Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Friday, June 30, 2006

The How Now Shall We Live study UBC has been doing on Sunday nights, goes through a good history of Western thought and how our culture has been shaped into the Modern, now Post-Modern mind.

Early on it mentions one influential thinker, Rene Descartes, and his famous phrase—“I think, therefore I am.” That statement alone has become a defining thought on doubt and human reason.

But what would such a phrase be for today, as opposed to “I think, therefore I am.” What would be the phrase for the postmodern mind? Here are a couple of possibilities—please suggest your own.

• “I don’t know what I think.”

• “I don’t care what you think.”

I suspect it would come in the form of a question, rather than a statement, but you may differ.

• “I think I’m thinking, but what am I?”

• “I think, but does it matter?”


Thursday, June 29, 2006

More Insight from Screwtape

Once again CS Lewis has contributed something timely to some of the previous posts. Particularly concerning the attitude we share and express in “We Shall Not Be Moved”-- the way we live in the Church today is more along the lines that we will not allow the Spirit of God to truly move us, move our hearts, move our spirits, move our emotions.

I’ve pointed out to some that while Satan may not be able to keep us from attending a church service, he can prevent us from getting anything out of it. He does so by focusing our attention, not on the message, or the worship of God, but all the petty annoyances that bug us, irritate us, and distract us—the things that keep us from truly hearing or being moved by God. The hairstyle or clothes of another attendee, the off key singing, the microphone imbalance where someone is too loud, or the powerpoint malfunctions. Satan knows our buttons, and which ones will prevent us from experiencing the real and powerful presence of God. If you know these of yourself, pray that the Armor of God is thicker in those areas, remind yourself coming into the Worship Center that you don’t want to focus on those things, but the Presence and Worship of God.

The demon, Screwtape, offered an interesting insight into the work of Satan in the process. In advising his nephew, Wormwood, about the reawakened spiritual life of his patient, Screwtape gives this advice in chapter 13:

“It remains to consider how we can retrieve this disaster. The great thing is to prevent his doing anything. As long as he does not convert it into action, it does not matter how much he thinks about his new repentance. Let the little brute wallow in it… Let him do anything but act. No amount of piety in his imagination and affections will harm us if we can keep it out of his will. As one of the humans has said, active habits are strengthened by repetition, but passive ones are weakened. The more often he feels without acting, the less he will ever be able to act, and, in the long run, the less he will be able to feel.”

Why do we not respond more to God during the times of invitation? Which by the way, are not just for conversion or some extreme confession of sin. I believe this passage may hold some insight for those who have been Christians for a long time. We feel the pull and draw of God, but fail to act on it, fail to respond—and the more we resist and fail to act on it, the less we will ever be able to act on it.

It’s like when we first become believers, we’re responding to anything and everything that God works on us with. But the longer we go, the more we train ourselves that I don’t have to pray as much, I don’t have to go forward anymore, I don’t have to respond like I used to. We are essentially training our hearts to be hardened to the movement of God. I’m just as guilty of this as anyone.

The danger is in the last statement, a description that I’m afraid describes many of us today, and too often myself. The less we act and respond to Him, the less in the long run you or I will ever be able to feel Him, feel His presence, feel His movement and to be moved ourselves. We will become detached from our relationship with God—it will be cool and long-distance.

Then we’ll begin to complain to God—why don’t you talk to me anymore? Why can’t I discern Your Will? Why are you so far from me? When will you return and restore? We ask these as if the problem is primarily His, when it may very well be me. Sadly, that level of brokenness and sense of abandonment is often just what is needed to break the dam we have constructed around our hearts and allow His flood to return and reawaken us.

I pray God you will flood my heart and awaken my spirit. Help me Lord to respond to You, to truly feel You again.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

By Rule or By Faith

The song on the previous post—A New Law is such a convicting song. It relates to the old axiom about helping people and fish. Give a man a fish and he’ll be fed for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

You could easily turn the message of the song into a similar statement.

Teach a Christian to live by a Rule and he'll walk the Way for a day and stay an immature believer

Teach a Christian to live by Faith and he'll walk the Way for a Lifetime and become a mature disciple

In so many ways, believers can fall for a “living by the rules” lifestyle, instead of a “living by faith” lifestyle. In fact it's easier to and most of us do. As long as we’ve got a rule that we can quote or check off, then we think we’re doing well as a faithful Christian. But what happens when a believer is confronted with something that’s not mentioned in one of the rules? The person then has a hard time thinking for themselves, listening to the Spirit, etc. We become incapable of addressing our faith to the new situation and we become lazy. We become unwilling to examine Scripture for ourselves.

A few lines from the song illustrate this—“don’t teach me about, politics and government. Just tell me who to vote for”—don’t teach me how to examine a candidate or evaluate their positions and measure their consistency with biblical teaching—do the work for me so I won’t have to think so hard.

“don’t teach me how to live like a free man, just give me a new law. I don’t want to know if the answers aren’t easy.” Freedom & Responsibility. Nowadays, people want the freedom but don’t want the responsibility. Most times the answers aren’t easy—especially to live by in a world where we know some will make poor decisions.

“just bring it down, from the mountain to me”—in other words, let someone else go and get close to God, I’ll keep a safe distance. Just tell me what He wants, I’ll try to do it but let me get back to my own life.

“Don’t teach me how, to listen to the Spirit, just give me a new law”. Rules are much easier to follow (in the mind at least), they puff up our pride and help us categorize and justify our breaking of them.

The Law was never capable of producing righteousness but only revealed our sinfulness and the rightness of God’s judgment of us. The “new law” (since we are supposed to be free from the old law) actually keep us farther away from Him, make us less pleasing to Him than a life of faith guided by the Spirit of God. The life based on Law is mostly lived and motivated by fear and guilt whereas the life based on the Spirit is lived and motivated by love, trust and a desire to please Him.

Looking at 2 people—one who lives by Law and one who lives by the Spirit—you may not see a huge outward difference. It is more subtle than that, but the difference is staggering in their heart and their walk of faith.

