Archives For Heaven


This is straight from Wikipedia to define what I mean by those with “special needs”:

n the United States, special needs is a term used in clinical diagnostic and functional development to describe individuals who require assistance for disabilities that may be medical, mental, or psychological. For instance, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and the International Classification of Diseases 9th edition both give guidelines for clinical diagnosis. People with Autism, Down syndrome, dyslexia, blindness, or cystic fibrosis, for example, may be considered to have special needs. (Source)

I was asked this morning by a friend this question that I never thought about: “Why does God give people disabilities?” That was a question I was not prepared for. I assured this person that sometimes disabilities come as the result of accidents but there are many disabilities that we are unsure where the cause comes from. It would be easy to dismiss the question by saying that however I offered her an explanation that does not solve everything but I think is significant.

In Isaiah 43:7 God shares that human beings were created for the purpose of glorifying God. Proverbs 16:4 reads, “The Lord has made everything for its purpose.” In his wonderful paraphrase Eugene Peterson words Romans 11:33-36 this way:

Is there anyone around who can explain God?
Anyone smart enough to tell him what to do?
Anyone who has done him such a huge favor
that God has to ask his advice?
Everything comes from him;
Everything happens through him;
Everything ends up in him.
Always glory! Always praise!
Yes. Yes. Yes.

Many other Scriptures talk about giving God glory because he is worthy of that glory. Glory simply means we shine the light on that which needs it. So I wonder if a disability or special need should not be viewed as a hindrance but as a gift. Peter writes for us:

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Pet. 4:10-11)

What if having a special need could be viewed as a gift to give God further glory that, like Paul, in our weakness we can show our strength? That does not mean having a child with special needs is easy to explain or easy to experience. Not at all. Yet, I am reminded just how present God is with those who have special needs. My wife watches a child during the day who has Down Syndrome and everyday I am reminded of the peace that surpasses all understanding through this child. I wish I cold live love with even a fraction of the endearment this child has for life. That child’s special need is not a hindrance to the gospel… it is the gospel.

I think the deepest, most intimate circle of heaven belongs to those with special needs. There will be no disabilities in heaven and all will be made perfect and right. Our broken world will not keep us enslaved anymore as we will have a new incorruptible body. So often those with special needs teach us more than we can ever teach them. Our churches should have special ministries that reach out to those who have these types of needs and we should equip ourselves to welcome these families into our fellowships. What is your church doing for those with special needs? Do you mind sharing ideas? Share them below…

I am always at a loss with how to address this issue in church. I just feel that God’s kingdom is filled with those who have special needs both with their presence but also their testimony to God. I struggle also because I have four completely healthy kids and I am completely healthy myself. I feel guilt for this. But that is not right. Instead I am reminded of how much God cares for all people.

Watch this short video as I am reminded how those with special needs still speak even when they are weak… Grab a Kleenex.

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Preached this sermon yesterday at Main Street and it was well received.

God’s Kaleidoscope

(Romans 1:16; 1 Cor. 15:9-10)

            “I think every church should be a church irreligious people love to attend. Why? Because the church is the local expression of the presence of Jesus. We are his body. And since people who were nothing like Jesus liked Jesus, people who are nothing like Jesus should like us as well.”[1] I just read that quote on Friday and it is amazing how well this fit into the sermon idea that I wanted to talk about with you this morning. A few weeks ago I shared a blog post chronicling my usage of marijuana in middle and high school and I received many warm comments but most of them had to do with me having courage to share that information. In that blog post I wrote:

I am not sure why I am telling all of you this now as many of you are finding this out for the first time. I guess because I have seen a few of my own youth struggle and have heard of so many others that I feel it is probably time to share my story.[2]

Some of you in this audience knew of my past and some of you did not. Perhaps some of you are thinking to yourself, “What is this guy talking about?” The blog post simply told part of my story where I struggled with drugs and alcohol in my middle and high-school days. The struggle could have been worse but it did not have to happen. I tell you all of this to ask this question:

Why did people say that I had courage to admit that I used drugs?

Why does that take courage?

I read the New Testament and people who were responsible for the death of Jesus, the Savior came to Peter asking for repentance and desiring baptism. Smoking weed is nothing compared to killing the savior.

It takes courage to admit things like my broken past not because there is a loss of people in the church who have similar pasts but there are people in this church and every other church who are either afraid of what people might think (i.e, “they will judge me”) or, even worse, they do not want to address those demons of the past. It also takes courage to admit that those types of things because most of time many people in this auditorium spend 45 minutes to an hour pretending to be someone who they are not. This is why so many people who are unchurched do not want to attend a church because they feel like they have to have everything in order before they can be a part of the church. That’s not the way the New Testament church operated.

