Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas or Christmas Season? [2]

The old year is nearly gone and the New Year is almost upon us.  For many this conjures up thoughts of parties, a new beginning, bowl games and resolutions.  I must confess, for the past several years (10 or so) I have not been a fan of “New Year’s Resolutions”.  However, in light of the Christmas Season I have started to think of them differently. 

A reason I have had an aversion to New Year’s Resolutions is simple; why wait?  E.g., in 2012 I am going to 1) lose weight, 2) get organized, 3) spend less & save more, 4) quit smoking, 10) spend more time with family, etc.   I am not opposed to any of those things.  Yet in the past I would think, “If they are so important…why wait?  Why not start to change now…?”  Have you ever been around someone going on a diet – or gone on one yourself?  If so I am certain this is familiar, “My diet starts in three days (or next year)…so I have until then to eat whatever I want…”  Add into this way of thinking any New Year’s resolution and it can be twisted into a free for all time period because after all, "in 2012 I am going to do better."  However, after a week (estimates and statistics vary), three out of four New Year’s resolutions will have been broken (click on the 1/6/10 radio spot in the new window).  There are a variety of factors for why New Year’s Resolutions fail.  One is the simple fact that change is difficult.  Yet I wonder if a “last minute free for all” also sets us up for failure.    

Be those things as they may be; why am I having a change of thinking toward New Year’s Resolutions?  It is tied into the reality of the Christmas Season.  When our focus shifts from a day (or a few family gatherings) to a celebration of the Incarnation, and its implications, the stage is set for everything to change.  Indeed, it brings fresh meaning to “out with the old and in with the new” (cf. 2Cor5:17).

All that makes a New Year exciting in the minds of many needs to be brought under the Lordship of Jesus – the Christ.  After all, “New Year’s Day” is found within the Christmas Season.  Yet what difference does this make?  For starters, it ought to bring about a shift in some, if not all, of our resolutions.  Why not resolve to get to know a neighbor down the street (even next door) and begin praying – earnestly – for them to submit their life to Jesus?  Why not get accountability in this task of neighbor evangelism?  Why not, in light of the Incarnation, seek to live an incarnational life among people who really need to know God’s love?    

In other words, with a New Year nearly upon us, what changes for the sake of the Kingdom will you make?  Take some time today and reflect on the past year in light of the Incarnation.  What difference has it really made in me?  What would others say?  Have I loved those who are “unlovely” (e.g., a bad boss, an unfriendly neighbor, a social outcast, etc.) in the eyes of the world?  Have I loved what is unlovely in the eyes of God?  How has the reality of the Incarnation impacted how I have spent money?  Etc.

Yes, the Christmas Season changes everything – even the approach a follower of Jesus ought to take with a New Year upon us.  Oh yes, and as far as a “free for all” prior to making a big change at the start of a New Year, this is still problematic.  Yet if a change is to be lasting it must be empowered by the Holy Spirit of God…and this takes prayer. 

So how about something like this?  View Advent as a time of fasting and prayer as we long for the return of Jesus.  During this time I am certain the Holy Spirit will reveal some changes God desires in your life.  Next, view the Christmas Season as a springboard to put these godly changes into practice.  This sounds a lot better than the typical approach to the New Year and resolutions.  And you know what?  I bet a lot of the things in a typical “resolution list” will work themselves out as byproducts of growing closer to God. 

Merry Christmas – and let our hearts turn even more to having the New Year honor the One who owns all of time anyway.  

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas or Christmas Season? [1]

Christmas Day has come and gone.  Since it fell on Sunday this year it allowed for families to have multiple “Christmases” on consecutive days (e.g., Friday evening, Saturday, Sunday and perhaps Monday if work/vacation schedules allowed).  I am certain these Christmas family gatherings were enjoyable for many; I am thankful for this.  Unfortunately more than a few gatherings were likely filled with stress and strife, but we will not focus here – yet.  Be that as it may be, unless you still have some family Christmas gatherings to go, it is quite possible the “Christmas Spirit” has been – or will shortly be – in decline.  Do you sense something wrong with this scenario?  After all, Christmas is (in the wrong way) built up for weeks on end.  Our culture seeks to trump up a festive and even family focused time – topped off with social gatherings, songs, drinks and oh yes…presents… and when all of that is “done” – what?  Well, we are programmed by culture to move on with our lives.  Again, do you sense something wrong with this scenario? 

If you if you have read recent posts on this blog you will remember Christmas is more than a day, it is an entire season.  The Christmas Season starts Christmas Day and lasts for 12 days with Epiphany attached to the end of it (January 6th).  At this point you may be wondering what this has to do with anything.  In other words, does it make any difference at all? 

Since the Christmas Season is just that – a season – and its focus is a celebration of the Incarnation of Jesus – not His birth so much – there are many of implications of this.  I want to be clear; I am not opposed to acknowledging/celebrating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth during this time of year.  However, a celebration of His birth ought to have a longer lasting impact on Christians than it appears to have in our culture.  In order to begin to see some of this we will briefly look at what is used in conjunction with the name Jesus in the Bible.   

The name Jesus is used 917 times in the Greek New Testament (920 times in the English Standard Version).  Well over a third of those occurrences have a title attached to Jesus (e.g., Lord or Christ).  Even on the surface this seems rather significant.  Yet the significance grows when we acknowledge the gospels alone have 566 uses of Jesus’ name in them.  As you likely know, gospels contain a lot of narrative.  This means we quite often read phrases like “Then Jesus came from Galilee” (Matt3:13) or “And when Jesus entered Peter’s house” (Matt8:14).  While these are uses of the name Jesus, they are from the vantage point of telling a story.  Granted, these stories do in fact point to His identity.  Yet I want to look at documents, written to Christians, in light of the known/asserted identity of Jesus.  Therefore, we will set the uses of Jesus in the gospels aside for now. 

This means in the rest of the Greek New Testament Jesus is mentioned 351 times.  Of those 351 uses of Jesus’ name, 330 of them have some combination of (in Greek word order) “Jesus Christ,” “Lord Jesus,” “Christ Jesus,” or “savior Jesus”.  In other words, outside of the gospels, 94% (330/351) of the time the name Jesus occurs, a title is attached to it.  This is not only significant, it is astounding.  It is significant because when we realize the implications of those titles – well, Jesus changes everything.  It is astounding because what those titles claimed in the ancient world is huge.  Therefore, well – the identity Jesus changes everything.  [Note: I will have a more statistically detailed blog in the future.]

