That We May Be Saved-September 29, 2013

That We May Be Saved-September 29, 2013

Scripture:  Psalm 80:1-3, 7-19

Key Verse:

Restore us, O God Almighty;

Make your face shine upon us,

That we may be saved.  Psalm 80:3,7,19

Do you think that if something is important it bears repeating?  What is that is truly worth repeating?  Is it that joke we heard the other day, the one we laughed at but it not really funny.

All true revival begins with recognition.  Recognizing both who God is and our state or condition before Him.  Here in Psalm 80 we have some very powerful poetry describing the deep need for God but also recognizing the things that God has already done for us, and for Israel.  Sharing our continuing need of God and asking for restoration and revival.

Although revival comes to one person at a time, it comes most often in a collective seeking and yearning.  It is not that the might of God is literally asleep but has been inactive toward them, because of their turning from God rather than trusting God, God gave them what they were seeking a power of their own strength, which as it turns out wand not very powerful.  Will we turn or trust, that is the first thought for revival.

Awaken your might, come and save us.  To ask for restoration is to recognize that we are in a fallen position or state.  This asking is to recognize for restoration is an acknowledgement of our being lost.  We hear the words come and save us because we cannot save ourselves.  Save us, we need your help.  Awaken your might, is a recognition that the Lord, He is mighty to save.  Salvation and restoration come from the Lord.  Without Him salvation is not possible.  We begin to collectively ask God to move to save us as a people by first saving me the person.  This happens when we draw close to the Lord and we ask Him not to turn His back to us but to make the light of His face to shine upon us.  Lord do not turn away from us any longer, like we have turned from you.  Lord we are sorry and we need you.  Lord, we have ignored you we have tried to do it on our own.  Lord we may be alive but we might as well be dead.  Without you there is not life, nothing but existence, and it has not power, no position, no passion, and no purpose.  Lord what is life without you?  A void, a place of existence like being lost at sea.  We are there but that is all we can say.

When we call out for restoration and revival we recognize our helplessness and need for a savior.  Save us!  Fill us with your power, position us near you, give us passion as we live day-by-day to live purposefully for you.  The Psalmist recognizes the great power of the Lord, by describing what the Lord has done and His trustworthiness and His ability to do it again.  Lord you plucked the living vine out of the land of oppression.  Beginning to clear out the people of the new land this land of promise.  Like a farmer clearing the ground and planting the vine there and it began to take root and grow.  We are because of who He and what He has done and so we are reminded that He is worthy of worship, honor, and praise for only He can save.

As is grew goodness also grew up around the vine as well.  Providing shade, might, protection, and blessing.  Sometimes the all too familiar will keep us from recognizing the daily blessings we have.  When the blessings have become so expansive.  They are as far as they eye can see and we begin to see and accept this state of blessedness as the new normal and in doing so our familiarity with blessing has brought us to a place where blessings are seen a common or our right and they are taken for granted rather than take as a gift from God.  Being blinded by blessings can sometimes cause us to forget the giver of these good blessings of the Lord.

The Lord exposed their presuppositions by taking away the protection of those blessings.  The things we began to see and take as common place was then taken away by any and everybody which is the truest sense of common, meaning for any and everybody.  When they or we demonstrate to God that His blessings are not special or common place, He teaches us that they are not by demonstrating how commonplace life is without Him.

It is in understanding this that we begin to repent for we are greatly blessed by our great powerful and wonderful God.  When we realize who God really is we begin to understand how far we are from Him.  In our pursuit of ourselves and our sinful natures we have wandered far from God and for a while God has allowed us to live in the mess we have created.  A mess that is of our own making.  He is the God of creation and order, and the chaos in our lives most often is of our own making.  Sometimes we can feel so far from God that we do not know the way back and so when we can’t see Him we call on Him ask Him to return that we can experience His presence, live in His power, and Love with His people.

This is a desperate plea for God to be there.  Come, Holy Father Come.  Celebrate and bring new life, like the lost sheep in Luke 15 we have wandered so far that now we need you to find us.  We have just found ourselves but have lost our way and then you return for you are the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Lord we know that this has happened because of our neglect of you, that there is nothing beyond your power or control.  When we doubt that God is in control He may allow other things to shake and shape our world.