What I am going to do this morning is going to take some courage on your part. I am going to ask a bunch of questions and all I ask of you to do is to be honest and raise your hands.[3] If you are visiting with us feel free not to participate but if you are a member of this church I ask all of you to participate. I ask you to trust me in what I am about to do and understand that I am making a point with all of this. Finally, this goes without saying, those who raise their hands are free from judgment on your part. There is only one judge and you are not he. This should make good lunch discussions…

So here we go…

We’ll start easy…

  • How many of you come from a Christian home where you church was talked about all the time and you absolutely loved going to services, participating in VBS, youth the whole nine yards? How many of that was you raise your hand?
  • How many of you did not grow up in a Christian home as Christ was never talked about or if he was it was only around Christmas time? How many of that was you raise your hand?
  • How many of you grew up attending church but then hated going to church because mom and dad forced it on you so you left when you got old enough and then played a little, visited other churches but eventually came back? How many of that was you raise your hand?
  • How many of you came from some other denomination before you landed here at Main Street?
  • How many of you became a believer after your 20th birthday? 30th? 40th? 50th? Any higher?
  • How many of you, your parents are still happily married?
  • How many of you are from homes where your parents were divorced either early on or at some point since you left the house?
  • How many of you, your parents are married, but not necessarily happily?
  • How many of you have experienced divorce?
  • How many of you have a master’s level education or above?
  • How many of you did not graduate high school but have a GED or some sort of equivalent?
  • Any democrats in here?
  • How many of you were born in the north above the Mason-Dixon line?
  • How many of you were born in another country?

Again this is a safe environment where you will not be judged….

  • How many of you have a past in addiction whether it is alcohol, drugs or pornography?
  • Last one, how many of you have experienced some sort of abuse (physical, sexual or mental) in your background.

Let’s take a deep breath. There is this lie from the handiwork of Satan himself that says God only saves certain people. As if God loves republicans more than he does democrats. As if God loves people who have been to church their whole lives versus those who just made it. Here is the gist of this sermon, the big point…

“God, by his grace and mercy, wants all to be saved and the gospel is for everybody.”

Let that marinate on your heart rate now. Let that sit in your stubborn chambers where the “ideal Christian” image sits. God saves the person who cusses like a sailor and get’s drunk all night long and God saves the person whose worst words are “silly goose” and who feels guilty drinking a Pepsi. You know what I mean? God saves all of us and we should be courageously unashamed of that fact.

Some of you are walking around saying, “I never tried drugs and I never have touched alcohol and I have gone to church services my whole life and feel like my testimony to God is insignificant.” Hogwash! Praise God that he saw it fit to save you from that situation and now uses your story to teach all families that God-fearing people can raise another generation of God-fearing people. Some of you are walking around saying, “If church people only knew of all the things I have done they would not want me into their church.” First off, it’s not their church it’s Jesus Christ’s church. Secondly, if they really knew about all the things you have done and if they had an ounce of authenticity in them after hearing about the things you have done they would not say, “How horrible you are,” they would say, “How great is our God!”

Don’t you think it’s time church that we become a little more authentic and a little more genuine? I am not saying we have to unload every personal detail every time we come to services but I can honestly say that many of you I know but few of you I know on a deep, personal level. The apostle Paul was very upfront about who he was and how God saved him from the wretched person that he was. There are a ton of verses I could share (especially in Acts where he recounts his conversion story a couple of times) but I felt like this one sums it all up…

For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. (1 Cor. 15:9-10)

In context Paul is talking about the resurrection of Jesus Christ and how Jesus appeared to him who was the least of the apostles. He calls himself one who was “untimely born.” Paul is forever having to defend his apostleship to people who think he is a nobody. Imagine the criticism he got:

“This guy is not one of us, he was a persecutor of the church. How dare he think he can tell us how to run this church?”

“He was not an apostle as he barely even saw the Lord Jesus.”

Yet, Paul understood that and in the wake of his past he came to the conclusion that the suffering, the persecution and the pain he causes to the church he could do nothing about right now. He said, “by the grace of God I am what I am.”

I think churches are starving for people like Paul who just puts all of his cards on the table and lets whatever falls to fall. He does not say what he did gives people license to do bad things but he allows other people to see how God can save people from horrible circumstances.

CONCLUSION

So there is this myth that there is this certain type of person God saves. It does not exist. He saved a rich tax collector by the name of Zacchaeus and he saved the woman caught in adultery, in the very act. How rough would that one be if a woman caught in adultery interrupted our services begging to be saved at the very instant? We would probably escort her out so we would not disrupt the order of worship. God saves all kinds of people. If we want this church to grow we need to be more authentic. We need to be the church that does not seek other church-going people but we need to be the church that seeks the people nobody wants… the unchurched. There are plenty of churches in this county who brag about their numbers when all they are doing is swelling from other churches. We need to be that church where unchurched people look at and say, “I want to be a part of that.”

