Saturday, February 23, 2013

A provocation, brought on by Psalm 119:89

In the local church body in which I fellowship, we are chronologically reading the Bible.

I sat down to begin today's reading and was doubly encouraged by Psalm 119:89. I must share something, here, today. First, let me begin with four translations of the same verse.

"Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens." (Psalm 119:89 ESV)
"Your eternal word, O Lord, stands firm in heaven." (Psalm 119:89 NLT)
"For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven." (Psalm 119:89 KJV)
"Lord, Your word is forever; it is firmly fixed in heaven." (Psalm 119:89 HCSB)

The word of God is eternal, for it is uttered from Him who is eternal. His word is fixed, stationed, erected, established and standed in heaven.

As soon as I read those words, my heart jumped! I had the image of Jesus -- the Word, the Logos -- standing in heaven, as when Stephen died (Acts 7:56). I had the image of Jesus returning to the Father, as was His rightful place (John 16:28). He received His glory back upon Himself and took up His eternal place, having finished the work the Father sent Him to do. These images thrilled me.

But, God's "word" here in Psalm 119:89 does not refer to the Logos / Word that is Jesus. The "word" means "speech." What God says is fixed in heaven. It is established there. His speech, what God says, is erected in a place where man's hands cannot alter it.

Many times, dear friends, I've exhorted our body to "say the same thing" as God. We must, in our lives, come into agreement with God. To agree with God is to say what is established and unchangeable in the heavenlies.

When it comes to sin, we must agree with God.
When it comes to righteousness, we must agree with God.
When it comes to purpose, we must agree with God.
To walk in His promise(s), we must agree with God.
To know His freedom, we must agree with God.

His word is settled. His word is firmly fixed. His word stands firm.

Mr. Gilliam told me once that he began the practice of saying aloud that he agreed with God when he encountered something in God's word. He told me he did that because his heart did not already have that practice as habit. He shared how when his mind and mouth began to be in the habit of agreeing with God, his heart followed.

I do not know if you need that practice of speaking agreement aloud, but perhaps you do. Perhaps that discipline will teach us new affections.

We agree with so much that is temporal, but, as the Word says about His word, " will pass away, but My words will never pass away" (Matthew 24:35 HCSB), so we should be wise and agree with the eternal.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Be a man!

Be a man! 
But, how? 
What is a man? Shall I curse? Shall I smoke? Must I make money, money, money? Does it lie in accomplishment? Shall I fight? Will trophies help? Must women be the object of my conquest? Must I kill? Will voting make me a man? Is it age? 16? 18? 21? 
Just tell me. 

"Be strong, and show yourself a man" (1 Kings 2:2b ESV) 

Aaaah! I get it! I've got to be strong! MUSCLES! Superiority! Never cry! I shall do it.

What? What am I missing?

"The Lord lifteth up the meek: he casteth the wicked down to the ground. He delighteth not in the strength of the horse: he taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man." -- (Psalm 147:6 and 10 KJV)

It's not physical strength that makes a man, nor is it strength that keeps one from being a man.

"The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy." -- (Psalm 147:11 KJV)

So...okay...what does that look like? What does it look like to fear God and hope in His mercy?

Be strong! Be a man! David said to his son, Solomon, "Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies..." (1 Kings 2:2b-3a ESV)

A man walks with God. A man keeps Gods word. A man's real strength is not found in his weapons or his muscles, but in God. A real man's strength is not found in his weapons or his muscles, but in God. A strong man walk with God and honors God's word.

Be a man!

Freedom Ringing

Freedom was not born in the heart of man, nor was it won on any battlefield, nor gained by any law.
It is lingering among men as a testament to God's original glory.
We were created free from sin; free from war; free from controversy; free from strife.
We created free among each other.
We were created free before God.
Man did not create freedom; man only surrendered it.
It lingers because of original glory.
It pulses across the world because the full cross and the empty tomb make it possible once again.
Freedom is not the right to vote or speak or curse or drink or any American notion.
Freedom is the blessing of God to walk before Him and others without shame.

Girl looks like a Lady: Provide and Train

I love old movies. I love stories. I love good acting. With the enduring old movies, it seems, one has to be a good actor, because they have good stories, and there's no "effect" to save the actor.

I like the stories and I like thinking through what's been said through the ideas and images. "A Day in the Sun" is full, for example, of social struggles: class, propriety, selfishness, death / murder, and the possibility of abortion. One of my favorite old movies, "12 Angry Men" is all about justice and the refusal to profile and the failure of not thinking through something and the success of thinking it through. I could go on and on.

