First the Bad News

I was watching 60 Minutes, a story about refugees from Syria. It was heart wrenching. Thousands of families crossing wasteland with nothing but their clothes, facing a very uncertain future. Many emotions weld up: sympathy, thanksgiving for my own life, anger at those whose greed and quest for power created these situations. There is  so much evil in the world. We see it every day.

The World is full of Evil. We see evil on an international scale, but it’s also in our face nationally if we pay any attention to politics, locally, even in our personal lives. We don’t just see evil on television; we know evil people. You would think that with so much evil that the church would not be facing indictment number 3.

Indictment Number 3: Ignorance of the nature of man.

I am evil. I’m sorry. The “man is basically good” folks are just wrong. We can recognize that there are evil people. We just can’t admit that we are one of them. The problem is that compared with war mongers, murders, and people who post “like this” things on Facebook, we look pretty good. The problem is these obviously evil people are not the standard. God is.

Don’t Know Bible. Don’t Know God. Don’t Know Me. Indictment Number 1 says we don’t know Scripture. It follows in Indictment Number 2 that we don’t know God. Is it any surprise that we don’t recognize our own depravity? Think about this. If everyone could read your every thought, if they could see inside your head, would they see some evil?

Evil? Not me? It’s not fun to recognize our own depravity. We all play a cover up game. We smile and act nice even when our hearts are in a very different state. We all shun fire-and-brimstone preaching even though it’s so rare we probably haven’t really ever heard any. Who likes to be told they are a sinner? Kind of silly, considering we all are.

So what’s the harm if we kind of skip over the “we deserve hell” part? The harm is that if we don’t come face to face with the fact that we deserve hell AND that there is nothing we can do about it, on our own.  We won’t fully appreciate salvation. We won’t experience conversion, because we won’t appreciate how much we need it. We will fall back on thinking we can do it ourselves through our own power. We will want to get back to the law, thinking comparatively we weren’t that bad. If you never come to the place where you can see the evil in the world while staring into a mirror, you can never experience conversion and regeneration. What’s the purpose in being born again; if what you are is okay?

Before there can be good news, there has to be complete, absolute acceptance of the bad news: We’re bad. I’m bad. Ultimately accepting that fact is the beginning of good news.

 

 

God, Who Are You?

I have lived in Broussard for thirty years. Last week I saw parts of the area I was not aware existed. I thought I knew Broussard. I don’t.

 

I realized that for thirty years I have lived in the same neighborhood, taken the same routes to the same places and missed by blocks a great variety of people and places.

Indictment 2: Ignorance of God

God is a lot more complex than Broussard. My knowledge of Him is based on limited study and experience. How dare I claim to know Him? How dare I discount the knowledge of others? Even if I am His child I will spend eternity exploring and coming to know the vastness of Him. I should start now.

How can I know God?

The challenge of knowing God can be overwhelming and can discourage us from trying. We have to start where we are. We can learn of God like we learn of anything or anyone else.

Read about Him.

The beginning of our problem is Indictment 1. Ignorance of Scripture. If I want to know about some person, even if I have never met him, the starting point is to devour everything written about Him. I start, however, with the best writings. If there is an autobiography, wouldn’t I start with that. The Bible is the autobiography of God as personified in His Son Jesus. Wouldn’t I start with that and not even glance at any other writing until I had completely absorbed this primary source?

Talk about Him.

If I have a hero, don’t I gather with those who are like-minded? Don’t I share stories about the object of our admiration? Don’t I delight in sharing experiences?

Explore His works.

God has made things and done things, frankly ever thing. We can learn about Him by exploring and appreciating the things he has made, the works of His hand.

Spend Time with Him. 

The ultimate getting-to-know is spending time. We would never miss the opportunity to spend time with someone we admire. Why do we shy away from spending time with God? I understand He is spirit and we can’t see or touch Him. However, He is ever where. He is always available. He desires time with us. How can we turn down this greatest of opportunities?