This is where the Christmas Season becomes even more important as we celebrate the miracle of the Incarnation.  When we realize Jesus is a Savior and Lord and God’s Messiah (THE Anointed One – Christ), it makes a lot more sense to celebrate a season and not simply a day.  Indeed, the implications of the identity of Jesus have implications for the lives of individuals as well as every culture in the world.  

There is no need for the “post Christmas blues” in light of who Jesus is!!!    

Friday, December 23, 2011

Advent or Christmas? [4]

So how was Advent lost and Christmas distorted into a commercialized crock?  Granted Advent has not been lost for everyone, nor has everyone bought into the commercialization of Christmas.  Yet culturally speaking this is certainly the case.  This is vital to acknowledge because our culture impacts every single one of us. 

I want to be clear.  This is a struggle for me.  I have many good Christmas memories.  I enjoy being with biological family.  I enjoy a day off (sort of – if it falls during the week).  I even enjoy receiving (and of course giving) gifts.  Yet I cannot help but think Christians would really enjoy more people coming into the Kingdom of God.  I cannot help but think Christians would really enjoy seeing the bonds of oppression being broken.  I cannot help but think Christians would really enjoy seeing brothers and sisters around the world having provision for daily necessities in the name of Jesus.  I cannot help but think Christians would be overwhelmed with joy as the communities in which they live are transformed by the grace and love of God… 

With that stated (and many things being left out), I do not know the answer to my opening question.  However, I am quite certain it is tied to the economy.  I imagine most things in an affluent culture are.  The author of this post seems to think this is the case.  So what do we do?  I think pondering the principles and implications (which are more numerous than the few mentioned) of the previous three posts is a start.  There is certainly a need to evaluate and rethink what we do in light of what the Bible says.  This is necessary in being a part of a Kingdom which transcends and trumps all cultures. 

Yet as this is done, do not be legalistic.  When conviction comes to you that change needs to be made, seek godly wisdom in how to implement the change(s) in your family first.  As with any change, there will be a time of adjustment.  As your family changes, do not impose your change(s) on others.  Naturally this would be done with good intentions.  Sadly it often has disastrous results.  In fact, all legalism has disastrous results.  Yet by all means, share your new knowledge and some of the things it is leading you to do as you seek to follow Jesus more closely.  Yet do so with humility and grace. 

Please understand, this does not invalidate your change(s).  Neither does this say others should not make the same change(s).  What this does is acknowledge forced change is not lasting and godly change.  Our Christian walk is a journey and we are all at different stages.  I want to be clear again, this is not a call for complacency.  Rather, it is a call for grace and encouragement.  Changed lives lead to more changed lives as they are lived out in community.  However, simply telling others to change merely leads to closed ears and hearts.  For certain the miracle of Incarnation has shown us that… 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Advent or Christmas? [3]

The last post ended with a statement of how when we long for the return of Jesus during this time of Advent, it ought to reorient everything in our lives – finances included. 

Do you know what I find increasingly disturbing about this time of year?  In our consumer oriented society it is easy to think some “may not have much of a Christmas”.  Quite often those meant by the previous phrase are the ones pushed to the edges of society which includes – but is not limited to – the poor.  One problem with this belief is its gross historical inaccuracy.  It is foolish to think “the poor” and “the forgotten” cannot celebrate Christmas [see endnote].  It is true they may not be able to celebrate it in a culturally appropriate/normal way, but this is far different from thinking they cannot celebrate Christmas.  Indeed, given the distinction between Christmas and Advent, “those people” are actually in a better position to appreciate Advent and therefore truly get the Christmas Season more than many others.  

Did you know the Bible indicates Joseph and Mary were poor?  The sacrifice they presented for their purification in Luke chapter two was “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons” (Lk2:22-24).  By reading in the Old Testament we see this was an acceptable offering for one who was “poor” (cf. Leviticus chapter 12, especially verse eight).  Indeed, being “poor” did not stop them from experiencing the marvel of the incarnation.  Luke also tells us shepherds were among the first to know of Jesus’ birth.  While I cannot say they were poor – although the majority of people in Biblical times were – I can say shepherds were often despised by religious people.  Why?  They were looked down upon because their work kept them from participating in religious festivities (never mind the fact their work made many religious festivities possible; i.e., lambs to sacrifice). 

So the poor, along with those who were despised, overlooked, or taken for granted (however you want to say it) all got to experience the miracle of the incarnation.  Granted, neither the shepherds nor Joseph and Mary knew the full implications of Jesus at the time.  Yet do not miss this – the best news in the history of the world was made known to those among “the least of these” first. 

So what does this have to do with finances?  It is easy to think, at least in a culture where Christmas has been commercialized into a “Christ-mess”, that without finances one will miss out on this time of year.  Culturally there is truth to this.  However, a hard truth is financial stability far too often leads to being comfortable and complacent (it can also lead to worry and greed – but that is another issue).  When people are comfortable and complacent…there is not much urgency.  There is not much longing for Jesus to return.  I realize this is not a blanket rule – but our culture pretty much shows it is… 

So what can be done?  Since God’s rule includes provision for everyone…Christians ought to be turning loose of finances (and using other means) to help “the poor” and “the forgotten”.  This is a natural outflow of both Advent and the Christmas Season. 

Until next time, Holy Advent to you. 

Endnote: I am in favor of helping the less fortunate experience some happiness by being able to have and give gifts during this time of year.  In fact, this is an overflow of Advent. While we long for the return of Jesus, when all needs will be met, we (the body of Christ) rise up to do our part in meeting needs in the here and now.  Granted, Christmas gifts are not usually “needs” – but it is a way to show the love of God, which is a need.  Plus, things on the Christmas list for many of “the poor” truly are needs – things like coats, shoes, even a job…  In fact, some organizations (like World Vision and Christian Missionary Fellowship) have Christmas catalogues where gifts can be purchased for those in the two thirds world (commonly called in the past “3rd world countries”).  

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Advent or Christmas? [2]

With a very basic groundwork of Advent and Christmas in place, let us begin to look at some implications.

Quite often the holiday season (if I dare type that) is a difficult one for people.  Although our culture seeks to trump up a festive and even family focused time – topped off with social gatherings, songs, drinks and oh yes…presents – a variety of things make this season a difficult one.  A major difficulty for many during the holiday season is the unfortunate reality of death.  Have you ever lost a loved one?  Did you miss them the first time the holidays (or any special day) rolled around?  Sure you did.  In fact, you likely still miss the person even if it has been 20 years, or longer. 

