so that we may see, and believe You

The video below is a rather long one, but it's worth listening to in its entirety to hear Anne Rice's amazing testimony of how she left the faith, but was "Christ haunted" and how the Lord dragged her back to Him out of His great love. And if you don't want to listen to the full video, listen to the last two minutes. If you told me a decade ago that Anne Rice would one day preach the Gospel message, I wouldn't have believed you. But the Lord can save anyone. Anne and I are living proof.


if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord

"Under the Wings of God" {Ruth2:12}
* Review Ruth1
- Time of judges; no kings; spiritual dark ages {Ruth1:1}
- Elimelech & Naomi didn't wait upon Lord and moved to foreign country (end result three deaths)
- Naomi now Mara or "bitter" (v19)
* Scene 1: A "chance" encounter (v1-3)
- Boaz = "in whom strength"
- Gleaning laws show God's heart for those in need {Deut24:19-22}
- v3 "happened to happen"
* Scene 2: Ruth meets Boaz (v4-7)
- Boaz clung to Lord during dark days (v4-5)
* Scene 3: Boaz cares for Ruth (v8-17)
- Protects her from physical/verbal abuse
- Allowed her to drink from servants' H2O
- Invited her to lunch
- Granted her acceptance/legitimacy
- Ps57:1 -- God takes care of those who take refuge in Him
- Rom8:28 -- "no accident can happen to a child of God"
* Scene 4: Ruth brings home a good report
- v20b: closer relatives = "kinsmen redeemers"
- Naomi recognizes God's hand in their situation
- Story of Ruth is picture of Gospel message -- stranger/foreigner shown abundant kindness
- Spurgeon: "our glorious Boaz" in reference to Christ


bearing His own cross

I haven't done well maintaining any consistency in meditating here. But that's not to say meditation isn't occurring. Already paralyzed with great fear about Good Friday even though I stand firm in the Spirit He has given me and the message He placed on my heart. So plenty of meditation on the cross already. Even moreso, after reading THIS. That article is as must-read as anything I've ever read, and speaks to everything I see and feel when I think of Christianity. The cross is THE central aspect of the gospel for me, period period period. And the article eloquently speaks to the fight I fought to change our church's vision to what it should be. Simply put, while we are a faith that holds the Trinity to be true, our faith is and always should be a Christ-centered faith; a cross-centered faith. In a grand fantasy where I force the church to bend to my will -- I didn't say it was a good or healthy fantasy -- the only thing I was demanding was the pervading presence of the cross on every available square inch. You can bet the farm Bethel will be covered by the cross in every way you want to read into that.


to whom he had given the money

"How Do I Honor God w/ My Finances?" {Prov3:9-10}
* What does it mean to honor God?
- To value; show respect/high regard
- We honor by obedience
- 2Cor8:7: "grace of giving" -- giving not natural, & requires His Spirit & grace
* Why teach on giving?
- Stewardship is discipleship {Matt6:21}
- Often misunderstood by flock
- Area of potential great blessing
* Basic level: initial gift {1Cor16:1-2}
- Offering part of worship (not separate or interruption)
- Should be systematic (whenever paid)
- Proportional: "all about what God allows to come into our lives"
* Is tithing for today?
- No revocation of tithing in NT (unlike other OT acts like kosher food)
- Same principles still apply (honoring God for what He has given)
- Jesus commands tithing
- Tithing existed prior to Mosaic law
- Being under grace never implies lesser standard
* Obedience level: full tithe
- Partial obedience = disobedience
- Mal3:8-10, Deut14:23, Matt23:23
* Peak level: generous giver {2Cor8-9}


of the dogs, beware of the evil workers

ELEVEN churches have been burned down this year in the state of Texas. ELEVEN. That hasn't gotten the top headline in any newspaper or website that I've seen. Can you imagine what kind of outcry it would have been if 11 mosques or 11 synagogues had been deliberately set on fire this year? But it's okay because there are lots of churches and it's okay to commit hate crimes on Christians.

Enjoy the swim in the lake, media and society. FYI: Going to be a little warm.


also joined in the attack

Drove to church yesterday and listened to snippets of an interview with Dan Merchant, the creator of a ridiculous film. It's a documentary exploring the culture wars and the filmmaker's belief that because Christians spend so much time arguing over topics like homosexuality and abortion, we are turning off potential converts. Merchant contrasts an African church he visited with the church in America, and wonders aloud why we spend so much time with culture stuff, and not so much time with the Gospel. It's a common argument being espoused these days: less politics and more Jesus and all our problems will be solved like magic VOILA!

