Friday, January 30, 2009

Give Me a Brake

I have mentioned previously (Appalachian Boy) that I am proud to belong to a resourceful people. I want to pass on my heritage to my son. So...

...last night E and I went to the local Advanced Auto to get a new headlight and some brake pads for the Cavalier. We came home bearing Captain D's supper and TimBits. After a hearty family supper, blessed by E's rendition of "God is Great...", he and I retired to the garage to replace the light bulb.

Now Chevy seems to be having financial problems due to a slacking in sales. Perhaps it has something to do with the HORRID engineering utilized in the construction of the Cavalier! The oil filter is approachable only by great patience and dexterity. Now I learn that changing a headlight bulb requires an advanced degree in engineering as well! You cannot access it without removing the entire headlight / turn light assembly. But something was holding it to the front quarter panel.

After an hour of thought, discussed, grunting, huffing and dismantling of rubberized covering pieces, I discovered the secret. A latch had to be deactivated with a screwdriver to release the assembly fom the frame!

All the while E. was with me. He refused offers to watch movies, get a bath or anything else until he had helped me fix it. Finally we were able to remove the blown bulb and install the new one. I let him test it by turning on the lights and running around the car to see it was actually on.

After he went to bed, I removed the old brake shoes and replaced them. They were GREATLY worn out and now things are good again.

We are going back to the Advanced Auto this evening to get wires and plugs. He (and I) can hardly wait to work together again on the challenges of the enigmatic Cavalier.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Puttin' on My Preachin' Jacket

The other night E walked into the living room and saw my sport coat hanging on the stair rail. He declared, "Daddy, I'm gonna wear your preachin' jacket." "Okay..." I muttered absent-mindedly while trying to unravel one of the universe's most complex mysteries -- how to upload iTunes tracks onto a non-iPod player. [But that's another post for another day.]

"You're going to do what?" I asked, shaking myself from my self-absorbed trance.

"I'm gonna put on your preachin' jacket and preach."

"Okay. Sister and I will come to church with you."

He then put my sport coat on (with a little help from me) and instructed us to go to the nursery where the kids go for church. We sat where he indicated. He then said that he was going to the platform to preach as he ascended the couch at the opposite end of the room. First he played a mean air-guitar and sang a really upbeat tune to lead our worship. Once that was over he said we needed to pray. So he folded his hands and whispered a few words " Jesus Christ's name. Amen." Then there was a slow tune played on the air-guitar.

Finally he muttered a few words of exortation and the service ended.

He did it again the following night and this time I had the video camera rolling.

This was a touching first because he was imitating me and that is indeed flattering and challenging. Second, he was reinacting something that at times we are not sure he is benefiting from -- being at church. Lastly, when I was just a little guy like him, I used to conduct church at my Grandma Andy's coffee table and preach, too.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

3000 Americans...

September 11, 2001...

...3000 Americans lost their lives...

...not from terrorism but from abortion.

That is the average number of "procedures" carried out every day since the landmark Roe -v- Wade decision was handed down from the United States Supreme Court on January 21, 1972. The average number of Americans whose lives were ended by the actions of others.

3000 lives end every day for 36 years!

Where is the outrage?
Where are the voices pleading, "Have you seen my loved one?"
Where are the tears?

3000 a day...

Monday, January 19, 2009

Prophesy: Exposing the Deeds of Darkness

Today we look at a third mission of the Church brought to mind by the season of Epiphany--Prophetic Outcry. While Epiphany does teach the church has a mission to reach the whole world and to tell our story in the place God, in His sovereignty, has placed us in the world, we also must embrace the mission of being salt and light in the world. The church has from its inception, and the Wesleyan Church in particular, had a ministry of prophetic outcry.

Ephesians 3.8-20
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: "Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you."

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

John 3.16-20
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God."

Matthew 5.38-42
"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

This weekend memorializes the contribution of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to the cause of Civil Rights in the U. S. Many gatherings and memorials have been planned in coordination with the historic Inauguration Ceremonies of Tuesday. While many have championed his contributions, others memorized at least parts of his famous speech in Washington, D.C, few speak of his emphasis on non-violent resistance. This was the "Soul-force" of the movement that overcame brutal physical force. It is an idea deeply rooted in the Christian message.

Paul encouraged the Ephesians to live as children of light. The Epiphany experience had so transformed them and their living that they stopped being darkness (not just being in darkness) and were now light. Remember now that they were living in the pagan Roman Empire where sexual promiscuity, brutality and slavery were the rule. Yet, Paul insists that the now-enlightened must expose the deeds of darkness.