It is interesting to me that the Psalmist doesn’t come asking for a direct restoration, but that God would allow His hand to rest on the Son of Man.  It is in knowing that it was for this very reason the Son of Man has been raised up.  It is for restoration and revival that the Son of Man is here.

Lord in seeking your favor with the Son of Man and you sending Him that the people will not turn but trust.  It is in trust that we affirm that all life can live again…beginning with the Son of Man, Jesus Christ.  The word ‘revive’ itself means to bring means to bring back to life, to make to live that which was dead.  Once you are dead it is a little late to call on the Lord.

The prayer and hope for us in not to trust in our own power or might but to trust in the Son of Man who sits at the right hand of God for He is mighty to save and the firstborn among the dead.  In Christ we will live again, in Christ our words and mouths aren’t like hollow graves but they themselves will have life, breath, and spirit, from the giver and restorer of life.  The very Hebrew word for breath ru’ah, also mean spirit, so literally as life comes to us in revival the breath and spirit of God dwells in us, and our mouths become the very source of praise to the one who has raised us, and revived us to walk in the newness of life for His glory.  We are revived, so that we can praise Him and call upon His name.

Revival precedes restoration.  We have been raised to praise.  In asking for restoration we acknowledge that we are lost without Him, and all blessings, and indeed all life flow from Him.  Turn your face to us that it may shine upon us.  Because it is in you that we are save and have life so too it is in you that we live.

Return, Watch, let His hand cultivate.  When we turn to you not away, like a plant or vine turns to the sun (Son), we will find life and growth.

Restore us, O Lord God Almighty

Make your face shine upon us,

That we may be saved.  Amen

Psalm 80:19

Bible Freedom and Baptists-September 25, 2013

Bible Freedom                                                                                                                                        September 25, 2013

Bible Freedom

Baptists are a people of the Book!

From Authority to Battleground

The Most debated book around!

Baptist’s don’t ‘own’ the Bible-We aren’t the only Bible freedom folks

What is Bible freedom?

Bible Freedom

“Bible Freedom is the Baptist affirmation that the Bible, under the Lordship of Christ, must be central in the life of the individual and the church and that Christians, with the best and most scholarly tools of inquiry, are both free and obligated to study and obey the Scriptures.”

~Walter Shurden

Bible Freedom Means Freedom “Under” Jesus Christ

  • We do not worship the Bible-We worship Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 1:1-2)
  • Jesus is the norm by which we interpret Scripture.

-“The criterion by which the Bible is to be interpreted is Jesus Christ.”  (Baptist Faith and Message, 1962)

  1. We read the Scripture and interpret in light of Christ and his salvation.
  2. We need freedom to read the Bible and interpret the Scriptures so we can grow in our relationship with Christ.
  3. We build our foundation of faith on Christ.

Bible Freedom Means Freedom “For” the purpose of following God’s Word!

  • Allow the Bible to Lead!

-How else does God speak to humanity?

-Imagine if we didn’t have the Bible!

  • The Bible is the Final Authority.

-Yet human understanding of the Bible is never complete!

-We struggle as we seek to understand the Bible.

Bible Freedom Means Freedom “From” all Other Religious Authorities

  • Baptists are non-creedal people.
  • Baptists did develop confessions-although some did not like that either.

-Confessions-temporary, set for a specific purpose, can be changed and modified, not mean to exclude, and you don’t have to sign.

-Creeds-never changed, you must sign or pledge to them.

 Bible Freedom Means Freedom “Of” Interpretation by Each Individual

  • The Bible Itself shows Individuality

-The Gospels

-The Writers

  • The first president of the SBC, 1846, W.B. Johnson gave 5 convictions of Baptists.

-The sovereignty of God in salvation

-Supreme Authority of Scripture

-Right of each person to judge his views as truth taught by Scripture

-Democratic church government

-Believer’s Baptism

  • This takes hard work!  Scholarship!

Final Thoughts:  The Bible and Baptists

  • Central to who we are as a people.
  • It is our authority.
  • We each have the right (and responsibility) to go to the Bible and read and interpret it.

Final Thoughts:  Two Warnings!

  • Thinking we have all the answers.
  • Forcing other to interpret it the way we do.

“We are free to read the bible under Jesus Christ for obedience to God free from outside forces of our own interpretation.”

