Monday, May 31, 2010

Matter is Good; It’s Sin that is Bad

God made creation.  God dwelt in creation.  God can fellowship with matter.

Abraham welcomed three visitors. Genesis says that one of them was Jehovah, appearing as a human (Gen. 18:20) before Abraham.

If that was not enough, Jesus made it official, God become flesh and dwelt among people (John 1:14.)

All people from the beginning of time have wrestled with the idea of the gods coming into creation. This is the conscience of humanity, subconsciously, paying tribute the gravity of sin.

The Old Testament and New Testament are the only documents ever written that sufficiently address the solving of this dilemma. Even to those of us who are Christians, this seems too good to be true. Yet another reminder of why we call this the gospel.

God has never had a problem with matter; he created it. It’s sin God has a problem with. I say all of this because I believe one barrier preventing us from ever celebrating the Lord’s Supper, in the context of a meal, is our fear God will become angry at our irreverence.

There are probably a lot of reasons why we think this way. I suspect one is the residue coming from the ancient Greek philosophers who pontificated that matter was bad, while the spiritual is good. Gnostics, in the first century, infiltrated the church with this teaching. I believe Augustine bought into this belief, and it hurt him as it did those whom he influenced. These would include many of us in churches today.

Too many Christians believe that Lord’s Supper, communion, is a spiritual meal to be observed in a spiritual worship service. To them, to eat a physical meal along with the Bread and the Fruit of the Vine, would desecrate the Lord’s Supper.

This is wrong. This view is fundamentally flawed. It creates a false dichotomy. The Lord’s Supper and a physical meal are not contradictory events that should be separated. Indeed, they should be united as much as possible. Here are some reasons why:

1. To do so would remind us that our sustenance comes from God.
2. To do so would remind us that God has cleansed us from our sin; therefore, we are able to enter into His presence.
3. To do so would remind us that God’s grace has cleansed us from our sin; it has nothing to do with our human efforts.
4. To so would follow biblical example and precedence spanning both Testaments—God’s people celebrating God in the context of meals.
5. Because of numbers 1-4, we can and should celebrate our salvation. We should celebrate our reconciliation with God, redemption by God, and consecration to God, in fellowship with God and in fellowship with our fellow priests with a meal that includes the Lord’s Supper. Moreover, we should do so in the context of public worship by the community of faith.

Five Things I Think I Think (with a nod to Peter King for this idea)

1. I’ve got to brag for a moment. I just found out that my second cousin, Skip Hollandsworth, recently won the American Society of Magazine Editors award for an article he wrote in Texas Monthly last year. Here’s the link:
     Folks, this award is in the Pulitzer class. Congratulations, Cuz!
     BTW, I have you know he attended MY wedding back in 1988. So there, I am related to somebody who is famous and successful.

2. Rest with God in eternity, Jim Jordan. You were a great man for God.

3. It's official. Summer is here. I go outside; I am soaked with sweat.

4. Nice NBA series--Boston vs. LA. I'm pulling for seven games.

5. Congratulations to you, Abby Edge. You graduated from the eighth grade. Well done.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Are We Scriptural in the Lord’s Supper?

            Shalom. It has a ring to it, doesn’t it? It means more than just a Jewish greeting. It contains components of integrity, wholeness, and completeness with God and the world. One is in proper relationship with God, and one is in proper relationship with the world.

            The Old Testament depicts an offering and a meal that reflects shalom. As a matter of fact, it was called, in derivative form, the “Shalom Offering.” Leviticus chapter three and chapter seven emphasizes that God’s people were experiencing meals with God that were to also be celebrations of shalom. Lev. 7:11-17, particularly, emphasizes this was to be a communal meal.

            In the burnt offering, atonement was made and God’s people could enter into the presence of a holy God (see Lev. 1). The natural response of this reality was for God’s people to submit to God in his service (see the Grain Offering in Lev. 2).

            In Leviticus 3, you see the logical follow up. Because of the burnt offering, God's wrath for sin had been appeased. God’s people had dodged a bullet; they had entered to God’s holy presence—and survived!

