Day Six in the School of Prayer

WithChristInPrayer

 

“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone. Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:9-11)

How much more indeed! Often we are willing to settle for simple material gifts when the Father wants to give us so much more. The cursory handling of the verses from the Sermon on the Mount leads to the idea that our material needs—food, clothing, shelter—are to be the core of our prayers as we see the human father gives sustenance rather than danger and damage. The Saints are further led astray by reading into this passage a ‘blank check’ from Heaven in the implicit promise of good gifts. The best gift, Murray points out, is nothing material. It is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and His control over our life and living in this world. This is the gift we should earnestly be seeking, trusting in God to take care of all of the things He already knows we need.

Jesus teaches in our lesson today to lift our eyes and hearts above our immediate circumstances to see how much more life the Father has for us when we open our connection to the Vine. The Spirit is our connection and the gift we receive upon belief that enables the life-giving nectar of the Vine to flow into our empty souls.

The Parable of the Community Organizer

imageTheologian Susan Sarandon trotted out her tired proverb once again (hopefully for the last time) on inauguration day. In her latest attempt to equate President Obama with Jesus Christ, she said “He is a community organizer like Jesus was.” Continuing her vacuous line of reasoning, she verbally prostrated herself before him saying, “And now, we’re a community and he can organize us.” Civic and national pride is a good thing, but I’ve got to ask Miss Sarandon, where was this pride during the past eight years? Were you among the Diaspora of yearning souls who just couldn’t connect with one another? Ever hear of Facebook?

As I pored over the pages of my Bible I grow concerned that I am unable to find the stories of the Lord’s community organizing. The principle of community agitation is centered on creating a critical mass of humanity to address a problem that they are facing. Kind of like the Boy Scouts, seeing trash in their neighborhood and picking it up. Later, they build a trash bin so that the problem doesn’t reoccur. The Lord Jesus, on the other hand, did not come to organize humanity to address the problem that they had. There was no possible way for them to do so since propitiation required a perfect sacrifice. He was to become that sacrifice, something we would never be able to do on our own. His shepherding consisted of a single message, believe in this grace and put aside your personal god to worship the One who offers it.

I can’t begin to address the small, confined world in which celebrities exist and form their philosophy. Alfre Woodard voiced her tempered opinion of those outside of her bubble, “I think we might finally grow up as a nation.” Fact, Ms. Woodard, most of us grew up years ago.

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Kairos

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We as Americans are at a tipping point in our history. Our nation is roughly divided into two ideological camps; one leans toward the notions of individual responsibility with minimal interference from the a central governing authority and the other finds its identity in a large, caretaker governing authority and abdication of individual responsibility to that authority. Christians find themselves on both sides of this division with a decision to make as to whom the next leader will be. Unlike many other elections in the past with little other than the cacophony of partisan slogans and frenzied lowing to differentiate the ideologies, this event is different. It is kairos.

Some in the Christian community will insist that a call to action is misguided and unnecessary; God will place the man or woman that He ordains into this position of authority without human involvement. While miraculous intervention is always a possibility, this ‘sit back and observe’ attitude shows a profound misunderstanding of how God interacts with His world. Even a cursory review of the biblical record demonstrates that God works through His human agents, imbuing them with appropriately formed hearts and the ability to act on what is right. In a country in which we practice representative self-rule, our responsibility is to exercise our franchise based upon the ethics and morality of Christ.

This moment in the history of the United States is kairos. For those unfamiliar with the Greek term, it is a decisive point in a place, situation, or time where the divinely ordained purpose must be grasped boldly by moral agents. It is an opportune time in which human decision is crucial to the fulfillment of divine purpose. Those whose wills are attuned to divine purpose will recognize kairos, those who only hear their internal drummer will not.

Will you act decisively for life in this moment? The next president will be filling positions in the Supreme Court in the coming terms. Will those appointments be men and women who ‘find’ legislation in the Constitution or those who interpret it according to the intention of its authors? Your vote will decide the direction.

