Monday, July 27, 2020
Monday, July 20, 2020
We have a fair number of hunters in our congregation. So the subject of alignment should be familiar to them. To hit your target you must align the sights of the gun with the target you want to hit. At least that's how it should work. But there are exceptions to this. Sometimes the sights of the gun get out of whack. They must be adjusted and realigned if they are to be useful as a guide to hit the target. Sometimes our spiritual sights get knocked out of alignment. Life is a constant process of realigning those sights so that we are aimed in the right direction. We are individually, denominationally and nationally in need of realigning those sights. For if what I read on social media, watch on TV and hear in conversations is what people believe, our sights have been knocked out of alignment ... they need to be adjusted to a standard better than the one people have set. Thankfully, we have God's Word to bring us back to seeing and aiming for the correct target.
There is a story about one of our Vietnam heroes. His company came under intense enemy fire. Most were either dead or wounded. One soldier who was a sniper was able to use his weapon but his sniper rifle had its sights damaged and it was dusk. He was aiming blindly. Then, he fired and saw a burst of dust pop up where the bullet hit the dirt. He adjusted his aim and was able to take out so many enemies that they fell back and his company was able to get to safety.
We need that kind of alignment. For some of us life has hit us so hard our sights have become misaligned. Paul, in Romans 3:23 says, "For all have sinned and fallen short of God's standard." This is alright, and even normal. But Christ calls us to recognize our propensity to sin and ask Him to realign our sights. God loves us just like we are but He expects us to allow His forgiveness, grace and teaching to grow us up and align with His plan.
For others, we have allowed society to become our sight. We have aligned with society. Jesus, in Matthew 7:14, reminds us that the wide gate leads to destruction. I see that wide gate in the social media, news media and rumor. I have seen and heard so many ridiculous stories and statements on Facebook that it has become comical. I think Jesus would tell us to get out of conspiracy theories ... get out of drama ... get out of narcissistic politics ... get out of the belief that Facebook and other social media has wisdom or advice that we should follow. God created the rules of nature. God created how things like science and math operate. God gave us His Word to follow and trust. Our nation's currency says, "In God We Trust!" So ... do we? "Be THOU our vision, O Lord of my heart." Align with God!
And at this time many of us are being encouraged to align with politics. We should definitely be informed and follow the right things in voting. But, as Paul expressed in Romans 3, we have a standard to follow. It is not a standard either owned or expressed by any of our political parties. Parties, 'isms' (conservatism, liberalism, etc.) and even our denominations are made of people who all fall short of God's standard. Romans 3:23 is about a universal "missing the target." But Paul continues and reminds us that there are ways we can realign. Holding on to God's sacrifice, receiving God's forgiveness, and believing in faith are all parts of this realignment. But Paul's writings also express what John Wesley would call the 'realignment' of God's sanctifying grace, achieved through the disciplines of the faith. These include prayer, fasting, service, sacraments, worship, Christian conferencing (hanging out together), and learning. These are the things we must align with first. Our political leanings must come "under God," not superseding God. So, as you prepare to vote, sift your politics through Scripture, not society!
When we were camping with the grand-kids, we went on a .7 mile hike around the lake near our cabin. The boys got out ahead of us and they missed the place where we should have crossed a stream and trekked back toward the cabin. So we ended up at the BMX course. They finally stopped and waited for us, and I had to assess where we were and how we would proceed. I had to realign us. We set off again following the trail that would lead us back to where we were staying. After 4.5 miles we got back, tired but safe. Fortunately, we were able to get back on course, and I believe we (nationally, individually and spiritually) can do the same. But we must turn (repent) and follow God ... not conspiracy theories, political candidates, denominational leanings, politically-correct talking points or social media. It is time to get back on course, back to Jesus and back to the path that leads to that narrow gate that leads to life.
Monday, July 13, 2020
In this time of anxiety there are some things we all need. I talked to Cher Marvel last week and the Boys and Girls Club is reopening ... it is unknown how this will go. We are continuing to hold 9 AM and 11 AM services, modified as they are ... it is up in the air how all of this will unfold. I heard of the job turmoil of some of my friends ... none of us know how this will turn out. And I read of the opposition to rebuilding Jerusalem's wall in Nehemiah 4 ... and I remember that turmoil isn't an outlier ... it is the norm. We look at all of this and say, "I can't see how this will turn out well!" But God can!
I heard the story of a cat that was relocated by a nasty neighbor. The owner looked and looked and finally found out a general area where the cat was taken. She posted fliers, she rode through the neighborhood, she looked in nearby woods, she put out food, but nothing happened. Oh ... she did one more thing ... she prayed. Six weeks passed and it seemed that all, including the cat, was lost. Then she made one last trip and prayed one last prayer ... "If the cat isn't here I know I have to stop looking ... but Lord, please help!" She heard a meow and walking toward her was the cat, a bit worn and frazzled, but very alive. To her the cat was lost ... but God can find things!
Here are the words from Nehemiah 4:1-2 "When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?” People can't see past the rubble, the brokenness, the trouble, the obstacles and the ruins. But God can!There is a beautiful song with the words ... "When the mountains fall, and the tempest roars, you are with me ... when creation folds, still my soul will soar in your mercy, I'll walk through the fire with my head lifted high and my spirit revived in your story, and I'll look to the cross as my failure is lost, in the light of your glorious grace ... " The song is called Glorious Ruins and it reminds me of the walls of Jerusalem, fallen, broken and waiting for a God who can revive and restore them. It reminds me of a lost cat and the lost hope of a woman. It reminds me of a nation of people who see ruins and wonder "will the stones come back to life!?" We can't see the hope, the rebuilding or the restoration ... but God can! Nehemiah had hope, faith and he told the naysayers ... "The God of heaven will give us success!"