Wednesday, September 29, 2010

90 years and counting

As we are slowly approaching the 90th Anniversary of Lynhurst Baptist Church we have been going through the seven churches in Revelation (Revelation 2-3). Each of these churches has their own city, their own personality, and their own praises and rebukes. Ephesus was known as a loveless church, Smyrna was the persecuted church, Pergamum was the compromising church, Thyatira was an adulterous (idolatry) church, Sardis was a sleeping unaware church, Philadelphia is the faithful church, and Laodicea is a lukewarm (indifferent) church. Each of these churches receive their praise and rebuke from Jesus.

As we have been going through this Revelation series I have been wondering what kind of letter Jesus would have written to Lynhurst Baptist. I think Jesus would commend Lynhurst for having a strong Spirit that has carried on through many hardships and trials. I believe Jesus would rejoice at our ability to see needs in the neighborhood and reach out and fulfill them through the food pantry, community center, after school program and preschool. These are ministries that Lynhurst has begun building a reputation around. However, I also wonder how Jesus would correct us.

I wonder what Jesus would say not just about us bringing bread to the lives of people through the food pantry and community center, but also what would he say about us leading people to the bread of life. I wonder what our Lord would say not just about the room we allow for children in our building, but also what he would say about the room we have from them in our hearts. I wonder what Jesus would say about how we bring outsiders into worship, and in what ways to we allow them to worship in a way they understand.

I know Lynhurst Baptist has done many great things through the leading of Holy Spirit, but I also know there is much further for us to go. In the words of Paul, the race is not yet finished. Just as Sarah, Abraham’s wife, did not see the promise of God fulfilled until a late age, even now Lynhurst is just beginning to see all the promises God has for us. Sarah gave birth to the promised son at age 90, and even now Lynhurst needs to be ready to raise up a whole new generation even at our age.

I believe this is our letter, our message from Jesus. It is time that we pray, think, and share God’s message with each other.

The church is a beautiful mystery that God has given us. The young in the church share the history of Lynhurst along with the elder, and the elder share a future with the church along with the young.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The most difficult thing in the world

This last week I walked out of church from Bible Study to find the parking lot full of junior boys with long hair and low bikes trying to land tricks. I certainly saw this as a good time to be entertained because there was a high likelihood of someone making a fool of themselves. After I had given them a hard time for not going fast enough to pull off their dangerous tricks, I decided that it was time for me to hop on one of their bikes and demonstrate to them how it is done. My plan was to pop the front wheel up and spin the handle bars 360 degrees before I landed. What actually happened was I popped a wheelie spun the bars a whole 45 degrees and landed on the bike bar instead of seat. Apparently the trick was more difficult than I thought (and much more dangerous). It has been said that hitting a baseball is the most difficult thing to do in sports, however, I think hitting the 900 as seen here on a skateboard seems much more difficult.

So I was wondering “What is the most difficult task one can ever do?”

It is not an easy question. We are a very prideful people, and I myself am very proud, and therefore, there are very few challenges I would not try if given the chance. It is even amazing that anyone would ever think of the possibility of going to the moon, land a 900, or race at 300 mph. All this is done because our pride pushes us to be the best. This had me thinking that perhaps the most difficult thing to ever do is not the one that involves the most skill level, but one that is very rarely attempted at all.

So, what is so difficult, so daunting, so dangerous, that few if any ever attempt to accomplish?

The answer is not setting a new record, but forfeiting our pride. Letting go of our pride has to be the most difficult, least tried, and greatest accomplishment one can achieve. To prove it’s difficulty I will challenge you to do two things:

1. Do something really kind and really generous for someone and do it anonymously. I am not talking about holding a door open for someone. I am talking about giving someone who needs it, $100 kind of act. Do something very gracious and tell no one. Do not let the person you are helping know it is you, don’t tell your neighbor you did it, your friend, your parents, or even your spouse. Tell no one; take this kind deed with you to the grave. Do this and do it on a somewhat regular basis and you are accomplishing the most difficult task there is to accomplish, you are forfeiting your pride. (This was inspired by my seminary professor Dr. Gary Sattler).

2. Forgive someone who has wronged you. Do not wait for an apology, do not wait for punishment, but simply forgive someone you has hurt you and allow them back into your life without any grudge or conditions.

If you can do these two things, than you will have accomplished something truly great because you have done something that not only takes a lot of heart and strength, but you have done something that far too few have ever tried to undertake. Of course defeating your pride cannot be done alone, if you thought you could you gave way to pride once again.

To completely abolish our pride we must have help from the king who was strong enough to humble himself to a cross, Jesus Christ (Philippians 2).

