Remembering 9-11 and Honoring Those who Serve our Communities Today

When you are in elementary school, they teach you that in an emergency you can call 911 and help will come. It’s a great bit of information to have and most of us just tucked it away and took for granted that a phone call would bring help if we were ever in trouble.

Seldom at that age did we think about how bad it would be to call 911 and who would actually come. We didn’t pause to think that behind the lights and sirens that there would be real women and men.

We didn’t think about it, because we were just kids. We rested in the promise of rescue when we found ourselves in trouble.  We didn’t think about the life of those who would run to our rescue.  We didn’t imagine how their day must go when they have a plan, but everything changes. We didn’t pause to think about what they do, the training they’ve been through, the equipment they keep up. We didn’t think about the fires they had put out, the dealers they took off the street, the justice that was served, the lives saved, all because they were there. We selfishly thought the peace we enjoyed was just the way that the world was. We didn’t consider that perhaps God used men and women to secure our peace by keeping evil in check. We just rested in the fact that if evil ever came for us, someone would come to our rescue.

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Then one Tuesday morning in September the world began to fall apart. It’s a moment that marked our nation. I was in our church office preparing for a staff meeting. Our Senior pastor came in and said he heard on the radio that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. We turned on the only TV we could find. As a staff we watched as a second plane hit the towers causing us to realize that this wasn’t an accident, but this was indeed an act of terrorism.

We held on watching and praying as we witnessed fire crews and police officers running into the building to save lives. Then we heard about the pentagon and flight 93 that crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. And we watched praying for people who we knew were in New York. Then we saw the towers fall, it was like having the wind knocked out of us, but rather than gasping for breath, we were grasping for hope in the midst of tragedy.

Yet, in our darkest hour, we saw our heroes in the ashes. We found our hope. Over the next few days we would find out more about what had happened. We heard about how practical strangers banded together on flight 93 to put their plane down in a field and frustrate the plans of the hijackers.

We heard about the two F-16 pilots who scrambled out of our Nation’s capital without ammunition, ready to ram the rouge flight 93 if necessary. One of the pilots had strapped in her plane knowing that her dad was possibly the pilot of the flight they would be ordered to ground.

There was a young hero working as a equities trader, who had been a volunteer firefighter back home, who got everyone from his department down safely. Then he went back in to help more people make it down… the last anyone saw of him was in the smoke and ash as he had tied a cloth around his mouth, going back in for more.

We are told that within one minute of when the first plane hit that firefighters and police crews were dispatched to the trade center. There was one hero who was supposed to be off that day but he saw the first plane go into the tower so he scrapped his plans stopped by the station to get his gear and ran into the towers to help save lives.

Many brave men and women died as they ran in and the towers fell. Over the days and weeks following many who did survive were slated with the daunting task of pulling survivors and bodies from the debris. We lost 3000 souls that day.

We banded together as a nation. Together we mourned and swore we would come up from the ashes stronger and in many ways I believe we have.

To our First-Responders and Heroes:

I’m sure there are days and moments where you feel like a hero because by Gods grace you saw the results of your labor. You know you saved lives. On other days it seems like you have only seen the worst side of humanity, and it feels like you are losing not because of your efforts but because the odds are so overwhelming. 

How do you keep going?

I want to share a few verses with you: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” – 1 cor. 13:12-13

I think what helps is remembering that we don’t and won’t see perfectly this side of Heaven, but one day we will see. The three virtues that we are told that remain are faith, hope, and love. They each help us move forward in a fallen world.

Faith isn’t wishful thinking, as some would have you believe. Faith is a rock solid trust that God is who He says He is and He will do what He said He will do. Faith is looking at a lost and fallen world, seeing the worst of humanity and realizing that God is still in control. It’s recognizing that the final word hasn’t been spoken yet and that justice will come to everyone!

Hope isn’t a desperate wish, but here it is an optimistic longing. It’s like waiting to unwrap the presents at Christmas. They are already bought and under the tree and little Tommy says, “I hope Christmas get’s here soon.” There is no question, Christmas is coming, what little Tommy wants is for it to get here sooner rather than later. When we see the ugly in the world, we are reminded that this world is broken and a new world is coming. Hope says bring it quickly!

