and convincingly and compellingly about the only thing that matters, as he wrote in his letter to the Galatians, "is faith expressing/proving itself in/through love."
That's why Christians like Paul cold/would/must write/speak/act so boldly and fearlessly and convincingly and compellingly about behaviors not saving us here and now and forevermore but showing how we're saved here and now and forevermore.
Many people read Paul's letters and say, "He's all over the place. I can't pick up any consistent theme to what he's trying to get across."
Yes, his letters read like letters: more emotive and energizing than orderly and systematic.
Let me put it this way.
His letters are more about a relationship with Jesus than a religion about Jesus.
And it all hangs together here and now and forevermore because of the absolutely clear and conclusive theme of Christianity so concisely summarized in the opening chapter of Romans.
Christians are not afraid!
We have Jesus!
...to be continued...
Blessings and Love!
Friday, September 20, 2013
David remains the greatest king in Israel's history.
Shepherd boy. Giant slayer. Songwriter. King.
He confessed and repented. He was restored.
A precursor to his/our most important relative, he longed for God's people to enflesh the united way.
"How wonderful, how beautiful when brothers and sisters get along!
That's where God commands the blessing!"
While I know the United Way stirs ideological spasms of affirmation/antagonism from the aisles, the Boone County, Illinois version enables lots of good stuff.
So I felt good about being asked to sub for who they really wanted to pray at their annual breakfast kick-off on 9/19 at 7:00 a.m.
Besides(1), I was headed to the Boone County Jail after breakfast and the United Way of Boone County provides counseling, mentoring, and educational opportunities for gals/guys locked up in that joint.
Besides(2), when I was a 1st year seminarian, Dr. David Watermulder, president of the seminary's board of trustees and senior undershepherd of one of the franchise's most "important" churches, advised, "No matter who they are and if it doesn't conflict with your church's calendar, take every opportunity to speak because it's another chance to spread the gospel."
I prayed; then as I was leaving for the jail, a few attendees asked for a copy of the prayer.
That's been a problem since I was in my early years of undershepherding ministry; for I think I heard Him say as I began to pray a prayer on Sunday that I'd written on Friday, "Bob, we went over that on Friday. Don't you have anything new to talk about? Truly, this is supposed to be a conversation not a script. Prayer is not a show or recital. Let's talk."
I promised to post a summary here from what I can recollect.
Of course, most of this prayer has been obsessing my prayers for months; so I think what follows is pretty close to what I prayed earlier.
Yeah, I'll bet in a Christian kinda way that I pray it again on 9/22 at both services with the second one broadcast live via www.bnnsradio.com at 10:00 a.m.
These are dangerous days, Lord.
Hosea is our contemporary: "There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land. There is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery. They break all bounds and bloodshed follows bloodshed. Therefore, the land...[America]...mourns."
When we peer into confessional candor's mirror, we see we are often more part of the disease than remedy by our prejudices, pettiness, party loyalties, vain idolatries masquerading as virtuous ideologies and denominational allegiances, competing ministries, barking, biting, beating, and butchering.
Selfishness, the deadly dark virus from the pit of hell, is rationalized and enabled at the expense of Your commanding call, "Love each other just as much as I have loved you" with grace, mercy, and forgiveness.
The golden rule - love others as much as you love yourself and do for them as you want them to do for you - has been polluted/poisoned by self before service and the demonically inspired obsession with "my" rights, needs, feelings, opinions, and concerns.
Even churches and community organizations that should know Him better and have, at least, heard about confirming Godly belief with Godly behavior are sooooooo sorely divided and, therefore, ineffective as well as grotesquely hypocritical in telling others how to get along and cooperate and care for each other when they don't because of their passions for segregating and separating and enabling disaffections and disunity as Democrats and Republicans, Bears and Packers, Cubs and White Sox, Bucs and Thunder, Baptists, Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, Pentecostals, and other schismatics in defiance of Your high priestly prayer that all may be one through You so that the world will believe and then behave like believers with invitation, inclusion, welcome, and agape.
Maybe, today, right here, right now, we will stop going through the motions of faith and start living faith and modeling Someone better.
The united way.
The world, nation, states, communities, churches, and all of the below are starving for Someone better.
Maybe, today, right here, right now, we can start reflecting that Someone's selfless caring and bearing and sharing with generous hearts and helping hands.
Maybe, today, right here, right now, we can take David's longing and enflesh it in our lives: "How blessed it is when people are united."
No more skits and shows and drama and theater...and posing.
From now on.
No more compromises and accommodations with naysayers and nitpickers and the naughty who say and do little nice.
From now on.
"Let there be peace on earth as it is in heaven...Let it begin with me/us..."
