Well, here is something too important not to preach about: David's fall. Here is the king of Israel—a man after God's own heart—and he is committing sin after sin. Not just little stumble after little stumble but heinous evil after heinous evil. He takes another man's wife, gets her pregnant, tries to cover it up by attempting to manipulate her husband, then he finally resorts to murdering the husband. After today's Old Testament reading we also read that many good men were sacrificed in order to have the husband killed. David is guilty of mass murder. AND he is so blinded to his own sin that the Lord has to send Nathan to him to reveal in a parable the horrible soul that David has become. This is truly the fall of a great man.
So, here's a quiz: where is the hinge? Where is the place where David lost it, where the downward spiral began? Where is the place where if David had not succumbed to that one sin, the others would not have followed? We know it wasn't the mass murder: that was the final blow to David's soul. He committed the mass murder, because he wasn't able to manipulate Uriah in order to cover up his sin with Bathsheba. If only he hadn't committed adultery with Bathsheba! Certainly that was the causing sin, right?
Wait, then there's the coveting. As we have seen time and time again, the coveting comes first, and then the sin follows. That is why “Thou Shalt Not Covet” is one of the Ten Commandments. It is the catch-all. If we can say—and we can't—that we have not broken the first nine commandments, then the tenth commandment—about coveting—will get us every time, because first comes the insatiable desire, and then comes the sin as a result. So, David seeing Bathsheba from his rooftop, bathing, caused him to covet, and with the coveting came all the other horrible sins David committed and hence his downfall. So the coveting is the causing sin.
Am I right? Is this the causing sin? Is this the first cause of David's downfall? Let's go back to the first verse. “In the spring of the year, the time when KINGS go out to battle, David sent Joab with his officers and all Israel with him; they ravaged the Ammonites, and besieged Rabbah. But David REMAINED at Jerusalem.” (2 Samuel 11:1)
This is the time of the year when KINGS go into battle. David is Israel's KING. Did David go into battle? No. He sent Joab to lead the army. Which army? ALL OF ISRAEL. He didn't just send a small group of men out to the spring war games. This was a big battle with all of Israel partaking—everyone except David. EVERY able-bodied male warrior in Israel, except David. He decided he didn't WANNA. He wanted to just hang out on his chaise lounge. He was hanging out on the Internet, on Facebook or Twitter, or watching Jersey Shore on MTV, while all of Israel, all of the able warriors of his nation, were put into HARM'S WAY. He got up from his couch, probably wearing a velvet robe and drinking a martini and puffing on a pipe, and took a turn on the patio, probably the highest point in the kingdom, and that's where he saw Bathsheba down below.
None of David's fall should have happened, not because he shouldn't have coveted, but because he shouldn't have been on his roof. He shouldn't have been in Jerusalem. He should have been in the most honorable place: leading his troops in battle, as every other King in the land was doing. Before David coveted, he had first lost his honor, and we today, we can argue about whether the Ten Commandments are a good form of government, or whether coveting should be considered a sin—after all, its our private thoughts—but what is very obvious when we look around at Western Culture is that we have lost our honor, and there lies the entrance of the downward spiral into the depths of darkness.
Honor is a word that we really don't know the meaning of today. We always say honor as if it were a noun, such as, 'he is without honor.' Or we say it like an adjective, like, 'he is an honorable man.' These uses don't get us any closer to the meaning, because we cannot discern the definition of honor from the context. He is an honorable man? Well, prove it. What did he do to be called honorable? He is an honorable man, BECAUSE... Why is David without honor? What did he do? We read it. He didn't lead his men into battle. He took another man's wife. He tried to deceive the other man. He then had the other man killed, and he sacrificed other good men to do it.
The best way to think of the word honor is to use it as a verb. THEN we have context and then we can more fully understand what honor means. We HONOR others. One of the Ten Commandments tells us to HONOR our father and mother. We are told to honor the Lord in many places. Men are told to honor their wives. First Peter 2:17 gives us the best context for honor: “Honor everyone. Love the family of believers. Fear God. Honor the King.” Honor is loving your neighbor. Honor is loving God. Honor is the word that sums up the first and second great commandments: loving God and loving our neighbor.
