Why do you fly the flag? Why don’t you fly the flag? On Memorial Day I walked around the neighborhood about 3 miles and found 50 homes decorated with flags or some other decorations which included the church and my house. And I got thinking about ‘why do I fly the flag and why don’t others fly or decorate?’ “Interesting question,” I said to myself. So I got to thinking …

 

“Now I am all for separation of church and state but saying this I realize that without our Judeo-Christian heritage, the U.S. would not have the laws nor the heritage nor at times the moral fortitude to stand where she has in the years that I have been around. But before that there were two world wars that my ancestors fought in various ways from having a victory garden, to working on the railroad to battling in Europe. The fought for something and against something and that has to mean something.”

 

“Yep,” I said, “that makes sense. That is a good reason to fly the flag.”

 

“About three generations ago some of my folks came over to the US from Europe and well, we’re American now. They came from the UK and Czechoslovakia, (I love the sound of that country, someday I want to visit). I remember meeting my great grandmother in St. Louis and sitting in the parlor (only for guests of course) and feeling so lucky and just good that she was happy being here. Maybe that’s why I fly the flag, because my family lives here.”

 

“Yep,” I said, “that makes sense. That is a good reason to fly the flag.”

 

“Then I remember that the Apostle Paul who lived in a hostile world against faith in Jesus and he said, ’First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.’ That word is good for any country even when one doesn’t agree with the leaders. Our goal isn’t just life here but for eternity.”

 

“Yep,” I said, “that makes sense. That is a good reason to fly the flag.”

 

“But mostly,” I thought to myself, “I fly the flag because I live here. This is my home away from home (heaven) and God wants me to help others know him. I live where my family lives and where we receive the benefits of a nation, state and city that is run by fallen people and will never be perfect until Jesus comes. So I’ll fly the flag of the country I live in because I’m connected to these people, the good and the bad. And I am a citizen who believes that I too have a responsibility to live here and make this place a better place. And because I’m Christian, I’ll fly the flag and pray for the people that as we live together in a democracy we can get along and God’s people can share the good news! That’s a good reason to fly the flag.”

 

20180529_083917.jpg

Advertisements

Hebrews 10:1-7 Have you ever had a birthday? Sure you have, we have once a year and while most of us celebrate them one day a year, maybe like me, you know of people who celebrate their birthday all week! What fun. Birthdays have a double edge sword about them – one, we are getting older, yeah!! The other, we are getting older – ugh. Well today the author is writing to let us know that every year there is a celebration that reminds them they are stuck in sin. Because the sacrifices of the law continue to point out that sin is deeply intrenched in their lives and the blood of goats and cattle cannot, will not get rid of that guilt of sin. The Law can point it out and if you follow the Law you are safe to a degree, but there is no change. BUT the blood of Jesus does change us. For the Father desires obedience not sacrifice and through Christ this is possible for all of us. So the birthday, if I can take that metaphor, can be a celebration of new birth – a new standing with God through a sacrifice that makes our hearts new and a heart relationship with the Father. Take a look at these references: 1 Samuel 15:22; Psalm 51; Hosea 6:6; Is 1:11-20 and Micah 6:6-8. All through the OT God is making this clear and those who sought this with the Father, would find this relationship. Jesus then became the source, the means, the hope and the sacrifice for all who will accept His sacrifice. Blessings.

Phil 4:10-13

 

Sometimes when we get reacquainted with people from our past we expect a pat on the back or some other expression of gratitude of the renewed interest. Maybe way over what should expect. Paul thanks the church here for a renewed interest as well even offers an excuse in the lack of opportunity. And maybe this is what I have to learn – when opportunity knocks, answer the door. Also what I see here is contentment. When I feel lonely, put out by life (not a person perhaps) I need to be content as I restore relationships. If I’m not content then I may become someone who is pushy, needy, annoying or even aloof and feel the world owes me. But if I become content in my relationship with Jesus (knowing his love for me and living in this truth) perhaps I can have a more healthy relationship.

I was on a date Friday afternoon with my lovely wife and was taken to the movies to see Hugh Jackman and crew in The Greatest Showman on Earth. I give it 5 stars and let me tell you why.