If he could only see how small a vacancy his death would leave, the proud man would think less of the place he occupies in his lifetime. - Ernest Wilfrid LeGouve

The sun will set without thy assistance. - The Talmud

Pride is the mask of one's own faults. - Jewish proverb

Pride ruined the angels. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, September 17, 2010

Kingdom over Democracy

The mayor of Indianapolis Greg Ballard had a meeting with religious leaders today to discuss issues that have been happening in the city. Many issues that were brought up were issues that plague almost every U.S. major city such as crime, racial disparity, and transportation. Some issues that were brought up were very specific in nature. Two issues that were mentioned several times were about recent police behavior concerning one drunken police officer who ran over and killed a motorcyclist, and a beating of a young unarmed African-American.

Undoubtedly issues of injustice, brutality, racial profiling, and the like need to be addressed. Certainly there are many steps local government can take to better the lives of citizens and as members of a free nation it is our right and duty to hold our government accountable. I saw passion, conviction, and good leadership but I also saw far too much blame.

Too many people were asking “what are you going to do.”

As I said it is our responsibility and calling to point out injustice, to raise a voice against indecency, but it is also our responsibility to do something about it. Too often we are willing to raise our voice in accusation, but we are not willing not raise our hand and volunteer to action.

The question cannot be “what are you going to do” but “what are we going to do?”

Every government system is going to fall short of fulfilling the needs of the people. No matter the mayor, the governor, or the president. I do not care if you are Republican, Democrat, Tea Party, Green Party, Libertarian, or Undecided, all fall incredibly short of having the necessary means to adequately protect, transform, and educate. If we want change, if we want peace, if we want equality, the change starts much smaller than politics; the change starts in the heart.

Jesus came not to usher in a new political party but a new kingdom, the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:15). Christ has said that His body is not represented by the government, but by the church (1 Corinthians 12:27). It is the believers; it is the church that is the Body of Christ! There is a great mystery, a divine power, a limitless reality found within the church. This mystery, this power, this reality, has been too often forgotten, but it is still in work today. What this world needs is not more laws, better politicians, or better programs, we need better people and we get that by having more Jesus.

The question then is what are we as the Church doing? We change cities by changing communities, by changing neighborhoods, by changing people, by changing hearts, by giving them Jesus Christ. Is the church doing this? If not, then the government, politicians, and the people, should start accusing us of inaction, not the other way around. This world belongs to God and His children; it is time to start acting like it.

Monday, September 13, 2010

All Rights are not always right

In the United States we are guaranteed certain unalienable rights, which have been endowed by our Creator. That is what the Declaration of Independence says, and it is a belief that many have fought over, died over, and gave great sacrifices over. No doubt we all have rights, but just because they are our right does not make it always right to exercise them.

We have the rights to free speech; bear arms, vote, and many more. However, we have made the mistake of thinking because they are our rights; they are always right and proper to exercise. Now I am in no way saying that we need to somehow create laws to limit these freedoms.

Laws always muddy the waters, and never eliminate the problem. In fact, a friend of mine pointed out the absurd, yet true notion, that “if you have no laws, then you have no crime.”

This idea of rights is that they are there to use when we need to. However, we have interpreted rights as something we should practice despite their consequences. Just because you have the right to free speech does not mean there are not times when it may be best to keep your mouth closed. Just because you have the right to bear arms, does not mean there is never a time when you should lay down and surrender all your guns to humility and peace.

The Declaration of Independence was written to declare independence from an outside governing body. Unfortunately many of us approach the document thinking that it means we have complete individual independence to do what we want. As a result we see many exercising their “freedom” in complete disregard for others or consequences. We hear people say “it is my yard and therefore, it is my right to put up an electric fence even though you have 5 year old kids running around in the background. We see people drinking themselves to death because it is their body and frankly there is no law limiting alcohol consumption over the age of 21 (unless you are driving). We see people running their mouth with hateful words and inciting accusations because it is again their “right.” But just because it is a right does not make it right.

We need a better ethic, an ethic that is not simply based on following laws or rights. We need an ethic that is based on love. This was Jesus’ point when he pointed out the greatest commandment was

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these. – Mark 12:30, 31

We also see the importance of love in 1 Corinthians 13. If we exercise our rights, and do not infringe on others rights, but have not love, we have failed to keep the purpose of the laws. Love is how we define everything we do as good or bad. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, Hammurabi’s laws, and Aristotle’s virtues are all meaningless because love of God and others defines where our heart stands.