Joy in all circumstances vs. the fake smiles may be hard to tell apart but the difference is bigger than the Grand Canyon from God’s perspective. Both Worship that is genuine (in Spirit and in Truth) and Worship that is habitual or because I’m supposed to, or b/c that’s what the bulletin says; may both be sung by people with strong, beautiful voices, but only one is truly acceptable and pleasing to God. The personal testimony and witness of one who hasn’t been moved by God in 10 years, who’s life is plagued more by guilt for not being a better Christian is radically different from one who still sins and fails but lives with the confidence in the Grace of God to forgive, redeem and restore.

How are you trying to live the Christian life: by rule or by faith?

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A New Law-- on Kiki Cherry's Blog

A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled upon a song and video addressing the Christian walk and how we keep enchaining ourselves in the guise of new religion. I couldn't figure out how to post it, nor who the artist was, but my friend Kiki did. Just click on the picture of the blindfolded girl and it should start playing.

A New Law--here

This came in the midst of a discussion with another believer about how so many of us in church are not emotionally engaged with God. We sit in church services, hear great (hopefully) intellectually engaging, doctrinally sound messages but are never moved to respond, never moved by the Spirit to repent, to fall upon our knees, to cry out to Him, to then leave changed and moved emotionally. In other words, we are too Vulcan in the way we hear from God. Some sing "We Shall Not Be Moved" in terms of social justice, others in terms of Doctrine or Issues and Morality, but in actuality, the way we live in the Church today is more along the lines that we will not allow the Spirit of God to truly move us, move our hearts, move our spirits, move our emotions.

I realize that not all of us are moved the same way by the same things. I realize that I cannot schedule or program your heart being moved, after all, on the days I'm the most frustrated or the days I think I'm not engaging are the days I hear the most positive comments. Is that because they are really engaged or because this was the day they were able to have the fewest toes stepped on? I can't always tell.

Our hearts are hearts of stone until the Spirit softens them, some days we don't let Him--we pay more attention to the missed notes, the off-key singing or the irritating mannerisms of the person in pew 3. Most days, the Spirit doesn't or is not allowed to move everyone but He does some. As a minister, my role is to be faithful to present not only the "Truth" but also the "Way and the Life". How people are moved or respond is not my job (though I am a facilitator--God using me in the role He has called me to) but is the job of the Spirit--we don't tell Him how to do it or when.

Anyway, may we truly be passionate about our relationship with God and not just comfortable and content. I pray we allow the Spirit of God to truly move us to response and greater lives of faith.

Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life,


Sermon 6/25/06--It's Never To Late to Clean Up

Minus a few Sunday Morning Additions and edits, here is the message from this Sunday

It’s Never Too Late to Clean Up—1Samuel 7

One of the moments that I do not like the most is when I’m supposed to be somewhere and I forget about it. Or I’m supposed to have something for a meeting and I forget it. Or I forget we’re going to have company over at the house like on the 4th of July and I’ve forgotten to clean up the yard and the house. Life is normal until all of a sudden somebody says something, the phone rings, or you get to that important moment and it hits you… I forgot all about that. So many times it’s too late to do anything about it.

You also see that in the phrase--You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. I know as a child, I never appreciated my grandmother as much as she deserved. And now I can’t go back and tell her. I never appreciated an independent heating system until a couple of winters ago when we lost power in our house for a few days. I seem to lose something when I need it the most, like car keys. You never know how valuable and important something is until you realize you need it or want it and it isn’t there. And you ask yourself, am I too late?

The nation of Israel learned this fact during the life of Samuel. Of all things to lose, They had lost the Presence of God, too much dirt had gotten in the way.. Missing God’s Presence. In 1 Samuel 4, the Ark of the Covenant was captured by the Philistines at a place called Ebenezer. In that defeat, two corrupt priests, sons of Eli, were killed and when Eli heard the news he also fell over dead—not from the news of his sons, but from the news about the Ark’s capture. The Living presence of Almighty God had been captured by gentiles because the hearts and loyalty of the people of God were far from Him. As 4:22 declares “The Glory has departed from Israel, for the Ark of God has been captured.”

Eventually, the Ark was eventually returned in ch. 6. into the private house of Abinidab for 20 years. The Ark stayed there in obscurity, essentially hidden and cut off from the people, until David came years later to move it to Jerusalem.

The Presence of God was weakening in the hearts of the people. God had less of their loyalties, less impact on their daily lives. There were, few words from the Lord and few visions. It’s as if the house is getting dirtier and dirtier, but you rarely notice your own mess.

But after so long of the Glory of the LORD being departed, after years of neglect and idolatry, the hearts of the people began to change. And Samuel was there to strike the match to start the fires that cleaned up the hearts of the people.

Even when you don’t think it’s possible, even when you think it’s too late to have your life cleaned up and God’s Presence restored, it’s not too late. Samuel shows us how and why.

Samuel, was essentially a “handy man” a “Jack of all trades” in the hand of God, he performed the functions of a priest, military leader, judge, but his main task in life is expressed here. He is to bring the people back to the Lord. He led them to realize that it was never too late to return to the LORD, to realize that …

1. Heart Cleaning is More Important than Spring Cleaning—v. 7:2-6.
a. Men, I know, as much as you welcome spring because it hopefully means less snow to shovel. I know you fear the day when your wife consults the Farmer’s Almanac or determines the planets’ alignment for just the right moment to start Spring Cleaning. You’re relaxing one moment, the next moment you have a list 3 pages long of things to move out of the Garage, to lift, to dust, to replace.

b. But Spring Cleaning is not the most important kind of cleaning we need. We need to have a frequent Heart Cleaning. And the longer we go without it, the harder it is to get it done—we may even wonder if the mess is too bad to clean up.

c. Sometimes the mess is overwhelming, but cleaning has got to start somewhere.

d. Here, the people were in such a spiritual mess, they were finally beginning to see the mess and mourn the loss of relationship with God--something was missing—they had no intimacy, they had no fellowship, they had no blessing, they had no victory in the LORD.

