Well……

•June 20, 2008 • 1 Comment

We’re working on it. I’m not past all this yet.

And just for the record, my son is NOT going back to BJU. I’m thrilled more than I can even express. Thank you Lord for getting him out of there. Don’t particularly like the circumstances, but I’m glad he’s not going back whatever it took.

Hope it doesn’t take me so long to get back here again!

Love,

me

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Defining God Through My Lens

•August 24, 2007 • Leave a Comment

I have been contemplating an astounding thought. It has been germinating all my life, I suppose, but is getting more into focus the last couple of years. Something bad happened to me and members of my family almost two years ago. My daughter was hurt. People sinned; were unkind, unthoughtful, arrogant, dismissive, and a whole lot of other adjectives I am not going to list right now. But, needless to say, it was a bad situation.

But here’s the confusing part for me, these people were Christian people! People in leadership positions at Bob Jones University and Bob Jones Academy who supposedly “speak for God.” You dare not have any other viewpoint than what their initial mindset or take on the situation is. If they lie to you or don’t do what they said they would, then they of course are “right.” They would never apologize to you. They will beat you with a huge stick and step back and announce that anything they say or do was obviously God’s will for you. They will work hard to find any possible fault with you and focus on your failings instead of the situation at hand. (You understand that when I say “you,” I mean “me.” I speak from experience here.)

So I have been imagining God’s role in the bad situations that come into our lives. And here’s the scenario. My daughter was hit with a duct tape ball as she was playing her flute at a pep band at Bob Jones Academy. This thing came soaring from the top bleacher and nailed her in her neck from behind. Best I can tell, it practically broke her neck. So, these people tell me that this is “God’s will?” That’s the same as saying that Jesus sat up there in the bleachers and lobbed the ball at my daughter. Would Jesus do something so awful as that? Jesus, the healer of the broken hearted and binder of wounds? Would you have hurt my daughter like that? If people would not intentionally do something as destructive as that, then why is it okay to say that God did it? Obviously a person did do this to my daughter. A person who was never even confronted with the carelessness and devastation of her actions. A person who has never apologized to my daughter.

“This is God’s will” is a way to deflect responsibility from irresponsible people. Just think–a perfect cop out–God’s will. We didn’t have adequate supervision–oh wait, not our lack, it must have been God’s will. We knew about and continued to allow year after year a heavy duct tape ball to be played with at our sports events. Oh wait, not us, God’s will–God did that! “Mrs. XXXX, what’s wrong with you? Don’t you understand that it was God’s will? You’re just going to have to get over it and accept that it was God’s will for your daughter.” (Almost direct quote from Dr. Sid Cates.) What a frightening thing to use God as the scapegoat. Responsible actions don’t even have to be taken–just declare any adverse effects on the will of God. After all, God did allow it, didn’t he? No thought for safety must ever be taken, because anything bad is just God’s will. And that obviously has been how Bob Jones Academy has been operated for many years. We’d all be surprised about how many aspects of their aging buildings are out of code and unsafe and were operated for years like that. Bob Jones Academy–the redheaded stepchild of Bob Jones University. The last to get any attention.

But I digress, in a way. The thing I wanted to talk about is who is this God? If I define him based on my experiences and what Bob Jones has told me God is, that’s wrong. My God cannot be defined based on my immediate circumstances or administrators’ pratter. God’s character can be revealed through these terrible human situations, but I dare not define God by them. In other words, defining God through my lens of this one situation would be a terrible mistake. One in which I am sure many people have been quagmired when bad things have entered their lives. “How can a good God allow bad things to people?”

More later. I need to run an errand very quickly before my son leaves to go back to Bob Jones University. I know, what are we thinking? It wasn’t my decision, really. It was his. And I will just wait with bated breath to see if he will receive any unduly harsh treatment from those BJU folk. My feeling is that he will. But I will let this scenario play without any intervention from me. Uhhh…..those hypocritical liars……

who_index

•July 17, 2007 • Leave a Comment

who_index
Our overworked and underappreciated staff still cracks up at his definition of “hoove” as “an unsuccessful Heimlich maneuver.”

Mark 1:17-25

•July 17, 2007 • Leave a Comment
And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”
And immediately they left their nets and followed him.And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him. And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, Be silent, and come out of him!” And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.

I have always wondered if I would be as obedient as the disciples were who dropped everything to follow Jesus. Have I been obedient to him now? This explains my interest in the Holy Spirit’s leading and my questions about how we know for sure that we are doing what God wants us to do.

Jesus was a strong preacher and his teaching was unmistakable. We have that same power. We have no need to be afraid and to not speak up for our Lord. Look at the power he has over the unclean spirits. They know who he is and are afraid of him. They must know that they will eventually be destroyed by him.