            They were thrilled to be alive. God was thrilled for them to be alive. God was pleased for their consecrated lives. God said, let’s celebrate! Let’s have a party!

            God gave instructions for how his people could enjoy a meal with Himself and with each other. He would receive His portion, a portion would be given to God’s priests, and the offerers themselves would receive a portion—meat.

            I cannot overemphasize what a big deal this was. Most of the Israelites did not have the means to regularly eat meat. Here was God commanding them to eat meat. What a blast! You talk about celebration.

            Don’t let Leviticus fool you. It is a complex book that includes the remedy for a humdrum life. Leviticus includes instructions from God on how to joyfully celebrate his presence.

            All throughout the Old Testament you find this offering and meal. Sometimes it is referred to as the Thanksgiving Offering. It is part of every major festival. It was to be eaten to conclude Nazerite vow (Numb. 6:13-17). Other places it is mentioned include:

            *The renewal of the covenant at Mount Ebal (Jos. 8:31)

            *By Hannah (I Sam. 1)

           *Saul's inauguration I Sam. 11:15

           *The arrival of the ark in Jerusalem (2 Sam 6:17)

           *Solomon’s inauguration (I Chron. 29:21-22)

           * Psalm 50 and many more.

             Now, wouldn't it be nice if God could come up with a meal, eaten by his priests, celebrated in the presence of God, reflecting upon the sacrifice that had been offered up to God.

            What? You mean we have one? Oh, yeah, the Lord’s Supper—Communion!

            It is interesting that in the eight (Mt. 26:17-30, Mk. 14:12-26, Lk. 22:7-38, Acts 2:42, Acts 20:7, I Cor. 10:14-22, I Cor. 11:17-34, Jude 12) references to the Lord's Supper in the New Testament, five explicitly refer to a meal being part of that supper. The other ones don't negate a meal; they just don't go into detail mentioning that it is done in a meal.

            Did you know that Paul builds his case for unity (see I Cor. 10-11) on a communion meal whose roots are found in the Shalom meal of Leviticus, as well as, the Passover Meal. Paul’s argument for unity and separation of the world is symbolized in a meal of communion.

          Luke, in his gospel, offers Jesus’ emphasis on eating and drinking and banquets in the kingdom of God. Scripture anticipates the day when the bride of Christ will eat with the lamb in heaven.

            The Didache, an ancient document written about 100 AD, speaks of the communion meal.

            A few centuries later, churches lost the meaning of the meal in the communion service. As John Mark Hicks put it, what were at one time an altar and a table became an altar only. [By the way, his book, COME TO THE TABLE, is an excellent resource. Many of his conclusions agreed with mine; therefore, I find him brilliant. :)]
            Since then, we have emphasized the individual in the Lord’s Supper, not the group. We have lost an exciting and vital element of communion, found throughout scripture—the meal.

            Now, I realize if you are in a church with a good number of people, experiencing the Lord’s Supper in the context of a meal can be impractical. Still, it could be done.

            Churches have captured the reverence of the Lord’s Supper, but this is only one facet. Joy and celebration are another. Unfortunately, we have been so brainwashed by tradition, whose roots were laid with Constantine, the only way we could capture the biblical ideal and precedence is through imagination.

            I am part of a movement that seeks to restore New Testament Christianity. I regret that my attempt to convince others in my movement of this biblical teaching has been an utter failure.

            I am not saying we should eliminate times of meditation during the Lord’s Supper. I am saying we would expand our vision to include that which is biblical.

            It is biblical to rejoice with God and God’s people in a meal, and within that meal, to share the bread and fruit of the vine, honor Jesus as Lord and Savior, and recommit ourselves to lives in His service.

Five Things I Think I Think (with a nod to Peter King for this idea)

1. Upon further review, I rank GETTYSBURG the second greatest war movie I have ever seen. Only SAVING PRIVATE RYAN is better. One reason I liked GETTYSBURG was it was the only war movie that explained to me what was going on well enough for me to understand.