From now on.
As prescribed in Holy Scripture.
As perfectly patterned by Jesus in whose name we pray.
Blessings and Love!
Monday, September 16, 2013
Who's/what's a geezer?
I refer to 'em almost every Sunday in worship; because most mainline pewsitters and pulpiteers are geezers because most non-geezers have gone elsewhere or nowhere for too many reasons to catalogue right here right now.
O.K., three reasons: (1) unconverted clergy; (2) unconvinced laity; and (3) reincarnations of the Pharisees/Sadducees. You can read about that in the non-best-selling Fifteen Secrets for Life and Ministry that's available via www.amazon.com for about 99 cents; or just go to Matthew 15, 23.
Anyway, I heard a definition of geezers on some rock radio station a few days ago while driving to nursing homes to visit, uh, geezers.
Not young anymore.
Not dead yet.
Geezers, like leaven that Jesus noted metaphorically, can be good, bad, ugly, or innocuous (which, really, fits into one of the first three categories in a Sartreian kinda way).
They mix in to make things/countries/communities/churches better or worse or...
A geezer like me was in my study last week and asked if "we're" getting old.
Response: "When we're riding our ponies less and moving in cages more, we'll be old."
Jesus said we can be new wineskins that stretch and expand to make room for His new and improved ways/opportunities/experiences/charismata.
Jesus said we can be born again and from above.
Jesus never said, "Behold, I make all things/people old."
Jesus never mentioned DOBs.
Jesus talked about our relationship with Him that determines the spirit/Spirit in us.
Considering Jesus created us as one with Father and Spirit - una substantia et tres personae - He should, uh, does know all about our potential/possibilities.
From everything that I've read that He said in those red letters in the big and best book about Him not books about the book that are often just whining/toning/watering down rationalizations of egocentrism over Theocentrism/Christocentrism, Jesus says we can be forever young in emotional, intellectual, and spiritual ways even if we have regular sessions with the chiro.
Of course, and I hope I'm wrong and trust you'll tell me, I think too many geezers like being, uh, old/rigid/frigid.
I think too many geezers really like being miserable; bantering and moaning about just about everyone and everything to make them feel better about their miserable lives.
Calvin concluded that part of total depravity goes back to the garden; while hell comes to my inferior intellect.
Geezers don't have to be miserable.
Jesus: "Come to Me, all of you who...[in essence]...are miserable...and I will give life to you...[in essence]...here and now and forevermore!"
What's not cool is how sooooooo many geezers just wanna stay...miserable.
Their choice with no apologies to the hyper-Calvinists.
I love being a geezer and know many who like being geezers because we know we can be forever young by getting/staying closer and closer and closer to our Source, Starter, Sovereign, and Savior.
That's why I'm good for another decade or two on the corner of Lincoln and Main to the encouragement of family and friends while dashing the hopes of my foes.
I thought about that last night and early this morning while Kopper took me for a walk.
I spent the weekend as Billy's caddie in the Illinois Special Olympics State Golf Championship.
Yeah, he won by score and, like all of the Special Olympians, he won by attitude.
He never bantered and moaned about the weather, competition, score, or if his deodorant would keep him dry throughout the weekend.
He was not "miserable" like...
Well, I'm back in the saddle right now after a weekend with "abnormally" emotional/intellectual/spiritual people who are not like their "normal" counterparts who are sooooooo miserable about sooooooo much; and I'm gonna listen/counsel/entertain/enable those miserable parochial/ecumenical/agnostic people just about everywhere I go/meet until my next Special Olympics thing...unless I have enough gutsy agape love left in me to tell 'em to get their "normal" heads out of their miserable, uh, attitudes, take Jesus' hand while inviting Him into their hearts, and become, as C.S. Lewis prescribed, "surprised" by a joy that Special Olympians get and the "normally" miserable don't.
O.K., here it is.
Take it/Him or leave it/Him.
If you're miserable, it's because you have chosen someone/something other than Jesus.
If you're not miserable, it's because you're closer to Jesus than miserable people and experiencing less miserableness in your life as you increase intimacy with Him.
If you're miserable, you have no divine right to do your worst to make other people as miserable as you are.
If you're not miserable, point the miserable people in your life to Jesus.
You can't help 'em.
Only Jesus can help 'em.
And without Jesus, they'll keep going/staying to/in hell.
Really, it/He shows...or doesn't.
Blessings and Love!
Thursday, September 12, 2013
Scratching the Surface of Acts
Luke wrote two books of the Bible: the gospel named after him and Acts.
