Archive for September, 2013

Quotes (23)

Posted in Words on September 27, 2013 by nmpreach

Because I missed it yesterday, here’s this week’s installment of quotes I like.

 

When Jesus ascended it was “Why do you stand looking at the sky?” When a believer dies its “Why do stand looking at the ground?”  – Byron Yawn

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A Neighbor

Posted in Love on September 26, 2013 by nmpreach

The text is from the Gospel of Luke.  It’s part of the travel narrative (Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem) and speaks specifically to those unlike us.

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law?  How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”  And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”  But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”  10:25-29 ESV

If you’re not aware, the account happens in a place called Samaria.  Samaritans and Jews hated each other, and had for years.  With that knowledge, it’s interesting that Jesus would have the conversation about neighbors.  It’s not coincidence!

We want our neighbors to be like us, to act like us, dress like us, talk like us – be us!  And when they’re not like us, we wonder about our neighbors, not to mention they wonder about us as well.

But he, desiring to justify himself…

How often do I want to choose my neighbor?  How often do I want to care for those like me?  How often do I become frustrated with those less like me?  The answer to all three questions is much too often.  Maybe we shouldn’t worry about perception.  We should do the right thing.  One of my favorite authors (Eugene Peterson) writes, “We feel the need for justification only when we sense that we are not quite in the right.”

Jesus answers the question with a  story, a parable.  A man was robbed and left for dead (not uncommon in the land).  What’s interesting is a priest and a Levite pass him without offering aid.  Maybe they don’t have time.  Perhaps there’s a kid playing in a football game.  Maybe it’s a Bible study.  Nevertheless, they don’t stop.  But a Samaritan, a person hated, a “half-breed”, had compassion on him.  The Samaritan treated his wounds, provided shelter, and even offered to take care of the bill at the inn.  Jesus said the one who was kind (the Samaritan) is the true neighbor.

Notice Jesus didn’t become confrontational or chastise the man for the question.  Rather he answers in a way that causes the man to think and answer his own question.  Isn’t that the way we learn the best?  Conviction is long-lived when I look in the mirror and see truth for what it is.  But when someone else approaches me, often times I become defensive.  How wise Jesus was!  We don’t often want our questions to be answered by another question.  But maybe that’s the thing we need.  And it seems to me that Jesus did that well.  Notice Jesus didn’t define neighbor.  He provided a story which the man was allowed to define neighbor himself.

Here’s the deal: Love God.  Love others.  We attempt to love God, but are quick to judge others.  In other words, we don’t love.  For the priest or the Levite in the parable, perhaps they thought the man laying on the side of the road surely brought it on himself.  If he would only have planned better, traveled at a different time of day, yada yada yada.  But they didn’t love.  And to love God, we must love others – even those we don’t want to be our neighbors.  After all, I don’t choose my neighbors.  They’re chosen for me.  And for you as well.

I wonder if the lawyer went away and loved.  Do you?  Will I?

Prayer Works…Or Does It?

Posted in Prayer on September 24, 2013 by nmpreach

You and I’ve seen (or possibly used) the phrase “Prayer works.”  Often times, the person speaking/writing has prayed about something and whatever their need or desire has come to fruition.  Aunt Sally’s cancer is in remission.  The kid has made a smooth transition and made friends.  You’ve passed your college exam.  After all, prayer works!  It’s easy to say God is good.

But what if the cancer doesn’t go into remission?  What if the kid struggles with socializing and has no friends?  What if you bombed the exam?  What if the person you’ve prayed about for so long dies?  Are we quick to say “Prayer works?”  Does the phrase “God is good!” roll off our tongues?

My answer is this:  When we find ourselves in a religious setting e.g. church, small group, Bible study, around Christian friends, we say things we don’t really mean.  We say things that we think those around us expect to hear.  But often we don’t really believe it.  So we say “God is good!” or “Prayer works!” while a small voice from within tells us that we didn’t get what we wanted.  So it doesn’t really “work.”  This is the time our faith is really tested.

Here’s the thing:  What is prayer?  Because how we answer the question means everything.  To say “Prayer works” means we see God in a certain way.  We tell Him what we need and He responds with the way we want.  This is the Santa Clause mentality.  But is that really prayer?  I want you to consider this definition of prayer.  Prayer is removing the focus off of me and acknowledging God.  In other words, when I see God for who He is, the last thing I think of is bringing a “laundry list” of desires to Him.  When I know that He is developing me into the person He wants me to be (Romans 8:28; James 1), I’m assured that although my prayers may not be answered the way that I want I know He knows what’s best.

