Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Denominational Dirt

We all have sacred dirt. That little part of us that gives way to traditionalism and turf struggles. Remember the story of Naaman? I love that story. The leprous captain of the Syrian Army dunking himself seven times in the Jordan River and coming up clean has such symbolism. Naaman did not want to wash in the Jordan, because it was a dirty river. The leprosy represents what sin does to a person. The leprosy was on the outside, visually wreaking havoc, the sin is on the inside, invisibly wreaking havoc. And of course, the waters wash away his disease, even as the love of Christ washes away our sins. As I said, a great story. Such great sermon fodder!

Nevertheless, it is the aftermath that I love the most. The baby smooth and sparkly skinned Naaman, fresh in his conversion experience to the God of Israel, decides to take some dirt home with him. This is so he can worship on “pure dirt.” What exactly is pure dirt? Is it clean dirt? And if it is, what makes dirty dirt dirty?
In 2 Kings 5, Naaman asks Elijah for two mule loads of dirt to take back with him to Syria, so he can worship on it. The good soil. (Not exactly what Jesus had in mind with His parable!) Naaman thought, incorrectly of course, that it mattered where you were, how you were, and what you did in regards to worshiping God. But even as we laugh at such a notion, don’t we often do the same things? I have been a part of groups that believed if you weren’t baptized in their “dirt,” then the Baptism didn’t count. I have been with groups that believed if you didn’t read from the King Dirt Version of the Bible, you couldn’t be saved. I have even known of, though fortunately never been through, what is known as a church split. This is when certain sanctified Believers get mad, pack up their dirt, move about one mile down the road, plant their dirt and try to be an annoyance to the original dirt. In West Kentucky, there is even a certain place where right across the street from one another are Mt Moriah Baptist Church and The Original Mt Moriah Baptist Church. Yep, the sign says it just like that: “The Original Mt Moriah Baptist Church” and yes, they are literally across the street from one another.

But, honestly, what makes us think our dirt is better than anyone else’s dirt? If Baptist Dirt is clean, does that mean that Presbyterian Dirt is dirty? Of course not. It means we are being silly, and sinful, and prideful. When we get to packing up our dirt, or storing up our dirt, our refusing to share our dirt, we let the Devil win. And really, people, it’s just dirt anyway! The things of this world will be burned up, according to Peter. And the only two things that will remain are people and the truth. This is where we should invest our the Truth (God’s Word) and in other people.



Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Listen to the Psalmist: “Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound! They walk, O LORD, in the light of Your countenance.” (Ps. 89:15 NKJV)

Think back for a moment to your childhood. Can you remember the joyful sound that whirled and popped and whistled it’s pied piper call? It called us from our cartoons, our play, our chores. It was like the TV commercial with heads popping up above the cubicles looking for a Krispy Kreeme. Like Pavlov's dogs, we would begin to drool and tilt our heads in order to better hear the melodious sonnet that heralded...The Ice Cream Truck!

There was no greater sound in all of the world on a hot, sticky, summer Saturday in Georgia. From every corner of the neighborhood we would come running, either toward the corner, or toward home seeking dad and his endless pocketful of quarters. So rapt was our attention that we barley noticed the music track dragging or the fading and peeling paint job, and a rather scary clown face on the side. It was as magic as it gets. Think about it, for a mere 25¢, one had the purchasing power of a millionaire. A cherry screwball (with a gumball in the bottom, of course), or an ice-cream sandwich? A tougher decision has never been made on Wall Street. I usually opted for the screwball. The gum was hard, tasteless, and lasted only a few minutes before becoming unchompable rubber, but I’ve always been a sucker for the two-for-one deal. And remember the wooden spoons. Ice cream has such better palatability when eaten from balsa wood.

My kids had the experience for a little while when we lived in Tennessee. Luke’s favorite was the Red Power Ranger popsicle, although he would sometimes go for the SpongeBob Squaresicle. Stevie liked the Strawberry Cheesecake bar thingy. Shea was a teen by this point, and way too cool for the Ice Cream Truck. But she does love mint chocolate chip! Of course, I had to purchase a Cherry Screwball for myself—quality testing is Dad’s number one job! And, it was no longer a quarter. A small business loan is required for purchasing dreams these days!

