Monday, February 24, 2014

Blame It On...

America has turned from being the "Land of Opportunity" to the "Land of Blaming others."    We have moved a far distance away from President Harry Truman's slogan of "the Bucks Stops Here".  He had a plaque with these words sitting on his desk in the Oval Office as a reminder that the final decision was his.  We have moved through the days of Richard Nixon famously saying, "I am not a crook to the spin of our latest politicians.  President Obama recently blamed Fox news for the problems in his presidency and blamed racism for his low approval ratings.  Vice-President Joe Biden blamed George Bush for the nine trillions dollars in deficit the United States government has incurred since he was elected Vice-President.  John Boehner blames the president for the immigration reform impasse.  Alec Baldwin blames the media for his messed up personal life.  Piers Morgan blames American culture for his low ratings when he quits his show.  The Chicago police blame gangs for the increased violence in the city.  Everyone in Detroit is blaming each other for the financial Armageddon they are facing.  Mayor Ray Nagin famously blamed George Bush for the tragic consequences of hurricane Katrina, while at the same time, syphoning off federal money for his own purposes.  Closer to home, Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin is blaming the banks for having to foreclose on homes bought by people who could not afford those homes. Don't even try to discuss the embarrassing status of our public school system because blame is thrown in every direction while we continue to pore tax money into an institution failing miserably in its purpose to educate American children.   I could go on for hours, but you get the point.  Blame has become a national pastime in America.

This problem is as old as sin.  When Adam and Eve sinned, do you remember their responses?  Adam who was given charge of the Garden and supposed to be responsible for his wife blames his wife.  Eve then blames the serpent.  They follow the sin of disobedience with the sin of failing to take responsibility.  In Genesis 3, God doesn't buy the excuses and holds them accountable for what has happened.  God is fairly consistent in holding mankind accountable for what they do.  Moses is held accountable for letting his anger get the best of him and he is not allowed to enter the Promises Land.  Achan is held responsible for his sin of keeping plunder when he wasn't supposed to do that.  Samson is held accountable for giving away the secret of his strength.  Elijah is held accountable for running and hiding, having a pit party because he thinks he is the only one in Israel still following the Lord.  Peter is held accountable for denying Jesus.  Ananias and Sapphira are held accountable for lying to God and the church.  Peter is held accountable for his hypocrisy in dealing with the Gentile Christians when Jews were around.  John Mark is held accountable for his failure on the missionary journey with Paul.  Their is an accountability for those of us who claim to follow Christ that is not leveled on those who have not chosen to follow Him.

I Peter 2:11 reminds us, "Dear friends, I urge you as alien and strangers in the world to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us."  This is a stark reminder for out day that even though the pagan culture of America embraces blame, we are to take responsibility.  Yes, taking responsibility will cause us pain in the immediate future.  Yes, we will probably have to make restitution and amends for what we have done.  Yes, we will disappoint some people when they hear the truth.  Yes, we will make mistakes and need to take full responsibility for those mistakes.  We don't try to spin the truth so we won't look so bad.  If we are wrong, we are wrong.  Quite blaming other people or circumstances for your misery and pain.  We are not the first followers of Christ to be persecuted for our faith and we won't be the last.  God's goal for His Church is not her comfort, but her holiness.  Being accountable and responsible builds holiness in our lives.

So today, rather than looking for an easy out, will you take responsibility for the decisions you have made and the consequences that come with those choices?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Let It Rain

For those of you who don't live in the Bay Area of California, you may not be aware that we are in a drought.  We have a rainy season which lasts from November through April and after that, rain is very scarce.  We have been experiencing the driest winter on record.  We would need twenty one inches of rain before June to get back to normal levels of rainfall.  There is a lot of concern because there isn't a big snow pack yet in the Sierra mountains, which affects the water available for the valley and Los Angeles.  The governor declared an emergency, people prayed for rain and others said the drought was punishment from God.  Well, this past weekend, the rains came.  God sent wonderful rain that came down at a gentle pace and soaked into the ground.  Some areas received as many as eleven inches of rain in the past five days.  This doesn't end our need for more rain, but it does alleviate some of the fears of a prolonged drought.

This made me think about what the Bible says about rain, so I looked up a few passages that I want to share with you.  So here they are:

Job 5:10 - "He bestows rain on the earth;  He sends water upon the country side."  God does control the weather.  He can bring rain or He can make the rain stop.  He is still the Sustainer of the universe.

In God's response to Job, He says this in 38:25:  "Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain and a path for the thunderstorm?"  God confronts Job with the knowledge that God alone can bring rain.

Psalm 147:8 - "He covers the sky with clouds;  He supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills."  This is a beautiful picture of God's provision.  He brings the rains that bring the crops which feed us.

