Thursday, April 27, 2006

Leadership and Fru-fru Pageants (part 3)

Heroes are not what they used to be. The Disney movie “Toy Story” (it’s ok, my Baptist brethren—we can talk about it now) is a great example of shift that is marked in our heroes. As late as the 1970’s the cowboy might have remained a figure of heroism (rugged strength, determination, stamina, etc). Contrast the Lone Ranger with the Marlboro Man, though, you get a much different picture. Enter the Space Ranger. We live in the contrast of Rocket Man against Darth Vader. Back in my day, Luke Skywalker was the hero . . . what happened? Clearly, Lucas did not end up in line from where he began.

Who are the heroes? Who are the good guys, and who are the bad? Let’s ask it another way: if you had to run to someone for help, who would it be? Identify someone. Who is it and what do they do? I am curious to know who you identify. I am certain that a good number of my readers would identify someone in the ministry.

Let’s kick it up a notch. Who would your neighbor run to for help? Who do they look up to? I am not so certain that anyone in the ministry would even make their list of hopefuls.

I have held back saying this for sometime, but feel the need for it now: Christians can be the rudest people I have ever met. When I am out witnessing, I will occasionally cross paths with a fellow believer and, honestly, am treated more kindly by those who are condemned to hell than many who profess salvation in Christ Jesus. I will here underscore the word “profess” as I don’t believe that anyone who has truly met Christ would have the fruit of the flesh so prominent . . . but that’s another blog.

Consider what this means for upstanding people in the community: “Not long ago in our culture, the clergy were the most respected figures in any community. Not anymore. Widely publicized moral failures and financial scandals (especially by a few prominent televangelists) have given ministers as a whole a black eye. As a result, many people have grave suspicions about the motives and actions of religious leaders.”[i]

Each time I meet a person who wants to be a pastor or missionary or serve in some leadership capacity, I admit there are times when I wonder how he or she will turn out. Pardon mine unbelief, but I really wonder (I wonder about myself sometimes). I think that is one reason I enjoy witnessing so much, so when I ask people about their sin, they can freely point to me and say, “what about you” and I can give testimony. Keeps me honest.

Bishop J.C. Ryle wrote a wonderful book called “Thoughts for Young Men” because saw the need of godliness in youth. In his reasons for writing he states that there are few young men who seem to be Christian; all forget that death and judgment are coming; there is a future to be lived in the service of God starting now, not later; and finally, Satan does not want them to change. I would give each young minister Ryle’s book because he states exactly what needs to be said to young men: learn what sin is, what it does and how to be free of it; know the LORD Jesus Christ; guard the soul; serve God while young; stay in scripture.


I remember when I was in Seminary there was this one guy who not only irritated me, but I sought to avoid him when I saw him coming (as did a few others). This guy would not simply say, “hey. How’s it going. Nice day. Do you homework?” and other mundane things. No. He would walk right up to you, stick out his hand and say, “How’s your prayer life? What did you read in quite time today?”

I wish I knew where he was now.

1 Samuel 2:12–3:21 is a passage young people should get to know before going in the ministry or into leadership. It is a great study in contrasts. Eli’s sons on one side, Samuel on the other. Remember, Samuel was dedicated to the service of the LORD at Shiloh and Eli (in effect) became his father.

Eli’s sons: “Now the sons of Eli [were] corrupt; they did not know the Lord . . . the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord, for men abhorred the offering of the Lord.” (1 Sam 2:12, 17).

Samuel: “But Samuel ministered before the Lord, [even as] a child, wearing a linen ephod . . . the child Samuel grew before the Lord.” (1 Sam 2:18, 21).

God was so displeased with the Eli’s sons He wanted to kill them (1 Sam 2:25). God confronted the behavior of Eli’s sons by sending a man of God to deliver a word to them: they will die and a faithful priest will be installed who will do what is on God’s mind and heart. (1 Sam 2:27-36).

Samuel had an experience with God unlike the kind Phineas and Hophni were going to have. While Eli’s sons were mindful of everyone else’s business (for the purposes of exploiting for profit), Samuel was minding his own business. While Eli’s sons had their men ever watchful, never resting, Samuel was asleep. While God sent another individual to deliver His message face-to-face concerning Eli’s sons, God met Samuel personally, quietly. Eli could not believe it until he heard the message God gave Samuel, which confirmed what he already heard with his ears.

C.S Lewis wrote on distinction: “A Christian and an unbelieving poet may both be equally original and draw on resources peculiar to themselves, but with this difference. The unbeliever may take his own temperament and experience, just as they happen to stand, and consider them worth communicating simply because they are his. To the Christian his own temperament and experience, as mere fact, and as merely his, are of no value or importance whatsoever: he will deal with them, if at all, only because they are the medium through which, or the position from which, something universally profitable appeared to him.”[ii]

Clearly, Phineas and Hophi were in the way of God and themselves, drawing sin down on the people. There was no leadership there as they were functioning on and out of themselves. Samuel, on the other hand, participated in the plan of someone much bigger and greater than himself. Leadership needs to consider these examples!

Some great things here:

  • God is above all and all knowing;
  • God will punish evil and bless obedience;
  • God calls whom He will to serve Him His way, according to His purposes.

The text mentions that Hannah went up year after year and brought things to Samuel, things related to His service to God (a great mother’s day sermon here). I wonder how the people must have felt going to worship knowing that Eli’s sons were there, but Samuel was there too. I bring this up because many people today equate church with money-hunger. All those preachers want is money, money, money. This has a touch of irony in it because isn’t that all anyone wants? People don’t want to give it, but they would sure like more of it . . . without working for it . . .for free . . . This is why I like Ray Comfort’s attitude. He gives money away. I like to give things away. People should not see the church as greedy, except greedy to distribute!

What is absolutely amazing is how Samuel could grow up in Eli’s care while Eli’s own sons were bezerking the place of worship. Talk about challenges to face! Man! As a parent, I think I have an idea of how this can work. First, we must recognize that God has His hand on Samuel, having called him from the womb (as it were. See Jer. 1:4-10). Second, we need to remember that Samuel had a clear, objective view of Eli and Eli’s sons. He could watch them and listen to them. He could see what the boys were doing and how it broke Eli’s heart. Third, remember that Samuel himself had heard the words of the LORD and knew exactly what God thought about what they were doing.

Now, as a parent of many children, I can imagine how the older child is like the prow of a ship, breaking waters taking the family places it has never been before. I can tell the oldest child what to do and she must decide what to do, living with the consequences. The siblings get to hear, see and watch and make a decision for themselves for the day they, too, must face the same situation. Perhaps Samuels’ growing up was much like that.

As an example of leadership, consider A.W. Tozer, “Lord, teach me to listen. The times are noisy and my ears are weary with the thousand raucous sounds which continuously assault them. Give me the spirit of the boy Samuel when he said to Thee, "Speak, for thy servant heareth." Let me hear Thee speaking in my heart. Let me get used to the sound of Thy voice, that its tones may be familiar when the sounds of earth die away and the only sound will be the music of Thy speaking voice. Amen.”[iii]

This should be a warning passage for young people going into ministry and for those who seek to be leaders. It’s not so much, “what kind of leader do you want to be,” but, “Who do you serve and how?” Moreso, what does this communicate to people who persist in sin, regardless of their position?

