Thursday, March 27, 2008

Mr. Peanut Butter


The following story is about one of my good friends from around here. He's pictured to the left of me, taken when we served together at a camp for those with developmental disabilities. Thanks to the Little River Monitor Journal and Denice Dater for this article. All of it is true!

Warren Rostine of Windom, sometimes known as Mr. Peanut Butter, has reached a milestone in his peanut butter consumption. According to records that he keeps, on December 5, 2007, he had eaten 2,500 pounds of peanut butter.

According to Rostine he began eating peanut butter in the 1970’s and has been keeping an ongoing record of his consumption for many years. He earned the title of Mr. Peanut Butter in January 1981. At that time he had eaten 671 pounds of peanut butter. His favorite brands are Skippy and ShurFine and his favorite way to eat peanut butter is all by itself.

"I eat peanut butter everyday," said Rostine. "It gives me enough energy to ride my bicycle, and I usually ride between 70 and 80 miles a week. Besides just plain peanut butter, I most often eat it in a sandwich, as a cake, pie, on celery and carrots, and sometimes on ice cream. I also like Reeces Peanut Butter Cups."

Warren said that he usually makes his own cakes and pies and sometimes eats his favorite flavor at a restaurant. "One day I bought a book called the Peanut Butter Diet just for fun, but it hasn’t changed my way of eating," commented Rostine.

Congratulations on your achievement Warren, happy eating to you.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Lost Tomb of Jesus Revisited


Last year about this time, a big brouhaha was created when the Discovery Channel aired a special called, "The Lost Tomb of Jesus," claiming the place of Jesus' burial had been uncovered.

The "facts" of the special were pretty outrageous then and remain so now.

What's happened since then is the subject of an article by Thomas Madden, called, "Not Dead Yet." It's an easy to read summary about the disputed Jerusalem tomb and a report of a January, 2008 Princeton Seminary symposium where scholars gathered to discuss the evidence.

Madden's piece includes a link to this fascinating article by Jodi Magness, where she discusses Jewish burial customs in 1st century Jerusalem and then slams the door shut on Lost Tomb theory.

Bottom line? The tomb of Jesus is still empty!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter

I need Easter. I was reminded of that again this year.

I woke up plenty early to get ready for the 7:00am community sunrise service at Windom. The night before, I put everything I needed in the dining room-- my computer, computer speakers, guitar, guitar stand, guitar strap, sheet music, and Bible. I was playing some media clips off my computer and leading worship with my guitar. Everything was in place, so I didn't have to panic early in the morning getting ready. And I arrived at the church at 6:20am. Again, in plenty of time to casually set up the computer and guitar.

And then I realized that I left home without the computer speakers.

With 20 minutes left before service time, I saw my family van go faster than it ever did. On the way, I was steaming mad. How could I be so stupid leaving those speakers behind? They were sitting with all the other stuff I grabbed.

I made it back with 2 minutes until service time. I got everything set up and led the first song on my guitar. On the outside, I'm smiling and leading "He's Lives." But inside, I was burning mad, furious at myself. The last thing I wanted to do was lead worship.

It was a simple mistake. You forgot something. Big deal. But I was enraged.

We kept singing. "Up from the grave He arose..." And somewhere in the music, I remembered the purpose of Easter. It's about a Savior who died for sinners-- angry control-freak sinners like me. He suffered, died, and rose again to save me and make me into something new.

Saved I am. But the transformation is taking time.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Thomas: "Wished He'd Edited Out"

Speaking to World Magazine about recent news that has the United Church of Christ in the headlines, General Minister and President John Thomas expressed regret over Barack Obama telling a General Synod audience this past June that he was running for President.

In it's March 22/29, 2008 issue, page 43, and also reported on its website:
UCC president John Thomas told WORLD he had personally invited Obama to speak about the relationship between personal faith and public life long before the senator was a presidential candidate: "We took great care to make sure we stayed within the legal boundaries, and I believe we did." Thomas said that although there was one point in Obama's speech that "I would have wished he'd edited out"-- a brief reference to the Obama presidential campaign-- "otherwise he spoke about the topic we'd asked him to speak about. Any campaign activity took place outside on public property where we have no control."
Obama spoke of his candidacy twice. Once at the beginning of his speech and later in the middle, in the form of a campaign promise. Unfortunately, those couple of seconds turned the entire address into a presidential candidate speech.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Trinity, Wright, and Context

Trinity United Church of Christ, the home church of Presidential candidate Barack Obama, vigorously defended itself and its past minister Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright, Jr. on Sunday, accusing its critics of character assassination.

