Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Junk Mail

Jesus said, “And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.” (Luke 6:31)

A version of the Golden Rule is found in the scriptures of at least seven major world religions and in the ethical teachings of scores of great philosophers throughout history. The one major difference is Jesus puts this statement in to a positive context, rather than negative.

In-other-words, Jesus says treat others how you want them to treat you, whereas other religions place it in the negative, treat others how they have already treated you. Even so, it is considered the simplest statement of ethics ever conceived. Its widespread acceptance speaks of a universal truth—people just want to be treated like people.

The human dimension is fast disappearing from much of humanity. Our existence is now defined as a series of numbers - Social Security, bank account, license plate, driver's license, credit card, church tithing envelope number. We get telemarketing calls from computers. We belong to social networks in order to keep current with friends...a very depersonalized way of staying in touch. We email, facebook, myspace, text, twitter, tweat...ok, maybe I made that last one up. And, perhaps the greatest insult is that our genetic makeup is being mapped. Can you imagine me being cloned?! Woo boy. That’s all we need is a bunch of me’s running around. All though...a couple of extra you’s would help with the BIP this Sunday! Nonetheless, all that makes us truly human - spirit, soul, and the image of God - is being replaced by bits and bytes of digital information.

The illustrations may be new, but the tendency to treat people like objects isn't. Even Jesus' disciples were more concerned about using a blind man as a theological case study than they were about his need to be healed (see John 9:2). How do you see people? When you relate to them, is it to meet your needs or theirs? Have you put the Golden Rule into practice this week? Cassatt, Camden, Columbia, and for that matter our country, could use a little more “golden ruling!”

I hate junk mail. (Can preachers say hate?) Most of it ends up in the round file pretty quick. Last week I had a letter from Bestbuy. Typical junk coupons, I thought. “50% off. On package of chewing gum with a $500 purchase.” But I opened it anyway. It was a ten dollar gift card. Not a coupon. As good as cash. I had to think, do I treat people like I treat junk mail? Do you? Do we cast them away before we know what is on the inside? As you look through your mail box and sort out the unsolicited junk mail, be wary. If all that electronic wizardry makes you feel depersonalized, be careful; you may be treating others the same way.

Food for thought,


The Perfect 10

When I lived in Georgia, I worked for a company called Perfection-Schwank. Perfection was started in the late 1890’s as a manufacturer of oil burning space heaters. Through the years it added gas heating appliances to its repertoire, and I worked there as a gas engineer. I never really liked the name though. There was just something egotistical about calling ones self “Perfection,” and as an engineer with the company, let me tell you we were not even close.

There is another application with this word “perfection.” I still feel as though there is something egotistical about calling ones self perfect; however, the Bible says that we should call someone perfect. Me!
Oh...OK, and you, too.

Listen to the writer of Hebrews: “With one sacrifice he made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” (10:14 NCV) Notice the word is “perfect.” It is not better. Not improving. Not enhancing, or trying. God doesn't improve, better, or try; He perfects. He doesn't enhance; he completes!

Remember back in the seventies when people were ranked on a scale of 1-10. She’s an 8½. He’s a 9. What-ever that meant. Everybody think of Dudley Moore and Bo Derek! (And if you get that reference with-out Googling it, you're showing your age!)  Me? I was always a ten! As in, “Steve can eat ten Krystal burgers.” “He’s on his tenth piece of pizza.” "The boy just ate ten chicken legs!" “Quick! Go get ten Rolaids!” Well, we are all ten’s in God’s eyes. Listen to James, “But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”(1:4) And David in Psalm 18, “As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him. For who is God, except the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God? It is God who arms me with strength, And makes my way perfect.”

Yes, yes, I know. We are BEING made perfect. Nevertheless, God speaks in terms of what has already been accomplished through Jesus Christ. That means God sees the completed work now, even though the actual completion is miles down the road. One day I will be perfect, sinless, and holy. But the important thing is that God sees me in that light of perfection right now. In other words- When He sees each of us, He sees one who has been made perfect through the One who is perfect–Jesus Christ. My wonder of His love for each of us never ceases.

You know...I think I quite like being a perfect 10!

Thank you, Jesus.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pondering Places

I've added a few new sites to my pondering places. (Websites I read often or occasionally) Just letting you know in case you're interested. You should especially check out Al Mohler's blog. The man is a genius. No, literally, he is a genius. Is IQ is like a gajillion or something.