Finally there is Love. Love isn’t a sappy emotion, at it’s core love is giving selflessly for for others. Jesus demonstrated his love for us by voluntarily dying in our place for our sins. Then God who is just, and calls every sin into account, is still just by punishing Jesus for every evil we have done. You could be free from the sins you had committed and the wrath that they incurred, not because they didn’t matter, but because Jesus paid the price you could not pay. Love takes the worst and gives the best.

I thank God for you!

I’ll never forget the day my son told me, “look out daddy, I see the police.” I was shocked! What had happened? Why did he think I should be afraid? Was it because I might get a speeding ticket? I rebuked him. I said, “No, son thank God you see the police!” My son ever so smart at responding said, “what if he gives you a ticket?” To which I responded, “what if he didn’t give out tickets? What if he just let people speed by? What if I lose respect for a speed limit that is slower than my car will go? What if I hit a boy your age because I was speeding through a school zone and didn’t see him? No son, thank God for the policeman.

Son, thank God for the paramedic! What would happen if there were no one to call when you are hurt?

Son, thank God for the legal system. Thank God that if you get accused of a crime that you get a day in court in front of a jury of your peers.

Thank God for the fire fighters who do so much more than put out fires, but serve our community in countless ways.

Thank God for the military who protect us and secure the freedoms we claim in our nation.

You see son, we can go to sleep tonight because God has called brave men women to be our heroes so if ever the need arises we can call and they will come.

One day, something will happen and you will reach for that phone to call 911 and you will never doubt that help is on the way. You don’t for a second pause and hope that the paramedics, the firefighters, the officers, etc. will come. So son, don’t look at a hero and say, watch out like it is a bad thing. We should watch out for our heroes and honor them.

We watched on as our nation faced its own crisis on 9-11 and our first-responders were there. Heroes in uniform and heroes in plain clothes. We never really lost hope because even when the world was falling down around us we witnessed our heroes answer that call selflessly serving others covered in ash, running back in to a burning building to save even more lives. It is fitting that we pause today to remember the events of 9-11 and to honor the men and women in our community who answer our call for heroes still today! 

(This was part of a speech I shared with a crowd of heroes a few years back.)

The LIFE TRANSFORMING Lesson I Discovered While Reading a List of Names in the Bible!

Have you ever caught yourself reading through the Bible and you come to a long list of names and you think, “Do I still get credit if I skip these? There are a few passages in the scripture that can make you pause and wonder if there is really anything to be gained by reading a particular list of hard to pronounce biblical names? (Before you comment… I know all about the genealogy of Jesus and the four women mentioned there as well as characters of biblical  significance.) I’m talking about the lists in the Old Testament where someone’s name is mentioned once and never seen or heard from again! Places where we have NO history other than a name thrown in among dozens if not hundreds of other names. To be honest, I never doubted that these lists were scripture and were profitable some way, but I figured that I didn’t have the biblical chops to know exactly who Nephishesim was and why his name was in the bible. But then I messed up…

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I told a bunch of students that we would go chapter by chapter through the book of Nehemiah! I had read Nehemiah dozens of times, but I always skipped the long list of names, therefore I forgot that Nehemiah chapter seven actually contains a long list of names! (It takes up over two whole pages and four columns in my bible!) So there I was, stuck with a commitment to go through this book chapter by chapter and I came to chapter seven and I had to prepare a message for our students or eat crow and explain that I had forgotten about this chapter or worse, I would have to admit that I was in over my head. I firmly held then (and even more so now)  that ALL Scripture is, “God-Breathed and useful” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)but this put it to the test.

I stared blankly at the text. I begged God. I looked up name meanings realizing that perhaps this was a stretch. I asked “Why?” a whole lot. When I was about to give up… He Spoke through the names!

They were there, because they mattered! I know, simple right? These people were listed because they were there! In this instance, they were there building a wall with Nehemiah. Then it hit me, the book might have Nehemiah’s name as the title, but it was just as much about the faithful who responded to his leadership. These folks weren’t only witnesses, they were participants.

I realized a two things:

  1. God cares about people.
  2. It’s incredibly good leadership take time to recognize and remember the work of the people you lead.