According to the Politico, Trinity's new pastor Rev. Otis Moss III:
...delivered a fiery sermon Sunday, defending the African-American church’s right to speak out about social issues. He stressed Trinity's work in its still-impoverished community, mentioning the church's scholarship programs, drug counseling, SAT prep classes, and missions to Africa.

"Our very sanity is connected to the church. If it hadn't been for the church we would have lost our minds in the insanity of racism," he said, in a sermon titled, "Why the Black Church Won't Shut Up."
The church also issued a statement (scroll to bottom) with the heading, "An Attack on Our Senior Pastor and the History of the African American Church":
Nearly three weeks before the 40th commemorative anniversary of the murder of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Reverend Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.’s character is being assassinated in the public sphere because he has preached a social gospel on behalf of oppressed women, children and men in America and around the globe.

“Dr. Wright has preached 207,792 minutes on Sunday for the past 36 years at Trinity United Church of Christ. This does not include weekday worship services, revivals and preaching engagements across America and around the globe, to ecumenical and interfaith communities. It is an indictment on Dr. Wright’s ministerial legacy to present his global ministry within a 15- or 30-second sound bite,” said the Reverend Otis Moss III, pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ...

...Trinity United Church of Christ’s ministry is inclusive and global. The following ministries have been developed under Dr. Wright’s ministerial tutelage for social justice: assisted living facilities for senior citizens, day care for children, pastoral care and counseling, health care, ministries for persons living with HIV/AIDS, hospice training, prison ministry, scholarships for thousands of students to attend historically black colleges, youth ministries, tutorial and computer programs, a church library, domestic violence programs and scholarships and fellowships for women and men attending seminary...

...Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached the Christian tenet, “love thy neighbor as thyself.” Before Dr. King was murdered on April 4, 1968, he preached, “The 11 o’clock hour is the most segregated hour in America.” Forty years later, the African American Church community continues to face bomb threats, death threats, and their ministers’ characters are assassinated because they teach and preach prophetic social concerns for social justice. Sunday is still the most segregated hour in America.
Obviously, Trinity isn't apologizing for anything-- about itself or Rev. Wright's over-the-top pulpit words.

Their response also seeks to explain itself in broader context.

The church-- and our denominational leaders-- put into context Rev. Wright's strengths: 36 years of preaching, a vibrant church, and dozens of social service programs. Yet none of these good works excuse Rev. Wright's now famous remarks. In fact, spotlighting the good works makes one wonder even more why Pastor Wright spoke so inflammatory.

The church is also putting its situation in the broader context of American black history, as seen in the church's press release. 40 years ago, it says, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King was murdered. Now, they say, Rev. Wright's "character is being assassinated in the public sphere because he has preached a social gospel..."

When you put something into broader context, the goal is to bring something into greater clarity. But when the church press release brings up Dr. King's death and associates that event with Dr. Wright's character assassination by the media, that's not contextual clarity, that's contextual confusion. Dr. Wright isn't suffering because he, like Dr. King preached a social gospel. Dr. Wright is suffering because he's uttered ridiculous remarks.

Context, particularly the failure to put things in proper context, is the reason why Rev. Wright is under so much criticism. For example, his assertion that America got what it deserved on 9/11-- because of what our country did to the Japanese, Palestinians, and black South Africans-- is contextualizing that most people don't buy, and for good reason.

Meanwhile, as the church unapologetically stands behind Rev. Wright, the context that Senator Obama will face is this: He'll remain under pressure to keep emphasizing that he condemns Wright's remarks. And the church's stance may force Obama to distance himself even further from a congregation and minister that he obviously loves.

Friday, March 14, 2008

My Pharmacy Gets Busted

There's a saying about life in rural America that goes like this: "Not much happens in a small town, but what you hear sure makes up for it."

The other day I heard a doozy of a tale.

The pharmacy where I've done business for many years, Hogan's Pharmacy in Lyons, KS, got busted the other day for selling drugs over the Internet.