September 22, 2013-Chasing the Light

September 22, 2013-Chasing the Light

Scripture:  I Timothy 6:6-19

What are things that you and I hold dear?  Do we actually have to hold those things to consider them dear?  When we think about our lives what would it take for us to be content?  Would just having our needs met keep us content?  Does contentment imply inactivity or a passive approach to life?  Can we be content in or with a desire or a direction?  What motivates you?  What is your passion?  What have you held on to for so long?  Does it involve the godliness of Christ?  Why should we seek or desire that?  What use is it in the world today?  Even if we did desire it, could we even obtain it?  Would you be willing to pursue what you cannot obtain?  Better yet, are you willing to pursue what you can get even if in the end you won’t be able to keep it?  Does contentment also mean complacency?  Can you chase and catch light?  We may never completely be able to catch the light but the better questions may be, will we block the light to bear the light?

There are so many things in this world that we will try to obtain control and acquire, and not all of these things are necessarily bad.  The greater problem is not the value (goodness or badness) of any one of these things but rather in our desires for those things replacing a desire for Christ in our lives.  You may think that replacing Christ is too strong for you but do they dim the light of Christ in your life?  Paul tells Timothy that, “godliness with contentment is great gain.”  There will be those that purse godliness, but are not content, they want to serve two masters.  Many times we want Christ and…instead of Christ the one and only.  What if you loved your spouse and another, or your spouse and football, friends, shopping, etc.?  Would they feel betrayed?  Would they feel that at the least your loyalties were divided?  If that is the case then what motives the decisions you make when you have to make a choice?  Is it all about what would be of greatest benefit to you at that time?  If so, is that really love?  Love, like light is an intangible but very real thing.  Growing in love or in faith requires devotion.  When there is a chance to take an easier path, many will choose to do so.

In the process of learning to be content while pursuing Christ, is really the process of accepting what is and not what we hope it to be.  In one way we must be more like children ready to dream the impossible dream and pursue Christ like we would chase light.    In another way we must be mature enough to understand that the things we see and have here are only temporary, and we came into this world with nothing and will also leave with nothing.  The idea that we ever really own or posses anything is just a temporary state.  The only things that are lasting are the things eternal.  The difficulty is in this world is the things we believe we need in most cases are our wants.  The greatest of ironies is that we believe ourselves to be consumers, and this is true that we ourselves have become consumed by our own desires.

Loving anything more than God will change our lives and alter our perspective.  Money and things is one of the most dangerous of these.  In the pursuit of money many people have been willing to do anything to gain money or things.  Having this as your first love we chase means we will neglect spouses, children, others, and it is consumes a life.  A singular pursuit that does not give life, is one that will cause grief and collateral damage.  Having money and owning things is not bad, but letting them own you is another thing entirely.

But you man of God, woman of God, flee from those things pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness.  Fight the good fight of faith.  Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called.  We have to pursue the things of God, to seek after them.  It is hard to pursue two very different things.  Scripture says that we cannot love both God and money because we will love one and hate the love.  If you notice that the things mentioned here are all things that improve relationships, both with God and with others.  It will be a struggle at first because the things of this world have a strong pull. We will want to continue to go our own way and pursue our own interests.  Laying hold of our confession is more that just confessing it is obedience and pursuing His will above our own.

It is Christ alone who is worthy and paid the price for our sins.  Christ is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light.  Unapproachable light, the light of God Jesus Christ.  It reminds me of when Moses went up on the mountain and when he came down his face was so bright with radiance of God that they asked him veil his face.  Cover up the light of God.  The light is a great analogy for Christ because even when we can’t see Him, He can light the way of our journey, and provide the warmth of His presence.

Put your hope in God not things of this world.  Do good deeds, if we need to be rich it should be in good deeds and the willingness to share with others.  It is in doing so we are laying up treasures in heaven, and in letting go of the things of this world we can truly begin to live and take hold of the life that is truly life.  Holding on to things that are not life will only bring us down.  Pursue life.  Be contended to chase, spin, and bask in the glory of the light of Christ.  Do not be ones who will be a hindrance, veil, or block the light of Christ but rather bear the light of Christ to the world.

