Thursday, September 29, 2005

Unintended Racism - Real & Ugly None the less

I remember when it dawned on me in my 30’s that I had never - as I can recall - heard even as much as an application of the gospel on racism, much less a sermon on this topic.

I grew up in “solid” Bible teaching (white) churches in the South. I do remember rumors of deacons guarding the doors for disruptive radicals (blacks). I now recall & recognize code racist language in church and suspicion of liberals who were “into those social causes”.

To have been baptised in this setting for 18 + years, it was all but impossible to know what was missing. I had been saved, I had been baptized, I had joined, I had, I…, I, I. What more was there other that getting other people saved and supporting missions - over there?

I have needed and deeply appreciate some patient, mature Af. Americans in my life who put up with left over bigotry I am still blind to. Recovery is slow because new sight can come slowly, no matter how much it is desired.

Redefining assumed correct areas is more than repentance. Repentance rejects known areas of sin. Sanctification means encountering new old areas all the time. Those ugly “ah ha” moments when the Spirit tenderly shows you pockets of sinful thinking & attitudes. If nothing else keeps us humble in life, this ought.

God help us.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

God, Katrina, Rita and You

Maybe it is not just about Judgment

Want a volatile conversation? Discuss the role and relationship of The Almighty to Katrina, Rita and their cousins: earthquakes, droughts, tsunamis and lightening strikes.

In Legal and insurance language, they are called “Acts of God.” Are they? Would He? Does He dare?

Without pretending to even begin a full answer these deep matters of theology, questions of theodicy, I do want to ask a few questions to stimulate thought, and yes, risk the charge and possible guilt of arrogance by positing a few observations.

Often, in our efforts to keep from saying that God was punishing those “worse sinners,” we look for ways to excuse God from blame, responsibility, or involvement in natural disasters all together. In our attempts to keep His hands clean and reputation intact, we unwittingly shape a God to our liking, if not in our image.

In trying to exonerate God, do we at times become functional Deists: He let’s nature run its course? Or, do we become self-righteous: THEY deserved it, as wicked as they were? Or, do we unwittingly feign omniscience: we know with prophetic certainty that God was judging?

What if cruel Mistresses Katrina and Rita brought revival to America? What if they serve to awaken the church, getting her out selflessly serving others? What if their impact leads to unbelieving evacuees hearing the gospel, gaining an eternal home at the loss of their temporal one?

How about the fleeing faithful who were scattered (seeded?) across the nation, having new platforms to share Jesus, edify other Christians? Not to mention the chance to nationally mend racial wounds, help the disenfranchised, force a discussion of a more equitable society.

If these and other things happen, would we then thank and credit God for these heavy, hurtful blows? Would judgment talk shift to that of a gracious sovereign work? Or is He just good at a mop up operations after the fact? “Didn’t see that one coming.”

It seems to me that when we say God just lets nature follow its course – hurricanes happen- it does little to get God "off the hook." If He could have stopped Katrina and did not, He is as much at “fault" as if He caused it outright. Isn’t to allow it to condone or permit it, with all its attending results?

Romans nine tells us the Fall of Us’ins (that’s politically correct for Man) had a deep, ugly impact on physical earth too (Gen. 1-3). Terra firma, with its God-ordained cycles and systems, groans, longing to be redeemed, restored.

Part of what will make heaven heavenly (ala Rev. 21, 22), is that nature will finally be fixed. We read of lions playing with, not preying on lambs. Cobras will curl up with, not coil up towards, children.

We, like long-suffering Job, are stuck with God, whose ways are higher than ours, even when they seem evil, capricious or insane. Like Job and his buddies, we too often darken His counsel with our words without knowledge. Want to be humbled, bothered and comforted? Read Job 38-42.

I recently read my kids the story of Elijah when God sent a drought. God was purposeful and causative in this matter. About Noah’s Flood: whose flood? Could not judgment on our entire nation be part of what God has wrought?

