Therefore Having Gone

Therefore Having Gone

Saturday, June 25, 2022

NEW YORK

When I was 16, I had the opportunity to travel to New York City with a church group. Our group was made up of high school students from all over the state of Indiana.  

When we deplaned at LaGuardia and collected our luggage, we immediately stepped onto a tour bus for a two hour look at the city. 

So we were moving through the streets of the The Big Apple and the bus driver was speaking into his microphone and pointing out the various landmarks.

"There's the Statue of Liberty across the bay" and “we are about to pass the Empire State Building” and all of us students were nodding along and glancing left and right, wide-eyed but passive. 

And then all of a sudden one of the students yelled, “Look! A bum!” 

All the teenage passengers on the right side of that bus jumped to their feet, crossed the center aisle and crushed against the left side passengers to get a look out the windows. 

"Where? Where?" "Oh, I see him!" 

None of us had never seen a homeless person before. 

The poor can be quite invisible to us. And unfortunately, when not invisible, they may not be much more than a curiosity. 

Friday, June 24, 2022

NIGHTFALL IN CAP-HAITIEN

I remember the first time I was caught after dark in downtown Cap-Haitien, a sprawling Haitian city of a quarter million people. 

I was at a restaurant with my 3 Haitian sons – my treat – and when we came back to my truck, night had fallen. Mikken said to me, “You need to drive as fast as you can.” 

And why is that? 

“You don’t want someone to throw a Coke bottle through your windshield.” 

And why would someone throw a Coke bottle through my windshield? 

“To protest the fact that Cap-Haitien has no working street lights.” 

OK. How is throwing a bottle through MY windshield a protest against the lack of working streetlights? 

“People say, ‘If we had streetlights - if the streets were lit up at night - nobody would dare throw Coke bottles.’”

It kind of made sense to me as it sunk in. The poor of Cap-Haitien had no voice. So they were trying to get the attention of people who had voices - the rich. The fact that I had a truck to drive meant, in their eyes, I was rich. 

They figured I had a voice and some power that they could only tap into by lobbing Coke bottles at me.

I think when Peter, James, and John tell the Apostle Paul that they want him to "continue to remember the poor", it is a recognition that the poor can be forgotten

It can be easy to forget what is silent and invisible to us. 


Thursday, June 23, 2022

THE ADVOCATE

I was struck while listening to last Sunday's sermon by the realization that the Holy Spirit's job description is the opposite of Satan's. 

The Holy Spirit is The Advocate. Satan is The Accuser. 

I think if we listen closely to the jumble of voices in our own heads, we should be able to distinguish fairly easily between the two.

Right?

If it's the Holy Spirit's voice, it might be convicting, but not accusing. It will be for our good, not leaving us wallowing in guilt and shame. The Holy Spirit is not going to be negative in a shaming way. He's not going to tell us we're incapable of doing better. And even if He must tell us tough things sometimes, there's a genuine sense that it is for our own good.

He's advocating for you and for me. He's for us in the deepest way imaginable. 

And not against us. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

YOUR MIND

In "The Veil of Thought", Sam Harris says ...


Your mind is 

"the most rambling, 

chaotic, 

needling, 

insulting, 

insufferable person 

you will ever meet. 


It's like having some maniac 

walk through the front door of your house 

and follow you from room to room 

and refuse to stop talking. 

And this happens every day of your life."  


When I heard this, I thought, "Huh. I guess I'm not the only one."


(By the way - if you're curious - Harris does offer a "solution", a way to shut up your mind. Meditation. Learning how to exert control over your thoughts.) 

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

REMINDERS

When Peter, James, and John tell Paul to "remember the poor", there is part of my brain that says, "Well, it can't be all that important if they think Paul might forget about it."

But if we are honest, we admit we are prone - always - to forgetting THE most important things. 

Is it a function of our fallen human nature? A result of the limits of the human brain? A shrinking attention span. 

Who knows.

Whatever the cause, it is easy to allow even the most important concerns to fall by the wayside.

Take marriage as an example. Is there anything more fundamental to the whole enterprise than loving your spouse?

I have been married for almost 22 years at this point, but it's a fact that each time I hear Paul tell the Ephesian men, "Husbands, love your wives", there's something in my brain that goes, "Oh, yeah. I need to refocus."

Love God. Love your neighbor. Resist the devil. Honor your parents. Be holy. Serve the poor. 

We need frequent reminders of the most important things. 

Monday, June 20, 2022

REMEMBER THE POOR

In the midst of big discussions in the early church about what actually qualifies as The Gospel, the Apostle Paul visited the Biggies of the Faith - James, Peter, and John - in Jerusalem. He sought them out to double-check his own understanding of Christian teaching "for fear that I was running or had run my race in vain". (Gal. 2:2)

Fortunately for Paul, the Big Three gave him the thumbs up and "the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me." (2:9) They could see that Paul was called and equipped by God to reach the Gentiles just as they were to reach the Jews. And their message was the same message.

It is interesting to note that after all of them agreed on the core of the Gospel - our need to put our faith in Christ Jesus and thereby to be justified in a way not ever possible by observing the law - they went on to agree on one more thing:

"All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do." (2:10) 

Of all the things they could ask of Paul as they sent him on his way, they chose "remember the poor". 

And Paul responded by saying he was "eager" to do it. 

How about you? 

What does remembering the poor look like in your own life?

Are you eager to do it?

Sunday, June 19, 2022

NO THANKS FROM PAUL

My professor pointed out that the Apostle Paul often began his letters to particular churches with something like "grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ". 

This was usually followed by an expression of thanksgiving for those particular Christians, something like:
  • "I thank my God every time I remember you." - Philippians 1:3
  • "We always thank God, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you." Colossians 1:3
  • "We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers." 1 Thessalonians 1:2
  • "First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world." Rom 1:8
Even the church at Corinth, where there were major moral failings Paul needed to address, got a similar thanksgiving: "I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus." 1 Cor. 1:4

But the church in Galatia? They got "grace and peace" but no thanksgiving.

Instead, Paul goes straight to his point: "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel - which is really no gospel at all." (Gal 1:6-7a)

I suppose there are degrees of false teachers. Some merely cause believers to go chasing down pointless rabbit holes. I am thinking of a video a friend shared where the preacher was rebuking men for growing beards ... because facial hair on men is a sign of pride!

And then there are those who go much further and make up their own version of the gospel. 

These are the types who had infected the Galatian church. In short, SOMEBODY was teaching the Galatians that they could only be justified in God's eyes by observing the law. "Do this" and "don't do that" and you will win God's approval. This, of course, completely dismissed the need for faith in Christ. 

But, Paul was eager to point out, if we can work our way into God's approval, we have no need for God's grace and "Christ died for nothing!" (Gal. 2:22) 

I guess if you are a church which is dismantling the very heart of Christian faith, you shouldn't expect too many pleasantries from Paul.