It’s one thing to miss out on parts of the community in which we live or to not fully know people we admire and love. The consequences of having a distorted knowledge of God are eternal. We can’t afford to limit our knowledge. It’s dangerous to limit our knowledge of Him to the aspects we are comfortable with. We are joyous that God is love. However, we can’t forget that He is also holy and just.

As the people of God we have a responsibility to know Him as completely as is possible so that our sharing of Him will be as accurate and as powerful as it can be. It’s the reason we are here.

 

The Bible – Too Much or Not Enough

“Every word of God is flawless;
    he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Prov. 30:5

 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. 2 Tim 3:16

Indictment 1:  Ignorance of scripture.

As Christians we are woefully ignorant of scripture. We talk about the Bible a lot more than we read it. We use it more to judge others than to guide our own paths. We are often fooled about what it says or doesn’t say. Last night I attended an in-depth Bible study at my church. It was great. I learned a lot. It was poorly attended. That’s sad evidence in support of this indictment.

Not only do we not read or study scripture enough. We don’t really understand its proper place in our faith.   On the “Our Beliefs” page of our website, the very first paragraph reads:

Holy Bible:The Holy Bible, and only the Bible, is the authoritative Word of God. It alone is the final authority for determining all doctrinal truths. In its original writing, the Bible is inspired, infallible and inerrant.

I stand firm on that statement. The problems and controversy comes with issues like: “What is doctrinal?” We all agree that part of scripture is poetry. Not everything in it is literal. What is to be taken literally? What is not? We are no longer “under” the law. What “rules” should guide us? Which were meant only for Israel in a certain time and place?

Not enough Bible. Many of my “liberal” Christian friends (yes “liberal” and “Christian” are not mutually exclusive.) don’t give scripture enough import. They support the famous “three-legged stool” of scripture, reason and tradition. I can agree that scripture is best understood with reason and tradition in mind, but I don’t put reason and tradition on the same level as scripture.

Too much Bible. Many of my “conservative” friends put too much emphasis on scripture. For them the Bible is it. They act like our mission is to introduce the lost to the Bible instead of to Jesus. Before you guys stone me. Give me a minute.

Jesus is the Word. We call the Bible “the Word of God.” It is. We also call Jesus, “the Word of God.” He is. Scripture is the story of Jesus. It’s all about Him from Genesis to Revelation. The written word of God is not the end. Jesus, the Living Word, is.  Discipleship isn’t giving a new believer a Bible and saying or least implying, “Here are the rules.” Discipleship is introducing others to the Living Word with guidance and help from the Written Word.

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Jeremiah 31:33. God’s promise and goal is not just to give us a book about Him, but to give us a relationship with Him.

So what’s the importance of Scripture? It is our guide and our anchor. It teaches us. It points us to Jesus. It keeps us from drifting off into the metaphysical wilderness. “Christians” who don’t hold on to scripture find themselves denying the virgin birth, the deity of Jesus, or claiming that everyone will be saved. Those who “obsess” with scripture live their lives majoring in the minors. They enjoy arguing over details. They keep falling back into the law. They become modern-day Pharisees. You don’t want to do that. Read Mathew 23. Bottom line: They don’t love like Jesus loves. Their heads may be full of scripture; their hearts are far from Him.

We all need to spend more time in the Word (Scripture) and a lot more time with the Word. (Jesus) We need to treasure the Word, written and living.

 

Wednesday Night Live

wednitelive_Fotor
There is a UL basketball game tonight, but I’m going to Wednesday Night Live. Enough said. See  you there.

Amana Christian Fellowship

310 Milton Rd

Maurice, LA (map)

Just a few minutes south of the Acadiana Mall

 

Nick

Indictment

A friend sent me a link to a powerful sermon, Ten Indictments by Paul Washer.  It’s an unusual sermon. It’s nearly two hours long. It was preached nearly 6 years ago.

An indictment is a formal charge or accusation of a serious crime or a thing that serves to illustrate that a system or situation is bad and deserves to be condemned. Washer is indicting or charging the church, particularly the “evangelical” church with ten offenses.