I still can’t pronounce half the names on that list, but I know this, seeing their name has impacted me and changed the way I lead. Maybe one day I’ll get the chance to tell them that God used a list with their name on it to bless me! Until then, I write thank you notes, applaud and do my best to encourage everyone who participates in the life of our church. After all, these people belong to God! I may be the leader up front at our church, but I am not the only one serving God.

So today I am thankful for a long list of names in the bible because it helps me really see the people around me.

Some things you should know about Demon Possession

1. In our Evangelical Christian sub-culture several decades ago there were some things that happened that have left a lingering impact on how some of us view Demon Possession. Investigators in a small town called in a psychologist to use hypnosis to discover the details of a reported sexual assault. Ultimately they were lead on a wild goose chase to hunt down a secret gathering of people who were committing Satanic Ritual Abuse. They later discovered that the techniques used in the hypnosis were “suggestive” in that they interviewer filled in the gaps of the story and using those suggestions the person under hypnosis filled in everything, believing that this event had actually happened. Both feeding into this event and flowing from it, evangelical Christians latched on to the idea that Satanic groups had formed everywhere and were sacrificing babies in secret. The hysteria grew to include a vicious rumor that the president of proctor and gamble came out as an avowed Satanist (not true) and Christians began boycotting products produced by the company. Then there came radio hosts who claimed to cast out demons over the air waves. All of this hysteria happened “inside” Christian circles, sweeping up even pastors and lay leaders. It was a modern day witch hunt, but this time we were looking for demons. Instead of burning the victim at the stake we would go through an intense psychological process to “exercise” the demon. Yet somehow the well publicized exorcisms of the 80’s looked more like Hollywood than the ones we read about in the bible. While a ton of truth has come to light over this embarrassing moment for American Christianity there still remains an element of folks who subscribe to this type of demonology. Even creating charts for demonic order and hierarchy (that go well beyond the scripture) seeing and encountering more demons in a week than Jesus did in his entire ministry.

2. Demons are real but visible demonic encounters are rare.  There are a handful of cases of a detailed encounter with a demon in the gospels.  1. Jesus was tempted by Satan (Matt 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4:11-13), 2. The blind man (Matt 9:32-33), 3. The blind and mute man (Matt 12:22-23, Luke 11:14), 4. The Canaanite woman’s daughter (Matt 15:22-28, Mark 7:24-30), 5. The Man in the synagogue (Mark 1:23-27, Luke 4:31-37), 6. the Gerasene demoniac (Matt 8:28-34, Mark 5:1-20, Luke 8:26-37) 7. The boy with seizures (Matt 17:14-20, Mark 9:14-29, Luke 9:37-43).  and 8. the silencing of demons (Matt 8:16, Mark 1:32-35, Luke 4:40-41). *[I used Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of the Bible here to help me reference all the occurrences of demonic encounters… the writer also notes that there are three other moments where demonic encounter is mentioned in passing as well as references to Peter and Judas.] I think it’s worth mentioning that we have genuinely have less than ten demonic encounters recorded and a few passing comments about demonic encounters recorded by four gospel writers. There are only five references to demonic encounters in the book of Act (which spans a greater length of time than Jesus’ ministry). If you were to look in the Old Testament you would also find a handful of demonic encounters. Given that we are struggling to come up with even twenty biblical demonic encounters over thousands of years, I’d say that visible demonic encounters are very rare and there were more at the time of Jesus specifically be cause he was God in the flesh. I find it hard to believe that a pastor or radio evangelist could face more visible demonic oppression than our Lord.

3. Visible Demonic Encounters are extremely varied. Just read the passages already  listed. Demons in one man cause him to run around tombs naked, another causes convulsions, another causes physical maladies such as blocking speech or sight. There doesn’t seem to be a consistent way in which demons “posses” a person.

4. Demon “Possession” is not a good translation. The Greek word that we translate possession is better understood as a short term hold. One Greek professor of mine said, “the word for demon possession is likened to catching a cold. So one could say of a possessed person that they came down with a bad case of demons.”  Possession implies ownership and when a person is “possessed” they aren’t owned by Satan, but they are severly affected by the demons in their life. Again the manifestation of possession appear to be widely varied.