Viagra, Prozac, muscle relaxers, anxiety pills. They were selling them all. By the boat load. No doctor's prescription necessary. For at least the last 2 years. It was a pill mill.

KSN-TV in Wichita reported on a widow in Valley Center, KS who said her husband died from an overdose of drugs purchased from Hogan's. And a Virginia television station, WAVY, in February did a piece on how a teen easily ordered drugs online and when they came, it had a Hogan's label on them. They also report that Hogan's website server was located in Singapore. The 47 page complaint from the Kansas State Board of Pharmacy is here.

I thought I knew my pharmacist. I guess I didn't.

Mom and Pop pharmacies, especially those in small rural communities, have been under pressure for years from large chain competitors like Wal-Mart, Wal-Green, Dillons, Kroger, etc.

But explaining this comes down to one thing.

Greed.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Pundits Position on Politics

Anytime you see a letter in your mailbox with the words "IRS" on the return address, that'll get your attention pretty fast. In like fashion, four influential pundits are weighing in on the question of whether the United Church of Christ violated IRS regulations because of Barack Obama's General Synod speech.

The Hartford Courant, the Connecticut newspaper that provided good coverage of Synod events, makes a pretty passionate statement, evident in its editorial by-line: "IRS Goes Overboard":
The IRS is out of line. It is investigating the tax-exempt status of the United Church of Christ solely because its most famous member, Sen. Barack Obama, spoke at the church's annual conference last summer.

Tax laws bar nonprofits from supporting candidates, but not from listening to them. That right is protected by the same First Amendment that forbids government sponsorship of a religion...

(Obama's) few "my first term as president"-type slips were not great enough to warrant the IRS threat that followed eight months later...

(The IRS letter) to the church questioned whether "political activities" at the conference "could jeopardize" the UCC's tax exemption. Isn't that a bit excessive? The IRS should be policing nonprofits suspected of funneling money from donors skirting contribution limits, not stifling speech at houses of worship.
Seems like what really bothers the Courant is the strict line that prohibits politicians from making candidate speeches before church groups. Instead of railing against the IRS, they need to direct their wrath at Americans United or changing IRS tax code.

Raising suspicions too of IRS motives is Rev. Susan Thistlethwaite, President of Chicago Theological Seminary. Writing at the Washington Post's "On Faith" site, she charges the IRS is investigating the UCC simply because Obama gave a speech to them:
The IRS is accusing the UCC of engaging in "political activities." I believe the "political activities" are on the other foot. The UCC General Synod was in June of 2007... It is only now fully nine months later, when Senator Obama has become the front-runner in the race for President, that this investigation is launched.

I was present when Senator Obama gave this speech at General Synod... It was an extraordinary speech... The narrative structure of the speech was to take the audience with him as he went from his conversion to a personal faith in Jesus Christ to the broad theme of meaning and purpose in human life... If anyone could think that’s engaging in "political activities" than I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you...

Read the full text of the speech and all the relevant documents by going to the UCC website and judge for yourself.

The "narrative arc" of this speech tracks the "narrative arc" of how we as Americans respect our Constitution and also passionately engage in public service as a higher calling.
Thistlethwaite dismisses the IRS charge because the heart of Obama's speech was one man's view of how faith works in the public square. Her speech analysis is technically correct. But with Obama mentioning his presidential candidacy--not once, but twice-- Thistlethwaite overlooks where the pinnacle of that "narrative arc" ultimately leads: straight to the Oval Office.

Being involved in the public arena is part of the UCC's DNA, so writes Rev. Davida Foy Crabtree, Conference Minister for Connecticut, in a Hartford Courant guest column. She says the denomination went to great lengths to insure everything was done properly. In lieu of this, she worries about the chilling effect the IRS' actions might have on people of faith:
Our members are expected to apply the faith to their work and daily life and are encouraged to enter the public arena as civil servants, political leaders and government officials. So our inviting a prominent UCC senator to speak about how his faith informs his public responsibility is in keeping with a long tradition of engaging personal faith and public life.

