Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I'm Troubled

I'm troubled.
Seems like every day we read about one religious leader or group going after another. That's troubling. More to the point, however, is the drag these fights are on our witness within the community and congregation.
Which still doesn't bring me to my trouble.
In Acts 23 (read it here), Paul is promised by God that he would preach in Rome. God gave Paul a clear message and call for the next period of his life. Wow! How exhilarating that would be; a clear call for courage to reach people for Christ. I wonder if Paul slept well that night or spent the night checking Orbitz or Travelocity for the best route to Rome. The next morning, however, not one, not three, but more than 40 Jews reportedly swore an oath to kill Paul. That surely would have thwarted God's plans. But God wanted Paul to preach in Rome, so he protected him starting with a nephew's report to Paul (vs. 16), the commander's listening ear (vs. 20) and the commander's order for protection (200 soldiers, seventy horsemen, two hundred spearmen, vs. 23). I'm sure the commander didn't know a thing about God's plan for Paul. Paul was a Roman citizen and this commander was going to be sure Paul was getting to Rome. I wonder if the conspirators stuck to their oath and never ate again?
Which almost gets me to my trouble.
We are commanded in scripture to take our questions to the person or leader in a certain order (read Matthew 18:15-17). Too often in this day and age of rapid communication, social media and electronic assistance, our combatants circumvent this command and let the world know first. Is it wrong to ask for change? No. Is it wrong to point out sin? No. But handle the affair as described in Matthew 18. It is not scriptural to ambush a pastor, a church leader or a worshiping community and think there won't be consequences.
So what troubles me? 
We don't fight well. We used to sing, "They'll Know We are Christians by Our Love," but I'm afraid it has has morphed to, "They'll Know We are Christians by the Way We Wound Each Other." Why do we behave like those without a moral, ethical, or even scriptural compass? Is this a real issue? Take a cup of coffee at a coffee house, listen to the patrons near you in a restaurant or read letters to the editor and you will see that our worldly tussles are fodder for jokes and distracting to our message of love. Leaving a group of lost souls laughing over our efforts to save the world.
We must grieve God.
That's what really troubles me.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Abstinence from Hyperbole (Caution: Conservative Spoiler Ahead)

Rush Limbaugh gets more mileage out of hyperbole than any other person I know and I watch a lot of TV preachers. Remember the Donovan McNabb riff that cost Rush the Monday Night Football gig? Or equating Obama with Hitler? Or suggesting that feminism was designed by and for unattractive women?Or comparing Hillary Clinton to a "screeching ex-wife"?  

A 30-year old Georgetown Univ. (GU) law student, Sandra Fluke, testified in front of a Democratic Congressional hearing on women's health. As a member of the GU's Law Students Reproductive Justice group, Ms. Fluke testified to the need for Congress to write into law that all organizations, including religious organizations such as GU, be required to provide contraceptive care insurance. In her testimony (reprinted here, she related several stories of women whose health issues required contraceptive care, yet were denied coverage or sensed humiliation when requesting coverage. Though her comments only obliquely referred to needing the insurance coverage for birth control, Ms. Fluke's testimony garnered much interest.

At the Golden Microphone, Mr. Limbaugh unfavorably described her with several street language terms which were clearly out of bounds. An attempt at an over-the-air apology was poorly received also. (In the interest of maintaining decency, I won't link his comments.) Mr. Limbaugh was soon on the losing end of advertiser walk-aways, feeling the hot poker end of political rhetoric and, probably, sleeping on the sofa at home. (For those of you with that picture now in your mind, I apologize.)

So, I think it comes to this: abstinence. 

Ms. Fluke...if you have a health issue your insurance should cover it (even though Ortho-Cyclen can be had for about $9/month in DC). If you are wanting birth control and "freedom" from sexual activity, try abstinence. No cost and biblically prescribed.

Mr. Limbaugh...Others have suggested in years past that you put a condom on that Golden Microphone to keep from despoiling us. Spare that expense and think first. Perhaps that aspirin you suggested Ms. Fluke keep between her knees would serve you between your lips before you speak.  Again, Rush, try abstinence. No cost and biblically prescribed (Ephesians 4:31).

Abstinence isn't only safer, it's also the highest respect you can show a partner or fellow citizen. Try it. Our public discourse deserves and requires it.

