Archive for May, 2012

Unveiling the Mystery

Posted: May 31, 2012 in Uncategorized

According to the dictionary, a mystery is something that is not fully understood, or that baffles or eludes our understanding. In his letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul says that the mystery was made known to him by revelation (Eph. 3:3). The word “revelation” means a disclosure, an unveiling.In Paul’s case, God has revealed to him a mystery, something that was previously not understood.

So what is the mystery? I have heard some claim that it is the Gospel itself. That what God was doing to save a lost world was a mystery previously not understood. But let me say that personal predisposition, or even prejudice, is no excuse for poor exegesis of the scripture. In other words, it is not ok to impose our point of view on the Bible.

Paul tells us exactly what the mystery is in Ephesians 3:6, where he writes, “to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” This is an incredible mystery revealed to Paul. The power of the Gospel is such that it can make people of any ethnic group to be one.

In Paul’s day that meant bringing unity between Jews and Gentiles. In the mind of a Jew of his day, there were two groups, Jews, and everybody else (Gentiles). In the revelation of this mystery God makes one both Jews and Gentiles. And he does this not by making the Gentiles into Jews, or the Jews into Gentiles, but by transforming both into something new, Christians.

This is true in any and every day. In the deep south where I live, there has been strong prejudice between black and white dating back to the roots of our history. But the amazing power of the Gospel is that it can bring African Americans, Caucasian Americans, and any and every other ethnic group into one body of people. Again, it doesn’t do this by transforming one into the other, but by transforming both into Christians.

Unity among people of differing ethnic origin does not begin by seeking reconciliation between the peoples, but by proclaiming a message that brings reconciliation between any person and God. When that person is reconciled to God, the love of Christ compels them to love all people. That is the mystery that is revealed to Paul, and through the Word of God, to us.


Prescription for Unity?

Posted: May 30, 2012 in Uncategorized

There is a story about a Sunday School teacher who was explaining a passage of scripture, and he said, “Now I know the Bible says this, but what Jesus really meant was . . .” A young girl in the class raised her hand and asked, “If Jesus did not mean what He said, then why didn’t He say what He meant?” That is a very good question for theologians and all students of the Bible. Why do we feel the need to re-interpret what God’s Word says? Why not let the Holy Spirit speak through the living word?

In Matthew 5:18, Jesus said that not one jot or tittle would pass away from the law. Those were the two smallest Hebrew letters and Jesus was saying that the scripture matters down to the letter.
The verbal inspiration of the Bible means that we believe God breathed the “Words” that are recorded. So words are not incidental, they are providential.

A couple of days ago I wrote about a Mosaic church. That is a church made up of the broken lives of people of all ethnic, economic, and social backgrounds. Much like what we find in the book of Acts describing the church at Antioch. Here is a church, if you read the passage carefully, that had leaders from many ethnic groups. If you read the passage in Acts 11, for example, there is evidence that God had prepared Paul for a ministry that crossed all ethnic lines. People from all over came together in that church. When you get to Acts 13 you discover that there are two leaders in the church who are African,there is Paul from Rome, Barnabus from Cyprus, others from the Mediteranean and Palestine. It is a multi-cultural blend.

So are these passages only descriptive, or are they also prescriptive for the church? Do we really think that Jesus’ prayer in John 17 meant make us one with others just like us, or did He not mean all of us? Here is my greater question: Is it any wonder that the text says in Acts 11, “they were called Christians first at Antioch?

He Hides in Darkness

Posted: May 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

“It must be your sinuses,” the dentist said. “Your teeth look good. Call me if the pain persists.”
So many painfilled days later I called,to hear, ‘It’s not your teeth. They look good. Call your doctor.’

“It must be your teeth,” said the doctor. “I don’t see anything wrong with your ears. They look good. Call your dentist.” Three months later, “The pain is worse. Can you work me in?”

“I still don’t see anything wrong,” said the dentist. “I will give you a prescription for an antibiotic to get you through the weekend. Call me back if it continues.” By the way, she ground a couple of teeth in the back on the left side just in case. That did it. Over the weekend, it became excruciating pain to bite down, and finally I have identified the tooth. The very back top wisdom tooth. For three months, it has hidden.

Satan is like that. He clothes himself in darkness and causes spiritual pain in our lives. We fail to identify the “god-shaped” vacuum in our heart and try to ease the pain with all types of substitutes. But make no mistake about it, the culprit is a bad heart, a sinful heart. No amount of good deeds or new resolutions will take away the pain. To enjoy life as God intended requires a new heart.

That new heart is only found in Jesus. So where does it hurt on your today? Whatever the spiritual picture, it is your heart. Don’t let the devil hide in the dark corners of your life and create misery for you.

For the last several years I have planted a garden of vegetables. I typically have grown tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, lima beans, black-eyed peas, peppers, okra, and sometimes I get venturesome and try something new. Most years I have had an abundance of tomatoes and they have done well. This year, I am struggling because I planted more tomato. plants than usual. Leaves have started turning yellow at the bottom, some plants have totally wilted, and I am told that they have “the Wilt”.