* Problem#1: Merchant and believers in the "Christianity would be great if it weren't for the Christians" mantra operate under the assumption that people can somehow subvert the will of God. It is the opposite of the evangelical position on election. They believe that there's this ready and willing world dying to hear about the good news of God and they hear it but also hear that we don't believe in evolution, and oh no, there's a person who won't get led to Christ. Be clear that no man, Christian or otherwise, can stand in the way of God's will for a person's destiny. Secondly, no man, Christian or otherwise, saves another person. God saves, and God saves alone. I can no more bring a man to faith as I can prevent him from coming to faith, no matter my level of conflict and aggressiveness.
* Problem#2: No person rejects Christ because they don't like Christians. People reject Christ because they reject His message and His divinity. There is no example of someone saying "I believe Christ is the Savior of the world, the atonement for my sin -- oh, but because that Christian called me a name because I'm pro-choice, I reject Christ". It's absurd. People reject Christ because they want to continue to live in their sinfulness. People reject Christ because they don't want to submit their lives to another. People reject Christ because the Holy Spirit hasn't yet opened their eyes, and they are hardened like Pharaoh. But people don't reject Christ because people attend loud pro-life rallies.
* Problem#3: What a ridiculous contrast between an African church and an American church. The African church doesn't confront culture wars because their culture isn't at war. It's like comparing Switzerland to inner-city Detroit. Oh, you don't see drugs and gun issues in Switzerland, but you do in Detroit? Oh, that's because that comparison is ridiculous. In the same way, African churches can focus on the love and dancing and joy, and American churches have to deal with homosexuality and abortion. Because our culture demands the fight.
* Problem#4: The Gospel message is absolutely central, yes, and should be at the heart of everything a church does, absolutely. But downplaying the issues that are at the heart of the culture wars as something trivial is playing into the devil's hands. You know why there is a war over Creationism vs evolution? Because evolution attacks the literalness of the Scriptures, and attacks the Bible from the very beginning in Gen1. You know why there is a war over abortion? Because abortion is the opposite of the Gospel message of life. You know why there is a war over homosexual rights? Because homosexuality attacks the gender creation and family structure designed by God. The culture wars are not wars over condiments or favorite colors. They are wars over critical and central concepts of God. They are not facets of religion; these are things that offend the person of God, and as His followers, we are to defend His positions. These wars are not culture wars; they are spiritual wars based in and fought in the realm of the unseen.
* Finally, problem#5: Merchant implies that the original church never had these issues. Maybe if we simplified the church into focusing on people and the Gospel message, that all could be right in the world. Has Merchant ever read the NT? Most of the epistles are instructions and clarifications from Paul trying to quell issues in the church. Paul writes 1Cor15 to knock down churches that fought over whether or not the resurrection was important. Paul writes 1Cor11 to straighten out churches with issues about worship. Paul writes letters to discuss whether food should be kosher, whether rich people are better than poor people, whether it is works that save us or faith, et al. The original church was just as argumentative and divisive as the modern church. And for Paul, there was a very clear right and wrong, and he fought to defend the right side, and often very loudly and aggressively. Christ turned over tables when if offended His Father. Shall we not be filled with righteous anger when our Father is offended?

Merchant, you think you are helping Christians build bridges with an unbelieving world. The unbelieving world will always be there, whether we hold an olive branch or not. But the defense of the things of God will not always be there if we are not.


root of all kinds of evil

"How Do I Overcome the Desire for More?"
* Materialism: A condition where the heart is preoccupied w/ material things rather than spiritual things
* Two big lies
- Money will solve my problems & success will make me happy
- I want the best of both worlds {Mark4:18-19}
* Roadblock#1: Pride {1John2:16}
- Solution: Know God as Provider & Owner {1Chron29:11-12}
- Self-worth cannot be tied to net worth
* Roadblock#2: Guilt
- Solution: Develop attitude of gratitude & accountability
- "Gratitude subverts greed"
* Roadblock#3: Envy
- Solution: Learn to admire without need to acquire {Phil4:11}
* Roadblock#4: Selfishness (closedhanded living)
- Solution: Learn the secret of generosity {Deut15:11}


as an example, and they were written for

Another sermon (book?) idea for when they increase the number of hours in a day from 24 to 40 so I'll have time to actually do stuff...

