Thursday, October 25, 2007

Should We Count Those Blessings?

My son Sean and I made a trip over to Destin to meet some folks who were coming over from Panama City to buy his 85 Fiero GT. yes, I suppose selling that car was a blessing for Sean, but that's not where I'm headed.

After (and before the call from the new Fiero owner whose new car was dead beside the road - altenator, bummer :( ) we went over to Best Buy to get my wife a new mic for her PC. She talks to her mother in Macon GA almost every night via video chat. (Technology reaches Middle Georgia, film at eleven.)

We went in, avoided the siren-song of electronic devices and headed up to the checkout. After a slightly embarrassing reminder of my absent minded nature (scanned the debit backwards), we completed the checkout and exited, but not until the clerk said "have a blessed night".

Walking to the car, I commented to Sean, "what was that?" It's pretty rare here on the coast to hear any expressions like that. "I don't know if you should count that one", he replied, "the tattoo on the guy's neck was a wiccan symbol."

My theologically informed and cogent reply?


So gentle reader, do we count that blessing or not?

Christianity in the year 2007 - one among many.

Now back to the previously scheduled reality programs.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

When God Writes A Story

1 So the LORD sent Nathan the prophet to tell David this story: "There were two men in a certain town. One was rich, and one was poor. 2 The rich man owned many sheep and cattle. 3 The poor man owned nothing but a little lamb he had worked hard to buy. He raised that little lamb, and it grew up with his children. It ate from the man's own plate and drank from his cup. He cuddled it in his arms like a baby daughter. 4 One day a guest arrived at the home of the rich man. But instead of killing a lamb from his own flocks for food, he took the poor man's lamb and killed it and served it to his guest."

2 Sam 12:1-4 (NLT)

It's taken me many years of hearing and reading this passage to fully appreciate what it says - to David, and to us. I'd like to think I'm not a newbie at reading and interpreting the Bible, but it is not just another book. But every now and then I get taken deeper into the words and the Word.

So here we have the prophet Nathan, David's pastor, coming before him to tell him a story that God had given him. It was a story written perfectly to capture the attention and the heart of David. It took him back to the days he was the youngest in a poor family scratching out a living herding sheep. Those long hours of solitude for David with the flock must have included times when he carried young lambs in his arms. And what child wouldn't have had a favorite? One that he named - that he treated as his very own.

As David listened, his experiences connected with the story and brought it to life. So much so that he identified with the poor man and burned with anger - and wanted to act!

God, the author Who knows each reader intimately, can do that.

He has done that.

In Jesus.

If I could ask one thing of everyone - Christ-followers and pre-Christians, it would be to have them read every account of the life of Jesus in the Bible. His life was God's Word written in flesh, and watching it changed a group of people who through His Spirit's power - changed the world. Eugene Peterson's paraphrase of 1st John's beginning shows how the Story affected them.

1-2 From the very first day, we were there, taking it all in— we heard it with our own ears, saw it with our own eyes, verified it with our own hands. The Word of Life appeared right before our eyes; we saw it happen! And now we're telling you in most sober prose that what we witnessed was, incredibly, this: The infinite Life of God himself took shape before us. 3 We saw it, we heard it, and now we're telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy! 1 John 1:1-4 (MSG)

As we stand on the cusp of another holiday season, why not spend the next two months reading the Story God has written just for us.

Grace and peace,


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Was Uriah Living His "Best Life Now"?

I cannot get the David and Bathsheba story out of my mind.

What David did was so wrong on so many levels it just slays me. And then I think about the man whose life was taken from - Uriah.

I don't think I'd be exaggerating if I said that David and Uriah knew each other on a "Band of Brothers" level. They had after all been at war together, scrambling over the rocks and hiding in the mountains as Saul pursued David and his band. The respect Uriah had for David, and for David's God was obvious - he was a convert to Judaism who had given up his home, his heritage, and his gods to follow the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

That along should have been enough to stop David from ever sleeping with Bathsheba.

But it wasn't.

