Monday, August 14, 2017

When You Are Suffering, Lament

Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone cheerful? He should sing praises.
James 5:13

Yesterday I preached about emotional healing. As I prepared for this the last couple of weeks, I read and listened to several teachers I respect on the topic of healing. I was encouraged by Pastor Chip Ingram as he pointed out "how" to pray when we need emotional healing. He pointed to the book of Psalms, my favorite devotional guide, and the Psalms of Lament.

A lament is a prayerful cry to God for help. While Psalms is filled with hymns and praise, the largest number of psalms are laments. It's almost as if God knew we would "have trouble in this world" and gave us a practical resource to help us voice our prayers when we are in the pit. Psalms is a worship manual for God's people. So many times when I have not known how to pray, I have found my heart's cry in this book. Most laments in the book of Psalms follow a pattern that's helpful for us to follow: Cry, Character, Commit.

Cry Out To God - honestly pour out your complaint to God
Remember His Character - choose to recall God's faithful character
Commit To Trust God - trust that He will answer

If you're suffering, pray. Don't know how? Open up the Psalms. Find the Psalm that voices your heart's need and pray.  Here's a topical list of a few of the Psalms of Lament. 

Psalm 3 -  when you feel attacked
Psalm 4 - when overwhelmed by your own sin
Psalm 13 - when abandoned
Psalm 38 - when overwhelmed by guilt or shame
Psalm 73 - when you have been treated unjustly
Psalm 74 - when you have been rejected
Psalm 77 - when you're in the middle of a crisis 
Psalm 102 - when you're sick 




Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Curse Of Racial Superiority

As I think about Charlottesville and the misguided and satanic attempts to blend the teachings of Christ with any form of racial superiority, hatred, or bigotry, I think about Paul's letter to the Galatians. The people who made up the church in Galatia were probably Celtic settlers from Gaul, a region of western Europe that encompassed France. They were ethnically, religiously, and culturally very different from the first Christians in Jerusalem, but when they heard and believed the Gospel of Jesus Christ they became one with every true follower of Christ.

There was a group in the early church who were either legalistic Jewish Christians or simply false teachers who accepted some of Jesus' teaching. They were called Judaizers. They believed they were superior to the Galatians, because they were Jews and still followed Jewish tradition. One of these traditions was circumcision, which was the mark of the covenant God made with the Jewish people. It was not, however, a mark of the covenant God made with Christians. No external mark makes one a Christian. "For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God's gift, not from works, so that no one can boast." (Eph. 2:8-9)

When these Judaizers came to Galatia, they would not eat with the Galatians. They felt they were superior. They also believed the Galatians were inferior spiritually, because the Galatians had not been physically circumcised. Apparently some in the Galatian church forgot that they were saved by grace through faith, that they were not inferior because they were of another race and tradition, and that all who follow Jesus Christ are one. So, when Paul heard about this attitude and this heretical teaching, he was incensed. To the believers in Galatia, he wrote, "You foolish Galatians! Who has cast a spell on you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified." (Gal. 3:1) He then went on to remind them, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Gal. 3:28) And, regarding the Judaizers he was graphic, writing, "I wish those who are disturbing you might also let themselves be mutilated." (Gal. 5:12) In other words, Paul wished those who were teaching the Galatians they must be circumcised in order to be Christians would go beyond circumcision and actually have themselves emasculated, turning them into eunuchs.

There is no room in the true Christian faith for any attitude of racial superiority; white, black, brown or otherwise. There is no Biblical justification for it. It is sin and it requires repentance. It also reveals a great depth of misunderstanding about how great our need is for the grace of God. To think that my skin color could make me spiritually superior is to preach another Gospel. To that, he wrote, "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, a curse be on him!" (Gal. 1:8)  He didn't call that a mistake, or an opinion. He went so far as to say "a curse be on" whoever believes or teaches such a thing.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Fire And Fury Like The World Has Never Seen Before

First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all goodliness and dignity.
1 Timothy 2:1-2

There were missile silos less than 35 miles from the little town where I grew up in West Texas. We lived only 60 miles, as the crow flies, from a SAC base where B-52 and later B-1 bombers trained and launched. In that Cold War era we didn't play Cowboys and Indians as much as we played soldiers fighting communist Russians, Chinese, and Cubans. We regularly talked about what we would do if a nuclear attack was launched. In our youthful naiveté, we thought we could survive.

If a Russian missile had struck the base in Abilene, nearly 100,000 people would have died instantly. The thermal blast would have killed another 15-20,000 tens of miles away and we, up in our little West Texas town, would have died from radiation poisoning within a matter of days or weeks. If missiles had hit the silos near us, it would have mercifully hastened the process.

I don't know what President Trump meant, when he said, regarding Kim Jong-un's continual threats and actions, "they will be met with fire and fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before." Maybe it was, as Michael McGough of the LA Times wrote, "more like a decision to meet bluster with bluster than a promise of military action the next time Kim lets loose a tirade against America." I don't know what's going on in Washington and Pyongyang, but I now it's not good. I know it feels too much like the days of my childhood.

I know this, too. If you're a believer in the Bible and a follower of Christ, you should know you have a responsibility beyond any partisan political bias. You have a responsibility to pray for whoever is in the White House. Actually, you have a responsibility to pray for the leader of North Korea, too. Doesn't Paul command Timothy to pray for "all who are in authority." Peace will only be found when it is sent from Heaven. Surely it's time to be obedient and pray for the leaders of our world.