This is why we can say that David's dishonor caused David's covetousness. Not coveting is the tenth commandment, but honoring is the first and second great commandments, which we break first, causing our fall. David dishonored Israel by not fighting with them. David dishonored his neighbor Uriah by taking his wife for himself, deceiving him, and then killing him. Honor is loving our neighbor. When we dishonor our neighbors, we stop loving them, and then it is easy to sin against them.
When we dishonor our neighbors we are also dishonoring God, because he created the natural order of things. Romans 1:21 reads “although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him.” From there, Paul gives us a description of the downward spiral into darkness that passes through dishonoring our neighbors, coveting, and then committing heinous sin against God and our neighbor.
There is a reason that Jesus held these two general commandments above all the others. He knew that living the Christian life is all about honor. It is all about honoring God and your neighbor by obeying the commandments in love. As Christians we can lose our honor when we go with the tide of secular culture. As I said last week, we have a leisure culture unprecedented anywhere else in history. See how David plummeted, when he partook of his own leisure.
What do we do? Well, thankfully the Lord does it for us. As it says at the beginning of chapter 12 in second Samuel, The Lord was displeased with David and he SENT Nathan. God sends his word into our lives to compel us back into grace. As I taught a few weeks ago, when we fall out of grace, we fall into karma, where curses happen. See what happened to David after his leisure swept him out of God's grace: the baby—the product of the adultery—died. We will fall into karma, too, and so often we do but thankkfully God sends his prophets, his Nathans, into our lives to preach the word. God opens our ears to hear the word. He compels us back into his grace.
The greatest word to hear is the gospel. The truth of Jesus Christ dying for the salvation of his elect and bringing us back into the grace of God is the word that we need to hear often. It is the word that will bring us back. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ that restores our honor.
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Our next and last feeding of the lifeguards at the Duck Firestation is August 2. Please contact Brenda if you would like to participate in any way. You don't necessarily have to bring food. You could just bring your presence and converse with the lifeguards, who often are not thanked for their sacrifice. Hope to see you there Thursday, August 2nd, at 6pm for setup and 6:30 for the meal!
Good Shepherd is having a planning session a week from today. On Tuesday, July 31st from 5PM to 9PM we will meet at Sue and Ed Weems' house on Ocean Blvd for food and to clarify our plan for Good Shepherd for the upcoming year. All church attendees are invited, as well as anyone with an interest in where Good Shepherd is headed. Please RSVP me if you are coming, and I will let our hosts know, so we can plan food accordingly. I will also give you directions to the house.
During the session, we will look at our core values, mission, and vision statements, developed in the fall of 2010:
- To surrender to God's will.
- To teach and preach the Holy Scriptures as the Word of God.
- To make prayer the foundation of all we do.
To live with Christ Jesus as our Savior, growing together as an intergenerational family, empowered by the Holy Spirit.
We are followers of Christ who share ministries of healing, discipleship, and outreach in local groups and unite weekly for worship on the Outer Banks.
What needs to be changed? Is our Church headed in a different direction from what is written above? I would love to hear everyone's personal vision of where he or she sees the church a year from now. Then, we can come up with a collective vision. Please RSVP, and I look forward to seeing you all there in a week!
Monday, July 23, 2012
Living in America, the busiest place on Earth, we all know what rest means, right? It means leisure. It means sleep. It means vegging out. Right? Actually, leisure is what is killing the country right now. Laziness is destroying us. Technology is keeping us distracted and unthinking. This is not really rest. It's a temporary cure for exhaustion, maybe, but it is not true rest. We are not lightswitches that are either on or off. Keep turning the light on and off over and over again and what happens to the bulb? It burns out faster.