I like connecting the dots, too. For example, I watched "Victor / Victoria" -- I did NOT like that movie; reasons aside -- and BEGAN to watch "Alfie" -- didn't like the premise, so I stopped -- but, I like being able to recognize people appearing in different / small roles in different movies. In the former, Graham Stark plays a snarky waiter and in the latter, though only watched for a few minutes, I could tell Mr. Stark was playing the lovelorn Humphrey. There was 16 years between the movies, but Mr. Stark looked the same and it was obvious he was honing his craft with age.

Anyway, enough of that. If I carry on, I will carry on and on. And on.

I recently watched "My Fair Lady" for probably the 3rd time in my life. It's a great movie and no one can doubt the fantastic acting jobs of Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison. ----- An aside: I did learn from Robert Osbourne that Hepburn did not do her own singing in this movie; rather, it was Marni Nixon who dubbed over Hepburn. Nice, huh?

Anyway, enough of that...

"My Fair Lady" makes an interesting point; training people up in their actions does change them, but relationship trains them more. Over the course of her training, she learns to talk and carry herself like a lady. She learns that. What also happens is she falls in love with her instructor.

Training can make a lady, but love makes a woman want to be a gentleman's wife.

One can be trained, and one ought to be trained in many things. However, if love does not make the training desirable to us, most likely it will not stick, nor will it mean much.

I also, for the first time, watched "Lady for a Day." It's hard to beat a Frank Capra movie for simply being entertained.

It was an interesting movie. A common, seller of apples, for the sake of her daughter's possible engagement, wants some people to think she is a lady of society. For various reasons, many people get behind her, and they pull it off. What is amazing is how many people get behind the effort. May Robson's character, Apple Annie, gets treated like a lady and starts to act like a lady. There's something to be said for that.

There are a powerful bunch of females in the world that are definitely women, but not ladies. (The same could be said of men and gentlemen, too.)

Be that as it may, what stops us from treating women like ladies, whether they "deserve" it or not? We stop us! It is true that a male is born, will become a boy, may become a man, but must choose to be a gentleman. And, to loosely quote Chaucer, "He is a gentle because he wants to be a gentleman." We ought to want to be gentlemen!

I know, I know, it's hard enough to be a man, and harder still to walk as a Christian man, but there's a call to it and need for it.

Now, I don't owe Hollywood a thing, and they certainly teach any male very little about the most important things in life. More so, they teach males less about being men every year. I look to God's word for that. I look to the perfect Man, Jesus. That's where I'll take my cues from.

So, sure, I'll train girls to be ladies (I do have two daughters!). Sure, I'll love them and pray they respond to my love. Either way, I receive this call to be a gentleman. If for no other reason, this: "love bears all things." I've been loved, so I'll live it now that I know it.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Some thoughts about parenting and how vital it is to society

A word to myself that someone else might enjoy...

"Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart." (Proverbs 29:17 ESV)

This verse has rattled around in my head all day. I can speak for both Care and myself and say, we really do desire our children to be disciplined disciples as they go through life. We pray for that. We know God must make us finer folks, growing constantly in both who we are as disciples and as parents. We know the only way to help our children grow is to be growing right along with them.

Two things...

I know my children have free will. I know they are sinners. I know they need to be responsible, be held accountable, make decisions for themselves at times and must, themselves, have a growing relationship with the Lord. I know we / they will constantly be pushing back against the enemy, the world, the culture and the flesh. I know people tell me the teenage years will change everything and I'll lose those sweet little girls into bitter teen years (I don't receive that!). I am aware of the realities, but I am looking unto the Lord, from whom my help comes.

I work with young people. I see a lot. It's tough being young. It's tough being a family. It's tough parenting. I am aware of these realities, too. Many folks in our culture aren't parenting very intentionally. Sure, young people eat and have a place to sleep (for the most part), but many aren't being trained unto righteousness.

Discipline is missing in our culture. I don't mean yelling and beating people. That's alive and well. I mean formative shaping of someone's life. Education is alive (maybe not well). Leisure and pleasure are going strong.

The word "discipline," as found in Proverbs 29:17, means "to chasten, discipline, instruct, admonish." It also means to "chastise" and to "correct." It's a full word.

I went to the ESV Study Bible notes and they made an interesting observation about verses 15-18. The notes say, "Verses 15 and 17 both insist that parents should teach their children, and vv. 16 and 18 both describe a society in upheaval. The chaos of a child out of control is comparable to the chaos of a people who have abandoned integrity and revelation."

Is that not much of what we see these days? Our society is in "upheaval" and folks are continually living more and more undisciplined day by day.

