Wednesday, November 28, 2012

We're "Children" of Some King by Greg York

We’re “Children” of Some King


Recently, I’ve been reading a book about England’s King Henry VIII and life during his reign.  “Everyone knows” that Henry VIII was just a lecherous, bloated, self-indulgent, over-aged frat boy.  But that’s more caricature than fact.  The truth is that he was a far more complex person.


For instance, he was, particularly early in his life, a very devout person.  He practiced his faith as he understood it with great regularity and apparent deep conviction.  At the beginning of what came to be the Protestant Reformation, one of the best-selling books in all of Europe intended to refute Luther’s arguments and defend the Catholic Church was a tightly argued little work written by (get ready for it…) Henry VIII.  And, we’re not talking about something ghost-written; all indications are that Henry himself did the research and writing.  And it wasn’t a “best seller” because he bought up a lot of copies himself.  It was legitimate.  It was such a popular work that Luther himself felt compelled to respond publicly to Henry’s arguments.  The Pope of the day granted Henry the honorific title, “Defender of the Faith,” in appreciation for Henry’s efforts to defend his (the Pope’s) authority.


And yet…


Only a very few years later, when Henry needed an “out” from his marriage to his first wife so that he could marry the object of his affections, Anne Boleyn, Henry ended up turning against “the Church of Rome,” saying the Pope did not in fact have authority over him.  Henry ultimately had Parliament declare him the head of the “Church of England.”



It’s easy to see the problem in someone else:  Henry’s faith “shapes” his life in many ways…but then he can turn on a dime when the moral demands of his faith stand in the way of what he wants.


What he did in that “moment” revealed that his real commitment, when it came down to it, was to himself.  In other words, the ultimate authority in his life was himself.



I’m not trying to argue that Henry was right to defend late medieval Catholicism or that he was right in the direction he took the English church.  I’m not trying to argue that his particular religious practices were Biblical.  My point is that he was “faithful” to what he believed was right until that came into conflict with what he wanted.


Are we so different?  Or, are there times we are “children of King Henry VIII,” completely committed to Christ’s ways…until it’s just not convenient.


“I’m all for sexual purity”…until the right opportunity presents itself, that is.


“I’m definitely against drunkenness”…but life’s so hard right now and I just need to forget some things for a while.  Besides, it’s just so hard to draw that line between being well buzzed and being drunk…


“I’m all for being a good steward of my finances, giving liberally to the church, and spending wisely”…but what’s a little debt when I can get the kids all the things they want now so that we can enjoy them until the next upgrade?  Anyway, God’ll understand that I’m strapped when the collection tray comes by.


“I’m all for making sure that my words build up my brothers and sisters”…but sometimes it just feels good to get in a good jab or two.


“I’m definitely against gossip and talking badly about my brothers and sisters”…but some things are just too juicy to keep to myself.


“I’m all for sharing my faith with people who don’t yet know Jesus and his ways”…just don’t ask me to do anything about that; isn’t that why we have ministers?


“I’m definitely against pornography”…but if I know I’m not going to get caught…and “nobody gets hurt,” right?


“I’m all for regularly meeting with fellow Christ-followers to worship or study together and encourage each other”…just don’t go over an hour on Sunday and do not even try to “guilt” me into a class or small group, for pity’s sake!


“I’m definitely against gluttony, especially in a world of indulgence for some and utter poverty for others”…but have you tried that new Chinese buffet place?


“I’m all for being a unified church, serving under the leadership God has called forth in our church”…just not this group of leaders.  Oh, and not until they start doing everything just the way I like it.


Maybe those scenarios are caricatures in their own way.  Maybe none of them comes close to the reality of your life or mine.  But here’s the point:  We’re the “children” of some king.


Our moral choices will show we’re “children” (of a sort) of Henry VIII if we are only faithful to Christ’s ways as long as they don’t conflict with what we want.


Or, our moral choices will show we’re “children” of God if we are faithful to his ways even when they do conflict with what we want.


Jesus calls us to be children of God, and he doesn’t mince words when it comes to the meaning of our choices:


No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit.  Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush.  The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil… (Luke 6.43-45a).


Learn the good.  Choose the good.  Treasure the good.  Keep on choosing the good.