Nevertheless, let me ask you a question: “When the voice of the Lord calls out to you, do you respond to it with the same childlike enthusiasm that you showed at the approach of the ice cream truck?” We should. When the call to worship is played this Sunday, will we tilt our heads and call our souls to rapt attention at the thought of worshipping God? Will we sing to the Lord a new song, worshipping Him in spirit and truth? It is my fervent prayer that the name of the Lord bring joy to our hearts and smiles to our faces. May we run to our “Daddy”, not for a quarter and a gumball, but merely for the joy of being in His presence!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

He Is Risen


He is risen!

and He's my Lord!

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Passion Week Day # 7

Day 7: Saturday

Jesus' body lies in the tomb.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Why Do They Call It GOOD Friday?


"Why Do They Call It GOOD Friday?" is a question that both of my girls have asked, and most likely, every thinking Christian has asked at some time or another. The logic is simple really. IF this date (Friday of Passover) is the date Jesus Christ was crucified, then what is so good about that? Shouldn't we call it "Bad Friday," or "Murder Friday," or "StupidSanhedrinBunchOfIdiots Friday?"

The answer, of course, is no. The ancients had it right when they looked at this day as being ultimately a good day. Perhaps even the Ultimate Good Day. Now I know some of you are shouting at your computer screens right now, "That Ultimate Good Day comes three days later!" Yes, yes. I know. Easter is the culmination of the Christian faith. No resurrection = no Savior; and no Savior = no Christianity.

But think about this for a moment. For us: sinners, rebels, no-good-low-rent-smooth-kneed-sight-walking-low-living-Christ-rejecting folk, there is something marvelous about Friday! Yes, the Lord came out of the tomb on Sunday! Yes, because He did we can look forward to a resurrection ourselves in that last day! Yes, it proves that He is the Lord of Lords, and King of Kings! But none of that would matter...if. it. wasn't. for. Friday. (Whew. I got my preacher on for a minute there.)

See, without the crucifixion, we could not celebrate the resurrection. In-other-words, without Friday, we would have no cause to celebrate Sunday. The Resurrection would have been little more than a historical blip on the radar. An interesting fact, with no redeeming value. The Bible makes this abundantly clear.

First we have redemption through His crucifixion. Paul said, "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace" (Eph. 1:7). The picture of redemption is something being bought back. The price has been paid and it is through the blood of Jesus Christ that God bought us back from the Devil. Peter also reminds us of this when he says, "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold... But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:" (1 Peter 1:18-19).

Second, we have been brought closer to God because of the crucifixion. Again, Paul says, "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ." (Eph 2:13) Good Friday broke down the partition and makes the way possible for us to enter into the very presence of God. Now, friends and neighbors, that's a pretty good day. (Remember that ripped veil? It was what separated the people from God. But that's gone-baby-gone; thanks to Good Friday.)

There is so much more. For instance, we have been sanctified (Heb. 13:12), justified (Romans 5:9), and cleansed (1 John 1:7) because of Good Friday.

But, the third thing I want to show you is that we have reestablished peace with God. Did you know as a no-good-low-rent-smooth-kneed-sight-walking-low-living-Christ-rejecting sinner, God was at war with you? That's right. You and God were enemies. Still are, if you have not accepted Christ as Savior and Lord. But Good Friday allowed there to be peace between mankind and God. Paul said, "

And God was pleased for him to make peace by sacrificing his blood on the cross, so that all beings in heaven and on earth would be brought back to God." (Col 1:20) He made peace through the blood of His cross, another benefit of a really, really good Friday.

Think about it. Redemption, closeness to God, sanctification, justification, cleansing of our sins, and peace with the Maker, and that just begins to scratch the surface of this day in history.

I kinda-sorta think that makes it one awfully good Friday. How 'bout y'all?

Passion Week Day # 6

Day 6 Friday. Trials, Crucifixion, Death, and Burial.

Jesus' third trial is held early in the morning before the Sanhedrin. The first three trials were before the religious authorities where He is found guilty. Jesus is then taken before Pilate (the fourth trial) where He is found innocent. He is subsequently taken to Herod who also finds Him innocent (the fifth), and then back to Pilate who again finds Him innocent (the sixth) but relents under pressure, no doubt fearing an uprising. He notes on the sign on the cross that His crime was being the King of the Jews. He probably did this to avoid trouble with Rome (There was to be no king but Caesar). 