e. They wanted their lives cleaned up. Then Samuel challenged their motives and the strength of their desire. “if you are returning to the LORD with all your hearts…” in other words, don’t just come if you are half-hearted. Don’t do this unless you are serious. If all you feel is guilty, then don’t waste God’s time b/c those feelings will fade.

f. Samuel led the People to a moment of genuine, real, authentic Heart Cleaning—it was so hard because it took them so long. They had to back up their mourning and feeling sorry with a demonstration of their return to the LORD by getting rid of everything that is more important than God in their lives.

g. They had to do physically what was most needed spiritually. It was a demonstration of their seriousness.

h. Little is more annoying than hearing someone say they’re sorry when you know they don’t really mean it. So Samuel wants to make sure they follow through.

i. What about you? How many times have you sought God’s forgiveness and not really meant it? When was the last time you really and sincerely asked God to clean up your heart?

j. True Heart Cleaning is beyond your power, only He can do it.

k. Just like them, We must Rid ourselves of these foreign gods—the things that have no place in our hearts, in our homes, in our nation and commit totally and completely to God.

l. I would venture that if I went into your house, I would not find a family altar with a bunch of stone and wood idols on it to which you pray, offer sacrifices and live in fear of.

m. So, What are our foreign gods? You can see them in the way that so many things compete for our time and attention in today’s world. We may not bow down and worship them, we may sit in front of them for hours, we may not offer sacrifices, sing songs or pray, unless they are a winning baseball or football team, but when they hold a higher place in your life than God, they are essentially a foreign god in your life

n. A Change needs to be made, a Cleaning Up must take place.

o. A change in your heart is a change in the life of your family, and the life of this fellowship. A change in the heart of the people will change the heart of the nation.

p. All these distractions need to be removed. They have no business being there, no right or claim to your heart like God does. You and I both must…

q. Serve Him only—if you are returning to Him—serve Him only—don’t hold anything back but give it all over to God—your family, your job, your children, your grandchildren, your life. You must decide to not allow anything to compete or take priority over Him. Serve Him in all you do, let Him be the King because when you do, and you will experience the Presence of God.

r. If your life is a mess, you might feel like you’re missing His presence as well. It’s not too late to begin living with His presence. Having your heart cleansed is the best starting point. If you desire to find the source of cleaning, the Real Mr. or Mrs. Clean, you won’t find in a mirror. You must Look Up.

2. For the Real Mr. Clean Please Look Up—v. 7-11
a. They are coming to Samuel because they knew the LORD was with him, they knew he had a personal calling and experience with God and as 3:20 says—“all Israel… recognized that Samuel was attested as a Prophet of the LORD.”

b. The Philistines, a traditional enemy of Israel, didn’t like the idea of the Israelites getting together in too large a group. They thought that the assembly at Mizpah was preparation for war; instead, the Israelites were fighting more of a spiritual battle, a battle for the hearts of the people.

c. This is true for us today. Satan always resists a true change in the lives of sinners and the people of God. When you and I begin to repent and reform, to change and let God clean us up, you should expect that Satan will muster all his forces against you, and set up every weapon at his disposal to work to oppose and discourage you. When the people of God are giving God control and living passionately for Him, Satan resists.

d. I always try to give a warning to those that want to get back into church, that they should expect something to happen on Saturday night, or Sunday morning to keep them from coming—an argument, a child waking up in the middle of the night, a sickness. Even desiring God to clean up your life, desiring His presence to fill your life, puts you on the front lines of the spiritual battles around us.

e. When we come together as the church to pray, to praise God, and to strengthen each other, Satan sees this as a Preparation for War and he will respond in force.

f. Here, Satan is using the Philistines to take their attention away from God, to instill fear, to hold them back. All it would take would be a whisper, a rumor among the people that the reason the Philistines were attacking was b/c they had put out their idols. They would be tempted to go back to the mess—to the absence of His presence.

g. When you are ignoring God in your life, Satan will often leave you alone, but the moment you start calling and crying out for Him because you are realizing that His presence is missing, the moment you realize there’s some necessary cleaning, then he goes on the offensive—Satan will even claim to be the real one to clean us.

h. Alone, we don’t have the ability to clean up ourselves. To find the real Mr. Clean, we must look up. We must LOOK UP FOR OUR DELIVERANCE. Without God at work in our lives, we don’t have a chance against our adversary, we don’t have a chance to make the life changes to clean our hearts—the task is too big. The forces working against us are too strong. It was the same for them.

i. That’s why when the people were afraid in v. 8—the people said—“do not stop crying out to the LORD our God for us, that He may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines.” This is exactly the response that the Lord is looking for.

j. Cleaning up is hard to do and the old way of life is going to fight to keep things dirty, to keep things the way they were before. . The living, vibrant Presence of God is able to clean up any mess or conquer any foe in your life. Anything that is holding you back, anything that is destructive, anything that is coming between you and God must be replaced.

k. The salvation here is more than a physical deliverance from the Philistines, it is typical of spiritual salvation that the Presence and cleaning of God brings.

l. Remember, Samuel had promised the people that if they Returned to the Lord with all their hearts, then God would deliver them out of the hand of the Philistines. What Satan wanted to use to destroy, God can and will in turn use to bring praise to His Name and strengthen our relationship with Him. Even the battles in life can remind us of the Joy and Victory that comes with His presence in our lives, when we look to Him for Deliverance.

m. So Samuel fought the battle for Israel in v. 9—not with swords, but with Prayer and a close relationship. The LORD answered him while he was sacrificing the burnt offering.

n. Now the whole people could see the deliverance of God. No enemy can stand against the Power of God—no mess is too great for Him to clean up. It was true then and it is true today—Satan cannot stand against the Power of God working in your life. When God does do something in your life, He will provide the Deliverance.

o. But when God does it, when He conquers an enemy attack, you must never forget it. Remembering what God has done, where He has taken you is vital in your walk with Him. Samuel thought it important enough to set up his very own Ebenezer, his “stone of help”. Today we would take a Before and After Picture to remind us of just how much has changed. We would call it the Extreme Life & Faith Makeover.