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Saul Stunned...Ananais Answered

You know the story in Acts 9...
Saul's been going out of his way to persecute Christians. After receiving permission to continue his mission against the Way in Damascus, he was confronted by Christ, struck blind and ordered to a house on Straight Street in Damascus. We learn from the text that he was there three days.
Within that time, when exactly we do not know, the Lord called for Ananais and he responded, "Yes, Lord." Worth noting here is that Ananais immediately recognized the Lord's voice and made himself available. The Lord told him to go to Straight Street, find this Saul from Tarsus and restore his sight. (The Lord had already prepared Saul for this by telling him a man named Ananais would come and restore his sight.)
Ananais wasn't sure this was in his life plan. We talk often about his shock at being told to visit Saul. I like the "But haven't you heard" incredulity in his response. Though scripture doesn't record it, do you think he may have debated it a bit? After all, Saul was there for three days! Did Ananais take a day or so to visit his intercessors group, call his pastor for a bite of hummus and pita chips, or see a lawyer to get his will in shape? Without corroboration from the text we can only assume he heard, "Go!" and he went. And, by going, he received the blessing of helping Christ restore Saul to a right relationship with God and be instrumental in moving the Word to the world.
Ananais recognized, responded and received. Am I missing a blessing because I don't know what the Lord's voice sounds like enough to affirmatively answer immediately? Or, am I hearing the call and telling him why it can't work thus missing the blessing of his plan for my life? Which leader of the next generation has God prepared yet is not seeing today because I haven't responded? I pray the SOAP Journaling taught by Wayne Cordeiro in his book, The Divine Mentor, will help me recognize, respond and receive all Jesus has for me in this life.

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Again, With the Wait?

Again, with the wait? What's this all about? Why, so many times this week, have I heard, "Wait."? Perhaps I'm missing something. (As I write this, I recognize I start many of my pieces this way. Hmmm? What am I really missing?)

At the end of his time on earth, Jesus instructs his people to move out, mobilize, carry this message of repentance and baptism to all people's near and far (Matthew 28:18-20, MSG).  I can't imagine a more motivated group of disciples. They had seen the Risen Christ! They knew it all to be true. They recognized all of their time traveling and ministering with Him was preparation for this command. Jesus said this was God's message to them and He would be with them all the way. "Let's hike up our robes and go!"

But then they hear Jesus saying, "Wait, on no account are you to leave Jerusalem" (Acts 1:4) . I'm trying to reconcile their minds at this time. They had a story of love and deliverance to tell. They had been commanded and given authority to go. Some may have already given up their livelihoods, said goodbye to their family, put the granola and olive oil in the rucksack and were ready to head out. But now, "Wait?" "For another baptism?"

I don't think it was unusual for them to be asked/told to wait. Several instances are recorded where Jesus said to wait while he went away to pray. They knew the scriptures which would have included David's reminder in Psalm 27:14:
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.

So, how did they wait? The only cue we have is that they were "together in one place" (Acts 2:1). I am willing to wager they were eating together and worshiping together. After all, it was the Feast of Pentecost. But, how long they waited, how they spent the time, what Scriptures they read, what stories were reminisced, and so on, all unknown. Did God wait until they were all in one place and "all of one mind"? We only know they obeyed the second command and waited for the One Jesus promised.

And they all received the same blessing! The baptism of the Holy Spirit!

How often do we seek to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) without seeking the fulfillment of, in my opinion, the promise of the Holy Spirit in our life? I know I am a Type A kind of guy. Give me a command; give me a task and off I go. This is a time of waiting for me, but am I spending it anticipating and growing or just waiting?

How are our churches any different? We struggle with the near and far command and tend to disregard the wait command. We have factions on both sides competing for hearts, minds and dollars. Can we do both at once or are they mutually exclusive? Can we go and wait? Can we serve and seek? Can we bless and be blessed? After all, the harvest is ready!

Now, here's the cop-out. The answer is not clear to me. I only know they waited...together. They received the promised presence of the power of God to fulfill the Great Commission...together. Once that happened, there was no holding a single one of them back!

The British author James Stalker wrote, "Waiting is a common instrument of providential discipline for those to whom exceptional work has been appointed." So, I return to David: "Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." Not quitting; but seeking, serving, and waiting.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Living Lavish in the Community

Last fall, I looked forward to FirstB's study of the important discipleship issues within the book of Ephesians. I am always blessed when reminded of God's delight and pleasure in choosing to love us lavishly (vs. 1:8, NIV) through the hope (1:18) to which He has called us, our rich inheritance in the saints (1:18), and His incomparable power (1:19) for us who believe.

The first four chapters remind us of our life in Christ and the unity of the body. FirstB focuses on our response to the 4B's (Belong, Believe, Become, Beyond) and Paul concludes Chapter Four with, in my opinion, several foundational discipleship principles necessary to maintain the community:

Ephesians 4:25-32: "put off falsehood and speak truthfully"...Persons belonging to a community cultivate complete honesty. We don't lie to ourselves.