What did Jesus mean by rest? Well, let's look at our gospel reading for this week (Mark 6:30-44). This is a passage about the feeding of the 5000. In your bibles that is the subhead. However, we are not going to get that far. I want to look at the beginning of this passage. The apostles have just come back from the mission that Jesus sent them out to do. He sent them out two by two to the villages to proclaim that all should repent. They also cast out demons, and they anointed the sick with oil. This was tough work, especially the spiritual warfare part, and we can see that since Jesus has not done his work on the cross yet, the proclamation is that of repentance.
Verse 31: Jesus says to the returned apostles, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest for awhile.” This is interesting, because this is the only place where Jesus teaches the apostles to take a rest. They have finally done the work of the Lord, and so they need a rest, much in the same way that Christ himself rested after a long day of work. Rest is necessary when we are immersed in the Lord's work.
But the key word in this sentence is the word “deserted.” How many of us retreat to a deserted place when we need rest? Don't we just go on Facebook? Get on our computers? Veg in front of the TV? These aren't deserted places. Even going to the bedroom and reading a novel until you fall asleep for a nap is not retreating to a deserted place. What is a deserted place?
The Greek word for deserted helps us here: eraymoss. This is the same word for wilderness or desert. It's not just a deserted place—it is a DESOLATE place. If we look through the gospels, a desolate place is where Jesus retreats to each time. Let's look at the qualities of such a place and try to discern if there is such a place in our lives. If not, can we think of such a place for us?
First, a desolate place is a place of quiet. It is a place for listening. Not a place to fill the space with something else or with things we want. It's a place where God can fill us with himself and the things he wants. It is a place of prayer, as we see whenever Jesus leaves the squabble to find a quiet place to pray. It is also a place without food, so there is FASTING in the place. We don't head to the fridge for some “rest.” The place of desolation is a place of self denial. How many times have we been told to get our cup of coffee and muffin and sit in our easy chair to have our quiet time with God? Rest is being naked and empty before God so that we can be filled.
This leads to another attribute of the place. It is the place where we meet God. This seems like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how many of us use this place to just get our own bearings, so we can face the world on our own again. Also, how many of us become bored, because we don't really believe that we are in the presence of God? Think about it. How long did the Israelites wander in the wilderness? 40 years, right? We think about those passages of scripture and we think, “wow, that is horrible.” We wish they had made the right decision about entering the promised land. But wait! Here is a group or people in the place of desolation—with God. He is with them—physically with them. They have his ear, and he technically has theirs. What do they do with that time of rest with the Lord? They abuse it. The complain. They test God. They prove themselves not worthy of the salvation he gave them from Egypt.
Here is something interesting if we look at the first chapter of Luke, we read at the very end of the chapter about John the Baptist's childhood: “The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the WILDERNESS until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.” What is this? I think two things when I read this. First, the place of desolation is a place where we grow. We can infer this. But also, it is a place we spend a LOT of time. Not just a little bit out of every day. Ok, it's time for my 15 minutes of quiet prayer time. No, it seems that whenever we are not engaged in ministry, in the Lord's work, we are spending time of rest in our place of desolation. We are not coming home from a hard day of work and kicking our feet up in front of the TV, and then maybe we will go for a walk in the night and pray before bed. When we are not engaged in ministry, we are NOT engaging the world but God in our places of desolation.
Rest is a big part of life. It's not just something we need to GET when we can. It makes up a bulk of life, because it is this special rest of desolation. Not the kind of rest that we think, the kind that means laziness, sleep or distraction. Augustine writes at the end of his City of God, heaven is a place where there is eternal rest. I don't think it means lying around on clouds all day, plucking harps. It means being in a close, prayerful, quiet relationship with the creator of the universe, a relationship in which the Lord preoccupies our souls. We don't DESIRE to loaf in front of entertainment. We don't DESIRE to pig out on a smorgasbord or delicacies.
Which brings me to another aspect of the place of desolation. It is a place of safety from the world. It was a place where Jesus knew he wouldn't be attacked, and as we see from the gospels, when he was in a very public place, he was threatened and often attacked. So, it is a place of safety from other people who might hurt us. Here is something strange: what else happened to Jesus in the wilderness? He was tempted by the devil.