3. A Reminder of the Change—12-17.
a. Ebenezer means “stone of help.” It was a memorial to God’s Cleaning them up and keeping them from going back.
b. EBENEZER —This stone was a Testimony That God’s Presence had returned.

c. He didn’t want them to forget how much better it was to be right with God. Samuel wanted the people of God to be able to see something to remind them that Having Faith, knowing He is cleaning up your heart is better than anything in the world.

d. This physical reminder for them is why the Lord’s Supper is so valuable for us today.

e. God delivered under Samuel’s leadership and blessed him and the people with His presence. The Mess that was their spiritual life was cleaned up—idolatry was thrown out, and God protected them.

f. Have you been living without the Presence of God? Is your life a spiritual mess? Then Look up for the real Mr. Clean—who will strengthen you, who will protect you and give you hope. We all need a Stone of Help, a reminder of God’s Deliverance and willingness to clean up our lives. The greatest stone of help is the Rock of Christ Jesus. Let Him clean you up, let Him help you remove all the distractions and idols in your life. It is never too late to clean up.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Conform or Deform?

This morning, I’ve been thinking a bit about what to write for the blog. It’s not always an easy task since the imaginative, creative, initial spark is often difficult for me to find. However, I’ve been thinking about how we approach Scripture.

There are basically 2 ways we approach Scripture
1. We Approach with the Desire to Conform our Lives to what we read in Scripture. In other words, we see Scripture as the basis for which we are to live better, more God pleasing lives and we submit ourselves to it. That means that Scripture is the authority in our lives. Whenever Scripture confronts something in our lives (and it could be anything—money, sex, drinking, use of time, etc.) and shows how we are not living up to that standard, we then seek to change our behavior to conform to what God has revealed is the “better way”.

2. We Approach with the Desire to Deform Scripture to Conform to our Lives—our wants. In other words, we see our lives, our wants, desires and lusts to be more valid, more authoritative than the Word of God. Our own experience and wants determine whether we think any particular Scripture is valid, true, or applicable. So whenever Scripture confronts something in our lives, reveals some inconsistency—we reinterpret it, we dismiss it as old fashioned or outdated, we assume “they didn’t know what we know today”. We twist Scripture to say what we want it to say, to let ourselves off the hook, or even justify our behavior. Scripture becomes conformed to us, we become the authority over the Word of God and determine what is or is not true, what we will or will not include in our lives.

The first option is the option of a true follower and disciple of Jesus; one who seeks to grow and understand and willingly conform their lives to the heart and character of God that is revealed.

The second option Deforms Scripture into something it is not and essentially dismisses the idea that Scripture is authoritative at all. This is not the path of a disciple. They reason that Scripture was only written by fallible human beings and thus undermine the idea that God was involved in the process at all. So then, they are able to pick and choose what they like from Scripture and dismiss what they don’t

Therein lies the problem. If only some of the Bible is true and authoritative, how can we be sure which? Why do we assume it’s only the things we don’t like that are not true? How then can we be sure that we know anything about God, particularly the good things we all “desire” to hold on to? How can we be sure that God loves us, that there is an eternity after death, that Jesus died for our sins, that He was resurrected and gives victory over death? How do we know He was worth anything, that He didn’t die for His own sins or could do anything on our behalf? By dismissing the things that we don’t like—that do not line up with our wants and desires—we are effectively undermining the things we do like. If we try to make the Word of God conform to us, then it is no longer the Word of God, but the Word of Me.

Please do not retread the old argument that suggests because the Bible was written so long ago, to a culture not like ours that it has no relevance to our way of life today. Are there cultural differences… sure, of course there are and an understanding of that culture is very important as well as a desire to understand the principle at stake that does apply to us… and there will be one. Why? Because human nature has not changed. We still struggle with the same basic issues, with the same basic motivations that they did. Our particular expressions may be different, but the root cause or desire of them will essentially be the same. We are just as capable of doing essentially the same thing with a modern twist.

How we do it may have changed, but Why we do it hasn’t. One of the biggest differences between us today and the people of ancient and biblical times is that we have more and better toys—toys with which we will find a way to give us greater temptation or use for greater depravity. However, as Ecclesiastes repeatedly reminds us, there is really “nothing new under the sun.”

What is at stake is whether you believe that God has a better understanding of human nature, behavior and sin than you and I and any leading psychoanalytical mind of the modern world? Does the Word of God reveal the heart and desire of God? I for one do and so I seek and desire to conform my life to what Scripture reveals. I know I’ve got a long way to go, I know I’m far from perfect and truly living to the Standard of Scripture, but I trust that God will not fail, nor cease to be patient with me. However, if I don’t willfully desire to conform myself to Him, then there’s only so far He can take me, only so far He can use me effectively for His glory. What is truly amazing is that this desire to conform is not to be a burden of rules and regulations, but a truly freeing life of abundance—free from fear, free to please God because of my love for Him.

So which one are you? Do you desire to conform your life to Scripture or conform Scripture to your life?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Unsubsantiated Letter from the Smithsonian Institute

In the interest of advancing science and humor simultaneously, I submit the following letter. I received it a couple of years ago and enjoyed it. Since I'm in a new home, I'm realizing that I'm never quite sure what I'm going to find in my backyard these days.

I am sure there is a spiritual lesson in the story somewhere. You're welcome to propose any such lesson in the comment section. Enjoy.