Monday, April 27, 2009

New Name Part Two

So a new name. Again. A Fish Called Grace. When Jonah was swallowed by the fish he thought it was a prison, but it was really a rescue vessel, it was a fish called Grace. In Jonah 3:1 God gives Jonah a second chance. He was rescued by Grace, and given a second chance by Grace. I love my Jesus, and His grace is amazing. Grace, grace, marvelous grace. Grace that is greater than all my sin.



Friday, April 24, 2009

The High Cost of Discipleship, con’t

So Sunday I’ll be preaching on the “When” of Spiritual Victory. The When is Today. Living for the King Today is what discipleship is all about. I will use Luke 9 as my text, particularly vs 23. “Then He said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.”’ (New King James Version) Daily we are to take up the mantle of Christ and carry the cross. This means the dying of self, daily. Later, in vs 57-62, three would-be disciples come and then go in disappointment. The cost were to high. Like the rich young ruler, they went away discouraged because they had much to loose. The real problem is that they had so very much more to gain.

But they, like many of us, cannot see past the limited sight of our future. Very intuitive people can see the probability of events taking place. They generally make good business people. Most of us see a very short distance into the future. Maybe a few hours. Even then we are often surprised. The car accident, phone call from the school, or other surprise upsets our apple cart. (One is quickly pulled back to 9/11) So these would-be disciples looked into the limited future and saw obstacles to following Jesus. Their problem was a lack of faith in who He was.

There is a theology floating about these days called Open Theism. Basically, it means that God cannot see into the future, nor can He control events in a drastic way. Oh, He may be able to see something coming, like a master chess player observing where His advisory is headed with a move. But He does not know for sure. What blasphemy! In-other-words, God was just as shocked about the presidential election as I was. He really couldn’t believe the outcome, even though He could sense the outcome. Let me tell you something people, God has never had to go sit on a stump and think things over. (I go walking around the cemetery when I need “thinking time”) Let me say it this way. Has it ever occurred to you, that nothing has ever occurred to God? Think about that.

The would-be’s didn’t trust that Jesus knew what was best for them. Let me go and bury my father. (He was staking his financial claim. Let me sew up my inheritance, then I’ll follow you.) Let me say good bye to my friends, says another. (Let me make sure I have a place to come back to if Your plan fails, Jesus.) The other leaves with out offering an excuse. He “hears” that Jesus doesn’t have a plan. Foxes and birds have no plan. "If Jesus has no plan, I’m outta here."

But Jesus calls us to faith as disciples. We trust in Him. We put our entire being into His care. It is what faith is all about. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. True discipleship is about trust. I place my trust in Him.



Thursday, April 23, 2009

Parliamentary Procedure Seminar, Part Deux

So the seminar was actually informative and fun. I think the average bear would have committed suicide about 3 hours in, but I rather enjoyed it. Maybe I’ll investigate becoming a Certified Registered Parliamentarian. I think I might have found something people would even consider more boring than a Certified Quality Engineer. If you can’t get them with the statistical anomaly and standard deviation, try a good dose of the finer nuances between “Laying a Motion on the table,” and “Indefinitely suspending a Motion.” Oh! Oh! Or how about the pronunciation of "precedence?" It is pree/seed/ance. Not press/id/ence. See, cause one motion must "precede" the next one. get it!? haha. Whew boy. My head hurts.

Fun times!



Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Parliamentary Procedure Seminar

Tomorrow I am going to a seminar for learning Parliamentary Procedures. I wonder if Paul and Peter went to such a lecture? There was probably not a Roberts Rules of Orders to rely on, so the business meeting at First Baptist Church of Jerusalem was probably a doosie.

hmmmmmm.....James, the brother of our Lord, was no doubt the moderator. Simon the Zealot brought a motion to paint the Baptistery with a picture of the Jordan River. Phillip was concerned how they would pay for it, and Mary Magdalene made an amendment to the motion that the paint be purchased from Bethesda Depot, Lazarus’ new business venture. Matthew, the church treasurer, indicated he thought he could secure a tax exempt purchase agreement from his former protégé.

Peter and Paul, who have been to the Parliamentary Procedure class mind you, said that the motion must be sent to the property committee for further discussion. Which Thaddeus promptly said was against the By Laws.

Well, maybe not. Of all of the things I love about my beloved Southern Baptist Convention, business meeting is my least favorite. I believe it is the one place where other denominations have us beat. Presbyterians, for example, have a Session. This is a group of Elders, elected by the church, who make all of the decisions for the church. It works well.