The place of desolation is a place of trial! That doesn't sound very restful, does it? Hebrews 3:8 even confirms that the wilderness is a place of testing. We read about many church fathers who retreat to the desert and have struggles with the devil there. However, it also says that Jesus was ministered to by angels in that same wilderness during those same trials. This may be a place of desolation but not disaster. God gets us through these trials. In these times of rest, our minds wander to God, and he reveals to us our struggles. We face them in the place of desolation, not when we are distracted by Twitter. This is a place where God grows us stronger.
Finally, this last aspect of a desolate place is something very counter-intuitive, we do not expect it. It is a place where we can be found. When Jesus retreats to these places, he is eventually found. At the end of Luke 4, the crowds find Jesus where he has retreated to, and they try to prevent him from leaving town. In our gospel passage today, the people follow Jesus and the apostles to the place where they retreat.
Is this a problem? Actually, no. Jesus never gets frustrated with his rest time being interrupted. This is a far cry from how we feel, when we have our private time interrupted. I've got four daughters. I know how it feels to not get a moment to myself. I want to scream, “get out of here!” But here is the last thing we have to get past: our places of desolation are not places where we HAVE to be alone. This is not private time. This isn't supposed to be a moment to myself. It's time with God, but God may send people to us in this time of rest.
What do we do when God sends people into our quiet time? Let's see what Jesus did in today's reading. Verse 34: “As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to TEACH them many things.”
Our places of desolation are also places of teaching and learning. This is also a place of other people's rest coinciding with ours. God puts us together in the wilderness, and when we are together, in Christ, in God's presence, we are to learn and grow together. Teach each other. Learn from God's word. Our places of desolation are places of shepherding. The wilderness is the place where the shepherd goes to seek the lost sheep and bring it back with God's word. It is a place where the gospel is proclaimed. Wasn't that the apostle's ministry, and weren't they resting from that? Yes, but remember that Jesus' yoke is learning, and he claims that it is a very restful yoke. In Matthew 11:29, Jesus tells his disciples, “Take my yoke upon you and LEARN from me.”
A major part of rest in Christ is teaching and learning. This is drastically different from what we think rest is. How much learning do we accomplish when we watch TV? What if we watch the learning channel? Immersing ourselves in God's word, learning everything we can about our creator, and sharing with others is what true rest is all about. God leads us beside still waters, and he leads us through green pastures, but all for his name's sake. We are to rest, but this rest is a rest of growth, a rest of discipline, and a rest of knowledge of God.
Monday, July 16, 2012
With contempt the Pharisees scoffed at Jesus, because he was eating with tax collectors and prostitutes--sinners. Jesus responds, "Those who are well have no need of a physician but those who are sick." There seem to be two types of Christians we encounter from day to day. Those like the Pharisees say not to interact with the sinful people of the world. They will only bring you down. Those like the Social Justice crowd say we must interact with the sinful people of the world. We can only bring them up. There is a middle way. This comes in a word Jesus spoke to the Pharisees: physician. The doctor does not treat the patient by sitting there calmly and letting the patient's sickness wear off on him, getting him sick. The doctor attempts to HEAL the patient when they are together. The only cure for the patient is the Gospel. We must at all times and in all ways preach the Gospel to everyone we meet. Expository Preaching is God's way of reaching his elect. We cannot ignore the sick (Pharisees) and we cannot just make the sick comfortable in their plight (Social Justice). As shepherds we bring the sick to the healer, who is Jesus Christ, and he heals them through his word.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3)
Since this is a healing service, I would like to apply healing to this verse and the next one. Is healing a blessing in the heavenly places? Yes. There is no sickness or death in Heaven. Of course healing is one of the blessings or benefits of the afterlife. Anyone who dies in Christ is completely healed now.
But as Christians, we get the benefits of Heaven every day. God's Spirit allows these blessings from Heaven to trickle into our world. When we are IN Christ, we experience these blessings, like healing.
Truly, these blessings only come to us through Jesus. When we pray for healing in the name of Jesus Christ, we are acknowledging where the healing comes from. Jesus is the healer.