2. Okay, I’m lost on this LOST phenomena. My understanding is that it ended last night. So were the lost, found?

3. I’ve begun my yearly reading of THE GLORY OF THEIR TIMES. One of the greatest baseball books ever written. One of the greatest history books on life at the turn of the 20th century ever written.

4. Could morality be making a comeback? Friend Patrick Leech sent me a fascinating article written by Raquel Welch. Acknowledging that it was strange coming from a sex symbol, she encouraged society to restore the ideal of marriage. Go, Raquel, Go.

5. Congratulations to all graduates. You’ve worked hard. Say safe.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Why Do We Get So Mad at Homosexuals?

Probably most guys have seen the movie THE GODFATHER. If you haven’t, watch the cleaned up version on AMC. Anyway, it has lot of catchphrases we use today.
Remember Sonny? The hotheaded son played by James Caan? Sonny would always want to take personal revenge. Marlon Brando, the Godfather, would try to teach him, "It's nothing personal, its just business." The business may be knocking off a couple of guys because of the competition, but that's fair. However, remember, it wasn't personal.
One of the reasons why Christians are shooting themselves in the foot is because the sin of homosexuality has become personal. It's not an offense against God; it's become an offense against Christians.

It may be because it's something a Christian struggles with. It may be because a homosexual in a Christian family has hurt them. It may be because the Christian is concerned about the direction the country's going in. But, at some point, the line has been crossed and the major thing in the mind of the Christian is not “This is an offense against God.” It is “This is an offense against me."
Be careful, this is not a good place to be. At least in God's eyes. Can I give you an example? I want you to look at one of the great heroes of the Jewish faith. His name is Moses.
In Numbers 20, the people were quarreling. They were thirsty. They were mad at Moses.

God met with Moses and said, 8 "Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink."

Moses did this, but then he began to preach. Uh, oh, Moses is starting a sermon God did not tell him to preach. Maybe that was okay with God, but listen to what Moses says, "Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?" 11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.

 12 But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them."
A lot of people have taught that the problem was Moses struck the rock. This could be a part of it, but scholars, preachers, and teachers offer sufficient reasons for why there is another issue here.

According to verse 11, Moses is aligning himself with God. “Must we….” Look out, Moses; you are a tool of God. This is God’s work. And because of this, Moses is taking the sin of Israel personally.
Consequently, Moses lashes out. He loses his temper. “Listen you rebels” is not a term of endearment. Moses is not trusting God’s results. He is going beyond what is written. He is not being meek here. He is expressing a lack of belief in God.
Any time we, as God’s people, get angry and lash out, we are proclaiming our lack of belief in God. We have made the holy, human. God’s work has become personal.

Rarely, do we practice righteous indignation. Rather, we express frustration over a goal we are not reaching. And if anybody gets in our way, WATCH OUT!
That is why our critics from outside Christianity are at times doing us a favor. They are calling our hand.

Here is a quote from a friend of mine I first heard almost thirty years ago. It is about this story of Moses: You don’t find the Lord by focusing on the land; you find the land by focusing on the Lord.”
If I might amend that statement: You don’t find the Lord by focusing on the better nation; you find the better nation by focusing on the Lord.
Homosexuality is not first and foremost a sin against us. It is a sin against God. Do we, when pressed, share our views? Absolutely, but with the love of the Lord. If we don’t see the results we want, that is God’s issue.
I wonder if some of us, in our anger, are not lashing out at the homosexual. I wonder if we are really lashing out against God.

Five Things I Think I Think (with a nod to Peter King for this idea)

1. GETTYSBURG! Where have you been all my life? Last week I watched GODS AND GENERALS. It was a good movie. I had bought it in a package from Wal-Mart containing the movie GETTYSBURG as well. As soon as I heard the familiar music, I was hooked. I really liked how they did the opening. They showed original photographs of the battle’s participants followed by photographs of the actors, in character, portraying them.

