Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Prayer for the Week

Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that He may live in us, and we in Him, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Poetic Reflection on a Gracious God

I am not worthy of Your grace.
How well I know it.
My heart chases after the very things that long to fill it with more disease.
Things that long to imprison it.
How sick is that?
It is more than sickness with which I struggle.
My struggle is with death itself.
My struggle is with sin.
My struggle is with me. The old me.
Often, I do not even struggle.
Sin beckons and I follow. Willingly, I follow.
And every time, the results are the same.
Separation from You.
Separation from my neighbor.
Separation from my true self.


So, I come again with the same request: Father, forgive me my sins.
I have sinned against You in thought, in word and in deed,
By what I have done and by what I have left undone.
I have not love You with my whole heart...and on it goes.
It often sounds so trite and vacuous as it rolls off my lips.
I have said it so many times that sometimes I think I can't remember what it actually feels like to be Truly repentant.


And yet, to You, it is fresh. It is new. For You said through Your holy Apostle, "If you confess your sins He, that is You, will forgive me my sins."
This is an expression of Your faithfulness and Your justice.
Justice paid on the Cross.
Faithfulness expressed in Your love for me.


So, I come, often in spite of the fact that I do not feel repentant.
I come for one reason and only one.
I believe Your word.


You have paid for my sin in Your Son, Jesus Christ.


I come because I believe in His work.
I come because You have accepted His offering.
I come, not because I deserve Your grace.
To believe that I deserve Your grace is heretical.
To believe that I deserve Your grace is most oxymoronic.
To believe that I deserve Your grace is proof that I do not understand what grace is.


I come because You have captured my heart.
I come, because I am not my own, I belong to You.
I come, because I have no other place to which to flee for mercy.
I come, because You beckon me.
I come, because to pull of Your Spirit is stronger than my shame.


Thank You for the Cross.
Thank You for not giving up on me.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

NT Wright on the Domestication of God

"We need to be constantly looking harder at the God of the Bible. Otherwise we shall discover that gradually the picture we have of Him gets domesticated, whittled down to something we can live with. And gods that we can live with comfortably are idols."- NT Wright

Friday, December 20, 2013

Maranatha!

Some friends of mine recently had a miscarriage. For them there is no question of whether the baby was a person. It was a baby of course she was a person. They felt the baby move, kick, roll over. The child received nutrients through her mother. They shared meals, you could say. All these are things that babies do. All these are things humans do.

Advent is a time of waiting and hoping, much like a pregnancy. Remembering the incarnation we anticipate the parousia (Christ's second coming). But unlike an earthly pregnancy, there is no possibility of a miscarriage with regard to the parousia. Also, unlike a pregnancy, where we know that that wait will be somewhere close to nine months, we do not know when Jesus will come. So, we must be vigilant. We must pay attention to the signs. We must not be caught sleeping. We must keep our lamps burning.

Advent reminds me that all is not right with the world (as if I needed reminding). The death of my friends' baby affirms that all is not right with the world. Yes, there is something rotten in Denmark, and everywhere else for that matter. It's called sin and misery. Advent reminds me that the stench all around me (the sin and misery) and those I love is not the final scene of the play. The final act is coming. There is coming a day when death will no longer be able to take our children from us. There is coming a day when we will no longer have to dread being diagnosed with cancer. There is coming a day when darkness will be overcome by the brightness of the King of kings and Lord of lords. Something deep inside me screams, "Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Duck Dynasty and Morality By Intimidation

Duck Dynasty Star, Phil Robertson, has been suspended from the show because he believes the Bible to be correct when it  refers to the practice of homosexuality as a sin. I listened in utter amazement last night as the folks at TMZ almost had multiple strokes as they accused Robertson of one of the worse possible sins against humanity- "homo-phobia". To believe the Bible's position that the act of homosexuality is a behavior that is deviant in nature is to be, according to the secular entertainment media, is anti-gay. TMZ actually focused on the fact that Robertson called homosexuality a sin. This was the cause of their indignation against him. This is more evidence of our cultures shift towards a thoroughly secular worldview.