“If you have met with the frowns of providence, perhaps some way of sin in your life explains why. When you have received sore rebukes and chastisements, it is very probable that you’re practicing a sinful habit or tolerating an evil act is what has caused you the trouble. Sometimes God is exceedingly severe in His dealings with His own people for their sins in this world . . . . How harshly did God deal with Eli for living in the sin of not restraining his children from wickedness! Both sons were killed in one day, and Eli himself died a violent death. The ark was taken into captivity (chapter 4). Eli’s house was cursed forever; God Himself swore that the iniquity in Eli’s house would never be purged by sacrifice and offerings (3:13–14). The priesthood was taken from Eli and given to another line. And there never again was an old man in Eli’s family (2:31). Is the way of sin in which you live the reason for the rebukes of providence you have met with?”[iv]

“That so-called Bible religion in our times is suffering rapid decline is so evident as to need no proof, but just what has brought about this decline is not so easy to discover. I can only say that I have observed one significant lack among evangelical Christians which might turn out to be the real cause of most of our spiritual troubles. Of course, if that were true, then the supplying of that lack would be our most critical need. The great deficiency to which I refer is the lack of spiritual discernment, especially among our leaders. How there can be so much Bible knowledge and so little insight, so little moral penetration, is one of the enigmas of the religious world today . . . . If not the greatest need, then surely one of the greatest is for the appearance of Christian leaders with prophetic vision. We desperately need seers who can see through the mist. Unless theycome soon, it will be too late for this generation. And if they do come, we will no doubt crucify a few of them in the name of our worldly orthodoxy. But the cross is always the harbinger of the resurrection.”[v]

**********
[i]MacArthur, John. 1 Samuel : How One Godly Man Changed a Nation. MacArthur Bible studies, Page 13. Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group, 2000.
[ii] C. S. Lewis (1898-1963), "Christianity and Literature"
[iii] Tozer, A.W. The Pursuit of God. Camp Hill: Christian Publications, 1982. p. 82-83.
[iv] MacArthur, ibid.
[v] Tozer, A.W. We Travel and Appointed Way. Camp Hill: Christian Publications, 1988. p. 111-112.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Witness Report, sort of . . .

"If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. If they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees. Let no one go there unwarned and unprayed for." (Spurgeon)

I’ve gone without posting a witnessing report for a while now for a few reasons, the foremost is that I’ve not had dedicated time to make a report. I shall endeavor to catch up the news here.

One of my daughters has joined me on a few outings and would probably tell you how crazy her dad is. She is quite supportive and I am glad to have her along in this rare father-daughter opportunity. Together we have walked much of downtown and have shared some sights and scenes together, which in its own rite, has been quite enjoyable. I am also glad to have her along to talk to disciple her in this unique way.

We spent a time or two on campus at the University of South Carolina and have had some good conversations with folks. Our best conversations are at Finlay Park.

This last week I was joined by a friend, Maurice, visiting from Africa. Together we talked to about 18 people in the space of just over an hour about their need for Christ. I had just gotten some new tracts and was eager to try them out because they are very conversational. Maurice stood quietly by as my prayer partner while I talked to folks.

At the playground were three adults sitting together and we approached them and started our conversation with the new tracts. Right away they knew why we were there, but the tract was a great help to set them at ease so we could just “talk” and get comfortable. Once we had some rapport, I shared the gospel with them. I discovered that in a small group of people, one usually speaks for the group and the others sit or stand nearby really wishing to be somewhere else. I try to engage their participation, but it is minimal.

As I finished talking with this group, another had sat down just out of ear-shot off to the side. I saw them and really wanted to move out of the area, to give the people I just talked with some “breathing room.” This lady yells out, “HEY!” Maurice and I turned. This lady was sitting with her teen-age kids and motioned for us to come over.

“Yes?” I asked, “Can I help you?”

“How come you didn’t ask us no questions?” She seemed almost upset we were leaving.

I was shocked, thinking, “do you know what you are asking?” So I proceeded.

I am still amazed that God stopped us through the lady’s request. She, along with her daughter and son (I think it was her son—I just remember his name is Anthony) actually had a concept of the guilt of sin and the need for salvation. They knew what repentance was . . . but they had never done it. Wow. God used her to bring us back that we could say that today was the day of salvation! I pray they followed through.

Not 10 minutes later, Maurice and I met Tony, a former ward of the state of South Carolina. He, too, knew he had a sin problem, but was very busy trying to be good. We had the chance to tell him to give it up and that Jesus paid the penalty for sin. All he needed to do was repent! I wish I could have taken a picture . . . the look of relief that came over his face was quite striking.

Herbert was getting ready to go jogging when we met him. He acknowledged the guilt of his sin and told us (basically) that he thought his salvation depended on his church attendance and that he was backslidden.

“Did you know the Lord?” I asked.

Turned out, he hadn’t. Maurice and I pointed Herbert to the cross and we pray that he set about jogging as a new creation in Christ Jesus.

In sharing the gospel I notice these themes when confronted with the law:

  1. Just about everyone does not want to admit they have every lied. They would rather say they are “human” or get right to the point and say they are sinners. People need to realize exactly what sin is, and admitting being a liar is a first step. One does not know sin but by the law. Besides, even if they feel they have broken no other commandment, I show them Revelation 21:8.
  2. Just about everyone who does admit to stealing is quick to state, “but it was long ago,” as if they didn’t know better then and have never done it since; or that their goodness covers their tracks. It is right about here people’s faces begin to fall when they realize they are not good.
  3. When asked about adultery, some are quick to quote Jesus’ statement about looking with lust. If not, I remind them and they are silent.
  4. I’ve not met anyone who will say they have not taken the Lord’s name in vain.
  5. When asked if they observe a Sabbath or keep one day in seven for worship, I usually get silence.
  6. Murder: I get two answers here. From those who actually have (including those who confess abortion—interesting those who do confess abortion KNOW it is murder . . . now) there is no hesitation to admitting guilt. If I get a “no” answer, I am surprised [perhaps I should not be, based on #1, above] when people deny they have ever hated anyone!

Only once has anyone ever responded in an unpredictable way altogether. I asked a guy if he had committed adultery (he said “no”) until I reminded him that Jesus said if you look at someone with lust, adultery has been committed. This guy looked at me and suddenly his eyes got wide and he said, “Oh! I gotta go!” and he took off running. I don’t know what he was running to or from, but I never got the chance to point him to the cross . . .

With the Summer approaching and more people are out and about, I am looking for every opportunity to witness, still praying for a team to go out on the streets. I found a small group here in the College who go out, and I will join them next semester.

What about you?

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Butterflibrary





Thinking about: candy and balloons

“The world may never know.” This is the answer to “how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pop?” You remember the commercial: the kid walks up to the wise old owl and asks the question, to which the owl in his wisdom replies, “let’s find out . . . 1 . . . 2 . . . 3 . . . **crunch** [handing the stick back, proclaiming] . . . 3.”

How many sins must one commit to be a sinner? Does the world know? Is it “3”?

Think of it this way: “how many pins does it take to pop a balloon . . . ?”