There’s a teaching within the Church that holds God controls everything.  The theological idea is called determinism.  So God caused Aunt Sally’s cancer.  He doesn’t allow the kid to socialize and gain friends.  He “needs” that loved one in heaven so he causes that person to die.  Have you heard that?  Can I offer a one-word summary of this idea?  BULLCRAP!  It frustrates me to no idea when I hear well-meaning believers to use words/phrases that fly in the face of the God of the Bible.  It’s just not well thought out.  God is the giver of life.  He doesn’t need anything!

There are things that hold an enormous mystery.  In other words, we pray by faith.  And we realize that there are times when God doesn’t answer the way we want (or is silent altogether).  And we continue to pray – acknowledging God and His knowledge.  When we see prayer as being acknowledgement of God (and not about us) it changes the entire scenario.

In summary: prayer does work.  But it works being in that it eliminates me as being the center of the world and places the focus where it should be (God).  Obviously, this takes a tremendous amount of faith.  So that when I pray and don’t get the answer I desire, I know God is more powerful than anything in creation.  Therefore, I know God is working out all things.  It’s that God focused mentality that flies in the face of the Santa Clause mentality of which we’re aware (and often times proponents).

Push back?  Tell me about your idea of prayer.

Authority (8)

Posted in Authority, Sin, Watchman Nee on September 20, 2013 by nmpreach

In an (all be it late) attempt to forego beating a dead horse, this is the last post for awhile on authority.  Watchman Nee always makes me think.  And seeing sin as an authority issue is helpful for me.  I hope it has been for you as well.

If need be, take a look over the previous seven posts on authority.  Nee’s idea of misplaced authority being equaled to sin/rebellion/idolatry makes sense to me.  More importantly, it’s Biblical.  The issue is do we destroy the flesh or what Paul calls the old man and let the new man live?  Are we intentional about putting to death those things that cause us pain and suffering?  Or do we just hope they’ll be silent?

My experience has been they won’t go away on their own.  We mustn’t kid ourselves.  The battle is about authority.  And without meaning to sound cliché, it’s about life and death.  May we choose life!

Quotes (22)

Posted in Words on September 19, 2013 by nmpreach

Jesus didn’t look like a saint. Jesus didn’t look holy. He hung out with prostitutes and drank too much wine. He was a convicted criminal. He was given the death penalty. And he died under God’s curse.

Jesus looked like a sinner.

– Richard Beck (Unclean)

Quotes (21)

Posted in Words on September 12, 2013 by nmpreach

If God is only willing to “meet us halfway,” I’m in trouble…I’m quite certain I’m not capable of making it that far! – Jonathan Martin

Authority (7)

Posted in Authority, Sin, Watchman Nee on September 11, 2013 by nmpreach

The cycle of disobedience continued.  Whether it was Noah (after the flood) or the Israelites taken into captivity in Egypt, rebellion against God’s authority was a common theme.  Once delivered from bondage, an entire generation of Israelites died in the wilderness.  A new generation arose and continued the disobedience they had learned.  In fact, they were pretty good at it.  Yet God had promised a land where they would prosper and be set apart for God.

Once Moses had died, Joshua was the leader of God’s people.  His task was to lead them into the Promised Land.

But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things.  And the anger of the LORD burned against the people of Israel.

Joshua 7:1 (ESV)

The instructions given by God were clear.  Joshua didn’t misunderstand.  And he passed on God’s directions to the Israelites.  Yet when it came to disposing the Canaanites (enemies within the land), God told Joshua don’t go into battle until the idolatry from within the ranks is removed.

A man named Achan had decided that he could do what he wanted and no one would know.  When going into Jericho and destroying the people, Achan chose to hold back some of the idols for himself.  He hid the items in his tent and went about his business.  Little did he know that his disobedience/rebellion/SIN would affect the entire community.

Upon God’s direction, Joshua brought the people before God clan by clan, family by family, and eventually by individual.  Achan was found out!  And Achan had no option but to confess to his idolatry.

And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver and the cloak and the bar of gold, and his sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep and his tent and all that he had.  And they brought them up to the Valley of Achor.  And Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble upon us?  The LORD brings trouble on you today.”  And all Israel stoned him with stones.  They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones.  And they raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day.  Then the LORD turned from his burning anger.

Joshua 7:25-26 (ESV emphasis mine) 

One man’s disobedience affected his entire family.  Don’t be fooled!  Your sin affects those around you.  My sin affects my wife, my children, etc.  Choices made today will come to be realized tomorrow.  And God knows all things.

Remember, it’s not only about disobedience and rebellion.  Those things simply point to misplaced authority.  It all belongs to God!