Lord, help me today to live in the power of your Holy Spirit. Help me to speak up for your name whenever the opportunity arises. Replace my fear with your boldness and authority. Lord, I love you.

 

Mark 1:14-15 –Jesus Begins His Ministry

•July 5, 2007 • Leave a Comment
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God and saying, “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:14-15 ESV

This reference to John being arrested I will speculate is being used as a dating tool in this passage. I won’t dwell on the reason for John’s arrest now. I plan to get to that later. I want to talk about Jesus proclaiming the gospel of God, the good news of God. These are the first recorded words of Jesus in Mark, “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the gospel.” There appears to be no record of converts before the calling of the disciples. I don’t know if Jesus had his own evangelistic services or not. But certainly counted among his converts are the disciples.

The command of Jesus to repent and believe holds some special significance for me today. I have been touring links from Jeri Massi’s blog concerning the horrible sins of Jack Hyles and his cronies. Robert Sumner in The Biblical Evangelist has a thorough expose with letters from Jack Hyles attempting to defend the allegations. The renowned Rick Meisel of Rapidnet fame document some troubling first-person accounts of the devastation Jack Hyles and his teachings have caused many familes. What struck me about Rick Meisel’s analysis of the situation is the observation that it was Dr. John R. Rice who pioneered the “easy believism” phenomena that began afflicting the fundamentalist movement. The easy believism de-emphasizes repentance at the expense of claiming “converts.” These “converts” have never truly faced their own sin issue to effect true repentance.

But here’s Jesus’s two-part sermon: repent and believe. Repent–acknowledge and turn away from sin. Believe– hmmmm….interesting, what were they to believe at this point? On this side of the cross, we say, “believe that Jesus Christ shed his blood for your sins.” But this is Jesus preaching before his atoning work on the cross. The mechanism for salvation in this time was much the same as it is now. The pre-crucifixion believers looked forward to the cross while we look backwards to the cross. The Old Testament saints understood perfectly that Jesus Christ would come. “Believe” is “faith in God.” John MacArthur answers the question this way:

Now, the means for salvation has always been the same: Faith. And, at any given point in the unfolding revelation of the Word of God, salvation came through faith, believing God. Abraham believed God. It was counted him for righteousness. What did he believe? He believed as much as God had revealed. And, God had revealed even by that time that he was sinner and that the only savior was God, and that God would pay the penalty for his sin. Now, he didn’t understand all there was to know about Jesus Christ, but he understood enough to know that he was a sinner and needed a savior and God would provide a savior. That is why it says in Hebrews 12, that Moses could foresee Christ, even Moses.

Jesus is calling all to repent and believe. This is a command. If it is a command then all are able to obey this command. Spurgeon explains it this way in his sermon on July 13, 1862:

For this is the difficulty with many awakened sinners: may I believe? Have I a right to believe? Am I permitted to trust Christ? Now this question is put aside, once for all, and should never irritate a broken heart again. You are commanded by God to do it, therefore you may do it. Every creature under heaven is commanded to believe in the Lord Jesus, and bow the knee at his name; every creature, wherever the gospel comes, wherever the truth is preached, is commanded there and then to believe the gospel; and it is put in that shape, I say, least any conscience-stricken sinner should question whether he may do it. Surely, you may do what God commands you to do. You may know this in the devil’s teeth—”I may do it; I am bidden to do it by him who hath authority, and I am threatened if I do not with eternal damnation from his presence, for ‘he that believeth not shall be damned.'”

Although this may present a problem for the Calvinists, this passage is clear that we are commanded to believe. Does God command something that he doesn’t put in our heart to do? Would he say, “repent” but at the very same time harden someone’s heart so that they could not believe? Fortunately these matters are in God’s hand and he is the righteous judge. I just have to believe that if someone is approached with the opportunity, wants to believe, that they will be enabled by God to believe.

Mark 1:12-13 — The Temptation of Jesus

•July 4, 2007 • Leave a Comment
The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.

Many stories are contained in these verses. The account of Jesus’s temptation in the wilderness is fully described in Matthew and Luke. The fact that the Son of God used the Scriptures — verses in Deuteronomy — to withstand the temptation is of tremendous example to us mere mortals. That was the ultimate course in how to withstand temptation–to know the Scriptures. I know recipes better than I know Scripture. What a shame. But that really wasn’t my point here. I wanted to talk about the action of the Holy Spirit in driving Jesus to the wilderness. Could Jesus have done any differently than to have submitted to the will of the Holy Spirit? I guess the Calvinists would say “No.”

But here is another example of Jesus being submitted to the will of His Heavenly Father in the person of the Holy Spirit. For us to be fully pleasing to God demands that we be “driven” by the Holy Spirit. I like the mental image of the Holy Spirit actually being in the driver’s seat of a motor vehicle. We are taking each turn and stop by the will Holy Spirit. No doubt if we were to submit fully to the will of the Spirit, every single choice, action, thought and word would be completely in obedience with the will of the Spirit.

