Monday, December 24, 2012

It’s Christmas – so what’s the big deal?

“Time and again the church has proved a willing accomplice to its own captivity, in the new covenant as well as the old.  Observing this tendency in his day, Martin Luther wrote ‘On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church,’ in which he argues that the church desperately needs to be liberated by its Lord from bondage to the very things it regards as benign or even hopeful.”

“Is the word captivity too strong?  After all, there is nothing like an Office of Religious Affairs controlling the church’s discourse in America.  In his book ‘Amusing Ourselves to Death,’ Jewish writer Neil Postman (communications professor at New York University) points out the difference between two apocalyptic scenarios.  George Orwell’s 1984 predicts a society ruled by ‘Big Brother’—a totalitarian regime.  Congratulating ourselves on having dodged Orwell’s prophecy, at least in America, we have forgotten Aldous Huxley’s slightly older ‘Brave New World,’ with a quite different scenario.  While Orwell predicts an externally imposed oppression, Huxley imagines a self-imposed captivity:

“As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think.  What Orwell feared were those who would ban books.  What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book for there would be no one who wanted to read one.  Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information.  Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism.  Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us.  Huxley feared the truth would be drowned is a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture.  Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy.”

If we are slaves, it is not to an external oppressor but to our own trivial desires.  We are willing captives—until God appears on the scene and utters his solemn command to the powers and principalities we have enthroned: ‘Let my people go!’”

Quoted in part from “Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church” by Michael Horton.  Pages 238-239 by Baker Books

Michael Horton’s definition of the American Church today carries some powerful words and concepts.  I quote in part: “If we are slaves, it is not to an external oppressor.   Jesus came “that we might have life and have it more abundantly” not a life burdened with chasing after trivial things.  Yet an honest appraisal of our lives reveals a constant barrage of the trivial, the useless, and the unsatisfying.  Quoting Horton, “We are willing captives…to the powers and principalities we have enthroned.”  Ephesians 6:12 says, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

“Let my people go” Horton writes.  Jesus came to save His people from their sin (Matthew 1:21 – “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins”.)

Jesus came to serve, not to be served. Matthew 20:28 says: “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

In the midst, the Christ child came to “set the captives free” (Isaiah 61:1-2 says, “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn,”

The manger is empty; the cross is empty; the tomb is empty.  Jesus sits at God’s right side interceding for us, waiting for the command from the Father—“Go get my kids”.  Jesus will then rise and come to earth a second time.  Ah, good news for us pilgrims. 

Come quickly Lord Jesus.  Come again – as it says in Revelation 22:20He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”  All this brothers and sisters is the big deal!


Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Visited Blue Ball

I remember when the first astronaut came around the back side of the moon and saw earth (that perfect blue white ball, suspended on nothing, hanging in space) and in stunned awe the astronaut said, “In the beginning God…”

I can’t really imagine God sitting somewhere beyond the universe some 2,000 years ago looking at His footstool, the earth, and saying, “Today is the day I’m going to send my one and only Son, Jesus to go to earth , to become a microscopic ovum, to be born of a virgin born in a barn, to go and redeem fallen man.”

Have you ever contemplated if no one sinned until now and we were living in perfect peace, and then old Adam and Eve would decide to do some very serious apple crunching. Sin then comes into the world and God would decide to set up a committee to ask advice from us on how to redeem fallen man (He won’t do that but I can speculate). What would you come up with? We would come up with man-made religion. We’d crawl on our belly, into the presence of God and propose some plan of “working off” our sin. We would be in the deal-cutting business. We’d hope we’d be good enough to obtain salvation. We would propose works based salvation. That is the rest of the world’s religions…hoping we’ve been good enough, and that God may in His mercy allow us to live. Who would even dare come up with the idea of God sending His one and only Son to come to earth as an ovum, be born in a barn, suffer taunts of His suspect parentage (Psalm 69), be tempted by the devil himself, be tempted in every way, yet be without sin, be both man and God, and when preparing for the cross, feel so much pressure He would sweat blood in the garden of Gethsemane. We would convict Him on no evidence, have a sham trial, and murder Him on a cross, the most torturous of death, with the idea that He would forgive your sin and mine. Then by God’s power alone, God would raise Him from the dead—victorious over sin and death…Oh, who would dare dream this up, much less present it to a Holy God and awesome God? No one—no one—no one would dare do it; it’s God’s plan alone. A gift to us; undeserved; we can’t comprehend the majesty, the greatness of it! But it is God’s plan…

Remember this Christmas, the manager is empty, the cross is empty, the tomb is empty…In these days we do not have to take God to a hurting world, and He is already there. Let’s get up and go see what He is doing!