How do we do that? We started today… honesty, integrity and openness. I titled this sermon God’s Kaleidoscope. One definition for kaleidoscope on Dictionary.com was, “any complex pattern of frequently changing shapes and colors.” Sounds a little bit about what church is supposed to be. As the leaves change in the fall I am reminded about how different people from church are. We come from every background imaginable and the one common theme is that we are all trying to give God his glory and reach others to do the same. We all are spared by the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ so that we do not live lives in the “used to be” or “what could be” but we live in the already.

So we have all been a bit honest. This should help us reach others. This should help us start. We do not have to have this mask put on. “Fake it until you make it” is a cliché for people who don’t know what they are talking about. Let’s stop faking. Let’s stop living in our empty cisterns of despair. Let’s live in the grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. I am not scared any more are you? Let’s do this church! My name is Robbie Mackenzie. I used to do drugs, I used to drink heavily, I was not a virgin when I got married, I treated God like a genie in a bottle and God saved me from all of that. HIS GRACE REACHES EVEN ME….


[1] Andy Stanley, Deep and Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend (Kindle Locations 57-59). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

[3] The idea from this came from Matt Chandler’s masterful sermon entitled, “City on a Hill – Part 1: A New People” preached at The Village Church in Flower Mound, TX on September 2nd, 2012.  http://www.thevillagechurch.net/sermon/a-new-people/. Some of the questions are directly from his sermon.

Sermon on Patience

September 26, 2012 — Leave a comment

I am speaking tonight at Crittenden Drive Church of Christ in Russelville, Kentucky and this is my lesson on patience. It’s not the typical lesson on patience you might hear…

Patience

James 5:7-10

            I am struggling at speaking with you tonight because the topic assigned to me is one that I immensely struggle with. I struggle with it because it has to do with something that cause counterintuitive to every fabric in which God has wired me. To illustrate this I want to share a personal story with you. I am a youth minister and I consider that a pretty stressful job. If all you think a youth minister does is hang out with teenagers and eat pizza and play XBOX all day is what youth ministers do then either 1) you have no clue about what a youth minister does or, 2) you have a lazy youth minister. . When we are stressed our ability to persevere becomes stretched and unfortunately our impatience is forced against those who are closest to us.

I was stressed this particular day and to make matters worse I had to go shopping with my wife at the place where Satan reigns: Wal-Mart. I am a pretty likable guy unless I cross the threshold of the den of iniquity known as Wal-Mart and then my attitude suddenly goes sour and I forget that I am even a minister. I just lose it. People cutting you off, the cart pulling to one side, the whole in the milk jug, people in the 20 items or less with 30 items. I could go on and on. On this day I was irritable from work and then irritable from Wal-Mart and then to top it off my kids were possessed by demons in Wal-Mart. Again, that’s because Satan owns it but I digress. So the kids are terrible, we are crunched for time and I had a bad day at work. We get home and our routine is that we put all of the groceries on the kitchen floor and after we have unloaded all of them from the van we then begin the process of putting them away. After the second load I come to the kitchen to find my oldest son Kaleb (who was very young at the time) emptying the contents of the bag on the floor. So I lose it. I don’t have to define what I mean by “lose it” because you have been there. I screamed at him (because a 4 year old is supposed to know every rule I have ever created for them) and then told him to go to his room. I will never forget his response to this day. He looked at me, and with tears in his eyes said, “But daddy, I was just trying to help.”

We are closing this summer series out with a doozy. A tough one for us to handle. I find it strikingly ironic that we saved patience for the last lesson. I would have expected us to hurry up and let it be the first one but here we are with it being the last one. What we are going to do tonight is first define patience from a biblical perspective, then we are going to look at some thoughts on why we are not patient and finally I want to offer some suggestions on how to improve.

WHAT IS PATIENCE?

Over and over again I hear good churchgoing people who mean well completely butcher what patience is. There is this pervasive thought that patience is this passive mentality where you sit and simply act as a nice person with a Christian smile on your face.  That’s not what Biblical patience is. There is a strong element of waiting that is tied in with patience but the waiting is always about participatory expectation. The Greek words for patience (hupomone, makrothumeo) might be best defined as “steadfast endurance.” It means you bear under intense trial and tribulation. We think an intense trial or tribulation is waiting at McDonalds for them to biggie size your French-fries. Patience is intense endurance under some of the most painful circumstances. To illustrate let me quote a verse from 2 Peter.

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness (you already see the first century Christian’s impatience here) but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should reach repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).

God is patient with all of creation so much so that he does not desire to have us perish. The word for perish in other contexts means to be destroyed. God is patient with us. God suffers long for us. Think of a person in your life who constantly has disappointed you and has done everything wrong no matter your wishes or desires. Then think of having an intense desire for this person who has disappointed you time after time to still succeed. That is like God except at an infinitely different level. Think of how many times you have sinned and disobeyed God yet he still loves you at a deep level. That, my friends, is patience.