Paleoanthropology Division
Smithsonian Institute
207 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20078

Dear Sir:

Thank you for your latest submission to the Institute, labeled "211-D, layer seven, next to the clothesline post. Hominid skull." We have given this specimen a careful and detailed examination, and regret to inform you that we disagree with your theory that it represents "conclusive proof of the presence of Early Man in Charleston County two million years ago." Rather, it appears that what you have found is the head of a Barbie doll, of the variety one of our staff, who has small children, believes to be the "Malibu Barbie." It is evident that you have given a great deal of thought to the analysis of this specimen, and you may be quite certain that those of us who are familiar with your prior work in the field were loathe to come to contradiction with your findings. However, we do feel that there are a number of physical attributes of the specimen which might have tipped you off to it's modern origin:

1. The material is molded plastic. Ancient hominid remains are typically fossilized bone.

2. The cranial capacity of the specimen is approximately 9 cubic centimeters, well below the threshold of even the earliest identified proto-hominids.

3. The dentition pattern evident on the "skull" is more consistent with the common domesticated dog than it is with the "ravenous man-eating Pliocene clams" you speculate roamed the wetlands during that time.

This latter finding is certainly one of the most intriguing hypotheses you have submitted in your history with this institution, but the evidence seems to weigh rather heavily against it. Without going into too much detail, let us say that:

A. The specimen looks like the head of a Barbie doll that a dog has chewed on.
B. Clams don't have teeth.

It is with feelings tinged with melancholy that we must deny your request to have the specimen carbon dated. This is partially due to the heavy load our lab must bear in its normal operation, and partly due to carbon dating's notorious inaccuracy in fossils of recent geologic record. To the best of our knowledge, no Barbie dolls were produced prior to 1956 AD, and carbon dating is likely to produce wildly inaccurate results. Sadly, we must also deny your request that we approach the National Science Foundation's Phylogeny Department with the concept of assigning your specimen the scientific name "Australopithecus spiff-arino." Speaking personally, I, for one, fought tenaciously for the acceptance of your proposed taxonomy, but was ultimately voted down because the species name you selected was hyphenated, and didn't really sound like it might be Latin.

However, we gladly accept your generous donation of this fascinating specimen to the museum. While it is undoubtedly not a hominid fossil, it is, nonetheless, yet another riveting example of the great body of work you seem to accumulate here so effortlessly. You should know that our Director has reserved a special shelf in his own office for the display of the specimens you have previously submitted to the Institution, and the entire staff speculates daily on what you will happen upon next in your digs at the site you have discovered in your back yard. We eagerly anticipate your trip to our nation's capital that you proposed in your last letter, and several of us are pressing the Director to pay for it. We are particularly interested in hearing you expand on your theories surrounding the "trans-positating fillifitation of ferrous ions in a structural matrix" that makes the excellent juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex femur you recently discovered take on the deceptive appearance of a rusty 9-mm Sears Craftsman automotive crescent wrench.

Yours in Science,

Harvey Rowe
Curator, Antiquities

Pursuing Him


Monday, June 19, 2006

VBS 2006

University Baptist Church in Macomb, IL just finished our 2006 VBS. We had a great group of kids and volunteer ministers. We all had a great time. One gave their life to Christ, another is on the way, and a third is seeking baptism for a life already committed to Christ. Even one life changed makes everything worth it and when you consider the seeds that are planted, and the unseen fruit in the future, it's amazing we only do VBS once a year.

You realize, of course, I couldn't include a picture without including my kids, Gabriel & Moriah. Consider it a father's indulgence.

Thank you to everyone who helped pull this week off. Thanks to the parents who allowed us to minister to and play with their kids. I continue to pray that Christ will be exalted in the lives of your families.

Be Strong! Be Courageous! Follow Jesus! Joshua 1:9

Thursday, June 15, 2006

SBC & Issues of Alcohol

The Southern Baptist Convention held its annual meeting this week and some encouraging things happened. For one, the blogging world had tremendous influence over the election of the President of the convention. There have been some efforts to narrow the parameters of cooperation in missions efforts and those who oppose that came out in force in a good way. I may say more about it later as I learn more. Being in IL, it's hard to keep up to date on all that went on.

An interesting thing happened later on. A resolution was passed about alcohol. You can read the resolution here

What is so difficult is that the statements made about alcohol are largely true. However, what I need to keep reminding myself is that abstention from alcohol (a good idea for believers) is still a Matter of Conviction.

It is the Holy Spirit's job to make that a matter on someone's heart and we are not to make a certain conviction about a food, drink or certain day (see Colossians) a Matter of Mandate. Whenever we do, we are crossing a line from inward motivation to outward conformity without any real heart change.

Not only that, the new "rules" are effectively taking the job of the Holy Spirit's work in our lives.

As much as I don't like alcohol's effects in our society, a person's usefulness to the Kingdom of God is not lost when they have a drink. A person can have a drink and still avoid the sin of drunkenness. I choose to abstain for many reasons, yet I would hate to impose my reasons and convictions on someone else. That is the Holy Spirit's role.

For better breakdown of the issue, I would recommend reading Wade Burleson's blog on this issue--click on the link below.

Grace and Truth to You: Conversion to Christ Over a Glass of a Wine

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Better Is One Day--Korah's Rebellion & Psalm 84

Better Is One Day—Korah’s Rebellion & Psalm 84

According to an ancient Greek legend, a certain athlete ran well but placed second in the race. The winner was encompassed with praise, and eventually a statue was erected in his honor. Envy ate away at the man who had placed second. He resented the winner, and he could think of little else. Eventually he decided to destroy the statue of the winner.

Night after night, he went to the statue. Under cover of darkness, he chiseled away at the base to weaken the foundation. But one night as he chiseled in violent anger, he went too far. The heavy marble statue teetered on its base and crashed down on the disgruntled athlete. He died beneath the weight of the marble replica of the man he had grown to hate. His own envy had destroyed him.

Leslie Flynn—The envious man feels other’s fortunes are his misfortunes; their profit, his loss; their blessing, his bane; their health, his illness; their promotion, his demotion; their success, his failure.

Billy Graham—Envy can ruin reputations, split churches, and cause murders. Envy can shrink our circle of friends, ruin our business, and dwarf our souls… I have seen hundreds cursed by it.