2. I caught a snippet the other night of 30 ROCK on TV. I have read through the years that the writing was sharp and the acting is so good. Indeed, the series has won a number of awards. The scene I saw the other night showed the character, Liz Lemon, reading a passage of scripture at a friend’s wedding. She gets a text asking her to stall. She instinctively concludes the easiest way to stall would be to read passages from the Bible. Not knowing Scripture, she randomly begins to read passages from the Old Testament that were totally inappropriate for the occasion. Laugh out loud funny.

3. I have really come to enjoy our office’s coffee-grinding coffee maker. I like grinding the beans early on Sunday morning, and making a big pot. The coffee is good all day. We just finished the vanilla beans; maybe this week I’ll buy cinnamon-flavored beans.

4. We finished our series on sexuality yesterday morning. Now, I’m beginning a series on the joy of our salvation. We need this, but I will miss the previous series. I liked the tension that went with it. It was sort of like walking a tight rope over burning coals. You knew the fall would not kill you, but it would hurt. And if you made it across the tightrope, you would feel really excited. We made it across the tightrope. I will always be grateful to the prime timers for consistently encouraging me to preach this series.

5. Well-done ETCA baseball team. We’re proud of you for making it to the state semis!  

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Missing Piece

There was once a creator. He created a puzzle. The puzzle was complete except for two missing pieces.

Someone came along and saw the void in the creation. He wanted to make the created work whole and complete. He took two pieces of the same kind and attempted to put them together, but they did not fit.

No matter how hard he tried to fit the two pieces of the same kind together, he could not make them fit.

Oh, he stuck them into the work of the creator as best he could. Unfortunately, the work of the creator was not honored. There was chaos. The intended purpose of the creator was not completed.

Finally, one came along who took two pieces of a different kind, both made by the creator of the puzzle. Lo and behold, they fit perfectly.

The two different pieces that fit together were then inserted into the void of the creation. Now, the created work was complete. Now the puzzle brought forth the image designed by the creator. The creator of the puzzle was honored.

Why Is Homosexuality Wrong?

There are many reasons. These include the fact that Scripture condemns it. The scriptures range from Lev. 18:22 and Lev. 20:13 in Old Testament, to the reflections of Paul in the New Testament in I Cor. 6:9-10, which state that those who practice homosexuality will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But I think Richard Hayes, has very insightful words on the subject, which he shares in his book THE MORAL VISION OF THE NEW TESTAMENT. Reflecting upon what Paul wrote in Romans one, Hayes notes that homosexual relations by fallen and confused human creatures represent a tragic distortion of the created order. To put it another way, Paul writes that homosexual activity is a sure sign that humans are alienated from God’s design.

Again, according to Paul, practicing homosexual relations is a declaration of rebellion: rebellion against God. Moreover, Paul is saying in Romans chapter one that homosexual activity is a widespread sign that human beings are in rebellion against the Creator. People should look at creation, look at their blessings, look to God and give thanks. When humanity refuses, and lets idolatry run its own self-destructive course, homosexuality is the consequence. It is not something that provokes God’s wrath; rather, it is a consequence of God’s decision to hand human beings over to their desires.


Number one. We follow the cross. We do not seek what we want but what God wants.

Number two we love the community and do what’s best for the community. Our sexuality is not a private matter; it is a matter that affects the whole community of faith. Sexual fulfillment is important because it points us toward God, but it is not of paramount importance. Being equipped with God’s Spirit, Christians control their sexual energy. With this reality in mind, it could be that no one is displaying more godliness than when he or she chooses to go against his or her own sexual instinct or orientation. No matter how he or she feels, he or she seeks to honor God in attitude and behavior. Sexual immorality defiles the body of Christ. See first Corinthians chapter six.

A tragic illustration of how sexual immorality defiles the community is the AIDS epidemic in Africa. In Africa, the AIDS epidemic, which was brought not on only by homosexual sex, but primarily by immoral heterosexual sex has destroyed family after family and community after community— all because of ungodly sexual behavior.

