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June 29, 2015, 10:21 AM

Its not as bad as we think.

Isaiah 31: 1  What sorrow awaits those who look to Egypt for help, trusting their horses, chariots, and charioteers and depending on the strength of human armies instead of looking to the LORD, the Holy One of Israel.

"What sorrow..."!!!    That sorrow includes the despair we feel when laws dont go our way (i.e. the Supreme Court ruling this week), or when our government decides tax laws need adjusted for non-profit entities like churches, or when we feel like media coverage is painting religion with a bias, or this, or that, etc... etc... 

Its easy to allow ourselves to sink into depression over our interpretations of how far gone our country/government/laws have gone in the past 60 years.  When we look back its always through rose-tinted glasses that make it appear we're too far gone to make any recovery to the country we knew and loved in the days it seemed everyone was a Christian.  The prophet Isaiah's message rings true throughout the centuries that have passed since his words were recorded in a scroll to be shared with Israel.  

Lets be reminded of what they were going through at that time:  CAPTIVITY!  They weren't just subjects to a government who didn't take their beliefs or traditions into account.  They were slaves to a country that only thought of them as worms, a people who deserved to be conquered and taught a lesson in "true" power.  To add insult to injury, a select few of the best and brightest from Israel were even made powerful members of the government system, which included them as an integral part of the conquering machine.  What hope remained if the even best became a part of the problem!?  

Isaiah had to actually remind Israel to STOP hoping in the power of Egypt, in an armed attack that might free them from oppression and restore them to a country all their own, ruled by their own beliefs and opinions.  Yes, THAT Egypt.  The one that had held Israel captive oh-not-so-long ago for an oh-so-long 400 years.  

Sigh. 

Israel needed a reminder of the real power in the Universe:  the Creator; Our Savior, the LORD and Holy One of Israel.  No amount of oppression, policy, slavery, captivity, or law would remove the LORD's power or majesty.  And yet we think every time a school board makes a decision, or the Supreme Court makes a ruling that we're experiencing the demise of religion as we know it.  We've forgotten, again and again, who holds power and dominion over our souls.  Its not Rome, Babylon, or any of the branches of government in the good ole USA.  

Lets save the weeping and gnashing of teeth for the issues that are really plaguing our country and world.  Issues like homelessness, starvation, abuse, the sex-slave industry, and any other mistreatment or abuse of the innocent.  Lets let the world be the world, pretending that they have any power.  All the while we serve the LORD and claim a citizenship in an eternal realm where we wont have to fret about moral rulings, redefinition of marriage, or death and loss of any kind.  That's more powerful than any manmade law, and stronger than a million chariots.  




June 22, 2015, 9:30 AM

Excuses


'Tis but a short blog: 

No more excuses.  

 

Ok, it will be a little longer than that.  I need to follow up on some sermon thoughts yesterday (06/21/15), and reiterate something vital that doesn't get nearly the amount of press it deserves from Romans 1.  It is verse 20:  "So they will have no excuse for not knowing God."  

Paul is speaking of people outside the realm of regular attenders and those in the "know" who have made worship and seeking God part of their routine.  He speaks here of all people who gobble up air on this planet.  Everyone is without an excuse for knowing God based on the glory (and fact) of creation.  The power exhibited in creation speaks to the magnificence of God.........and removes every excuse there is to knowing Him.  I like how blunt Paul is here.  There is no room given to arguments of evolution (Micro or Macro), old-Earth vs new-Earth...  Its simple:  God is, and has given us everything we need to see Him.  

So whats our excuse? That question is to those who do "know".  How do we explain the marginalization of things like evangelism, accountability, and forgiveness within modern Christianity when the evidence of our Creator is so plainly stated that even people who sleep until 2pm on Sunday can see and know him?  We've thrust reputation, financial security, and infrastructure to the top of the priority list for Church and as individuals.  And we have excuses at the ready for why we don't reach our neighbors, seek unity among believers, and live in peace with those we with whom we disagree.  