Do not make the mistake because all you do is considered a right and you have no criminal record that you are righteousness.  Sometimes the worst crime we can make is doing the right thing for the wrong reason.  Follow not manmade laws our rights, instead follow the way of love which is found in Jesus Christ.

“Everything is permissible”-but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible” -but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. – 1 Corinthians 10:23, 24

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Burning the Koran burns bridges

What do fire, the Koran, and Jesus Christ have in common?...well nothing. But according to the irreverent Rev. Terry Jones, it’s the perfect combination of the expression of faith. Jesus = Koran in Fire. However, something does not add up. We cannot simply commit everything that we disagree with to fire and brimstone. Imagine a group gathering together and having a fire to throw in politicians, lawyers, or the New York Yankees. We have seen people burn flags, yet they still fly, we have seen people burn Harry Potter, but it still remains a best seller. The only things worth burning are marshmallows, hotdogs, and the Real Housewives of New Jersey DVD series.

Jesus is not for burning, in fact fire retardant was His life mission.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. - John 3:17

Jesus came to save us all from fire. If Jesus came not to condemn, then who are we to condemn? I do not quite understand Rev. Jones intention for burning the Korans. I have tried to call him (phone for some strange reason seems to be off the hook) and I tried to email him (his email is currently broken).

If Jones is trying to portray the message of love, grace, and salvation through the sacrificial act of Jesus Christ, than he needs more help than thought. If Jones is trying to stir up anger, hate, and violence well he is accomplishing the mission by abandoning Christ.

I do not believe in the Koran. I have read it, and believe that it is curiously disturbing at times. But no one who believes in the Koran will forsake it because it is burned, and anyone who is a nominal Christ believer, a fence sitter, or an undecided, will be sickened by Jones's act, just as I am.

Jesus Christ is real. Jesus Christ is powerful. Jesus Christ died on the cross and paid the penalty for sin, so that if we believe we may have new life in Him. I know this, and do not need to burn the Koran to prove it; instead I only need to love.

By this all people will know that you are my [Jesus] disciples, if you love one another.
          – John 13:35

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Science: The New Religion
New physics research fronted by Stephen Hawking has come across a new discovery….the universe can and was created out of nothing! Stephen Hawking says in his new book “The Grand Design” that God was not needed for the creation of the Universe. It is said the Universe created itself out of nothing. The scientific evidence for such a groundbreaking discovery is, well nothing. There is no irrefutable evidence for such a claim. The best Hawking and other scientist can say is that the world and galaxy point to the possibility of the Universe creating itself out of nothing. However, nothing in nature has ever been made out of nothing, therefore, the conclusion that the Universe made itself out of nothing is not a natural conclusion but a supernatural conclusion. Scientists demand that all conclusions must be proven with evidence and cannot be taken upon presumption. However, with these latest conclusion science has no longer separated themselves from religion, but has become their own religion. If you think this is an absurd statement, just follow me for a little bit.

Christians understand that creation was created by a creator which they cannot irrefutably prove, but are certain that creation testifies to such a truth (Romans 1:20). Hawking understands that creation was created by creation, which he cannot irrefutably prove, but is certain that creation testifies to such a fact.

Christians understand that everything is made from God and that God had always existed and was not made by anything. Scientist understand that everything is made by excited atoms that happened to run into each other in a way that created a highly organized universe, and that these atoms were not made, they just always existed.

Christians understand that there is enough evidence to lead someone to believe, but ultimately it comes down to faith. Hawking has no evidence and can point to nothing else in science that has ever created itself out of nothing, therefore, he is asking people to take his conclusions on faith.

Hawking says the universe does not need God because for Hawking creation itself is his god.

Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools…They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised –Romans 1:22, 25.

Hawking better be weary lest God decides that he does not need Stephen Hawking.

The most upsetting aspect is not that Stephen Hawking refuses to believe in God. I believe in God and have seen evidence of His working and have experienced love, peace, and freedom that comes from Him. What makes me upset is that Hawking is using science and intellect to examine the workings of the Universe and then creating false conclusions about God. If Hawking wants to study the universe and come up with theories of creation that is one thing, but to even pretend that these studies prove or disprove the existence of God is obsured and unprofessional. Hawking has taken his power, which is his intellect, and has abused it. It is unprofessional, and inappropriate to make statements of faith in a book about scientific theories of creation.

Scientists have too long demanded that faith surrender their assumptions on science, well its time that science surrender their assumptions on faith. Do not be misled science cannot prove or disprove the divine. God has made the wisdom of the world foolishness; you must decide for yourself what to believe. The most important things in our life are things that we cannot see or prove. Love, friendship, faith, and hope are outside the scientific observable field, but do not make the mistake to think they do not exist.