So how can a focus on Advent help?  It can help because Advent reminds us this world is not our home.  This world will pass away and our sojourn here will be revealed as extremely short.  There ought to be no denying this world is a mess.  Horrific things happen here; people are oppressed and abused, forgotten and ridiculed, even murdered and worse.  Yet Advent reminds us none of those occurrences will have the last word.   

Let us move back to the reality that the death of loved ones often makes this time of year difficult.  Advent reminds us one day there will be no more death (Rev21:4).  Advent reminds us our King, Jesus, will one day return and everything will be made new (Rev21:5)!  We, along with our deceased loved ones in Christ, will receive resurrection bodies!  Indeed, the faithful in Christ on earth will meet the deceased in Christ who are currently with Him, and we all will come back to this refined earth together (cf. 1Thess4:13ff; 2Pet3:8-13).  At that point we will then, and forever more be, in the presence of God!! 

The truth and focus of Advent helps to take some of the sting out of missing a loved one.  Granted, grief is still real and memories will bring a mixture of happiness and sorrow.  Yet the neglected Christmas story of Revelation chapter 12 reminds us there is a cosmic battle raging all around us.  This battle is over the eternal destiny of humanity.  We will not get this message from the commercialization of Christmas in our culture.  Quite the contrary, our culture wants to lull us into complacency and put forth comfort after comfort, luxury after luxury, until we are so inundated with them that if we miss one we feel less fortunate and deprived. 

While we may still miss loved ones, a focus on Advent – longing for the return of Jesus – tempers this grief.  In fact, it gives us hope because one day things will be made right.  One day loved ones will be reunited (and the oppressed and abused will be healthy and whole, the forgotten and ridiculed will have God wipe away tears from their eyes as they realize – for the first time perhaps – they have worth and value) – what a glorious day it will be!!  The worth of Advent is immeasurable for the Christian community.  Indeed, Advent’s worth is immeasurable for all humanity.  As we long for the return of Jesus it ought to reorient everything in our lives; one of these areas is the realm of finances. 

May you continue to experience a Holy Advent.  

Friday, December 16, 2011

Advent or Christmas? [1]

Have you ever been upset about something and even “fought” for said thing, only to later learn you were either all worked up about nothing or worse yet, wrong?  Take the uproar caused by some (well meaning) people who will fight and even boycott a store which does not say “Merry Christmas” during this time of year.  While there is validity in trying to “keep Christ in Christmas,” unfortunately the whole thought process is standing on a faulty foundation.  In other words good intentions can be misguided, even harmful. 

Speaking from a historical vantage point, we are in the season of Advent.  Advent begins the Sunday closest to the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, which is November 30th, and lasts four Sundays.  This year Advent stretches from November 27th until December 24th.  Christmas Day begins the Christmas Season, which always lasts 12 days until the 5th of January (the 6th being Epiphany).  This means Christmas is more than a mere day.  This makes sense as the implications of Christmas impact everything.  We all know a mere day can be easily lost in the shuffle of the busyness of our lives.  Yet the Christmas Season is a celebration of the Incarnation – a history altering event!  This also means saying “Merry Christmas” is not technically accurate until the 25th of December, but do not worry – you can keep saying it past the New Year! 

A variety of questions may come into one’s mind right now.  A few of them may be: Why does this matter? Who cares? How did this happen? Can we do anything about this? Should we do anything about this?   

Firstly it matters because ignoring history is not wise.  While we should not be shackled by history, we should at least allow it to inform us.  Better yet, we should seek to make use of the godly principles we can learn from it.  Our forefathers (the saints who have gone on before us) were wise in establishing a Church Calendar.  Sadly, many outside of the more “liturgical churches” ignore it.  For Christians to ignore history is unnecessary and dangerous – even foolish. 

Secondly, Christians ought to care about the Advent and Christmas distinction.  It is HUGE.  The word Advent is a Latin translation of the Greek word parousia (parousiva), which basically means coming or presence.  In other words, the focus of Advent is on the first and second comings of Jesus.  Obviously these are vital to the Christian faith, yet they also have implications for everyone – regardless of religious beliefs.    

Thirdly, we ought to do something about it.  Unfortunately far too many Christians have been duped by culture.  We have become placated with less than the gospel message.  This time of year is full of good intentioned Christmas stories and Nativity scenes.  The efforts behind these are noble, and all of them can be a vehicle through which God works.  Yet a focus on Advent helps us to remember things are not as they appear.  The Christmas story told by the writer of the Gospel of John makes this very clear.  Yet if you turn to John you will not find it.  No, to read his account you need to turn to Revelation chapter 12.  Indeed, thing are rarely as they seem to be…  

I plan to have a succession of posts fleshing out the importance of this distinction in applicable ways for us.  In the mean time “Holy Advent” to you and yours.  

Thursday, December 8, 2011

What Would You Do If...? [5]

What would you do if money was not an issue?

If you had asked me that question 10 or so years ago I would have answered the question with a few of my own...  Does this mean I am rich?  Am I retired?  Am I dead?  Do I have an unending line of credit?  Can you give me some more information please - I would like to make the most of this opportunity!?!  Questions like those reveal a major stumbling block for Christians in an affluent culture.  In light of this we need a strong dose of behold!!

Granted, we do not make frequent use of "behold" in our daily conversations.  This is likely why some Bible translations will say "see" or "look" instead of "behold".  I understand using modern language to communicate a thought.  Yet what I do not understand is why, at times, translations completely omit the word (e.g., the NIV in both Rev21:3 and Rev21:5).  Behold is used to prompt us to take our eyes off our present circumstances.  We are to (literally) look up...even see things (in part) from God's perspective.  [Maybe I will cover behold in another post, but for now back to...]

Again, the opening question - What would you do if money was not an issue?  I ask this question because of what John wrote in verses 18 and 21 (v18 The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, like clear glass....v21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass...).  Do not miss what is being communicated here.  While it is possible the streets of Revelation are actually made out of gold, this is not the issue - at least something deeper is being communicated [see end note #1 at bottom of post].  When we allow an image/symbol to breathe - well it is breathtaking.

One issue we see in Rev21:18,21 is a beautiful - and challenging - irony.  Gold is valued more than almost anything else on earth (especially for monetary worth - in John's day and even ours with the "bull run" gold recently).  Yet John tells us what people will trample and kill other people for here on this fallen earth is only good enough for the feet of the saints in the new heaven and new earth!!  That is beautiful - and challenging - at the same time.