While the target of Paul's language was non-believers... We're not off the hook.  No more excuses.  




June 15, 2015, 10:09 AM

Just Like Jesus...


If I were to ask, in the general assembly of any Church during any regularly scheduled meeting:  “Who here wants to be like Jesus?”  I guarantee every hand would go up.  

Your hand included.  And mine too. 

And then we feel better about ourselves because we’ve just made a public proclamation about ourselves that fits within the box we’ve built for Western Christianity.  And we walk out the doors and look nothing like Jesus.  

We sang O To Be Like Thee yesterday in our regularly scheduled assembly, and it has got me thinking.  It too is a public proclamation that we want to be just like Jesus.  The song speaks (in the very first verse, which we never avoid… the 3rd maybe, but never the 1st) of forfeiting all of the treasure’s of earth GLADLY so we can be just like Jesus.    

Still want that song in next week’s selections?  Yeah, me neither. 

Because when we’re just like Jesus we forfeit things that earth claims as its best treasures!  There are things like winning, being right all the time, pride, reputation and fear, and lots of STUFF!  Are we willing to forfeit all that?  If we do even partially forfeit some of that, the world looks at us funny.  And we don't like it when the world looks at us funny.  

When we raise our hands, and sing the song and claim our desire to be just like Jesus we are saying that we will forgive unconditionally.  We are proclaiming that our will is secondary to a God we’ve never physically seen.  When our hands fly up in profession of faith, we are stating very plainly that we see the worth in the poor and destitute, and want to honor them with our generosity and compassion.  

Jesus hugged the leper.  Dined with sinners.  Adored children.  Ignored cultural and racial barriers.  Exalted women.  Protected the innocent and rebuked the hypocrites.  His hands were dirty and his stomach often empty.  

That hand still in the air?  Yeah, me neither.  

 




June 8, 2015, 10:29 AM

Everything I need to know I learned from..........a Squirrel......?


Stick with me on this one... but we're going to start this week's blog talking about the squirrels in my front yard.  This Spring, we've noticed three new additions to the usual crowd around the trees.  They're smaller than the others and have a much more playful spirit to their daily routine.  Before you think I'm advocating squirrel-rights or harboring those pesky, lawn-destroying, dog-annoying rodents, I'm not.  We simply are able to observe them every day outside one of the large windows perched delightfully in front of a couch/recliner.  

I am, at different times, entertained by them; annoyed by them; and perplexed by them.  The entertainment comes when, especially the young ones, get into a fit of frivolity and chase each other up/down/around the tree.  They jump on each other and seem to enjoy themselves greatly.  That is cheap entertainment.  All of it turns to annoying when they dig in and around wires for landscape lighting and make holes much bigger than any squirrel needs in the mulch and the "nicer" portions of the area around the house.  If I were a squirrel, I'd have a very systematic approach to digging holes.  There would be quadrants and neatly spaced dig sites in which the optimized hiding and retrieval of nuts would happen.  It seems random is the modus operandi of our furry friends.  

Finally, I find myself perplexed by our furry neighbors.  And I'm fully aware this is where I might really lose you (as if that hasn't happened already, its a theology blog about squirrels).  Do squirrels mind the humidity (this humidity is torture on my tail!)?  Do they ever wish the lawn was mowed a little neater and closer to the ground to better the digging and harvest?  Have squirrels ever thought to themselves:  "I think THAT branch over there would be a better location for our nest, but since we're already here I guess we'll just make do" (all the while constantly staring longingly at the better branch nearby).  Are squirrels ever tired of the constant interruption to their routine when I walk out the door and they scatter like the wind? Judging by their approach to digging, they cant seem to find their way back to the holes they started before interruption.  

I often find myself observing the Church in the same way as I do the squirrels (it keeps getting weirder and weirder with the squirrels).  Often entertained and pleased, but at times perplexed.......and dare I say it, annoyed?!  There is such delight in a body of believers who let themselves worship with abandon.  Maybe its the right song and just the right time, or the lyrics that punch right into the moment.  No matter, when that chorus hits there is nothing better than listening to the voices of a hundred people throwing themselves into the arms of God.  This moves far past enjoyment and becomes a moment when I see past the grime of earth into the holy places.  What joy there is!!!  