The gospel according to Luke is a very detailed account of what Jesus said and did as Lord and Savior; more biographically informative than the other synoptics (viz., Matthew and Mark) while not being as profoundly theological as John and, in my scratching estimate, more ethically expansive - especially when it comes to our responsibility to care for the world's have nots to prove we are Christian - than the other three: "In my first book, I recounted the events of Jesus' life - His actions, His teachings - from the beginning of His life until He was taken up into heaven."
Acts records the earliest responses of the earliest followers of Jesus to what He said and did as Lord and Savior as the Son joined the Father in heaven yet remained as promised as Holy Spirit to encourage and enable followers to expand the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven: "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you...You will be My witnesses...to the farthest places on earth."
It reminds me of how Dr. Macleod, our worship and homiletics professor in seminary, often said, "God acts. We respond. God acts for our salvation in Jesus and we respond accordingly as thankful recipients of His grace." Then he'd often quote Richard Davidson: "Common worship is what we say and what we do when we stand together before God, realizing in high degree who He is and who we are."
Sooooooo it seems to me that the best way for today's church to figure out its identity and mission is to go back to the earliest followers of Jesus and reincarnate their life and ministry in response to what Jesus said and did as Lord and Savior.
Parenthetically, truly Biblical people - not people who read books about the Bible but people who read the Bible mostly and primarily or, even better in my estimate, solely as the best way to know God and His will for life and ministry - often say, after reading the book instead of books about the book, any connection between too many of today's churches and Jesus is purely coincidental; or as Tozer wrote, "Christ, not society...[is]...the pattern of the Christian life." Jesus was categorically stern about it in cautioning us against the sin of the Pharisees and Sadducees who elevated "the traditions of men to the commandments of God" (which, by the way, is as close to blasphemy against the Holy Spirit as one can tread).
Sooooooo, again, I'm convinced the best way to learn how to follow Jesus is to read what He said about following Him in all four of the gospeling accounts and follow Him as those closest to Him in time followed Him.
Again, it's Christianity by the book instead of a "kinda" watered/toned down version of Christianity as rationalized by books about the best book on Christianity.
Truly, I have never understood why anyone who wants to follow Jesus would go to secondary sources when we've got the primary one.
Sooooooo I've been scratching the surface of Acts to learn how to follow Jesus by the book and discovered at least five distinguishing character traits of people who follow Him, again, by the book.
While I'm not claiming this list as exhaustive and admit there's lots of room for improvement, Acts shows how those most intimate with the real not imagined/reimagined Jesus of the book are consistently, compellingly, and categorically clear in their confession of Jesus, countenance because of Jesus, conduct to confirm commitment to Jesus, communion with other followers of Jesus as proof of following Jesus, and courage to look up, stand up, speak up, and act up for Jesus.
Followers of Jesus are consistently, compellingly, and categorically clear in their confession of Jesus as Lord and Savior: "Everyone who calls on the name of Jesus shall be saved...There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved...Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household."
Followers of Jesus have a consistent, compelling, and categorically clear countenance because of Jesus: "When they...[not followers of Jesus]...saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus...[As Stephen talked about Jesus]...all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel...[As antagonists to Jesus and followers of Jesus were stoning Stephen]...he called out, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit...Lord, do not hold this sin against them.'"
Followers of Jesus conduct themselves in ways that confirm commitment to Jesus: "We must obey God rather than men."
Followers of Jesus love Jesus by loving like Jesus through holy communion with each other: "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved."
Followers of Jesus have courage to look up, stand up, speak up, and act up for Jesus: "If we have to choose between obedience to God and obedience to any human authority, then we must obey God."
Indeed, following the example of Jesus to the cross, the earliest followers of Jesus were beaten, battered, and butchered for looking up, standing up, speaking up, and acting up for Him. They believed Jesus: "If you die in time for Me, you will live forever with Me!"
Getting back to Luke, the first book that bears his name records what Jesus said and did and the second book called Acts recounts how the earliest followers of Jesus acted as a faithful response to His example by exemplifying Him in their lives.
Today's Christians who really want to follow Jesus by the book can turn to those earliest Christians and see how following Jesus includes a consistently, compellingly, and categorically clear confession of Jesus as Lord and Savior, a countenance or appearance of intimacy with Jesus, conduct confirming commitment to Jesus, holy communion with other followers of Jesus, and courage to be for Jesus in all things at all times in all places with all people.
Let me put this Actsual Christianity another way.
Open your Bible to Acts 29.
Acts 29 is not in your Bible.
That's because you are joining other followers of Jesus who are writing it right now.
...to be continued...
Blessings and Love!
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
While I may be wrong, I'm convinced selfishness is killing America and sooooooo many churches.
