Monday, July 30, 2007

"Special" Music for today

Here's a random thought before I go back to Matthew 5. Take a good look at this video:

You know, I'd laugh if this didn't represent the prevailing view of God these days. I especially appreciate the lyrics (especially at 1:36): "And if you want Me to I'll make you whole - I'll only do it though if you say so."

Hmmm. The Bible says something very different, doesn't it?
"In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will..." (Ephesians 1:11)

Really? All things? Yes, all things. Newsflash - we're not the ones in control! God is.

It is very sad to me that so many today in the church are offended by the idea of a Loving, Holy, All-Powerful God. While in total, our God is truly incomprehensible, He has made many of His divine attributes known. One of these attributes is His sovereignty over all things. Rather than an insult to His character (as this video implies), it is our great comfort and strength. Anyone who knows himself must recognize his own limitations... how much better to trust in an all-powerful, loving God - whom we are invited to call "our Father."

How wonderful it is to trust in the God of the Bible, who:
"...being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. " (Ephesians 2:1-9)
Just to be clear, though, I'm not just referring God's sovereignty in salvation - I'm talking about God's sovereignty over LIFE - all of it. Here's a profound thought: God is God, and we are not.

This video is funny to me because of the musical style (and at one time, I was one of those guys - as a high school/college guy from the '70s, I'm "generationally impaired"). But more seriously, it is a sad reflection of what many believe (without regard to musical style), and because it is a window into a form of christianity that - at its core - seeks to limit God and elevate man.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Ignored Commandments of Jesus...

"...a voice from the cloud said, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; Listen to Him.'" (Matthew 17:5)

It happened during a time of increasing clarity - and conflict - in Jesus' earthly ministry. Sides were being taken, and things once hinted at were suddenly being clarified. The Biblical narrative in Matthew 14-17 seems to swing from one side to the other, highlighting the increasing divisiveness of the ministry of Jesus in a sinful, fallen world. Look at the point-counterpoint:

  • John the Baptist beheaded, and Jesus feeds the five thousand, walks on water and heals the sick (Matthew 14).
  • The Pharisees question Jesus' disciples' obedience to God's commandments, and Jesus responds by demonstrating the Pharisees' hypocrisy, healing a Canaanite woman and many others, and miraculously feeding another crowd (Matthew 15).
  • The Pharisees demand "a sign from heaven" in order to believe (as if what has just happened isn't enough), and Peter confesses Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God... and Jesus then tells them that the cost of following after Him is their very lives. (Matthew 16).

The lines are being drawn, the view of Jesus - for those who love Him as well as those who hate Him - is becoming clearer. Jesus' mission is clearer, too. He tells Peter that He is going to be killed and will rise from the dead on the third day (Matthew 16:21).

But Peter then does the unthinkable, the unimaginable. He uses a phrase that men have used with God since the fall - which continues even today. It is the cry of our sin-stained hearts... listen to what Peter said: "Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him saying, 'Far be it from you, Lord!" (Matthew 16:22) Basically, what Peter was saying was this: "Jesus, what You've said has got to be wrong... You've got to be wrong. And I'm going to set you straight. In this area, I know better than You, and I'm not going along with Your program." In other words - "NO, LORD."

No wonder in the next chapter, Matthew records the startling transfiguration of Jesus, along with Moses and Elijah. His radiance is revealed, his authority over the law and prophets is visually established and, if that's not enough, an audible announcement of Jesus' position is made. The point couldn't have been lost on Peter, even after the six days since his "rebuke" of Jesus. Imagine actually hearing that voice! And the message - announcing Jesus' position from the mouth of God, coupled with the command "Listen to Him!" goes right to the heart of Peter's problem... and ours as well.

Now I'm not that smart, but Peter's reaction seems like a bad plan to me, particularly with the Most Holy Sovereign God of the Universe. I would think Peter would have understood that if Jesus was who He said He was - actually, who Peter said that He was - the idea of rebuking Him might not seem all that appropriate! But sin is blinding, and isn't this the condition of our hearts as well? Even when we acknowledge the position and authority of Jesus, we sometimes still think that we have the right - even the responsibility - to contradict Him, and to point out where (we think) He's wrong? We might not say it out loud, but do we, by action, ever say "No, Lord"? No to His plan and stated priorities for us... and even His commandments?

It's happened with me. I'll read the plain teaching of Jesus - particularly practical things that I absolutely know are true, and find a way to wiggle out of obedience - to say "No, Lord." And I know that I'm not alone. Sometimes, to say "No, Lord" is to go along with our churches' established methods of operations!