Number three. When we become Christians, we are empowered to put ungodly behavior behind us.

Biblical integrity compels me to remind us of the end of Romans 1:

28Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

The fact is, we were all in bondage to sin, yet, we were still accountable to God and his judgment—at the very least, all of us are guilty of disobeying of our parents. All of us need the perfection of Christ to be poured out upon us. We need the part of us that is in bondage to sin destroyed. We need to be created again. That is what Paul talks about in Rom. 6:1-4.

We want to be faithful to God when we speak of our sexual calling. However, we want to be humble like Christ. And in a few days, I want to talk about that.

Five Things I Think I Think (with a nod to Peter King for this idea)

1. I think I will never get over the unpredictability of kids. Chris Detkos is a great guy and a member of our church. He recently returned after serving a year in Afghanistan.

Now, stay with me.

The other night, there was even more chaos than usual at our family dinner table. To get the kids quiet, I thought I would get them to discuss substantive world events.

Having trouble priming the pump, I decided to take them through the history of war for the past hundred years. They listened well until we reached the Middle East woes of the past twenty years. I was getting them ready to discuss Sadaam Hussein.

It was this context that I asked, “And who was the dictator who rose up in the Middle East and threaten to take everyone out?”

My youngest daughter, Annie, excitedly answered, “Chris Detkos!”

In all fairness to Chris, I think Annie has a high opinion of him. However, I don’t think she has a great grip on what a dictator is. She had been hearing us pray for Chris the past year. She didn’t know Iraq from Afghanistan. She thought Chris was going over to Middle East to clean everything up. Fortunately, when I confessed all of this to Chris, he took it in stride.

2. The Rangers lead the AL West? Will it last?

3. One week from Thursday, I will be finished teaching ETCA Bible for the school year. Dare I confess? I cannot wait.

4. A nice little tradition has evolved in the Edge family. I take everyone, including my mom, out to eat on Saturday to celebrate Mother’s Day. Judy prepares a delicious roast on Sunday for lunch. We gather together again, but it is kind of a winding down of the weekend. It works for us.

5. I read where Betty White knocked them out this weekend hosting a well-known, national comedy show. The ratings were the highest in two years. Good for her, she is almost 89. I can tell I am getting old. Old people are becoming the good guys.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Church’s Biggest Sin

What is the biggest sin in the church today? Probably a lot of people would say it is sexual sin. They may be thinking of pornography, homosexuality, premarital sexual activity, or other violations of God sexual covenant in marriage.

I have been preaching a series on sexuality. It is certainly a challenge living faithfully to God today, honoring him with our sexuality. However, I wonder if the greatest sin in the church today is an unfaithfulness to deal with conflict in a scriptural way.

There are probably many reasons for this. I would include the following:

1. Temperament. Genetically we are probably either overly aggressive or overly passive.

2. Sinful nature. Our temperament can encourage us to sin, but our sinful nature fuels the fire of encouragement. It is our sinful nature that blindly leads us into believing we are justified for all of our actions. It encourages us to be selfish. It encourages us to act on impulse. It encourages us to twist Scripture to fit our selfish desires.

3. Forgetting the basics. Scripture is pretty simple when it comes to conflict. Whether we perceive we are at fault, or we perceive that the other person is at fault, Scripture tells us it is our job to go to the other person. Jesus himself puts the onus on us. In Mt. 5:23-24 he says:

23So if you are about to place your gift on the altar and remember that someone is angry with you, 24leave your gift there in front of the altar. Make peace with that person, then come back and offer your gift to God. [CEV]

I would paraphrase that passage in this way, “If you are going to church and you find out someone is angry with you, postpone going, go and make peace with that person. Then go to church.” We typically do not do this. Instead, we place the burden on the person, who has the problem with us, and insist on waiting upon them to make the first move.

Now we have got a problem. We are distracted throughout worship thinking about the one who has something against us. If we are not careful, we dwell on our guilt, or we cultivate our justification for why we behave well and why the other person should not be upset with us.

