The War Room

Weekend Wrap-Up: Compton Wins the War over the New Releases - The ...

The old adage practice makes perfect is one of the most misleading pieces of advice that you can give a person. It sounds great. It lets you think that the more you do something the better you can become. It lets you think that with a great deal of effort anything can be achieved. This simply is not true. No matter of practice is going to make me tall enough to be a successful NBA center. And what is more alarming than that is the fact that many people are practicing bad habits. If I learn something incorrectly, the only thing I can become perfect at is failing. When I first started preaching I really struggled to pronounce certain names it the bible. I learned many of them wrong. It was a former teacher that let me know that I learned them wrong. And it didn’t matter how much a practiced to pronounce them without stammering, saying them incorrectly did not make me better. But, what does this have to do with the movie War Room?

On Saturday night I had the opportunity to sit down and watch the film, The War Room. My wife and I don’t usually watch movies on Saturday nights (Tuesdays are our movie night after the kids go to bed). However, she insisted that I run down to the local video store and pick up the film. While I am a huge fan of the other films put together by this crew, (Courageous, Fireproof and Facing Giants) I was a bit skeptical about this film. I had a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that you could do a whole movie about the idea of prayer. What I didn’t expect to happen was to have a whole world opened up unto me.

Now, as a preacher, I knew that prayer life was important before going into the film. I knew that trusting in God’s way was important before going into the film. And yet, here I was learning something I had never really considered before. Prayer is something that doesn’t just get better because I pray every day. Yes, the more you pray the more “natural” speaking unto God becomes. But, I have become convinced that prayer practice does not make perfect. If I am praying incorrectly, I am not going to get better. In fact, it will become quite the opposite. I will have to unlearn bad habits before I can begin to pray in such a way to help myself grow as a Christian.

I could probably spend hours writing and talking about the different lessons that can be learned about this film. But, for today, I simply want to encourage you to pray without distraction. The “war room” was a closet that the two female leads would go into to pray. They would shut the door, shut out the world, so that they could pray without the distractions of everyday living. No TV, no phone, no books, no shoes, no clothes. Just a bible and a prayer. For me this was the biggest eye opener. I have a rather busy life. I have four kids. I have several classes I prepare and teach each week, not to mention bulletin articles, this blog, and sermons I prepare. I also have a house to maintain, kids to raise, and I have become a running enthusiast. (I start training for my next ½ marathon next Monday as I hope to break the 2 hour mark this year). So, I started praying whenever I found the time. (This does not mean I prayed rarely). It means that I would pray at dinner, pray while on the treadmill, pray while the kids movie is playing, and pray at the end of the day when I was all but tuckered out. While I made time to pray, what I didn’t do is make a place where I was free from distraction so that my prayer is all that I was thinking upon. Not my pace, not my dinner, not my comfortable bed, etc. I may have had a lot of practice praying. I had a lot of practice praying while distracted. Praying while having my mind on other things. I need to find myself a war room. I need to find myself a place where I can be free from distraction where I can converse with my Father. Only then will I find myself truly opening my whole heart unto him.

 

Peace on Earth and Good Will Toward All Men

Citizen Warrior: Peace On Earth

Around Christmas time the words above are plastered all around. We find them in our stores that the rest of the year wouldn’t think twice about “advertising” a Christian idea. We find them on numerous houses around town that took the time to decorate for the holidays. We find them on our wrapping paper under the Christmas tree. We find them stuffed in envelops from those that still find the time to mail out Christmas cards to their friends and family. And we find them in the songs we hear on those radio stations that play Christmas songs from Black Friday until December 26th.

With all that has happening around us right now, peace on earth and goodwill to all men is hardly the idea that we are sharing with the world around us. We have seen great tragedies seemingly all year. Police officers have shot unarmed men, the unarmed men retaliated by arming themselves and firing back. Homes and businesses were destroyed to show their disgust with that whole situation. Thousands have died at the hands of terrorists again this year. The most recent of which in our home country has brought the ire of many so-called conservative Christians as a radical Muslim couple opened fire on Americans on American soil. With the election season also upon us each candidate running for office has offered his or her two cents on the matter. Donald Trump took the most extreme stance on calling for our president to keep all Muslims immigrants from entering our country until this mess can be sorted out. As I have sorted through the myriad of Facebook posts, blogs, and comment sections over this past year, peace on earth and good will to all men is hardly the attitude that I have seen projected by those that proclaim themselves to be Christian. It seems that many want peace on American soil and good will only to those that don’t shoot at us. Otherwise, let us kick them to the curb, refuse to be a good Samaritan and if necessary make them die for their cause on their own soil. What bothers me the most is that all of this is said while they are wrapping presents for their kids, making their Christmas dinners, and singing their Christmas carols.

This is not meant to be a political post but to consider what the birth of Jesus was supposed to mean to us. Jesus came into this world to fundamentally change how you and I view the world around us. No greater lesson can I think of to express this idea than Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan from Luke 10:30-37. To fully understand the message Jesus is teaching, you need to understand what the Jews and Samaritans thought of each other. Who were the Samaritans? They were descendents of the intermarriage of the remnants of Israelites that were not carried off in Assyrian captivity and newcomers brought in by Sargon, the Assyrian king. They were antagonists. When the walls and temple were built in Jerusalem during the days of Ezra and Nehemiah Samaritans hindered the work. While they were worshippers of Jehovah, they did not worship God the same way in which the Jews did. They Jews viewed the Samaritans were as adulterated (and rightfully so as it was). In “recent events” the Samaritans had broke into the Temple and scattered human bones on the porches during the Passover week sometime around 6-9 AD. As a result all Samaritans were banned from all Jewish worship. In the end the Jews hated the Samaritans. Calling someone a Samaritan was an insult (John 8:48). Samaritan food was considered unclean as pork and Samaritans were cursed in temple. Jesus used these hated people to show that we can indeed show love and compassion unto those that are of a different nationality, a different faith, and even unto those that despitefully use us, mistreat us, and hate us. Let us be honest, which sounds better, standing before God and explaining why you were like the priest and the Levite who passed by those “hated” Muslims, or standing before God as the Good Samarian that even though they never returned your love, you never gave them a reason to hate you? This holiday season rather than merely expressing the idea of peace on earth and good will to all men, let us actually help spread the joy, love, and peace that comes from being a servant of God.

