Friday, June 2, 2017

Power

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (ESV)

As many of you know Sunday is Pentecost, the day that the church remembers the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on a group of, until then, timid, untrained, “little faith-ed” disciples. What emerged from Pentecost is quite simply a world changing group of people that had not been seen before. Power was manifest.

Often we wonder if that same power is at work today? Perhaps this story will encourage you.

Sarah Irving-Stonebreaker “grew up in Australia, in a loving, secular home, and arrived at Sydney University as a critic of 'religion.' ” She didn’t look for or need faith to ground her identity or her values. She knew from an early age that she wanted to study history at Cambridge and become a historian. She would find her identity in academic achievement, and secular humanism, based on self-evident truths.

But then the power and love as described in Francis Thompson’s Hound of Heaven tracked her down. Here is part of a tremendous testimony of what she found:
Christianity, it turned out, looked nothing like the caricature I once held. I found the story of Jacob wrestling with God especially compelling: God wants anything but the unthinking faith I had once assumed characterized Christianity. God wants us to wrestle with Him; to struggle through doubt and faith, sorrow and hope. Moreover, God wants broken people, not self-righteous ones. And salvation is not about us earning our way to some place in the clouds through good works. On the contrary; there is nothing we can do to reconcile ourselves to God.
So YES! The Power of Pentecost is still at work today. The beauties of the Gospel are still wooing the most apathetic of hearts.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a federal holiday for remembering those who have died serving in the armed forces. To mark the day flags are out, flowers are placed on graves and parades are held. For many, Memorial Day also marks the unofficial start to summer and a great time to get yard work done in preparation for the summer months.

Lamentations 5 talks about a different type of “memorial day.” Remember, O LORD, what has befallen us (Lamentations 5:1). Much of the Christian life centers around remembering. It is about us remembering God, as well as about reminding God of his people and his promises. Of course, God does not forget in the way that we do. And it is precisely because of his faithfulness that we have the confidence to “remind” him of his promises. And so we come to the end of Lamentations where the people are led to pray before their steadfast God, reminding him of their plight and pleading for him to remember. We too are invited into this remembering cycle and consequently invited deeper into a relationship with our steadfast God!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Back in the Lab

It is great to be back from vacation. We had a wonderful time. We enjoyed some nature viewing and hiking in the Smokies and then celebrated with Josiah at his graduation from Covenant College. Our travel was safe and a new batch of memories was made; very thankful.

Now we are back into the flow of the life of the church. The church, as an institution often takes a beating, sometimes rightfully so. Never the less, the church is God’s instrument for the incubation of his Kingdom here on earth. And it has, like Noah’s ark, continued to float despite the floods of the years. Mark Sayers, In a recent book entitled, Strange Days: Life in the Spirit in a Time of Upheaval, says this about the church:

“The cautionary tales of the book of Acts, the warnings against false teachers found in the pastoral epistles, the corrections and rebukes of Paul’s writings, offer a realistic view of the church. A concert of people fighting the flesh, living through the Spirit. At times, just as Paul warned, falling back into the slavery of the elemental forces, at other times losing itself in the freedom, forgetting its source. As Christ promised Peter, the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church, and in every age, the principalities and powers, humiliated and exposed could not contain its advance. And so it will continue to move forward in our age of upheaval; the gospel will continue to change hearts, the living laboratory of Spirit-filled life that is the church will grow and advance the kingdom in our time.”

I share this for your encouragement. There are times that life in the “laboratory” is difficult, but the source of our life together is none other than the living risen Christ!

Friday, April 28, 2017

How Lonely Lies the City

In the spirit of Luke 24:27, we turn our attention from the Gospels to search out Christ in all of the Scriptures. Our next stop is the Old Testament and in particular the book of Lamentations. Sunday we begin a five-week series, entitled "Peace in the Pieces." Historically, Lamentations is set around 587 B.C. and describes the fall of Jerusalem. It traditionally has been attributed to Jeremiah the prophet. Pastorally, Lamentations is a good place to look as we seek to make sense of life that seems to have moved away with increasing rapidity from God as the center. Author and scholar Christopher Wright says, "Lamentations is a book for today. In a world where the tide of human suffering threatens to overwhelm whatever dykes we put in place to contain it, is there any book of the bible more relevant than this book that gives voice to the most awful pain imaginable?" (The Message of Lamentations)

So join me in getting ready to dive in. It would be great if you could read through the Book of Lamentations prior to coming to worship. While the book is short (5 chapters), the chapters are lengthy and we probably won’t be able to read it all in our services. In the same vein, it would be great to bring a copy of the Scriptures with you as printing the entirety of the text may be difficult.