About 9:00 AM. Jesus is crucified on a hill called The Skull outside the city. Literally, Golgotha in Aramaic, or Calvary in Latin, it was most likely named this because it was the place of execution. While we cannot know for certain, it is tradition that this is the site where God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. 

At noon, the sky becomes dark. The darkness is highly symbolic of the Father turning His back on the One He had earlier called My beloved Son. No doubt that this was also the Father’s mercy, veiling His Son’s pain and agony. Jesus will make seven proclamations while on the cross. These are known collectively as The Seven Last Saying of Christ. They are:

At 3:00 PM Jesus utters the most important of these sayings to Believers when he cries with a loud voice: “It is finished.” This is just one word in the Greek language, Tetelestai. The phrase literally means Paid, as in paid in full. The rapidity of the trial and crucifixion was seen as necessary by the Jews for fear of the fickle crowds turning again to embrace Jesus. It was in actuality part of the Father’s plan from the beginning, as Jesus dies while the paschal (that is, sacrificial)  lambs are being offered for the nation's sins at the temple. The Son of God became sin for us! "But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed." Isaiah 53:5 (NKJV) The veil is rent in the Temple (Mk. 15:38

Jesus had been on the cross for 6 hours when His body is given to two of His followers, who up until this point had kept their devotion to Christ secret. (John 3:2) Jesus is laid in Joseph's tomb before the Sabbath began at sunset, or around 6:00 PM. In less than twelve hours Jesus has fulfilled the Father’s purposes: The sin of the world has been placed on the Lamb of God.

Maranatha! Even so, Come Lord Jesus!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Passion Week Day # 5

Day 5 Thursday. Day of Preparation and Passover in the Evening.

Today (and perhaps on Wednesday evening) preparation is made for the Passover. Judas may have also utilized this time to meet with the priests for his betrayal (Matt.26:1-5; 14-16; 17-19). The Passover is celebrated on Thursday evening (which is Friday by Jewish reckoning) in an upper room. Tradition has it that it was owned by Mark's parents. At the end of the Jewish feast, Jesus institutes the Last Supper (Matt. 14:12-26; Lk. 22:17-23). The Last Supper is followed by the Upper Room Discourse (Jn. 13-17). Sometime in the evening, after the Passover, Jesus and His disciples leave the Upper Room and go to Gethsemane, a place near the Mt. of Olives where it was a custom for Jesus to Pray (Matt. 26:36-460). While in the Garden, Jesus is betrayed by Judas and arrested by the temple guards (Jn. 18:2-12). The Trials begin. Before dawn Jesus is tried twice before Annas and then Caiaphas. Everything about these trials is illegal.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Awful Loneliness Of Silent Wednesdays


Isn’t it incredible that with all that was happening around Jerusalem on that Wednesday, that Jesus chose to be “silent”: to do nothing that was recorded? Of all the miracles that needed to be done; the teaching that was needed for the people, the healings that He could have accomplished, the hungry that could have been fed, and the depressed that could have been cheered by Jesus’ presence. The scholars tell us He most likely stayed at the home of Lazarus and his sisters.

But I don’t think it is strange, necessarily. If you are a Christ follower for long enough there will come a time when God will be silent. In the midst of your hurts, needs, depression, loss, hunger, and desperation--when you passionately need to hear from God and all your ears pick up are birds chirping and crickets singing--- you will wonder “Why?”

It is like we are going through a wilderness experience but we are actually going through a “Silent Wednesday.” Eventually we all will encounter questions of our faith, and when we seek an answer, God will be silent. Why is that? I think He is teaching us that when there are times when we don’t hear God, we need to read God. If you have gone through, or are going through, a Silent Wednesday, let me encourage you to read the Word. God has not abandoned you. He is still there. And He wants you to focus on Him in the silent times by focusing on His Scriptures. 

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.Philippians 4:6-8

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.Romans 8:18

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.Isaiah 41:10

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.  Psalm 62:2

Take heart, friend. God is with you, even on a silent Wednesday!

The Awful Loneliness Of Silent WednesdaysIf you are a Christ-Follower for long enough, there will come a time when God...
Posted by The Lake on Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Passion Week Day # 4

Day 4: Wednesday. The Silent Day.

After an exhausting day of controversy, Jesus more than likely spends this day
resting and visiting with His intimate friends at the home of Lazarus, Maratha, and Mary.