5. Demon “Possession” is different than mental illness. Hebrew culture had an understanding of mental illness that wasn’t considered demon possession. David while on the run from Saul fakes being insane in order to preserve his life (1 Sam 21:13). Several of the early church fathers recognized mental illnesses as different from demon possession.

6. Demons seek to deceive us by posing as messengers of good news. Paul writes that, “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light, what less should we expect of his followers” (1 Cor. 11:12-15).  Demons attempt to remove the focus off of Jesus Christ and on to something else (1 Tim 4:1-3, 1 John 4:1-3, 1 Cor 12:3). Paul wrote against the false doctrine that the church of Galatia had bought and warns them that even if an angel were to preach a different gospel than that which they had received from him that they should reject it (Gal 1:8-9). (Amazing how many world religions have been started by angel’s presenting a false doctrine).

7. We need to be ready every day to battle demonic forces when following Jesus. Every day we encounter challenges to our faith in the Lord. Satan is a liar and his goal is to get us to believe his lies over the promises of God. Everyday the believer faces decisions in a fallen world. We must choose what to believe about relationships, finances, situations, circumstances… will we believe that everything is coming to a resolution in Jesus Christ or will we believe the lies. Will we believe that he is enough, or will we settle for something less? Will we believe that God created us for His glory, or will we rebel against his design?  When it comes to demons, I’m far more worried about the demonic forces I encounter and don’t even recognize. I think more than anything that the last lines of the Lord’s prayer, “Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” address this type of demonic encounter.

3 Simple Habits We Have Adopted in our House to Honor Mom All Year

When I was a little boy I said something hurtful to my grandmother. A few moments later I saw the angriest version of my grandfather I had ever seen. It was just a conversation but I listened, as through tears of righteous anger, he let me know that was his wife that I had just insulted and he wouldn’t stand for it. The message was clear, “grandma was precious to him and she would be treated as such by me!” Somehow when he stood up for grandma, he had raised the level of respect in my heart for both of them.

I learned that day that husbands have a big influence in the way that their wives are viewed by their children.

I have another set of grandparents where my grandfather was an alcoholic and often verbally abusive and pushy towards his wife. I regret that as a child I did not regard this grandmother with as much honor and respect. My grandfather took her for granted and I’m ashamed to think that I did too as a child.

There came a point where I decided that I wanted to be more like my grandfather who was jealous (in a good way) for his wife and less like the grandfather who quite frankly mistreated his wife. I wanted something better for my marriage and for my children. So over the years I’ve adopted 3 simple habits and hope to adopt more to honor my wife in our home and in front of our children. 

Simple Habit #1: The first thing I did was I got the door for her. I know it’s a small thing, but for me it’s a heart thing. It’s one small way that I can demonstrate my love for her. My wife is very capable of getting her own door, but this is a simple way to honor her. My kids see this and think it’s normal. When my son was about four he walked one of the students from our youth group to her car and “got the door for her.” I want them to always think this way about their mother and about me. Small habits can sometimes teach big lessons.

Habit #2: I gossip about the goodness of my wife to our kids. From the time they were little they have heard me say, “you have got the best mom in the whole world! You need to honor her! God gave you an incredible mom!” When they were younger I would remind them about how she fed them, and clothed them and looked after their needs. I made it a point for them to know that I am truly their mom’s biggest fan. I go as far as to let them know that while I love them and want to be the best for them, that I love their mother most and I illustrate this by talking positively about her to them even behind her back!

Habit #3: The “Every Day is Mother’s Day” Motto. My wife truly does a lot, she’s not the kind of person you have to motivate, but the kind you have to slow down. She is very independent and will do everything rather than ask for help. So with the baby on the way we made a new rule in our house: “every day is Mother’s Day.” I love what this simple motto has done and is doing for both our children and my wife. It reminds my kids that they don’t need to be invited to do something like help their mother, but they can jump in and serve her like it is Mother’s Day. I also love watching my wife have to take a step back sometimes and let us help.  The other day I asked my son to do something to help his mom and he started to complain (he wanted to hang out with me) and so I simply reminded him that “Every day is Mother’s Day” and he stopped complaining and went right over and started helping his mom! He’s catching the vision.

What about you? What sort of things do you do in your house to honor mom all year long? We are always looking for more ideas!