Music: heart felt, beautiful, meaningful songs. I’ll get the cd.

Black headphones leaning against a collection of vinyl records on a shelf

Plot: a man who wants more and makes it happen, then gets his eyes off of what is important and loses almost everything and then, rebuild with the right light in his eyes.

More importantly what I saw for me: I think this show, more than any other movie I have ever seen, speaks to the heart of everyone – we want to be someone, we want to have a purpose, we want to achieve, we want to be noticed. From the “freaks” that P.T.Barnum hired to make his circus, to P.T. himself and his partners, people are trapped in their own minds, attitudes, heritage, social standings and are placed in boxes and compartments contrived by people who try to preserve their stature and position as well no matter their income, race or religion.

A man stretching out his two hands with careless written on them in black and white

As I watched this movie I saw myself over and over as I have sought to be more, do more, have more, gain more, achieve more and wonder where the “applause” would come from. Will it come from those in the “class” above, that click, that other pastor or those people? Will anyone accept what I have done as important? The movie presents P.T. meeting Jenny Lind and without ever hearing her sing set her up on a tour through the U.S. placing everything he had on the line for the tour, everything. The risk is evident as he left what was clearly working, his circus in NYC, and seeking more fame with Ms Lind, he bet the house and lost.

But let me tell you how this movie spoke to me. To be honest I was teary eyed most of the movie and breathing deeply just to keep myself in control. That just me. I tear up with commercials. But here is a pastor’s confession:

  1. Leaving what God has called you to because you want something better, more glitz, better kind of people, isn’t what your call is. P.T. in the movie ignores, belittles his crew at times intentionally and other times because he seeks something else without seeing what is happening around him.
  2. Listen to your wife or if you are female pastor, your husband. They love you and God uses them.
  3. When you have a partner, an associate, listen, pray together, plan together, you don’t have the whole picture even if your crew believes you do. Even Moses had Aaron and Jesus had John, Peter, and James. Who do you have and do you keep them close?
  4. Fame is never satisfied.
  5. Joy is to be enjoyed. Happiness is okay. Sure we have a mission and it is never finished and as the movie closes someday you’ll need to pass on the baton. For what reason and how will you pass it?
  6. By all means, let God speak to you through the Word but he can also use music, poetry, movies, any thing God desires – are you missing it?
  7. Sometimes your crew is exactly the best, not because you are such a genius in recruiting but because God is a genius in netting together for his purposes. Find out why you are together and look for gifts, ideas, prayers, growth in you and success in the mission.
  8. It is now in my greatest movies category along with Shawshank Redemption, White Christmas and Unforgiven.

Recently, I was meeting with some friends and we were discussing how easy it is to read authors of books that offer us short chapters, interesting characters, plots that twist and turn and a little trouble through out. I know that personally I can but a book like that on my “read shelf” in a couple of days! But ask me how I’m doing with a “learning” book, say, “How to split wood for dummies,” or “What each book in the Bible is about” well that may take me a week or more. How about you? Why is that?

Image result for books

 

To help us move into reading those “learning books” let’s look at the Bible.

Did you know that the Bible has short chapters?

Did you know that the Bible has interesting characters like Herod, Paul, Daniel, Moses, and many others as well as nations at war, conquests, troubles in the church, intrigue and even a bit of a discussion about sex? (Take a look at the Song of Solomon).

Image result for 10 commandmentsImage result for ancient war

 

Did you know that there are plots of sabotage, rebellion, adultery, even religion?

 

Did you know there is a little trouble all through out from Genesis 3 to Revelation 21 where the good guys win but it is a long hard battle that seems like two feet forward and five backward?

 

So what’s so hard about reading the Bible? Or another “learning book?”

Attitude. Want. Time commitment. Decision.

Image result for time commitment

Right now I’m reading what my son, when he was little would call, “a big book.” Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. It has 817 pages. I’m plowing through enjoying the story and seeing many parallels to today’s culture. That is what makes it a classic, it speaks to where we are today. The Bible is a classic as well. Reading it, all 1,189 chapters and meditating on it changes perspective, informs on truth and error, enlivens with the promises of God and opens a life-long appreciation for reading a (the) good book.