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” James 2:10

Friday, April 21, 2006

Brian McLaren on a loving God and the reality of Hell

Way of the Master Radio comments on Brian McLaren's view on Hell. Listen here (starts at 10:44 into the program).

There is some great stuff about You (yes, YOU!) starting at 6:30 into the program.

Have a nice weekend!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Leadership and Fru-fru Pageants (part 2)

Very little can be compared to an upset home (hurricanes and tsunamis come to mind). The last thing anyone wants is to live in a place of strife, where family remain in contention. 1 Samuel opens with this setting.

How Elkanah did it is beyond me. He had two wives that did not get along and it can be strongly argued that he made life difficult for himself with the whole polygamy thing. “Polygamy was never God’s intention for humankind, although He tolerated it; in every biblical instance polygamy created domestic problems.”[i] But this is not really about Elkanah. It’s about God’s sovereignty, it’s about leadership and interestingly, it is also about things like depression, anger, jealousy, and other type problems people face individually. As far as the text is concerned, we are able to focus on Elkanah’s wives, namely Hannah, and learn many lessons that touch on all these areas.

God closed Hannah’s womb and Peninnah, her rival, would irritate Hannah with the fact of her barrenness. One may be certain the air was thick with insults, adversaries standing like giants overhead, abuses being hurled like spears . . . but I get ahead of me story, so perhaps I'd better begin.

To begin with, the strife in the home of Elkanah was representative of the strife that existed in the land of Israel at this time. The polygamy of Elkanah was consistent with the period of the judges, where people did what was right in their own eyes. This man kept outward worship practices (he sacrificed yearly) that did not match his heart—he obviously had created an understanding of God that served his own purposes, misrepresented God (being an Ephraimite and living in an ungodly manner), allowed murder in his own home (hatred = murder in God’s eyes), committed adultery with his lust—breaking at least 4 of God’s commandments. The mention of Phineas and Hophni, sons of Eli, are important because they were corrupt priests. In short, God’s “house” was in an uproar.

I believe Hannah wanted to be a godly woman. We find no record of her lashing back at Peninnah. While she was Elkanah’s “favorite”, she walked away from her husband long enough to seek God. When he questioned her distress, she submitted to his desire for her to eat, then went to be alone, not to sulk or brood or nurture depression, but to pray (they may have actually traveled to Shiloh together, but she prayed alone here—see 1:19ff).

Hannah’s childlessness was distressing to her, to say the least. It bothered her so much she went to Shiloh and prayed about it. Interestingly, we don’t find her praying for her husband or for her rival initially; rather, we find her weeping and heaving, praying about her barrenness. Spurgeon writes, “For real business at the mercy-seat, give me a home-made prayer, a prayer that comes out of the deeps of my heart, not because I invented it, but because God the Holy Spirit put it there, and gave it such a living force that I could not help letting it come out. Though your words are broken, and your sentences are disconnected; if your desires are earnest, if they are like coals of juniper, burning with a vehement flame, God will not mind how they find expression. If you have no words, perhaps you will pray better without them. There are prayers that break the backs of words; they are too heavy for any human language to carry.”

Hannah’s prayer was a prayer like this. I think it was a godly prayer because she was God-centered. She recognized her barrenness and that God has a history of dealing with this kind of problem. Abraham and Sarah were childless, but God gave them a child even in their old age; Isaac and Rebekah were childless until Isaac prayed on behalf of his wife; Jacob’s Leah was unloved and Rachel was barren . . . until God opened their wombs. More recently, Zorah and Minonah were childless until God gave them Samson. Hannah actually had something to look forward to and could appeal directly to God’s reputation in the matter. She appealed to His sovereignty and based her pledge of dedication on God’s own words as found in Leviticus 6.

Eli (among other things) grants her peace and answered prayer. He has not heard her prayer specifically, but I think his mentioning “the God of Israel” brought a smile to Hannah’s heart as she left no longer sad.

The Bible says the LORD remembered Hannah and her request and it was not long until she conceived and gave birth to a son, remembering she had asked God for a child. She keeps him home while her husband goes up to worship as the child must be weaned—she remembers her vow and perhaps Elkanah made her vow his own too. Nevertheless, Hannah is reminded to keep her vow.

“God sometimes bestows gifts just that love may have something to renounce. The things that He puts into our hands are possibly put there that we may have the opportunity of showing what is in our heart. Oh, that there were in us a fervor of love that would lead us to examine everything that belongs to us, to ascertain how it might be made a means of showing our affection to Christ!”[ii]

Was it difficult for Hannah to drop her son off? You know it was, but her confidence rested not in her position, ability or means; rather, she promised to the LORD and kept her vow based on God Himself.

In the second chapter she prays again. Her joy is firmly rooted in God; her mouth is directed because of (not in the direction of) her enemies God-ward because of what He has done in the midst of her trouble. As she prays, she reveals what she understood about God:

  • Savior;
  • Holy;
  • Unmatched;
  • The rock;
  • God of knowledge;
  • The action-weigher;
  • The life-giver and life-taker;
  • The poor-raiser and prince-maker;
  • Creator;
  • Feet-guarder;
  • Adversary-breaker;
  • Judge;
  • Strength-giver;
  • Anointed-exalter.

Having that understanding of God, she sees herself as:

  • Rejoicing;
  • Exalted;
  • Able to smile;
  • Weighed;
  • Strengthened;
  • Full;
  • No longer barren;
  • Alive;
  • Rich;
  • Guarded.

Let us not miss that because she understands God, she also sees her enemies as:

  • Proud, arrogant;
  • Weighed;
  • Broken;
  • Hungry and unsatisfied;
  • Barren;
  • Dead, low;
  • Impoverished;
  • Down-cast;
  • In darkness;
  • Weak;
  • Judged.

APPLICATION:

First, power is not always in strength. There will be those that will hurl abuse and insults, throwing their weight around. Hannah bore her rival visibly, but quietly. She waited, she prayed and she acted in a godly way, even received a blessing of peace.

Second, God knows the heart. God remembers those who “remember Him”, as it were. We need to grow accustomed to this idea because we will see it again. God is looking for leaders who will not only seek Him, but have the wisdom to ask of Him in accordance with His own glory. This is what Hannah did as she prayed.

Third, prayer is nothing powerful. The God who answers prayer is. How we set about praying (whether it be concerning our run-away emotions or leadership or whatever) speaks volumes about that in which we place our trust. Spurgeon wrote, “Devout souls delight to look upon those mercies which they have obtained in answer to supplication, for they can see God’s especial love in them. When we can name our blessings Samuel, that is, “asked of God,” they will be as dear to us as her child was to Hannah.”[iii]

You know what? I think David understood these principles. Be thinking ahead about the adversaries he faced things, their strength and his size and try to recall the insults (among other things) that were hurled at him. Take care to be thinking about his responses to these things and his basis for responding. Be thinking about his emotions. Be thinking about leadership and fru-fru pageants.

Hannah prayed for a son, and God gave her a son despite her situation. What is your impossible situation?

How have you prayed about it?

What prayers has God already answered that you need to dedicate back to Him?

