Monday, November 25, 2013

A Sacrifice of Thanksgiving

Psalm 116:12-19 12  What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me?
13  I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD,

14  I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.

15  Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.

16  O LORD, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant. You have loosed my bonds.

17  I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD.

18  I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people,

19  in the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!

I love Thanksgiving for so many reasons.
It's a celebration of Family.
It's a celebration without much commercialism - ok, except Food - lots of food!
It's a celebration of a Grace Act - to be Thankful.

Yet the Psalmist reminds us that it is at times a "sacrifice".

One of the young couples in our church this last weekend lost her father to a heart attack.
A guy in our church has been without work for a number of months.
A young couple I know struggle with finances and debt.
Someone I know goes through their first holiday season divorced.

Death, Disease, Divorce, Debt
Finances, Family tensions, Questioning Faith.

Sometimes we celebrate thanksgiving as a sacrifice.

The Psalmist says "I will lift up the cup of salvation..."

It's his way of saying "I will toast the Lord for his Salvation"...

Not because all is good, but because God is good.

My wish is that your Thanksgiving will be filled with Joy, laughter, family and fun...and if it is saddened by loss, then my prayer is that God will fill you up with His Peace and Presence.

Peace to you and Happy Thanksgiving

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The first 9/11 - Kristallnacht

There are several dates that are etched into our memories and without fail when they come around something causes us to stop, reflect, before we go on with life as we know it.

One of those dates is coming up - Nov. 22 - but, I'm going to wait to write on that for another 12 days.  I remember that date very well.  I remember other dates wife's birthday, my children's and now Grandchildren's birthdays.  I remember our Anniversary - not because I'm suppose to do something, but simply because that day changed my life forever.
Perhaps that's the best way to describe these kinds of days...they changed our life forever.

I remember 9/11.
Wait Elliott, it's not 9/11, it's 11/9 right now.  Well that's true, but I'm not talking about our country's 9/11, I'm talking about the FIRST 9/11.

As a person who has made numbers of trips to Europe one of the first things you realize is that when you're asked to enter the date, you don't enter as we do it in the U.S. which is day/month/year.  In Europe it's always month/day/year.  So 9/11 in Europe is November the 9th.
While officially that was yesterday, I wanted to "muse" a bit about the first 9/11...the one in Europe, 75 years ago this weekend.

On Nov. 9, 1938 - exactly 75 years ago this weekend - the Nazis launched a massive assault on Jewish businesses, homes, synagogues, books, music, art, and Jewish people.  Adolph Hitler had convinced the German people that the Jewish people among them were Communists, Spies, and the reason for Germany's struggles.  His solution was to "rid the German nation of these vermin among us...".  His "brown shirt" Nazi followers marched into the streets and began a systematic attack on all things Jewish.  They smashed windows of Jewish businesses, and destroyed synagogues and homes - while brutalizing Jewish people - wherever they found them.  The actions kept going through the 10th, and so fittingly this is still a part of that tragic anniversary weekend.  The "night of the broken glass" as it came to be called comes from the German word, Kristallnacht.

About 100 Jews lost their lives, but 30,000 Jews were arrested and sent on to the newly created prison camps that would become the basis for the German death camps.  Over 1000 Synagogues were destroyed all over Germany and Austria, and 7,000 Jewish businesses were either destroyed or damaged.

It is the first 9/11.

As a Christian what do we do with events like this?  I think, in my judgment, that the best answer is that we do what our God would do.  Grieve, and realize the tragedy of the Sinful nature.
The nature of our human self is full of Sin.  We are not above the sin of the Nazi's...we actually share the same nature they had.  You can reject that view, but it would be to unwise to do so.  Yes, that's true.  Remember, I come from a nation that said "blacks do not have souls..." and "it's fine to own slaves...".

No, I may not be a Nazi...and hopefully you are not one either...but do not be deceived, we are capable of the sin that we so easily condemn.
SO...when we begin by describing "those people"...realize that it is only through the Grace of God received that any of us can "die to sin" through the Gospel and enter into the new life of Jesus Christ.

Kristallnacht was the first 9/11...most of us have lived through a second one also.
God should we.  The creation and the Spirit groan, Paul says (Romans 8) do we.
We don't know what to do with events like these...perhaps it is enough that we remember...i.e., choose to never forget, so that we might never repeat them.


Monday, November 4, 2013

Faith, Truth and Pragmatism...something has to give!

John 8:31-32 31  To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  32  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

John 16:12-13 12  "I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.
13  But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.

John 18:33-38 33  Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?"
34  "Is that your own idea," Jesus asked, "or did others talk to you about me?"
35  "Am I a Jew?" Pilate replied. "It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?"
36  Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place."
37  "You are a king, then!" said Pilate. Jesus answered, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me."
38  "What is truth?" Pilate asked. With this he went out again to the Jews and said, "I find no basis for a charge against him.

Walking this morning in the country air, I began to think through a conversation that I've had dozens of times (per hundreds) before.  
"It's all well and good to think about things from the Bible, but at the end of the day, you have to apply pragmatic what's best in that situation, regardless of other things..."
A friend, and former student, wrote of a well known Christian leader who went on national TV to dismiss the notion of sin, the need for redemption, and the necessity of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  This noted Christian argues for "God's love means all will be just relax, all will be fine."

Pragmatic theology is based on the philosophy that scripture is not what defines truth, but the concepts of a modernist idea of what is good and everyone can embrace that.
Pragmatism is a popular philosophy in our culture.
Do what is best for you.
Do what you is true for you.
Do what is going to make things work out for the best.
Believe the things that work for you.
Believe the ideas that make you comfortable and at personal peace.
And on and on it goes.

Pragmatism is the belief that the ultimate meaning or worth of something lies in the consequences.  It's practical oriented, and individual.  It is utilitarian in function - if it works and the outcome is good, then it's right to do, or right to believe.  Pragmatism is as old as human rationale and embraced in our modern culture more than any other belief system.  It is Pragmatism that functions even in the church - so much so that the words of scripture can fall on deaf ears and matters of faith, truth from God's word seem irrelevant to "what works".

Yet here is where we who believe must see the ultimate failure of a philosophy that does not embrace truth.  The church that embraces methodology and cares little about theology is not a place of truth.  The believer who claims to love God and yet sets aside the word of God as THE source of truth, does not really understand what it means to love God.  Is this my thoughts only?  Consider this:

1 John 2:4  Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 

"C'mon Elliott, pragmatism's just the way things are done."

No, it's the way things are done because "any dead duck can float down-stream"...
What is wrong here is the failure to understand the difference between God's wisdom, his truth, and the false belief that what each of us might think/judge is the right thing for each of us is better than doing what God's word says.

1 Corinthians 1:20-25 20  Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
21  For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.
22  For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,
23  but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,
24  but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
25  For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 

Historically the false beliefs of every "modernist generation" (after all, every generation in human history has their own modernist belief system) is an attack on the scripture as truth.

Pilate wasn't the first who said it...and he has not been the last.

Seriously, it's time to stand up and say "that is simply not true according to the scriptures."