Be a “child” of the right King.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Jesus the Great Physician by John Wright

John Wright

            The old hymn asks the question “why did my Savior come to earth and to the lowly go?"  And then answers with a chorus of ”Because he loved me so."  Jesus lived and died to demonstrate how much God the Father loves us.  The Bible reveals that we were created to be in relationship with God for all eternity but we blew it, and sin put a barrier between man and God.  Man-kind was lost!  Even though man was made in God’s image, the relationship was damaged seemingly irreparably.  The wonderful story of love begins to unfold in Genesis.  God tells an ordinary man to leave everything and go to a land that God would show him and that all the peoples of the earth will be blessed through this one man named Abraham.  The love story unfolds throughout the Old Testament where God pursues his people and they continually reject him.  God is persistent and forgiving and faithful.  Psalm 100 reads: “Shout for joy to the Lord all the earth.  Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.  Know that the Lord is God.  It is he who made us and we are his; we are his people the sheep of his pasture.  Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.  For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.  God loves us with a love that will endure for eternity!  What a remarkable thing that is.  1John 4:10: This is love; not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

When Jesus came into the world it was not what people expected.  Jn. 1:10: “He was in the world and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him."  Jesus' ministry was spent teaching the ordinary people, who were poor, sick, and outcast.  The rulers and the religious class rejected and opposed him because they were confident in themselves and their traditions; they didn’t believe they needed a savior.  In Matthew chapter 9 the Pharisees asked Jesus disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  On hearing this Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  But go and learn what this means: I desire mercy not sacrifice, for I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”  Romans 3:10 declares: There is no one righteous, not even one.  In the story of Sodom and Gomorrah if just ten righteous could have been found, those cities would have been saved from destruction, but in Gods eyes we are all guilty of sin.  The Pharisees were sick too, and they needed the Great Physician; unfortunately their spiritual blindness would not let them see.

I have reminded you of these things because we Christians need to remember who we are.  We are sinners under the care of the Great Physician, whose blood heals and cleanses us from our sin.  Jesus wants us to invite everyone to come to him for healing.  As the Lord's Church, we must do what Jesus did; seeking the poor, sick, and outcast.  When I ask myself do I look more like Jesus or more like the Pharisees?, I don’t like my answer very much because I have a long way to go.  Jesus’ advice to the Pharisees was to go and read Hosea 6:6, perhaps it would do us well too.  The 6th chapter of Hosea reads come let us return to the Lord, because Israel had been very unfaithful.  The people of the Northern Kingdom had more confidence in themselves and their religious traditions than their covenant with God.  The Lord laments: “for I desire mercy not sacrifice, and acknowledgement of God rather then burnt offerings.  Like Adam they have broken the covenant.”  We need to be a people committed to mercy and not committed to “looking religious” because our mission is to do as Jesus did and said.  "Come unto me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."  We have so much to offer this world, our arms are open wide, and our Lord's yoke is so much lighter and easier then the trappings of sin and death.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Don't Despair by Craig Hill

Don’t Despair

By Craig Hill

Last week I got dehydrated on the second night of our duck hunting trip and woke up shaking uncontrollably in my sleeping bag in our tent on an island on a river. We paddled our canoes out the next afternoon. Then we came down with salmonella poisoning and lay around recovering instead of going back out and completing what was supposed to be 6 days of uninterrupted hunting. We’d planned that hunt for a year. But it was not to be.

Yesterday I got a call from two consultants who work for my new business. They just started last week and were supposed to be on the project generating some nice professional fees for us for about a year. But the call came that said they were dismissed from the project because they didn’t fit in with the rest of the team. That’s about $160,000 of gross profit gone in one phone call.

Last Saturday night there was a neighborhood called Richmond Hill in Indianapolis where people expected a calm end to their day and maybe a good night’s sleep. Instead a huge explosion erased 3 homes, killed two people, and literally knocked a number of homes off their foundations. That makes my setbacks minor in comparison. (Read the book of Job if you want more on this.)

Are we to despair when life doesn’t meet our expectations? King Solomon said the following in Ecclesiastes Chapter 3, verses 9 to 14:

What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race.1He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.