Specifically, it's the me-me-me refrain of a spoiled generation of American "Christians" who think selfishness is not absolutely antithetical to everything known about Jesus and following Him by the book.
It's the OCDish personality punctuations: "My rights...concerns...feelings...needs...opinions..."
It reaches its highest insult to His holiness in this attitude so often acted out if not articulated: "I know that's what Jesus and the Bible say but I think..."
If we're not on the same page right now, we've been reading different books...or books about the book...but not the book itself.
More specifically, the disease is often heard with these exclamations: "The sanctuary is too warm/cold for me...The music is too soft/loud for me...I, I, I do/don't like..."
While we will find no comfort, consolation, or confirmation for selfishness in Jesus or the book about Him, that character flaw continuing from the garden is often enabled in America and too many churches.
Truth is many so-called "Christians" in so-called "churches" are sooooooo egocentric rather than Theo/Christocentric that they really aren't self-aware to their selfishness.
They look into the mirror and see a...god.
Truth is too many churches are diseased by so-called "Christians" who are really, really, really comfortable in their selfish sickness aka sin and don't wanna get better.
They like their sickness aka sin.
That's why they are dying.
That's why America is dying.
That's why sooooooo many churches are dying.
There are exceptions; but, generally speaking, selfishness is killing America and sooooooo many churches because they just don't wanna get better.
John 5:1-9 comes to mind.
You know the story; but read it once more in the aforementioned contemporary context.
Sick guy lying by the side of the pool for a very, very, very long time - nearly four decades.
Sick guy lying by the side of the pool and waiting for nearly four decades for somebody to take care of him - help him into the pool that superstition says can heal.
Sick guy just waiting and waiting and waiting for...someone, something, anyone, anything...to take him for a swim after such a long time of life against the current.
Jesus sees him, knows he's just been lying there forever, and asks, "Do you want to get well/healed?"
"I got nobody to help me," the man protests.
Instead of enabling his continuing sickness, Jesus commands, "Get up, get moving, follow Me, and you'll get well/healed!"
Report: "And at once the man was healed, and he...walked."
Now I'm not gonna exegete all of the traditio-historical stuff; 'cause you can't build a theology or spirituality or faith or trust on broken pickle jars.
But I am going to scratch the surface of a very deep promise from God that's sooooooo blindingly obvious.
Here it is.
If we really want to get better, we listen to Jesus and do what He says without hesitation or equivocation.
Jesus did not enable the man's selfishness of waiting for someone else to pick him up and carry him through life.
Jesus did not enable the man's infidelities or inflexibilities or anything like that.
Jesus did not remain silent when the Word was needed to heal.
Jesus simply told the man, in essence, that if he really wanted to get well, all he had to do was listen to Him: "Get up, get moving, follow Me, and you'll get well/healed!"
America and too many of her pathetically egocentric me-me-me churches will never get better until they listen to Jesus and let Him lead; and if they're not willing to listen to Jesus and let Him lead, they don't really want to get well/healed...and won't.
Recently, I was talking to a friend about somebody who's always sick and complaining...or sick and complaining about someone or something...or sick and...
You know the kind.
There are sooooooo many of 'em around; which, again, is why America and sooooooo many churches are dying.
My friend said, "She/he is addicted to sickness."
I added, "And our church has been enabling her/him for years."
Truth is some folks and churches just don't want to get better.
But that's no excuse for enabling them to stay sick!
If we're really getting better because we're really listening to Jesus and letting Him lead, we have a privilege as well as responsibility to tell people that it is possible to get better.
It is possible for America to get well/healed.
It is possible for churches to turn around and get healthy.
Listen to Him!
Let Him lead!
Stop enabling those who don't wanna get well/healed.
If we enable people who don't wanna get well/healed, that means we don't really want 'em to get well/healed which means we don't really want America and churches to get well/healed which means we are as sick as...
Everybody's sick in some way.
I am...just ask my wife...and congregation...and, uh, anybody who's ever spent any significant time avec moi.
That's why Jesus comes to us as Lord and Savior.
Buuuuuuut only those who wanna remain sick don't listen to Him and let Him lead.
I almost forgot something.
This identified/isolated sickness aka sin in John 5 can be temporary or permanent.
C.S. Lewis wrote, "I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish; but their rescue consists in being put back on the right road...Evil can be undone, but it cannot 'develop' into good...If we insist on keeping hell, we shall not see heaven..."
Sick or saved.
While I'm not about to take on the hyper-Calvinists and hyper-Arminians, it's a choice in a predestined kinda way.
What do we really want?
To be well/healed?
If we really wanna get well/healed, there's really only one way.
Blessings and Love!