Jeremiah 14:22 asks this wonderful question:  "Do any worthless idols of the nations bring rain?  Do the skies themselves send down showers?"  And then the passage gives this response:  "No, it is you, O Lord our God.  therefore our hope is in you, for you are the One who does all this"  Rain is a reminder to trust God and put your hope in Him.

Jesus speaks of rain in His sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:45:  "He causes His sun to rise of the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous."  Jesus is telling us to love all people, even our enemies.  God shows His love by allowing the rain to fall on all people, even those who despise or deny God.  If God is so loving and generous, then we should also.  There is only one instance in the Bible of the lack of rain being a judgment by God and that was foretold by Elijah.  So we must be careful in placing blame on God's judgment for natural events (Unless we have had word from Him that this is what He has done).

Isaiah 45:8 takes this idea of rain and transmits a different thought about rain.  "You heavens above, rain down righteousness;  Let the clouds shower it down   Let the earth open wide and let salvation spring up, let the righteous grow with it;  I, the Lord, have created it."  The call is for the followers of
God to live such righteous lives that righteousness is all around like the rain.  God desires His people to be beacons of hope and grace in a world of selfishness and sin.  He wants the world to see that the hope of the nations is not found in a government or riches or technology, but is found in the grace of God.  So let Christ shine through your choices today in such a way that others will be drawn to Him.

One of my favorite passages about rain is found in Matthew 7:24-27.  Jesus ends His sermon on the Mount by talking about two builders in the same storm.  That storm has rain, winds and floods which affect both builders.  One builder chooses to build on sand...bad choice.  The other builder chooses to build on THE rock...great choice.  The home on the sand is destroyed.  The home of THE rock stands through the storm.  Of course, Jesus is the rock.  What we do in His name and led by His Spirit will last.  What we do for ourselves (Even churchy stuff and spiritual stuff) won't last because we are only temporary.  So today, make the choice to build your life on the solid rock because all other ground is sinking sand.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Which Is Super?

On Sunday, February 2nd, millions of Americans tuned in to view Super Bowl XLVIII, which was supposed to be a football game between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks.  It turned out to be not much of a game, but a total domination by the Seahawks.  From the first snap of the game, but Broncos looked overmatched, inept and ready to quit.  Those who were hoping for a close game were greatly disappointed.  By the time Percy Harvin ran the second half kick-off for a touchdown, the only undecided was how bad the blowout would end up being.  Unless you are a Seattle fan, the Super Bowl game itself was a waste of an afternoon or evening (Depending on where you live).  It was like many other Super Bowls, a snooze fest.  Two weeks of hype simply added to the disappointment.

Contrast that with what happened of Sunday morning at Hillcrest Baptist Church.  Millions were not tuned in and only 90 people were actually in attendance.  There were no sponsors willing to pay millions of dollars for a 30 second add.  There was not two weeks of media blitz leading up to it.  There was no a four hour pre-game telecast on national television.  Most people will never even know what happened on Sunday morning at 3400 Hillcrest Road in Richmond, California.    Yet, I submit that what happened on Sunday morning at Hillcrest was more super than anything that happened at MetLife Stadium in the afternoon.

What was the super event?  Three young ladies publicly professed their faith by following Jesus into the waters of baptism.  We dunked them as a witness that they died to the old self and were now living for Jesus.  The act of baptizing didn't save them.  That happened the day they professed their faith in Christ.  The act of baptism was their way of obeying Jesus, testifying to others and celebrating that eternal life.  Three young ladies in front of less than one hundred friends and family members.  How could that be more important than something our culture has been hyping for two weeks?  Simply this:  These three ladies did something that is eternally significant.  The Seahawks that will only last until the next season begins.  As a matter of fact, in the postgame interview, the coach of the Seahawks was asked if they could repeat their Super Bowl victory next year.  However, the Bible reminds us in Luke 15 that the angels party and Heaven parties whenever someone who is lost is found.  Not only did Heaven party, but our church partied afterwards.  These young ladies now have the rest of their lives on earth to impact eternity but witnessing and testifying about Jesus.  The ripples of the waters of eternity will be impacted by the events of Sunday at HBC.  Aren't you glad you were there?

I watched the Super Bowl and left wondering why I had wasted three hours of my time watching the game.  I enjoyed being with my family, but it seemed like a fruitless use of my time.  I watched the baptism and left church jazzed that I had seem something marvelous.  I still smile when I think about the testimony of these girls when they confessed Jesus as their Savior and Lord.  That smile cracks even bigger when I think back on their faces as they came up from the water. 

So which one of these events really was super?  Even if the Broncos had won or the game had gone down to the last play, a football game will never compare with a Heavenly celebration.  So don't get hyped that a football game has been played, but that your name is written in the Book of Life.  Now that really is super!