Saturday, September 7, 2019

Stormy Seas and Faith

Mark 4, records in just one paragraph a story of Jesus and his disciples in a boat when a storm whips up. The disciples wake Jesus exclaiming “Teacher do you not care that we are about to perish?” at which time Jesus spoke the winds and rough seas into silence.
Jesus didn’t include this story in the Gospel narrative because he was short on miracles or needed to fill a little space.
Jesus had just taught on the shore of this very sea some stories about the coming Kingdom. He taught about sowing seed and the productivity of faith planted in a faithful heart. He also taught about the mystery of how a seed is transformed into a plant and the coming harvest. Lastly he taught that the kingdom was like a planted mustard seed and how such a small seed could turn into a big plant.
And then at the culmination of this teaching about the Kingdom he gets into a boat and crosses the sea and the winds blow, the sea is churned up and the disciples fear that they are going to drown. Like they expected the headlines of the Jerusalem newspaper the next morning would read... "Jesus and Disciples Drown During Freak Storm on the Sea of Galilee".
It’s like they haven’t been listening… nothing can stop the coming of the Kingdom and their role in it… not stormy seas, not earthquakes, nothing can stop the Kingdom!
Jesus included this story at the culmination of his teaching to test their understanding and their faith and they came up a little short in the faith department. But… that’s okay because the building of faith is a process and Jesus was patient with his disciples just as God is patient with us.
There may be some stormy seas ahead of us too but just remember… Jesus can calm the stormiest of seas. Have a little faith in him because he has a plan for us.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

David the Shepherd Boy Who Would Become King

From his youth David shepherded his father’s flocks of sheep. In all probability he carried his camping equipment on a cart. He would build his own fire and cook his own meals and clean up after himself. His dad would send him supplies from time to time. Shepherds might spend months to years away from towns and town life.
During the day he watched the sheep graze all day long and cared for all their needs. Undoubtedly he helped the ewes deliver their lambs and helped clean them up and assisted them in learning how to nurse and whatever else they needed.
During his free time he became expert with a sling and could kill (with a stone) an eagle that might prey upon a baby lamb. Those sling propelled stones could also fend off and kill larger predators like wolves, coyotes, lions, etc.
David also in his hours of being alone learned to play musical instruments and composed songs. Those songs were sung to his audience of sheep to calm them down when needed. David also spent a lot of time looking at nature and contemplating God… praying and singing songs of praise to him.
David learned to be Shepherd of Israel by shepherding sheep. He understood about taking care of God’s flock of people and seeing to their needs. He killed the Philistine giant Goliath who was threatening God’s flock Israel with a sling propelled rock to the head just like he had done many times before when predators threatened his sheep.
David sang to his people about God and wrote poetry about the God he had learned about while tending sheep. Nature is a great teacher.
When David was off in those far away pastures grazing sheep he had no idea he would one day be King of Israel (and no one else did either) but God knew. You may think you have the smallest and most insignificant job in the world but set your eyes and the course of your life on God because God can do great things with humble people.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Just Visiting

Larry and I went to visit a young man today who grew up at Parkway but hasn’t attended in a long time. His father has passed away but his mother still attends. I guess I’m writing this to encourage others to go visit.
I’ve kept up with this young man on Facebook and know that to this date he still mourns the passing of his father. After we sat around the kitchen table and shared a few pleasantries I asked him why he wasn’t coming to church. He said that he is engaged in some activities that are not consistent with being a Christian.
I told him that I respected that he didn’t want to be a hypocrite, but I advised him that he should still attend anyway and give Christianity a chance. That he might hear something that would motivate him to clean up some of those behaviors in his life.
I also told him the truth that his dad was a very godly man and that if his dad could send him a message from heaven he would tell him to rebuild his faith. Then I told him he could be very influential to his siblings and nieces and nephews.
Finally I told him that it looked like he had been working out and challenged him to an arm wrestling match if he would attend next Sunday morning. Of course he’s in his thirties and I’m fast approaching 65 so he agreed. That match lasted several minutes and several times I had his arm on the table but never could “break” his wrist. Because we are friends I could say things like “the Devil is really strong in this one” and “looks like he really doesn’t want to go to church”. Finally we were both breathing hard and we both gave up.
He did say he had to work next Sunday but wasn’t sure if it was Sunday morning or Sunday night. I take that as good news.
I told Larry on the way back that he would always remember that we cared enough to come and see him and that well after I’m dead and buried he would remember that he arm wrestled Mr. Perkins who cared about his soul’s salvation.