Ponder author Philip Yancey’s great question: The issue is not why do bad things happen to good people, but why do good things happen to bad people?

I confess I fear our culture has bred & fed a view of God that is too little and a view of man that is too big. Let’s be honest, a Big God who can do as He wills is humbling to man. My pride chaffs at such. Yours does too.

A Big God who may be up to more than my mind can ever grasp calls me to see my smallness. My mind hates the competition, the reminder of finite-ness.

A Big God is scary. Yet a Big God is what we have here, gang. One whose ways and thoughts more than transcend ours. He is transcendent and imminent, above and beside. Remember that baby in the manger (Matt. 1-3; Phil. 2:1-11)?

What about Satan’s part in these calamities? Martin Luther said “Satan is God's little errand boy.” I like that. Better yet, I think that is fair to “the Book.”

There is no relative comparison of God and Satan - not even King Kong versus a flea – pardon the analogy. This is not a yin yang, balancing of natures’ forces. Sorry, God wins hands down. Game over.

God’s God-ness, His Theism is not open to our wants and preferences. He is and He is as He is. We are called on to worship Him, knowing that it is because we see through a glass dimly that He would seem to us to have any blemishes.

In a context of adversity, the Psalmist prayed: “You are good and what You do is good. Teach me Your decrees… It was good for me to be afflicted so I could learn your statutes” (Psalm 119:68, 71).

Since God is good and does God, we do well to humbly ask for understanding when His ways do not seem so good. And, we need to be ready to accept His answer if He chooses not to take us into His confidence about eternal plans.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Did 17 miles on a bike today . . .

mostly down hill (the Virginia Creeper, near Abingdon, VA), with 11 boys ages 9-12, five other leaders. Put chains back on, had bandaids ready, raised a few seats, tightened... shared water . . . urged on a slow poke or two . . . Rump is sore & whole body.

It was a good time with Kaleb (my 10 year old).

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Answering “Chicken Little” from Psalm 11
Keeping Firm in Faith when even Friends Say “Flee”

When fear is in your face, trash talking you ‘til you tremble & it seems the sky IS falling, what do you do? When the enemies are very real and gaining on you, challenging your faith, how do you survive? Who the LORD is & who He is to you at such times makes no small difference. He is the place to run to when tempted to run. Psalm 11 helps give you ammo to take out Chicken Little.

The Father is My Fortress. Flee? PHOOEY - vs. 1a
1 In the LORD I take refuge. How then can you say to me: "Flee…”
The LORD: YHWH – the eternal, self existing One
A Refuge: a place one flees to for safety – or a PERSON

It’s not just that we have a refuge, its WHO that’s our refuge.

Sometimes the Advice is “Run – the Sky is falling” - 1b-3

Times must be hard when friends say: "Flee like a bird to your mountain.
2 For look, the wicked bend their bows; they set their arrows
against the strings to shoot from the shadows at the upright in heart.
3 When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?"

When bows are bent & foundations shake, remember:
The LORD is STILL on the throne - vs. 4-7
4 “The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD is on his heavenly throne.”

He is Seated / still in Heaven He is Sovereign

He is Settled / Not in threat We’re Secure:

4b “He observes the sons of men; his eyes examine them.”

He Sees - knows what’s going on, not passively detached (Deism)

He Sifts / Tests / as gold is tested

5 “The LORD examines the righteous,
but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates.”

He Sorts / Separates (Matt. 25) - calls His sheep by name

He Seethes @ Sinners (Ps. 7:11)

6 “On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur…
7 For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice…”

He Settles Accounts - since He’s Righteous & Loves Righteousness

7 b “upright men will see his face.”

He Shall Fellowship with the Righteous (Psalm 1:6; Ps. 15, 24)

Is the Lord your refuge?
Is your faith settled?

When Fear knocks - let Faith answer the door

Was in Divorce Court Yesterday

. . . with my little brother (a friend now of 25 years - met Via Big / Little Brothers in 1980).