Here are the verses together: "The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother. When the wicked increase, transgression increases, but the righteous will look upon their downfall. Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart. Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law." (Proverbs 29:15-18 ESV)

I think my parenting is constantly growing, and much of what I believe is being reinforced by the teens I work with. I also feel like I am still in school; I'm still learning. I feel I have much to share, but much to learn.

Between the battle of being a parent to my own and being a student of parenting, I am loving the adventure of growing.

Being a youth minister, and a student of the age in which I live, I see Proverbs 29:15-18 as a reality. The "wicked increase" and "transgression increases." There is no vision and "the people cast off restraint."

I am convinced more than ever that the change our society needs comes from the Lord. I am convinced more than ever that He will deliver generational change through families. Not through politics or through the school house, but through homes and families. Just read those verses together again. See for yourself; think it through.

In my work, I am going to begin praying about how I can reach more families. Not just children and teens, but families, too. Lord, help me...

Sunday, February 10, 2013

If you pray, pray for our local church this week.

If you pray, pray for our local church this week.

We are asking God for revival. We are going to fill our minds with Scripture and are purposefully asking God to confront areas of sin in our lives -- (1) sins of thought and attitude, (2) sins of speech and communication, (3) sins of relationship and reconciliation, (4) sins of commission and (5) sins of omission. I know the Spirit will be faithful; pray we are faithful to respond. Pray we respond with humble confession and sincere repentance.

Also, we will come under the teaching of the Word of God. Pray for the men God will be using to lead us through 1 John. Brett Carver, Casey Adams, Michael Tuck, John Henry Lochbaum and Andrew Liggitt. They have been praying, preparing and seeking the Lord's face. Pray we humbly hear what the Spirit will deliver through His people.

Pray for our brother who is coming to lead us in singing our worship, Michael Stewart Pope Jr. He is starting a new job this week and coming to lead us each evening, so pray for his strength to be full each day, and pray, too, that he leads us to really engage the Lord in our singing.

Pray for Stephanie Clayton Bowen, as well. She will be caring for and pouring into our families' children each night.

Pray we all open ourselves to hear and obey the Spirit. Pray we all allow Him to confront any and every single thing that could possibly be hindering greater intimacy or growth. If there are any under a false sense of salvation, pray they come unto the Lord. If there are any who would be saved, pray they are saved. If there are any oppressed by the enemy, bound in the flesh or practicing rebellion, pray they are set free.

Pray we do all that we might be able to do in our feeble power to prepare ourselves for revival; then, pray God grants it. Pray we are free to get out of God's way.

As Sir Francis Drake said:
Disturb us, Lord, when 
We are too well pleased with ourselves, 
When our dreams have come true 
Because we have dreamed too little, 
When we arrived safely 
Because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when 
With the abundance of things we possess 
We have lost our thirst 
For the waters of life; 
Having fallen in love with life, 
We have ceased to dream of eternity 
And in our efforts to build a new earth, 
We have allowed our vision 
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, 
To venture on wider seas 
Where storms will show your mastery; 
Where losing sight of land, 
We shall find the stars.

We ask You to push back 
The horizons of our hopes; 
And to push into the future 
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

Pray we receive God's call to send us to new horizons of Him! Pray we push out into deeper waters, bigger seas and far distances.

Pray we turn loose from any vainglory or rivalries in the Body. May we receive the truth of what Jesus said: "Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them."  (Matthew 18:18-20 ESV)

Pray we experience God, and love it.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Asian Chicken Chunks?

My wife asked me to look up the school menu and see what was for lunch tomorrow. I did and discovered something I've never heard of: "Asian Chicken Chunks." Hmmmmm...

My kids said they are great. Okay. I've traveled the world. I've been to multiple parts of Asia, and can appreciate the vast cultural differences in each place. I never knew there was a "chicken chunk" that represented the entirety of the Asian peoples. Apparently, there is. And, Person County Schools has them, or so I'm being led to believe.

I recently heard a This American Life article on National Public Radio that asserted pig bung is a suitable doppleganger for calimari. That being said, I suppose "Asian Chicken Chunks" are safe in comparison.

I wondered exactly what "Asian Chicken Chunks" looked like, so Google images is where I headed next. Having heard about the aforementioned bung, looks don't mean much to me.

Oh that I had time to investigate the great mysteries of life!

Thank You, Sir. May I have another?

Responses to trouble are critical. We all have trouble. Some of it comes from the course of life...sickness, grief, woes with family -- really, just the stress and strain of life is enough!

Some times we bring trouble on ourselves. Sin destroys. Unwise behavior, too, often leads us into difficulty. Even innocent distractions can bring trouble on us as they consume us.