And when called, Uriah came. But when David tried to get Uriah to compromise his integrity - he wouldn't. And that refusal ultimately cost him his life. Understand, Uriah had done absolutely nothing wrong. He was the epitome of a godly warrior. In the height of arrogance, David even trusted in Uriah's integrity by sending his death warrant in Uriah's own hands, knowing Uriah would not break the seal on the scroll.

And when the plan was told to Joab, he executed it well. Uriah was to be sent to the wall, and everyone else was to pull back, leaving Uriah to die alone.

But he didn't.

17 Then the men of the city came out and attacked Joab, and some of the men from David’s soldiers fell [in battle] ; Uriah the Hittite also died.
2 Sam 11:17 (HCSB)

Those men would not leave their trusted friend to die alone. What a testimony that Hebrew men would give their lives for a Hittite convert. Must have been an awesome man.

So tell me Joel Osteen, was Uriah enjoying his victorious life - his best life now?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

I Don't Like That David

Yesterday the message was rooted in the text in 2 Samuel 11 where King David commits adultery with Bathsheba and just continues sinning. He descends into the gutter and digs a basement. His sin gets blacker and blacker, and blacker.

I do not like that David.

Did that come out like Dr Seuss?

“I do not like green eggs and ham I do not like them Sam I am.”
"I do not like them here or there! I would not like them anywhere! I do not like green eggs and ham! I do not like them, Sam-I-Am!"

I'll have to look at the tape, but that's what my lasting impression of this morning's message was. But I was genuinely stunned to see the man spiral out of control and drop out of relationship with God. All week long I kept reading the passage. Even went back and read every single Scripture dealing with David's life to see where it was he might have gone wrong.

It just bothered me. Still does.

I don't want to be that David.

It seemed to me that God had given great guidelines for the Kings of Israel to follow, that would have prevented David from falling - had he followed them. In Deuteronomy, it's clear - "don't take a bunch of wives because they will turn your heart away from God. Don't get too wrapped up in stuff, because that too will take your heart away from a focus on God."

So David gets to be king of a united Israel and immediately adds a bunch more wives and builds a Taj Mahal of a palace.

Guess he's not the only one who has done that, and why campaigns that tell us "Don't drink and drive", "Just say no", even "only you can prevent forest fires", won't work on someone who has decided to do whatever he wants to do.

I don't like people like that. Who know what's right and then do what's wrong.

Especially when they are me.

Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy on me a sinner, and strengthen me through your power that I might reflect your love in my words and in my deeds. Lord hide me so far beneath your greatness that I can see nothing but you and desire nothing but to stay fixed to you.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Well, for many, it is just that

The Church has become like a group of people in the waiting lounge of an airport...They’ve bought their ticket and they’re waiting for their flight home. Meantime, the entire city around them burns. And every once in a while, they send out a specially selected person to try to recruit more people to buy tickets.

Pernell Goodyear

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Book Stack

Just thought I'd mention what books I have stacked on my desk right now.

Since I'm working through the life of David on Sunday Mornings:
A Heart Like His, Beth Moore
David - Charles Swindoll

Since I'm working on the life of Christ within this David:
My Utmost for His Highest, both original and updated versions
disciplines for the inner life - Benson
So You Want To Be Like Christ? - Swindoll
He Speaks Softly - Benson
No Holds Barred - Mark Roberts
Posers, Fakers, and Wannabes - Brennan Manning
Ordering Your Private World - Gordon McDonald

Since I'm Desperate To See God's Church Succeed In Its Vocation:
Out of Their Faces and Into Their Shoes - Kramp
Radical Reformission - Driscoll
The Church of Irresistible Influence - Lewis
How Should We Then Live - Francis Schaeffer
Simple Church - Thom Rainer
The Disciple Making Church - Bill Hull
Conspiracy of Kindness - Steve Sjorgen
Church Planting Landmines - Rohrmayer
Natural Church Development - Schwartz

And some others working their way into the reading rotation:
Living the Questions In Matthew - The Navigators
Rick Warren's Bible Study Methods - Rick Warren
The Incredible Patience of God -Adams
The Preaching Event - John Claypool
The Jesus Creed- Scot McKnight
Traveling Lightly - Eugene Peterson

I read everyday, a lot. I'll pick up one book and read it a while, then another. If I'm in study mode for a sermon or series, I'll devour everything I can on that text, context, and culture. So these are just the books that are here today. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

For Better Or Worse

"...for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, ..."