Well, at least I’ll have fun at the class.



Tuesday, April 21, 2009

New Name

Hope you like it. (And that it makes sense!!!!)

The High Cost Of Discipleship

I preached about the “Where” of Spiritual Victory Sunday. Where can we find SV? Dab smack in the middle of God’s will. Jonah ran from God’s will, Paul stumbled into God’s wills, Demas forsook God’s will. Staying the course in God’s will requires a steadfastness and a devotion to the cause of discipleship. Sometimes the cost can be very high. Tradition tells us that every disciple of Christ, except John, was martyred. (The tradition says that Emperor Domitian attempted to kill the aged apostle but failed when God turned the pot of boiling oil into a relaxing sauna. Something I imagine the old boy really liked. In his youth Jesus called him Boanerges...a Son of Thunder. John regularly popped off at the mouth allowing his feelings to get ahead of his brains. He probably had mellowed in his octogenarian state and a hot Greek bath, I’m sure, suited him.) So the disciples were asked to pay the price of their lives.

Few of us today have been asked to sacrifice much. We sit in air conditioned churches on padded pews. My kids have sacrificed much more than me, as many school changes as there are years enrolled, or so it seems. And so has Patty, who has stopped her career so I can pursue mine many times. Nevertheless, the cost is real. The high cost of discipleship actually cost us all the same thing, and that is all that there is. We are called to give nothing less than everything. Our lives, our fortunes, and sensibilities, and certainly our pride and our dignity. Discipleship costs familial relationships, fellowship, and financial stability.

However, the high calling is also highly regarded. I will never have much in this ole world. That is apparent to me by now. But what I have is ultimately fulfilling. My children and parents have come to know the Lord during my ministry. I am blessed with a Christian wife. I have friends through out the country and have had the opportunity to regularly share the gifts God has given me. I’ll take a hug from a baby believer in the baptistery over earthly treasure any day.

And why wouldn’t we give all we have? Jesus gave Himself, and compared to that what is a little money...or even a little dignity?! Because of Christ, I no longer need preeminence or prosperity, to be labeled as right or to be recognized.

So, the other know, the baptizer...said it best when he said, “I must decrease. He must increase.” What is discipleship? It is decreasing King “I” to the deference of King Jesus.



Saturday, April 18, 2009

God As Father!

So, as I said, I am preaching about the Model Prayer on Wednesdays. The first part that Jesus tells us is to pray to our “Father” in heaven. This concept of God as Father is old hat to us in the church. But when Jesus first said those words it was quite controversial.

The Jews believed that God was far off and that He was unapproachable. Jesus taught that God was Father. In fact, He also told us to call God Abba…which means, well, Daddy. What Jesus wanted us to see is that God is very approachable. Just as a child can come to his dad with anything, so we should go to Father with anything. When we are feeling low, when we are depressed, when the crash comes, when a crisis is full blown, when the doctor says “cancer,” when the banker says “no,” when life says “moe ron,” and we run out of excuses and the ability to handle life on our own terms, we can go to Father. I read again J.I. Packer’s book and found this statement that I really, really love. Packer says, “Father is the Christian name for God.” Ain’t that grand!? To the Jews, He was Yahweh. Actually, YHWH. They took the vowels out and did an all caps kinda thing in the Hebrew, because His name, they thought, was to Holy to be said, or spoken, or written. Then Jesus says, “Duh. His name is Father. Call Him Daddy.”

Now at this point, if your even still reading and haven’t gone comatose from boredom, you may be thinking…”But He is Holy.” Absolutely. Understand, He is not just “the man upstairs.” He is the thrice Holy God of Israel. However, He does desire for us to have a close relationship with Him. So, as Packer says, we are to call him Father, because to His children that is His name. Why is so important to know His name? To us a name is a name. It sounds good, or was a family thing. Luke’s middle name is William. Why? My dad and brother are Williams. Patty’s father and brother are Williams. So he is Luke William. I once knew a girl named Chiquita. Just like the banana. I have knows girls named Princess and a man or two named King. Our parents name us because they like the sound or some other meaning is attached. But to the ancients a person’s name had relationship to an individual’s character. Jacob means “Trickster.” Steven means “Crowned One.” That is why you see name changes so often in the Scriptures. So God’s name is important because it describes His character.