Friday, April 14, 2017

O Come and Mourn with Me

We have arrived at the apex of the holiest of weeks in the Christian calendar. My prayer for you today is that there may be some space to reflect on the perfect note struck by our Savior incorporating perfect love and perfect justice as he ascended his cruciform throne. I offer as an aid this hymn by Frederick William Faber redone musically by a good friend of mine, Eric Ashley and performed by Jars of Clay. Use it, words and/or music, as it best suits you.

Today the light is dim. But Easter is around the corner.



O come and mourn with me awhile,
O come ye to the Saviors side
O come, together let us mourn,
Jesus our Lord is crucified.

Seven times He spake seven words of love;
And all three hours His silence cried
For mercy on the souls of men;
Jesus our Lord is crucified.

Chorus: O love of God! O sin of man!
In this dread act Your strength is tried;
And victory remains with love;
Jesus our Lord is crucified!

O break, O break, hard heart of mine!
Thy weak self-love and guilty pride
His Pilate and His Judas were:
Jesus our Lord is crucified.

A broken heart, a fount of tears,
Ask, and they will not be denied;
A broken heart loves cradle is:
Jesus our Lord is crucified.(Repeat chorus)

Friday, April 7, 2017

Help! I'm Leaking!

She’s leaking CK. Technically speaking, the muscle breaks down leaking high levels of creatine kinase (CK) into the bloodstream. By now, many of you are aware that our daughter Lydia has been battling Rhabdomyolysis (RAB-DOE-MY-O-LIE-SIS) for over a week. Rhabdo is most often the product of extreme exercise. One way to think of the symptoms is that she feels she ran an ultra-marathon in intense heat. The most immediate danger has been to her kidneys, which have thankfully have been able to keep up and are showing no damage.

This is Lydia’s second bout with Rhabdo. Since it is recurrent, it has become necessary to dig beneath the symptoms associated with Rhabdo and seek for its cause (which in Lydia’s case is not extreme exercise). Don’t get me wrong. We are dealing with the pain and fatigue associated with Rhabdo, but we now know  there is something beneath the Rhabdo that needs to be uncovered if to truly deal with this problem in Lydia’s life.

In a similar way, we leak toxins in our experience of the Gospel, leading to various debilitating effects. In the Gospel, we are invited to a life of love, joy, and peace. But when we leak toxins, we debilitate the way we treat our family, effect our attitude towards the world’s politics, and torpedo our contentedness with our finances. Our Gospel muscle breaks down, but what is the cause? It looks like Lydia has a metabolic myopathy that is underlying her Rhabdo. For us as Christians, it is a myopathy known as unbelief.

In this season of Lent, as we make our final approach to Good Friday, let us remember that God has purposed in his being to do his people good (Zechariah 8:15). Let us experience afresh the love that has been lavished on us in Christ (Ephesians 1:7-9, I John 3:1). May our belief in these Gospel truths be the source of nourishment that drives away the toxins of unbelief and gives us the strength we need to truly experience love, joy and peace of the Gospel.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Always Jesus

This past week I had the opportunity to look at the life of Barnabas with the group of Junior High boys that I meet with on Wednesdays. Barnabas is best known as being Paul’s missionary companion. But a closer look at the Scripture shows a man who is a leader in his own right (Acts 9:27, 11:22,25), set apart by God (13:2), bold and courageous (13:46)... and flawed (15:37-40, Galatians 2:13).

But looking at Barnabas is no different than looking at any other biblical characters who were also flawed.

Barnabas fought with Paul.
Jacob was a cheater.
Peter had a temper.
David had an affair.
Noah got drunk.
Jonah ran away from God.
Paul was a persecutor of the church.
Gideon was insecure.
Miriam was a gossip.
Martha was a worrier.
Thomas was a doubter.
Sarah was impatient.
Elijah was depressed.
Moses stuttered.
Zaccheus was short.
Abraham was old.
And Lazarus was dead.

Surely you see yourself somewhere in this list of characters. The Bible does not pretend that we are more than we are or spare the details of the sin and infirmity that manifests in our hearts and lives.

Telling it like it is is one of the great blessings of the scriptures. For truly it is only as we see the unvarnished truth about ourselves that we can really appreciate the absolute beauty and sufficiency of Jesus. As we continue through Lent and journey toward Good Friday/Easter may we be encouraged that, like Barnabas and all the others, the best thing about us is always Jesus.