************

[i]MacArthur, John. 1 Samuel: How One Godly Man Changed a Nation. MacArthur Bible studies, Page 9. Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group, 2000.
[ii]Hardman, Samuel G., and Dwight Lyman Moody. Thoughts for the Quiet Hour. Originally published: Chicago: Revell, c1990., May 16. Willow Grove, PA: Woodlawn Electronic Publishing, 1998, c1997, c1994, c1990.
[iii]Spurgeon, C. H. Morning and Evening : Daily Readings, September 19 PM. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Leadership and Fru-fru Pageants

I want to give everyone a crash course in leadership and it won't cost you a dime (donations are appreciated, however):

1. Speak with clearly and with authority;
2. Showcase a talent;
3. Have posture, poise and grace.

Do these and you will find yourself as a leader. If you aren't, then at least you are eligible for the next Fru-fru Pageant.

The subject of leadership is on the brink of becoming "trite" because the philosophy of self-exaltation puts everyone in the drivers' seat. Everyone wants to be in charge. Leadership is made out to be a right, so leadership is a position everyone qualifies for. But does everyone qualify?

What are the character traits of a leader?

It can't be eloquence because Moses couldn’t speak so God appointed Aaron as his mouthpiece. If eloquence was required why wasn't Aaron mentioned more than Moses in scripture or all of history? The only times Aaron seems to receive any direct mention, there is trouble. Hitler could speak clearly, authoritatively and with eloquence . . .

It can't be talent either. If it were then all those people in Guinness Book of World Records should be more public than they are. Look at who our leaders are today: current and former “Not Yet Ready for Prime-Time Players” from Saturday Night Live; musicians; actors and actresses. Did you see who the poster boy for the latest anti-drug campaign is? Chris Farley, who died a few years back of drug overdose. His picture will be plastered on billboards across America, starting with the one nearest the hotel where John Belushi died. Sadly, nobody will drop their bong when “Tommy Boy” comes on TBS again . . . Nevertheless, these are the faces you see as spokesmen, advocates, model participants in whatever cause they can catch with the media eye. What do they advocate most strongly? Clearly, inconsistency. That which they “act” is not in agreement with what they support. Watch how children are now being used for their “cause.”

Posture, poise and grace. Who comes to mind here . . . lessee . . . Bill Clinton still seems to top the cake for the latest Rico Suave. (He’s also eloquent and quite talented, too—he can juggle truth—with his eyes closed and both hands behind his back!). Look at the top of anything corporate and you will find a man or woman who can strike a pose! Or a swim-suit model. How do the less-than-picture-perfect-people do it? They work on their social image! They are their own advocates. They look for opportunity. They baffle with brilliance and blind with . . . well, you get the idea.

Today’s leadership is a “safe” leadership: gather around you people who are going the same direction, agree with your goals and see your visions. Today’s leadership is self-worship, idolatry. It is always after more, higher, stronger, louder, longer. Don’t believe me? We can now say that lettuce is “new and improved!” Be looking for it on your store shelves! Somebody dreamed it and made it happen. 20 years ago it was a joke.

When it comes down to it, a true leader has something nobody else has: God’s hand on his or her life. I think a true leader is one who does not try to serve God as if the creator were lacking anything that only he could provide (like he was man’s gift to divinity); rather, a true leader is one who shuts himself down, moves himself aside and is fully open to be used as God desires—to the praise of His glory (like he was God’s gift to mankind—literally).

(to be continued)

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

chapelblog: "The Principle of Sabbath" by Dr. George Murray

Song: "I am Bound for the Promised Land"

Scripture:

Gen 2:3
Ex 20:8-11
Ex 31:16-17

"Sabbath" means "rest", the rest day. Does not mean "saturday," or "saturn's day" or "seventh day." Nor does it mean “Sunday” (actually from “deis solis”, or “Day of the Sun”).

Note Webster's: 7th day of week observed by Jews and some Christian sects as day of rest; Sunday.

Is the Sabbath the first, or last day of the week? Are the disciples breaking commandment by observing the Sabbath in conjunction with Christ's resurrection? Most Christians refer to Lord's Day as the Sabbath.

Many still observe Saturday as the Day of Rest. We will agree to disagree, as we may on other issues, as tongues.

We can discuss the particular day and a livelier discussion about what practices we should observe on the day of rest.

Deep study has brought deep conviction about how I have not observed and the legalistic way I have kept the Sabbath. The Sabbath is anti-culture.

The following is from a 1989 Chapel message by [now] President Emeritus, Robertson McQuilken called "Magnificent Gift Exchange" from Is 58:13-14:

We are invited to give a gift to God. God gives us a gift of rest; He gives us a gift of time. God desires my companionship! As we give Him a portion of what we possess, one day in seven is to be given. When we love someone we long to give that person a portion of our possessions and time. How will you rearrange what you have so you can give it?

Since the visible aspects of life crowd out the invisible, God sets aside what is Holy to Him. See Delietsch Commentary on Is 58.

Time set aside to rest is a time to renew by entering into Him. God packaged the gift in law because a law frees us to safeguard.

For what reason did it begin? It started before the Jews and before the fall (not a redemption factor). God did not rest and bless, but blessed and rested! God included something on His own character in the Decalogue, not hoops to jump through (why not include circumcision in the Ten Commandments, or temple worship?). Sabbath is a personification of God.

We are omitting our part of the command. It is better to obey God legalistically than disobey Him legalistically.

Exceptions: works of necessity, mercy and Ministry. Sabbath is not a burden that prohibits, but a privilege that frees. Rest from work and play--it is to be all Him without distraction. We make play an exception for children. We may set aside the Sabbath for rest, but should we find our own pleasure in this day?

How do I use my feet (or hands or head) on the Sabbath? Am I "stomping around" on the gift God gave me? God waits for our special time with Him and we are selfish, impoverishing ourselves. What best reflects the picture of our marriage to Him?

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Fact of Christ’s Resurrection

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.

**********

New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 (1 Co 15:1-19). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

New Evening Classes for Men

All are welcome, open to men only. Newlyweds, sign up early!

Note: due to the complexity and level of difficulty each course will accept a maximum of eight partcipants.

The course covers two days, and topics include:

DAY ONE:

"How to fill ice cube trays." Step by step guide with slide presentation.

"Toilet rolls: Do they grow on the holders?" Roundtable discussion.

"Laundry Basket and Floor: a Study in Contrast." With graphic presentation. Team try-outs at Hamper Practice (Shirts and Skins).

"Dishes and Silverware. Do they levitate, fly? How do they Really get to the Sink or Dishwasher?" Panel Debate during lunch.

"Loss of Virility." Losing the remote control to your significant other. Resources, Help-line and Support Groups.

"Learning How to Find Things." Step-by-step demonstration starting with looking in the right place instead of turning the house upside down while shouting, "It's not there!" or "We've run out!"

DAY TWO:

"Empty Milk Cartons: Fridge or Recycling Bin?" Group Discussion and Role play.

"Health Watch: Bringing HER Flowers is not Harmful to YOUR Health." PowerPoint Presentation.

"Real Men Ask for Directions when Lost." Real life testimonials from men who did.

"Is it Genetically Impossible to Sit Quietly as She Parallel Parks?" Driving Simulation.

"Living with Adults: Basic Differences Between Your Mother and Your Wife." Role Playing.

"How to be the Ideal Shopping Companion." Relaxation and breathing excercises.

