October 30, 2014

Jesus Calling

Some thoughts thought along the mail route today:

I reflect often on the inclination of Christians-praying, church attending, Bible reading Christians-to desire something more from their Christian life than, well, what I just described. There is, it seems to me, a very pervasive attitude that says, "yes, praying, church, Bible reading. All well and good, but I want something more. I want God to speak to me personally." I want to address, not the sole cause of this, but a particular cause that I believe to be both large and overlooked. Let's start with some Bible.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
2 Timothy 3:16-4:2

I have read a number of blogs, articles, etc, addressing the problem of what we might call Christianity plus, where the author turns to this passage to make the point that, ''hey guys, the Bible is enough!'' I have, in fact, done this myself. It's a good point to make, a Biblical point to make, an important point to make. The Bible is all we need. If you want a personal word from the Lord, look no further than His personal revelation of Himself.

That being said, many folks who faithfully read that Bible which is God's self-revelation, and walk away feeling...blah, perhaps? This has often been the case for me. And though my sample pool of acquaintances is not particularly large, many conversations I've had reveal a similar experience. Coming to the Bible is supposed to do what, exactly? Cause keeping my eyes open seems hard enough.

Now combine a typical evangelical Christianity that emphasizes a dynamic, thriving, and above all, personal, relationship with Jesus, and add to that our lethargic experience of the same; is it any wonder many are left discouraged, wanting more? Here is where I want us to notice something in the words of Paul to young Timothy.

Paul tells Timothy that the very words of Scripture are breathed out by God, and, being God's words, they are profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness. Why? That the man of God may be equipped for every good work. Scripture itself is enough to do this. Now, here is the kicker. What does Paul charge Timothy to do in reply to this information regarding the nature, sufficiency, and power of God's word? He tells Timothy to "Preach the word!" (NKJV)

God has ordained that through His word He will teach us, reprove us, correct us, train us in righteousness, and fit us for every good work (and let us not forget, to lead us to Himself through Jesus, see 1 Tim 3:15). But He has also ordained the means by which His word will do this. Namely, preaching. The preached word is not merely the transmitting of information from the preacher to the people. As others have pointed out, there are more effective ways for information to be passed along, shared, and remembered. Preaching, by definition, is the proclamation of God's word to God's people. It has at its heart not the mere transfer of facts, ideas, or life tips, but the proclaiming of what Almighty God has done in Christ, and how we are to respond. Preaching is, to use the Old Testament language, "thus says the Lord." And when His word is preached, and applied to hearts by His Holy Spirit, it is then that it does its work of teaching, correcting, etc.

Most of you reading this are not preachers. Neither am I. I used to have that opportunity fairly often, but for the last year my primary experience of preaching has been from the pew. What would happen, I wonder, if we walked into church on Sunday morning with an expectancy to hear the word of the Lord? What if, instead of expecting that God was going to show up in my quiet time in a still small voice (a silly expectation, frankly), I could know that He speaks clearly through His word, and that I would hear it audibly proclaimed to my ears and to my heart, every Sunday morning at 8:45? Perhaps my time in God's word during the week would be more satisfying if I understood that time to be a supplement to sitting regularly under the ministry of the word. Perhaps Jesus really is calling-through the voice of the man in the pulpit.

October 11, 2014

Approaching Suicide

I intend to be brief here. In recent days a young woman named Brittany Maynard has made headlines with her campaign for "death with dignity" laws, and for her moving to Oregon recently so that she might take advantage of theirs. Diagnosed with cancer at age 29, Brittany has decided to end her life on November 1st.

Many people, including my fellow Christians, are distraught over this. Over her personal choice to end her life, and over the legality of doctors assisting her to do so in Oregon and four other states. That we have become a culture willing to celebrate self-murder, as it used to be called, is indeed very disturbing. I do not wish to argue those concerns, but rather applaud them.

Exodus 20:13 is very succinct on this subject, "You shall not murder." We don't have the right to kill another person (we can discuss times of war and capital punishment another day). You also do not have a right to kill yourself. Why? Because our bodies do not fundamentally belong to us, contra western thought. Our bodies belong first of all to God who made us. They further belong, to a lesser and varying extent, to the other people in our lives. Husbands, wives, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, friends, coworkers, extended family members, and acquaintances all have some claim to us. They are not part of a drama constructed with me at its center, where I may do whatever I want, consequences to them be damned. We each play a part in the larger story of history that God himself is telling, and we bear obligation not only to him, but the other players as well, to play our part in submission to Him. Even whem that means hard things. Even when that means death. Death is not, and never has been, intended to be on my terms. The day of death belongs to God alone.

This said, I want to encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ with Proverbs 15:1,

A soft answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Some of what I have read that has been directed at Brittany Maynard, or at the idea of suicide in general, disturbs me greatly. This, of all topics, is not one to approach with a high-handed self-righteousness. Is self-murder selfish? Yes, it is. Is it rooted more in an escapism that is afraid of reality more than a courageous facing of it? I think that is beyond doubt. But when I see folks just throwing those statements around, it really makes me wonder: have you ever tried to talk someone off the ledge? Have you ever stayed all night sitting at the kitchen table begging your friend to see the value in their life that you see, that others see, that God sees? Have you listened to the stories of the harships which they have walked through that have brought them here? Have you laid in bed at night begging God for the words to speak when you know your friend is teetering on the brink?

You see, this is not an abstract question dealing only with people "out there." This is a question that deals with real people, whom you know - if you will take the time to know them. To listen to them. To love them. Before it's too late.

About Me

Follower of Jesus. Husband of one. Father of four. Pastor at Remsen Bible Fellowship (remsenbible.com).