Jesus Himself calls us to such exposure. But first He addresses our need of continued light. We stay in the light first as an admission of our humble need of Him. No one who seeks to live as a child of light begins with exposing darkness in others. We first come into the light to have our own actions and attitudes exposed. We only shine the light on others with a humble sense of obedience not joyful, Pharisaic self-agrandizement.

Next Jesus teaches that the best way to expose the deeds of darkness is to suffer openly. If someone slaps us, we take it. We even open ourselves to additional abuse. One who would strike twice when there is no resistance shows the evil of the act. As my Grandpa would say, "Two wrongs don't make one right."

Further Jesus says we are to offer our coat to the one who wins our shirt in a lawsuit. We are to volunteer to carry the load a second mile if compelled to carry it the first. Again, our suffering patiently and non-violently the injuries of an unjust law (there really was a law forcing people to carry the load of a Roman for one mile) exposes its injustice.

This is not a call to be the doormat for bullies and tyrants. It is active, courageous life as light exposing the evil and injustice in society. It is always chosen not imposed. The freedom to act even in slave-like conditions is true liberty. The goal is always the abolition of the injustice as it collapses upon itself.

This is true soul-force. It is natural and base to ball up our fists when struck. It is natural to hurl insults when insulted. It seems logical to meet force with force.

The Church rejoices in the memory of Dr. King for he brought the power of Epiphany to our troubled society in his day. But moreso the Church rejoices in the example of our Lord, who, when reviled did not open his mouth. His willing death on the cross exposed the jealousy and injustice of those who executed The Innocent Man. And He points the way for His church to continue the Prophetic tradition He began. We must decry the wrongs in our society and be willing to suffer their injuries to bring to light the true nature of injustice and evil amongst us.

Remember Telamachus

The story is told of Telamachus, a monk in the Roman Empire after Christianity became legal and recongnized. One day he felt God calling him to go from his monestary to Rome. There he was caught up in a crowd flowing into the Arena.

Once inside Telamachus watched in horror as gladiators fought to the death. He stood to his feet and cried, "In the name of Christ, stop!" The blood-thirsty spectators shouted for him to sit down and be quiet. He continued to protest, "In the name of Christ, stop!"

Eventually, he made his way to the front row and leaped over the retaining wall and into the fighting area. He ran to the nearest two combatants and begged, "In the name of Christ, stop!" As he pleaded with them, he was struck in the side with a gladias or short sword. He fell to the sandy floor and continued to plead, in ever weakening voice, "In the name of Christ, stop." Then he was silent.

The combatants stopped. Then all in the field of conflict stopped. There, in a pool of his own blood, lay the simple monk--dead. Slowly the stands emptied of spectators as the shock of this death settled in. Then the arena was silent and empty.

They say that Honorius, the Christian emperor, was so moved by the martyrdoom of one willing to expose the evil of mortal combat for entertainment by his own death, that he soon declared them illegal. No one fought to the death to entertain the crowds in the Arena again.

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Story to Tell to the Nations

This Sunday celebrates the Baptism of Jesus. At this time who He really was as God's Messiah and Son became clear to John the Baptizer. The next day John declared to two of his followers, "There is the Lamb of God." They followed Jesus and the truth dawned on them as well through their own experience with Jesus. They, in turn, told others about Him. This passage, John 1, sets the focus for our second Epiphany "Enlightenment."

29The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30This is the one I meant when I said, 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.' 31I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel."
32Then John gave this testimony: "I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' 34I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God."
35The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, "Look, the Lamb of God!"
37When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, "What do you want?"

They said, "Rabbi" (which means Teacher), "where are you staying?"
39"Come," he replied, "and you will see."

When we have the light of Jesus shed on our lives, we become light-bearers. Having accepted His invitation to "Come and see" we experience His love, power and leadership in life-altering ways. The transformation is profound.

We must then tell the story to those around us. Everyone has a story, a unique personal experience with God through Jesus. We each have a specific "net" or network of Friends, Relatives, Associates and Neighbors to whom we can tell the Good News. We must brighten the corner where we are.

This duty, this privilege of telling our story ranks up there with trans-cultural missions we discussed last week. How sad that many will cross the oceans to spred the light to those unlike them, but will not cross the street to tell a neighbor. No one can tell your story like you can. And without the telling the message dies with you.

Like John we must translate our personal Epiphany to help enlighten someone else. We have influence over some more than others. These deserve to hear His story. And their reception of the light will in turn create more opportunities for its spread as they tell others, too. It only takes one to start the process!