"Remembering Important Dates and How to Call When You are Going to be Late." Calendars, PDA's and Cell Phones Required.

"Getting Over It. How to Live with being Wrong All the Time." Counseling Available.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

all i can say

Lord I'm tired,
So tired from walking;
And Lord I'm so alone.
And Lord the dark
Is creeping in
Creeping up to swallow me.
I think I'll stop,
Rest here a while.

And this is all that I can say right now;
And this is all that I can give.

And didn't You see me cry'n?
And didn't You hear me call Your name?
Wasn't it You I gave my heart to?
I wish You'd remember
Where you sat it down.

And this is all that I can say right now;
And this is all that I can give.

I didn't notice You were standing here.
I didn't know that that was You holding me.
I didn't notice You were cry'n too.
I didn't know that that was You washing my feet.

[David Crowder Band]

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

prayer day

"Bibles read without prayer, sermons heard without prayer, engagements to marriage without prayer, travel undertaken without prayer, homes chosen without prayer, friendships formed without prayer, the daily act of private prayer itself hurried over or gone through without heart--these are the kind of downward steps by which many a Christian descends to a condition of spiritual paralysis, or reaches the point where God allows him to have a tremendous fall." J.C. Ryle (1816-1900)



Wednesday, April 12 we are observing Prayer Day on the campus of Columbia International University. This is a day we suspend all regular activities and devote our heart, mind and strength to worship and commune as a body with our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Will you set aside a portion of time to observe your own Prayer Day with us?

Be encouraged to participate with us in your own setting. Please find below some simple suggestions to strengthen, enlarge and enrich your prayer life.
Every person prays differently.
Some will omit one or more of these elements.
Some elements require only one minute, others may take 15 minutes or more.

Please make it a point to join with us in prayer today.

Praise: Begin by recognizing God's nature, esteeming Him for His virtues and accomplishments (Ps 63:3; Heb. 13:15; Matt. 6:9b);

Waiting: Be quiet in God's presence, rest, be still. (Ps 37:7; Is 40:31; Lam 3:25);

Confession: The Psalmist knew sin was the greatest roadblocks to effective prayer. (Ps 51:10,11; 139:23,24; 1 Jn 1:9);

The Word: Read God's Word. The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. (2 Tim 3:16; Ps 19:7,8);

Intercession: Pray for the lost and dying, for others with needs, missions, ministry, family, etc. (1 Tim 2:1,2; Ps 2:8; Mt 9:37,38);

Petition: Open personal needs to God. (Mt 6:11; 7:7; James 4:2);

The Word: Pray God's Word. (Jer 23:29; 2 Sam 22:31; Nu 23:19);

Thanksgiving: Offer prayer and supplications with Thanksgiving. Recognize God for specific things He has done. (Phil 4:6; Ps 100:4);

Singing: Worship in singing songs, hymns and spiritual songs. (Ps 100:2; Eph 5:19; Ps 144:9);

Meditation: Actively ponder on God's Word. (Jos 1:8; Ps 1:1,2; 77:12);

Listen: What is God telling you? (Ecc 5:2; 1 Ki 19:11,12)

Friday, April 07, 2006

thinking about: 1 Timothy 3:16

By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, was vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory."

By common confession,” is sometimes translated “without controversy.” These words are a line in the sand. These are defining words of Christianity, being the very foundation for agreement and unity. That upon which we agree center on Christ Himself, not ideas. We gather our being around a person not a concept, a tangible, historical individual who existed in time and space as opposed to an intangible mythological figure who represents grandiose ideas. If there is controversy with the following statements, if there is nothing we share in common based on what follows, friends, we have no unity. One of us is clearly not of the faith. A few verses previous Paul says these things are written that we may know how to conduct ourselves in the household of God, the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth. Anything apart from this is not of the true church, is without support and contains no truth.

Reminding us of the purpose for which the confession or agreement arises in these statements is the phrase, “great is the mystery of godliness.” I am on a search right now for Good People, and I know I will not find one for two reasons: first, no one is good but God Himself (Mt. 19:17); second, a person will proclaim his own goodness and loyalties (Prov. 20:6) but the fact remains, “there is none righteous, not even one” (Ro. 3:10-18). My search is not futile because I am not searching for me—I already know what I will not find; rather, I want people to see they will not find goodness in themselves apart from Christ. This is also why I can say I am searching for godliness and I know I will not find godliness in myself or in other people apart from Christ Himself. Let’s see how all this works.

Everything about godliness is a mystery, and everyone loves a mystery. Ironically, the word “mystery” comes from a 14th Century term that means, “a religious truth that one can know only by revelation and cannot fully understand.”[i] We need to be clear: an answer will not be found by our own reasoning or discovery. The definition can include the concept of “beyond understanding or comprehension,” but if this were the case for godliness, it would be impossible and God has created for Himself a stone He cannot move. Profound? Yes. Inexplicable? No.

Discovering a mystery takes time, patience. Reading must be done, wrestling must be engaged, but there is no short-cut. There is no envelope we can rip open when we are perplexed to the point of no return—it is all right there before us and we must take the time to examine. The god of this world blinds the minds of the unbelieving by the conveniences of the age: instantality is detrimental to examination.

In 2001 the New York Medical Examiner had a task of a lifetime before them, handling all the remains of the victims of the World Trade Center collapse. Their volume was instantly exceeded and had a decision to make: short-cut and mishandle data, or delegate and get help. A lab in Virginia was brought alongside and together they processed all available data completely, efficiently and thoroughly with acceptable results. This was a job not to be rushed.

The great mystery before us is godliness and how it is bound up in Christ. There is no godliness apart from Christ. “Godliness refers to the truths of salvation and righteousness in Christ, which produce holiness in believers; namely, the manifestation of true and perfect righteousness in Jesus Christ.”[ii]

We must be in agreement on this. Here is the evidence that we may discover and examine:
He who was revealed in the flesh.” This agrees with our definition of “mystery” in that He, who is God, reveals. What did He reveal? Himself. How did He do it? In the flesh. I was talking with an individual about the incarnation of Christ and was surprised to be met with great disagreement, “how can God be reincarnated?” This has nothing to do with RE-incarnation, but INCARNATION. God took on flesh and lived among us (John 1:1–4; 14:9; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3; 2 Pet. 1:16–18).

If there is none good but God, there is none godly but God. God Himself is the perfect standard for all that is godly and good. If a man or woman proclaims his or her own goodness, discovering ungodliness and ungoodness is comparatively easy. Not long ago one of my kids friends called the house and when I answered the phone, it threw her off and she forgot who she was calling. I saw this as a perfect opportunity to ask her, “are you a good person?”

Silence, then slowly, “I think so.”

“Are you good enough to go to heaven?” I asked.

“Oh, I’m a Christian,” she said, “I know I’m going to heaven.”

“How do you know you are a Christian,” I fired back.

Silence. “Because all my sins are forgiven,” she seemed to guess.

“What sins?” I pressed.

Silence.

“Have you ever told a lie?”

“Yeah, a long time ago.” [I love that answer! 9 ½ out of every 10 people I ask tell me the same thing. Try it and see what you get].

“Have you ever taken anything that didn’t belong to you?” I asked.