 

Baptist Heritage-September 18, 2013

These sessions have been prepare to offer insight into Baptist History and Heritage.  It is hard to tell a story from so many sides.  If there appears to be bias it is unintentional.

Baptist Heritage                                                                                                                               September 18, 2013

From John Smyth to Mentow Baptist

Baptist Beginnings

  • The Reformation
  • Martin Luther and the 95 Theses, 1517
  • Reformers everywhere!
  • Radical Reformers
  • Reformation in England!

-Church of England breaks away from the Roman Catholic Church.

-Puritans want to reform the Church of England and ‘purify it.’

-Separatists want more.  Freedom of the church from the state was their desire.

-Baptists come from this desire as well.

Baptist Beginnings

  • Problems in the Church of England

-Absenteeism-priests weren’t showing up

-Simony-Bishops gave appointments to priests for kickbacks.  Bishops getting rich.

-Privilege for the rich.

-Even though separate from the Roman Catholic Church it had problems still.

The General Baptists

  • Believed in a “general atonement” (non-Calvinist)
  • Believed you could lose your salvation
  • Founded by John Smyth and Thomas Helwys.
  • 1608-1609

Particular Baptists

  • Came from those Separatist in 1630’s
  • Did not evolve from General Baptists
  • Influenced by John Calvin
  • First Church founded in 1633 or 1638
  • Wrote the “First London Confession of Faith.”
  • Many Baptists today are more influenced by this group than General Baptists.
  • Many are a mix of the two.

What were these two Baptist groups like?

  • Bible Centered.
  • Fussy-lots of splits.
  • Determined.

Worship in the Early Baptist Tradition

  • No structure in worship/spontaneity.  Didn’t like written prayers or written sermons.
  • Resisted hymns and wanted things from the heart.
  • General Baptists open to women as deacons and pastors.  No hymns and no structure.
  • Particular Baptists against women deacons and pastors and allowed some structure.

Worship in the Early Baptist Tradition

  • Normal Sunday

-Church starts at 8:00am

-Prayers first.  Then reading from the Bible, comments, and discussion.  Prayers and hymns.

-Ends at Noon.  Lunch break.  Back at 2:00pm. Continue until 5 or 6.

-High level of participation.

-Clergy and laity similar (no real difference).

-Women preached and led in General Baptists and in the Particular Baptist.

-Bible central.

-Small Congregations

-Evolved into a singing people in time.

Leadership

  • Two Offices

-Pastors-They interpreted the Bible (Ministry of the Word) and were “called.”  Generally served one church for life.  Some severed up to fifty years.  To      hire a pastor the previous church had to vote to let them go and the new church had to vote to make them the pastor (like buying a house today).  Arguments on whether they should be educated.

-Deacons-Were necessities.  Men and women served depending on whether it was a General Baptist or Particular Baptist Church.  Deacons tended to be over 60.

Ordinances

  • Baptism and Communion

Creeds and Confessions

  • Baptists didn’t like creeds but did have confessions.  A creed is a statement you had to agree to belong.  A confession was a description and basic statement of who the church was.  Churches would have church constitutions etc but you didn’t have to sign on the dotted line to join.  The Bible was our ‘creed.’

Myths about Baptists

  • Baptists come from the Anabaptist movement.
  • Baptists are the one true church and have existed since the New Testament.

What happened to the General and Particular Baptists?

  • General Baptists did well until the 1700s and doctrinal battles hit.  The deity of Christ was question and atonement watered down.  They began to die out.  Faded.
  • Particular Baptists did better.  They grew.  But became hyper Calvinist and rejected Anabaptist influence.  Eventually became heavily mission minded and continued on in England.

Baptists in the New World-USA

  • First Baptist Church in America:  Providence, Rhode Island, 1639
  • The Story of Roger Williams
  • Baptists spread.  Grew in 1600s-1700s.  Churches opened everywhere.
  • Baptists suffer persecution in the US at the same time.
  • Revivals come and Baptists divide into groups.  2 Major traditions begin.

Baptists in the New World-USA

  • Group #1 Separate Baptists

-Shubal Sterns led this charge.

-Evangelistic.

-Grew from Sandy Creek, NC.

-Spread into VA, NC, GA.

-Sandy Creek Baptist Association began.

-Education was suspicious.