How can I tell my story?

A few simple suggestions will help anyone tell their Epiphany story. First, write it out. This is important and should be worked out in advance of actual sharing. Second, tell in briefest terms what life was like B.C. (before Christ came into your life.) Don't spend too much time or emphasis here as we don't want to glamorize our sinfulness or sorrows. Then tell of how life has improved with Jesus in your life. Give one or two specific ways the Light has effected you. Then tell of the actual Epiphany moment. How did the light come on? When? Where? Be sure to include a nutshell of the Last Steps to Becoming a Christian (Romans' Road, ABCs of Salvation, Sinner's Prayer) to help them understand the conscious decision that must be made and God's promise on which salvation belongs. Lastly, K.I.S.S. it. Keep It Short and Simple. Be so familiar with it you can tell it from the first to the third floor on an elevator or elaborate in the necesary detail should more time or interest warrant.

Now, Go, Tell one person your story this week.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Nations Will Come to Your Light

Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn. Lift up your eyes and look about you: All assemble and come to you; your sons come from afar, and your daughters are carried on the arm. Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy; the wealth on the seas will be brought to you, to you the riches of the nations will come. Herds of camels will cover your land, young camels of Midian and Ephah. And all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the LORD. Isaiah 61.1-6 (NIV)

Surely you have heard about the administration of God's grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God's holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 3.2-6 (NIV)

The Coming of the Magi to Visit Jesus

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ
was to be born. "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written: 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'"
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him."
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east[in its rising]
went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.

When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

Christmas/Epiphany Squeeze-Play

We compress the birth narratives of Jesus found in Luke and Matthew for the sake of presenting all the known material of his early childhood. The literary license is used for plays and pagents to give a full-orbed view of this significant event--the invasion of time by the Eternal.

The first memorial to the coming of Jesus was Epiphany. It marked the revealing of Jesus to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi. We still celebrate the Enlightenment of the whole world every January 6. With it we conclude the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Like the distance between the dates of December 25 and January 6, there seems to be some time between the events of Luke's birth narrative and the coming of the Magi in Matthew. Matthew clearly states that the Magi event happened "after the birth of Jesus." The Magi find a "child" in a "house" not a baby in a manger. The star appeared or "rose" 2 years before they actually saw Jesus, as indicated by their reply to Herod and his murder of all males 2 years old and younger.

The Light has Dawned.

The first truth of the Magi Visit and Epiphany in general is that God sends enlightenment to every person. He grabs our attention. We cannot understand or please God through our own effort. But he has promised to get our attention.

The Magi were professional advisors of court. They studied areas of knowledge that the common person of the time would not have known. One such area of knowledge was astronomy. They studied the planets and stars trying to determine future events. This astrological method of divination of course was pagan and wrong, but God got their attention through a star.

The Light Drew Them Closer

God never speaks clearer than through His Word, the Scriptures. The Magi go as far as the could based on the signal star. They arrive in Jerusalem and ask to see the new King. In response, the scribes and teachers of the law site God's promise in Micah 6.2. Bethlehem, not the capital of Jerusalem, was the place to look.

We cannot do better for instructions for living or insight into God and his world than looking into the Bible. If it says, "Do," we'd better do. If it says, "Don't," we'd better not do. In the lids of this anthology we will find principles, precepts, precidents and practices that will improve our living and being. God's Word gives clear teaching on the nature of the universe and the origins of the world as it exists today. It also gives practical direction for money management, emotional health and healty relationships. Most importantly, it teaches us about God and how to properly relate to him.

They Left Different

After seeing Jesus, they worshipped him. Literally, they bowed down. Then they gave him significant gifts.

[Aside. What ever prompted the church to move away from giving as an act of worship?!?!? Sure, church growth "experts" said folks were turned off by offering-taking. But worship inside the lids of the Bible is always connected to giving of ourselves. We may have robbed folks of a blessing in the attempt not to offend them.]

Then they received new light from God. He warned them in a dream not to return to Herod. So they followed these instuctions and returned home by another route. They left differently than they came.

When we find Jesus, we too want to share with him, to bow down in obessance. And we, too, can leave different than when we came into the Light. Isaiah had the same experience in chapter 6 of his prophecy. Jacob had the same in his wrestling match with the Almighty. Seeing God changes us. Seeing his radiance makes us radiate his Light. The face of Moses shone with glory after he returned from the Mount of the Law's revelation.

We must radiate the love of Jesus to a dark and lonely world.