Listen to how David describes God’s name in the Psalms… O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth!... And those who know Your name will put their trust in You, For You, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You…May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble! May the name of the God of Jacob set you {securely} on high!
God’s name! It brings help in the mist of trouble.

(Still with me I see. Good for you. I know this is a long post.) So, for those in the mist of trouble He is Jehovah-Shalom…The God who beings peace. To those sick and afflicted He is Jehovah-Ropheka…The God who heals. To those in financial trouble, He is Jehovah-Jirah…The God who provides. And to me… to me, friends, He is El-Shaddai…The God who is sufficient for the needs of His people. In-other-words, He is Father.

As you pray, pray to Father God. Ask Him to heal your hurts, forgive your trespasses, bless your finances, and save you from destruction. He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.



Thursday, April 16, 2009

The King James Version

OK, I should explain, for the uninformed, my view of the KJV. I love the King James. It is an eloquent and poetic version. Those who pay attention will notice that when I step away from my notes and quote the Bible from memory, I quote the KJV. I grew up with it and memorized scripture for years from it.

What I have a problem with is those folks who believe that the KJV is the ONLY Bible that can be used or is inspired. (Please see my post on Denominational Dirt from Tuesday August 5, 2008) I actually find it sad and ironically funny at the same time. Most of these folks are fundamentalist Baptist or Pentecostal. Let me let you in on the funny part. Look inside the front cover and notice that it is not the King James Version. It is the Authorized Version. It was King James the First who authorized the translation. Now keep in mind that James, as King, was the Head of the Church of England, the Anglican Church. The Anglican Church in America became the Episcopal Church. So when someone talks to me about the KJV only, I simply ask them why they want to use the Episcopal Bible. HaHa.
Any way…to say that a particular version of the Bible is that important is to place an idol before the Lord. Jesus saves, not a four hundred year old manuscript!



Quite Possibly The Worst Sermon Ever

Not for the queasy or easily offended. Typical of a KJV’er, disparage everything in sight and then blame the NKJV, NIV, and NASB as tools of the devil.

I'm sure old King Jimmy would be proud.

Satan Is A Nerd!

I have been preaching a series of messages about Doctrinal issues on Wednesday Night. I just started, last night, to talk about the doctrine of prayer. Who better to give the lesson than Jesus. So we will spend 7 nights looking at the Model Prayer and further lessons from Luke 11:1-10. This comes at a great time as our church battles in the heavenlies while experiencing a time of renewal. Attendance is up, the money is up, attitudes are generally positive. All of the signs are there that we are doing well and growing. However, the reason I know we are in a growth cycle is not numbers or human attitudes, but spiritual markers. Satanic oppression is afoot. I have never been as focused in my prayer life as I am right now. And Satan is aware and his minions are loading up on the fiery darts. The first assault came Easter. I am experienced enough to know that this was a scouting expedition. The first wave is yet off. Somewhere, in the distance, the thunder rolls and the short-hairs are standing up on the necks of the most spiritual in our church.
I am not complaining! This is a good thing from the standpoint of BDBC making a difference. It’s about time we came onto Satan’s Radar. Am I ready for a fight? I don’t know. What I do know is...I’m prayed up, filled up, and fed up! Fed up with smooth knees and sight walking. Fed up with human concerns being the primary issue. Fed up with getting mad over “burnt toast” issues while people in this community are dying and going to Hell.

It is not about is not about is all about Him.



Sunday, April 12, 2009

He is risen!

It is Easter night. It has been a challenging day. It started at 3:15 am. The youth Easter Egg hunt ended about 9:30 last night. We started a devotional and I unplugged the nosiest ice machine in recorded history. We were having breakfast after sunrise and at 3:15 am, I awoke with a start and remembered that I had forgotten to plug it back in. Ahhhh. So here I go trekking across the sand lot that is our parking lot. Back to “sleep” until 4:30 when I get up to get ready for sunrise. Sunrise went well with a good crowd. Breakfast was wonderful. We have great cooks. Sunday school was wonderful. The music was very good. Just as I’m getting ready to preach, I am handed a note that was a huge distraction. I felt that the message was good, but that I was distant. We were invited to lunch with a lovely family. And then I napped. Well, I have been praying for some pretty specific things and I think the Devil is on the prowl. His attacks often come when I am relying on God the most. My sunrise message was Because He Lives. I am reminded that Because He live I can face tomorrow, that all fear is gone and that I can know, not just wonder, but know that He holds the future. Well I know that He is in charge. He is risen, indeed!