Monday, May 25, 2020
Driven to Our Knees by CCP COVID-19
Elmer Homrighausen, who retired as professor and dean of the seminary a few years before I dropped by, was guest lecturing in a homiletics class taught by my eventual dissertation advisor Donald Macleod.
Both were erudite scholars.
In other words, we knew they were smart but often didn’t have a clue about what they were saying.
Anyway, I’ll never forget when Dr. Homrighausen said, “When you preach, deliver the turkey. Don’t pluck it in front of them.”
Or as I also heard, “No one cares what Cyril of Jerusalem said. People want to know what you know from what you’ve learned about faith.”
I’m reminded of the preacher’s wife who left a note for him with one word: KISS. When he thanked her for being so romantic, she said, “No, it was an acrostic: ‘Keep it short, stupid!’”
Not long after finishing my dissertation, Dr. Macleod asked if I’d like to worship in a little church with him some Sunday evening. The church wasn’t far from one of the most iconic churches in American history – a church that had been served by some of the most erudite pastor-scholars.
I knew he had something on his mind a few minutes into the service when I finally got around to going with him.
Unlike the rather formal, traditional, high-brow, stuffy, snotty, snooty and socioeconomically elevated church that he attended on Sunday mornings, the evening service was marked by authenticity, diversity, energy, freedom and simplicity.
It seemed so ironic.
My professor, mentor and friend was known as one of the most exacting liturgists and homileticians in the history of Reformed Christendom; and here we were worshiping in a church with really passionate people about Jesus with no liturgy or litany or bulletin or vestments or antependia or fancy communion ware and silly looking little plastic cups or printed prayers or responsive readings or…
They sang praises, listened to a sermon that went for about an hour or so, prayed, went to the table and then left.
I was speechless.
Sensing I was having a hard time understanding what he was doing there, he looked at me almost sheepishly and confessed, “Do you remember when Elmer came to your class on Reformed Worship when I taught you? I’ve always thirsted for a simply saving experience of God. I find it/Him with those lovely believers on Sunday nights. I still go to old Nassau on Sunday mornings to pay my respects and because I’m expected to go as a professor. It’s iconic, you know. But I go on Sunday evenings to church to worship and get close to God.”
That’s every believer’s prayer.
Let’s read Matthew 6 and Romans 13:11-14.
Traditionally, I’ve always quoted the early 17th century definition of prayer in The Shorter Catechism: “Prayer is an offering up of our desires unto God, for things agreeable to His will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgment of His mercies.”
Practically/usefully, I’ve preferred my first pastoral mentor The Rev. Harold F. Mante’s definition: “Bobby, prayer is just talking to God about everything. Just talk to Him. He’s your Dad.”
“When Jesus was asked by His disciples how to pray,” Mother Teresa replied when asked how to pray, “He did not teach them any methods or techniques. He said that we should speak to God as our Father, a loving Father.”
God knows if we’ve ever needed our Dad, now’s the time.
What a mess!
You know what I’m talking about.
We’ve been driven to our knees by CCP COVID-19; and it’s exactly where where we need to be to survive, overcome and live happily ever after by grace through faith in Jesus.
Jesus said prayer that works is authentic: “It’s between you and God even if others are listening in…You don’t pray to show off for people - to impress them by how holy you are…Just pray…Just talk to God and He will take care of you…Don’t babble on and on with rotely and religiously repeated scripts…Pray…Talk to God…He just wants to talk with You…Besides, He knows what you need before you ask Him.”
A favorite illustration of prayer as part of our personal relationship with God comes from Tony. A woman complained about his prayers being too earthy and raw and, well, uh, real. He snapped, “Listen, lady, I wasn’t talking to you!”
Then Jesus provided a perfect pattern for prayer that we’ve called The Lord’s Prayer ever since.
Let’s take a quick look.
“Our Father, who art in Heaven” is our appeal to the only One capable of caring for all of us regardless of who, what, where, when or why because only He is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent.
“Hallowed by Thy name” confesses God to be holy, holy, holy and deserving of our respect, reverence, trust and obedience.
“Thy Kingdom come” means we want God to be in charge right now! We are convinced Father knows best and wants the best for everyone and everyone experiences the best when He’s in charge.
“Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” acknowledges there’s no guessing required when it comes to God’s will for our lives. It has been clearly, concisely and conclusively communicated to us in Jesus by the book as enlightened by the Holy Spirit who never contradicts Jesus by the book. We want God honored on earth just like He’s honored in heaven.
“Give us this day our daily bread” is an appeal to God for what we need to keep on keepin’ on. We have belly and soul needs. We depend upon God for ‘em. He takes care of ‘em all as long as we ask Him with a desire to be for Him: “Seek God first and He will take care of everything else.”