I attended a healing conference a few months ago, and the speaker demonstrated healing prayer by laying his hands on people or telling us stories of his healing experiences. I noticed that whenever he prayed, he always did so in the name of Jesus, but he never explained to us that it was very important to do so. So, when we had Q & A, one of my written questions was about that: “It seems that the name of Jesus needs to be evoked. Is this true?” He said to us all, “yes.”
Then someone raised his hand and asked a personal question: “What if I don't WANT to pray in the name of Jesus?” There was a pause as he reworded, “Let's say that someone has been hit over the head with the Jesus stick, that the name just turns them off.”
Now, the speaker interpreted this to mean, “what if the person you are praying over does not want to hear the name of Jesus.” His answer was for the prayer to say “God” but think “Jesus.” However, I think the questioner meant that he himself did not want to pray over anyone in the name of Jesus.
Will the questioner experience healing if he doesn't pray in the name of Jesus? I don't think so. Jesus is the conduit through which all the blessings come. When we read John 14:6, the famous verse, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no one comes to the Father except through me,” we tend to think of us getting to God through Jesus. We picture Jesus as a tunnel through which we access the Father. Jesus compares himself to Jacob's Ladder in John chapter 1, and we think of us climbing up Jesus to get to the Father. Well, remember that Angels are ascending and DESCENDING on the Son of Man. Jesus isn't just access to the Father. He is the Father's access to us. He is the conduit through which the spiritual blessings from the heavenly places reach us.
Remember that Jesus is the way to access spiritual blessings like healing. We have a big problem in the Western world with seeking the blessings that only God can give, but we do not seek God. Many churches cater to the ones who are seeking only the blessings of God. But Churches need to cater to the ones seeking God himself. This is the difference between belief and unbelief. When we believe, we seek God, not his blessings, because we know that Seeking the Kingdom of God and his righteousness brings us the benefits of God as well. We don't seek the benefits. We seek God and we get both God AND the benefits. If we seek the benefits INSTEAD of God, we get neither.
Remember this when you next find yourself in a church where the preacher is using a handy mnemonic device to help you remember something to DO to get God's blessings. Let's see, CORTIZONE: the C stands for Call on God; the O stands for Open Your Heart; the R stands for . . . um . . . READ Your Bible! And on and on, and you still don't remember the steps after the service.
Everyone is now thinking really hard in the room. I see eyes darting back and forth, focusing on nothing, because we are all thinking, “am I seeking God or just his blessings?” Don't fear. Verse 3 of Ephesians 1 is followed by verse 4, making a complete sentence: Just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love.
God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. If you are hearing this message right now and understand, you have been chosen. We have several gardens in our yard, and in those gardens are underground hoses that water the soil. The hoses have rotted away and are useless. The water can't get to the soil. But if we want to restore the life of the garden, what do we seek? Do we seek water? Do we bring bucket after bucket to the garden each day and water the garden? Or do we seek the source of the irrigation system? The tap? We pull up that hose until we find the tap, the source of the water. Seek first Jesus, and the life of the garden is restored. If you are seeking the tap, the source of the blessings of heaven, then you have been chosen by God before the foundation of the world.
Likewise, we are not here today to seek healing. That may sound strange, because it is a healing service, but it is true. We are not here seeking healing. We are here seeking Christ and Christ ONLY. Through Christ comes the healing, but the healing is not the goal. The goal is Christ. Just as the goal of Jesus' incarnation, death, and resurrection, is not so much to save us. Saving us happens through Jesus, but the GOAL is to glorify God. God is the goal.
As you come forward for healing, remember that the goal is not the healing but Christ. Jesus Christ is our goal. Seek him.
Thursday, July 12, 2012
Good Shepherd's Annual Pool Party at the Moseley's is Sunday, July 22, at 4pm. Please call me for directions. This is a community building event, so please invite all your friends, especially those who are seeking a community where they can belong.
