Be still, and know that I am God

I slept in Thursday morning so my daily appointment on the back screened in porch was delayed until about 8:o’clock. The sun was well on its way in its daily journey across Indiana, the skies that day perfectly blue, not even a puff of cloud. By that time in the morning, the chatter of birds was mostly silenced.  I missed their usual accompaniment as I read Ezekiel 34 and Psalm 46, 47.

And then the concert began. Continue reading “Be still, and know that I am God”

Running with Endurance

CroppedTwo days ago, Delia and Matti, my twin granddaughters, had their tenth birthday.  In those ten years, they have experienced the agony and major inconvenience of about ten long bone fractures – femur, tibia and fibula; plus several small fractures in their feet, all due to a fragile bone condition called Osteo Genesis Imperfecta, Their lives have been filled with xrays and casts, a wheel chair, a walker, therapy…  But it had been more than two years since a fracture, so we’ve been relieved, but always concerned. We don’t want them to just play it safe and miss out on life, yet the the worry is always there.

So Delia joined an after school running club, Cross Country for younger kids, fourth and fifth graders, called Pup Running. The course is roughly 1 1/4 miles over a rolling hills grass course at Northview Church. Who says churches and public schools can’t be good partners for the good of the kids?

Then last Friday, Delia fell and broke the radius in her left arm. Continue reading “Running with Endurance”

The Gospel in the Old Testament, part 2

Last year, 2013, I started a blog series, The Gospel in the Old Testament, intent on discovering and sharing the good news that the Good News (Gospel) is found, not as a new idea for the New Testament, but is in fact evident throughout the the Old Testament.  And this is not just a few random verses fulfilled in the birth and death of Jesus.  It is the story line of the Bible.

God’s Story starts with creation and is soon followed by sin and separation between God and his image bearers (Genesis 1-3).  But starting in Genesis 3, God’s story of rescue for his image bearers is the theme all the way through the Bible until it finds resolution in the new heavens and new earth, Isaiah 65:17; 66:22; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1. I don’t mean that God and God’s Story starts and ends, fully enclosed in the Bible. No at all!  God is the alpha and the omega with no beginning and no end. Beginning and ending refer to God’s rescue story as revealed in the Bible, which does come to glorious resolution. In this sense, the Bible is not circular, but linear – History is going somewhere and it will arrive at the destination.

But do we see God’s Story when we read the Bible? Or do we only see the shorter stories of Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Daniel, Jesus, Peter and Paul? Continue reading “The Gospel in the Old Testament, part 2”

Did Jesus Go to Hell?

I recently discovered a new song celebrating the resurrection. It looked like a great fit for the last message of a post-Easter sermon series, Because He Lives.  Beautifully sung by Kari Jobe, the song is called Forever (We Sing Hallelujah).

My exposure to Forever was on the Worship Together website, an interview preceding a “live” performance. I quickly glanced over the lyrics, then clicked play for the interview.

Kari said this, “My favorite part of the whole thing is … we talk about the death on the cross and we talk about the resurrection,but that time in between was when Jesus was in hell [bold italics are my emphasis] rendering hell and ransacking hell and defeating the enemy taking those keys to death and hell and the grave to be victorious over that when he rose from the dead.”

She believes Jesus went to hell? Is that in the song?
I studied the lyrics more carefully, and there it was, the foundation of the second verse.

One final breath He gave 
As heaven looked away
The Son of God was laid in darkness
A battle in the grave
The war on death was waged
The power of hell forever broken

What’s wrong with that?  I’m willing to give give the benefit of the doubt to many a lyricist.  Poetic license allows you to get away with overstatement or understatement.  We could nitpick the old hymns and find plenty of quirky lines, if not crossing the line to heresy.  Why pick on this song when others get a pass?

Here is the problem. Forever embraces an error that is at the heart of the most important events of our faith, the death and resurrection of Jesus. In summary, it teaches that the battle was not won on the cross, but the real battle took place in hell during the time between the death and resurrection of Jesus.  That is what seriously distorts the truth and why this song must not be used.

Where was Jesus on Saturday? Was he in hell? Continue reading “Did Jesus Go to Hell?”

Mother’s Day Trauma (a pastor’s perspective)

I confess it is my least favorite holiday and I don’t think it’s because I’m a scrooge or a grinch.  I may be that, but I don’t think that’s what this is about.

Mother’s Day is huge in our culture, a major impact on the economy in flowers, jewelry, candy, and eating out, I don’t normally contribute much to that economy, so there you have your proof of my grinchness. But please, don’t misunderstand me. I want to honor mothers, along with fathers, the most significant influence in our lives, whether present or absent. I want to encourage mothers and hope that my rather unorthodox sermon on Mother’s Day will encourage them. I love and honor my mother, now in heaven for 30 years. I love and honor my wife of 42 years who is the mother of my children, now for almost 39 years.

But I also know that Mother’s Day is a day of suffering and pain for millions of women and I don’t want to add to their pain or call attention to it in a way that makes it worse. I know many women, devout believers in Jesus, who will not attend church on Mother’s day because they are afraid of what might happen to them. Just last week, a professional woman told me she would not be here that day because it is too hard. But because we don’t understand experiences that aren’t ours(or at least that of someone very close to us), we tend to be insensitive, we don’t get it. Certainly perilous for me to try and explain it to you, so I’ll turn that over to Amy Young in her recent article An open letter to pastors (A non-mom speaks about Mother’s Day).

I will acknowledge Mothers on Sunday, trying to choose my words very carefully. I do not have a traditional text, not Proverbs 31 or 2 Timothy 1.  I’m preaching on the resurrection from 1 Corinthians 15 and the implications of it for mothers and everyone else. If Faith Church is your home church, I hope you will come and not be afraid and have a good experience and go home excited that the resurrection is true and all disappointments will one day be resolved… because He Lives!


The Gospel of Ecclesiastes?

Meaningless! Meaningless! says the teacher, Utterly meaningless!  Everything is meaningless.

With that start, Ecclesiastes in the Bible may be as challenging as Proverbs in finding links to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But it will take us in a different direction. Ecclesiastes is similar to Proverbs in that it includes proverbs, lots of them, yet has more cohesion from start to finish as the writer seeks meaning in life and finds it difficult, virtually impossible. So, where is the Gospel in Ecclesiastes?

The Need for Gospel Good News is evident as the writer seeks meaning in every imaginable pursuit, all of them coming up empty, whether it be vineyards, gardens, parks, fruit trees, lakes, herds, flocks, silver, gold, musicians, women… I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. 2:10   The verdict? everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun 2:11.  Even the pursuit of wisdom did not satisfy, knowing that whether wise or foolish, it would all end in death. 2:18

One might begin to despair that even God is scarcely found in this book, let alone any hint of the Gospel. But don’t give up yet. Continue reading “The Gospel of Ecclesiastes?”

False Gospel of Job’s Friends

Major space is taken in the Book of Job with the record of speeches by Job’s three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, rebuking and challenging Job, explaining the definitive cause of all his troubles and calling him to repentance. In the end, when God speaks, it is these three friends who are rebuked by God, I am angry with you…because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. Job 42:7

What did Job’s friends get wrong? Continue reading “False Gospel of Job’s Friends”