-Emotional, revivalistic, heat felt.

Baptists in the New World-USA

  • Group #2

-Formal, liturgical, traditional.

-Educated Clergy.

-First Baptist Church of Charleston, SC is the heart of this school.

-Deplored revival excesses.

-More Calvinistic.

-Not overly emotional.

Baptists in the New World-USA

  • Missions unite Baptists.  1814 Triennal Convention-first Baptist organization larger than an association
  • Baptists Divide Over Slavery-1844 in Philadelphia

-The Northern Baptist Convention (American Baptist Churches, USA)

-The Southern Baptist Convention

  • Baptists divide over issues (We will discuss this at length in a few weeks)

Baptists in the New World-USA

  • Many Baptist denominations now exist.
  • Many Baptist denominations are still dividing.

The Story of the SBC Struggle

  • 1979-The Struggle Begins
  • The claim:  “We believe the Bible-You don’t”
  • Two sides:  Moderates vs. Fundamentalists (or Liberals vs. conservatives-according to the side you are on.)
  • The Strategy-About 10 years of winning presidential elections and stacking the deck on committees and in doing so take over (or take back).

The Story of the SBC Struggle

  • The result 1979-1990 War.
  • Professors, employees forced out or fired.
  • Complete change of direction.
  • Outright campaigning and close presidential elections but they do win enough votes.
  • The national SBC was ends in 1990
  • Next-the state conventions and associations.

The Story of the SBC Struggle

  • State conventions are separate from the national body.  Every state eventually falls except Texas and Virginia.  New state conventions form and the existing ones isolated and still under attack.
  • Most associations fall in line except in Texas and Virginia.
  • Colleges pull out of the SBC or are taken over.
  • Missouri is still battling in the courts and has two state conventions (the moderates formed one this time and the SBC ignores it).
  • The Alliance of Baptists forms first but stays small (100 churches).
  • The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship forms in 1990 and has 1900 churches.

The Story of the SBC Struggle

  • Churches can give to as many organizations as the want.  Some churches in the 1900 give to SBC still as well as CBF.
  • CBF grows into a mission force.  Dozen new seminaries formed.  ABP, BCE, and many organizations were created.
  • Alliance of Baptists becomes more liberal (affirming of homosexuality) and stays small.
  • CBF remains more central.
  • SBC moves more to the right.  Leaves BWA, continues to be hostile to CBF.  SBC has more internal problems.

The Story of the SBC Struggle

  • SBC has done several things during and since the struggle that upsets many Baptists.
  • Leaves the BWA and becomes more isolated from other Baptists.
  • Blames women for the fall.
  • Uses Baptist Faith and Message as a creed and rewrites it.
  • Tightens control and fires missionaries.
  • Calvinism has grown at a fast rate.
  • Authority of the Pastor is a big issue.
  • SBC leaders get into national secular politics.
  • Some SBC folks call for an exodus from public schools.
  • Refuse to hire anyone who belongs to churches with women deacons/ministers.

The Story of the SBC Struggle

  • The SBC claimed Liberalism needed purging from convention.  Was this true?
  • Really conservative people had never been locked out of leadership.
  • Many of their leaders had never given much money to the SBC until they took over.
  • There may have been some ‘liberalism’ but what is the definition of liberalism (women deacons, etc).
  • The cry of inerrancy was not fair.  It became a political word.  It was about interpretation and not belief in the Bible.
  • What was at the heart?   A desire to be more conservative and greed for some.

The Story of the SBC Struggle

  • The SBC Today

-Some leaders are spending money in ways that might not make the typical person happy.

-Some extreme views OK (Calvinism, exodus from schools, etc.) but other views such as women deacons not tolerated.

-Inner battles happening.  The same few lead everything.  Information is not shared.

-VA Baptists and TX Baptists and others who try to cooperate are not wanted or included.

-Missionaries have been removed for refusing to sign the Baptist Faith and Message in a creed like way.

