Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Too Sour to be a Saint?

Every one of us wants to have joy. In 25 years of ministry I haven't run into a person who desires to be joy-less. Such a grouch would be too sour to be a saint!
"That's easy for you to say, Pastor, 'cause everything is so perfect in your life!"

Well, I am blessed. But blessing is a spiritual thing- not a physical thing. In other words, just because I am "blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus..." (Eph 1.3) doesn't mean that my boat doesn't get rocked by the waves of life. In fact, the mere fact that I have those spiritual blessings is cause for demonic attack! My adversary doesn't want me to translate the spiritual blessing into trust , contentment, and joy.

James 1.2 tells me to think of my trials and temptations as causes of celebratory joy. The only way I can think of doing that is by focusing my mind on the eternal strengths that I am gaining during this difficult time of temptation and trial. He guarantees in the following verses that perseverance, maturity, and wisdom are developing in me during the tough times. Shouldn't we be acting out our joy?

I recall a person signing on for a position as an usher in the church. When I refused his service in this capacity he came to me quite angry. I explained to him that the ushers face is the first that most people see in the church and that I hadn't seen a smile on his face for many months. "Really? he asked," ... I guess your right." Once I pointed out to him that his lack of a smile was a sign that he had no inner joy he was brought to the point of repentance. Yes, repentance. When we allow our joy to be stolen by the adversary of our souls we have ignored the counsel of scripture (rejoice, again I say...) and have determined to live in our own way.

I am glad to report his service was "with a smile" for many years after that. So how about you... are you too sour to be a saint? Have you learned to experience joy inspite of the many obstacles to it? Have you lifted up your countenance by lifting up your eyes and fixing them on the joys of salvation? Or is your joy dependant upon earthly circumstances?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Shotgun - sighting in the the Beast


Okay so I bought a new scope. I want to site this bad boy in but the task is daunting. The idea of shooting a dozen or so shots throught that 870 Remington 12 gauge while trying to find the paper makes me want to cry. I bore sighted the beast. (I call it that because it kicks like a horse- pushing out those 1 1/4 ounce slugs!) Still couldn't get it on paper at 50 yards. It took me 25 shots to hit the 10 on the target. Tonight my shoulder is hurting pretty badly.

I think of the spiritual lesson here. We often put off doing the necessary thing because it will blow back on us and bring us personal pain. Our integrity has to drive us to the point of obedience- facing the confrontation, taking the hit, making the hard decision. There is a demand to follow through with our prayers of devotion.

Colin, Colin, Colin- what were you thinking?

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell announced Sunday that he will break with his party and vote for Sen. Barack Obama. "He has both style and substance. I think he is a transformational figure," Powell said on NBC's Meet the Press.

"I come to the conclusion that because of his ability to inspire, because of the inclusive nature of his campaign, because he is reaching out all across America, because of who he is and his rhetorical abilities -- and you have to take that into account -- as well as his substance -- he has both style and substance," Powell said. "He has met the standard of being a successful president, being an exceptional president."

So let's take a look at the specifics that Powell mentions.
1) Transformational Figure- Of course, Sen Obama is a fabulous speaker. Frontline has done a wonderful job of showing the 12 year planned ascent of Sen Obama. His lack of a voting record specifically crafted to give him almost no voting record to run against- that certainly isn't transformational. Did he transform the community he organized? No- by all accounts the specific programs he ran were less than transformational- some have called them abject failures.

2) The Inclusive Nature- Really? When has Sen Obama reached across the aisle to build bridges to bring a government together. There is little evidence that he is more conclusive than say, the Bush administration- which put women and blacks and hispanics in the cabinet. In fact, Gen Powell is important because of his connection to the Bush administration!

3) Met the Standard- Hmmm, in what way? He raised money? The Obama campaign sites his running of the campaign. Is that like running a successful small business? Or governing a state? Get real.

4) Colin Powell also cited the "narrowing of the party" - I assume that this means that he dislikes the parties stance on abortion.

These reasons stink! I am left to think that Powell has made this decision for some other emotional reason.(perhaps his distain for the Bush White House that he might feel embarrassed him).

What a massive disappointment! Gen Powell - How can you vote against the unborn? How can you disregard the future appointments of the Supreme Court? How can you ignore the direct ties to socialism? How can you disregard distain for the military? How can you put all your hope in an untested and untried politician? How can you embrace a tax war on success and the redistribution of wealth?

I just need to say that there are so many unanswered questions- that Powell is completely a disappointment.

Whoever you vote for- at least have the decency to have a reason that will stand some scutiny. Do your homework- and go vote!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Which are the important moments?