 

The Power of Prayer

When we pray for others we don’t often know the outcome this side of Heaven. There were some women who prayed for me several years ago and I thought I should share the outcome of their prayer.

Around 15 years ago my mom went to a Christian camp in Montana. While she was there she came across a group of women who were serving at the camp. In the midst of conversation my mother mentioned that she had a son in Mobile, AL. She had always known that God had a call on his life and she had a burden to see him go to seminary. These women mentioned that their church had a seminary extension center. They then took the time for a special moment of prayer with my mother, asking God to birth a desire and work out a plan for me to go to seminary.

I was around 23 years old at the time and had absolutely no plans or ambition of going to seminary. At the age of 25 I was gloriously saved and had submitted myself to a group of men from my church for oversight and prayer. They came together after a year and confirmed my call to ministry but felt it essential for me go to seminary. Through these men, perhaps one in particular, God provided for the full cost of my first few years of seminary. (I could not have afforded it otherwise).

I attended seminary through the extension of the very same church that these women were from and eventually graduated in 2012!

Recently I was talking with my mother and she shared the incredible story I just outlined for you. She has always known God had a call on my life and she could often see my path clearer than I could at any given moment. She wisely takes everything to God in prayer and when her prayers are answered she quietly points back to God and in doing so she has proven to me over and over again that God hears our prayers.  I know this because for years my room was next to my parent’s room and I have silently witnessed her pray for many people and seen many things come to pass.

I know without a doubt that much of my life is a product of the faithfulness of a praying mom. When it came to praying for me to go to seminary, she enlisted the help of a few women from a particular church, that had a seminary extension. I ended up not only attending seminary, but attending through the extension center at the church these women attended. These women prayed a small prayer with my mom, but heaven was listening and they played a small but crucial role in seeing me go to seminary.

I am humbled and blessed that God would listen to the prayers of these women, that he would move on the hearts of a few men, that he would organize and orchestrate things so clearly that I could see His hand. In a very real sense my ministry is a fruit of their faithfulness. One of many I am sure.

Unity is Good, But Why is it so Hard! (Meditations on Psalm 133)

A Song of degrees of David. Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore. (Psalms 133:1-3 KJV)

Unity is good, but why is it so hard?

Do you have kids? I have 2 kids. I had visions when I was younger that when I had kids that I would tell them what to do and they would obey me. I would see people lose their cool with kids in public or have a kid on a leash or something and I’d judge them. I would think, “I’m not going to do that when I have kids.” Then I had kids and the first time I chased my kid across 3 soccer fields (he had a huge head start) I was looking up how to buy one of those leashes… I also dreamed that they would get along, but they can find away to get on each others nerves from two different rooms in the house.  Unity is good, but why is it so hard?

Anyone have to travel home for the holidays? There are four of us siblings and then most of us got married, and had kids. My parents have like 14 grandkids. Visiting is one thing, but staying is something else. Some people have room, but get a hotel room for their family to stay in when they travel just to save on the family drama. Then there is the gossip. There is always the black sheep of the family and they have always done something (by the way if you are thinking… not my family, we don’t have a black sheep… look in the mirror, you are probably it). Unity is good, but why is it so hard?

Then there is work, right? You work hard, do your best, and all of the sudden everything you were just working really hard on doesn’t count for anything and you have to start over on a new project because the higher ups had another great idea. Or your boss loves to dole out the criticism, but doesn’t seem to recognize what’s going on. You’re not the only one to notice this either. Sometimes you have a little prayer request session for the boss… never prayer… always prayer requests though… And if you’re the boss you are always wondering why people don’t just do their jobs. Why aren’t they happy with a paycheck, you don’t have time to go around and pat everyone on the head and give out golden stars… what is this kindergarten? Unity is good, but why is it so hard?

This is a Psalm of David written for the people to sing as they would come into Jerusalem, the Holy city, to celebrate one of the three major feasts they would have each year. It would be sung by travelers who met on the road headed for a common destination. They wouldn’t know each other but they would join each other in singing this song.