A Few Controversies

  • Landmarkism
  • Modernism/Fundamentalism
  • Southern Baptist Battles

4 Basic Concepts we will study

  • Church Freedom
  • Religious Freedom
  • Bible Freedom
  • Soul Freedom

September 15, 2013-Impress Them On Your Children

September 15, 2013-Impress Them On Your Children

Scripture:  Deuteronomy 6:4-12

Children are impressionable.  You do not have to be religious to know that.  There are many things that influence their lives some are good and some are not so good.  People in marketing know this all too well.  Think of the number of commercials that are targeted to children, or how McDonald’s, decades ago, knew that including a toy in the meal would make a child “happy” and beg to go to McDonald’s.  There are also many studies and surveys on the influences on the lives or our younger children and teens.  What you may be surprised to learn is that almost all of these surveys and studies, both religious and secular, site family relationship, especially parents as the biggest influence on the lives of children and teens.  I am a parent of a younger child, and I spent 14 years in youth ministry and I know that there are days when this doesn’t seem like the case, but by in large I have found it to be true.

Their biggest influences start at home.  Take for example the things our children like or dislike for example things like favorite foods, sports & teams, colors, whether the like movies or video games, t.v. or reading are just a few of the basic things that many of us impress upon our children sometimes without even realizing it.  Although some of these influences come more naturally and are supported by a wider circle of influence, it does not seem quite as natural when it comes to spiritual matters.  Our kids biggest influence in their lives will be parents, grand-parents, and family.  How then can we as parents, grand-parents, or people who have the ability to influence children as teachers, Sunday school teachers, and neighbors to help make sure the influence is good?

First, the need to know what is truly important to us.  We can just assume that they will pick it up.  A child is more likely to love, appreciate, and value the things that their parents do, it is not true in every instance but the opposite generally is true.  It is less likely that your children will love, appreciate, and find value in things you do not care about.  So as we talk about our impressionable children we must consider what is pressing in on them.

If we want our young to love the Lord and His ways, we must love the Lord and His ways.  Our children are not likely to find value in things we do not value.  So work to develop a love of the Lord in our own lives.

Then we must work with consistency to impress the love of the Lord upon our children.  As a parent I know it can be tough to know exactly how best to do this, thankfully God’s word gives us some direction.  Teach them all the time, in the morning and the night.  Help to give them visible reminders throughout their lives.  Allow your home to be a place where God is honored and worshiped.

Today we live in a land of plenty it is easy to see that in the pursuits of this world, there is a lot to influence that does not include God.  It will take an intentionality to impress upon our children of how to live differently in a world that does not honor God.  In this world that is so distracting we need to be careful not to forget the Lord and His blessings, because we are making an impression on our children.  May we bless them with a love of the Lord in our hearts, that they too may know the Lord.

 

September 11, 2001-A Service of Remembrance

September 11, 2001-A Service of Remembrance

One this day twelve years ago, I remember…I remember forgetting something at home and doubling back.  As I walked through my door my cell phone started ringing and I remember my friend on the other line asking me where I was.  I said I had to run back to the house for a minute and he told me to turn on the T.V.  I remember asking what station and he said it doesn’t matter.  I thought to myself, why would it not matter what station it was one?  I turned on the T.V. to find footage of the New York skyline with smoking pouring from one of the World Trade Center Towers.  There had been bombing attempts before but this was different.

The reporter said that a plane had flown into the tower and the chaos was increasing.  The reporter also at first said they were working to find out about this “accident.”  Just a few moments later behind the reporter there were shouts as most of the world saw a second plane square up and take aim at the other tower.  It was in that moment that as a country we knew this was no accident.  This was an intentional attack by others to cause harm to the American people.  I sat in shock and awe at what I had just experienced.  It is not something that one forgets easily.

There began to be other reports of other planes that were not on their routes but had been hijacked.  One of those planes found as a target the Pentagon, the center of our military and intelligence.  Then we learn of a fourth plane bound for the symbol of the highest office in our land, the White House.  There were a few cell phone calls that confirmed our fears as a country that this plane was hijacked and had that target.  In a moment of bravery and courage I could not begin to describe, these ordinary men and women were willing to sacrifice themselves in a field over western Pennsylvania to stop a greater loss of life.

What would you do?  What did I do?  I set almost breathless for what seemed like forever.  I felt fear like I have never know.  I felt a sense of helplessness and hopelessness.  A tragic loss of life on a grand scale has a way of talking the life out of your very soul.  It is in these moments that we lost our innocence so to speak.  Sure there was Oklahoma City a few years before by a domestic terrorist but seldom do so many people see the events happen in real-time.  We have often seen pictures of other events after then fact, but part of this horror was actually seeing it.  Seeing it for what it was, terror and it achieved its purpose.