It isn't enough to have the facts right about Jesus. We need to "hear Him" - really hear Him. Peter heard the words of Jesus in Matthew 16:21, but his response indicated that he didn't really understand. A wise man I once studied under pointed out to me that, when dealing with a sovereign, you really can't say "No." To the degree that they are superior to you, in understanding and responsibility, it isn't our place to contradict - rather, its our place to obey. When you think about it, the phrase "No, Lord" is almost a contradiction, isn't it?

Is it possible that we are like Peter? Do we ever want to be on the Lord's team, but thinking that we know better than Him - and we say no to Jesus' plan and priority for us? The call of Heaven is recorded for us as well... let's not pass by the words of Jesus without really hearing Him. So, is this still a problem today? It really is. But you and I can do something about it - by going beyond listening, and knowing... to hearing Jesus. And we'll know that we've heard Him, by the way, when we obey Him. Isn't this what Jesus meant when He said:

"Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do what I tell you?" (Luke 6:46)

OK, I'll give you a couple of examples of what I'm talking about... One in particular from Matthew 5 in my next post.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

This HAS to be a joke, right? Please...

I'm sure this is a fake web-thing, designed to tweak Christians with any sense of propriety at all... Please, someone tell me this is a joke (click start):

Here's the website (and I hate to give it anything that even looks like a plug). Is it possible that people are (1) so hungry for a word from the Lord and (2) so ignorant about the truth that something as obviously silly - and as blasphemous - as this appears even remotely appealing? Here's part of their pitch:

"A history changing event is about to occur. Soon over 2.1 billion Christians worldwide will be able to have private, verbal conversations with virtual Jesus from any phone, anytime, anywhere on a daily basis. TalkToJesus uses advanced speech and AI technology to help millions connect with God personally and hear the Bible read interactively like never before. TalkToJesus will be a personal tool to help those in need...TTJ will have a soothing, caring and inspiring voice. He will learn your name and address you personally. He will read from the Bible, listen to sins and console. Jesus will pray with you interactively, and you will be able to ask Jesus numerous theological questions. TalkToJesus will educate, guide, console, forgive and more. Nothing like this has ever been done before. While millions have heard the word of God and embrace Jesus, TTJ is an extension to help people further in their lives."

Words (almost) fail me. Even if this is a joke, its not funny.

For me at least, I'll just continue to talk to Jesus the old-fashioned way - through reading God's Word, and through the amazing REAL (not virtual) access provided to us into the very presence of God through prayer on the basis of the merit of the shed blood of our Lord Jesus:

Therefore, brothers,since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that He opened for us through the curtain, that is, through His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful Hebrews 10:19-23 (emphasis added)

We don't need a "virtual jesus"... we already have access to the REAL JESUS.

He DOES speak to us, through His revealed Word, the Bible (Hebrews 4:12). He DOES speak to us - through the ministry of His Holy Spirit (John 17, especially vs. 13-14).

*He speaks to the world as well (John 17:8-11).

*He gives us forgiveness and cleansing (1 John 1:9).

*He leads His own into obedience (John 10:27).

*He makes His will and purpose known to us. He provides wisdom and direction to us when we ask believing (James 1:5-6).

*He provides real comfort and peace (Philippians 4:6-7).

*And strength (Ephesians 3:14-19).

*And words to speak at the time we need them (Luke 12:12).

All of this and much more promised to us in the Bible, and without failure to deliver. We DO hear from Jesus... if we listen in faith. And there is no "tech support" or registration required - just this word of instruction:

"You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:13

I love the legal fine print on the bottom of the site: "Disclaimer: TalkToJesus is intended for entertainment purposes only. It is not the actual Jesus." No kidding! Well, there seems's to be no limit to what men will mock for "entertainment purposes," and no end to man's desire to play to spiritual hunger and ignorance in man. And while there is, in many quarters these days, a "famine of God's Word" (Amos 8:11), thank God that He is a God who listens to, and speaks with His people. May we be a people who listen to, and speak with Him as well.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Teenage Affluenza

When I first saw this video, I thought it was filmed right here in Mayberry! When you think about it, it is a terrible tragedy that many of the children in our community - yes, even in our little sub-culture - must endure the ravages of this horrific illness.

Please take a look, and think about what you can do to help these poor children.

Monday, July 09, 2007

For What It's Worth...

Just in case you are interested, I've put into a snappy pdf form my series from earlier this year on the state of our little evangelical sub-culture. You'll find it in the "links" section on the side bar, and feel free to read and distribute - or argue - as you think appropriate.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

A Quick Thought...

Here's a helpful reminder for your weekend...

“The devil has seldom done a cleverer thing than hinting to the church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the people, with a view to winning them…providing amusement for the people is nowhere spoken of in the Scriptures as a function of the church…the need is for Biblical doctrine, so understood and felt that it sets men aflame.

That's getting harder and harder to find these days in the entertainment-soaked culture (and sub-culture) in which we live, isn't it?