And in Romans 8:28 Paul wrote:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

We must trust in the Lord. We must take the bad with the good. We must have faith and hope in God who loves us so much that He sacrificed His only Son so that we might have the hope of life everlasting. If you don’t have this peace which passes all understanding, talk to someone who does. Seek the Lord, repent from your sins, and confess that Jesus is the Christ.

As Solomon says in the end of Ecclesiastes:

Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body. Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter:

Fear God and keep his commandments,

for this is the duty of all mankind.

For God will bring every deed into judgment,

including every hidden thing,

whether it is good or evil.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Walking Dead by Mike DeCamp

If you’ve been paying attention to popular television these days, you probably recognize the title of this article.  After all, “The Walking Dead” is one of…if not THE…most popular of the TV shows currently in production.  (Sunday nights, 9pm, AMC)  The story follows the terrifying attempts of survival by a group of people living in a world populated primarily by zombies…or the walking dead.  While gory and often gross with the special effects, the show really works because of the interpersonal relationships and the difficult, often heart-wrenching decisions that have to be made by the characters simply to stay alive.  (Warning—the scenes are graphic, so if you are sensitive to that kind of thing, you might not want to watch it.)

A little over a week ago, I attended a Bible class with my daughter at Harding University and the professor used this show to make a point.  I’m going to borrow his example and make the show an illustration to highlight a couple of things on my mind.

First, I think that we as Christians ARE in fact surrounded by the walking dead….the spiritually dead.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.  Ephesians 2: 1-2

All around us are people who are walking through their lives...going to work…going to school…eating dinner…raking their leaves…and they are spiritually dead.  They seem fine.  They seem alive, and we are lulled into believing that everything is okay.  But, the truth is that inside there is no real spark of God, no relationship with their creator.  No hope.  No future.  Their lives are futility leading to futility.

In the TV show, the idea is to avoid the walking dead, and if you can’t avoid them, you hit them in the head in order to make them fully dead.  In our world, we must not avoid them.  In fact, we are commissioned to seek them out.  We are their only chance…because God has given US the role of making new life available to them….making them truly alive. 

We don’t hit them in the head…we hit them in the heart!

When was the last time YOU revived a spiritual zombie and gave them a new spark of life directly from the handiwork of your Lord?

Second, I think that sometimes we Christians can find ourselves in danger of becoming the Sitting Dead.

Consider this passage from Revelation…

To the angel of the church in Sardis write:

These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.  I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.  Wake up!  Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.  Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent.  But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.  Revelation 3: 1-3

If this happened to be us, then…We did some good things.  We had some good effect.  We got a great reputation.  People think we’ve got it together.  But, the truth is that we have lost that spark of life.  We sit complacently by while the work of God goes unfinished.  We come in and check off our attendance box on Sunday morning, but have no passion for our Lord.  We know what we need to know.  We know the good we ought to do.  We understand the sacrifice of the Lord.  Somehow, though, we have gone to sleep in our spirits!  We exist in our church as the spiritually dead, dressed up and sitting in rows.

Is that you?  Is that me?  Is that us?  It happened to our brothers and sisters in Sardis, could it be that it has happened to some of us in our congregation?  Do WE need to WAKE UP and REPENT?

I sure hope it’s not us.  But, I think that passage isn’t in the Book just for its entertainment value.  It is there as a warning.  We can build up a reputation and then simply fall off into complacency.  We can fall asleep.  We can let our spark of spiritual life wane into a dying ember.  May it not be us, but how about we consider some questions together…how about we do a little introspection…how about we take our spiritual pulse and see if our hearts are pumping?

A.       Who gets more enthusiasm from you on Sunday… Andrew Luck or Jesus Christ?

B.      Can people around you sense the music flowing from your heart as you sing?

C.      Or, maybe we should just ask if you actually sing?

D.      When was the last time you confessed a sin…a specific sin…to another brother or sister?

E.       When was the last time YOU invited someone to come to church with you?

Those are just a few questions that we could ask.  All I’m really saying, though, is that we need to be aware of two things: 

1. Are we concerned about the spiritually dead in the community around us and sharing that spark of life with them? 

2.  Are we in danger of letting our reputation mask our reality; of becoming a spiritual zombie in the pews?

In that Television show, sometimes the decisions are hard.  Uncomfortable choices have to be made to survive.  The same is true in our own spiritual lives.  It is always easier and more comfortable to ignore the needs of the lost, go through the motions of checking off the church activity boxes, and take a very long spiritual nap.  However, if we want to survive…if we want to please our Lord…we need to be awake!  We need to be vigilant!  We need to strengthen what we have and finish our work.