I rode back over to the church I was serving as Youth Minister and just sat on the front steps looking across our little town and praying.  I prayed for the families of the victims and for myself, that on a beautiful sunny blue-sky day my understanding of the larger world and also my own was changed, out of the clear blue sky.  In witnessing these dehumanizing events of terror as they happened robbed many of an innocence we had all had just a few days and minutes before.

Many in the days that followed were truly terrified.  It stopped business as usually, sporting events at large stadiums were cancelled and people pouring out their grief and sorrow, poured into churches around the world.  People prayed for the families of the victims, others also prayed for themselves.   As people came into churches they were coming some for different reasons.  For some it felt like the right thing to do, some came because they did not know what to do, some came to not feel alone, some came for answers, some came to express frustration, some came because they were emotionally, physically, and spiritually fatigued, and some just came.

I prayed too for my fellow pastors, priests, and other clergy as people came to them in waves of brokenness, as the tsunami of their souls became overwhelmed.  What are we to do?  In the immediate days a call to arms, to vengeance, to defend our country all came roaring in.  These things might to help relieve our sense of immediate crisis, but those things can not heal our condition.  Our condition as those who in one way lost the innocence of our world view, that we are the most powerful country and everyone wants to be like us.  We had a personal loss of innocence that life is not about me but about us.  About men, women, children, people!  People of differing races being reminded that we are part of the human race is humbling to be remembered that, “that could have been me.”

In the years since that strange twisted wreckage of buildings and piles of rubble has emerged for me, a new sense of hope in remembering.  In seeing something so destructive and dehumanizing, I remember to see the humanity in others and myself. The shock of that day helps me to remember that each day we too treat people as less than people, dehumanizing them, using them for profit, gain, or selfish ends.  Perhaps what was lost that day was not so much innocence as ignorance.  That type of ignorance is like the blindness to our own ways that treat living people worse than the dead.

In remembering these lives we remember to live.  We remember to hug, to embrace, to slow down, to call a friend, to know that this life is a gift.  This terrorist attack exposed a truth that many did not want to face.  We have been going about life as we know it and taking for granted the great gift we have been given.  What seemed like a loss of innocence in time has become a loss of ignorance to an old way of viewing life and an awakening to the hope of tomorrow.  As we remember the value of those lives lost, may we be moved to remember the value of the lives around us that the power of the gospel to save.  In remembering we know that we will not be able to secure this life, but we can find life, hope and peace in Him.

Light the First Candle:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.  ~John 1:1-5

Christ is the light of the world when darkness seems all around look to the light.

 

Light the Second Candle: 

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  ~Psalm 34:18

The Lord has not forsaken us He is close to the brokenhearted.  Remember in your pain He is near.

 

Light the Third Candle:

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.  ~Psalm 51:17

In remembering the brokenness of others and our own we truly are reminded of our humanity and need of a Savior.  Turn to God He does not desire our perfection, but longs for our hearts.

 

Light the Fourth Candle:

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.  ~Psalm 147:3

The Lord not time is a great healer of wounds.  It is He in His greatness that can take the chaos and turn it into creation.  It is in His greatness that He makes all things work together for good for them that love the Lord.

 

Light the Fifth Candle:

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.  ~Ecclesiastes 4:12

It is in coming together as the people of God that we are reminded that He wants us to be a people.  It is in our unity and togetherness that we find hope, strength, promise, and life.  One of His greatest gifts that He continues to give is His presence, but this time it is as the body of Christ, the church.

 

Light the Sixth Candle: 

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives…. ~Isaiah 61:1

In Remembrance of Him, we remember the lives of others.  We remember to treat them as deeply loved and desired by God.  That in all circumstances God has not given up His redemptive, healing work, and is still calling His people to follow Him.

 

Light the Seventh Candle:

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you:  God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.  If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we life and do not live by the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.  ~1 John 1:5-7

A call to remember is a call to action and to life. As we remember the darkness of those days we know that other dark days will come.  As we all as fellow believers do not need to offer the right words but need to find the deepest places of darkness and allow the light of Christ to shine through us.  Darkness is never dispelled by words but by light.