So sad to be present at the death of a marriage. I did the wedding . . . It was like being in hospice with a child, where life suport was to be removed. It was sad, tense, angering, heart breaking.

I am proud of how my Lil Bro. handled himself. She pursued this. He did not want it.

Pray for the kids of broken families - they have two kids. It is no neutral act.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Serving the God of the Living

Serving the God of the Living
Ignorance of the Law & LORD: No Excuse - Mark 12:18-27

Trying to trap Jesus is to mock Him, His word & power. After the Pharisees’ failed political ploy, the Sadducees set a tricky theological trap. Wanting to force Jesus to take sides and pick His poison (enemies), they seek to bait Him into a senseless debate.

Too wise to be fooled by smart fools, Jesus points out their sinful thinking: "Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? … He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!" May Jesus show us each area in which we are badly mistaken, and ignorant of Him & His word.

Sadducees & their “Dilemma” from Deut.: “Levirate Lunacy”
“At the resurrection whose wife will she be…?"” vs. 23 (NIV)

1. Sadducees didn’t believe in Resurrection & only accepted Moses (The Torah)
2. They thought an extreme example of the Levirate Law from Deut. 25:5, 6
- One Bride For Seven Bro.’s - showed silliness of Resurrection
3. These sophisticates are mocking God, His word & Jesus
4. Professing to be wise, they became fools (Rom. 1:16 ff)

Jesus’ Revealing Reply and Rebuke
“You're way off base, and here's why: One, you don't know your Bibles; two, you don't know how God works.” vs. 24 (The Message)

These Bible Scholars were selectively & willfully blind

Jesus used Moses (Exodus 3:13-15) to show their error.

1. Our Eternal State: When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. vs. 25

There will be a Resurrection (John 5:24-26; 1 Cor. 15; Rev. 21)

We will be finished with Parenting / Marriage in heaven

2. Our Eternal God “…have you not read in the book of Moses … how God said to him, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!" vs. 26, 27

Not “I was God of Abraham” - long dead when God spoke to Moses.

But “I AM…” - after their physical death, they lived on. The eternal “I AM” was still their God; the God of the living (physical & spiritual).

We are immortal beings – fit for eternity. Those who trust in Jesus, have eternal life – even now (John 17:3; 1 John 5:11-13).

If you’re mistaken about God & His word, repent & believe!

Faith: Is Yours Growing?

Faith: Is Yours Growing?
“I do believe; help my unbelief."
Becoming People of faith - Mark 9:24

The Timing: Just after a Mountain Top Experience - vs. 14
Experiences are great, as far as they go; are often short-lived.

The Setting: A Failure of Faith & Fruitless Debate: vs. 18
“I told Your disciples to cast it out,
and they could not do it." (they had the authority to: Mk 6:7, 13)

Jesus’ Reaction:
Grief & Frustration at our Faithlessness
"O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you?
How long shall I put up with you?" vs. 19 (Ps. 95:10)

A Father’s Sad Plea & Failing Faith: vs. 22
“But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!"

Jesus’ Challenge & Call to Faith: vs. 23
“And Jesus said to him, " 'If You can?'
All things are possible to him who believes."

An Honest Confession of Faith & Doubt: vs. 24
“I do believe” a measure of faith
“help my unbelief” a need for faith

Jesus’ Merciful Help to:
the son - He delivered him
the father - He helped his unbelief
the disciples’ - He built their faith . . . and ours

Jesus Diagnoses the Disciple’s Failure: prayerlessness / lack of faith

… "Why could we not drive it out?" And He said to them,
"This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer." vs. 28, 29

Concluding Questions, Confessions & Challenges:

Which was the biggest need: the dad’s faith, his son, or His disciples?

Does Jesus need to rebuke your doubt? 'If You can?'

What is possible for you? “All things are possible to him who believes."