But in my experience we are impatience with the small things which means we are impatient with the large things. How many times have you gone through a season of suffering, pain, affliction and you threw up your hands and said, “I’m done with you God! The pain is too much. I’m done!” I think we are impatient for a few reasons…

WHY ARE WE IMPATIENT?

We can probably list a bunch of different reasons here but there are two that I can think of that come to my mind that probably stand out more than others…

  • WE ARE SELFISH.

Ever since the fall there is one thing that has been on our minds more than anything else combined: ourselves. We think about ourselves all the time and this leads to our impatience. Think about when the people of Israel built the golden calf in Exodus. Their main reasoning for building that calf was because they were too impatient to wait for Moses and they wanted something right now. We are selfish. I wanted to lead and say that we are impatient because of the culture that we live on but then I thought that in order to have culture you have to have people. Our impatient culture is a product of our own impatient people. Every generation might think they are the worst of something but I really think we are the worst generation at waiting. The concept of delayed gratification is about as a foreign as bipartisanship or something else. I see it most often at a fast food restaurant.

Think about the time and effort it takes to cook hamburgers and make French fries. It may take 20-30 minutes of prep work and then the grilling may take 10-15 minutes and so you might have a meal in an hour if you’re lucky. Yet, when we get to a fast food restaurant we somehow lose the capacity to think and freak out when we don’t get our food immediately. If I don’t get my food in three minutes I start sweating and getting irritated. After 5 minutes I am usually livid screaming, “How long does it take to make a Baconator?” If they are longer then 5 minutes I usually say, “Guess they had to go slaughter the cow and pig to get the beef and bacon.” At the core, I am selfish. On a serious level we place time constraints on God as if we know our will better than he does. That leads me to the next point.

  • WE ARE LIMITED IN SEEING THE BIG PICTURE

I love the book of Nehemiah. The book is filled with so many different leadership lessons but for time’s sake the lesson I want to share with you from this book is the lesson of patience and sticking to God’s vision. The story of Nehemiah is one of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Nehemiah commissions workers to build this wall not knowing what the wall was to look like. He simply was there to work and trust that God would lead them through this process. There were all kinds of distractions coming from wicked men who wanted to deter Nehemiah from building this wall. Nehemiah withstands the criticisms from without and probably from within and builds the wall. Now Nehemiah did not know how things would turn out and at the end of the day the people would still be in exile under the rule of a foreign nation. But…he trusted God with both the little things (finishing the wall) and he trusted God with the big things (ultimate purposes of Israel).

Cancer… wars… financial hardship… divorce… sudden death… accidents… genocide. I could go on and on. Like the Psalmist we are oft-tempted to proclaim, “How long, O Lord?” If you are a Christian for longer than a baptism and if you are honest with yourself there are times when you throw up your hands and think, “This is it God, I can’t take this anymore! This Christian walk thing is not all it’s cracked up to be.” I understand your pain. I get it. But we are not given the plans that God contains. Sometimes God gives us a window and let’s us see the big picture but sometimes we are left with more questions than answers. Our anxiety, our impatience, and all of our brokenness should lead us to long for something more. Something deep. Something true.

SUGGESTIONS TO HELP

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord” (James 5:7-10).

There is a lot to unpack here but notice how, at least in the book of James, the themes of suffering are linked with patience and joy (James 1:2). Suffering, persecution and affliction were common in the first century and very much expected. So there was an intense desire for something greater and that’s why the Second Coming of Jesus was a major theme throughout the letters of Paul and other epistles. Patience was not a subject about how to deal with cutthroat bankers or shady investors or slow Taco Bell workers (all though that’s important too) but how do we reconcile the pain and brokenness of this world with God’s redemptive purposes. Their solution was, “we may never find healing in this life, and we may never find peace in this political climate but one thing is for sure, there is something better and we long for that!” How often is the Second Coming of Christ a conversation in your churches? How often is it a conversation in your families? Patience comes from an intense desire to have all things made right through the glory of God. Part of experiencing the Christian life means we bring in now in part what we will experience in full later.

Waiting on the Lord is not a passive, idle response as Paul was strongly opposed to those people who just wanted to go to heaven but did nothing about their faith (2 Thess. 3). Waiting on the Lord and patience as a fruit of the Spirit means patience comes with anticipation! Anticipation means we make ready our lives to wait on the coming of the Lord. I think Isaiah alludes to the same concept in a popular verse:

Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint. (Isa. 40:30-31)

This is most comforting because we all like to know that our life here on earth does not go in vain. We like to know that if we do have cancer that God’s purposes will come forth through that. We like to know that if we do lose a loved one that the glory of God will come forth through that immense pain. That is where patience moves from passive time-killing to steadfast endurance. That is why the other verses in Scripture about make sense when we understand that patience is about endurance…

But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Rom. 8:25)

            Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. (Rom. 12:12)

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant. (1 Cor. 13:4)

“If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.” (2 Cor. 1:6)

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Eph. 4:1-3)

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.” (1 Thess. 5:14)

“But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” (1 Tim. 1:16).