  1. Ignorance of scripture.
  2. Ignorance of God.
  3. Ignorance of the nature of man.
  4. Ignorance of the doctrine of regeneration.
  5. Ignorant invitation.
  6. Ignorance of the nature of the church.
  7. Ignorance and a lack of loving and compassionate church discipline.
  8. Ignorance on holiness.
  9. Ignorant substitution of psychology and sociology for the scriptures.
  10. Ignorance of being undisciplined.

He doesn’t always base his analysis on “ignorance” but that’s where it is. What he is really saying is that we have “forgotten” or “don’t know” what it takes to follow Jesus. He’s saying we are dying from lack of knowledge. We have substituted our way for His way.

He preached his sermon 6 years ago and it received a good deal of attention. There just hasn’t been much change. He comes from a very “old line” or “conservative” perspective, but his indictments have a haunting feel of truthful relevance.

It seems right in the waning days of 2014, before we resolve our lives for 2015, to look closely at where we are as followers, individually and in groups. I plan to do that over the next few days. I hope you will follow along.

Be blessed.

Nick

 

Sixty-five and Going Strong

I am sixty-five. I keep up and enjoy a full-time law practice without secretary, paralegal or anyone else. I am not intimidated by younger attorneys and suspect the opposite may be true. I post on my blog nearly every day. I have just agreed to write two articles a month for a Christian magazine. I do my yard work and am a not-very-good DIY guy. I don’t expect to slow up on any of this any time soon.

I love it when I come across material which contradicts some of the myths about age. This article is a great example: Why Everything You Think About Aging May Be Wrong. 

Here are some of the myths followed by the truth:

Myth No. 1: Depression Is More Prevalent in Old Age

“Contrary to the popular view that youth is the best time of life, the peak of emotional life may not occur until well into the seventh decade.”

Myth No. 2: Cognitive Decline Is Inevitable

Not so. Keeping the mind active prevents decline and scientists also believe older adults can make wiser decisions.  That sounds almost biblical. I challenge anyone to a Sudoku race in ink, no pencils allowed.

Myth No. 3: Older Workers Are Less Productive

Workers 55 or older make up 22% of the U.S. labor force, up from 12% in 1992. The vast majority of academic studies shows “virtually no relationship between age and job performance,” says Harvey Sterns, director of the Institute for Life-Span Development and Gerontology at the University of Akron. In jobs that require experience, some studies show that older adults have a performance edge.

Myth No. 4: Loneliness Is More Likely

As people age, their social circles contract. But that doesn’t mean older adults are lonely. In fact, several academic studies show that friendships tend to improve with age.

“Older adults typically report better marriages, more supportive friendships, less conflict with children and siblings and closer ties with members of their social networks than younger adults,” says Prof. Fingerman, co-author of a 2004 study that found older adults have “a higher rate of close ties than younger people” and fewer “problematic relationships that cause them distress.”

Myth No. 5: Creativity Declines With Age

People who are creative in older age aren’t anomalies. Mark Twain, Paul Cézanne, Frank Lloyd Wright, Robert Frost and Virginia Woolf are just a few of the artists “who did their greatest work in their 40s, 50s and 60s. These artists rely on wisdom, which increases with age.” (not to mention Moses, for example.)

Myth No. 6: More Exercise Is Better

Here’s my favorite. When it comes to improving health and longevity, exercise is key. But a growing number of studies show that more exercise may not always be better.

Myth No. 7: Old folks are boring

Anyone who spends time with older people knows this is wrong. I have done nursing home ministry and prison ministry with aged inmates and ran a church in a nursing home. Boring? I don’t think so.

Myth No. 8: Fun stops when you get old.

I don’t think this is true. I’ll let you know when I get old.

Myth No. 9: BONUS Old guys can be smarty pants.

Not a myth.

So all you young bucks thinking, “He can’t keep this up.” In your face.

I will share my secret. My favorite time is spent with  young people, my daughter, grands and great grands. I think that keeps me young and a bit of a smarty-pants.

Be blessed.