“And forgive our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us” is good news if we’re willing to pay attention to it/Him. We don’t have to remember who we were as long we don’t remember who they were! Cataloging sin is out! All of our past, present and future sins against God are forgiven by grace through faith in Jesus as long as we offer the same mercy and grace to others. If not, not.
“And lead us not into temptation” recognizes bad things taste good. Because bad things that taste good lead to spiritual indigestion and disruption of holy communion and so much pain for others as well as ourselves, we beg God’s help to avoid anyone and anything that hurts us by hurting our relationships with Him and His.”
“But deliver us from the evil one” recognizes the liar behind the lies, deceiver behind the deceptions, manipulator behind the messy madness and energy fueling the Antichrist and its accomplices to undermine, attack and seek to destroy anything of/for God. We know God wins the war. We’re asking Him to help us win the battles in the meantime.
“For Thine is the Kingdom , and the power, and the glory, forever” declares victory in advance! The Author is the Owner! We can’t lose if we’re on God’s team/side by grace through faith in Jesus.
“Amen” is our praising punctuation. That’s right! So be it! Yes!
One of the most ridiculous claims of government, law enforcement, jurisprudence and Godless social engineers is prayer can be outlawed in public education and discourse.
They can’t because it can’t.
Nobody can stop us from praying anywhere at anytime with anybody.
I like how Robert Schuller put it: “Prayer is like a VW with an open sun roof.”
Paul’s prescription is the irrepressible opportunity: “Pray constantly! Pray without ceasing! Pray persistently! Pray passionately!”
Now let’s go deeper with help from Romans 13:11-14.
Paul was writing to Christians at a time much like ours.
The government’s control needs were out of control – unreasonable, hypocritical, overreaching, violating basic human rights, limiting worship, exercising state over church and setting a precedent for today’s abrogation of the 1st Amendment – and Christians wanted to know how they should respond.
Contextually, we know Paul expected Christians to respect and even obey government as long as government respects and obeys God. If so, so. If not, not. Again, never forget as a pattern for our lives that this same apostle who expected us to respect and obey Godly authority was jailed and beaten at least three times and ultimately martyred for disobeying laws made by Godless civil and religious governments.
It’s also eternally important to keep Paul’s eschatology in mind. Everything that we’re thinking, praying, saying and doing must be with the second coming of Jesus in mind.
Paul has an urgent message for us in times like ours to be covered in prayer with the expectation that Jesus is coming back.
He begins, “It’s time for you to wake up because now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The signs signaling that He’s coming are increasing in frequency and intensity. Get ready! Here He comes!”
Do yourself a favor and read the Olivet Discourse – Matthew 24-25, Mark 13 and Luke 21 - which is the clearest listing of the red letter words/signs of Jesus signaling His return to claim His own and commence graduation celebrations.
When he says “our salvation is nearer than when we first believed,” he’s saying just that!
When we look at the signs of the times concomitant to the Olivet Discourse and related prophecies in Ezekiel, Daniel and the writings of Paul and John with Revelation being the most explicit charting of the what is to come before history ends in His never-ending story of glory, we know He’s coming sooner than later.
Truly, we do not know the exact day and time.
Only Father God knows that.
But while we don’t know exactly when, it’s closer than it used to be!
With the imminence of His coming back to claim His own and conclude history as preface to eternity, Paul urges, “So let us discard the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk with decency…Put on the Lord Jesus Christ!”
Paul is telling us to be A.D. not B.C.
He is telling us to get ready for His return by discontinuing our B.C. or before Christ behaviors and be A.D. as living in the year of our Lord.
He is telling us to declare war on our old nature of bad behaviors without Him and walk the talk of being born again and from above with behaviors obedient to Him as God personified in Jesus and prescribed in the Bible.
A little poem comes to mind:
Two natures beat within my breast.
The one is foul. The one is blessed.
The one I love. The one I hate.
The one I feed will dominate.
Garbage in means garbage out.
Jesus in means we’re getting ready!
One more word.
We can’t have it both ways.
We can’t be B.C. and A.D. at the same time.
We can’t live before/without Jesus and after/with Jesus at the same time.
In times like these when we’re driven to our knees by circumstances and jolted into recognizing the end is really, really, really near which is the best news for Christians because it’s so heavenly, we no longer have the option of walking down the middle of the road or being moderate about faith or pretending to be innocent bystanders or postponing or tabling or distancing ourselves from God and the Body of Christ aka Church.
That’s all over.
God or not.
Heaven or hell.