It is beautiful because it reminds us all humans are made in God's image and therefore have inherent worth, value, and dignity (cf. Gen1:27).  It is challenging because finances surface often in Revelation.  The issue pops up in the oracles to the seven churches (Rev2-3) and with the beasts of Revelation 13.  It is present again in the destruction of "Babylon" in sobering ways (cf. Rev18-19).  In light of the low economic status of many to whom Revelation was addressed, God says they will have access to the "water of life without payment" (Rev21:6) - and yes gold is only fit for the feet of His people (Rev21:18,21).

In light of these things, how do you view money?  In your hands is it a tool with which you can truly bless the Kingdom by blessing others?  What would you do if money was not an issue?  

This is a timely topic as we are in the season of Advent - NOT Christmas - right now.  But alas, that is another post for another day...

So, what would you do if money was not an issue?

#1 Remember, Revelation uses symbolism to communicate truths - in profound ways (e.g., Rev21:12 a "great high wall, with twelve gates..." - this would communicate safety and security in the ancient world as gates were for defensive purposes.  Yet just a bit later, in Rev21:25 we read "and its gates will never be shut by day...".  So what gives?  Huge walls and gates for security that are never shut?  Exactly, there is no need to shut them because evil is gone (cf. Rev21:1).  When we allow a symbol to breathe is is breathtaking for us...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

What Would You Do If...? [4]

How else should the truths contained in Revelation 21-22 shape us?

What would you do if you knew you were loved and valued?  While it may seem like a frivolous question; the reality is the answer to this is foundational for human behavior.

Every single person I know walks with a limp.  In other words, things have happened to them...and they leave a mark.  Some of these "things" have been done intentionally by others to inflict hurt.  Other "things" have been done in ignorance by people who love them - yet they still hurt.  Either way the truth remains, what happens to us shapes us. As a result we look for significance and meaning in a variety of wrong places (e.g., material things, job titles, improper sexual fulfillment/attention, tearing others down, drugs, etc.).

Read again John's words in Revelation 21:9-11,
9 Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, 11 having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.

I am sure you noticed John is going to see the bride, the wife of the Lamb.  By taking concepts from other passages (e.g., Matt25:1-13; Eph5:25-32) we know "she" is The Church.  This deduction is made concrete here in Revelation 21.  Yet added to this picture is how the holy city Jerusalem is also the bride...which is The Church.  So, more than a place, the concept being communicated here is about a people - God's people.

Speaking of God's people, the first description is that of a rare jewel, like a jasper.  The first time this stone/jewel appears in Revelation is in chapter four, which is when John gets a picture of One seated on the throne (Rev4:2 - God) who is described as having the appearance of jasper... (Rev4:3).  In other words, the people of God (Rev21) look a lot like God Himself (Rev4).  How is that for value?  It sounds a lot like Genesis 1:27, So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.  Everyone has inherent dignity worth and value because they are made in God's Image.  Granted, this image has been distorted due to the Fall...yet God's people are destined to again look a lot like Him.  

Yet we need to remind ourselves that God has revealed these truths to us (e.g., Gen1:27; Rev21:9-11) so that our lives are changed.  He wants us to live our lives with no doubt about our worth and value.  If God's people truly did this it would ignite a revolution of sacrificial love and service.  The truth is undeniable; the more inadequate we feel the more we are led to dwell on how bad we are, go into depression, attempt to "achieve" in order to look important, etc.  Yet living out of an overflowing reality of who we are as God sees us sets us free from those things.  And when we are free we are able to more fully love others around us (which is exactly what God does).

The longer I serve God the more I love people.  If only people could see themselves as loved and precious (because you are), and therefore not seek attention in the myriad of ways it is touted by the world, the more addictions and destructive behaviors would be overcome...the more God's people (myself included) would truly live as redeemed people.

What would you do if... (how would your life be different) you knew you were loved and valued?  Those who are most secure in their identity love others all the more - just think of Jesus.

Friday, November 25, 2011

What Would You Do If...? [3]

How should the truths of Revelation 21-22 shape us?  Remember, the only reason God reveals anything about Himself (which includes the future) is so that we conform to it.  However, while reading the last two chapters of the final book of the Bible, it is understandable why it is often ignored.  Yet we must not make the mistake of continuing to ignore Revelation (or abusing it) - the stakes are too high.

Let's take verse one of chapter 21, Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.  This verse is easy to quickly read over with hopes of getting to the "good stuff".  Yet in a sense the best stuff (at least the foundation for it) is contained right here.

The easiest, and perhaps most striking image is that of the sea being no more.  While water lovers among us may bemoan this concept, we need to understand what is being communicated.  In the Jewish mind the sea was the stock image for evil and chaos - it is the abyss.  This can be seen in Daniel 7 where four evil beasts (four kingdoms) arise out of the sea.  Likewise, in Revelation 13, one of the beasts emerges from the sea.  So when a Jew (and early Christian) heard sea they did not think beach and relaxation...rather they thought evil and chaos.  Therefore when John said "the sea was no more," he means all evil is gone.  Can you imagine that, a future devoid of evil?  And please, do not think "evil people".  Rather, think evil - as in the sinful thoughts and desires that wreak havoc on your own soul.  Won't it be amazing (truly liberating) for those to be gone?!?  A future without "evil" - how hopeful!

John also saw a new heaven and new earth.  This needs more explanation, but for now think of an old beat up car that has been restored to vintage (and maybe even better than) quality.  That is this word for new.  It is not "new out of nothing" new...but new in the sense of taking what exists and refining/purifying it.  It is a lot like what God does with us (cf. 2Cor5:17).

So let's stop here for now.  A future where both "heaven" and "earth" are refined and made new...and a part of this means no more evil is present.  One of the many things this does is give us hope.

We do ourselves a tremendous disservice when we do not focus on this hope more.  Somehow Satan has duped us into thinking heaven is escapist thinking and is of no help to daily life.  How many of you have ever felt a bit uneasy (or "churchy" or "religious") about saying to someone who is suffering that "One day...all of this stuff will be gone when Jesus comes back and everything is made new."  Granted, we should not make the mistake of offhandedly dismissing the pain and suffering of anyone.  Yet neither should we make the mistake of failing to bring hope into the picture.  What is the other alternative?  A future without hope looks something like, "Well, I know it is bad now...but you know what...that's just the way it's rough for some but not for others...the luck of the draw I guess..."  Yeah, that isn't much help.  In fact, that is more rude and calloused than bringing in the truth of the new heaven and new earth.

