Adieu 2015

2015

The calendar reads January 1. The first day of a new year. 365 possibilities – of the uncharted, the unknown, await ahead. The cynic in me says what has been will always be, the endless repeat of yesterday, the merry go round of the past.

It is true, our days follow the same routine of sunset & sunrise and the necessary work of my life. But within the familiar framework of creation’s routine and the progression of ordinary time is where the moment of surprise awaits, of the unexpected breaking in of the divine plan, when an eternal perspective is glimpsed.

The chronic worrier in me says the next 365 days include unexpected twists and turns, enough “what ifs” to feed a whole army of anxieties. However, I look back at the 365 days of faithfulness of my heavenly Father and know that he will not change his ways, his nature or his promises that have been my help and support. I know he is sufficient for the 365 days to come.  And his ways are never boring.

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As Time Goes by…

Infinity time. Digital generated

“How completely satisfying to turn from our limitations to a God who has none. Eternal years lie in His heart. For Him time does not pass, it remains; and those who are in Christ share with Him all the riches of limitless time and endless years. God never hurries. There are no deadlines against which He must work. Only to know this is to quiet our spirits and relax our nerves. For those out of Christ, time is a devouring beast; before the sons of the new creation time crouches and purrs and licks their hands. The foe of the old human race becomes the friend of the new, and the stars in their courses fight for the man God delights to honor. This we may learn from the divine infinitude.”
― A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy

Exsurge Domine!

Train-Wreck

So eventually it has come to this. Over the last 30 years I have watched the our cultural meltdown concerning human sexuality metastasize from Hugh Hefner and girly mags in brown paper wrappers to “don’t ask, don’t tell” to a rainbow illumined White House, from denominational task force arguments about Bible texts to the Federal redefinition of marriage by judicial decree. Many times I was told by church leaders and other pastors not to cause waves, counseled that it was not a pertinent issue but a dead end distraction, to ignore things and “do mission” instead. I rarely listened to that counsel and did my best to be faithful to the truth but did finally grow weary at congregations that did not want to wrestle with tough moral issues, didn’t want to rock the boat, or instead wanted to fight and fume over pipe organs and chorus music yet still expected God to increase their coffers and people fill their pews. It was the counsel of avoidance – if we just ignore this or pretend it doesn’t matter it will go away. It was the counsel of cowardice – and how has that strategy worked?  The churches and denominations, such as the Episcopal Church in which I was raised, that have capitulated to the culture tsunami of sexual confusion have shrunken and declined. Those more evangelical who have soft-pedaled or censored the truth of God’s wrath against immorality, sexual or otherwise & the requirements of holiness in the name of relevance and market share will now see how lasting the shaky one way bridge of cultural engagement they were trying to build will last.

But now the gloves are off and the make-nice façade of “dialogue” has been exposed as a stalling tactic for the end run it concealed. Pastors, churches, leaders and believers will have to make known where they stand since neutrality is no longer possible. The previous implicit social contract between the culture, the state and “churchianity” of “God & Country” that dates back to colonial days has been dangling by a thread for decades with the hope that “our guys” in office would get us back to the way it was. Forget it. Believers have known for a long time that they can no longer assume or hope that the culture or the state will support their values or beliefs. This will be good for the church. This will be good for God’s people. Now the Gospel, can be demonstrated and revealed not as 10 steps to self-improvement or life balance enhancement within the expectations of upper middle class prosperity but God’s liberating power to transform people created in God’s image from sin’s destructive and damning power. It is also an opportunity for God’s people to shine in our culture’s Stygian morass and to rebuild the shattered lives that will result from the inevitable pile-up that’s coming.

And it is coming. Beyond the dismay so many believers feel is the purpose of God in demonstrating his wrath in action – by removing his restraining grace and abandoning people (giving them up as Romans 1 puts it 3 times) to the warped desires of their hearts. However, there is a future court date set with a Judge of supreme authority (2 Timothy 4:1) who will weigh the nations in the balance – including those nation’s leaders, presidents and jurists.

As always…

  • It is necessary to pray for elected leaders
  • It is necessary to pray for pastors & spiritual leaders
  • It is necessary to pray for churches & ordinary believers who will have to make crucial decisions
  • It is necessary to pray that the Gospel will be boldly proclaimed.
  • It is time to call out to the Triune God to arise and employ us for his purpose so that we can see “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.” Revelation 11:15

 

But for How Long?

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“At times our Lord, as judge among the nations, arises to visit the sins of a people upon them. Patience makes room for justice, and Providence determines that guilty nations shall be scourged: at such times they are blessed indeed who can cause the King to stand still. This wicked country of ours has often escaped through the prayers of the saints. No man can read our history without perceiving that among guilty nations we hold a sorrowful place; for we have had more light than any other people, and have sinned against it full often. This erring nation had been scourged to destruction if it had not been that the intercessions of Gods people have caused the Judge of all the earth to stand still. Jesus now rules all nations as Lord of Providence, and metes out justice and judgment among them, but a plea for mercy brings a decree of forbearance, and sinful nations are permitted still to stand within the bounds of grace.”

Charles Spurgeon

“A Future Not Our Own”

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(The Long View –Archbishop Oscar Romero)

It helps, now and then, to step back
and take the long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of
the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete,
which is another way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No programme accomplishes the church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about:
We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything
and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for God’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders,
ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

Who Has to Die for Your Belief?

Who Has to Die for Your Belief?

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Some 65 million died for Chairman Mao’s “Great Leap Forward;”

At least 50 million perished in Joseph Stalin’s Soviet system;

6 million Jews died because of Adolf Hitler’s Final Solution as well at least 5 million “undesirables” in the name of racial and social purity;

At least 5,500 have died because of ISIS, 7,000 by Boko Haram and unknown thousands by Islamic terrorists such as the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden in the name of Allah.

The body count could go on.

Even Dick Cheney & the CIA have their share in the name of “national security.”

Add to that the civilian deaths in Afghanistan, Iraq & Syria and countless other casualties of war, revolutions and regimes.

     I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe in the one who said he “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). I don’t have to kill or wage jihad. I don’t have to avenge the defamation of his name or life by murder or acts of terror even though he is regularly ridiculed and vilified.

Jesus calls his followers to be witnesses (based on the Greek word “martyr”) of his life, death and resurrection, to “take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it” (Mt. 16:24-25). No one need die for my belief – except (somewhat paradoxically), as Bonhoeffer wrote (The Cost of Discipleship), “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die” – die to self, die to sin, die to destructive desires of the fallen nature, die to hatred, revenge and retaliation – die, in order to live.

How much better is a faith not worth killing for but worth living for.

God’s Gospel

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“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”                                                      Luke 2: 8-14

Most people long for a better world. I know I do. A world without terrorists, without torture, without brutality, without tragedy, without heartbreak, without catastrophe, a world without disease, a world without suffering, a world without death.  Such a world will come one day. This is not another a utopian view of the future, another project by the human race to save itself. Such a world only comes through the one born in Bethlehem to reign in heaven and on earth. To those who believe in him and recive him is promised a new earth and a new heaven. This is why the incarnation and birth is the gospel – God’s good news.  The joy for us is to believe & to worship in wonder