C.S. Lewis wrote in The Great Divorce: “It is still either-or. If we insist on keeping hell, we shall not see heaven. If we accept heaven, we shall not be able to retain even the smallest and most intimate souvenirs of hell.”
There’s no such thing as just a little idolatry or adultery or stealing or gossiping or lying or..
Yes, we are saved by grace for works; pero God knows if we’re trying or mocking Him with a sin-now-repent-try-harder-later attitude.
God will not be mocked in the end.
Jesus was unmistakable about the most important decision that no one can avoid with eternal
consequences influencing existential realities: “No one can serve two masters…You are either for me or against Me.”
Either we esteem God by our behaviors emanating from our beliefs or we embarrass God by our behaviors emanating from our disbeliefs.
Let me put it another way.
Every day, we wake up and put on our clothes and wear those clothes throughout the day.
Christians wake up and put on Jesus and wear/communicate Jesus throughout the day.
We’re either esteeming or embarrassing Him.
Every day, we have a decision to make for or against Jesus.
When Jesus is our Lord and Savior, He is in our plans or we change our plans.
When Jesus is our Lord and Savior, He is in what say and do or we stop what we’re saying and doing.
We’ve been driven to our knees during this CCP COVID-19.
We’ve been there before and we’ll be there again.
It never changes because it never changes. It’s the nature of the beast. The inevitably of constant changes and challenges in life means we need God to save us over and over and over again.
That’s why our salvation is often mentioned in three tenses – past, present and future.
We have been saved.
It happened when we said yes to Jesus by inviting Him into our heads, hearts and guts as Lord and Savior and experienced existential relief in the assurance of eternal life in paradise après the last breath in time.
We are being saved.
It happens when we try harder to be “more better” or increasingly set apart aka holy in/through/for God. While heaven is guaranteed for all who believe in Jesus, the Bible is categorically and compellingly clear that our behaviors in time are related directly to being blessed in time. Again, we are saved by grace and for works that honor God.
We will be saved.
It will happen when Jesus comes back to claim us as His own forever.
So we’ve got a lot to talk about – pray about – with God.
As long as we keep Him as the foundation, focus and filter of our plans, creeds and deeds, we will be just fine.
Saved in all tenses.
Simply saved; and there’s nothing short about it.
Being saved by grace through faith in Jesus lasts forever.
Blessings and Love!
Monday, May 18, 2020
Rats, Repentance and Salvation During CCP COVID-19
I smell a rat.
Contacts in law enforcement and jurisprudence along with word on the streets is that rats, snitches, stoolies, turncoats, tattletales, busybodies and Sister-Berthas-better-than-yu’uns are having a field day.
Apparently, people with a little too much time on their hands or jealous that nobody wants to get socially close to them or pretending some kinda big brother socialist patriotism that brings Orwell, Nazi Germany, the Chinese Communist Party, old USSR that Putin’s trying to reincarnate and some recently fired FBI political partisans to mind are calling up the cops to enforce social distancing when they see too many cars in their neighbor’s driveway or church parking lot, little girls jumping rope, family gatherings, barbecues and picnics, suspicious cars in the driveways of hair stylists, house visits from hair stylists, bikers congregating at McD’s and teenagers trying to make out in the park.
Though it’s a little out of context pero not that much, I hear an echo from the Master about some signs that He’s coming back, “They will hand you over to the courts, cops and churches. They will hand you over to be prosecuted and persecuted. You will be shamed, slandered and worse. Brother will betray brother and you will be hated because of My name…[Can’t leave out the good part!]…But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (see Matthew 10 and 24).
While rats, snitches, stoolies, turncoats, tattletales, busybodies and self-righteous Bertha sisterhood usually point their fingers from dirty hands and unsanitized hearts – so full of themselves yet with such empty souls – their passion for telling bad tales about others is generated by their lust to control others. They feed their hunger to control others by limiting initiative and freedom. It has little to do with law. It has lots to do with fascism in sheep’s clothing.
A mentor warned, “The greatest temptation for a young man is sex. The greatest temptation as you age is money. The greatest temptation for an older man is power.”
I smell a rat.
When this whole CCP COVID-19 really started spreading, I was down at Bad Ash Cigars in Oregon, Illinois; listening to one state’s first press conference on the challenge.
I’ll never forget the mayor who spoke after the governor and said “they” – whoever they really are – were hoping “to educate people into compliance.”
A judge sitting to my left and coroner sitting to my right and the lounge’s proprietor sitting across from me and investment banker standing behind him joined me with simultaneously dropped jaws as everybody caught the drift.
What happens if “educated compliance” doesn’t work?
Well, the mayor elaborated about a month later: “We will cite you; and if we need to, we will arrest you and we will take you to jail. Period!”
