The Homefront #3: Sunday’s coming.

A great scripture for today….

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord.  For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.  (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

And you thought you were the only one who appreciated Psalm 1.  Turns out the Old Testament prophets read the Psalms too.

The Lord appreciates steadfastness and treasures those who remain true when everything around them is turning loose, dropping out, or wilting.

This too shall pass, Christian. Be faithful.

Doing Church

Pastors are running around trying to find the best way to have a worship service that will involve people but not require closeness and contact.  What a job!

Some churches have dusted off the old concept of drive-in churches, popularized over a half century ago, and are getting licensed-up to be able to broadcast on an FM frequency.  The posts on Facebook would indicate this may be the start of a huge trend.  Stay tuned.

I’ll be preaching to an empty sanctuary at Columbus Mississippi’s First Baptist Church Sunday at 10 am.  The plan right now is to drive up that morning–it’s almost 3 hours each way–do the service, and then turn right around and head home.  I’ll pick up a snack at a drive-through in Starkville and eat on the drive home.  My sermon is not on the pandemic that is dominating our existence these days, but something better than that.

Continue reading

Not every celebrity gets religion right. Be forewarned.

We’re told Thomas Jefferson scissored out the portions of the New Testament he found objectionable.  Not long ago I noticed an ad where someone was peddling copies of “The Thomas Jefferson Bible.”  None for me, thanks.

He’s had nearly 200 years to regret that bit of presumptive foolishness.

Just  because Jefferson said it does not make it right; just because he did it does not mean we should follow suit.

Best not to get our religion from someone who is an expert in one field–science perhaps? or math, biology, or novel-writing–but who is out of his territory when he speaks of God.

Once in a while a celebrity admits he has nothing to say on this subject.  Benjamin Franklin, for instance.

Continue reading

What if Jesus had not died?

If Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.  –I Corinthians 15:17

“What If?” is a series of best-selling books put together by Robert Cowley, in which historians look at key events in history and try to imagine what if things had not happened that way.

What if Pontius Pilate had spared Jesus?

That is the title of the chapter by Carlos M. N. Eire, chairman of the Department of Religious Studies at Yale University. The subtitle reads, Christianity without the Crucifixion.

Eire imagines Pontius Pilate heeding the warning of his wife whose sleep had been disturbed that night by thoughts of “that righteous man.” Her message to the governor said, “Have nothing to do with him.”

So, he asks, what if Pilate had done the right thing and resisted the religious leaders and the rabble who were crying for Jesus’ execution; what if he had released Him?

On one page, underneath a 13th century painting of Pilate with the Jewish leaders is the caption: “The Decision That Made a Religion.”  (We can insist that it was the resurrection that “made” the Christian faith, but we won’t quibble over the importance of the crucifixion.)

Eire asks, “What if Jesus hadn’t been nailed to a cross at Pilate’s orders? What if he had lived a long, long life? Or even just ten more years? Or one? What if his person and message had been interpreted differently, as they surely would have been?”

Continue reading

Assumptions people make about Jesus and His People

Who but God can forgive sins? (Mark 2:7)

A while back I wrote the author of a book on the political events of 1940 to express my appreciation.  I added this note:

That year is also special because I made my appearance on March 28, 1940. But don’t think me old just because I was born in 1940.

Later, I wondered why I’d gone to the trouble to say that, as I do not know that author and don’t expect to meet him. Why did that matter?

I decided it’s a personal thing.

None of us want to be pigeon-holed because of demographics or statistics, and not  for preconceptions or ignorance. Being a Southerner does not make you a redneck. Living in Mississippi does not mean you are barefooted. All Louisianians do not speak Cajun. All Yankees are not rude.

Continue reading

The sufferings of Jesus are beyond us. Unimaginable.

And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost. Mark 15:37

The old gospel song says “None of the ransomed ever knew how deep were the waters crossed, nor how dark the night that the Lord passed through ere He found the sheep that was lost.” (“The Ninety and Nine”)

I’m one of the ransomed.  I have no clue.

You and I stand outside the sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ. We hear His prayer in the Garden on the night before He was arrested. We see the sweat drops of blood and we sense His agony. Then we see Him hanging on the cross in great pain as He bore our sins and paid the ultimate price. But we have no way of knowing what He was enduring.

We stand outside, at a distance. We stand in awe.