Moreover, we tempt the other person to sin. Jesus has already given us the responsibility to confront the other person. The ball is placed in our court BY JESUS. The longer we hold the ball, the easier it will be for the person who has something against us to behave inappropriately.

In Matt. 18, Jesus offers counsel for those who have been hurt:

15-17"If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you've made a friend. If he won't listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won't listen, tell the church. If he won't listen to the church, you'll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God's forgiving love. [The Message]

Now, what is it we normally do? Do we not normally go to someone else about another who has hurt us?

Perhaps, we fear we cannot trust the person whom we believe has hurt us. Perhaps, we are afraid of the conflict. Regardless, we sin by refusing to follow Jesus’ words and instead replace them with our own opinion of how the offender treated us wrongly.

Typically, we bring someone else into the equation before it is appropriate. This breeds distrust, slander, and gossip.

In a couple of weeks, I will be preaching a follow-up sermon to yesterday’s on homosexuality. I want to deal with the question brought up to me: how does the Christian treat the homosexual? We are always ready to turn to Romans chapter one, for Paul condemns homosexual practices. And, there is nothing wrong with this. However, we tend to ignore the following verses:

28Since these people refused even to think about God, he let their useless minds rule over them. That's why they do all sorts of indecent things. 29They are evil, wicked, and greedy, as well as mean in every possible way. They want what others have, and they murder, argue, cheat, and are hard to get along with. They gossip, 30say cruel things about others, and hate God. They are proud, conceited, and boastful, always thinking up new ways to do evil.(CEV)

I have never been part of a church that has been scandalized by homosexuality. I know those churches are out there, but I have never been part of one. However I have been part of churches scandalized by gossip, mean-spiritedness, poorly chosen words, all rooted in an inability to deal with conflict.

It is interesting; someone asked me a question the other day, I want to ask you. Where, in Scripture, is a person, who is a follower of God, described as one who consistently engages in gossip, slander, complaining…? In essence, where in scripture does a follower of God demonstrate a continued inability to deal with conflict? E-mail me the answer, please. I would like to know.

I can name the persons, who battled with sexual sin. I can share with you those who battled with life as prostitutes and adulterers, whom God loved and who will be with God forever in heaven. I can share with you murderers from Scripture, whom God has accepted.

Some of the greatest things in my life have come through conflict and resolution. Some of the greatest events in Iraq country's history have been born in conflict and resolution. Some of the greatest events in Scripture are brought to us courtesy of conflict and resolution.

Will we, in churches, choose to escape conflict, or see it as an opportunity?

Five Things I Think I Think (with a nod to Peter King for this idea)

1. I notice that with my iPhone, I am depending more and more on my apps for following the news. I sit in my pick up while in line at a McDonalds, stand in line at the bank, or sit at home while watching sports, and check on the news. I like the app NEWS FUSE because it gives me different sources such as BBC, AP, MSNBC, New York Times, and USA Today. I no longer read newspapers and rarely watch television news.

2. Of course, I still try to catch Dale Hansen’s WFAA channel 8 sports report Monday through Friday.

3. The Mavs losing to San Antonio makes it three out of the last four years they have lost in the first round of the playoffs. When they lost to the Heat in 2006, I ached for the lost opportunity. It now appears to have been their only opportunity to win. I’m glad I did not know that then.

4. Thanks Shiloh for being a church where I can preach an entire sermon on homosexuality, be frank and blunt, and not fear for my job.

5. CITY LIGHTS, by Charlie Chaplin, is considered one of the top 100 movies of all time. It is a silent movie. Over the past seven days, I have watched it three times. The first time, I watched it while working out on the treadmill. I thought so much of it; I showed it to my seniors at ETCA. They were so impressed by it; I showed it to my entire family at home. They enjoyed it as well. Is it a comedy, a drama, or a love story? The answer is all three. Watch the entire movie. Laugh and track the plot. The payoff comes in the final scene.