Friday, February 26, 2010

Even if we lose everything

It hit me afresh last night. I noticed that I was a couple of items short for a crock pot recipe that I wanted to do today. So I drove to Wal-Mart at 8:00 p.m. and found a parking lot that was jaw-droppingly empty. Inside there were virtually no customers in sight. I did not expect the place to be booming at 8:00 on a Thursday night, but you would have thought it was 3 in the morning. It was truly surreal.

I continue to hear story after story from business owners whose business is way off. I continue to notice the unprecedented length of the foreclosure listings in the local paper. Our food pantry continues to run out of food hours sooner than it used to in the monthly distributions.

The economy continues to be really, really bad in these parts.

The conventional wisdom is that a resort community like this one is the first to go into a recession and the last to come out of it. Much of our economy is dependent on people taking vacations, buying beach houses and retirees adding a deck or a sun room to their place. When people are worried about the future they don't spend much if any money on such things. We've been feeling the pinch in a serious way for several years now.

The empty parking lot and vacant aisles at Wal-Mart last night made me think of Habakkuk 3:17-19a:
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the
vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though
there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice
in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my
strength ... (TNIV)

In the agrarian culture in which these words were written they depicted a situation of losing everything, economically speaking. It would be sort of like someone saying today:

Though my bank account and my wallet are empty, though my
cupboards are bare and I can't buy any food, though the bank repossesses my car and forecloses on my house, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength.

Can we join Habakkuk in such a statement of faith? I do not mean for a moment to diminish the very real pain that many in this area are experiencing in these days. But it is precisely because of such pain that it is a good time to ask ourselves, is the Lord truly our strength? If so, then is it possible for us to be joyful even in these days?

While he was in chains, Paul wrote, "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:12-13).

These are hard times in these parts and there is much heartache associated with them. And it is in these times that we must draw on the deep resources of our faith for strength. Through the mysterious wonder of our connection with Christ the Bible indicates that we can be joyful in our Savior even if we lose everything.

Do we believe this?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Someone(s) tried hard to hide this story from you

It really bugs me that I can't find it. I thought I knew where it was but I was wrong and I just don't have time to hunt anymore. If anyone actually reads this entry maybe you can help me find it.

I was looking for the portion of Timothy B. Tyson's book entitled Blood Done Sign My Name in which he recounts how he had a really tough time time obtaining the historical documents that would help him to tell the story of a very dark chapter of North Carolina history. I don't remember all the details now, but I remember enough to say that it is obvious to me that someone or some group does not want for this story to be told.

If I remember correctly, Tyson went to Oxford, North Carolina, where this bloody episode unfolded, and discovered that the documents had been removed from the spots they should be. Newspaper issues for the period in question were missing from the library and, as I recall, from the newspaper office as well. At the state archives in Raleigh the pertinent documents were gone.

He went to the police department in Oxford and inquired about the documents and he was told they were lost or destroyed. If I have this right, as he was leaving, he noticed some stairs leading to a basement at the police department. He went down them and found the door unlocked and entered. In the room behind that door he found some old files, including one containing the newspaper clippings of the period in question. He took the file, copied the documents and returned it. Later he returned to that basement and the file was gone. After he completed a Masters thesis on this story and donated it to the public library in Oxford, he returned and found that someone had torn out the pages recounting the ugliest part of the story.

Again, I am obviously fuzzy on the details and I am sure that someone out there can point me to the page number of Blood Done Sign My Name that can help me to get it right. But it is abundantly clear that some individual or group does not want for you to know this story, which is exactly why you should read Blood Done Sign My Name. The movie based on the book was released yesterday and you should see that too. But you need to read the book. There is a lot more in the print version and this story needs to be known and remembered so that we might learn from our mistakes.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Females preach in the Bible so they should preach in our churches

"Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided." (Judges 4:4-5, TNIV)

"Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, Akbor, Shaphan and Asaiah went to speak to the prophet Huldah, who was the wife of Shallum son of Tikvah, the son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe. She lived in Jerusalem, in the New Quarter." (2 Kings 22:14, TNIV)

"In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy ..." (Acts 2:17, TNIV cf. Joel 2:28)

"Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied." (Acts 21:8-9, TNIV)

In the biblical sense, prophesying is proclaiming a message from God. Preaching is all about proclaiming a message from God. Prophesying is preaching. Above are some of the biblical instances of females being called prophets. In other words, we have passages in the Bible that identify females as preachers. Because females preach in the Bible they should be allowed to preach in our churches.

It really is that simple. I am convinced that those who still bar females from preaching do so based on cultural norms rather than biblical teaching. There is just no getting around the fact that the Bible says women proclaimed the word of God and that's preaching.

I once heard a leading evangelical who opposes female preachers say that there is some debate about what exactly the biblical concept of prophecy is all about. I found his analysis terribly flawed. While the exact expression of biblical prophecy varies widely, at a basic level, the fact remains that prophecy is the proclamation of the word of God and that's preaching.

But there is a larger issue. Even that leading evangelical goes so far as to say there is a debate about the meaning of the biblical concept of prophecy. Again, I find his analysis flawed, but even he acknowledged there is a debate.

Okay, we have gifted and dedicated females in our society who believe God has called them to preach. Should those females be disqualified from responding to that calling based on an acknowledged debatable point of biblical interpretation? Again, I don't consider the matter debatable--prophecy is preaching and so females in the Bible preached. But for those who take the other side of this issue I think it is dangerous to bar a whole class of humanity, comprising half the population of the planet, based on a "debatable" point.

It is a serious thing to interfere with a calling from God. Better to let each person answer to God for his or her own calling.

I bring this up because
Baptist Women in Ministry is promoting the Martha Stearns Marshall Month of Preaching this month. You let your sons preach. How about following the rest of Acts 2:17 and let your daughters preach too.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The biggest betting day of the year

Here is the first definition of the word gamble at "to play at any game of chance for money or other stakes." In this sense of the word I consider gambling a violation of biblical teaching. No, there is no verse in the Bible that specifically says, "Thou shalt not gamble." But betting on games of chance is about placing one's faith in a jackpot rather than Jesus and he said that you cannot serve both God and money (Mat. 6:24).

This is why I have never bought a lottery ticket and I hope you never do. I have never gambled at one of the Sweepstakes places that are becoming as prevalent as grains of sand in our area. Super Bowl Sunday is upon us, the biggest betting day of the year, and I will not be putting any money on the game. Playing games of chance for money is a poor investment that can become addicting and the practice cuts against the grain of biblical teaching.

But there is another sense in which we are all gamblers. Here is definition number five of the word "gamble" at "to take a chance on; venture; risk." In this sense we all place our bets every day. We bet the moments of our lives on a way of living. On the verge of the biggest betting day of the year it is a good time to ponder where we are betting our lives because we are all placing that bet in every moment that we draw breath.

In Luke 5:11 we learn that the first disciples to follow Jesus "left everything and followed him" (TNIV). They bet it all on following Jesus. Is he worth that sort of gamble?

Yes, he is.