Any attempt by government through the IRS and other agencies to define what is appropriate religious practice must be resisted. For the United Church of Christ and similar denominations, our work on universal health care, the elimination of poverty and numerous other social justice issues is absolutely intrinsic to our faith practice. So we have to talk to political figures and we need them to talk to us, especially when they are members of our denomination.

The Internal Revenue Service has normatively been even-handed in its enforcement of these regulations. I believe the agency needs to revisit its process. A simple dialogue with our leaders would have established that the facts contradict the complaint. Instead, given the facts in this case, by issuing this letter the agency risks encumbering the free practice of religion.
Rev. Crabtree is muddying the issue. This isn't about the "free practice of religion," or whether people of faith can engage in politics, or even who a denomination can invite to its meetings. The question is specifically: Did the United Church of Christ illegally promote the candidacy of Barack Obama and did Obama illegally give a candidate speech to a religious body?

Jeffrey Lord, writing at the American Spectator, gives some interesting background on why we have the strict IRS rules currently in place. He lays blame for the UCC's mess squarely in the lap of the one who stood before the General Synod and said he's running for President:
Dear Senator Obama: Our common denomination, the United Church of Christ, has a suddenly serious legal and financial problem with the Internal Revenue Service. You, personally, are the cause of this problem. Candidly? I think you owe it to those of us who are your fellow congregants to help repair the damage that you have done...

Frankly, Senator, this is shameful. You are a United States Senator. A potential President of the United States. You are conducting a campaign making judgment an issue -- and this was exactly an issue of judgment and understanding. You of all people should have understood that your appearance in Hartford once you were an announced candidate for president would cause the UCC severe problems with the IRS.
Mr. Lord, a former official in the Reagan administration, goes a bit overboard with fears that Obama's actions could result in his small Pennsylvania church losing its tax-exempt status. And apparently, he wrote his piece before it was announced that the UCC secured free legal representation.

However, Lord is the only commentator who understands that Obama crossed the legal line when he said he's running for President. And, he the only one looking squarely at the UCC's questionable actions, like the press release quoting an Obama official saying that the speech was a "major address on faith and politics as a presidential candidate."

As these four illustrate, whenever you get a letter from the IRS, you're right to be afraid.
Meantime, I'd like to see IRS rules relaxed, so churches and candidates need not fear one another, nor the IRS.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Deleted "Spirit Cafe" Devotional

The following is the devotional post written by Rev. Randall Forester that was recently deleted from "Spirit Cafe Blog" by the i.ucc website administrator. Details of that action are described in the previous post.

Lent can sound scary and daunting for people. Discipline--ugg. Denial--oof. Service--yuck. The season begins with Ashes and somber reflection and ends at the foot of a cross--who really wants to fall crawl in the muck and mire of sin and self-denial and introspection, when we could just jump from the hedonism of Fat Tuesday to the celebration of the cross?

After all, doesn't the old hymn that Jesus loves me just as I am? So, if I'm a fun-loving, hedonistic, stuff-my-face- with-Granny's- ham-and-biscuits- til-I-pass out, shouldn't I just stay that way?

Well...that's the whole point of Lent.

Yes, Jesus loves me just as I am, but He came that I might have life and have it more abundantly (John 10.10). And to know that life, I need to grow into His image of me that He prepared for me. One way to know that life is to live according to the godly attributes. For instance, there are the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5.22-25:
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
Joy is love exalting and peace is love at rest. Patience, love enduring in every trial and test. Gentleness, love yielding to all that is not sin. Goodness, love in actions that flow from Christ within. Faith is love's eyes opened, the loving Christ to see. Meekness, love not fighting but bowed at Calvary. Temperance, love in harness and under Christ's control. The Christ is love in person, and love, Christ in the soul. *

The reason there's no law against these attributes, is because if we lived according to them, there would be no need of the Law, as we would be walking in step with the Holy Spirit. A good discipline during Lent that I have is to simply pray through these attributes, one a day, and ask how to manifest that fruit in my life in a godly way. A concordance helps to find a verse or verses that will guide me on this journey.

It is a vital journey because just as God calls us to the pursuit of the good fruit, there is the tease and temptation of bad fruit. Paul talks about these sinful distortions of the good fruit in Galatians 5 as well in verses 19-21:
19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
These sound like some of my Mardi Gras moments past before I truly invited Jesus into the center of my life, and I recognize how the lure to the bad seed can still be just as strong. And so ... I need the rhythm of Lent to come around every year to continue that good work begun in me, having faith and confidence that God will bring it to completion (Philippians 1.6).

