Category: Faith (page 1 of 21)

Surely Not I?

All four downtown churches came together for a Maundy Thursday worship service last night at Polk Street United Methodist Church, continuing a tradition that began with the prayerful formation of our “4 Amarillo” partnership eight years ago. Attendance was about half of what it’s been in the past; we were all pretty spread out in Polk Street’s beautiful sanctuary and lots of us were wearing masks. We didn’t walk down to the front to receive communion as is our practice; we were handed those sad little pre-packaged kits to wrestle with in our seats. But, still, every time we gather across our denominational lines for worship and service in the name of our Lord Jesus, it is a tremendous blessing and privilege. Our “4 Amarillo” events are the highlights of my every year. I remain thankful to God for these opportunities that, I realize, not many Christians get to experience. And I never take it for granted.

I was honored by God to preach last night’s message from the account of the Last Supper in the Gospel of Mark. In this telling of the story, Jesus declares to his disciples that one of them will betray him and, one by one, it says, they ask him, “Surely not I?” Last night we focused on turning that question into a statement of loyalty and allegiance to our Lord. It’s not a question mark for us, it’s an exclamation point!

One of you is going to betray me. Surely not I!

Not me, Lord! Not us, Lord! Not tonight! Not tomorrow! Not ever!

Increase my faith, Father, yes. Strengthen my resolve, Lord, yes. Yes, Holy Spirit, give me power to live more fully for Christ, to be with Christ and for Christ. May everything I say and do and think be in the name and manner of Jesus from right now until his day of eternal glory.

May this be our prayer and may this be our commitment. One of you is going to betray me. Surely not I!

Peace,

Allan

Patience

“The word patience means the willingness to stay where we are and live the situation out to the full in the belief that something hidden there will manifest itself to us. Impatient people are always expecting the real thing to happen somewhere else and therefore want to go elsewhere. The moment is empty. But patient people dare to stay where they are.”      ~Henri Nouwen

Are You Singing Today?

“A Christian should be an Alleluia from head to foot.”   ~St. Augustine

If Augustine of Hippo had had a Twitter account 1,700 years ago, he would have blown it up with this quote.

Eyes Off the Hills!

Lots of Christians believe that once they repent and confess Jesus as Lord and begin living in the righteousness of God, nothing bad should ever happen to them again. Christians should not have accidents or arguments with spouses, they should not be misunderstood at work or talked back to by their children. No problems, no pains, no setbacks, no sins, no issues.

Even Christians who don’t believe that sometimes talk like they do. Too blessed to be stressed!

So, when something does go wrong, some Christians don’t handle it very well. Maybe a doubt creeps into your head. Maybe a loneliness moves into your soul. An illness puts you in the hospital or an argument lands you in the doghouse. A misunderstanding leads to anger and pain.  A person walking in the way of faith gets into trouble and starts looking for help.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills — where does my help come from?” ~Psalm 121:1

What does this person see on the hills? What’s happening on the hills?

The pagan religions were practiced on the hills. That’s where the pagan gods were worshiped. The high places on the hills are where the nations built their altars to Ba’al and erected their shrines to Asherah. People went to the hills to engage in acts of idol worship they believed would ensure their safety or fix whatever is wrong. You worshiped the pagan gods on the hills to enhance the fertility of your livestock and crops. The pagan rituals would keep you safe from invading armies. The religious formulas and good luck charms would make you wealthy and wise. It would protect you from evil.

Where do your eyes go when things get a little shaky? Who do you look to? Where do you put your trust when things go bad? There are all kinds of things we can look to for help besides God. And all those things are idols.

In the Bible, the hills are where the idols are worshiped. Hosea 4:12-13 and Ezekiel 6:13 are two of dozens of biblical references. 1 Kings and 1 Chronicles describe the high places where God’s people set up sacred stones and Asherah poles “on every high hill.” Think about the altars of Ba’al on the hills of Mount Carmel. Think about King Rehoboam who built his altar on the high place at Dan. Think about the hills of Caesarea Philippi where the temples and shrines were built to Pan and Ba’al and Asherah and where they worshiped Roman Emperors and sacred goats.

When you run into trouble or when something goes wrong, you holler help. And if you look to the hills, there it is! All kinds of help! Instant help!

Except for one thing: it doesn’t work. It’s an illusion. Nobody is ever really helped by what’s happening in the hills.

“We will come to you, for you are the Lord our God. Surely the idolatrous commotion on the hills and mountains is a deception.” ~ Jeremiah 3:23

If you think the next election is going to fix things, you’re looking to the hills. If you believe the next scientific breakthrough is going to heal things, you’re eyes are on the hills. If you think your next promotion or pay raise is going to put you over the top and fill the hole in your soul, you’re looking to the hills.

When you look to science, technology, or politics for help, you’re going to be disappointed. When you put your faith in the economy or your family, your education goals or your career plan, you’re going to be let down. When you try to ignore your pain or distract from your troubles with pills or drinks or vacations or sports or some kind of busyness, it just leads to more pain and more trouble.