I find it interesting that David is the author. If anyone knew about the need for unity it was David.  David was anointed to be the next king of Israel when he was a young boy. He kills the giant Goliath in battle. He serves in the king’s court as a musician. He marries the King’s daughter. But Saul get’s very envious of David and tries to kill David on several occasions. David has several opportunities to kill Saul but never does. Finally Saul and his son Jonathan die in battle and David attempts to reunite the kingdom but Saul’s family rebels and for about the first 5 chapters of 2 Samuel Israel has a civil war. People are killing their own countrymen until a truce is called, the bloodshed is stopped and David is the rightful king, but there are some that still resent his kingship.

David knows what it is like to be leader and try to unite a people who seemingly don’t want to be united. I think this Psalm (song) serves as a good reminder that some things are bigger than the petty things that divide us.

There is something that can cause unity to occur among even seemingly total strangers on the road to a common destination.

UNITY IS WORTH IT

The first thing we note is that unity is both good and pleasant! Some things are good, but they aren’t pleasant. Vegetables are a classic example of something that is good. I mean no one doubts the general health qualities of fresh raw vegetables. But unless you have acquired the taste for raw broccoli it taste and looks like a mini tree. I remember one time my wife an I stayed at a hotel and we were a bit late getting to the breakfast buffet the next morning and all the good stuff was taken and everything that was left was just “good for you.” I was  scraping to get a few bacon crumbs so I could sprinkle them on my grapes and banana halves.

There are some things that are pleasant, but aren’t good. The world is full of things that we might enjoy a little too much, like a biting remark, or talking behind somebody’s back, that are not good.

But before we go on and address some of the difficulties of unity. King David wants us to know and sing up front that Unity is good but that it is pleasant. We should not only need unity, but we should want it!

What kind of sacrifices do you make for the things you want?

If you are in a hunting club, You are up there on weekends planting food plots, putting up trail cams, tracking where the deer are. Everything gets put on the back burner when dear season rolls around.

Maybe it’s your kids. No one is going to fault you for wanting the best for your kids, right? So maybe you want to get them in a better school and so you borrow grandma’s address or you move so your address will be right or you contact everyone you know so you can figure out how to get little Johnny or Suzie in the right district for school. Or maybe it’s not a district issue, it’s a private school and so that costs more money and you sacrifice there.

The first thing in this song is about how good and pleasant unity is and it’s there to drive in us a desire to go and get it. To find it, even if it costs us something, because it is worth it!

UNITY AS WORSHIP

In this next part David brings to mind the image of when the high priest would be anointed. Specifically he goes back to the first High Priest, Aaron. The high priest was someone who was set apart to mediate between Israel and God. The people know they had sinned against God and they needed someone who could make sacrifices, sin offerings on their behalf.

We were saying “unity is good, but why is it so hard?”  We’ll it is difficult because of our sin, isn’t it? We are sinful people. We sin against others and we are sinned against. Whether it be my sinful children terrorizing each other, or a family bickering about a situation, gossip at work, or even quarrels at church.

Sin separates us from one another and it separates us from God! When we sin we put a break or tear in our relationship. Just take the 10 commandments. If you steal from someone it affects your relationship to them. If you commit adultery it affects relationships in two families and then creates wider trust issues in the whole community. If you lie, if you disrespect your parents, if you murder… these things all have relational consequences. There is no unity where sin is practiced and tolerated.

The biggest problem we have with unity is that we are all sinful people. Not only are we separated from one another but we are separated from God by our sin! Paul writes in Romans 3:23 that, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” The prophet Isaiah wrote, “your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God” (Isaiah 50:2).

For true Unity to exist, Sin has to be addressed!

In the context of this Psalm the high priest would be the one who would address the sins of the Nation of Israel before God. He would make a sacrifice to atone or pay for their sins. Every year on the day of Atonement there would be a national day of repentance and this high priest would reconcile the people to God.

The imagery here is that of the anointing of Aaron this man who was Israel’s high priest. When he was anointed they would use a ton of super fragrant oil that would pour out and all who were present would be able to smell it and thus were taking part in the ceremony. It covered his head, his beard, his robe, it covered everything.

This is important because it was abundant. It wasn’t anointing on a budget, but extravagant. It was this way to show what great love God has for us in that he would deal with our sins. His love is poured out on us. We deserve the wrath of God for the sins that we have committed but we receive the Grace of God through his appointed mediator.