Human nature hasn’t changed much since biblical times. We always seem to want what somebody else has got. We are rarely if ever satisfied with what we have. We want more, we want to be noticed, we want the prominence from having everyone look to us. We want to be our own boss and not be answerable to anyone.

That happened in the life of Moses in Numbers 16. Here we see an incident of rebellion against Moses and Aaron by a man who wanted more. He was even able to convince some 250 other leaders and “elite men” of the people to go along with him.

Numbers 16:1-3

1. Korah Wanted More
a. This was a Planned Event. They organized many prominent leaders to oppose Moses. They came “as a group”, so it wasn’t just a random, spontaneous, thrown together event.

b. Their charge was that Moses had "gone too far" in taking the role of spiritual leadership of the people

c. They claimed, Everybody is Holy, not just you, Moses—your prominence has clouded your mind to where you think you are better than all of us. We are just as Holy as you are—you’re no better than we are.

d. The LORD is with the People not just you. That means the LORD is with us as well. It was Your leadership that failed to take us to the Promised Land

e. How do we know that God put you in the position and not your own self-importance?

f. If the whole community is equally holy, then Moses and Aaron had no special access or privilege with the Lord nor special authority over them.

g. Korah wanted more, he wanted to replace Moses with someone else. Guess who he had in mind?

2. The Challenge-- Numbers 16:4-11
a. “Isn’t it Enough”—Moses is reminding Korah what God has done with him and what his duties are. In other words, God hadn’t left them out, hadn’t thought they were unusable. God had a specific ministry in mind for them.

b. God Separated them and Brought them Near to Himself. Is there anything greater in life than knowing this? God did this for a purpose, so they could
c. Work at the Lord’s Tabernacle
d. Stand before the Community and Minister to them

e. Korah’s family had a great and important calling. Duties—Korah was descended from Levi through Kohath. As a Kohathite he had high duties in the service of the Lord at the tabernacle (see 4:1-20),

NU 4:1 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron: 2 "Take a census of the Kohathite branch of the Levites by their clans and families. 3 Count all the men from thirty to fifty years of age who come to serve in the work in the Tent of Meeting.

NU 4:4 "This is the work of the Kohathites in the Tent of Meeting: the care of the most holy things.

NU 4:15 "After Aaron and his sons have finished covering the holy furnishings and all the holy articles, and when the camp is ready to move, the Kohathites are to come to do the carrying. But they must not touch the holy things or they will die. The Kohathites are to carry those things that are in the Tent of Meeting.

f. But Korah desired something higher. His passion was to assume the role of priest.

g. Even though the primary care of these holy things was given to the Kohathites, they were forbidden to touch them (v. 15)--or even to look on them (v. 20)--lest they die.

h. Their restrictions are much like the angels who surround the throne of God in Isaiah 6 who shielded their faces and feet from His presence (cf. Isa 6:1-3). This was a warning to Korah’s family that they were to shield themselves from becoming too familiar and comfortable with the holiest of things (v. 5); for most holy things symbolize the presence of the most holy God.

i. The warning was necessary--All the work of the Kohathites was to be strictly supervised by Aaron and his sons, and only the priests themselves were able to touch and look on the unveiled holy things. When these restrictions were not followed, like Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10, they fell down and died.

j. So Korah had the privilege of carrying the holiest things of God, they had the privilege of coming into the Tent of Meeting.
k. Something the vast majority of Israelites could not do and if they ever tried, they would have died.

l. God had called them to serve Him in a certain way. God had given them that honor, and yet, it wasn’t enough. They wanted more.

m. They saw what Moses and Aaron were able to do even more by communicating with God, by touching and looking at the Most Holy Things and because they were able to do things no one else was permitted to do, Korah and others envied them.

n. Sometimes all you have to do to make a child to something or want something is to tell them you can’t do it.

o. Korah began to feel slighted by God, denied, so they took out their jealousy and coveting on Moses and Aaron.

p. God had blessed them with a special ministry that no one else had and they were not satisfied with it. What special ministry has God given to you? Are you giving yourself fully to that service or just going through the motions? Do you realize the privilege of going before the throne of Grace and worshipping Him in ways that no one else can?

q. Is teaching a child about Jesus, or some other VBS service, too munane, or enough , even though it can impact eternity

r. On the flip side, how often do you compare yourself to others? Other’s ability to sing, play intstruments, teach, witness, pray, be organized or minister? Do you resent them? Do you resent yourself for not doing more? Do you blame God for, in your mind, not using you for bigger and better things? And yet, we are One Body with many necessary parts.

s. Korah had let envy erode his passion for serving God. It poisoned him, and it can poison you. This poison led him to Challenge Moses and God to pove why Moses should be in charge and why things were set up the way they were. It lead to a Showdown

3. The Showdown—v. 16-19,
a. Korah and 250 challenged so Moses called for a showdown. Essentially Moses was saying “If Korah and his followers think they should be able to serve as priests, and change the ministry God has given them, then lets find out how the LORD responds to their ministry.”

b. V.—28-33—Clearly the LORD had rejected their challenge to Moses and their dissatisfaction with the privilege they had to serve Him. That kind of rejection of God’s Blessing and God’s Will had some serious consequences. God made sure everyone understood what had happen.

c. They experienced “something totally new” that could not be explained with coincidence. Even their families experienced judgment with them.

d. Don’t ever think your sin doesn’t affect those around you. I suspect Korah’s heart had also poisoned the hearts of his family by his constant complaining, and bitterness to where they no longer thought of Moses as their leader.

e. But amazingly the story of Korah and his descendants doesn’t end there. Very likely, he had sons that had grown up and set up their own houesholds who didn't agree with what daddy was doing. We need to look at the “rest of the story” as Paul Harvey says.