“My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” ~Psalm 121:2

Your help comes from the Lord, not from what’s in the hills. You don’t need any supplemental insurance from what’s going on in the hills. When your loving Father is the Maker and Sustainer of the Universe, you don’t need your safety or security to come from the hills.

“The Lord will keep you from all evil — he will watch over your life.” ~Psalm 121:7

That doesn’t mean you’re never going to stub your toe. No one gets out of this life without the experience of pain. The promise is that no injury or accident, no illness or distress, no tragedy, nothing that can ever happen to you will have evil power over you. Nothing can ever happen to you that can separate you from God’s purpose for you.

That’s the Lord’s Prayer. That’s the expectation. “Deliver us from evil.” That prayer is answered for you every day. Sometimes several times a day.

Take your eyes off the hills and place them directly on the God of Heaven and Earth who says, “I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who says, “In this world you will have trouble; but take heart, I have overcome the world!”

Peace,

Allan

I Trust You Now

Lord Jesus, I believe that you are able and willing to deliver me from all the care and unrest and bondage of my Christian life. I believe you did die to set me free, not only in the future, but now and here. I believe you are stronger than sin, and that you can keep me, even me, in my extreme of weakness, from falling in its snares or yielding obedience to its commands. And Lord, I am going to trust you to keep me. I have tried keeping myself, and have failed, and failed, most grievously. I am absolutely helpless. So now I will trust you. I give myself to you. I keep back no reserves. Body, soul, and spirit, I present myself to you as a piece of clay, to be fashioned into anything your love and your wisdom shall choose. And now I am yours. I believe you do accept that which I present to you; I believe that this poor, weak, foolish heart has been taken possession of by you, and that you have even at this very moment begun to work in me to will and to do of your good pleasure. I trust you utterly, and I trust you now.

~Hannah Whitall Smith

It Runs in the Family

We pass on to our kids the things we’re passionate about. It’s no accident or surprise that kids really love a lot of thing their parents love. You ask a hunter why he loves hunting and he’ll probably say, “It just runs in our family. My dad took me hunting, my granddad took him hunting, and I take my boy hunting. We’re just a hunting family.”

Why do you like Classic Rock? Why do you listen to Led Zeppelin and the Eagles and Van Halen? “My dad loved Classic Rock. That’s all we listened to growing up. He took me to my first Aerosmith concert when I was thirteen. We sang Tom Petty songs in the car all the time. It just runs in our family.”

Carrie-Anne and I are very passionate about Texas. We love Texas, we love being Texans. We want to talk to like Texans and think like Texans and act like Texans and eat like Texans. And our kids are the exact same way. Why? Because we took them to the Alamo and bought them all Davy Crockett coonskin caps when they were little. We took their pictures in huge fields of Bluebonnets every spring. We celebrate Texas Independence Day in our house every year. Carrie-Anne taught the girls how to make guacamole and how to make chili — no beans! And we only put mustard on our hamburgers — not ketchup; and never mayonnaise! When Valerie and Carley cross the Texas state line going to or coming from college, they call us and sing the Texas state song over the phone. Why? Because we did that together on all our vacations and road trips. It runs in the family.

Being Texas Rangers fans runs in our family. My dad took me to Rangers games at the old Arlington Stadium and Carrie-Anne’s parents took her. And we got our kids to the Ballpark as fast as we could. Sure, early on, they only went so they could get pink cotton candy and a Lemon Chill. But we kept going. Dozens and dozens and dozens of hot, sweaty, miserable, summer nights. But today our girls know who Nolan Ryan is and they know Johnny Oates and Rusty Greer and Adrian Beltre and they know Kenny Rogers’ perfect game and they know Nellie Cruz misplayed that ball in right field. Our kids are Rangers fans. Why? You can ask them. It runs in the family.

We pass on our passions. We transmit our treasures.

We all have dreams for our kids. We have goals we want them to achieve. We buy the school supplies at Office Max because we know our boy is going to be a rocket scientist. We buy the special ruler so he can be a rocket scientist. Of course, he uses the ruler to fling spitwads across the room when the teacher’s not looking. We try so hard with our kids. We want so much for them.

But when it comes to our faith and Christianity and our single-minded devotion to the Lord, some of us back off with our kids. We don’t want to push it. You want them to chart their own course and make their own decisions. You want them to have their own faith. You don’t want to force anything on them.

Well, let me tell you something: You’re the only one who doesn’t want to push something on your kids!

Everybody’s teaching your kids and they all have an agenda. The entertainment they consume, the iPhones they use, the designers of the games they play, the textbooks they read, the advertisements they see, the sports they play, and the cultural air they breathe — everybody’s pushing their agenda and their worldview onto your children and grandchildren. You’re the only one who’s not.

What you want — and it takes effort and hard work and commitment — is somebody to ask your kids, “Are you a Christian?” And they answer, “Yeah, of course. It runs in my family.”

Peace,

Allan

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