 

Related image

The battle had ensued from time in the Garden

when Adam did sin and fall

from God’s presence

and

Abel

his first born son was murdered on the field.

Then sadness in Heaven

but terror on earth

did reign for time

till right it was for the Son of God

to come in sight to set it all a-right.

And when will this triumph arise from first a turn for worse,

For the enemy did win with sin, death and a curse.

Yet with promises made from God to humankind

By prophets, poets, hearts in tune

And by God’s loving heart did come, when time was due,

the Savior of all creation.

Jesus was his name

and with his birth grace did appear.

In word and presence, power and love

That once was forgotten and only dreamt.

With love he did approach

The final hours of the curse!

To place upon his head the Victor’s Crown

And sabotage the Devil’s realm.

Oh, one last try did Satan strive

To block the Son of Man

Prophecy foretold.

Hidden in an obscure cave

His body broken and abused.

Yet as told by hearts that were in tune

To God’s grace the morning did arise.

To change the providence of all creation

For life, not death,

Love not sin did triumph.

So people listen

May you hear with heart and ear

This truth of hope and love to know

That Christ did win in obedience and love

by giving us       His all.

And if you sense within your soul

The truth of this tale be told,

I ask that only you raise your head

To praise the One who died and rose.

Sing praises, tell of his wondrous work

Experienced by you – now and soon

That others may know what you have seen

Of hope and joy – birthed

from your grave.

I desire to love you Lord like you love me.

What might that be like?

Who gave himself up from the Throne to trod on earth with me?

Who kept himself pure for the cross’ agonizing death?

Whose words echo truth throughout?

What might that be like?

Who from Creation’s time when man did fall

Planned to come and restore it all?

Who tapped on Abram’s heart one day

And began the call of salvation’s stay?

What might that be like?

When no one knew how to live

Moses was given 10 rules to have?

When David sinned He sent Nathan

To tell a story for repentance aid?

What might that be like?

When God’s people stray and they do today

He sent the word through prophets warning?

And when God’s love was rejected in due time

The Son of Man humbly arrived?

What might that be like?

And today when I sin

Do I once again

Experience David’s joy of forgiveness?

And when I am confused and know not the way

Do I receive the rules of life?

Or when I sit at Jerusalem’s gate

And watch the Savior ride my way

Do I then see into His heart the love He has for me?

What might that be like?

Luke 11:29-32

When the crowds were increasing, Jesus began to say, “This generation is an evil generation; it asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so the Son of Man will be to this generation. The queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here! The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here!”

When Jesus was with the generation of his day, walking, preaching, teaching, doing miracles and guiding his followers people were looking for signs that he was really the Son of God. I think so many today are doing the same, they are looking for signs that Jesus is the way they are looking for, searching for and maybe have disregarded. My heart goes out for all in their search.

The only sign Jesus says here that is offered is the story of the Jonah which is found in the Hebrew scriptures in the book of Jonah. The sign Jesus refers to is Jonah being in the belly of the fish for some days. Jesus says this is the same sign the Jesus will offer to all humankind, his resurrection.

There are miracles in the Church worldwide.

There are people’s lives changed in every nation as they find the love and forgiveness offered at the cross.

There are transformations of life, business, marriages, sexuality, direction, addictions through the power of the Holy Spirit (part of the Trinity of God the Father, God the Son and the God the Holy Spirit, 3 in 1).

But what signs were they looking for at the time of Jesus? Just as many as today’s generations.

The sign that every generation asks for is something that they cannot find nor have satisfaction. For what sign but the life and words of Jesus, His cross, death and resurrection can there be for proof of who Jesus is?  That is it, nothing more and this sign found in the life of Jesus is the sign that all of creation stands upon at judgment, at the resurrection.

 

Father of mercy, I pray for all those who seek another sign that in their seeking the Church will stand forth proclaiming the truth of your Son our Lord Jesus Christ. And that this sign of His life, death and resurrection will draw forth faith for salvation that there will be rejoicing and no tears. Shape me Lord as your masterpiece that I may use the gifts you have given me to help others find your truth.