But that always comes to an end.  Every song has an end note, and the proper punctuation so we know how long to hold that last refrain.  And we look back down at our own hands and wonder why we stopped digging.  The focus on the best things turns to a focus on the "Important" stuff like doing our job, and building our portfolios, and writing something that matters.  We get back to digging and the fleeting moment of joy vanishes like a light breeze.  Instead of peering through the veil to the holy places we screech to a halt and peer into the emptiness of our worries.  Today dawned bright and new, but our eyes turn to the other branch, wondering if we wouldn't be happier over there.  When we gather on Sunday morning, yes it may be my bright-eyed naivety showing here, but we gather for the important stuff, united by the singular desire to seek God.  And then we get interrupted.  We forget what we were doing here, and instead of doing what is important, we remember the complaints; the worries; the pain.  And we run off to try and remember where we buried them. 

The potentially misread intention here, it seems, is to tell you to not work hard and provide and sing your days away while ignoring responsibility.  Nope.  I would never say that, nor would I assume you are not doing so.  The thoughts I've shared have bloomed from the singular focus of one of God's unique creations, the squirrel; and the inability of God's most precious creation (Us) to focus on THE most important things for more than a few minutes a week.  What sermon could I preach that would return our focus to the roots of our first and most precious love?  What song could we sing that would pierce our souls to the songs sung by the Heavenly Host at the moment of our conversion and commitment to eternity?  It certainly wont happen in a blog about squirrels.  

I pray for the Holy Spirit to invigorate the Church today with a focus befitting our Creator.  And I pray for the entitlement we harbor to vanish into a passion to see God glorified in every thing we do.  Whether you're busy running around a tree playing tag, digging holes in the earth to lay cable or sewer lines, or laying down roots that will hold us into eternity...  remember the important things, those parts of this life that matter.  And next time you get the chance, sit and watch the squirrels.  

 




June 1, 2015, 8:57 AM

Settling in...


From Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing:  (emphasis added) 

O to grace how great a debtor Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetterBind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above.

We've been wandering since day 1.  Sure, "In the Beginning..." there were boundaries, but we were created to be free.  When the gates were closed, we continued to be free to wander... and that spirit of roaming has been our tendency since then.  We teach our children of the great explorers and visionaries who sought to touch the very boundaries of the earth.  They learn of the women and men who pushed the boundaries of gravity, elevation, and free-fall.   

But that's not the wandering we're singing about above.  We've been free to explore, even having from the get-go a Tabernacle created to be mobile.  

The wandering that requires our hearts to be sealed in the the courts above is the wandering of hearts that have nothing to do with terrain, physical borders, or flaming swords guarding the way back in.  We could stay in the same place, attend the same church, eat at the same restaurant after church every week and still be a wandering soul without constraints.  The distance and boundaries we must be leery of are those of the wanderings that create distance and boundaries between us and God.  

A question posed in the Sermon yesterday was about our roots.  "What holds us to the ground?"  Trees of even the greatest height can be thrown about if their root system is shallow or stunted.  We have idioms in our language sets that speak of being "Uprooted" and conversely "Laying Down Roots."  Those speak to the wandering of our feet, not our souls.  Too often we're too caught up in our physical dimensions and boundaries to remember to plant our souls in a place they will grow.  

Psalm 1 speaks of the benefit of a tree that is planted by the water.  The fruit of that tree is lush and vibrant.  The roots are solid and entrenched in solid ground.  Winds will not avail those trees.  Drought will not push them to their limits. 

Doubt has no effect on that tree.  Attacks of faith and devotion to greater truths merely flow through the branches like a gentle breeze.  Worry

is pushed to the places Jesus told us to place them.  Not because freedom to wander is removed, but because the wandering NEVER takes

us from our Roots.  

 


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