We could go on and on but you get the gist of the idea. Patience is more than a virtue, it is a way of life. When it comes to difficult times it is not a matter of if but when and when it comes you must be ready.

CONCLUSION

So may you be ready. May you look at your impatient lives and discover the source of your angst and may you replace that source with an insatiable desire for what Jesus offers to us. May you who have lost loved ones cling to the almighty who knows all, sees all and understands all and may you long for a day when you will see your loved ones again. May you, who are dealing with cancer or some other life-threatening illness, trust in the promises of God that he will heal you if it is his will but if no healing comes God will use your illness to bring others closer to him and receive glory. May you who are going through difficult marriages and tough finances place your allegiance to Jesus Christ who died, was buried and rose again for our sins. May you who are addicted find healing in your difficult time. May you, who long for Jesus to come, anticipate his coming and help others to do the same. In the word of John in the book of Revelation, “Come, Lord!”


In my morning reading I came across a familiar passage and wanted to share it with you and some of the thoughts I wrote down in my journal.

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds,
there is none who does good. Psalm 14:1 (ESV)

Perhaps your experience is similar to mine in that when this verse is read, quoted or used it is within the context of atheists. I have heard many Christians say, “How could someone not believe in God? The Scripture says ________.” They will quote Psalm 14:1. I think people do not believe in God for a variety of reasons (hypocritical Christians?) but I wonder if we could go a different direction with the interpretation of this Psalm. Let me ask the question, “Who is the fool in Psalm 14?” They are those, contextually, who God looks down and sees that the people are 1) not understanding, 2) not seeking after him, 3) they have turned aside, and 4) become corrupt (14:2-3). Now surely this broadens our interpretation of simply atheists. Surely you know some folks at church that fit the bill there right?

Look at how Eugene Peterson words the Psalm in The Message

1 Bilious and bloated, they gas, “God is gone.”
Their words are poison gas,
fouling the air; they poison
Rivers and skies;
thistles are their cash crop.

2 God sticks his head out of heaven.
He looks around.
He’s looking for someone not stupid—
one man, even, God-expectant,
just one God-ready woman.

3 He comes up empty. A string
of zeros. Useless, unshepherded
Sheep, taking turns pretending
to be Shepherd.
The ninety and nine
follow their fellow.

I wonder then, who is the fool? I find it interesting that Psalms 14:1-3 is quoted nearly verbatim in Romans 3:10-12. The context there is that we are all sinners in need of the justification of God by faith. So then is it a stretch to say that the fool in Psalm 14 who says “there is no God” might be us? The immediate context for David are the enemies of his kingdom but the larger implication is that sometimes we are fools. Consider the following:

  • We are fools when we do not believe God will deliver us in a difficult situation.
  • We are fools when we try to conduct ministry, spiritual formation and kingdom-work on our own without the guidance of our Father.
  • We are fools when we do not lead our families spiritually.
  • We are fools when we try to bind things in Scripture that God never intended to be bound.
  • We are fools when we make it our goal to “correct” every person’s theology whom we have contentions with as if we can come up with a perfect theology on our own.
  • We are fools when we neglect the poor and build massive buildings (does Babel ring a bell?) and have big-screen TV’s, elaborate pulpits complete with techno-savvy ways to make ministry “easier.”
  • We are fools when we do not evangelize and disciple others.
  • We are fools when we judge people, as if we are the perfect standard.
  • We are fools when we say God can’t do something, as if our existence were not evidence for God being able to do something.
  • We are fools when we keep sin to ourselves.
  • We are fools when we spend too much time at work and forget our families.
  • We are fools when we do not take care of ourselves physically.
  • We are fools when we isolate ourselves in our Christian bubble, forgetting that God actually came in the flesh.
  • We are fools to think God does not care about us (how many hairs do you have on your head again? God knows).
  • We are fools not to learn from the past, redeem the present and wait, with hope, for the future.
  • Finally, we are fools when we think it is up to us to become righteous.

Tough list. I look at it and mourn. Because I want to be honest with you, I am a fool. At times, my actions and thoughts reveal the claim that there is no God even thought intuitively I know there is. Sad. Christ, forgive me.

Who is the fool?

 

 


Lesson #4 – What are the implications of advent?

INTRODUCTION

Hopefully, if done right, this lesson will be delivered around (or on) Christmas day and will be good for discussion.  Please feel free to go over what has been taught and learned in the previous four weeks and discuss any revelations that have occurred amongst the students during this focused time.