In light of that, why not say something similar to, "I don't know why this has happened to you (your loved one, etc.)...but rest assured a day is coming when Jesus will return...this world will be refined...all who are faithful to God will be able to live in a new heaven and new earth...nothing evil will ever happen again...we will live in relationships of harmony and mutual love (but that is going into a future post)..."

In summary, what would you do if you reminded yourself that this world is temporary and something much better is in store for us?  Remember, this does not ignore pain, suffering, evil, or anything like that.  Rather, it gives us a way to face it square in the face and with confidence say "You will not have the last God is going to make everything new!!"

Praise God for that!

What else would you do if...?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

What Would You Do If...? [2]

If you had a firm view of "heaven" in your mind - would your life be any different?  This question begs another, "Just what can we know about 'heaven'?" (more on that later).  Do you realize God wants what He has revealed about "heaven" to shape what it is we do in the present?  Think about it, why has God revealed anything about Himself?  So we change - right?

God has revealed Himself through creation (general revelation) so that people will respond by acknowledging something bigger than themselves.  A response to creation ought to be something like "Wow!!  This can't be an accident.  I wonder what kind of God/being made all of this...does He care for little ol' me?!?".

God revealed Himself through Jesus, His Son, so that we would see, more concretely, what God's desires are.  Ultimately, God desires the consummation of His Kingdom.  Until that day (when Jesus returns to renew all creation) God desires the lives of changed people to impact and transform the world for His glory.  A response to this revelation of God (i.e., Jesus) ought to include things like, "Jesus, save me!" "Jesus, You are my Lord!" "Jesus, I want to love people the way You love(d) people!"

God has revealed Himself through the Bible (His Word), so that we can have a record of Who God is, What God desires, and What God demands from us (this is a definition of prophecy offered by Shane J. Wood - I think it fits quite nicely for 'why the Bible' as well).  When we read the Bible it is not merely to pass the time, learn something new, or make a check next to our Christian "to do" list.  When we read the Bible we are to submit ourselves to It.  In other words, we ought to realize Scripture is the subject and we are the object - it pokes and prods our lives...and we are to conform to it.

In light of all of this, since God has revealed so much about "heaven" - why do we do ourselves a disservice and insult God by not studying and reflecting on it more?  Go ahead and read Revelation 21-22.  What is the big picture here?  How should concepts contained here shape us?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What Would You Do If...?

What immediately came to your mind when you read the title question for this post? 

What would you do if ________? 

Questions are powerful.  It could be argued that without questions there would be no advancement (however we want to define that term) in society.  It goes without saying that we are glad someone else asked, and answered, certain questions (e.g., I wonder what would happen if I squeezed that growth under the cow’s belly and then drank what came out of it? – OK, I think that is an old Jeff Foxworthy joke or something…). 

Be those things as they may be, questions are powerful.  In fact, it does not take much investigation to see how the questions being asked in a society play a major role (if not the major role) in shaping a society.  Yet before a society is shaped we know individuals need shaped first – right?  Evidently the questions you think about are important.  Of course individuals can also be shaped by a society – as the society poses certain questions (e.g., advertisements). 

How many times did you hear the question, “What are you going to be when you grow up?”  Did that have an impact on you?  If you are a parent, how many times have you asked that question?  What might that question convey to your children? 

If you are a parent how many times have you heard the question, “Mommy/Daddy, are we going to have any food to eat tonight?”  Oh, perhaps that has not been asked of you.  Evidently there are vitally important questions asked by many that others never even dream of having to ask.   

Yet one question everyone has asked in one way or another – no matter your culture or economic level – is, “What does the future hold in store for me?”  We all think about the future.  In fact, whether we realize it or not, what we think about the future will dictate our decisions in the present.  In light of that I think we can see that the questions we ask about the future are significant.  What do you think? 

What would you do if…?  

Friday, July 1, 2011

Confused About "God's Will"? [1]

What is God's Will?
  • a google search produced 27,300,000 results in .17 seconds...  
  • a search for books on produced 2,096 paperback books and 692 hardcover books...  
  • a survey on the street will likely produce at least half as many answers as people you ask (in other words a lot of variety with some overlap)

Should discerning God's will be this confusing?  Does God intend for it to be confusing at all?  Is all the confusion associated with our culture, or is it universal (i.e., do people in other parts of the world struggle as much with it as we seem to struggle?)?  Is all the confusion about God's will a recent development, or has it been a constant throughout history?  

Perhaps a reason why there is so much confusion about God's will is because a popular belief I often hear is  God "knows the plans He has for you...plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you hope and a future..." (cf. Jeremiah 29:11 - NIV).  Well there we have it; God has plans for you (and "me").  And if God has "plans for you" then that must be His will - right?  (We can add "everything happens for a reason" to this discussion...but that will likely be done next time.)  Before we leave the Jeremiah passage alone I simply ask you to read at least verse 10 along with verse 11 (God may indeed have hopes for you, but to whom was this text initially addressed?).

I am going to humbly suggest something.  Is it possible a reason there is so much confusion concerning "God's Will" is because we confuse God's desired response with His will?  What exactly do I mean by that?

God always wants faithfulness from His people - period.  I know we could say God wants us to "do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with" our God (cf. Micah 6:8).  We could also say God wants us to love Him with all we have and our neighbor as ourself (cf. Matthew 22:36-40).  Yet those responses fall under the umbrella of faithfulness to God.

So, God desires faithfulness - nothing more, nothing less.  And this is why we confuse God's desired response with His will.  E.g., "family A" suffers the loss of a child due to a tragic auto accident, but the remaining family members turn to God and their faith grows.  As a result they are not only closer as a family but a neighboring family comes to know Jesus because of the marvelous way in which the tragedy was handled.  Wow!!  That must have been "God's Will" - right?

Let us consider another example.  Here "family B" also suffers the loss of a child due to a tragic auto accident, but instead of turning to God the family turns their back on Him.  The family also breaks down and goes their separate ways; a neighboring family sees this and wants nothing to do with God, etc.  Wow!!  That must have been "God's Will" again, right!  Right?  Wrong.