The Moseley's will provide burgers and hot dogs and buns for grilling. They also have condiments. Church members need to bring drinks for the ice chest (bring an extra ice chest with ice, if you can), a side dish, and invited friends (who do NOT have to bring anything but themselves).
Update your calendars to include this date, and we look forward to seeing you at the Moseley's on the 22nd!
Monday, July 9, 2012
When I was young, there was an elderly lady who lived next door to me, and once she asked me if I would mow her lawn. She said she would pay me. I agreed, but I couldn't do it until after school the next day. So, the next day, I got home, and I went up to my room. I got out my bass and my amplifier, and I got out a tape recorder, because there was no such thing as CDs back then, and turned up my amp, so it distorted, and then I recorded my bass on the tape. I had two tape players, so I set up another one, playing back the first tape, so I could put another layer of bass overtop, so I got this cool multi-distorted bass thing going, and then...
And then my dad burst into the room, yelled at me that I had not honored my obligations, dragged me outside by my ear, and threw me onto the yard, saying, “get over there and mow your neighbor's lawn!” I did, and she was very nice about it, but she never asked me to mow it again. Now, the reason I'm telling you this is not because I'm preaching about loving your neighbor, or honoring your obligations. Both of those are excellent topics, but no. I want to talk about leading your family and close friends to Christ, or helping them grow in Christ, if they are already Christians. Just like all of you here, I help my mom and dad grow in Christ, but whenever I preach and he's in the congregation, I wonder, “is he taking me seriously? How can anyone take Mr. Bassman, Mr. Forgets His Obligations seriously?”
We run into this all the time. The closest people to us are the toughest to witness to because they have seen us at our worst. Have you ever been so excited about your faith, that you just can't help bringing Jesus up in conversation? What do you get from the rest of the family? At first a proud pat on the back. I'm so glad you're excited about the Lord. And then . . . eyerolls? Oh dear, my daughter is turning into a little nun! We are Christians to lead each other to Christ and to help each other grow in Christ. There is no “I'm up here, you're down here” thinking. We aren't talking about levels of sanctification. We're talking about interacting with our friends and families and yet remaining faithful to Christ in our words and our deeds.
Your friends and family know you. They know who you were. They've watched you sin—from snatching the toy away from your sister to staying out past curfew. How is anyone close to you going to take you seriously when you are trying to help them grown in Christ?
But look at Jesus. He didn't do anything wrong. He wasn't Mr. Bassman. He didn't forget to mow a neighbor's lawn. In our gospel reading (Mark 6:1-6) we read that Jesus spoke in the synagogue in his home town, and he spoke with wisdom, and he performed mighty deeds. He did great things. We hear about WORD and DEED being equally important. Here is Christ doing both, and the people from his home town watching all this take place were OFFENDED.
What was the stumbling block? They knew him. They watched little Jesus grow up. They knew his mother and father. They knew his brothers and sisters. Where could he possibly have gotten all this wisdom and healing power? Something is awry here! They got offended, and the scriptures say that Jesus could do no deed of power there after that.
We're doomed to lose our families! If Jesus cannot do this, how can we? How can we lose the closest people to us, or just pray that they find Christ in some other way, regardless of us? We may have parents who are believers, and we don't have to worry, but we may also ave siblings or cousins, who have been so immersed in the culture, so brainwashed by secularism, that we may feel that just praying for them from afar is not enough.
Let's look at this gospel passage in a different light than the most obvious one. Here are some things we learn about Jesus. First, he was NOT unable to perform miracles. Verse 5 says he still cured a few sick people. He may have marveled at their unbelief, but their unbelief did not STRIP him of power. Our first impression is to put ourselves as God and that Jesus is rendered impotent by our MIGHTY UNBELIEF. Jesus can save every single person in Nazareth if he chooses. He can draw each person's heart to God just by sheer will, if he chooses. The rub is this: he does not choose, because of their unbelief. He is not going to draw them into the flock because their unbelief is offensive to him. It's one thing to say your loved ones are ignorant of Christ. This is merely a problem of informing them of the gospel. God will draw them to himself, using you as a mouthpiece for the gospel message. We instead retreat to our bedrooms, distort our amplifiers, and rock out INSTEAD of sharing the gospel. Here is Jesus sharing the gospel. Preaching with wisdom. Performing miraculous deeds. The reaction of his home-towners is OFFENSE because of their own HOSTILE UNBELIEF. Jesus then retreats. He doesn't force them understand. He doesn't magically give them ears to hear. He lets them go. He gives them over to their own lostness.