While screaming that there are no moral absolutes the secularist simultaneously demands that Christians allow them to establish and define the new absolutes for society. They insist that we allow them to redefine our faith. Unfortunately, we comply by apologizing for actually believing what the Bible says about sin. Pay close attention, Robertson, a Christian, will be required to do public penance for expressing a moral belief that coincides with biblical teaching. He will then reframe this whole situation in such a way that it looks like he has "seen the light" and abandoned his Neanderthal beliefs. The entertainment industry will cheer him on, he will then privatize his faith (and thus tell himself that he has not compromised his faith) and, sadly, Christians will never know that we (the Church) have been sent another very strong message about speaking out in public. This is morality by intimidation. Every time a Christian backs down from biblical teaching we grant them permission to do it again.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Biblical Faith

I am currently reading NT Wright's Small Faith, Great God. Wright is a brilliant Anglican thinker who always challenges me with his insights into the word of God.  On page 38 he writes, "It is not great faith we need: it is faith in a great God. And this faith comes, like Abraham's, through hearing the promises of God, believing them and acting on them".

Living by faith is a journey. A journey which cannot be taken alone. When I confessed faith in God, through Jesus, I became a part of something much bigger than myself. I became a part of a people who are submitted to the one true God. A people who have at the very center of their community the Cross of Christ. Faith is not about me. It's about the object of my faith. I once read where Kenneth Copeland wrote, "You must have faith in your faith." Wrong. That kind of thinking puts it all on me. At best that type of theology requires I make myself into some kind of witch doctor constantly trying to practice self-hypnosis in order to convince myself of my own awesomeness. At worse I become my own god struggling to work my "voo-doo" on my life situations (if I can just believe hard enough and never say anything negative about my situation I can change my situation for the best). Sorry, Copeland, that's not biblical faith.

Biblical faith must have as its object the God of Scripture who has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ. To live by faith is to see all of life through the prism of God's reality (the only true reality) as revealed to us in His word. To live by faith is to trust Him in the darkness as well as in the light. As a pastor and especially as a church planter I am keenly aware of how small is my faith, but I am also keenly aware of how great is our God.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Simplicity of Integrity

I have been involved in church work for over 30 years and I can safely say that one of the things that breaks my heart the most is to watch the lack of integrity that exists among some professors of Christ.  It is especially painful when it can be found among so-called leaders. I have tried hard not to be that type of leader. I haven't always succeeded.

As I have been preparing to preach this week, and meditating on the text for this Sunday (Matthew 5:27-37) I have been reminded of instances where I have "shaved the truth" to suit my purposes. I have also been reminded of instances where I have observed other followers of Jesus do the same. 

On the surface, this text doesn't appear to address integrity I noticed have noticed for the first time, that it actually does so in a somewhat forceful way. Note how this text seems to ask three questions, (1) Can you wife trust you not to have a wandering heart (5:27-30)? (2) Can society trust you keep your covenants (5:31-32)? (3) And, can you be trusted to keep your word (5:33-37)?

This is the Sermon on the Mount, and Jesus is saying, "If you're going to be salt and light (5:13-16), and if your righteousness is going to exceed that of the Pharisees (5:17-20), you've got to be trustworthy men and women of integrity. 

I have seen too many situations where "men of God" gave their word and then upon further examination changed their minds. This is one of the ways that we are regularly reminded that we sinners who are prone to do that which comes natural, sin. Paul must have observed it in the church at Ephesus because he felt the need, under the Holy Spirit's direction, to address it:

17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.

Sadly, many of us are more concerned about the image we're trying to maintain for the public, than about allowing the Spirit to transform us into men and women of integrity. Too often I am. 

Jesus has called us into one body and to deal with each other falsely is simply not His way. I love the way He just keeps it simple. He says, "Let your yes be yes, and your no be no." Integrity really isn't complicated. In fact it's so simple that it frightens those of us who have spent our lives scheming to climb to the top. We have forgotten that the kingdom does not operate like corporate America. The kingdom isn't about you wielding your power to control and direct people and institutions. The kingdom is about following Jesus. We follow and leave the results to Him.