On this Day of Memorial, let me say, “Thanks!” to the men and women who have served, fought, defended, and died for our country to secure and protect our freedom. Thank you for your faithfulness and patriotism. In particular, I want to thank the ones I have known personally who have served in the military–Dad, Jack, Dave, Carl, Dan, Luke, Jarol, and Alan. Thank you. We’re in your debt.
Monthly Archives: May 2009
After meeting some new folks and spending time getting to know them, I am reminded of the words of Kermit the Frog. In The Muppet Movie, Kermit sang a song, “The rainbow connection.” The song begins with a profound statement of wisdom,
“There’s not a word yet for old friends who’ve just met. Part heaven, part space, have I found my place?”
For some reason (maybe because I’m simple minded), that phrase has stuck with me. The frog is wise indeed.
Do pastors and churches ever hide the Bible from the ones who need it most?
In our efforts to perform community service, do we neglect to teach the Scriptures? In our recovery ministries, do we address physical needs and addictions, but fail to speak to spiritual needs? In our children’s programs, do we plan learning activities that are fun and character building, but are divorced from the Bible? In our adult classes, do we talk about marriage enrichment, financial management, divorce recovery, parenting skills, and other helpful topics, but never actually study the Scriptures? In our sermons, do we talk about current events, the latest best seller, how to be a success, or any of a number of relevant, practical issues, but never open the Bible and say, “Thus says the Lord”?
It is certainly a real danger.
In 2 Chronicles 34, we read the account of Josiah, who became king of Judah at the age of eight (verse 1). At the age of 16, he began to seek the God of his fathers (3). At the age of 20, he began a series of spiritual reforms in the nation (3-7). In the 18th year of his reign, or when he was 26 years old, workmen were cleaning and renovating the temple (8, 10). In the process, they discovered the Book of the Law (15). Apparently, the first five books of the Old Testament, or the Torah, was hidden in plain sight in the very temple! When it was read aloud, the king tore his clothes, a sign of repentance (19). He concluded that their present state of calamity was judgment from God for ignoring and disobeying the law of God.
As pastors, as churches, we need to make sure that we do not hide the Word of God in the very place it should be proclaimed!
How is it we can locate a terrorist cell operating in secret, infiltrate a drug cartel and seize a shipment of illegal drugs, and yet we cannot find a wayward bear who has spent the past five days wandering around Magnolia, Ballard, and Shoreline?
Is the “Urban Phantom” wearing a disguise? Are he and his buds are off in a cave somewhere, hosting a cold one, and laughing about their latest prank?
Whatever his plan for escape, it is working. So far, he has eluded four wildlife agents, a bear-sniffing dog, and 14 Seattle police officers. How embarassing is that?
Sitting in Tully’s Coffee Shop yesterday, I could not help but overhear a conversation nearby. One patron was loudly telling another person, “I’m fine with whatever people want to believe. That’s our freedom of religion society. People can believe anything, so long as they don’t preach at me. I attend a Christian church, but what I believe is between me and God.” In his brief statement, the unnamed coffee drinker stated two of the myths of religion that I will be preaching on over the next three weeks.
I am coming to the end of a sermon series on the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. After spending the bulk of these chapters teaching people what it means to be a disciple, Jesus now calls his audience to make a decision (Matthew 7:13-27). In his challenge, I think Jesus addresses four myths about religion that were present in his time, and still find their way into conversations in our day.
- “All roads lead to heaven.” This is the belief that all religions are basically the same. They just use different names for God. In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus states that there are only two roads that we can travel on and they lead in opposite directions. One leads to destruction and the other leads to life. You have to make a choice if you want to end up at the right destination.
- “Religion is a private matter.”This approach is often stated loudly and passionately in a variety of ways–“What I believe is no one else’s business!” “Beliefs are private and should not affect anyone else.” “People should keep their beliefs to themselves.” In Matthew 7:15-20, Jesus stated that how one lives indicates what they believe. Beliefs result in behavior. If there is no outward demonstration, you have the right to assume there has been no inward change.
- “Good works get you into heaven.” This popular opinion holds that God grades on a curve. At the judgment day, God weighs your good works and your bad deeds, and if you have more good than bad in your life, you are invited into heaven. In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus stated that entrance into heaven is not determined by how many good deeds we have done. Being busy for God is not a substitute for having a relationship with God.
- “It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are sincere.” I saw a poster this week with various religious symbols with the caption, “God is too big to fit into one religion.” In others words, just pick one since they are all the same. In Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus describes two builders. One built his house on sand while the other built his house on rock. When the storms hit, the foundation determined the stability of the structure. Sincerity is worthless if your life is built on sand.
As Jesus told his disciples, we too have to make a choice about what we believe. Rather than accept the prevailing myths of religion, we need to seek and discover the truth about how to have a relationship with God.
In the season finale of 24, one of the characters made a statement which clearly illustrated the Home Depot approach to religion; “You can do it, we can help.”
For those who followed season seven, Jack Bauer was infected with a pathogen from a biological weapon. Since there was no cure, Jack spent the past several hours/weeks slowing dying as the poison worked its way through his system. As he faced death in the final episode, he summoned an Islamic spiritual leader, an Imam, that he met a few hours/weeks previously. When Jack expressed concern about dying, the Imam said, “Let us forgive ourselves.” He then prayed and afterwards, Jack thanked him.
There was no talk of repentance, confessing your sins, or seeking help from a higher power. Instead, it presented the approach that you have the power to save yourself. All that was needed was to forgive yourself and you can die in peace.
It was man-centered religion at its finest/worst, depending on your perspective. Quite a contrast from what the Scriptures state in 1 John 1:7-9,
“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 cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (ESV)
Our church, United Evangelical Free Church in Seattle, WA, holds a corporate prayer time on the third Sunday evening of each month. We refer to the gathering as “Seeking his face.” I try to use a different prayer guide each month in order to lead the prayer time as well as provide the folks with a resource they can use in their personal prayer times. For this month, I developed a prayer guide following the ACTS template–Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. Feel free to use it as is or adapt it for your own purposes.