“No,” she shot back emphatically. I reminded her she told me she was a liar. “Well, I did take something from my brother . . . but that was a long time ago!” She clarified. [Why is it everyone does these things “so long ago?”]

And on we went. My point was to help her realize exactly what salvation is all about. While my conversation begins by asking about heaven, my point in taking professions through this conversation is to help them discover what godliness is all about! See, we aren’t saved to go to heaven. Salvation is from sin and not going to hell is only a small part of it! Andy Stanley puts it nicely, “Everybody is preoccupied with making a living, falling in love, having kids, and whatever else they are doing. Nobody’s taking the time to think about going to heaven.”[iii]

If people are not taking the time to think about why or how they are going to heaven, they are certainly not taking the time to think about, much less carry out, a life of godliness! Our text does not say, “great is the mystery of heaven” or “great is the mystery of hell.” Godliness begins and ends with “He who was revealed in the flesh.” God did not take on human nature, but human-ness. We find out that godliness is bound up in God, who became flesh . . . and more.
“[He] was vindicated in the Spirit.” Another way to put this is, “He was made righteous by the Spirit” or “justified in the Spirit.” Doing and Being, or as Bonhoeffer would put it, “Act and Being,” are not separated here. What Jesus did and who He was does not give us two different people. There is no “Jesus of history” and “Christ of faith” as the ungodly and false teachers would have us believe. They are clearly not in agreement with the common confession here. There are many things to say here:

  • He is righteous. “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” (1 Jn 2:1)
  • He is without sin. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor 5:21)
  • He could be convicted of no sin. “Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me?” (Jn 8:46).
  • He is perfect. “And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation.” (Heb 5:9. See also 4:15 and 7:26).
  • What was began by the Spirit (Matt 1:18, 20) continued in the Spirit (Matt 3:16-17) and was finished by the Spirit (Ro 1:4).

Another aspect of our common confession is that “[He was] seen by angels.” Which angels: Fallen or unfallen? I would say both. As Jesus existed eternally with the Father, He was seen by angels from eternity past. As Jesus was active through the Spirit in creation, the Bible says that angels looked on and witnessed the event. At His birth, there was suddenly with the angel a multitude of heavenly hosts, praising God and “saying.” As Jesus made His way through His earthly ministry on earth, he cast out demons and His resurrection was made possible with the help of and declared by angels. After Jesus ascended back into heaven, two angels asked the disciples, “wassup?”

The disciples immediately carried out Jesus’ instructions, that brings us to the next part of our common confession, that “[He was] proclaimed among the nations.” One thing we did not indicate earlier concerns our very starting point here: the book of Acts is a record of the beginning of that proclamation and it is said that the book of Acts is the only book of the Bible without an ending (think about it for a minute). But what is it a record of, actually? It is not about the disciples or apostles. The book is a record of how the Holy Spirit continues His work of pointing people to Christ and how that message spread from Jerusalem into Judea and Samaria and to the remotest part of the earth!

“With the New Testament in our hands it may be surprising to say that we know comparatively little about the beginnings of Christianity.”[iv] I’ll bet that if you followed the footnote to the bottom of the page, 2/3 of my readers would say they’ve never heard of the book from which the quote comes or know what it’s about. With that in mind, think about this: If Jesus was a personification of philosophy or concepts “he” would have died out by now. Which is more lasting? Which has endured? The Bible is just chock full of passages about the message that reaches the nations! “Shout joyfully to God, all the earth.” (Psalm 66:1). And I would follow that with a ridiculous plethora of exclamation points.

[He was] believed on in the world.” God Himself does Missions. That is why He Himself asks us to be co-laborers with Him. John Piper put it succinctly, “Missions exists where worship does not.” When people believe God, He is worshipped!

I like that statement, “believed on.” Many people believe “in” but the numbers who believe “on” are much smaller. I was talking with a guy not too long ago who made it clear he was saved from sin, had assurance of salvation and all that, but he stymied me when he looked right at me and said, “I sure wish I could do what you are doing, going out telling people about Jesus.” I told him I was no brave person (and I’m not) but depend on the power of God through the Holy Spirit to do it. “But I can’t,” was his reply.

“Can’t, or won’t?” I asked. He scowled, not liking my question. Further discussion revealed the latter. He failed to believe “on” God. There was no doubt he believed “in,” but would not confess his sin of disbelieving God. He told me he would probably never tell people about Jesus then and I got scared . . . for Him. All I could think of was Rev. 3:16-17.

God must be believed in the world. Turn that though over in your mind. The world is the place in which we live. No-brainer. Gotta exist somewhere, right? Look at it another way. The world is the enemy of God, so there is no way this should happen. Now consider 1 John 2:15-17:
Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”

We have no choice but to start from where we are. 2 Corinthians 5:17ff tells us that God, through Christ Jesus reconciles the believer to Himself and peace is made. Through Christ Jesus, we are given the ministry of reconciliation becoming His ambassadors. In effect, we take His name on ourselves by believing Him. When we take His name, we represent Him. Would we dare take His name in vain? God must be believed. This is what the discussion is all about. He is the source of the godliness and He is the source of our understanding of it.

Taken up in glory.” There are so many ideas and heresies out there that are at odds with this confession. Another aspect so many have difficulty with is the agreement of scripture, to allow scripture to interpret itself. I’ve already discussed a few blogs back the approach of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and their doctrine of interpretation (it is a sin to read the Bible as an individual). For one to do this would be detrimental to their doctrine, for they do not believe that Jesus rose from the dead, much less “taken up in glory.” We have no common confession with them. There is no fellowship. A similar thing could be said of the Mormons, who profess to be Christian. How can the Christian if they deny the first tenant of this common confession?

Interestingly, as crucial as this statement is, little is actually said about it in scripture. Mark 16:19, Acts 1:9 and this passage are all that is recorded about the ascension, yet it is vital component of the basis of our unity and helps explain the mystery of godliness. I think one implication for it’s importance is found in John 14, where Jesus says,
I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. After a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me; because I live, you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.”

If Jesus did not go back to the Father, the Holy Spirit would not come. If the Holy Spirit would not come, then the mystery of godliness remains intangible and impossible. “He who was revealed in the flesh, was vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory." The work of salvation was complete on the cross, in the resurrection and ascension. But salvation is more than deliverance from hell. It is deliverance from the power of sin. The day will come when we will be delivered from the presence of sin. The one who became flesh vindicates, or justifies the believer by the same Spirit. The angels not only attest to the work they have already experienced and/or seen Him do, but concerning salvation, look on with wonder (see Hebrews and 1 Peter). The work of sanctification is that work of the Spirit that not only sets us apart from the world from which God is believed, but creates the godliness that about which such mysteries entail. The day will come when we, like Christ, are taken up in a glorious fashion to the praise of His glory!