On this Christmas weekend, old Jer cannot bring anymore light on this subject because Jesus is the Light, the God of the universe among man. Immanuel, God with us. What a story? What a Gift! May we never take it lightly. Amen

(This blog is reposted from December 22, 2006)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas Dinner


I would like to share the following which is written by Ravi Zacharias from his book, Jesus Among Other Gods, (Nashville, Word Publishing 2000), 44-46.

“Some years ago, we were spending Christmas in the home of my wife’s parents. It was not a happy day in the household. Much had gone wrong during the preceding weeks, and a weight of sadness hung over the home. Yet, in the midst of all that, my mother-in-law kept her routine habit of asking people who would likely have no place to go at Christmas to share Christmas dinner with us.

“That year she invited a man who was, by everyone’s estimation, somewhat of an odd person, quite eccentric in his demeanor. Not much was known about him at the church except that he came regularly, sat alone, and left without much conversation. He obviously lived alone and was quite a sorry-looking, solitary figure. He was our Christmas guest.

“Because of other happenings in the house, not the least of which was that one daughter was taken to the hospital for the birth of her first child, everything was confusion. All our emotions were on edge. It fell upon me, in turn, to entertain this gentleman. I must confess that I did not appreciate it. Owing to a heavy life of travel year-round, I have jealously guarded my Christmases to be with my family. This was not going to be such a privilege, and I was not happy. As I sat in the living room, entertaining him while others were busy, I thought to myself, This is going to go down as one of the most miserable Christmases of my life.

“But somehow we got through the evening. He evidently loved the meal, the fire crackling in the background, the snow outside, the Christmas carols playing, and a rather weighty theological discussion in which he and I were engaged—at his instigation, I might add. He was a very well-read man and, as I found out, loved to grapple with heavy theological themes. I do, too, but frankly, not during an evening that has been set aside to enjoy life’s quite moments, not someone’s polemical mind.

“At the end of the night when he bade us all good-bye, he reached out and took the hand of each of us, one by one, and said, “Thank you for the best Christmas of my life. I will never forget it.” He walked out into the dark, snowy night, back into his solitary existence.”

“My heart sank in self-indictment at those tender words of his. I had to draw on every nerve in my being to keep from breaking down with tears. Just a few short years later, relatively young, and therefore to our surprise, he passed away. I have relived that Christmas many times in my memory.

“The Lord taught me a lesson. The primary purpose of a home is to reflect and to distribute the love of Christ. Anything that usurps that is idolatrous. Having been lifted beyond the prejudice of culture, Jesus repositioned for the disciples the place of wealth. So staggering was the impact that many of them in the years to come would leave their own homes to go to distant parts of the world in order to proclaim the heaven-sent message that redefined their earthly homes. Eleven of them paid for that message with their lives.

“The first time I walked through the noisy streets of Bethlehem and endured its smells, I gained a whole new sense of the difference between our Christmas carols, glamorizing the sweetness of the “little town of Bethlehem,” and the harsh reality of God becoming flesh and dwelling among us. Ah! But it is not a part of the wonder of God’s disclosure of reality that He point to what we live with to show us what true living is meant to be?

“For the disciples, Jesus’ answer to their simple question—“Where do You live?”—was to lift them beyond race and culture, beyond wealth and power, beyond time and distance to make them true citizens of the world, informed by the world to come. He brought them into a dramatically different way of living and thinking from the one to which they were accustomed. He showed them the inclusiveness of His love for the whole world. But implicit in that was the exclusivity of His truth, for which they were willing to give their lives. We have reversed Jesus’ order. We have made truth relative and culture supreme and have been left with a world in which wickedness reigns.

“Jesus brought truth to light and a different world to His message. In Him my heart finds its true home.

“G. K. Chesterton has captured the wonder in how Jesus’ earthly address changes ours, as only he can do.

"A child in a foul stable,
Where the beasts feed and foam;
Only where He was homeless
Are you and I at home;
We have hands that fashion and heads that know,
But our hearts we lost—how long ago!
In a place no chart nor ship can show
Under the sky’s dome.
To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are,
To the place where God was homeless
And all men are at home."

G.K. Chesterton, “The House of Christmas,” from Robert Knille, ed., As I Was Saying (Grand Rapids: William B. Erdmans, 1985), 304-5.

“Where does Jesus live? Come to Christ and see what it means to live.”

From the Seehusen's to you--God bless you and your family this Advent Season.