That made it sound really serious; so maybe we can, you know, ignore the 1st Amendment until things get better; recognizing, of course, the risk that freedoms removed are rarely restored.
Please know I am not questioning the reality or severity of CCP COVID-19.
Please know I’d rather be safe than sorry and can go along with the social distancing, hand-washing and mask-wearing.
I’m just having problems with the contradictions and hypocrisy.
If masks are so important to save lives, why were we given two weeks before we had to wear them to save lives?
If social distancing is so important, I’m having a hard time figuring out why social distancing is more important in some gathering places than others.
While I’ve been accused of breaking the practice-what-you-preach thing, why is it O.K. for the mayor to see her hair stylist but you can’t?
I don’t need one.
How can the governor demand/dictate the ban of non-essential travel and then ship off his family for vaca at their 12 million dollar horse farm in Florida?
Do as I say but not as I do?
If it’s that serious, why aren’t they playing it safe?
What do they know that we don’t?
Do they have better immune systems?
I smell a rat.
Have you noticed the instrument of compliance by those trying to control us?
Whether it’s the snitch or governor or mayor or whoever wants/demands/dictates compliance, it’s the most awfully profane four-letter word to the ears and spirit of a believer.
They use fear to control us.
If we don’t do what they say, we’re reckless and careless and should maybe could be charged for killing people because we’re not masked and distanced.
If we don’t do what they say, they’ll cite and fine and arrest and jail us so we don’t hurt ourselves or anybody else.
While anybody who’s paying attention knows the challenge is unprecedented, fluid and incrementally unfolding with conflicting “experts” on its magnitude and duration – nobody really knows what the anything but heaven is going on and your guess is as good as anybody’s else with just about all of the projections and models being grossly wrong – fear is used to make us think “they” know what they’re talking about; and even if they don’t, they’ll instill enough fear in us with cooperation of the media that doesn’t get ratings from good news.
I smell a rat.
Fear is mostly used by bad guys to justify, rationalize and enable their bad behaviors and get us to accommodate ‘em.
Fear manipulates people into supporting people and policies otherwise opposed.
A quote from Frank Herbert’s science fiction novel Dune comes to mind: “Fear is the mind-killer.”
Connect the dots.
I smell a rat.
That’s why President Franklin D. Roosevelt said during his inaugural address in 1933, “First of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
He was saying inappropriate fear causes panic.
Anybody connecting the dots between too many politicians, media and…knows/sees that.
I smell a rat.
Anybody connecting the dots is beginning to see a crisis has been turned into an opportunity to discourage people from turning to God when needed the most by saying God and worship are not as essential as weed, whiskey and WalMart.
Anybody connecting the dots is beginning to see people who hate Jesus and hate the republic “for which it stands” as a nation built on Biblical principles encouraging life, liberty and happiness for everybody not just the special few that have the power to make us stay at home and stay away from the barber and hair salon while they don’t - which really, really, really smells of something really, really, really wrong - are having a field day.
I smell a rat.
I smell something that knows this is the time to seize control of things, take down the nation and elevate the spirit of Antichrist over Jesus.
People are afraid.
Distracted from the Body of Christ and Jesus Himself with a constant bombardment of Pavlovian style conditioning that there are many things more essential than God to keep folks in their Skinner boxes and out of churches, now is the time for demonically inspired despots to exercise unreasonable control and threaten to cite, fine, arrest and jail people for violating rules that are increasingly unmasked as inconsistent, ineffective and capricious.
I smell a rat.
Hitler: “The best way to take control over a people and control them utterly is to take a little of their freedom at a time, to erode rights by a thousand tiny and almost imperceptible reductions. In this way, the people will not see those rights and freedoms being removed until past the point at which these changes cannot be reversed.”
Ben Franklin warned about losing the republic established by our founding fathers: “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
I smell a rat.
I smell the spirit behind the rat.
I smell the author of lies and deception.
I smell the one who is anti everything that God wants for us and gives us by grace through faith in Jesus.
I smell the one who wants to steal souls forever and destroy anyone and any country that wants to honor God and proclaims to a fallen world as the only way of getting back up, “In God We Must Trust!”
Connect the dots.
Believers smell a rat.
The only remedy is God through faith in Jesus.
The governor won’t save us.
The mayor won’t save us.
Only Jesus saves.
John Piper’s new book Coronavirus and Christ is right on: “No man can comfort our souls in this pandemic the way God can. His comfort is unshakable. It is the comfort of a great, high Rock in the stormy sea. It comes from His word, the Bible.”