A moment of silent reflection

“This Do In Remembrance of Me”

Be Thou My Vision-September 8, 2013

Be Thou My Vision-September 8, 2013

Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18

Have you ever wished someone really knew you?

You know me and I want to know you more.  The Lord knows every part of us.  He knows the decisions that we make, the things that we do, the thoughts we think, you know if we are going out or lying down.  You are familiar with all my ways.

Before I can speak you know the words, you are all around me, you know me completely.  That type of knowledge is too wonderful, too lofty for me to gain and so I praise you for your great knowledge of me.  It is too much for me but I praise you for the little bits you reveal to me in small blessings as a portion of your greatness and grace.

Lord you created my innermost being, obviously you know my heart and thoughts you created me.  It was you that knit me together in my mother’s womb.  It was you that did your revealing work in the silence of pregnancy even before my first cries were heard by my own mother.  Before she labored, you began putting me together within the womb with specific precision.

The great precision of our bodies is not by chance or accident but by design.  We have a wonderfully great design by an intelligent designer and we praise you for we are fearfully and wonderfully made.  In fact all of your works are wonderfully made.  Your works are great and we need to only examine the world and universe around us or look at the design of our own bodies.

You have about 10 trillion cells in your body, so if you stretch the DNA in all the cells out, end to end, they’d stretch over 744 million miles.  The moon is only about 250,000 miles away, so all your DNA would stretch to the moon and back almost 1500 times.  The sun is 93,000,000 miles away, so your DNA would reach there and back about 4 times!

The eyes of God are able to see and oversee every part of His creation.  I loved going with Maryanna to the doctor during her pregnancy with Josiah.  Through modern technology, we were able to take brief glimpses into the handiwork of God.  I remember going and one time while they were doing some blood work one of the nurses gave me a little booklet filled with information about the development of babies.  This book was neat, and in it were some color photographs from inside the womb.

You would think with all these tools of science and medicine that there would be little mystery in the world today.  However, it is precisely this mystery that we find in God, His creation, in life, in the earth, in the universe, and in our own DNA.

Reading these little books they would describe a stage of development and what happened during that stage.  My favorite part was when these medical pamphlets would say we know this happens during this stage but how and why we do not know.  In their own pamphlet they actually used the word “mystery.”  I myself don’t know the answer to the mystery but to my God there is no mystery for He creates us in our mother’s womb and knows our innermost parts.

In this secret place you are there, working in your creation.  Many speak of creation as an event that began time itself and often we speak about it as a completed action, perfected and finished.  The God of creation is creating in each of us a love and desire that can only be filled by His presence in our lives.  The God of creation can recreate in us a clean and pure heart.

In your great wisdom and knowledge you have seen beyond the time and physical place where we exist.  You move our lives and give purpose and meaning to our existence.  You know all the days of my life before a single one came into being.  Is there any struggle or difficulty that the Lord does not know?  Is there anything we can hide from the eyes of the all-seeing Creator God?  We cannot escape the presence of the Lord, but what if we learned to trust His life-giving presence more each day.  When we are confused and don’t understand life, things go wrong, relationships fall apart, when we can’t see a way we can trust the Way.   When we can’t see and that makes us fearful, we need to trust the all-seeing, all-knowing, all-loving God.  We need to ask Him to be our vision, to focus on Him.  Our vision in the difficult times of life is not in seeing everything but trusting the one who does.

Our God is great, wonderful, and mysterious in all His ways.  When He chooses to reveal those thoughts to us, we should praise Him for that great gift, but trust Him even when He doesn’t reveal.  Are the thoughts of God precious to you?  If not is it because we think our knowledge is greater, or more vast, or that it contradicts the knowledge that we feel empowers us?  Until we understand His revelation as a gift it will never be precious to us.  If I were to count your thoughts they would be greater than the sands of the sea, and we would not live long enough to finish this exhaustive task.  In fact, it has never been done in all of the collective and cumulative attempts in creation to this point.  That is why there is still, and always will be mystery, poetry, philosophy, love, and things that move us to awe and praise.  These are not the product of the reason of science but our attempt to experience infinite divine in our finite lives.  Truly how can mere words express the great expanse and holiness of God.