[i]Merriam-Webster, Inc. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. Includes index. 10th ed. Springfield, Mass., U.S.A.: Merriam-Webster, 1996, c1993.
[ii]MacArthur, John Jr. The MacArthur Study Bible. electronic ed., 1 Ti 3:16. Nashville: Word Pub., 1997, c1997.
[iii] Stanley, Andy. Since Nobody’s Perfect . . . How Good is Good Enough? Sisters: Multnomah, 2003.
[iv] Schonfield, Hugh. The Passover Plot. Toronto: Bantam. 1965.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

momentary lapse of reason

Walking through the park last night I came upon the strangest sight. Tied to the fence rail was one of those little kite string holders and a line of clear string, probably fishing line, extended straight up into the sky. I would not have noticed it except from the direction I was walking, my eye caught the shimmer of sunlight off the clear string like the sun gets caught in a spider’s web, invisible unless the light strikes it just right.

I enjoy kite flying. I think I get it from my dad, who often makes long driving trips for business. A while back he got into the habit of packing a kite in the car and when road-weary, would pull over for a rest-stop and fly the kite for a while. Great stuff.

Curiosity getting the best of me, I wanted to see what was “up there”, so I turned around and saw . . . nothing. Absolutely nothing. I saw a plane fly by, it’s cotton-candy contrail billowing out, but no kite. I looked back to the fence . . . handle, string . . . sky. Someone tied the sky to the fence.

A guy came up behind me with a basket-ball, “See it yet?”

Both of us stood there, staring upward. “I thought that plane was gonna cut the string,” he said.

Then I saw it. Up past the birds. A tiny triangular shape. I could make out black and red.

“Who did that?” I asked, laughing at the marvelous feat.

“I dunno. Some guy put them up there and left ‘em because it was too hard to get them down,” he said.

“Them? You mean there’s more than one?” I turned and looked back up, following the sky-tether as far as I could. Seeing nothing I looked back down to the fence and followed the curve of the posts until I saw another kite-string handle glistening heaven-ward.

Then I saw the second kite . . . and the third. Barely.

Years ago I lived across the highway from the Gala Kite factory. These are the people who make that old standard black kite with white tail and the blood-shot eye-stickers you put on the wings. Naturally they had this large field out behind the factory where (I guess) many test-flights were done. While I had football practice out in those fields, my dad would go around a collect clumps and pieces of string from rejected or failed flights and would take them home. I never really appreciated what he was up to until he produced from the garage this . . . mechanism.

I don’t think it was any higher than my knee, but it was a wood frame with a spool in the middle and a crank on the end. The frame extended out to one side, so you could anchor it with your foot, and the spool was wound with string. Lots of string.

We went kite-flying.

I remember him getting that kite up so high that it disappeared. And I remember imagining with him what would happen if it fell . . . and where it would fall . . . and all kinds of things. And I remember at the end of the flight, how he brought that kite in, foot on the anchor and turning the crank, spooling the line back in. The kite made it’s only journey—I couldn’t believe how torn up it was.

I never got to talk to the pilot of the three kites, nor the basket-ball dude. On the way down to the park I did talk to one person, and will simply report that I forgot how difficult witnessing to homeless people can be. They have a lot of time on their hands. And they get a lot of street ministry. Put together “lots of ministry” and “lots of time”, a person can reason their way into some really bad theology. I was not going to argue with the guy, but emphasized the need for repentance and to fear the one who can send the soul to hell (he seemed to know a great deal of scripture). But at times I felt like I was talking to two different people . . . and probably was.

Anyway, I was walking back to the church along the sidewalk, looking up and the sky, trying to find those kites, or a kite . . . any kite. I walked about a block, head tilted back, staring upward. Then it hit me. I started laughing out loud because I remember in downtown Houston, those “crazy” people would walk through downtown, staring up at nothing, mouth hanging open. Occasionally, someone would get curious and follow their gaze, but shrug and go on their way. I figured I must have looked like a loon walking along the sidewalk, staring up and who knows what. That’s why I was laughing. Then I realized how much crazier I must look, walking along the sidewalk, staring and laughing uproariously . . .

I would have really liked to talked to more people about heaven, and point their gaze upward to Jesus.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Thoughts on 2 Samuel 1

Barney Fife was wrong. No, I mean really wrong. Wronger than regular. Barney was the person Shakepeare thought of when penning the phrase, “Comedy of Errors.” But Barney was really wrong this time. You can’t just “nip it in the bud.” You know what I mean. Fife meant that whatever was going on had to immediately stop, but it is more fun to bug out the eyeballs, strain the neck and clip out, “nip it!”

But here is where the Deputy went wrong. If you want to stop something, you can’t “nip it.” You gotta dig out the roots. This is where that ancient axiom comes in, “If the big things don’t get you, the little ones will kill you.” I am putting in another flowerbed for my darling, beautiful, sweet, lovely bride and came across some bulbs left over from someone else’s garden. I could have just waited for them to come up and clip them off . . . but to get them out of the way, they have to be dug out and disposed of wholly.

What happens if you “nip it” and don’t get rid of it? A prime example is King Saul.

Saul had a problem. He nipped it. And it sprung back and killed him.

Remember back in 1 Samuel 15, Saul was to annihilate the Amalekites and he decided to spare some instead. Fast forward to 2 Samuel 1 and find David is standing there, minding his own business and here comes this guy running up the path and falling down to his feet says, “here is Saul’s armband and crown. He is dead.”

“How do you know he’s dead?” David asks.

“I killed him,” the guy says.

“Who are you?” David inquires.

“Oh, just an Amalekite. See, I was just standing there minding my own business, watching the battle, when I saw Saul leaning on his spear. I thought I would trot over to see wassup and he begged me to kill him,” says the messenger.

David asks him again, “Who are you again?”

“An Amalekite.”

I am sure David’s rolodex was flipping like crazy. After the guy leaves, David tells one of his men, “cut him down,” so they pursued the messenger and killed him.

Sin is like that. You can’t just “nip it.” Sin has to be removed entirely. Either kill or be killed. Sin is enmity with God.

The Amalekites have an interesting history. Amalek was a child of Saul (Genesis 36:12) and his descendents were the ones who came out against Moses and the Israelites to make war. This was the war that when Moses held his hands up, Israel prevailed and when they dropped, they were not doing well. Of course, Aaron and Hur were recruited to help prop him up . . . (Exodus 17:8-16. Later God tells Israel to remember what the Amalekites did when they came out of Egypt. Most importantly, they were not to forget that “he [Amalek] did not fear God” (Deuteronomy 25:17-19). The sinner is horrible like that. He does not fear God.

I went with a friend down to Finlay Park the other day and met Clay and Anthony. I got to talking with Clay (Anthony sat quiet most of the time) and asked him, “Do you think good people should go to heaven?”

“Yeah. But I ain’t goin’. I’m going straight to hell.”

I said, “Doesn’t that concern you? What made you come to that conclusion?”

He basically said that 1) he was just too bad to be cleaned up and 2) he didn’t want to go to heaven anyway. He started naming a list of sins he committed.

I asked him if thought that if there was any way possible that he could be saved from the penalty of his sins and an eternity in hell, would he take it?

“Probably. I guess. I just gotta clean myself up and will do it when the time is right.”

I was incredulous! “What guarantee do you have that your heart will keep beating 5 minutes from now? How are you going to clean up your act enough for salvation from the penalty of your sins? Will you have time?”

He just looked at me. I said, “Look. Let’s say you were to appear before a judge for all the crimes you’ve committed . . .”

“Yeah, I’m going to jail, man!” He smiled at me.