4. The Blessing/Restoration—Psalm 84
a. Still God’s mercy was at work. It turns out that there are survivors of Korah's family who extend all the way to the time of David and beyond. Numbers 26:10-11 tells us that even though Korah and his family were swallowed by the earth, his line did not die out. King David would later call upon Korah’s descendants to serve in the temple as singers.

b. Many of them were responsible for the crafting of numerous Psalms. I want to focus on one of those Psalms today. Turn to Psalm 84.

c. Before we read, remember that Korah and his family were not permitted into the Holy Place or the Holy of Holies, they were only permitted as Levites to go into the outer court of the Tabernacle. And they were jealous of Moses and Aaron for their right to go into and serve before the Presence of God, but notice how their heart, that bad attitude has changed while we read this Psalm.

d. READ Psalm 84
e. V. 1-2—

f. God’s Dwelling Place is Beautiful—it is a thing their eyes enjoy looking upon as someone stops to watch the sunset

g. My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD--. They didn’t yearn or faint to be in the holy of holies, to be serving in some other capacity, they were yearning for the opportunity to serve in the place that God had given them. They were truly thankful that God has blessed them with the opportunity to minister in His courts. His courts were enough. They wanted all that God had given them and not what He had given to someone else.

h. Much like Jacob, as he was wrestling with God would not let go until God blessed him. Jacob was yearning for his own blessing, before he had deceived his brother for his birthright, he had deceived his father Isaac for Esau’s blessing, now he wanted the blessing that was his and no one else’s.

i. The sons of Korah’s attitude had radically changed. They now considered it, not just a blessing, but THEIR blessing to be in the courts of the LORD. And they wouldn’t trade it for anything, they wouldn’t want it any other way. Envy had been replaced with Appreciation & Joy.

j. Look down to V. 10
Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

k. The legacy of their Forebears was with them, they fully understood what it meant to try and go beyond God’s Desire & Design. But they realized the Privilege of serving God in the capacity He assigned.

l. 1 Corinthians 12:18—“But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.”

m. They would rather serve in the capacity God had given them; in the courts, the place they had previously rejected, than anywhere else. They finally realized that it is a privilege to be in the courts before His altar where the sacrifices were burned and consumed, where sin was atoned for, where fellowship offerings were freely given.

n. Even a “Menial” task, when used to Glorify God is a Tremendous Honor. In fact, they are vital. 1 Corinthians 12:21-23—“The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor.”

o. It was a greater honor to serve for one day in His courts, than 1000 elsewhere. They would rather have a menial or seemingly insignificant duty like a “doorkeeper” in God’s courts than be among the wicked, because those tents are ultimately swallowed up and those lives are a waste even though they are alive.

p. Nothing was more important, nothing was a greater privilege than serving their God and being in His presence.

q. They recognized the Blessing God had given them. They realized they had been Restored to God’s service. They learned that mistakes and sins of the past, cannot hold you back from serving God when forgiveness is given and received.

r. It was and is a privilege to serve and awesome God and be in His presence. Does that describe your heart today? You are in His presence daily, and in every moment. You are serving Him when you pray, when you sing, when you serve even the menial tasks. No service is unimportant or unnoticed.

s. Do you see the Blessings He has for you? Are you living in His blessing by fulfilling His role for your life?
t. Does your heart and flesh cry out for the Living God? Do you want to be in His presence, day in and day out? Do you consider it a joy and a privilege to serve in whatever manner He has gifted you? Do you ask and seek to see His beauty?

u. This week, we will be ministering to children. Do you consider these tasks menial or below your talents or abilities? Truthfully, you may not ever have a greater opportunity to impact eternity than in the lives of one of these kids—not only their lives, but their families now and future, or the ones they may lead to Christ.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

How do you like my wife?

Do you like my wife?

As a husband, my wife is one of the most important people in my life. She is a true blessing to me and a gift from God. Because of that, if you don’t like my wife, you’re going to have a hard time having a good relationship with me. In fact, I may know you and like you, but if you continually insult or knock on my wife, you’re not going to be around me much. I’m protective, I’m jealous, I’m willing to sacrifice for her and though I hope it never comes to it, I would give my life for her. That is what Scripture commands in Ephesians 5:25—“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”

But there in lies a clue into the nature of Jesus. I am called to be this kind of husband, because He is that kind of husband to His Bride. He loves His Bride with an infinitely greater degree of commitment, sacrifice and love than I can.

His Bride is the Church. There are many people who claim to know and love Christ yet have a disdain for His Bride. “I’m a Christian, I just don’t want to have anything to do with the church or organized religion.” I am by no means saying that the Church is perfect, I am saying that Jesus is protective of His Bride. If you talk bad about her, you’re talking bad about that which Christ laid down His life. You may have been burned, but there is something about the Fellowship with the Bride that adds and strengthens your Fellowship with the Bride-Groom—Christ. If you don’t want to have anything to do with the Bride, you should truly examine your commitment to the Groom who is preparing a place for you and I, who is waiting for the Father to say the time is right, who has His Herald ready to blow the Horn and say, “The Bride-Groom cometh for His Bride”. Then He will take His Bride to be with Him and the Marriage Feast will take place.

It’s no accident that one of the most common analogies between Christ and His church is the Husband and Wife relationship. It is sacred, it is holy and set apart.

Jesus is the one who asks the question, "How do you like my wife?" He asks, because He wants you and me to be a part of it.

Pursuing Him,


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Sunday was a special day in the life of University Baptist Church. We ordained a member into the ministry. The following were my comments about the call into the ministry and the real call that we have been given as believers.

Psalm 84

1. The Call Into the Ministry Requires a Great Desire for God.—vs. 1-2
a. You must See the Beauty of God—he and everything about Him is beautiful and wonderful, a treasure greater than anything. He is your greatest treasure but not one you want to hoard to yourself, but you are called to give away.
b. You Must Desire to Be Close to Him--
c. You must Worship God with all your heart
d. You must Desire Him above all else and allow nothing to compete for His place in your life.

