Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Silence of the Muslim Lambs

Since WW II Christians and the world have been repeatedly told (and rightly so) that one of the main causes of the crimes perpetrated against the Jews by the Nazis was the silence of the Church. Today is that same argument is considered inappropriate to use against so-called moderate Muslims. Instead the deafening silence of the Muslim community regarding atrocities like the recent one in Paris is empathy. The secular media seem to understand their silence in the light of their fear. I do not. So-called moderate Muslims are dying too. And they will continue to die unless they begin to see the world the way ISIS sees the world. Ideas STILL have consequences. THAT will never change.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Dismissing Children During Communion

Evangelical and Reformed churches pay very close attention to their doctrinal statements. We want people to know what we believe and why we believe what we believe. But often, those same churches send mixed theological messages when it comes to their liturgy, the way they actually worship.

Within the past year I have worshipped in two churches that have similar statements of belief regarding what Reformed Christians call covenant children, the children of professing believers. Both churches believe that the children of believers should be baptized as infants. They see this as a corollary with the Old Testament sign of the covenant, circumcision. Both churches also see the Lord's Supper as having its corollary relationship with the Passover meal. In church 'A', lets call it, they retrieve the small children from "children's church", after the sermon, in order that they may participate in the family meal (the Lord's Supper). In church 'B' they dismiss the small children to "children's church" just before the meal is served. I know the pastor of this church and I know he has no intention of sending a negative message, but the message is stark and clear that the Table is for 'big people'.  I think it is the wrong message to be sending. I think church 'B' realizes that the best way to not have to deal with the children's questions regarding their inability to eat is to make certain they never see the adults eat. In the early church unbelievers and those under discipline were dismissed before the people of God came to the Table. Today we dismissed covenant children. We've come a long way.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

How Do You Handle Past Mistakes?

It seems to me that there are two ways to handle past mistakes. We all have them and we all deal with them consciously or unconsciously. We can either spend our lives regretting them, thus remaining stuck in the past. Or, we can learn from them, using them as tools to embrace the future. The Gospel encourages the latter.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Grace and the Duggers

Yesterday a local talk radio host asked his listeners if they thought Josh Dugger's recent repentance for using an online adultery service was sincere, or did they think that Josh was just sorry he got caught. As I listened to people's responses it reminded me of how much we, me included, are like that Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14, who thanked God that he was not like "those people" (my paraphrase). I have no idea if Mr. Dugger's repentance is sincere, half the time I don't know if my own repentance is sincere. And even when it is, too often I'm back pursuing the very thing I said I'd never do again. That's the power of the sin nature, just ask Paul in Romans 7. The host pointed out that Dugger didn't repent until he was caught. As I recall, neither did David in 2 Samuel 11-12. The public loves to stomp a professing Jesus follower when he's down, Christians even find some strength in it, sadly. Pray for the Duggers they're just redeemed sinners, they're not cultural icons. Perhaps they are starting to realize that too.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Who You Callin' a Senior Citizen?

Recently, while seeking a place to assuage my hunger, I decided to drop by KFC, the chicken place formerly known as Kentucky Fried Chicken, and pick up a bucket of chicken for dinner. And lo, suddenly I was caught off guard by the wisdom and discernment of the young man behind the counter, before whom I stood. Yea, upon taking my order, he seemed to go into a beatific trance and then he uttered these confusing words (at least confusing to me), "And with our senior citizens discount, your order comes to..." Say, what! Did I miss something? I didn't even remember him asking me my age! What could possibly make this young man think that I was a senior citizen? Many thoughts ran through my mind. I was offended, shocked, disoriented. What should I do? Should I smite him on the pate? That's KJV for "Knock his narrow butt out!" Nay, said I to myself. Instead, suddenly I felt a strange sense of satisfaction when he gave the final total. For I realized that he had saved me 10% on the total of my bill! 10%! So, instead of smiting the young man I left with a new appraisal of his powers of discernment, for this young man had accurately discerned that I was over the age of 50 even though I bore no physical evidence of being much older than he.

This has changed my attitude and from now on I will not depend on other servers to be as wise and bold as this young man. Instead, I will claim what is rightfully mine! I will have my discount! I will boldly ask, "Uh, do y'all offer a senior citizen discount?" I suspect they will think I'm trying to lie about my age and cheat them, but I will be ready with my I.D.  

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The God Who is? Or is He?

There are times when I look around and I see very little evidence that God exists and even less that He cares. Where are the stories of God's mighty acts on behalf of His people? Where is He showing Himself to be a faithful God? On such days my faith can only best be described as sanctified hope. On those days I would be wrong to refer to what resides in my heart as faith, true biblical faith. At best it may resemble hope. Something that looks more like a child crossing her fingers and just wishing it were so. On those dark, confusing days if someone were to ask me, "Is there a God?" I would respond like the little Christian that could (to borrow an image from a children's story) "I hope there is!" I hope there is! I hope there is!" But I really don't know. The doubt causes me I want to let go of my belief in God, but something will not allow me to give up hope. Something holds me to the hope, not belief, mind you, that He just might be real. Try as I might I cannot allow myself to let go of the idea of God.

In the final analysis, for me at least, there must be a God. Not because of any evidence that demands a verdict (sorry Josh McDowell), but for the self-centered fact that I cannot face the alternative. He must care, because to contemplate the alternative is too much to bear. And yet, God forgive me, I do contemplate the alternative.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Jeremiah 3:19 and "Our Father, who art in Heaven"

In Jeremiah 3:19 we find these words on the lips of YHWH, “‘I said, How I would set you among my sons, and give you a pleasant land, a heritage most beautiful of all nations. And I thought you would call me, My Father, and would not turn from following me."  The passage speaks of God blessing Israel and it clearly indicates that His desire for Israel was that they would be faithful to Him and trust Him to care for them. He wanted His people to embrace Him as their Father and all that means. He wanted them to see Him as the one committed to their wellbeing and prosperity. The text indicates that God's expectation was that once Israel saw and understood the nature of their relationship to Him as a father to his son they would walk faithfully with Him, they would trust Him.

But instead, in the next verse the imagery changes from father and son to husband and unfaithful wife,  20 Surely, as a treacherous wife leaves her husband, so have you been treacherous to me, O house of Israel, declares the Lord.’ The imagery changes because there is no better picture of unfaithfulness than a wife who goes whoring after other lovers. God offered Israel sonship, but they rejected it because they wanted to keep their options open.

So in Matthew 6:9, when Jesus tells His disciples to pray, "Our Father", He is insisting they take the Fatherhood of God as a present reality in their lives. Could He have had the Jeremiah passage in mind? I think He did. And if He did it would mean at least a couple of things. (1) They were to see themselves as the New Israel. They were now the sons of God (cf. Matthew 5:9, Romans 8:15ff). In Jeremiah we see that God desired Israel to recognize Him as Father. This would have been a new concept to Israel. (2) This recognition of the Fatherhood of YHWH came with an expectation, that they would not turn from following Him. So, back in Matthew's Gospel Jesus is saying to His disciples, "This relationship, this Father-son privilege is yours but it comes with a built in understanding of mutual faithfulness". 

This mutual faithfulness looks like this, to use Jeremiah's words, God the Father, has made the disciples of Jesus, including you and me, His sons, He has given us a pleasant land and a heritage most beautiful of all nations (salvation). Therefore, we are to call Him Father and walk faithfully in His ways.