Before we write off our families and close friends, think about who is just ignorant of Christ and who is actively hostile toward Christ. The second thing we can learn is from elsewhere in scripture: Mother Mary was a believer and is considered one of the most important Christian figures by millions of Christians. James, Jesus' brother, became a leader of the church. He didn't believe until after Jesus' death, but he did convert. He wrote one of the books of the New Testament. So did Jesus' other brother Jude. Jesus never returned to his hometown, but people from the hometown can leave that place and follow. I may not be comfortable preaching to my parents when I visit them in Richmond, but when they come to the OBX, all bets are off. I don't water down this message if they are in the congregation. What I'm saying is that God draws people away from the place of unbelief to the place of belief. God draws them. We should worry when someone is unwilling to leave their place of unbelief, because they know, in their hearts, they are vulnerable to God's word. Who are the family members or friends who don't like to leave their secular strongholds? They are afraid that if they let their guard down, the word of God will get inside. Pray for them. As we pray on the full armor of God each day, like in Ephesians 6, we can also pray the secular armor OFF of those we want God to reach. Please, God, remove the cultural defenses of the people I love. Let them hear your truth for the first time.
The third thing is the word marvel. Jesus marveled at their unbelief. That Greek word is used throughout the new testament, but only one other time in relation to Jesus. In other words, he only marvels at something twice in all the gospels: he marvels at the unbelief of the people in his hometown. This unbelief is so great that it causes our Lord—through whom all things were created—to marvel! That is a great unbelief.
The other place Jesus marvels can be read in Matthew 8:10 and Luke 7:9. In these passages Jesus marvels at the faith of a centurion, someone whom he did not expect to believe in him at all. So, the unbelief of people he grew up with and the belief of someone who should not have belief cause our Lord to marvel. Let's look at the elements of the centurion's belief, and see if we can glean what caused Jesus to marvel.
First, the centurion wants Jesus to heal his servant, someone the centurion could replace at the drop of a hat—a hired hand. Someone who shouldn't be important to the centurion as a person, but is. The centurion loves his slave as a brother, and feels the potential loss of a true friend. Second, the centurion confesses his complete unworthiness of Jesus. He doesn't deserve Christ's help. This is AFTER Jesus responds, “I will come and cure him.” The guy asks Jesus to help, Jesus agrees, and then the guy makes the case AGAINST Jesus helping. Jesus essentially tells him, “You had me at 'hello!'”
Third, after the centurion confesses his unworthiness, he confesses his knowledge of God. He knows that Jesus is not a mere magician, who is going to have someone run ahead to the centurion's house and give the paralyzed servant a magic potion. He knows that Jesus doesn't need to perform sleight of hand. He KNOWS that Jesus is God, and requests that Jesus only say the word and his servant will be healed. Fourth, the centurion confesses that he is a servant himself. He never throws his weight around. He never abuses the authority he has. He is under authority, he is a cog in the secular machine. He knows he is a member of the kingdom of SIN, and yet he knows that he is under the authority of God. He knows what the kingdom of heaven is. These four traits of belief cause Jesus to marvel. Love of neighbor, humility, knowledge of God, and knowledge of his place in God's kingdom. These are the elements of true faith.
What sort of unbelief would cause Jesus to marvel? An unbelief that lacked ALL FOUR of these elements: no love of neighbor, excess pride, no knowledge of God, no awareness of God's kingdom or their place in it. Do you know anybody like that? Neither do I, but some people come close. Could it be that God is drawing your loved ones to him as we speak? There are those who do have that hostile unbelief in them—there are many in this world—and we may know some of them. But where there is hope, there is prayer.