God desires faithfulness.  Due to this Scriptural truth it is easy to confuse the response of "family A" with God's Will.  But again, what about the response of "family B"?  God's Will was for a family to turn their back on Him, be fragmented, and negatively influence neighbors for the Kingdom?  Really?!?  There is no doubt God can be glorified as a result of any life situation (e.g., Romans 8:28).  Yet this happens when people respond in faith to God.  Indeed, that is light years away from saying God causes all life situations to happen (note "causes" and not "allows").

The reality is, a lot of "stuff" happens because we live in a world impacted by sin (cf. Genesis 3; Romans 8:19-22).  So when thinking about "God's Will" allow the beautiful portrait Scripture paints to inform your thinking and not merely isolated verses and popular sayings in our culture.

Hmmm...maybe here is where part of the problem lies.  After all, it is a lot easier to be, with good intentions, searching for God's Will (praying, hoping, trying things - which if it does not go how we wanted it to then it must not have been God's Will) than it is to be sexually pure (1 Thessalonians 4:3) and to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18).  By the way, both of those areas are "God's Will" according to Paul.

As you can see this is [1] - of how many I do not yet know...

Friday, June 24, 2011

"Happy Birthday"

Time flies so quickly!  It is hard to believe our youngest daughter, Charis, is now a month seems like yesterday she was born.  It does seem a bit further back than yesterday for her big sister Ellei (who is 2yrs and 9mo today) - but not much further back.

Dates of birth usually receive a great deal of attention in our culture.  Quite often they bring family and friends together for a celebration.  Unfortunately it seems many parents go overboard, worry, stress, spend money they do not have, etc. - all for a party a child likely will not remember...  What we are to make of that is not my focus here.  Instead I will briefly focus on the other extreme - ignoring important "dates of birth".

How many Christians, especially those in the "Protestant" (what an ugly word) tradition, know today is John the Baptist's "birthday"?  It is sad, but true, that when The Church ignores the "Christian calendar" a cultural calendar will dominate Sunday mornings (and therefore the minds of many Christians).  Yet what does this mean exactly?  One example is how many congregations will make much ado about the "4th of July" next weekend (i.e., on the 3rd) - but John's name will scarcely be mentioned in a few days.  Another example is how many congregations likely touted "Mother's" and "Father's" Day recently - but Pentecost (perhaps) passed by with barely a whisper, let alone a sound like a mighty rushing wind.

Why do we do this?  I certainly do not know all the reasons - but one has got to be that we do not have a Kingdom focus.  Think about it, John was the herald of the coming King - Jesus.  Therefore John knew what was important; he preached about the Kingdom of God (e.g., Matt3:2).  Interestingly, Jesus preached the exact same message (e.g., Matt4:17).  Yet not only did Jesus preach the same message as John, Jesus commanded His disciples to preach the same thing as well (e.g., Matt10:7).  Hmmm, maybe The Church should focus a bit more on the Kingdom of God.
I have hopes and dreams of an "extended advent season" in the future where I serve - but that will take a lot of preparatory prayer and work.  My hope is to ground it in God's show the needs for HisStory to impose itself on our cultural story (i.e., cultural norms).  In other words, for His Kingdom to trump everything else (e.g., our desires).  Unfortunately, it seems that is not a popular message.  After all, John's message started with "Repent..." - which implies a radical change had to be made.  

So "happy birthday" John.  May we learn to live as citizens of the Kingdom our King established.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

What Next? Apparently this...

It did not take too long for an explanation to come out concerning the failed "prophetic" prediction of Harold Camping.  You can click here for an article; the basic explanation is Camping was off by five months as this past Saturday was an "invisible judgment day" (how convenient), and October 21st is still the day the earth is going to be destroyed by a fireball (presumably a gigantic one).  Apparently, as you can read here, this dawned on him over the weekend. 

I wonder what happens with "the rapture" in light of this new revelation?  That is (unfortunately) a mainstay in the eschatology of many...but apparently Camping - err, I mean God - has no use for that now.   Apparently there is no use for the earth either as it will be destroyed...but I will leave that behind for now.

While far from being an exhaustive list, a few major options we have are to either a) believe Camping, b) dismiss him as a false prophet, c) go about life as normal and ignore eschatology because another prediction has failed, or d) take a serious look at eschatology and its implications.

I opt for "d" - but this is where many often do not like to go because of the belief eschatology is confusing.  This is unfortunate because the implications of eschatology are important...important enough God wanted them clearly communicated so His people would obey by them. Believe me, God does not want this to be confusing - why would He?

Indeed, many live unconcerned about eschatology due to ignorance.  Please note I did not say "stupidity"; we are all ignorant of many things - this is a fact of life.  So how about this, how about we shed light on some biblical teaching concerning eschatology in an attempt to remove the cover of ignorance?  While doing this together people will be able to form their own conclusions; e.g., reject the most commonly held eschatological teachings as false (e.g., a rapture, the earth being destroyed, etc.) and actively seek to live a life of readiness...OR accept what culture says is true about eschatology - and basically ignore it.

Open our eyes Lord...

Monday, May 23, 2011

What Next?

To the dismay of several, yet not to the surprise of most, "judgment day" did not occur this past Saturday.  I am not sure how Camping and his followers will adjust.  While I would like to say I could care less, as a follower of Jesus I am compelled to care (and therefore repent of a "care less" attitude).  Based on past predictions, which have ALL failed, it seems some will leave the group and others will become more entrenched in the belief based on an explanation of some sort.

Partially leaving the "Judgment Day" prediction of 5/21/11 behind for now, I turn our attention to the tornadoes of Saturday (Reading, KS) and Sunday (Joplin, MO) evenings.  What are Christians to do in response to those events?  Among other things we should offer help.  God's love is shown in times like these through His people.  Indeed, our interaction with others directly reveals how much we love God (cf. Mt22:34-40).

The reason I said 'partially leaving...' above is because I want to keep this discussion informed by eschatology, which ought to influence all Christian discussion.  Among other things, in Luke 13:1-5 Jesus tells us we should not be concerned about finding a "one-to-one" correlation between disaster and some sort of cause/sin.  Rather, Jesus tells us is we need to live a repentant life.  Living in light of eschatology ought to compel one to lead a repentant life.  So why don't we live in light of what the Bible teaches concerning "eschatology"?

Confusion is one answer.  I hope to post a bit about confusion in the near future.

Yet it also seems to me the very fact of living a repentant life is another struggle we have with living in light of biblical teaching on eschatology.  By and large people do not want to repent.  By and large people enjoy doing what they think is best.  By and large people enjoy the (supposed) comforts life in this world offers.  Yet what happens when those comforts are wiped out?