4:26: "In your anger do not sin." A community can withstand appropriate expressions of anger that maintain community and do not allow Satan a "foothold" (4:27).

4:28: "Work...with own hands,...share with those in need." A community survives by going beyond itself and cultivating equal commitment though our gifts are not equal.

4:29: No unwholesome talk, "but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs." A community edifies and grows each other. This takes us from belonging through believing to becoming.

And, finally, perhaps the linchpin:

4:31-32: "Get rid of all bitterness", etc., "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ forgave you." Just be nice, demonstrate grace and continual forgiveness.

I am called to prayer to thank God for these reminders and for my response and application.

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Friday, June 29, 2007


My niece, Claire, loves penguins. Just ask her sometime to dance in her best “Happy Feet” impression. She learned from a small, albeit animated, penguin that one of the roads to happiness is keeping her feet moving to an inner rhythm.
While “Happy Feet” was a delightful animated movie, my penguin favorite is “March of the Penguins.” Following the annual pilgrimage of Emperor penguins in the Antarctica to their wintering place, this documentary pictures some of the most beautifully harsh terrain one will ever see. The effervescent depth of the blue in their ocean home and the bitter white of their winter refuge provide a visually impacting statement of the cycle of their lives.
The penguins march for days, their numbers in single file stretching for miles until they arrive at a plain where countless ancestors have wintered. There, an egg is deposited by the mother and quickly cradled by the father. And then it gets interesting. The mothers leave for the nourishment of the sea and the fathers huddle together to bear all that winter throws at them. This is a necessity for an egg that falls to the icepack will freeze in moments. In this mass communal huddling, the fathers are warmed and the eggs are protected.
It’s this life in the wintering ground that gets me thinking about the church and First Baptist, in particular. The easy thinking is that we are facing a winter in the cycle of life for FBC and the best step for us is to huddle together, share the cold and protect our resources while we wait for the new life of spring.
Or, are we asked to respond differently?
In Mark 2, Jesus returns to Capernaum and crowds squeeze around him so tightly that no one is able to get close. So closely, that even those needing healing or comfort from Jesus couldn’t get to him. Realizing this, four men removed roof tiles, dug through the roof and lowered their paralytic friend to get him to Jesus. You know the story, Jesus, seeing the faith of his friends, healed the man, asked him to pick up his pallet and walk. The story ends with the crowds glorifying God for the miracle they had seen.
I think we are being called to be a people of roof-tile breakers, not a barricade of backs. Are there persons in our community who may not see anything of Jesus’ great love because of a huddled barricade of backs? Who of our circle needs to be carried to the Christ of forgiveness, healing, care and comfort? It was the tile-breaking faith of his friends that allowed the man to receive forgiveness and healing. Which tiles do we as the people of First Baptist Church need to break to introduce this Jesus to a hurting world?

Monday, January 08, 2007

Celebration of Discipline

In the early 80s, Dr. Richard Foster (Renovaré) led a week-long renewal conference at FBC using his book, Celebration of Discipline , as the jumping off point. I remember those meetings as having an impact on several lives. Mine, though, not enough.

In March 2007, we will have a weekend with Glandion Carney (
Author of Heaven Within These Walls, Creative Urban Youth Ministries, and Missing Peace, and co-author of five other books, Glandion helped found "Centrepoint: A Community for Spiritual Formation" in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and is Chaplain for the Christian Legal Society, read more here). He is also a presenter for Renovaré and a friend of our Pastor Emeritus, Dr. Roger Fredrikson.

In anticipation of that weekend, we will be re-visiting Foster's Celebration of Discipline on Wednesday evenings beginning January 10. Dr. Foster has categorized these faith practices as Inward (Meditation, Prayer, Fasting, Study), Outward (Simplicity, Solitude, Submission, Service), and Corporate (Confession, Worship, Guidance, Celebration). In addition, we will be reviewing
Practicing Our Faith, edited by Dorothy C. Bass. She identifies twelve shared activities, called practices, that take our faith from the realm of theory and address our fundamental human needs. Weaving these practices together creates a rich tapestry of a new, abundant way of life.

Why am I taking on this teaching task? Because, as the deer in
Psalm 42 , I have a longing, nay a thirst, for knowing more about my God. How about you? Let's take this journey together. Join me (and Jason Folkerts) on Wednesday evenings these next few weeks as we seek the Summum bonum of the Good LIfe in Jesus Christ.