The Spirit’s driving Jesus into the wilderness immediately after his baptism is consistent with being put into a proving ground before entering a public ministry. Paul experienced this–wasn’t it for 14 years? Sources compared Jesus’s temptation to the wandering of the children of Israel in the wilderness for 40 years. You know, 40 days compared to 40 days!? I don’t know. Maybe I’m just a bit cynical about the comparisons–maybe because I had a pastor back in the 60s and 70s who was deep into the numerical stuff and preached enough sermons about it to last more than a lifetime. So, I’m still full! Other sources compared Jesus’s life with Adam and the Garden of Eden. In other words, Jesus is doing perfectly what Adam was unable to do. I even saw Jesus’s baptism compared to the Children of Israel’s “baptism” in the Red Sea! But wait, they didn’t even get wet, so how could that be a valid comparison? In my way of thinking comparisons dilute the strength of the present Scripture and call into question the credibility of the expositor, especially in the case of “stretchy” comparisons. Let’s just talk about the passage at hand. And, yes, we can illuminate it with other Scripture of course. Analogies are fine too, as long as they are closely related. If we follow the example of Jesus, he mostly taught in story form (parables).

“And he was with wild animals and the angels were ministering unto him.” I’m not completely sure about the meaning of this verse. I found a sermon that was preached at Christmas time entitled “And was with the Wild Beasts.” The speaker speculated that the audience probably thought he was going to speak about baby Jesus in the manger with those animals, but instead he preached this passage. Maybe protection from the wild beasts is inferred from this passage, but I don’t think so. If the inanimate stones could becomes children of Abraham, surely the wild beasts know not to harm God’s Son.

The ministry of the angels to Jesus Christ speaks to the ministry the angels have to believers. If we had a true picture of all the encouragement we have to obey God’s word and submit to the Holy Spirit’s leading and withstand the devil’s temptations, we would fail less. Not only do we have the angels ministering to us, we have Jesus’s intercessory work of continually praying for us, and we have the “the cloud of witnesses” referred to in Hebrews 12:1. How in the world do we ever succumb to temptation? If we could just tap into the power that Jesus used in the wilderness to keep from sinning, how much better our Christian walk would be.

Dear Lord, please help me to use the resources you have graciously given to believers to withstand the temptations we will most certainly encounter in our earthly lives. Heolp me to live a Holy Spirit filled life and be “driven” by the Holy Spirit. Thank you dear Lord for your mercy to me. Amen.

Mark 1:9-11 –The Baptism of Jesus continued

•July 2, 2007 • Leave a Comment
He heard a voice which was intended for his encouragement to proceed in his undertaking, and therefore it is here expressed as directed to him, Thou art my beloved Son. God lets him know, [1.] That he loved him never the less for that low and mean estate to which he had now humbled himself; “Though thus emptied and made of no reputation, yet he is my beloved Son still.’’ [2.] That he loved him much the more for that glorious and kind undertaking in which he had now engaged himself. God is well pleased in him, as referee of all matters in controversy between him and man; and so well pleased in him, as to be well pleased with us in him.

Today I want to focus on the humbling that Jesus Christ did on the behalf of all mankind.  Although this passage does not focus on the reluctance of John the Baptist to baptize Jesus, Matthew’s passage does. We do know that the prophet John understood the significance of what Jesus was asking him to do. In the verses previously, John asserted that he wasn’t even worthy to stoop down and untie Jesus’ shoe latches. And now, John is ordained to baptize Jesus. What an irony. Yet, Jesus graciously humbled himself to be baptized of a human being. And as a side note for us “baptists,” Jesus must have been immersed! How could he have “come up” out of the water unless he were fully immersed?

The love that Jesus has for human kind is astounding, and is beginning to be shown in this early stage of  his ministry. Of course the ultimate display of Jesus’s love for mankind will be demonstrated by his work on the cross, but now at the baptism we are seeing a glimpse of this love. And for Jesus’s love to mankind, God loves Jesus all the more. He says “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” God is very pleased for Jesus to have been baptized by a mere mortal.

What a life changing concept to understand the true depths of humility Jesus Christ lived his earthly life.

Lord, help me to acquiesce to your humility. I give you my pride to be put under your shed blood. Forgive me for the sinful manifestations of my pride. Help me to live a life of humility that you have modeled for us in your life on this earth. You, the God of all creation, the ruler of all things, gave up everything to minister in my behalf. Thank you Lord for your amazing sacrifice of which I don’t even understand the smallest percentage. Praise your holy name, for you are worthy of honor and glory. Amen.