Managing Anger with Subjection

An old friend of mine told a joke that goes something like this… an older guy tells a younger guy, they’re two theories about how to calm down an angry woman. The younger fellow quickly asks what are they? The older gent replies… it doesn’t matter because neither one of them work (they’re just unproven theories).
That’s pretty funny, especially to men, but the truth is that anger is not gender specific… everybody gets angry… men and women. There may be a lot of “theories” about anger but the truth is that God’s word has “factual” information about anger.
Here’s a fact about controlling anger… subjection. It’s hard to get into a “knock down drag out” if one of the parties is demonstrating subjection… which by the way is commanded of Christians (Eph. 5:21).
So what does subjection look like? Consider Sarah and Abraham…
“For this is how the holy women of the past adorned themselves. They put their hope in God and were subject to their husbands, just as Sarah obeyed Abraham and called him lord. You are her children if you do what is right and refuse to quiver in fear.”
Imagine if you were angry with your wife and had your dander up and were fixing to blow your fuse and she quietly got on her knees and bowed her head and said… I’m sorry please forgive me (Lord).
That will take the wind out of your sails and the good ship Anger will come to a dead stop.
There’s a lot of theories and advice your un-godly friends might give you about how to handle anger, but if anger is a problem in any of your relationships you might want to listen to God.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

"What Then is The Law?"

“What then is the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise has been made…” Galations 3:19
Here’s an interesting passage. The referenced Law is the Law given to Moses on Mount Sinai. It was a written Law that regulated almost every aspect of Jewish life.
From Adam to Moses there was no written Law. God communicated to the people either directly or through prophets. From Moses to Jesus there was the written Law of Moses given on Mount Sinai. From Jesus onward there was again no written law (on stone or parchment). All communication from God was given through his son… Jesus Christ.
The Galations passage explains the need for a written Law. It was needed because God was unhappy with the sinful conduct of the people. In addition it was needed to prepare the people for the coming of Jesus Christ and his superior Law. The Law of Moses micro-managed almost every aspect of Jewish life. The Law of Jesus liberated the Jews and gave them freedom (from the Law) in its simplicity.
With the coming of Jesus we no longer have a law written on stone or parchments. Christ’s law is written on our hearts (2 Corinthians 3:3). The Law that specifically is written on our hearts is to love God and to love our fellow man (Matthew 22:34-40 and John 13:34).
So then an important question comes up… what is the New Testament? Is it analogous to the Law of Moses?
The answer is no. Christ’s Law is written on our hearts. The New Testament is the Christ authorized and Holy Spirit inspired writings of the Apostles (primarily) that explains to us the details of how we apply the Law that is written on our hearts.
A Law written on our hearts is a law we carry with us each and every day. What a great joy and blessing!

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Lesson from Sheep: Conflict Between Shepherds