ILLUSTRATION:  What we are going to emphasize today is the biggest component of Advent: Waiting.  What I want you to do is to introduce the class that we are going to talk about the implications of advent.  Then what I want you to do next is wait.  Don’t say anything, don’t do anything but just sit there.  You can do it for one minute or three minutes.  Inevitably teenagers are going to give you weird looks because they can’t stand 15 seconds of silence let alone a full-blown minute.

ASK…

WAS IT HARD FOR YOU TO WAIT?  WHY OR WHY NOT? 

WHAT IS IT ABOUT US THAT DRIVES US INSANE WHEN IT COMES TO WAITING? 

SAY…

[You can use your own personal story that emphasizes our impatience] I can’t stand to wait!  If a web page on my iPhone does not come up in less than four seconds I become angry.  If I don’t get my Wendy’s Baconator in less than three minutes then I get irate.  I mean how long does it take to throw half a pig on half a cow and throw some cheese in there?  Come on people!!!  We all struggle with waiting because of the digitized, fast-food mindset of Western Culture where we have to experience things right now.

This lesson is to allow us to focus on being ready for Jesus to come with patience but also with anticipation.  This lesson is short, but simple.  Here is the bare outline.

BODY

Two things…

Waiting means we must be ready!

“So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Matt. 24:44).

“It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak” (Luke 12:38).

4 But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5 You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.  (1 Thess. 5:4-11).

ASK…

IN WHAT WAYS DO WE NEED TO BE READY FOR THE SECOND COMING OF THE LORD?

SAY…

When Jesus came John the Baptist prepared the way for the people compelling them to repent for the “kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mark 1:1-8).  In like manner we are compelled to be ready no matter what the cost may be and that means we are to “bring-in” the kingdom of God by being disciples and making disciples.  You hear of people talking about “Christmas cheer” and what they mean is giving gifts and such but the Christmas cheer is that we need to be ready for the coming of the Lord.

ASK…

IN WHAT WAYS ARE PEOPLE NOT GOING TO BE READY FOR THE COMING OF THE LORD?

SAY…

In the first century they thought that Jesus was going to come soon (you could make an argument that Paul even thought that).  Paul was very upset at people who stood around “idle”.  Paul said, “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us” (2 Thess. 3:6).  In other words we have no clue when Christ will come (see 1 Thess. 5:4 above) so we should not give up our labors of spreading good news to the world.

Waiting means we must be drunk with anticipation!

“The LORD Almighty will come with thunder and earthquake and great noise, with windstorm and tempest and flames of a devouring fire.Then the hordes of all the nations that fight against Ariel, that attack her and her fortress and besiege her, will be as it is with a dream, with a vision in the night— as when a hungry person dreams of eating, but awakens hungry still; as when a thirsty person dreams of drinking, but awakens faint and thirsty still. So will it be with the hordes of all the nations that fight against Mount Zion. Be stunned and amazed,  blind yourselves and be sightless; be drunk, but not from wine, stagger, but not from beer” (Isa. 29:6-9).

SAY…

The verse in Isaiah is given to talk about a time when the Messiah will reign from Zion and the people will be drawn towards his reign.  The kicker for the Christian is that Jesus now reigns (i.e. his “kingdom”) and Jesus will always reign.  We need to be intoxicated with anticipation at what we can participate in and what God has called us to do.  “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13-14).

ASK…

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT WHEN YOU HEAR THE WORD “ANTICIPATION”?  WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

SAY…

I remember the birth of my first son (Kaleb) and the weeks felt like years until he finally came into this world.  There was excitement, fear, desire, longing, responsibility and humility all wrapped-up in a box known as anticipation.  It means we become ready for something and eagerly long for it.

ASK…

IN WHAT WAYS DO YOU/ARE YOU ANTICIPATE(ING) THE LORD’S RETURN?

CONCLUSION

SAY…

To anticipate for something you must have some sort of desire to fuel that anticipation.  Anticipating the Lord’s return gets me excited because of a single group of verses:

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.  There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever” (Rev. 22:1-5).

This is the final moment when the Lord returns and the new heavens and new earth form and all things become completely new.  It is when the curse of Adam is ultimately lifted and mankind is allowed to enter Eden again.  It is where we participate in complete union with God and with his risen saints and we join in the eschaton at the table (see Isaiah 25:6-9) and feast forever.  No tears, no sorrows, no pain, no suffering…peace, perfect peace.

Enjoy this video and I hope you enjoyed this series.  We all can join the early Christians in a popular saying called Maranatha.  It simple means, “Come, Lord” (see Rev. 22:20).  So, “Come, Lord Jesus…Come!”


Thought provoking video to start your weekend off right.  What are your thoughts from this?


This is the last post of this series and I have valued all of the comments tremendously.  The series started not as a defense of social drinking but merely was it ok to be present at a location as a means of mission to people.  Sometimes posts have a mind of their own and it just leads in a different direction.  I loved it though because topics like this need to be discussed in a thoughtful, biblical and humane manner.  Too often we ignore something based on our assumption that it has always been a certain way so we need to keep it that way.  We should never dismiss comments or questions because we assume we are right on a subject.