David addresses the Israelites in 1Cor28, but it's 1Cor29:10-20 that caught my eye. In these verses, after he has told them about Solomon succeeding him and about plans for the temple, that David offers up a prayer to God. And it's a sound model for prayer and perspective on life.
- Like the Lord's prayer, David begins with an exaltation of God, thanking Him for being the source of all things, for being sovereign.
- Love that v11 attributes victory to God.
- The start of v14 has a dose of humility, a recognition that we deserve nothing. And v16 acknowledges the riches they have are really the Lord's.
- In v17, David uses spiritual logic noting that he deserves nothing, that the Lord tests the heart (not the action), and therefore he righteously offers his sacrifices. And he offers them with joy.
- In v18, David pleas for God to move the hearts of the people. David is focused on their intentions and their hearts, not their actions.
- In v19, he prays for the Lord to move his son's heart. Solomon is known for his wisdom, but it was a proper heart that first asked for wisdom rather than riches. And that heart began here with David's prayer for the Lord to provide that heart.
- David ends where he began -- with a corporate blessing and worship to God.

Hey, pastors all over the country: when preaching on prayer, the Word provides a lot of examples of Godly prayer beyond the Lord's prayer. Maybe you can mix things up a little. I've got a good start for you already.


of the fierce wrath of God

The only thing on the news is the situation in Haiti. The bulk of individuals' responses to the suffering is an outpouring of prayer (for missionaries, for those hurt, for recovery, etc) and financial support. A few have been expressing great sorrow and struggling (yet again) with how a loving God allows suffering in the world. And not surprisingly, people like Pat Robertson and Rush Limbaugh say Haiti was asking for it.

The outrage from Christians against Pat and Rush is somewhat surprising to me. There is an immediate expression of rage, and a declaration that most Christians don't agree with these buffoons, and that God is a loving God and this is just a senseless tragedy. But I almost feel as if their reaction is not out of some righteous anger at bad theology, but rather simply to distance themselves from an unpopular opinion. I don't know if Christian outrage at Robertson's and Limbaugh's comments are because they so dislike the theology of their remarks, or because they don't want to be associated with unpopular people.

But let's say it was because they disagree with the theology. I don't think the theology is wrong. Throughout the Old Testament, God strikes down not just people, but whole nations who defy Him and mock His ways. In Revelation, the prophecies of what will happen to the nations that are against God are clear. It is an immensely unpopular opinion to say that a loving God who sent His Son to die because He so loved the world is the same God who is quite capable of sending disasters to strike down His enemies. Many Christians state that vengeance is the Lord's and that they can't wait until He rains down justice. But then when something horrible happens, they squirm and wonder how God reconciles suffering with love. Just like Pat and Rush shouldn't speak for all Christians on what God's intent was behind massive disasters, I'm thinking maybe the Christians who disagree with their positions shouldn't either.


sternly telling him to be quiet

Been a long while. Still trying to decide the point of all this. When this began so long ago it was about figuring out where the walk was headed, and what He was saying. I guess that exploration still remains. I guess? Perhaps that exploration isn't and shouldn't be so loud anymore. Perhaps?

In any case, the first sentence of 1Chron20 took my breath away: "Then Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel."

First, it is a clear reminder that our fight is not against flesh and blood, and that the shadows, they are very real, and that lion is always waiting to pounce upon you, always waiting at the door. And perhaps in moments of being away and moments of confused silence, it is clear Satan is still so very strong, still so often victorious.

Second, it highlights that there are times when Satan lets things occur. God is still sovereign over all things, no question. But Satan is also very much in control of this world. 1John2 makes a very clear distinction between those of God and those of the world, indicating the world is not of the light. And it is clear that Satan lets the world have its own ways. But then at times he has to get off that brimstone throne of his and press his advantage and move things toward darkness. And even something as seemingly innocuous as a decision on counting people can be used against us.

Perhaps not regularly committing myself to exploring my walk, exploring where all this goes opens that door keeping that lion at bay. Perhaps thinking more about light and darkness is critical in staying true. Perhaps silence is a sign of Satan standing up, suggesting some innocuous (in)action.