Alas, we are back to the tornadoes of Reading and Joplin (not to mention the recent flooding of the Mississippi and other tornadoes...or the earthquake/tsunami in Japan...or ______).  This is not to minimize the loss of lives and material things suffered recently, or at any other point in history, due to anything (such as a "natural disaster").  What it is intended to do is help us to realize an obvious reality; THINGS ARE NOT RIGHT IN THIS WORLD!!!

Somewhere around 22,000 children die of poverty related issues around the world every day.  The majority of those deaths are on different continents, which makes "out of sight and out of mind" very prevalent for us in the West.  However, when tragedy strikes closer to home it is harder to ignore the reality of this world being a mess.  At this point we have options.  CS Lewis said "pain is God's megaphone".  I am not saying God causes these horrible things to happen (views on this vary).  Yet I am saying we can either choose to listen to the pains of the world or ignore them (I do not know if there is another option).

Back to the Camping misguided as they were at least they acted on their beliefs.  I, for one, need to repent of not being shaped more by what I believe - which is shaped by what I know about eschatology.

Friday, May 20, 2011

After Saturday...

I readily admit, I am not well informed when it comes to popular culture.  I suppose I ought to be, yet I often rationalize I have better things to do.  Perhaps this is a reason why I have basically ignored the whole Harold Camping date-setting issue.  I have had a few private conversations with people, but nothing too much.    I knew better...

About a month ago (while relaxing and reflecting with a cup of coffee) I saw three moving billboards (2 vans and a box truck if I remember correctly) drive right past the Java Cat 5 window on a Thursday morning.  Their message, among other things, 5/21/11 is The End.  The other day my eye was drawn to a full page add in the USA Today on the issue as well.  Then yesterday an article in the Kansas City Star caught my eye as I tried to find the USA Today add online for another look.  I cannot ignore the issue any longer...

Thankfully my wife keeps me reigned in on the issue or else I would likely be quite abrasive.  So here goes: this (and all other date settings) are "unfortunate" [how's that for gentle honey :)].  One of the things this does is make The Church a laughing stock.  The general thinking is "If they can't get Jesus' 2nd coming right...why should we believe anything they say about His 1st coming?"  I find no fault in that logic.  Indeed, there are entire websites devoted to documenting failed predictions (there are also websites poking fun at the rapture in general - like "rapture ready pets" - but I am being nice and not, ummm...well, I am not talking about the "rapture" of the church here).

While I acknowledge this is not good for the unbeleiving world (e.g., it is another way in which they can write off The Church as irrelevant), the larger harm is for The Church internally.  Why?  This is another example/reason/excuse of why many see "eschatology" as irrelevant or too confusing.  Indeed, properly understood "eschatology" is the most important aspect of Christianity (I think I agree with that statement...).

What should The Church do?  1) We should begin praying (if we are not already) for those who are expecting the world to end and are going to be let down.  It would be tragic if some were to leave the faith due to a failed prediction.  2) We should begin praying Harold Camping will repent and be held accountable (Harold as well as many others who have done the same...).  3) We should begin praying the scoffing of non-believers will somehow (by God's grace) be turned into questioning and searching.  Pray God will use this too for His glory - somehow.  4) We should begin praying The Church will take "eschatology" seriously (I think #4 is a key to revival...).

A few years ago I did some Radio Spots on "the last days".  Please listen; there are several.  I am open for dialog if you disagree...but at least you have to agree I have used the Bible (and if you disagree please feel free to tell me why).  If you agree then share the link or this post.  There are other links and people to whom I can refer for the study of eschatology - I think I'll save that for a future post.  Yet Shane J Wood is too good to pass up; especially since I may not do a 2nd post (I have been known to do that you know).  I am certain what you will find will be informative.  Shane is one who takes eschatology seriously.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Indeed...a Shepherd

Today is Dr. Lowery’s funeral; yesterday was the visitation services.  Although it pains me to not be there; given the responsibilities of each day – and what I know of Dr. Lowery – he would have encouraged me not to come. 

Yesterday we had a Family (Congregational) meeting at New Life.  I could have been gone from preaching.  Yet the meeting was too important as we work toward more health as a body.  I think he would have agreed. 

Today my wife has a late afternoon baby appointment followed by a birthing class in the evening.  I am going to both.  With Melissa due mid-May I cannot justify leaving her home while I drive a long distance to “say goodbye”.  In fact, now that I think about it, I believe we (my wife Melissa, our daughter Ellei, and the baby still in Mommy’s tummy) will have our own little celebration and dance party for Dr. Lowery this afternoon after Ellei wakes from her nap.  I can almost hear Dr. Lowery’s hearty laugh of delight at such a thought/image. 

I relay the information of what we will do because of another aspect of Dr. Lowery.  A few days ago the focus was on the Scholar; today the focus is on the Shepherd.  Indeed, those two aspects fueled one another.  His study drove him to be a better shepherd; his love for people drove him to a deeper study of God’s word – which drove him to be a better shepherd…  Indeed, beautiful cycle. 

In the fall of 2004 I took Preaching from the New Testament with Dr. Lowery and Dr. Sackett.  During that week of class (an intensive week) I was not only introduced to Dr. Lowery the World-Class Scholar for the first time; I was also introduced to Dr. Lowery the Humble Shepherd as well. 

One way both Scholar & Shepherd were shown was how Dr. Lowery (as well as Dr. Sackett) offered affirmation and critique after I gave my sermon during the week of class.   

I also fondly remember both professors making time to pastor/shepherd those of us in the class.  Both men acknowledged difficulty in finding time to study God’s Word deeply while finding time to love people in tangible ways (i.e., be a shepherd).  Dr. Lowery mentioned the staggering number of unread emails which had accumulated in his Inbox since Monday morning (class from 8am-5pm coupled with prep time for the next day as well as family time does not leave much time for email).  Basically, you have to make time for what is important. 

The following fall I had a class over Revelation with Dr. Lowery (and 18 or so others).  Due to circumstances in our marriage, mid-week it became necessary to share some marital struggles my wife and I were experiencing.  These circumstances were first shared with only few of my classmates.  Yet these classmates (appropriately) shared with Dr. Lowery.  His concern was obvious as before class began for the day (which, remember, was focused on Revelation) time was made to pray for us.  Prayers for another marriage were included in this time, after which an appropriate break/breather was given.  