2. The Call Into the Ministry Requires Relying on God’s Strength and Following Him Anywhere—vs. 5
a. Your Own Strength is Not enough—on your own, despite all your skills, and experience, you don’t have enough to get by for long even in your hometown, much less some of the places God can take you.
b. Your Heart Will Be Set on Pilgrimage—You have not arrived at your destination, you are not the be all end all of the ministry mind. You see your faith as a journey where the end is not in sight—you may be here, but at any time, God can move you and lead you on to another destination

3. The Call Into the Ministry Requires a Genuine Prayer Life—vs. 8
a. Prayer is linked to God being your strength. When you cry out to Him, He will supply the strength, the wisdom and the courage you need to fulfill your calling.

4. The Call Into the Ministry Requires that You Won’t Find Satisfaction in Life Doing Anything Else—vs. 10a. Satisfaction comes from knowing that you are serving where God wants to use you. As a minister for God, there is nothing else in the world you could be doing that would give you the same.
b. If He calls you to be a doorkeeper for His glory, then know that there is nothing greater you could do with your life.

5. The Call into the Ministry Requires Integrity—vs. 11-12
a. God is your light and your shield--
b. He gives grace and glory
c. Withholds nothing
d. But your integrity of your life is key. A consistent life of faith is vital for your service.
e. Phil, I believe all of these things are true of you. Your desire for God is genuine. You rely on God’s strength and will follow Him anywhere. You have a genuine prayer life. I believe you won’t be truly happy doing anything else but serving Him. As I believe this about you, and

6. I know this is what all of you have been called to as believers in Christ
a. Each of You have been called to Desire God above all else. You have been called to rely on His strength and be willing to follow Him anywhere. You have been called to have a genuine prayer life. You have been called to Serve Him in Whatever you are doing, like Colossians 3:17—“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” You have been called to a life of integrity—to be Holy for He is Holy.

7. This psalm is written about serving in the Temple, and as a Kingdom of Priests, which is what each of you are as believers—1 Peter 2:9-“you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Today's Date--6/6/06

There's a whole lot of attention given to this number and a great many have used 666 to pick out certain men in history as the Antichrist. A few years ago, someone sent me a joke that is a good reminder that if you want to play with numbers or the like, you can make it say whatever you want. Our infatuation with end times, mark of the beast, and the Antichrist, rather than on Christ who brings victory and the call to be faithful until that day is what really needs to be changed. Again, this is humerous, so if any of your kids are fans of Barney, you may want to have them quit reading!

Given: Barney is a Cute Purple Dinosaur

Prove: Barney is the Antichrist in 6 easy steps

2) change all the U's to V's


3) Remove all the Roman Numerals


4) Convert to Arabic Numerals


5) Add

500 + 100 + 50 + 5 + 5 + 5 + 1 = 666

6) Therefore, Barney = the Antichrist

What were we ever thinking? Just know, this is still a day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Pursuing Him,


Friday, June 02, 2006

Resolution Revisited

Resolution Revisited


A couple of weeks ago I wrote about an annoying habit of mine.  How I want things to resolve in songs, in life, with God.  As a case in point is a bluesy song called “The Waiting Room” by Six Pence None the Richer (lyrics below).  This group writes some very challenging poetry set to music.  Most times, you have to sit down with the words, then listen to how it is sung to understand the meaning.  On this particular album, you have to pay attention to songs at the end of the whole album to make sense of the earlier ones. 


Review aside, this song bugged me for a long time, simply because it didn’t resolve right.  Most songs, most music ends on a nice chord that lets you know that the song is over.  However, this one song does not, it ends on what I would call a hanging chord—where you are left thinking “That’s it”.  There is a long and uncomfortable pause before it finally does give you a resolving chord.  Like I said, this really bugged me until I figured out what the song was about. 


The song is essentially about the Battles and Pain that fill this world and the Hope of the Second Coming of Christ.  Our experience of this world is not what is promised but how long are we going to have to fight until that moment comes?  How much longer are we going to have to contend with our enemy the devil, the Devourer?  “When will it happen, Baby?  It could be near, but then maybe it could be far.”


That is the reality we live with, “the waiting room of the world”.  We look forward, we anticipate the Resolution that the coming of Christ will bring, but we inwardly groan and struggle while we wait for that moment to come to fruition. 


Then it dawned on me that they were doing musically, exactly what the message of the song was about.  The hanging chord, the uncomfortable silence, the final resolution.  The thing that frustrated me about the song, is what frustrates me about the world we live in.  It’s not right the way it is—and we made it so.  God has promised to heal it all, to make “a new heaven & new earth” and heal the sin within us that battle with our spirit and body—everything that makes this world such a fight and struggle. 


We must trust Him until that Day of Resolution comes and realize we are not showing a lack of faith when we ask—“how long?”, rather, we are showing that we really do believe His Promise to do it, we just want to be let in on the secret of when.  But if “the Son” does not even know the Day or Hour, then no one this side of eternity is going to be let in on it either, and so we wait—with anticipation, with struggle, with hope and faith for Your Resolution.  I know it will come… He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”  Amen. Come, Lord Jesus



“The Waiting Room”—Six Pence None the Richer

Fight 'til your fists bleed, baby.
Beat the fate-walls enclosing you, maybe
God will unlock the cage of learning for you.
Fight 'til your fists bleed, baby.
Kick and scream at the wicked things, maybe
God will unlock the door you need to walk through.
When will it happen, baby?
It could be near, but then maybe it could be far.

Here we are in the waiting room of the world.
We will wait until You call our name out loud,
In the waiting room of the world.
We will wait until You call our name out loud.

And the battle will never end well.
You can't marry our heaven to your hell.

We, Prolific, and you, the Devourer, need to see
Some things are sacred, baby.
Why have you gone and trampled them lately?
I guess it's just all a part of your way.
You should be ashamed.
I'm getting tired of fighting.
I guess I should ask, "Do I go quietly down?
Do I kick, do I scream when I'm bound?
Are you coming to open the door? Are you near?
Are you near? Is it far?"

Here we are in the waiting room of the world.
We will wait until You call our name out loud,
In the waiting room of the world.
We will wait until You call our name out loud.


Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life
Pastor Kelly Reed
1 Peter 3:15