The poll, to my surprise, indicated that most of you (66%) believe that it is ok for a Christian to drink in moderation.  This topic will surely find no resolve in the coming words but I wanted to share some observations on our discussion.  Hope you enjoy these.

  • A helpful study of the original words does help in our theology but we must do our homework.  Don’t assume a word means something without looking it up in some of the major lexicons and dictionaries.
  • Image is important but image is not everything.  Sometimes our perception of what a Christian should be is (ironically) the opposite of what Jesus said a person should be.  I wonder if Jesus would have been disfellowshipped in some of our churches today for what he would do?  Just a thought….
  • In regards to social drinking one must consider his or her motives.  I still can’t get away from this.  Why are you drinking?  Is it to feel a feeling or, like Samuel Young said in one of his comments, is it to appreciate something God made?  Motives are important.  It is doubtful someone would use Paul’s encouragement to Timothy to use wine for his infirmities but they may be looking to clear his or her conscience.  But…
  • We need to be careful where we place our judgment.  This issue is not limited to social drinking but many other aspects where we may be quick to judge before we consider the evidence.  We will know people by their fruits (Matt. 7:16).
  • Be careful about building-up straw men or chasing red herrings.  Arguments like, “What about all of the bad affects of alcohol?” is still side-stepping the real issue.  I heard one person give all of the statistics about the negative uses (abuse) of alcohol like car accidents, marriages, etc.  While I agree with that negative component of alcohol I also think they are simply chasing red herrings.  I wanted to ask him, “How many people die of heart disease from not eating correctly?” (TV, music, etc.)  The issue is, what does the bible say about it not society’s abuse of it.
  • The principle in Romans 14-15 needs careful consideration (especially Rom. 14:21) before anyone considers to take a drink.  I think if we practice self-denial on behalf of others then it might be our spiritual service to God (Rom. 15:1-2).
I will conclude with something from Isaiah.  In Isaiah 25 we come across a break from the woes and destruction of life for a vision of what life will be like in the last days (eschaton).  In discussion of this Isaiah talks about what life will be like post-destruction.  He writes:
6 On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
7And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.

8 He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. (25:6-8)

Sounds a little like Revelation 19-22…the new heavens and the new earth.  Blessings.

I just finished Francis Chan’s latest book Erasing Hell and I have to tell you, I could not put it down.  From start to finish this book is one of his most accessible books for me to read and I could see his points connecting and it was a great book.  Chan seeks to discuss what Scripture says about eternity.  The title of the book comes from his inward desire to not want to talk about hell.  I must confess, I have avoided talking about hell in many circumstances because it is just uncomfortable for me.  The idea of people spending time in torment is not an easy subject to discuss.  So often we try to “erase hell” from our vocabulary, sermons, classes and conversations.  Chan seeks to give a thorough treatise of the subject and offer his critique of various opinions (Rob Bell’s Love Wins gets a hefty treatment in chapters 1-3).  His chapters are…

  1. Does everyone go to heaven?
  2. Has hell changed?  Or have we?
  3. What Jesus actually said about hell?
  4. What Jesus’ followers said about hell
  5. What does this have to do with me?
  6. What if God…?
  7. Don’t be overwhelmed
I enjoyed the book but I do not want to spoil it by telling you everything that is in it.  Below are some of my Pro’s and cons of the book.  I recommend this book to everyone.

PROS

  • Easy to read
  • Delves into the Greek substantially but on a simplified manner
  • Addresses most of the major issues
  • Has a high view of inspiration of the Scriptures
  • His sincerity, compassion and humility is obvious in his pleas to the readers.
  • Placed Jesus in his historical setting as a First Century Jew and that shaped Jesus’ view on hell.  Loved that!

CONS

  • Sometimes Chan is too simplistic in that he does not flesh out issues enough.
  • He really did not add much to the debate.  As much as I want to say he did he simply reiterated what many have at least discussed from the evangelical perspective.  He adds his eloquent touch and I agree with a lot of what he says but most of it is not new.  (maybe that is good?)
  • Chan’s view of “submission to God regardless of our questions” seems t0o dismissive to me.  I agree that at the end of the day “God’s ways are not our ways nor his thoughts our thoughts” but does that mean we accept that at face value and not question why things happen?  Chapter 6 basically is a sermon telling the readers that the clay cannot be the potter so we should simply (and fearfully) submit.  I struggled with this one.
Hope you enjoy the book.