Pray that your family and close friends will experience the love of God through their neighbors, and that they would return that love. Pray for humility. Pray for knowledge of God. Pray for a revised worldview in which the secular world dissolves and the kingdom of God is revealed.
And keep witnessing the gospel to them.
Every third Sunday of the month Good Shepherd has a Healing Service, using the "A Service for Healing" liturgy from the Our Modern Services Kenyan prayerbook. This service has developed into a very spiritual event over the last few months, including using the whole healing service from the prayerbook (not just aspects), a sermon on an aspect of healing, a clear and understandable Eucharistic prayer, and the laying on of multiple hands. Please join in this Sunday to, God willing, experience spiritual, physical, emotional, generational, and cultural healing.
Thursday, July 5, 2012
Please remember me in prayer as I will be heading for Mombasa 2 July to be part of a team teaching about cross cultural mission. We (Kathy Phillips and I) leave Mombasa on 8 July and meet the Hilton Head St. Lukes' Team in Dar es Salaam Tanzania. We have a medical mission in the village of Kibindu and in the slums of Dar. I should be returning 23 July. If you haven't heard from me by the 24 of July, send the Angels...or the marines, whichever seems appropriate.
I have been a little under the weather with a nasty cold or flu virus and I am hoping in the next couple of days the little "bug party" breaks up.
Serving Our Loving Father
It's time to load 'em up and move 'em out! After a crazy yet wonderful year in Dallas, Texas, we have saddled up our horses (a.k.a. loaded down the minivan) and are moving on to the next step in our journey. We have learned so much about the amazing intricacies of the world's languages and about the urgent need for Bible translation. We are sad to leave behind the friends we've made at school and church in Texas, but our hearts yearn to begin the work that God has called us to in Mexico. In this update, we've included a time line of our travels for the next month as well as our stateside contact information. Thank you, once again, for your prayers, love and support. You are such a blessing to our family.
In Christ Alone,
Kris, Susan, Kieran and Elyse
Wednesday, July 4, 2012
Wishing everyone out there a blessed Independence Day. Use "Independence Day" in your greetings instead of "Fourth of July", so the meaning of this great American Holiday is expressed. Life in this country means not being dependent on any human contrivance. Be only dependent on God. All other dependence is idolatry.
We will be feeding the Duck/Southern Shores Lifeguards tomorrow evening at the Duck Fire Station. Please join in the festivities as we serve up a patriotic meal of hot dogs. Please contact Brenda if you want suggestions on what to bring. Or just bring yourselves and interact with these young people who sacrifice their summers to save people from the OBX riptides each day. We set up at 6 for a 6:30 dinnertime. See you there!
Since we will start using a full half-hour for set up before the 11am service. I propose moving the Sunday Morning Book Study up 15 minutes to 9:45am. This not only gives us more time to set up (30 minutes instead of 20), but it also increases the time of the book study to 45 minutes (from 40). Please accept my proposal by being there at 9:45 this Sunday.
For this Sunday please read Chapter 10--"Reaching A Decision"--in John Stott's Basic Christianity. Also, if you would like a free copy of A.W. Tozer's The Pursuit of God, which will be the subject of our next book study, please let me know.
See you at 9:45am on Sunday!
For this Sunday please read Chapter 10--"Reaching A Decision"--in John Stott's Basic Christianity. Also, if you would like a free copy of A.W. Tozer's The Pursuit of God, which will be the subject of our next book study, please let me know.
See you at 9:45am on Sunday!
Please consider coming to church a half hour early (10:30am) on Sundays to help set up. We also need others to be willing to help put away. If enough folks are willing to help...a schedule could be made out where the activity would be easier on everyone. Everything that we own, as a church, has to be brought out and put away each Sunday. Right now, the burden is totally on the Barrett Family. Thanks to all who helped to change the seating this past Sunday. I hoped that you liked it as much as I did. It just felt right and was quite calming to me. Pray about helping and let Father Fred or myself know what you will be able to do. It will be much appreciated!!!