A Prayer for Us Doubters: “I do believe … help my unbelief”

Loving One Another: HOW

Loving One Another: HOW
Applying God’s #2 Command from Mark 12:28-34

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. … Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Gal. 6:2 &10 - NKJV

“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' 31 The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."

“The person who refuses to love doesn't know the first thing about God, because God is love--so you can't know him if you don't love. 9 This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him…. 11 My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. 12 No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us--perfect love!” (Mark 12:30-31 - NIV & 1 John 4:8-9, 11-12 – Message)

Love One Another: The Reciprocal Commands:

Here are many of the “one another” passages: John 13:34-35; 15:12, 17; Romans 12:10, 16; 13:8; 14:13, 19; 15:5, 7, 14,27; 16:16; 1 Corin. 9:11, 11:33; 12:25; Gal. 5:13, 15, 26; 6:2,6; Eph. 4:2, 25-32; 5:21; Phil. 2:3; Col. 3:9-13; 1 Thess. 3:12; 4:9, 18; 5:11, 15; Heb. 10:24, 25; James 4:11; 5:9, 16; 1 Pet. 1:22; 4:9; 5:5; 1 John. 3:11. Look them up!

Heb. 10:24 “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” - NIV

Col. 3:12 “God loves you and has chosen you as his own special people. So be gentle, kind, humble, meek, and patient. 13 Put up with each other, and forgive anyone who does you wrong, just as Christ has forgiven you. - CEV

Gal. 5:13 “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” NIV

John 13:34, 35 “But I am giving you a new command. You must love each other, just as I have loved you. If you love each other, everyone will know that you are my disciples. - CEV

If this were a test, how would you do? Passing? Good marks?

Is it obvious that we are Jesus’ disciples (John 13:35)?

WHO can you show love to THIS WEEK?

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Today's Notes - Outline - Col. 3:16, 17

This is more outline than usual, but here it i; Sunday's notes

Teaching & Warning Each Other
“one another-ing” one another

Put On: … compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience
Bear with Each Other
Forgive Each Other
Put on love
the Ultimate Fashion Accessory
Let Christ’s peace rule in Ya’lls hearts (in the church)
Be Thankful

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Col. 3:16, 17 (NIV)

Letting Him & His Word Live Big / Settle Down in Us:
Josh 1:8-9
Psalm 1
John 15

Teach Each Other (Col. 1:28)
Prov. 1
Matt. 28:16-20
Titus 2
1 & 2 Timothy

Warn / Admonish Each Other:
Gal. 2 & 6:1-9
Rom. 15:14 - is this a fair assumption of you?
1 Thess. 5:14; 2 Thess 3:15

... with psalms, hymns & spiritual songs

17 Whatever you do in word or deed,
do all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks through Him to God the Father. NASV

Thank God His

mercies are new every morning and in each mourning.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Compassion Fatigue

This week of Katrina has worn us out. My wife & I feel a compassion / care taker fatgiue and we have not even left our homes. I post this not for pity, but to remind us to pray for the on-site caretakers. Two I will mention by name: John Gerhardt & Paul Erdman (& their wives / families) of Urban Impact / Castle Rock Comm. Ch., an inner city "Nawlins" ministry that evacutated 70 + people to Arkansas. see

I met a Salvation Army officer yesterday who, along with his wife, is being deployed to Houston to care for refugees. Pray for Matt & his wife (didn't meet her / get her name).

Neat God-timing story. Monday I was at a camp in KY. I brought home some extra food stock to use in ministry some how; camp is over & it would just sit there. Friday I was able to put in on a Salvation Army truck heading to New Orleans. I loved the thought of a poor KY camp in the hollers serving the inner city poor. Fun to have had a small hand in. Thanks to Joe P. for mentioning to me in passing that the Sal. Army was loading a truck. He & his wife - two of the poorest in our body - donated extra baby clothes & items; things they were going to use for a yard sale for sorely needed extra cash for them . Widow's Mites and loaves & fishes still exist. May God bless, break & multiply.