 

 

Good Intentions Are Not Obedience

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The Ark of the Covenant was the most sacred of all holy relics under the Law of Moses. It was carried by the priests as the Israelites crossed the Jordan River in the Promised Land. The water was stopped up and the river bed was dry as the Ark made its way across the riverbed (Josh. 3:14-17). For most of the Israelites the miracle at the Red Sea was just as story. They hadn’t witnessed the vast power of God. As they crossed the Jordan they saw God’s power manifested via that Ark. The first city they were to capture was Jericho. The Ark went before them there too. According to Josh 6:6 as the Israelites marched around the city walls the Ark went before them. This happened for 7 days. When the walls fell flat the people of Israel again witnessed the power of God via the Ark of the Covenant.

God certainly helped to place this sacred relic in high regard by what he placed in it. The Ark contained the two tablets of stone on which the Ten Commandments were written, a bowl of manna which was gathered during Israel’s time in the wilderness, as well as Aaron’s rod which budded proving unto Israel that God had indeed chosen Moses and Aaron to lead his people.

The people so believed in the ark that they thought so long as the ark was with them, they would be victorious. However, during the days of the judge Eli, the ark was captured by the Philistines. While it was eventually returned, its resting place in Israel was not exactly what God had intended. (The Ark was supposed to be in the Most Holy Place of the Tabernacle). Eventually David desired to bring the Ark to Jerusalem as he was planning to build a temple unto God to house the ark. (David was not given permission to actually build it, but he made all the preparations for Solomon to do the work). In II Sam. 6 we read of that event. Uzzah and Ahio were given the task of safely moving the Ark. They placed it upon a cart and had an ox pulling it along. At one point the cart began to tip and Uzzah reached out and stabilized that ark. He died instantly.

God gave specific commands concerning the moving of the Ark of the Covenant. It was to be carried the Kohathites of the tribe of Levi (Num. 3:30-31). It was to be moved with the golden staves that God designed (I Chron. 15:15). It was not to be touched, lest you die (Num. 4:15).

In II Sam. 6:1-7 we read a story where each of these laws were violated. Uzzah and Ahio were given the task of moving the ark. The bible does not tell us they were sons of Kohath. It was not carried by the golden staves, but upon a new cart. Finally, when they reached the threshing floor of Nacon, the ox stumbled and Uzzah touched the ark to keep it from tipping over (II Sam. 6:6).

Uzzah’s violation of the law was full of good intentions. But, the anger of the Lord burned against him and the Lord struck him dead (II Sam. 6:7).  The lesson is simple, it does not matter how good our intentions are, if we violate the law of God we are still sinning.

A God Centered Life

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On Saturday I traveled to Davenport, IA to say good-bye to a dear friend. It saddens me that I hadn’t seen him in years. It always seemed that we just missed each other as we would travel back to our former homes in Illinois. Over the last several years he was been battling cancer, and the last several months he body could no longer fight the disease. To make matters more difficult, this same family lost a baby a little more than a month ago. As I sat and listened to the eulogy given I was moved to tears… I couldn’t help it. But, my tears were not of longing or sadness or sympathy. I was overcome with love. A love for this man and for this family. They have always been a source of great faith for me and on the day I had to say goodbye he again showed me how to live my to its fullest. The funeral was as he was… God centered. The funeral was as he was… always glorifying God. And as I sat there, I began to realize what missing in my life the last year.

For those that have followed my blog this past year I have hinted at a variety of issues that have plagued my home. My wife had a miscarriage to begin our year. (I have never been more heartbroken that I was that day). By February we learned what specific ailment my mother-in-law has. While there was comfort in knowing what it was, there was also great discouragement in knowing what that meant. And then the last couple of months our little church here has seen its fair share of sorrow. Aunts, grandmothers, grandsons, cousins, etc have passed away. Sorrow is something that we have come well acquainted with.

For me, personally, it was really starting to get to me. As I sat there and listened to my dear friends life story. How he came to the Lord, how he raised his kids, interacted with others, and most importantly, how he handled his cancer a light switch went on in my heart. I finally realized why I was struggling so much in recent months. I realized why I was so unhappy.

Phil. 4:4 “Rejoice in the Lord always again I say rejoice.” How can I always rejoice? How can I always be happy? How can I go to funeral after funeral and think this is a good thing? How can I look at a family that has buried their son, their daughter, their father and be rejoicing? I fear years have misunderstood this passage. Paul is not saying that it is wrong to cry, mourn, etc. He is saying that the reason for my joy should always be God. As I look back on my friend’s life, as I looked at those pictures of him celebrating life, it dawned on me. He celebrated life because of God. His life, his death, and his funeral all of it was God centered. And that is what was lacking in my life… a God centered joy.

Thank you Jack. Thank you for everything. And thank you for reminding me one last time of what is most important.