I had the honor of being a part of the wedding of Nate and Amanda Albert this weekend. Good times. I always enjoy talking with the groom before weddings. They are usually worried about what to do. I remind them that when the bride comes down the aisle, no one looks at the groom.

Until the vows.

Then people pay very close attention to how the groom promises to live this life of love he is promising his bride. I always have, and I was reminded this weekend that other people do too.

The people that gather at weddings generally have some stake, some connection to either the bride or the groom, and want to know that the one they love will be loved "...for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in heath...", in other words - all the time. So we take vows before God and in front of witnesses that we will do just that.

Nate and Amanda did.

It's Tuesday now, and the newlyweds have been married three whole days. Wonder how many of the "or" provisions they have experienced? :)

You know, every person who decides to pledge their troth to Jesus has to learn how to love for better or worse too. The Holy Spirit places people within groups of other Christ followers called churches. Every one you meet there is a sinner who owes their place in the kingdom to Jesus' love, not anything that they did. And they will sin again, and sometimes hurt others. What then? It's easy to love people when they are lovely, but what about the times when they aren't?

And as we live, worship, grow and serve together, we live out our "vows" (to Jesus) by the way we love each other. Scripture records a few prescriptions that will help.

34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples."John 13:34–35

12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.
John 15:12

10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.
Romans 12:10

16 Live in harmony with each other. Don't be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don't think you know it all! Romans 12:16

8 Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God's law. Romans 13:8

19 So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.
Romans 14:19

5 May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Romans 15:5

7 Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory. Romans 15: 7
13 For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don't use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.
Galatians 5:13

2 Share each other's burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.Galatians 6:2

2 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other's faults because of your love.Ephesians 4:2

32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.Ephesians 5:32

13 Make allowance for each other's faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.1 Thessalonians 3:13

This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another.

God has placed you in relationship with your brothers and sisters in Christ. That's no accident. So go back to basics - make sure we fulfill our vows to love one another.

For better, or worse.

The whole world is watching.



Friday, October 05, 2007

Great quote

“So long as there is a human being who does not know Jesus Christ, I am his debtor to serve him until he does.”-
Oswald Chambers

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

When Is Conversion Really Conversion

"I see dead people."

Scary, that.

But the prospect that in our efforts to reach people that we may go too far in accommodating their present state rather than challenging them to repent and embrace the truth of the gospel is scarier by any order of magnitude to me.

Over on awaiting rain is a scary look at just how this can happen.

Thanks Bill.

Wakeup Call

Long night. Called out at 9:30 for a two hour counseling session, get back home and spend some time winding down and read... HT "Sets and Service"

“Why, if we have the timeless truth of the gospel, do we need to concern ourselves with culturally relevant ministry? Because if we don’t, the message of the gospel gets confused with the cultures of old. The unchurched think that Christianity is a retrograde culture rather than a living faith. Our job is to remove the “extra” stumbling blocks of culture without removing the essential stumbling block of the cross (1 Corinthians 1:23). Unfortunately, the stumbling block of the cross has too often been replaced by the stumbling block of the church. Most people aren’t being recruited by other religions; they are being confused by the practice of ours.”
Ed Stetzer, Why is cultural relevance a big deal?

"Most people aren't being recruited by other religions; they are being confused by the practice of ours."

BOOM! Ok, I'm awake.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Preaching Christ

We have said that you must preach the gospel every week--to edify and grow Christians and to convert non-Christians. But if that is the case, you cannot simply 'instruct in Biblical principles.' You have to 'get to Jesus' every week.
Tim Keller - Preaching in the Postmodern City part 3

Great article.