Piper asks earlier in the book, “Do we have a Rock under our feet?...This is a time when the fragile form of this world is felt. The seemingly solid foundations are shaking…Do we have a Rock under our feet?”
When we talked last week about Jesus esteeming the Hebrew Scriptures and saying part of His role was to explain fully the Hebrew Scriptures and take us into a deeper relationship with God so that we would have an expanded understanding of His will for our lives so that we could honor Him more fully in Matthew 5:17-20, we noted how He provided “for instances” in Matthew 5:21-48.
Taking us deeper and moving us into greater intimacy with God, Jesus explained, “You’ve heard that is was said, ‘Don’t murder…Don’t commit adultery…Don’t divorce’…But if you really want to get close to God and surpass the fidelity/devotion/righteousness of the simply religious people like scribes and Pharisees and prove you are on God’s side, you’ll stop entertaining sins in your mind and stop fantasizing about them.”
He was saying sin begins in the head, heart and gut before it is acted out; so if we want to keep from acting out sin, we’ve got to stop thinking about it and figuring out how to get away with it.
It’s basic psychology.
Actions are preceded by what’s going on in our heads (principles), hearts (feelings) and guts (instincts).
It’s common sense.
Free your mind and your butt will follow!
That’s what it means to surpass the religion of scribes and Pharisees.
I think of early morning prayer and study with Ev, Coach and Dave who said it means being “more better.”
The grammar remains awful but the message is clear.
We can never be pure and perfect in every way - Jesus came to bridge the gap between our impurities and imperfections and God’s purely perfect will for our lives by grace through faith - but we can be “more better” and try harder; or as I once heard, “We are saved by grace and saved for works.”
We want to be “more better” and surpass religion - which usually amounts to the least we can do for God - in gratitude for existential relief and eternal salvation.
So after telling us to clear our minds of filthy sins so that our performance as Christians will move closer to our professed Christianity – So we will walk the talk! - Jesus instructs us to tell the truth, whole truth and nothing but the truth all of the time. He says believers don’t have to say, “Let me be honest…I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” Believers just tell the truth. They don’t need to place their hands on the Bible and take an oath about it.
Believers surpass a minimalist religion about God for a “more better” personal relationship with Him and His by going the extra mile. Again, we’re not into the least we can do for God. We give our best to the Master.
Believers love everybody. It’s the only Christian agape thing to do; praying and working for the highest good for everybody regardless of who, what, where, when or why without the need or expectation for response, regard or reward. While nobody likes everybody, the difference between Christ-followers and heathens is we don’t need to like ‘em to love ‘em.
Like is weak. It takes strength to love. Jesus said, “If you love those who love you, what’s so great about that? Anybody can do that! You can do better than that! You must if you’re related to Me! You will if you’re related to Me.”
The remedy for rat removal is replacing a religion about God with a personal relationship with Him.
That’s how we surpass the scribes and Pharisees.
That’s how we get “more better.”
I had a long talk with my mom on Mother’s Day.
She talked about praying for America to wake up before it’s too late and ask God’s forgiveness for distancing ourselves from Him. She believes we wouldn’t be in as much trouble as we are now if we hadn’t kicked God out of our courtrooms, classrooms, commerce, churches and all of the below.
We shared our conclusion that CCP virus is God’s wake up call to give us another chance to get right with Him before it’s too late.
Piper’s book echoes that concern: “This is not a season for sentimental views of God. It is a bitter season…[but]…God governs it. God will end it.”
He writes, “God is giving the world in the coronavirus outbreak…a physical picture of the moral horror and spiritual ugliness of God-belittling sin…[in our world]…God is mercifully shouting to us in these days. Wake up! Sin against God is like this! It is horrible and ugly. And far more dangerous than the coronavirus.”
And then with the unmistakable smell of a rat in our world – the smell of the Antichrist’s spirit that is anti everything that is Christian by Holy Scripture – Piper prophesies about this moment and rejoices in the remedy for overcoming the unholy trinity of satanos, Antichrist and its false prophet(s): “The coronavirus is a God-given wake-up call to be ready for the second coming of Christ…The message is clear. Stay awake. Stay awake. Stay awake…But, oh, how many people are not awake! For all their frenzied activity, they are sound asleep in regard to the coming of Jesus Christ. The peril is great. And the coronavirus is a merciful wake-up call to be ready…The way to be ready is to come to Jesus Christ, receive forgiveness for sins, and walk in His light.”
He concludes as all of us will conclude by grace through faith in Jesus: “…[If you receive Jesus into your head/heart/gut as Lord and Savior]…Then you will be among those who…[quoting Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:4-10]…’are not in darkness for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light…So then…let us keep awake…For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with Him.’”
Blessings and Love!