Will you act decisively for individual liberty in this moment? The corollary of liberty is individual responsibility guided by your Spirit-driven ethics and morals. The next president will lead the country from either the perspective that you are able to exercise this liberty and be responsible for yourself or that you are unable to be responsible for yourself and that a large government presence and intervention are necessary for your good. Your vote will determine that direction.

Will you act decisively to reverse deepening corruption of the culture? It becomes more difficult each day to see the imago dei in our fellow citizens. The humanity that we each posses is challenged with debasement by a pornified, violent, crass culture that is supported by an underlying attitude of moral equivalency. Cultural insistence that you or I are not to apply our moral or ethical standards to someone else, thus judging their ethics is at the root of the continued and quickening downward cultural spiral. The next president will either lead by an example of honor and principled service to others or from a position in which no morals or ethics are to be judged superior to any other system and that each should seek out whatever they feel is right. Your vote will determine that direction.

If you decide that this is not a kairos moment that needs your action that certainly is your privilege. I urge Christian readers though to review Christ’s insistence that we not retreat into fortresses but that we carry His message of the restoration of humanity and justice in both orthodoxy in the Church and orthopraxy in the world. The Kingdom exists as a here and now concept as well as a yet to come idea. In the here and now, your purpose is to be an influence in the culture, to spread your Christlikeness like yeast throughout your sphere of influence. As a citizen, your responsibility is to apply your values and ethics to selecting the fellow citizen who will lead  us into a strange and new future.

Jesus, Community Organizer – New Extra Large Size!

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. (Ex 20:7)

(Originally posted 11 September 2007)

The American political arena has been treated to yet one more attempt to lift one candidate to Messiah status while associating the other with an incompetent, indecisive, murderer. Donna Brazile, repeating a meme initiated by a Washington Post blogger, gave voice to the line “Jesus was a community organizer, Pontius Pilate was a governor.”

To correct the record, Jesus Christ was God. He is the atoning sacrifice for the sins of all humankind, as they will believe in Him. Jesus was in no way a community organizer in the model of Saul Alinsky, the mentor emeritus of community organizing. The Chicago stre

et agitator following Alinsky’s methods seeks to embed in the minds of the troubled that their condition is not their responsibility, it is the work of some oppressor above them. The organizer will invest as much effort as necessary to make the poor victims so angry with their perceived oppression that they rise up in direct action against those who hold them down. “Militant mass action…fueled by righteous anger.” as described by Dennis Jacobsen.

The Jesus of the Bible, on the other hand, commands a different loyalty. He speaks first of aligning oneself with the Father and His kingdom and then, in a reflection of the love of that kingdom, working to serve others in love. No mass violence; instead turning the other cheek also. Christ’s notion of social justice is to overcome by love and trust in the work of God, not radical mass action. Given the warning of the commandments above, perhaps we should be a bit more temperate in our allusions of a political figure to the Savior of humankind.

Update: It appears that Susan Sarandon received her lines a little bit late! She was parroting this decidedly unbiblical scripted dialogue yesterday AFTER Rep. Cohen delivered the line. Somebody’s head is going to roll for not delivering her script on time. Review here what biblical scholar Sarandon has to teach about Jesus.

STOP THE PRESSES!! The fourth estate senior spokespersons are just now getting their talking points about the similarity between the Savior of All Humankind and the community agitator. Tom Brokaw, the erudite theologian of record, demonstrated physical proof yesterday in the form of this recently unearthed coin of the future realm:

Aren’t there any grown ups in this group of people?

Ultimate Fighting Jesus

Once again, the inimitable Dr. Groothuis leads us through an examination of one the movements afoot within Christendom: Jesus for Men. This vision of the Lord is meant to counteract the supposed feminization of the Church which is turning men away. He is attractive to men, not because of holiness but because of His brawn. Read the piece here. 

He Is Risen Indeed at Red Rocks

For the first time in many years, my family and I had the opportunity to attend the sunrise service at Red Rocks. If you have never seen the beauty of this God created amphitheater, you can find a good Wiki here and, maybe more famously, it is the backdrop for U2’s ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ video. Yesterday, it was the house of God as several thousand people braved temperatures around 18 and snow and ice to be a part of this wonderful worship service.

