Thursday, June 24, 2010

God's Plan for Victory

I am now reading Shiloh, a historical novel by Shelby Foote about the Civil War battle of the same name. On the first day of the battle, the South routed Union troops, forcing thousands of blue-coated soldiers to quit the battlefield in fear. But late in the day, Union reinforcements arrived on steamboats. The novel depicts Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest pleading with his fellow Southern leaders for a night attack against these newly arrived troops. He reasoned that if they allowed these new troops to get off the boats safely, the next day they would have to fight a much stronger force. Instead, he said, they should strike now and end the battle while they had the advantage. Every other Confederate general refused to fight, however, saying their men were too tired after a grueling battle.

There is a strategy to winning a war. One reason that many of us enjoy games of strategy, from chess to Scrabble to baseball to backgammon, is that we employ those same thinking skills in a less violent undertaking. In all of those cases, winning occurs through sound reason, strict discipline, and anticipating our enemy's moves.

Scripture tells us that there is an unseen war going on in our lives, a battle between the forces of good and evil. God's side is stronger, without a doubt, but if we live in ignorance of this war, we can unwittingly aid the enemy's side. This Sunday, we'll conclude our study of Ephesians with a look at this unseen battle and how we can win, from Ephesians 6:10-18. It's Lord's Supper Sunday, so come ready to observe the sacrifice of our Lord, too.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Changing the World Through Being a Good Neighbor

I found this article in the Baptist Standard, and just had to share it with you all. First, because it's about a good friend of mine. John Wills was Carrie's youth minister when she was a teenager, and performed our wedding. I had lost touch with him in recent years, so I was thrilled to see an article about his new ministry. But second and more important, I wanted you to read about his approach to evangelism. I can only describe it as changing the world through being a good neighbor. This is the sort of evangelism many Christians today would feel very comfortable engaging in. And in a world where people crave real community, it might be the most effective method of all. Enjoy: Click here

God's Plan for His Church

One year, I went to a Middle School near my house to participate in See You at the Pole. For the uninitiated, See You at the Pole is a student-led event that happens on school campuses every September. Kids gather around their flag pole before class to pray for their school and our country. That day, as the kids prayed together, I noticed that there was a large stray dog who had wandered into the gathering. He was a pretty scruffy looking character, and he must have been attracted to this big group of people. At the end, we all made a huge circle around the flagpole for a final large group prayer. When we said amen, I noticed that the dog was surrounded by kids. All of them were petting him, scratching behind his ears. And this dog was in heaven. I've never seen a tail wag that hard. It struck me that this is what the Church is about. Needy, lost, unloved people should be drawn to us, and they should get showered with the love of God through the hands of people like you and me. That's the way it's supposed to work.

In our study of Ephesians, we've talked about God's plan for the world, for individual people, and for peace. All of those plans are meant to be accomplished through the Church. Organized Christianity has taken its share of lumps in recent years--most of them deserved. But the Church, with all its flaws, is still God's Plan A for accomplishing His transformative work on Earth. As far as I know, there is no Plan B.

So what part do we play in this? God expects us to be the "hands" of His Church. This Sunday we'll look at Ephesians 4:1-16, and see God's Plan for His Church.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

God's Plan for Peace

Last night, I saw injustice in action. I had a baseball game on TV as background noise, when suddenly they switched to a different game, between Detroit and Cleveland. It was the bottom of the ninth inning. Detroit pitcher Armando Galarraga was three outs away from a perfect game--27 batters up, 27 outs. I called my kids into the room. "You have to watch this," I said, "A perfect game almost never happens." The first two batters were retired, one on a sensational over-the-shoulder catch by Detroit's centerfielder. Just one out to go...a soft ground ball on the right side of the infield...a close play at first...and the umpire called him...SAFE. The perfect game was ruined.

Only it was the wrong call. Replays showed it clearly; the runner should have been called out. My daughter Kayleigh doesn't watch a lot of baseball, and she was confused. "Aren't they going to review it? Won't the other umpires come and tell him what really happened? Can't he change his mind?" But a call in baseball, once made, stands forever. Armando Galarraga is an average major league pitcher (he was in the minor leagues as recently as last month). This was most likely his only shot at baseball immortality, and it was stolen from him.

Oddly, I found myself feeling sorry for the umpire, Jim Joyce, a man with 22 years of experience who has umpired World Series games. To his credit, Joyce admitted after seeing a replay that he was wrong. "It's the biggest call of my career," Joyce said, "I just cost this kid a perfect game." But there's no going back. The toothpaste is out of the tube.

We live in a world of injustice. It is a world filled with hatred, violence, bitterness and prejudice. If we believed our God was oblivious to these things, He wouldn't be much of a God. But of course, He is not oblivious. He has a plan to right the wrongs. The Jim Joyce in all of us has an opportunity to be forgiven and--even better--reconciled to God and to those who have been oppressed. This Sunday we'll talk a close look at Ephesians 2:11-22 at God's plan for peace on Earth. See you then.