Jesus, welcome to our world. May we follow where you lead us. May we use all our gifts and talents to Your glory. May we go to a hurting world even when we want to come home and be cozy and comfortable. Forgive us. Amen. Amen
(This blog is reposted from the December 24, 2009 Beef on the Grill Blog)

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Picking up some church trash

2 Corinthians 6:3-11
“Don't put it off; don't frustrate God's work by showing up late, throwing a question mark over everything we're doing. 4 Our work as God's servants gets validated - or not - in the details. People are watching us as we stay at our post, alertly, unswervingly . . . in hard times, tough times, bad times; 5 when we're beaten up, jailed, and mobbed; working hard, working late, working without eating; 6 with pure heart, clear head, steady hand; in gentleness, holiness, and honest love; 7 when we're telling the truth, and when God's showing his power; when we're doing our best setting things right; 8 when we're praised, and when we're blamed; slandered, and honored; true to our word, though distrusted; 9 ignored by the world, but recognized by God; terrifically alive, though rumored to be dead; beaten within an inch of our lives, but refusing to die; 10 immersed in tears, yet always filled with deep joy; living on handouts, yet enriching many; having nothing, having it all. 11 Dear, dear Corinthians, I can't tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life.”
A church affiliated non-profit agency was forced out of business last Friday.  About three months ago when it became evident that they were not getting any more funding, the first thing cut was the bag lunches for the homeless.

Upon arriving early Monday morning, I found they had dragged the remnants of the last management party to the dumpster but did not throw it in.  Over the weekend, the coons and squirrels had a party of their own eating the leftovers of the last party by the agency.  Expensive coffee, expensive bagels (I am avoiding brand names), unfinished very nice sandwiches partially eaten either by humans or the animals of the night made up the trash.

Over the last five years the arrogance of the people at this agency has been a topic of debate among other tenants of the building.  These people were smug, arrogant, cold, and distant and had open disdain for those they were to serve.  People felt the agency’s demise was well deserved but…as a para-church organization, their example can poison non-believer’s hearts.  In away, they represented all Christians—us, if we share the name Christian.

As we picked up the trash, a bitter young man (rightly so) pointed out their hypocrisy.  Closing down the bag lunch ministry (white bread, peanut butter and apple) while they ate and wasted much expensive food.

I now understand why Jesus wants to spit out the lukewarm ones of us; we make Jesus want to puke.  Any blog or sermon that points out our own hypocrisy is not well received. 
Recently a well-established professional in a medium size rural Minnesota town (an elder in the church) told me that if we confront ourselves, no one will listen.  He said to me, “You’re just another Jeremiah no one will listen to.”  We need to do some serious soul searching both personally and collectively as Christians and as the church.  The down and out of our communities do not seek us out because we do not rub shoulders with them…we don’t want to.  Yes, we can eat our expensive bagels, drink our expensive coffee, enjoying our personal Christian ghetto but looking away with disdain when, after a night of overdrinking, they mess their pants.

We are told to “feed the sheep” – all of them.  Feeding sheep is sometimes a downright smelly, dirty business.  The bottom line is that the lukewarm ones of us don’t want to be bothered or to get dirty.  Yes, we smugly drink and eat on in holiday merriment while our brothers and sisters slide into hell.
Remember the words of 2 Corinthians 6:3-11 at the beginning of this blog.  Forgive me; help us Oh Lord… send us a Jeremiah…change our hearts Oh God.

Two quotes from the White Horse Inn Blog Spot:
In the time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”
George Orwell

“Reality is that which, when you stop believing it, doesn’t go away”
Philip K. Dick


Saturday, December 01, 2012

All the devil has to offer us is…a fallen world

2 Corinthians 1:3-11 - Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. 8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. 9 Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.

In meeting with Christians during the last month, many are despondent, hurting and doubting.  People are deeply concerned for the church and for our country.  We are reeling and afraid.

What is God doing?  Why all the acrimony in the country?  Have we truly come to the realization that as a country, we are deeply divided and broke?  We have deep divides in our communities between the haves and the have not’s.  Earlier we have talked about impending doom for America; we now realize that the hoof beats are no longer in the distance but are by the front doors of our homes, businesses and sadly, our churches.

What are we doing?  We are afraid; we are wringing our hands; sometimes I am too.  What should we do?  Pray and remember.  Pray for revival, not for America but for the church.  Pray for revival; personal revival.  Oh Lord, start with us…with me.  Forgive me, forgive us…start your work Lord; start with us.  As a result, the church will then take care of itself.

We are to pray and remember what?  God’s plans and purposes are never thwarted.  His plan will be fulfilled and come to be.  Remember the first Advent—we celebrate this at Christmas.  We should remember the promise of His Second Coming, the Second Advent.  Why is Jesus going to return?  Because He said He would come back.  In the meantime, we huddle in doubt and fear, wring our hands, and doubt some more.  The devil loves all the hand wringing.  Remember this is the eternal battle between good and evil; if we are in Christ, we win.  The days ahead for Christians and America will be hard.  Yes, we may very well suffer.  Temptation will continue to buffet our souls but remember this, all the devil can offer us is a fallen world—nothing more.

When Jesus came, the angels told the sheepherders “Don’t be afraid.”   To all of us, sheep and sheepherders alike don’t be afraid.  Why, the devil has nothing to offer us, nothing.

Pray for personal revival; it is our only hope.  May the Spirit move us to life—true life found only in Christ.  Now is the time to do our best work in the worst times.