Sorry…

August 21, 2011 — 2 Comments

Normally I am good about posting and keeping up with the blog and my vlog but this week has been tough.  My wife’s cousin went missing in rural North Central Arkansas and this past Sunday they found his body.  We attended the funeral services this week and between the emotions, driving and other work related things I just did not feel like blogging or vlogging.  Barry Treadway (my wife’s cousin) was only 27 and he left behind a legacy of faith and friendship.  One story that struck out to me was that he was in the process of studying the bible with a former gang member who said that Barry impacted his life in a tremendous way.  This brought me to the realization of two things:

  1. Like the Ecclesiastes writer said, life is but a vapor as it comes and goes without our control.  At any point our world can be turned upside down and we are not in the seat of control to say whether we want this to happen or not.
  2. What will be our legacy?  I know that is a typical preacher thing to say but I could not help but to think about what we leave behind.  Will people remember us as disciples of Christ or something else?

Death is a sobering blow to the cycle of boredom and apathy.  It rocks all of us to the core.  It is one appointment that none of us can escape (Heb. 9:27) and it is best to make sure we are doing everything to follow the will of the one who sent us.  See you this week as I hope to post more.


I am returning back to my analysis of Love Wins by Rob Bell and a bit late as many other bloggers (e.g. Scot McKnight) have done far better a treatise than I will do but I feel like there are some things we still need to wrestle with from his book.  Please catch up on readings by going to my first three posts (1, 2, 3) and reading those so you can have a context at where this post will go.

This post is about chapter 2 in his book which is entitled, “Here is the new there.”  He begins by discussing the typical images of heaven and then he asks questions about “what it will be like.”  Bell’s desire in the entire chapter is to get people to focus on the proleptic sense of the heaven in which Jesus’ invitation to heaven is not for us to experience sometime in the future but to experience it right now (sometimes this is called in scholarly circles as realized eschatology).  He talks about various passages from the gospels like Matthew 24, Luke 20, Matthew 13, Luke 21 and Luke 18 where the word “age” is used.

The word for age is the word “aiwn” (he says aion but it is actually an omega [w] not an omicron [o]…picky picky…I know).  Bell says this about aiwn:

One meaning of aion refers to a period of time as in ‘the spirit of the age’ or ‘they were gone for ages’.  When we use the word like this we are referring less to a precise measurement of time, like an hour or a day or a year, and more to a period or era of time.  This is crucial to our understanding of the word aion, because it doesn’t mean ‘forever’ as we think of forever…The first meaning of this word aion refers to a period of time with a beginning and an end (31-32).

He bases his whole chapter on this definition which has some bearing on or theology but is that what was meant by Jesus in Luke 18?

I do not want to spoil the chapter for you so I just want to summarize what  I think he is trying to get at.  First he wants to dismiss evacuation theologies that says this world will be burned up and we will go (i.e. evacuate) somewhere else.  He says that in believing this we tend to not want to do anything with the plight of this present world (see 44-45).  I agree with Bell here in that I believe God will take everything that is old and make everything new in a New Heavens and New Earth but it will be filled with surprises of which I think are crucial (read Isaiah 25; Revelation 20-22).  Second, his desire is to discuss the need for us to make a difference right here and right now.  He is right in that “eternal life doesn’t start when we die; it starts now” (p. 59).  There are serious implications in how we approach our lives now that has effects on the future.  That was a principle in the deuteronomic codes and it seems to have carried over into the New Testament with moral codes specifically in the Pauline epistles.  So far Bell is saying the right things in that heaven is proletpically experienced now but not specifically yet.

I do have a major issue with this chapter though (Scot McKnight points it out as well here) in that the story of Luke 18 is about a future, endless period of time that bears implications right here and now.  Bell, as quoted above, says that the Greek word for age (aion) is employed in Luke 18:30 but he missed it…let me show you…

Here is the text in Greek:  ὃς οὐχὶ μὴ [ἀπο]λάβῃ πολλαπλασίονα ἐν τῷκαιρῷ τούτῳ καὶ ἐν τῷ αἰῶνι τῷ ἐρχομένῳ ζωὴν αἰώνιον.

Notice the highlighted (in red) words…they are aiwni (from aiwn) AND aiwnion (from aiwnios).  The second word is crucial because that word, according to Bauer, Danker, Arndt and Gingrich’s A Greek-Engligh Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature (3rd ed), means “a period of time without beginning or end” or, “a period of time of unending duration” (p. 33).  It’s in the Matthew 25 passage Bell alluded to (51-52) and Jesus speaks about a future point in time that is endless.  Bell missed it here and should have sharpened his Greek better.

However, the point is valid in that we should not be concerned with saying who get’s in and who does not as God is the judge of all things but we should also be very concerned about what is required of us in Scripture and seek to follow what the Lord wants for us to do.  In summary, I agree with the concept of the New Heavens and New Earth (much like N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope alludes to) in that we should be very concerned about all people right here and right now.  I disagree with Bell’s sweeping assumption that everyone who believes in evacuation are least concerned about helping those right here and right now.  I have personally met with people otherwise.

We will look next about his chapter on hell…