We need to bring life to the walking dead and rekindle the spark of life in the sitting dead….

So that:

They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy.  The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white.  I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of LIFE, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels.  Revelation 3: 4b-5

Thursday, November 1, 2012

"Are You Persecuted?" by Frank Black



What’s the first thing you think about in answer to the above question?  Don’t you think of some type of physical punishment, torture, or imprisonment?  Besides physical persecution, there are other ways to be persecuted.  In short, I feel persecuted!  Allow me to present my case and tell you what I mean. 

          First let me just remind you how history is replete with many, many extreme examples of physical suppression, torture, and death enacted in the name of religion.  All these are still going on in various parts of our world as I am writing.  I have a book entitled, “On This Day In Christian History” by Robert Morgan.  It has 365 short summaries of various Christian martyrs over the years.   [Just a few examples]

-      In 1536 William Tyndale was burned at the stake for his working on the first translation of the Bible into English.

-      Thomas Bilney preached and spread Tyndale’s Bible all over England.  He was arrested for heresy and tortured in the Tower of London.  His friends encouraged him to recant his beliefs, so that he could continue to lead and preach when released.  Bilney did recant but always regretted it.  Later he was again arrested, but this time he did not recant and adamantly expressed his faith.  He was tortured and burned at the stake.

-      Anne Askew became a Christian; and as a result, her husband cast her out and would not let her see her two children.  She was arrested for heresy and tortured on the ‘rack’ [she was so injured that she never walked again]. Still she refused to recant her Christian belief and was burned at the stake.  [1546].

-      The Crusades from Europe to the “Holy Land” brought about suffering and death to countless people – in the name of religion.  

-      Just yesterday [Sunday - October 28, 2012] a bomb was detonated in a church in Kaduna, Nigeria – causing injuries and deaths.


I’d be remiss if I didn’t first quickly remind you of Jesus’ punishment and killing by religious people of His day.  And also the fact that historically [or traditionally] all Jesus’ apostles, except John, were killed because of their Christian teaching.

Of course there are many current examples of people being tortured and killed because of their Christian beliefs. What would you do if you were tortured and threatened with your life?   Would you confirm or deny your Faith?  What would I do?  Have you ever thought about it?  In truth, in our USA, this is not going to happen.  I can’t say the same about some other parts of the world.

Okay, so why and how am I persecuted?  I am definitely persecuted spiritually and psychologically!  What do I mean? I mean that it is emotionally painful to see anti-Christian behavior, laws, and changes in our country – a country that was absolutely founded on Christian principles.  You might still be thinking, “What are you talking about?”  I’ll list several specific areas that cause me spiritual and psychological pain.  [You can add areas that cause you pain].


·                            Christianity being excluded from many universities, most public places and public life  [Christian speech and representation in public as being not “politically correct”]

·                            The very essence of our being a Christian nation being questioned and abandoned

·                            Basically all religions being deemed as ‘acceptable’  [“As long as it ‘works’ for you”]

·                            Christians being branded as intolerant bigots and called by many  “names” because of our Biblical stance on issues 

·                            Abortion

·                            The national push [by the minority] to accept homosexuality and same sex marriage as “normal”  

·                            The high percentage of single parent homes

·                            Divorce

·                            The horrors of HIV/AIDS [especially in the Third World] because of not adhering to God’s laws of sexual behavior

·                            ** My list could continue.  Also add your areas of persecution. **


Am I totally surprised by this persecution? No! Why is that?  We are promised [yes, promised] persecution in the Bible. [Jesus tells us this in John 15:18ff  -  Paul tells us the same in 2 Timothy 3:12].  Of course they are referring to physical persecution [but are they referring to the physical only?].  My contention in this article is that our persecution is also severe and comes in the realm of spiritual and psychological persecution.  What do you think?  I’ll deal with this further in a future article.  I’ll deal with the “What now”? – “What can I do”? - Etc.          -- Frank Black, Oct. 2012