After the week of class, for a time, I kept everyone up to date on improvements in our marriage and desired prayer requests.  I kept Dr. Lowery up to date longer than others.  I did this because of his responses to my emails.  Last week I was moved to tears again in remembering how Dr. Lowery – despite having dozens and dozens of emails every day to answer – would answer mine.  I could reproduce what he shared with me in response to some of my email updates.  But it is sufficient to say they were specific and not a general “help/bless them God”. 

I also know this is not unique to me.  In one email reply he mentioned using a portion of Friday mornings to pray for students in ministry who are facing a variety of difficulties.  Given the 100’s he influenced I am certain that list was long. 

Indeed – a Shepherd…a Shepherd shaped by his Scholarship.  May we all conform to God’s Word.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Indeed...he's Dancing

Dr. Robert Lowery's earthly pilgrimage ended last night.  In lieu of what I had tentatively planned to enter today, what I will offer here is a conglomeration of thoughts and comments which have filled the web upon people learning of his death.  It ought to go without saying this is not exhaustive...  Yet I will say I think the most beautiful snippet you will find is the last one by Joe Mollet - a loved son-in-law (who I am certain was treated as a son).

My mentor and friend Dr. Robert Lowery just went to be with Jesus...I will do my best to carry on your legacy with honor friend...grace and peace
  • Shane J. Wood - via Facebook

Dr. Bob Lowery passed this evening around 6 pm. His family is very thankful for the prayers and words of comfort this week. Please continue to be in prayer for them, his friends, and his students. Bob is now dancing with the Lamb; we still face the Dragon. May his influence in our lives lend us strength to carry the battle forward.
  • Rob Peterson - via Facebook

My teacher, mentor, and friend Dr. Robert Lowery now is able to "behold" ... I look with hope toward the day when all will be made new. (Rev 21-22)
  • Jim Dalrymple - via Facebook

Revelation 14:13 -- the blessing can be claimed by yet one more. While my heart is saddened by Dr. Lowery's passing, it is also full of confident hope that death has not really won for undoubtedly this one has died "in the Lord!" May he rest in the presence of the Lamb ...
  • Matthew Martin - via Facebook

Bob passed quietly in the company of his friends and family. As with all our mentors, his legacy lives on in us. What he's contributed to the church and the world will continue to make a difference because he's placed in another generation of faithful men and women. Though I realize the context is different, Rev 14:13 comes to mind: "...and his works will follow him."
  • Dr. Chuck Sackett - via Facebook

Dr. Lowery quietly and peacefully passed from this life about an hour ago. Marilyn said that he squeezed her hand tightly, then quit breathing.
  • a portion of an email sent from Dr. Paul Boatman of LCU

After a lifetime of Listening to the Lyrics of the Lamb, Dr. Robert Lowery is now joining in the chorus.
  • Vance Russel - via Facebook

If we listen to John, we learn that in the end, you, I, indeed, everyone, will have a new beginning, either the most wonderful or the most awful beginning of all. It is an ending that leads to rhapsody because we stand before the reigning Lord and the redeeming Lamb or to woe because we are banished forever from their presence. In the end, what makes the difference is the song we sing." - Robert Lowery
This quote is from "Revelation's Rhapsody", a book by Bob that my classmates and I (who were in his 2005 Revelation course) were privileged to participate in creating. In his humble wisdom, Bob always invited the dialogue of fellow believers to inform his scholarship.
Bob is singing for Jesus in His full presence today -- and for all time. My head says "Rejoice!" -- my heart isn't their yet.

  • Ann Kafer - via her blog

And I think the most fitting to end this short collection:
Papa to the girls "In a couple of days you will get a phone call from Grandma. She will have good news and bad news. The bad news...I will be dead, but the good news...I will be in Heaven with Jesus. When Grandma calls I want you to dance because I am in Heaven." Tonight my girls danced for Papa. We miss you Bob but will see you again.
  • Joe Mollet - via Facebook

Indeed...Dr. Lowery is dancing!!  Our minds rejoice - our hearts will catch up.  Indeed...we will see him again!!  Amen - praise God for grace & salvation!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Indeed...A Scholar

Since learning of Dr. Lowery’s impending death on Monday, not a day has gone by when tears have not filled my eyes.  I share my thoughts not merely to share my emotions, but to share principles I am learning during this time of grief.  My hope is this process will help shape me into a more godly man. 
Yet before I get too far I want to make a disclaimer; I am not a “Lowery-ite”.  In other words, I follow Jesus and not Dr. Lowery.  I state what ought to be obvious because this series of posts (as well as other posts you may visit via this blog) may make Dr. Lowery seem “larger than life”.  No one’s intention is to deify Dr. Lowery.  The intent of anything you may read in relation to him is to convey how a godly man has impacted the lives of many as he followed Jesus.   

There is no doubt Dr. Lowery is a “world-class” scholar of the Bible.  Sadly, many do not know his name.  The reason for this; if you do not publish in academia, you rarely get “big name” recognition.  Dr. Lowery was not concerned about a “big name”.  He felt called to teach a full (or beyond full) class load and invest in the lives of students rather than teach fewer classes in order to write.  

Dr. Lowery’s teaching style (for classes dealing with books of the Bible) was to teach principles of Bible Study rather than lecture about the content of a book.  Personally, I would have loved more lectures from him; yet what I learned is far more valuable than information.  I learned how (despite my limitations) to probe God’s Word to the point where I realize I am being probed by It.  In other words (while the following is not verbatim, I attribute it to him), “The deeper we probe Scripture the more we realize we are the object and It is the subject.”  There are many applications to this, one of which is we ought not to shape God’s Word into what we want it to say…rather God’s Word ought to shape us into the people He desires us to be.   

To say Dr. Lowery never revealed elements of his Bible Study with his students would be false.  Yet examples of that is not the intent of this post.  My prayer is I, and those influenced by him, will continue to reveal elements of our study (influenced by his teaching and scholarship) in our lives – via preaching, teaching, and loving others – as we live for God’s glory.  

In order to bring this entry to a close I will briefly mention my first class with Dr. Lowery.  In the Fall of 2005 I took Preaching from the New Testament (which he team-taught with Dr. Chuck Sackett; another profound influence on my life).  The principles I began to learn that week I still seek to implement (and my shortcomings in doing so are my own – not those of the men who taught me); yet an eye-opening moment from that week will be the basis of my next entry. 

Here is a post of a book recently published in honor of Dr. Lowery.
Links to other posts will occur in following articles.