Thursday, June 20, 2013

Wherever You Go, There You Are

There's got to be some kind of way out of here.... -Bob Dylan

I think the thought expressed by the words, "gotta get away (or the equivalent)," may be the most common in all of popular music.

And therefore in our lives.

You've felt it, the notion that all you need to make things better is a change of scenery. 

I guess that's true, sometimes.

But wouldn't you agree that most of the time, our physical surroundings have little or nothing to do with the issue?

Is it possible to escape the life of the mind, our thought life?

From our minds come temptations (James 1:14) and doubts (Matthew 14:30-31).

The thought life is the place where the evil one attacks us (Ephesians 6:16).

Maybe it would help if we thought of the mind as a stage where the scenery is constantly being changed.

God is the playwright of my life.

Sometimes, Satan comes in like an insane set director and tries to scramble the scenery so that nothing makes sense. Should I throw up my hands and run away?

So my question is this: when you wish for a change  in your physical location, mightn't you be better served in crying out (as Peter did), "Lord save me?"

Perhaps, instead of leaning on my own understanding (of how things appear to be), I should consult the script.

Don't you see no matter what you do, you'll never run away from you. -Paul Revere and the Raiders

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Good Day

I am thankful (most days) that God has given me an inability to sit in the house all day. No matter how cold. No matter how hot. Which we are beginning to experience this past week or so.

So I walk. And this morning when I stepped outside, I was surprised by a refreshing northerly breeze. Nice. Thank you, Lord.

Walking lends itself to meditation. And prayer. About once a week or so, I pray through the Lord's Prayer, phrase by phrase. We pray it every Sunday morning and it would be easy for me to fall into a rote recitation.

One of the best studies we have done here at GPC has involved an exhaustive look at the Model Prayer and its components.

Here's something I noticed for the first time today. You might have already gained a fresh understanding of the phrase, "Our Father,"

It was like a flash of light for me to realize this: when you are little, your earthly dad is indeed the most godlike creature you are aware of. He's huge, right? Compared to say a five year old. And that big booming voice can be scary.

But here's the thing. In the eyes of a five year old, that dad has absolute power and control over that little life. Wow.

This is how we're supposed to view God, but speaking for myself, hardly ever do. It's true, of course, that this is precisely our position before a God who made and controls everything.

It's just that there isn't that fear of the Lord that the Bible speaks of as being the beginning of wisdom. Not all the time. Not in my heart at any rate.

Thank you, Jesus, for teaching us how we ought to pray.

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Tragic Accident

Occurred Sunday morning at the intersection of Faith and Culture.

Darth Vader performed during the worship service of the local church.

Well, alright, he gave his testimony. Yes, I know he's imaginary,
but the board of deacons felt it would be okay if the youth put on a skit. Right after the offering but before the sermon. You know, in place of the special music.

To demonstrate, you see, how Jesus can save even the awfulest sinner. You might disagree, then, that this was an accident.

Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. -Matthew 22:29.

The story of the miraculous conversion of that real flesh-and-blood baddie, Saul, would have served as well, don't you think.

It was a tragic accident, as stated. Brought about by carelessness as accidents are. No dishonor or disrespect intended to God or His Glory (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Faith and Culture have been a dangerous intersection for years now. By way of confession, let me state that it makes me shudder to remember how I have taken many a wrong turn there and ended up in the ditch of self-glorification.

But I tend to do things in a spectacular fashion (especially my failures). It is mostly a subtle thing to fall short of God's Glory.

We in the Church have neglected to have care that our view of God be a Biblical one (Hebrews 12:28-29). Am I casting stones here? How can I when we all have fallen short of God's glory?

I am merely stating that the Psalmist was absolutely right:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever! -Psalm 111:10

Isn't that what you think?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Burned Over?

There is an area in upstate New York called the "burned over district." During the Second Great Awakening in the early 1800's Charles Finney and his disciples preached many revival services there. Many "decisions" were made to follow Jesus.

Finney did not think the Holy Spirit was necessary for revival. The proper use of certain methods, he thought, would achieve the same results.

Altar calls (do you know why altars have no place in a Christian worship service?), the "anxious bench" for those on the verge of a decision, extended invitation hymns after the sermon.

As Finney predicted, there were results. The thing is without the Holy Spirit to call them and keep them, the results ended up being a mess. Churches were split. Ministers chased from pulpits. A "cold love" predominated among those who continued to attend services. Finney himself stated that many of those who had "made decisions" undoubtedly had not been saved. Really?

To this day the burned-over district has not seen a major movement of the Holy Spirit in bringing many to salvation.

Did you know that the Second Great Awakening  began not far from here in Gasper River, KY? What began as a "communion season" called by Pastor James McGready became a massive camp meeting, the first of many.