Look how trouble came to these believers...
[4:1] And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, [2] greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. [3] And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. (Acts 4:1-3 ESV)

See that? Arrested.
Crack dealin'? Nope.
Excessive speeding tickets? Nope.
Embezzlement? Nope?

Trouble came upon these people because they were "teaching the people" and "proclaiming in the Jesus the resurrection."

Now, let's see their response:

[23] When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. [24] And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, [25] who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,
“‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
and the peoples plot in vain?
[26] The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers were gathered together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed’—
[27] for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, [28] to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. [29] And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, [30] while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” [31] And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:23-31 ESV)

They didn't run to the media.
They didn't whine about the government.

They simply "reported" the story.
No malaise. No desultory apathy.

Then, "they" -- meaning, the church / believers -- lifted their voices to God.
They claimed, proclaimed and remembered His sovereignty.

They did not prescribe what they thought ought to happen to their detractors. They simply asked God to "look upon" them.

They asked for more opportunity.
They asked for more boldness.

God answered.

Too often we are distracted from the Gospel. Too often we are diminished by people's response. Too often we are depressed in our power.

Too little do we turn to God over man. Too little do we train our eyes upon Him.

If preaching the Gospel brings trouble to us, let us ask God for even more boldness, even more opportunity and even more power...

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Who do you say Jesus is?

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” -- C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Challenging. That's what the paragraph above is to mankind. Whether we are approaching Jesus historically or spiritually, we've got to deal with His claims. Mr. Lewis basically gives us three choices concerning Jesus: (1) Jesus was a liar, to be disregarded as a crazy person; (2) Jesus was of the devil, to be rebuked and refused; or, (3) Jesus was exactly who His works and words made Him out to be, and that is God of very God, and, then, the only response is to bow humbly at His feet, seeking mercy.

When we come to Jesus, we've got to deal with Him, and respond. 

Isn't it that way with everyone? We encounter someone -- even an idea -- and we weigh it; we consider it. We think on it. 

Invariably, someone will ask me what I think of some movie, or a singer. I know better than to simply settle for a visceral response. (After all, though my heart is central to my entire being, the Lord must rule it and inform it. If He doesn't, even in the moment of decision, it will act deceitfully!) I know I've got to weigh something or something. 

Take a singer, for example, it's one thing to weigh their talent. Many are talented; sure, I may not enjoy their genre, but it's easy to confess they are talented within their genre. But, it's more than that...

I've got to weigh the words they are saying, and what they attempt to convey through their words and actions in relaying those words. You know what I mean, right? It's one thing to say something with words, but often body language tells what the words are really saying. I remember my grandma riding in my car with me in the late 80s and hearing Salt N Pepa's "Push It." She HEARD it, but didn't have a lewd mind. She asked, "Push what?" My eyes got big, and I changed the channel and the subject -- QUICK. Even if the flesh wasn't so lewd, the video would make it real clear what they were pushing.

But, think about it, we consider the words. I think IF YOU CAN SPEAK AND UNDERSTAND THE LANGUAGE OF A SONG it's utter hogwash to say, "I just like the beat" and to use that to indicate you don't listen to the words. Wait...I'm chasing a rabbit (sort of), and that's not what I want to do.

My point is simple, we often assess things and keep them or discard them. Sometimes, we don't think through things enough. We'll just go along and get along and take this and that without giving much thought to the implications of what we are allowing to shape our thinking and activities. 

It seems we think through some things, but not through others. It seems we'll investigate some things, but totally ignore the implications of others. 

I think we should seriously investigate Jesus. We should think about Him; consider His claims.

I think, when it comes to Jesus, we are totally unwise to EITHER accept or reject Him without serious investigation. I mean, hey, it's not like He was George Washington... 

George Washington is an interesting guy, right? I think so. I think he's worth studying. But, in studying him, it's just knowledge. He doesn't claim to be able to save me or even to help me. He doesn't claim to be God or a god. But, before we endorse him in any paradigm at all, or ignore him, we'd do well to know about George Washington. 

Some folks are crazy. Really. I mean, we'll buy records, or follow their lives on a "reality" show and basically endorse who they are and what they stand for without really even knowing them. But, many of us disregard other things on a whim.

READ THIS: And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him. (Mark 8:27-30 ESV)

Like I said, I don't think it's wise to ignore Jesus. However, it's also not wise to claim to follow Him without seeing what He says, what He claims about Himself and what He commands His followers to think, do or say. 

Investigate Jesus. He either is who He said He was, or He was a lunatic. Take your pick, but we cannot deny that He has had an impact on mankind, so we'd do well not to simply skip-to-the-lou on past Him. 

If He is all that He claims to be, we've got to deal with that!