According to “authorities” on the internet it can be caused by lack of rain, too much rain, or bacteria in the soil. I have my fingers crossed that mine are from too much rain that we recently have had. I planted 21 plants, and have lost four so far. I replanted some yesterday on the opposite end of the garden in case the soil has bacteria.

So Jesus talked about sowing the seed of God’s Word in four different kinds of soil in one of the parables. In three of the soils he mentioned, the plants do not survive. In the hardened soil, the seed never penetrates. In the rocky soil, it dries out in the sun. In the soil with weeds, it is choked. Only in good soil does it bear a harvest. He didn’t mention the “wilt” in that parable, but I couldn’t help but think that sometimes “the wilt” gets people who either are Christians or think they are Christians.

I say it that way because we all know people who start but do not finish. In this community where I serve there are so many people who once attended a church of Christian faith and no longer go. I am not suggesting “going to church” makes you a believer, any more than going to the Moose Lodge makes you a moose. But, I have to wonder if a person does not have enough faith to participate in the life of a church body, do they really have enough faith to get into heaven?

Whether you believe a person can lose their salvation, or whether you hold to the correct view, as I do, that a person who is truly saved is eternally secure, one fact remains. The book of Hebrews teaches clearly that at the end of the journey if you do not have faith, you do not get in. While I believe in the preservation of the saints by God’s Spirit, I also believe in the perseverence of the faith as proof it was real.

So, are you suffering from the wilt. Have you lacked the nourishing “water of God’s Word?” Have you been standing in pools of that water without making application to your life, so the water simply grows stagnant in your life and you wilt? Or is there a bacteria of sin in your heart so that your faith was not real and genuine?

Mosaic is the art of creating beauty with small broken pieces of colored glass or ceramic.So why not a Mosaic church. I am talking about a church that is built from the broken lives of people, and it cannot be beauty without multi colors. Is a loving relationship among the many ethnic groups only possible in heaven? I don’t believe that.

So a multitude of questions flood my mind. How do we break down the barriers of racism and prejudice? Is it not another stronghold of the enemy?Are the weapons of our warfare not really powerful enough to pull down that stronghold? When Jesus prayed for unity of beleivers in John 17, did he envision homogenous churches?

So how do we get past individual sense of entitlement? After all, isn’t that a divider among all people, even when they are the same people group? “It’s my church. I want to do it the way grandaddy did it. I want things to stay the same. I have a right to . . .” But Jesus called us to deny self, take up our cross and follow him. If I die to self, it seems I give up all of my
sense of entitlement, and I trade it in for an attitude of servanthood.

When Jesus stood outside of the tomb of Lazarus He prayed and thanked the Father for always answering His prayers. If the Father always answers the prayers of the Son, then I believe that reconciliation of all peoples is possible.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Was He Wrong?

Posted: May 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

Interesting question to pose this morning. Was He wrong? He was entrusting the message of the Kingdom of God to a rag tag group of very ordinary followers, much like me, and maybe you. I have heard the imaginary stories of Jesus returning to heaven after His time on earth and the angels asking Him all about it. “Lord, who will take the message to the ends of the earth?” And Jesus said, “My disciples.” “But what if they fail, what is your back-up plan.” There is no other plan.

We often refer to it as the Great Commission. ‘Go into all the earth and make disciples’ Jesus had said. Teach those disciples to make disciples who will make disciples who will make disciples. So why do so many who say they are followers of Jesus not do it? Was Jesus wrong? Was He wrong to trust us with such an important task?

He once said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” There doesn’t seem to be any ambiguity in that comment. If you follow me, You will be made into a fisher of men. So if we are not becoming fishers of men, can we honestly say that we are following Jesus? Or was He wrong again. He thought He could do that, but we are too difficult?

Jesus trusted this work to fishermen, tax collecters, regular working class folk. I don’t think He was wrong, and I suspect you don’t either. “O God our Father, help us to be faithful to keep the main thing the main thing.”

P.S. The picture is in the “Hermitage”, and large beautiful museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. I visited there isn 1991. It was once the summer home of Peter the Great.

We often speak of the Greatest Commandment in the Bible, “To love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.” We often speak of the Great Commission, “Go into all the world and make disciples of every people group.” But how often do we speak of the Great Compassion?

The picture above won Kevin Carter a Pulitzer Prize in photography. The question everyone asked, however, haunted him until he finally committed suicide. The question was, “What happened to the girl?” What haunted him was the fact that he had done nothing.

I was reminded yesterday of the huge problem of world hunger. One of my good Malian friends went to our village in the bush. He reported back that all of the believers in our church (as well as the other villagers) are hungry and have no food. Harvest time is not until November. It is a chronic problem. We feed our pets better than much of the world is able to eat.

Jesus said, “When I was hungry, you fed me.” When did we do that Lord? “When you have done it to the least of these.” No one knows when we do something that fullfills the Great Compassion. We do it not to be seen of men, but because it is the right thing to do. Will you make a difference?

One place you can connect and make a difference is with BGR. Go to
and see how. They are making a difference. You can make a difference. As Nike says, “Just do it.”