You really should read some of the accounts of these meetings and some of the carryings-on of the attendees. Wow. Have a look:

The point of all this rambling is to say that someone recently suggested to me that NW TN is itself a "burned over" district, as a result of this decades-long "revival."

I recently lent Michael Horton's "Putting the Amazing Back Into Grace," to a friend. When I later asked what he thought of it, he admitted he had not read it but only glanced over the chapter headings. He said, "That book is about 'election,' isn't it?"

I was too taken aback to point out that the whole Bible is about election: God's sovereign choosing of a people for Himself.

I know I shouldn't be surprised the Gospel is offensive. It just blows me away, the folks who are offended by it.

The people who will stand there flatfooted and call God unfair because He has chosen a people for himself (John 15:16). 

 I have memorized Job 38:4 to help curb my tendencies to second-guess the Judge of all the earth.

But this area? Me, I prefer to think it's not REALLY burned over. I believe the fire just needs stirring up a bit,

I can do that (by the sovereign grace of God).

God is What?

Praise Him, Praise Him, all ye little children
God is Love, God is Love- a hymn from my childhood

...but after this, the judgment -Hebrews 9:27b

Of course, God is love. It says so in the Bible (1 John 4:8, 16)

In fact, the Bible tells us all sorts of things God is. For instance, there is something called the aseity of God. Means He's self-existent (Acts 17: 24-25).

How about holy? Next to God's love, this may the most familiar of His characteristics. Only maybe not a trait we enjoy thinking about as much as God's love.

The problem is: God is holy and we're not. Which leads to thoughts of a thing in the Bible called "judgment." Which is spoken of very often in both Testaments. Jesus spoke of judgment (or things to do with it) more often than He spoke of love (you can count 'em).

Not a popular notion, I know. The distressing thing is the number of people who profess Christ but reject what He says about God's judgment (Matthew 12:36, a representative example).

Were we not called to be watchmen (Ezekiel 33:6)?

For by fire will the LORD enter into judgment, and by His sword, with all flesh; and those slain by the LORD shall be many.
- Isaiah 66:16

If this were the only verse in the Bible which spoke of the wrath and judgment to come (and it is not), still would I pray most earnestly for lost loved ones.

And for the Church which refuses to warn them.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Delivered at my Mom's funeral in January 2009.

Monday night we gathered around Mom’s bed, praying for mercy and singing to her. Near the end, a verse of scripture came to my mind: "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." (Psalm 116:15) What a strange thing this might seem, but to see the outpouring of love for Miz Opal from family, church family and the beautiful staff at Crestpark is to be reminded of the love of God. As much as we love Mom and clung to her, how much more does our Heavenly Father, the Source of all love and goodness, love her and long to have this child of his with him?

God is merciful and we prayed to Him for mercy because it hurt to see her cling so tenaciously to life. It became an object of wonderment to us all: how can this be, how can this tiny, frail little woman go toe to toe with death and hold him at bay? The thought occurs, "Could our merciful God have been granting this faithful servant‘s one last desire : to linger with her family a while longer, to bask in our love, to respond to it and try to make us understand in some small way: the movement of her eyes or a teardrop perhaps, to let US know that she loved us and maybe to delay for a bit the heartache of her leaving?

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. One day, He will appear with a shout and the sound of the trumpet and all his saints will be caught up to meet him in the air. But until then, one by one He’ll call us home to be with Him. And until then He will pour out His wonderful love on us and through us to one another and through us it may be, may it be, that that love will draw some unsaved soul to him.

In Luke 10:2, Jesus reminds us that the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.

Miz Opal labored in the fields of harvest all her life. The first person she led to the LORD? Our Dad. She taught him to read by reading the Bible and talking about the things they read there. You see, my mom was a teacher. Forty years of service here at Lexa Baptist alone testify to that. My earliest church memory consists of my pestering her to get into her 8-12 year olds class when I was only seven.

The Bible says "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it." Mom believed this and applied this rule not only to her own children but several generations of this community’s children. They were cared for under her roof, fed at her table, and ran and played in her back yard.

God’s word contains many promises but my favorite is the one contained in Isaiah 55:12 and I was reminded of it as I witnessed joy in the midst of sorrow and celebration in the midst of mourning this past Monday evening "For you shall go out with joy and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands."

What about us though? We’ve cried, we’ve rejoiced, we’ve reminisced, we’ve comforted each other and we‘ve come here to pay tribute to Miz Opal.

What now? Jesus said "Lift up your eyes, the fields are white with the harvest." One of the harvesters has finished her work. What about those of us left standing? A song that I love has these words:

"And the ones left standing have to cry all the tears

and replay all the memories, good and bad, through the years.

And we shoulder the weight of the work left to be done.

And the ones left standing...

Carry on."