Tuesday, May 19, 2015

I Wish God would Fix Some Stuff

My wife and I were chatting the other evening after everything had settled down around Chalet du Henderson.  We weren't really chatting.  We were grieving.

There are two instances that we are involved in where people stepped out in faith for the sake of kids and orphan care and it has been hard.  Not like several layers of cardboard hard.  Not cement brick broken by the sensei hard.  Hard like cold-rolled steel, compressed, forged, dense, no-denting-is-possible hard.

Gut-punch hard.

I'm not belittling this for those who have experienced it physically, but something like torture-hard.


And my wife, ever the honest foil to my stoic preacher face, said, "I wish when people stepped out in faith like this, God would just work whatever miracle needs working so that they can raise this kid."

Yes.  I do too.  I wish God would fix some stuff.  I've got a list as a matter of fact.

But He hasn't, at least not yet.  They've prayed and things haven't shaken out like we all asked.  They've believed and the mountain remained.  They've walked forward to find the Red Sea still very much in place.  And wet.  And muddy.

And I was thinking about this as I preached this past Sunday.  I actually wrote it in my notes but left it out of the sermon.  So here's my thought:

When life continues to be hard, eschatology matters.  That's a big word for remembering that we're not at home here among this brokenness, that there is a life to come, and that there is a world coming that will be just, right, and miraculous.  Jesus will return and will set the world right.

Paul told the Thessalonians to "comfort one another with these words."

It seems that most eschatology that gets preached today is the Middle East, charts and graphs, and a few predictions thrown in for good measure.  It's predictive.  For Paul, it's pastoral.  He looks at a hurting people and says, "Read the end of the story.  Find comfort."

May it be for you and me and those we've been grieving with.  Amen.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Report of Death is an Exaggeration

Mark Twain famously wrote in a note:  "Reports of my death are an exaggeration."

That's about right when it comes to the Pew study too.  If you saw any of the news regarding the report, you know that the "Nones" are on the rise and the "Christians" are in significant decline.  Some of the reports stopped short of including a smiley face, but it seemed the glee was there.

But what is actually there in the report?  Consider the following graphic (you can click on it to enlarge it):

What you see displayed is a study from 1972 to 2014 charting the percentage of the population of the U.S. that is considered church-attending.  The green line is evangelical, the red line is Protestant Mainline.  The last time the Mainline congregations had a greater percentage of attendance that evangelical church was 1972.  The line explains itself.

There's no glee.  Either in the demise of the Christianity generally or the precipitous decline of the mainline congregations.  But there is hope.  What I consider nominal and cultural Christianity seems to be shrinking (and no, I'm not saying all those Mainline churches are nominal or cultural Christians, though their denominations have shifted away from biblical teaching and standards officially).  Churches that are committed to the Gospel, to the declaration of God's Word, and to the standards found therein seem to be very much holding their own.

Is there room for improvement?  Goodness, yes.  But the sky isn't falling, Chicken Little.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

What to do with those eye-glazing passages

Can I be honest about something?  There are parts of the Bible that are not exciting to me.  They are Eye-Glazers, the kind where you are reading the words but the content is coming into your brain like  teacher's voice in Charlie Brown.

There.  I've said it.  And now you can 'fess up to it too.

This past week I preached through one of those EGP (Eye-Glazing Passages) in Nehemiah 3 (you can listen to the sermon here).  Because we, as a church are committed to regularly preaching through books of the Bible, you run across some of these from time to time.  So here are some thoughts, in no particular order of importance or even importance at all...

1.  If it's in there, it's worth reading.  ALL Scripture is inspired by God (2 Tim 3.16).  So read it anyway.

2.  Don't get too down if you're not mining the depths of theology when you read them.  Some of the EGP's are in the Bible because it's information, plain and simple.

3.  But...EGP's often have little insights that are fun little discoveries.  You may be surprised when you slow down and read them.

4.  As crazy as it sounds, you may want to read it more than once.  Or in smaller chunks.  That will help you not get Donut-level glazed, and may help you discover a few things in the text.  For instance, in Nehemiah 3 (which I bet I read 40 times in preparation), I saw...
  • The Tekoites didn't have servant leadership (v.5) but worked harder than most anyway (v.27)
  • The High Priest led the way on getting the project started (v.1)
  • Shallum and his DAUGHTERS helped rebuild a section (v.12).  I'm not sure if they were corn-fed girls from the farm or really good with a chisel or what, but I didn't expect to see daughters listed among the builders (by the way, I didn't see that one until the next to last reading...no kidding).
5.  As always, I read with a pencil in hand.  Marking stuff sometimes helps me make sense or remember this or that.  That's a general principle, but it certainly applies here.  In the case of the Nehemiah 3 EGP, I remembered that I read something about the Tekoites when I hit v.27, so I was able to go find it in v.5.

I won't say the EGP's are easy or that they make for the best devotional material you have ever read.  I will say they're still worth reading, even worth preaching.

But that's just me thinking thoughts...