There are always signs of how this good work is continuing in the world. In fact, it's a revolution that is continuing in our midst. Following the path of Christ has always been counter cultural, but there are signs of the kingdom of God breaking into this age.

“People are hungry for a hopeful message about homosexuality that encompasses God's truth, as well as His compassionate heart,” Exodus International President Alan Chambers said. “We are thrilled to be a small part of what God is doing to reach a new generation with His liberating truth.”

Indeed, Exodus International and other ministries are seeing people freed from the bondage of immorality that Paul speaks of in Galatians 5 and born to the freedom to according to the fruit of the Spirit. Seeing others gain their freedom gives me hope to live freely as well.

Join with me in praying through Galatians 5 this Lent that we might out be fruitful for God in His Spirit.

Amen.

your fellow companion on the journey,
revrandawg


---
* Missionary Dr. Kenneth Moyner, quoted by John Stott, "A Vision for Holiness," Preaching Today, Tape No. 94

Monday, March 10, 2008

Post Deleted at the UCC Spirit Cafe Blog

In her introduction of Barack Obama at General Synod 26, remarks recently posted on YouTube, Associate General Minister Edith Guffey declares about the United Church of Christ (UCC): "We are a diverse church with many different perspectives and opinions."

That's true when you compare one local UCC church to another. But at the national level, finding expressions of the "diverse church," are darn near impossible.

Here's an example. An evangelical United Church of Christ pastor blogging at the denomination's "Spirit Cafe" had his Lenten devotional removed by the the site administrator in mid February after he wrote that homosexual behavior was immoral and claimed people have left the lifestyle with the help of Exodus International.

Rev. Randall Forester, pastor of St. Paul's Community Church in Chicora, Pennsylvania, had been posting articles at the Spirit Cafe blog since its inception two years ago. But apparently, his last article crossed some invisible line. i.UCC site administrator Andy Lang quickly deleted the post and justified his action to Forester, saying:
I've unpublished your blog in the Spirit Cafe until we can have a conversation about what you wrote. i.UCC is an open and affirming community. It is designed to be a safe place for lesbian and gay Christians. It is not a place where Exodus International, which, believe me, has done more harm than you can imagine, will be lifted up by a representative of the community as an example of faithful discipleship, or where homosexuality will be described as an example of the bondage of immorality...

If you feel that this is an unwarranted interference with your continued participation as an i.Guide, we can talk about it. Frankly, I am disappointed, because I thought that as an evangelical with a dialogical spirit you would understand that such a comment from an i.guide would be inappropriate. I am equally disappointed that you did not have the good judgment to consult with me first before writing a blog on this subject. As I said, I'll be glad to talk about it.
On the UCCtruths discussion board, some have said Lang is properly doing his job. He is reinforcing and upholding the convictions of General Synod delegates, who dictate the direction of the national church, and General Synod has a long tradition of welcoming and affirming the gay community.

Yes, General Synod has declared its will and the national office is carrying out its wishes. However, it's amazing that once an issue gets decided, any expression of dissent on a national stage is rarely permitted-- and in this case, snuffed out.

But also, this summer's General Synod said they acknowledge, "the existence of a broad spectrum of thought on contemporary issues of theology and ethics, and advocates fair representation of all points of view in all settings of the United Church of Christ" (lines 36-39 from the resolution, "Covenantal Relationships").

So how will that get worked out?

When it comes to sex, religious liberals like to tout how tolerant they are compared to those intolerant religious conservatives. But this incident illustrates that liberals have borders just as real as their conservative counterparts. It's just that liberals and conservatives have their fence posts in radically different places. Liberals believe homosexual relationships are blessed by God. Conservatives believe these relationships are sinful and grieve the heart of God. Theologically, there is no middle ground. Apparently, there's no common table at the Spirit Cafe to discuss it either.

The United Church of Christ is a grand ecclesiastical experiment of "unity amidst diversity." Is it possible?

Yes.

But not when the majority silences the minority.


Next time: The "forbidden" devotional.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Inclusio and the Gospels

Bookends.

