I hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving Day. I think it’s our nicest holiday, for it has not gotten out of hand with commercialism. It still remains a time for family, a time for reflection, and a time to thank God for his blessings.
As we begin our holiday season I’m reminded of something Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” These are great thoughts for us to reflect on in the days that are ahead.
As we celebrate this year take a moment to remember Dr. King’s words, and then pray for the church. Remember our progress as a church is not inevitable and therefore, we need to continuously stand watch over it. Not resting on our story, but letting God write his story in us.
Since the terrible events in France many have attempted to say that all religions have been involved in senseless atrocities, and thus the religion of Islam cannot be counted as guilty for last week’s events.
Is it fair to say that all religions have been involved with atrocities? No! It is not fair to judge any religion by the immoral acts perform under the name of that religion. However, it is fair to look at the theology a religion teaches and judge that religion by its teachings. For instance one can look into history and find atrocities that were said to be done in the name of Christianity. However, I defy anyone to find those atrocities conforming in any way to the teachings of Jesus. I even defy anyone to find me a single unkind or harsh word Jesus ever spoke to a sinner. Search the manifestos of Jesus and judge Christianity by His teachings, and not by the violence done in its name. One must conclude: Not Guilty.
Now hold Islam to the same scrutiny. Study Islam’s theology and then compare it to the atrocities that have been committed in its name. One must conclude: Guilty.
Jesus, what a difference,
Psalm 37 is a wisdom Psalm from David. It begins, “Do not fret because of evil men” (1). Do not fret literally means, “Do not make your heart hot in the presence of the apparent victory of iniquity.” Apparently David, a man of faith, was giving counsel to someone in time of conflict.
From verse 1 David’s council moves from encouragement to encouragement as if ascending some grand staircase: “Trust in the Lord (3) … Delight yourself in the Lord (4) … Commit your way to the Lord (5) … Be Still in the Lord and wait patiently for him” (7).
Who is this God David says we should wait for? He is the God revealed in your Bible: A God of knowledge, a God of holiness, a God of might, a God of justice, and a God of patience. To summarize, He is a God of love. I don’t pretend to understand fully, but that is the God David counsels to wait for.
Where do all these characteristic merge? In Jesus, who was all these things, and who appeared in human flesh, and who tabernacles with us, and who the disciples beheld as full of grace and truth.
Before Jesus began his public ministry he fasted in the wilderness for forty days. At the end of his fast, when Jesus was his weakest, Satan came and tempted Jesus three times: You want followers? Show the people you can turn stones into bread, and they will follow you. You want success? Leap from the pinnacle of the temple and land unharmed, and people will flock to you. You want a kingdom? Worship me and I will give you all the kingdoms of the world.
Satan’s temptation was: Strike a bargain with me and I will give you results. Just compromise with evil a little, don’t be so unbending in your demands, give in to the world, and you will be the most popular figure the world has ever known. Jesus essentially said in his replies, “No, right is right and wrong is wrong and there cannot be a compromise. I must do it God’s way.”
Satan usually works in the shadows, but, knowing Jesus was weak, he exposed himself for the tempter and liar that he is. What defeated Satan? Jesus supreme passion that God’s name should be glorified.
This coming Saturday morning our church will meet outside in the heart of Phoenix to serve the homeless. Those who live on the mean streets have restless souls, so Karmann will bring her guitar and sing, for music sooths the soul. The music prepares their restless souls to receive something else they need; God’s Word. It will be a simple message like, “God so loved the world …” (John 3:16). After the sermon we will have an alter call, and offer communion.
When the service is over there will still be needs, so we will serve a hot meal, for many it will be the only meal they will have that day. After the meal we lay out the clothes we have brought for them. Those living on the street don’t have a way to wash their clothes, so what few clothes they have don’t last long. The socks, underwear, gloves, and coats we bring are always appreciated.
Before we leave our church circles up, with many of our homeless friends joining us. A rhythmic clapping begins, and we all sing, “When I die hallelujah by and by, I’ll Fly away …”
Now that’s Church,