People often misjudge hunting. What is often celebrated is the few moments of the kill. When you watch those hunting shows they show you these "highlights". We are a society of people who like to relish these kinds of moments- the successful hunt; the catch of a lifetime; the victory of the kill. What many of us fail to recognize is that life is really much more about the obscured moments that never make it to the highlight reel.

For every moment of successfully harvesting a deer, there are hours of studying maps, looking for funnels, walking through the woods before the season looking for sign and trails, much time invested in trying to understand what would provoke this or that kind of behavior from the quarry; the physical work of selecting a place and installing a stand; the missed shots and blown opportunities that presented themselves. If you are successful you will recount those stories of the moment that the buck walked in and you perfectly placed your shot and shot your prey. But the stories of the failures and learning times, the work and the study all are left out.

Life is like that. We may be known for a moments success but it is really what we have done in the obscured times that determine the measure of that success. Spiritually speaking, we can never rise above the level of our prayer life- those hidden moments that create depth. The obscure times are the private prayer times that build the foundations for the successes in our ministry and life. Few recount these moments out of the spot light when reflecting on their life's work. I think of Jesus who "often withdrew to the lonely places and prayed". If not for this short verse we would be left to think that Jesus lived in the moment of the miraculous. But greatness often has its hidden points. The large oak tree in front of me is more than meets the eye, it has a complex 'unseen' root system that holds the 'seen' in place. So too, my life must have a complexity in its hidden and obscure moments to give me the success that I need.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Why Christians need to vote

I happen to be a sort of political junkie. But I am surprised by the number of chrisitans who are frustrated with empty promises of the candidates this year and are planning on staying home from the polls.

The way I read the scripture- Christians really are required to vote. It is a part of their stewardship of the earth. Of course, we don't just pull a partisan lever. We are supposed to be engaged and informed and base our vote upon the Scriptures.
Since the governments job is to bring justice and protection (Rom 13) we ought to try to elect those that will do that kind of a job AND dump those that aren't doing that before they do more damage.

I think it is a bad idea to vote for somebody just because they are a christian too. Politicians can be pretty flippant with religion at the time of election. Martin Luther famously said he would rather be ruled by a competent Turk—that is, a Muslim—than an incompetent Christian.

God has his own agenda. It includes the poor and the unborn but it also is concerned with the excesses of greed and corruption. Our national security is crucial to the missionary efforts- Paul told us to pray that we might live in peace with all men so that the gospel woudl go forth. obviously, we are more than automotons that are programed to vote a certain way. I think that there are moral issues at stake in this election and they need to be weighed against the other issues. Good christians will disagree on who to vote for but we need to be the city set on the hill. President Reagan quoted that regarding the US- but it is the church that must have the influence and preservative affects on our government. We must be "salt" and "light" if we are to fulfill the call of God for us.

When your deciding who to vote for- ask yourself who this man or woman serves? Are they bought and paid for by special interest groups, or are they seeking the best for all americans? Are they spouting rhetoric or are their plans practical? Will they enable a strong nation? Will they enable the nation to rebuild it's economy so that we have a strong nation? What role do they feel that government has- are they the fixers or the facilitaters?

Whoever wins- you will be required to pray for for the next 4 years. The scripture asks that men everywhere lift up holy hands and pray for those in authority. So make your choice well. But make a choice.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Excellence in Earnestness

If there is anything that this call from 2 Cor 8.7 means it is a call to total and complete frankness. As a Christian we should be absolutely "WYSIWYG" as they say in web design. What you see is what you get (WYSIWYG) is the removal of hidden agendas and hypocrisies. This, of course, does not mean that follower of Jesus is perfect in any way- only that he is a person of integrity. Saying what he means, and not denying what is obvious to others. This sense of integrity or "wholeness" is the recognition that the standards and commands of Christ that we know we are not INTENTIONALLY ignoring.

As God communicates divine truth to us we immediately begin to digest that truth (be it revealed in scripture or through a friend, etc.) The goal of that digesting process is to so internalize that word that we adapt all of our actions to its demands. Though the process is an arduous and difficult one- it has the highest value in that it forms us into the character of God. The shaping and formative character of our response to the Word is often ignored by people in the church who expect that God is going to change them by some mysterious and miraculous feat. We seek in all earnestness, to shape our hearts after the God who revealed himself in scripture and in the cross.

When the church becomes absolutely earnest and puts away its phony and self protecting walls then the rest of the world will look upon us with respect. While not all will come to Christ- many in this world hunger for a real and integral spirituality. What do you think?