“But what if you said, ‘Hey judge, I stopped doing all that stuff a long time ago. I’m good now and promise I won’t do it again.’ What should the judge do?”
”I’m still going to jail.” He smiled.

I could not believe what I was hearing. I told him how Jesus had paid the penalty for his sin and he did not have to die in his sin, that he needed to repent and put on Christ Jesus. We talked some more and he still chose hell. He had no fear of God, no fear of judgment, no fear of hell, no fear of dying in his sins. That’s how horrible sin can be. If this is what the Amalekites were like, I shudder the thought.

Not too far away sat Aiken. I asked Aiken if he thought he was good enough to go to heaven. He sat up straight. “I sure do! I’m an ordained minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ! I’m going to heaven!”

Now, I probably would have walked away and thanked him for his time, but there was this big ol’ angel standing behind me keeping me rooted to that spot. I just looked at him and prayed, “what do I say?” Finally it came out. “What makes you think you are going to heaven?”

“The promises of God,” Aiken cheerfully announced.

“What promises?” I asked.

“That if I keep the Word of God in my life, he will hopefully send me to heaven or wherever!” Aiken preached.

For the second time in the same evening, I could not believe what I was hearing.

“What does it mean to be saved?” I asked.

“It means you go to heaven?” he answered.

I pressed. “What about your sin?”

“Well, if you backslide, you go to hell, so I try real hard not to do that.”

I prayed silently, “thank you Jesus for making me stay here.” Out loud I said, “would you like to know how to keep from backsliding?” And I asked him if he had broken any commandments, to which he admitted and he confessed his guilt before God. He realized he needed to truly repent and I encouraged him to do so. I pray he does because as I was getting ready to leave, he began to talk about how he was “out here” to live for Jesus, without house or food (he was homeless?) and is trusting God everyday.

Then we were interrupted by two guys in suits who stuffed tracts into our hands and asked if we were saved and received the second blessing and evidence of tongues . . . after all, God gives out $100 bills, why stick with $20’s? I was not going to argue with these guys and we parted ways.

Saul did not kill the Amalekites and it was that which he should have killed that killed him. In the same way, I think that backsliding is solvable with this one easy premise: true repentance is the key.

There was no mistake about which people Saul was to do away with. In the same way, we get a “table of contents” of specific sin we need to repent of in the Ten Commandments. Notice I said, “table of contents.” If we can identify even one, then the whole list must be turned from. In the same way, Saul was to leave not one Amalekite alive. No, he “nipped.” And he got nipped back.

Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin put out one his famous almost Monty Python movies in 1981 called “Time Bandits.” The story revolves around the adventures of a small (no pun intended) band of God’s helpers (Ralph Richardson played "The Supreme Being") who stole a map of Time holes when God wasn’t looking and go gallivanting through time and space.

Along their way they pick up a small boy who travels with them and (of course) are pursued by Gilliam’s rendition of Satan, known as "Evil Genius". At the end of the movie, not only does “The Supreme Being” finally catch up to his small (no pun intended) band, but also rescues the entourage from the clutches of "Evil Genius" by literally exploding him into tiny pieces. One of the last scenes of the movie include a very old, frail “Supreme Being” telling his crew they have another chance; but, they must first collect each and every piece of evil for disposal. Nothing can be left behind as it must all be collected down the tiniest grain. Of course, they miss one piece and it causes a disaster . . .

Don’t rush out and see the film (please?!) but that is exactly the point. That is the ultimate point. Not one piece of sin can remain.

This is the efficacy of the finished work of Christ. He intends that we be fully delivered from sin. We are not to hang on to even the smallest portion.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Witness Report #3

This last Sunday night a friend accompanied me down to Finlay Park. There were hundreds of people there and I actually got nervous about witnessing in a crowd! But that's why we go in the power of the Holy Spirit and not the flesh, right?

I remember a number of years ago three of us went down on the street one night and had not been down there 15 minutes when we were approached with man with no legs. When we started sharing the gospel with him, he stuck out what legs he did have and hissed at us, "heal me, Jesus. Heal me."

I cannot fully relay to you what we experienced, which was just about down-right horror. See, we left that night without praying about the evening, for the conversations and the people we would meet. We just picked up our stuff and left. That night we were chased off the street by a man with no legs. We went in the flesh. Each time I've gone witnessing (and I don't say this lightly), I pray. I pray for clear communication, for prepared hearts and safety.

We got to talk to a number of people and actually distributed a number of tracts. Woodford was sitting on his bike watching the crowd when we approached him. I opened the conversation by talking for a while about what was going on at the park--a state agency was putting on a job-fair and was making good contributions to society in their good ways. What a perfect springboard! I asked Woodford if he thought good people should go to heaven.

"Sure," he said, crossing his arms.

I asked him if he was good enough to go to heaven.

"Nope." He admitted to lying, stealing, even murder through abortion. I asked him if he wanted to go to heaven. "Sure." he repeated.

When I began to present the complete work of Christ on the cross and the necessity of repentance, he brightened and knew exactly where I was going. "I ask God for forgivess and repent every day. I know I am going to heaven now."

I explored his statement a few more ways and felt he had taken my initial questions very literally and now sought to understand what his next step was. I invited him to church and encouraged him to read his Bible and pray.

Further down into the park was a place built like an ampitheater. People were sitting all over the place and noted how perfect that place would be for open-air preaching! Some day . . .

On around the side I came across two 12 year-old boys looking into the pond. My friend and I pulled out some "I.Q. Test" tracts and thought to have some fun. After they made an attempt at the answers, I shifted gears and asked one if he thought he was good enought to go to heaven. He took a very very long pause and said, "I don't think so. Maybe. I dunno."

For some reason I asked, "where do you go to church?"

He answered, "Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses."

Oboy.

I could'nt help myself. "If I had a knife in my back and had three minutes to live, what can I do to live forever?"

He stared at me, mouth hanging open.

I put the stress on. "C'mon! Clock is ticking! I got 2 1/2 minutes left! Blood is streaming down my back! Help me! How can I live forever?"

He stammered something about needing to know the Bible?

"How much is enough? I got 2 minutes until I die!"

He could not answer.

I said, "Let me let you off the hook here. I want to tell you how you can live forever--and it will take 2 minutes for me to tell you. Do you know the Ten Commandments?"

"Yeah," he looked at his friend.

"Ever told a lie?"

"Yes."

"Ever taken anything that didn't belong to you?"

"No."

I reminded him he just told me he was a liar. His friend laughed.

I began to continue, but suddenly the boy looked up and said, "I gotta go find my dad." And the boys took off running.

We talked to a few more people and had a good and lengthy conversation with an entire family. As I talked with the father, mother and sister, my partner decided to try to talk with the son. They admitted their need for repentance and I encouraged them STRONGLY to do just that. I invited them to church and the father looked at me like he just won the lottery. "I was just telling my boy this morning [he hits his son on the shoulder] that we gotta go to church somewhere." I told him where I sit (generally) and he was welcome to join us. I pray they follow through.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Two golden nuggets from my pastor, Dr. Wendell Estep

"You know what's great about dogs? When the world is falling apart, they just lay down and go to sleep."

"What you draw people with is what you keep them with. If you give them a circus, a bigger one will always come to town."

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