The Experiences of the Delight of God

Today in my devotions I reread Psalm 19 and I hope you find refreshment for your soul in reading these notes. I would be pleased to read your comments.

Ps 18 is an awesome song of praise for David who was a man caught between so many enemies who desired his capture and death. He says he was entangled, trapped and in distress with few options and God showed up. (4-6)

He says God is alive (46) and the only way that is proven (30) is that God rescued him (16-29). We know this happened because David was king of Israel after Saul’s attempt on his life. But in the midst of that struggle in David’s mind there had to be trust in what he knew God had promised him at his anointing (1 Sam).

He shouts out to God of being so much in his life – strength, David’s strength – when I think if strength to get through something I think of “my encourager,” “my confidant,” “my coach,” “my One who speaks to me in the night.” Turning my defeated mind and heart, my fearful nerves and expertise into hope. But a hope that is not hopeless, based upon sheer hope, but solid facts that help me to press on.

He finds the LORD his rock, fortress, savior and as a rock God is the protector like a high fortress where the enemy cannot scale, where the arrows fall short and the eyes cannot see in the caves of cool refreshment. (1-3)

He finds the LORD as the shield of safety and if he hides behind the shield it is a place of security. (2)

David is depending on God for his life, this isn’t platitudes and wishes and religious mumblings. This is a man who depends upon a friend for what he has said.

This is like the man who hears the diagnosis from the doctor and asks, “what’s the plan Doc?”

This is like the Christian who hears the promises of God in their soul and accepts it as true and acts upon it with diligence and trust risking their livelihood and their future. And as a result sees God act in ways that could only be God’s working.

And so he is able to say, “In your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale a wall.” (29) because he has seen the LORD show up! Because his life reflected the trust that God can show up to!

Why did God show up? As I look at this psalm David says:

He was faithful (25)

He was a man of integrity, humility and word (25)

He was pure, in those days, he followed the commandments of God. (21,26)

He was innocent before God (20)

But one of the statements that really gives me pause was verse 19, “He lead me to a place of safety, he rescued me because he delights in me.” God delights in me? I really can do nothing that would cause God to delight in me. I’m not sure I delight in myself! But the blessing of God’s love, which apparently David saw, was this understanding. I pray we can see it. And I know that there are so many verses in the Old and New Testaments that show this love. And perhaps this is why David starts out, “I love you LORD.” (1)

This is true for me as well! (50) When I read the last version it is a promise that I’m sure Jesus read who was a descendant of David and is true for you and I. For the descendants of David are not just biological but spiritual as well as God told Abraham in Gen 12 and elsewhere, “your descendants will be as numerous as the stars.”

 

 

I’m not much on recording what I’ve been doing, even though it wouldn’t be all that difficult seeing the computer on which I type right now has a file called  of impossibly futile attempts at recording, “Diary.” Hmmm, perhaps I ought to write something?

So I will write to you my friend and tell you what I’m thankfully mindful of in a trying time of unthankfulness that seems relayed around the globe. I’m thankful for other bloggers who share positive insight into the world we share. I don’t say that to often to you but thank you for your frankness, your humor, your travels, your book reports, your struggles and victories and even though we do not live near by one another, your friendship.

I’m grateful for my wonderful family, my wife of 35 years of whom we had such a “SO” time this evening. (Okay, that is private.) I’m thankful for my daughter and her husband who have started up their marriage and love one another; for a dad, that is a relief. I’m thankful for my son who starts med school in the fall, for his interest in justice, healthy living and in fresh expressions of faith in others.

I’m thankful I got to preach recently to 60 people who are over 80 in a retirement home and the generosity of their comments makes public speaking, sharing the faith, and preaching the same sermon 4 times in one day very much worth it.

I’m thankful and deeply grateful for my colleagues in ministry at my church and those who’s minds and hearts of different denominations and locations around the world strike a cord of oneness around Christ’s work, the Spirit, our calling and hope.

Okay, I’ve written my gratitude. Do I copy and paste for my diary now?

Thanks for reading.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Advertisements