Continue reading

The narrowness of the Lord Jesus Christ

All truth is narrow.  I heard that somewhere, and have not scientifically tested it to see if it’s always true, but  believe it to be the case.

People say of us Christians, “You are so narrow.”  And one said to me, “The Christ I know is not nearly so narrow-minded as you.”

I reply, “Where did you find this Christ? The only one I know of is found in Holy Scripture and He is nothing if not narrow.”

Consider these statements….

“No one has ascended to Heaven but He who came down from Heaven, even the Son of Man…””  John 3:13  Jesus is our authority on things celestial since He Himself is a native of that land.  Heaven is His hometown.

“No one knows the Son except the Father.  Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son reveals Him.”   Matthew 11:27 and Luke 10:22. Had we claimed that Jesus is the sole revealer of God, people of all the other religions would have complained.  But Jesus said it.

Continue reading

The best thing in the Bible….and the worst.

The best thing in the Bible might be Exodus 34:6-7.

And the Lord passed before (Moses) and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping lovingkindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgressions, and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and fourth generation. “

It’s the best because it’s God’s self-revelation and it reveals Him to be pure love.  Exodus 34:6-7 is the Old Testament corollary to I John 3:8,16 which say “God is love.”

Exodus 34:6-7 is the best because it’s quoted all through the Old Testament.  Moses prayed it in Numbers 14:18.  Nehemiah sang it in Neh. 9:17.  Joel held it out as the reason God’s people could expect revival, in Joel 2:13.  David sang it in Psalms 86:15, in  103:8, and in 145:8.    Jonah complained about it in Jonah 4:2.  And we find fleeting quotes from it throughout Jeremiah, such as in 32:18.

Continue reading

The God-moment when you realize who you are talking to

“‘I know that Messiah is coming. When He comes, He will tell us all things.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am He.'” (John 4:25-26)

You were discussing God to someone casually,  in theory, having a nice little conversation.  Then all of a sudden you realize the Person you are talking with is the Lord Himself.

Nothing prepares you for such a moment.

1st instance in Scripture.  John 4 where Jesus informs the “woman at the well” of His true identity.  Give her credit, because she hastened back into her village and told everyone.  “Is not this the Christ?”  The Lord and HIs disciples ended up conducting a two day crusade (of a sort) there, with many more people believing on Jesus.

I imagine she never talked to a stranger in the same way again.

You never know.  Hebrews 13:2 tells us not to forget to entertain strangers since some who did  ended up giving hospitality to angels.  That may be  a reference to Genesis 18-19.  But who’s to say it couldn’t happen to us, today, right here?

2nd instance in Scripture.  Matthew 26 where our Lord is on trial before the Sanhedrin, the high priest, Pilate, Herod, and Pilate again.

The high priest was irritable at having been called out of bed so early.  He lost his patience with this Man who stood before him  refusing to answer even the first question.

The religious leader bellowed at Jesus standing there in silence.   “Do you answer nothing? Aren’t you going to respond to what these men are saying against you?”

And once again, Jesus kept silent.

Continue reading

The one question we would have for Jesus

Now when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceedingly glad; for he had desired for a long time to see Him, because he had heard many things about Him…. And he questioned Him with many words…. (Luke 23:8-9).

Someone asked Larry King, the legendary television interviewer, if he could sit across the table and interview one person in all of history, who would it be.  “Jesus Christ,” said this man who is Jewish.

“And what would you ask him?”

“I would like to ask Him  if He was indeed virgin-born.  The answer to that question would define history for me.”

To be sure. That answer could change everything.  As it  has for many a person.

So with the resurrection.  Answer that in the affirmative and everything else falls into place.

Continue reading

What it means to love Jesus

“If you love me….” (John 14:15)

We do love the Lord, right?  We would love to express our love to Him in His own love-language, right?

We love Him because He first loved us, right? (That’s I John 4:19).

The question then is “How exactly do we express our love to Him?”  With flowers and candy?  With huge gifts?  Quick prayers before bedtime?  Maybe if I’m baptized and join the right church?  Should I tithe?  Should I read the Bible through? Go to Sunday School?

What does He want?  What would make Jesus feel loved?

The Old Testament answer to the question…

The prophet Micah was wrestling with this very question when he asked, “With what shall I come before the Lord?  And bow myself before the High God?”

That is to say, “What possible thing could I do on earth that would please God in Heaven?”

Continue reading