The priest would be wearing a special vest that would have twelve stones representing the twelve tribes of Israel and as the oil flowed down it would cover over them all! This was another symbol of unity that this man didn’t make atonement or offer a sacrifice for the forgiveness or sins of just one tribe, but of all the tribes.

In our context we know that Jesus is our Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5); He is our high priest (Hebrews 4:14-16). We have the benefit of looking back on this now. We don’t have a high priest like Aaron. We have one better. We have Jesus Christ who made atonement for sins! He paid the price so that we might know God and have fellowship with him. His blood was poured out so that we might live.

The Apostle John wrote in 1 John 1:9 that, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to purify us from all unrighteousness.”  Also in Acts 3:18 we are told, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out.” It is through the work of Jesus on the cross that we can even know God and come into a relationship with Him through the forgiveness of our sins.

When we do we become a part of his church. Unity is one of the hallmarks of Christianity. Where there is no real unity, the devil has crept in and there is no real Christianity. Jesus said in John 13:35, “By this everyone will know you are my disciples, by your love for one another.”

Our unity is worship because it is evidence that our sins have been forgiven and that we have forgiven each other.

However, we’ve all seen or been in social situations where folks put on a plastic face and smile for the camera, but you know there is deeper tension beneath the surface. There is a sin issue that has to be resolved. I’ll never forget there was a woman in my former church who HATED me. I didn’t know why. She tried to get me fired! I didn’t know what was going on until someone told me.

My pastor said to leave it alone, but I couldn’t leave it alone, because for unity to exist, sin had to be addressed. For all I knew I had sinned against her somehow. If that was the case, her reaction was wrong, but while there was this issue between us, there would be no unity in the church. So I pulled a Matthew 18 and went to see her and her husband, asked point blank what I had done to offend them and sought reconciliation.

And do you know what… we were reconciled! It was a misunderstanding. She thought she heard something and rather than give me the benefit of the doubt she assigned me thoughts and motives that weren’t even there at all. She said she was sorry for saying all those mean things about me and trying to get me fired. I said I was sorry for not being clearer in what I said.

Unity is a WITNESS

This last part can appear a bit mystical. If you don’t know your bible geography very well you’ll always read these passages and just consider them as difficult names. However if you have the book of maps in the back of your bible you can look for these. If you see a map of Israel and in the north above the Sea of Galilee is Mount Herman. In the south is Jerusalem which is often referred to as Zion. There is over 100 miles between the two.

Mount Herman is the tallest mountain in the region and often has snow on the top. The mountain of Zion in the summer months especially is dry and arid. There is no way the abundant dew from Herman literally fell on mount Zion.

So this is what we see when we read this, the song writer David says Unity is an abundance of refreshing dew, that doesn’t occur naturally where we are… in other words it’s supernatural! It is something that can only happen because God has commanded it!

When we are united in Jesus Christ it sends a message to the world that something supernatural is taking place in our midst. We are drawn together not because of our love for bowhunting, or a particular nascar driver, or even for an SEC football team, but because of Jesus Christ.

 

ONE OF THE FEW

one-of-the-fewI had the opportunity to read One of the Few a few weeks ago. It’s a great read and well worth your time. I highly recommend it as a gift book for those who come into your life who are struggling (or should be struggling) with their world view. It’s a fantastic symphony of biography paired with practical application which makes it an easy and compelling read.

Jason Ladd is an authentic and engaging writer. One of the Few reads as his personal story of life as a Marine pilot and his conversion to Christianity. The window he opens into his life is also an invitation for the reader to examine their own life and evaluate their understanding of the world. Jason’s trasparent and intellectual writing style allow the reader to address real life issues in a thought provoking way.

The last part of the book is a great reference on different issues that confront the Christian worldview. Jason provides great answers as well as great references all throughout the book, but especially in these chapters that address varying lifestyle objections to Christianity. This makes the book especially valuable as a gift book to those who serve in our military who are struggling to discover a worldview that will answer life’s basic questions.

I can’t recommend this book enough. I think its a fantastic read for anyone, but can be especially powerful for men and women serving our armed forces that have real questions about Christianity. The Kindle version is on sale right now, but you will want to get a physical copy or two to give away.