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The three empty crosses await the coming of the dawn and the promise of new life.

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These sisters awaken the spirits in the darkness, preparing hearts for the presence of the Lord.

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We look out over the Great Plains to the East, flat for as far as the eye can see, straining to catch the first glimpse of the new dawn.

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As the sun rises just over the horizon, the promise of the new life is renewed. He is risen! He is risen indeed!

Passion Week: Vigil

We wait through the day and the darkness for the Lord and His promised return. He told us but we didn’t understand that he would rise and leave the tomb, overcoming the final fear of humankind, death. With this miracle He alone would change all of history; we would mark the time which he created by His presence among us. Those at or near the Cross that Friday afternoon were filled with despair as their Lord gave up His spirit, crying out to the God of the Exodus and the Immaculate Conception “Why? Why have your forsaken me?” Was their last hope given up in that breath also? They could only spend the days in their personal darkness.

3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

5 If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Rom 6:3-11)

The clarity brought by standing distant from the event still does not preclude us from our own moments of vigil. Where is God in our lives? Has he forsaken us? Is the separation temporary, brought about by our own rebellion or is it meant to strengthen us in our trust? These questions race through our minds but can be quieted by the promise of the new day’s sunrise: He was risen and He will rise again in our hearts. We must simply trust through this day.

Passion Week: The Great High Priest

The author of Hebrews exhorts us with this passage of promise:

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Heb 4:14-16)

On this day of Holy Week we consider the sacrifice of our Lord. He gives His life so that we might gain ours. In giving His life to rise again, Jesus shows that His dominion extends beyond our greatest fear – death – while not dismissing our lesser fears of failure in sin. He stands on our behalf knowing the human struggle against temptation and offering His strength in place of our own to overcome the weakness of our will. In every time of need, His grace is available to us if we will only reach out and take hold of it. As we reflect this Good Friday, we can consider how this confidence that he builds in us can lead us to make a similar sacrifice in our own lives. Be blessed.

Passion Week: The Year of the Lord’s Favor

Bookending the ministry of the Christ are the events of Holy Week and the announcement of His ministry:

16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. 17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,

because he has anointed me

to preach good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners

and recovery of sight for the blind,

to release the oppressed,

19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21 and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Lk 4:16-21

Preaching the good news and healing the broken, the essence of the Lord’s holy ministry and, by extension, our own. When we look to the heavens for a fresh vision for the fulfillment of our calling our eyes and hearts are drawn back to the utter simplicity of our mission: love others as the beloved of the Almighty King. You and I can proclaim the good news of freedom in Jesus Christ in myriad ways. We can heal the broken and shine a light so bright that sight for blindest can be attained. Our lives with each breath and act can proclaim again and again that we live in the year of the Lord’s favor. We can do all of these things if we put aside our fears, trusting in the miracle of the Risen Christ. Do you believe?

Passion Week: A Face Set Like Flint

The Suffering Servant speaks:

The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue,

to know the word that sustains the weary.

He wakens me morning by morning,

wakens my ear to listen like one being taught.

5 The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears,

and I have not been rebellious;

I have not drawn back.

6 I offered my back to those who beat me,

my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard;

I did not hide my face

from mocking and spitting.

7 Because the Sovereign Lord helps me,

I will not be disgraced.

Therefore have I set my face like flint,

and I know I will not be put to shame.

8 He who vindicates me is near.

Who then will bring charges against me?

Let us face each other!

Who is my accuser?

Let him confront me!

9 It is the Sovereign Lord who helps me.

Who is he that will condemn me?

Isaiah 50:4-9a

The Servant moves a day closer to the Cross with the rising of the sun this morning and yet, knowing the travail that He faces, fixes his unturning face toward Golgotha. He sets the example for our own journey in God’s will. We can let the world see the shine in our face though it may be spat upon. We can turn an unscarred cheek toward our attackers. We can do all of this without concern because we are secure in God’s grace. We are adopted as co-heirs along with our Servant brother. If the Lord is for us, who can be against us?