They're useful. They hold books upright. They also make stylish statements with their fancy designs.

This semester I'm teaching RP 103-- Survey of the New Testament-- at nearby Sterling College. Last Monday night we finished looking at the Gospels and we took note of the bookends, or inclusios, that "frame" the Gospel messages.

An inclusio is a literary device where the writer states a theme or idea at both the beginning and end of a story. It's intended to introduce and conclude a main point. Everything in-between is to be read with the inclusio theme in mind. When you think of inclusio, think bookends.

Each Gospel in the New Testament contains an inclusio:

Matthew
Inclusio Theme: God is present with us in the person of Jesus Christ

1:18, 22-23
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about...All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel"--which means, "God with us."

28:18-20
Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."


Mark
Inclusio Theme: The identity of Jesus-- He is the Son of God

1:1
The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

15:39
And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, "Surely this man was the Son of God!"


Luke
Inclusio Theme: The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah fulfills what was promised in the Old Testament

1:1-4
Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

24:44-47
Jesus said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms." Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

John
Inclusio Theme: Anyone who puts their faith and trust in Jesus will receive eternal life

1:12
Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God

20:30-31
Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

An inclusio is also an effective speech tool. Introduce an idea or word picture at the beginning of your talk and then wrap up your speech with that same concept. It's a powerful way to summarize your message and remind your audience of your main thought.

The Gospels not only tell about the greatest person who ever lived, they also tell his story with great literary skill.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Revival Review (5 of 5)

If Christians are saved by grace, if good works don't earn God's favor, or obligate Him to let you into heaven, then what should motivate Christians to do good works?

That was the question answered by Dr. J.B. Hixson, Executive Director of the Free Grace Alliance and featured guest at the Little River Congregational Church's February revival.

In Luke 19:11-27, the Parable of the Minas, Jesus speaks directly to believers today about what we should be doing and why. In short, we should be busy doing God's business. Dr. Hixson emphasized five points:

Be patient (vv. 11-12)
The Kingdom of God has not yet arrived. It will arrive, but not now. Jesus has gone away.

Be busy (v. 13)
God has given us work to do. Preach the Gospel of sin and salvation. Love God and your neighbor.

Be aware (v. 14)
Some people are opposed to God. They live by their own agenda.

Be ready (v. 15)
The King will eventually return. Jesus will come back. He will ask us to give an account for how we lived on His behalf-- how we used the mina given to us by Him.
  • Rewards gained (vv. 16-19). Here the motivation for good works. God will give his faithful servants eternal rewards. On Dr. Hixson's website, read 30 biblical reasons why believers should pursue good works.
  • Rewards lost (vv. 20-24). Here is the negative motivation. Some who are saved failed to be busy while Jesus was gone.
  • Summary principle (vv. 25-26). God will reward his servants as He sees fit. Here, Dr. Hixson explains in detail the doctrine of eternal rewards.
Be in awe (v. 27)
What Jesus says here is shocking. Unbelievers who oppose Him will be killed.

Jesus is away, but soon he will return. The King is coming. Be ready. And get busy!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Revival Review (4 of 5)

It's now March, but the spiritual glow from the Congregational Church's February revival is still with us.

Dr. J.B. Hixson, Executive Director of the Free Grace Alliance, was our featured speaker, five consecutive times, from February 10-13. In the first half of our time together, Dr. Hixson spoke on the "gift." Solely by His lavish kindness, God offers us grace and eternal security. We can do nothing to earn such gifts. We can only receive them--accepting them by putting our faith and trust in the finished work of Jesus.

The second half of our conference focused on the "prize." How should believers in Jesus respond to the gifts given them? By pursuing the call God has put on our life. By walking with God and imitating his character.

On Tuesday evening, Dr. Hixson reminded us that an essential part of our pursuit of Christ is studying the Bible. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." Dr. Hixson said the Bible is useful for teaching us what to believe (teaching), what not to believe (rebuking), how not to live (correcting), and how to live (training in righteousness). All of this is so you can become fully mature and ready for every good work.

So how would you describe your Bible reading habits? If you don't have a routine, try making an appointment with God's Word three times a week. Read one day in the psalms. Another day in Proverbs. And the third day reading through one of the gospels.

God's Word? It's our spiritual food.