Genesis 13:1-12…
“ … and there was trouble between the Shepherds of Abram’s livestock and the Shepherds of Lot’s livestock… and Abram said to Lot, please let there be no trouble between you and me and between our Shepherds and for we are brothers. Isn’t the whole land before you? Please separate from me and take first pick and I will go the opposite direction”
Abraham’s and Lot’s Shepherds were having problems with each other. Sometimes the Lord’s Shepherds have problems with each other too. The problem with problems is that if they are not resolved and not resolved in the proper manner relationships and the flock/congregation can be harmed… sometimes irreparably. Maybe we can learn a few things from Abram and Lot.
Abraham communicated with Lot… he didn’t ignore the issue. The life blood of a congregation is effective communication. A lack of communication especially between Shepherds can make the problem worse. In congregations, Shepherds should never make any kind of decision without first consulting the other Shepherds… even if it’s something as simple as what color to paint a classroom. That sort of communication, even at its simplest and most basic level, begins forming the basis for trust.
Notice that Abraham, in his wisdom, saw the direction things were headed with Lot and took steps to prevent it before lasting harm was done. Abraham reminded Lot that they were “brothers”. The importance of that relationship cannot be over stated. The basis for every relationship is trust. If a husband and wife don’t trust each other they aren’t going to have a very good marriage and if a congregation’s Shepherds don’t trust each other then nothing can be accomplished. Congregations are a reflection of their leadership.
Abraham in his humility told his nephew Lot to pick whatever land he wanted and he would take whatever Lot didn’t want. Shepherds in a congregation should subject themselves in humility to each other (when possible). It’s hard for a relationship to go sour if a pattern of subjection has been established. When some sort of crisis arises in a congregation (and it will), if her Shepherds have complete trust in each other, they can focus all their strength and energy in overcoming it.
Abraham greatly valued the livestock (wealth) that God had given him. He also valued his relationship with his nephew Lot whom he called a brother. In his humility he allowed Lot to take the best pasture lands. Because of his humility God blessed him with much more wealth.
Shepherds in congregations likewise should value the sheep they have been placed in charge of and they should also value their fellow Shepherds. Shepherds don’t always have the same abilities. Some are better at teaching, some are better at hospitality, some are better at sharing their wealth and some are better at communication, etc.
It would be a mistake to de-value your fellow Shepherd because you think your abilities are better than theirs. The proper attitude is to be thankful for your fellow Shepherds and appreciate the different abilities that they have.
Like Abraham, Shepherds in the Lord’s church should constantly be looking for potential problems and should treat fellow Shepherds as “brothers”.
Remember a few milliliters invested in prevention is far less costly than a liter invested in a cure.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Lesson from Sheep: Nutrition

The nutritionally wise Shepherd leads his flock to pastures that offer the very best nutrition. Sheep are herbivores, they are designed to eat grass but can also browse on brush. In fact sheep and goats are sometimes used to control brush in pastures.
In the show lamb business lambs are fed grain based diets to develop the kind of body condition that will impress show judges. As a Veterinarian, we see problems associated with feeding lambs a primarily grain based diet. It is not uncommon to attend a sick lamb who has developed bladder stones and suffered a urethral obstruction that is potentially fatal. Sheep are not designed to eat grain based diets and as a consequence suffer from variuos metabolic diseases (Chronic pancreatic inflammation, kidney disease, lamenesses, etc.) and obesity.
Sheep love to eat corn, sorghum and all kinds of grains… it’s like eating candy for them.
So too the church-flock.
Wise Shepherds feed their flock with a balanced diet of God’s Word. Too many Shepherds and churches focus on things like…
- Fighting the denominations. A bulk of teaching in these type of congregations focus on what’s wrong with other churches.
- Social things. Some churches minimize Bible teaching and focus on fun things… activities and eating and sports and the like.
- Bible study. Some churches overwhelming focus is Bible study to the exclusion of anything social.
- The positive aspects of God his love, grace and care for his people to the exclusion of accountability and punishment.
- The negative aspects of God, his hatred of sin and punishment and destruction to the exclusion of his mercy and forgiveness.
God’s people need the right nutrition… a comprehensive balanced diet of God’s Word and the social things that naturally follow that understanding.
An awful lot of teaching is soft and tastes good (like candy) but can lead to spiritually crippling and sometimes fatal spiritual disease.
Watch out for congregations whose sheep wander off and no one seems to care and whose sheep are spiritually weak and diseased.
If you want to be the right kind of Christian look for a congregation whose Shepherds are wise and who care about their sheep and whose sheep are spiritually sound and happily flock together. The proof is in the pudding.