Category: Habakkuk (Page 1 of 3)

How Long, O Lord?

“How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted. “
~Habakkuk 1

3:18

“Yet I will rejoice in the Lord!” ~Habakkuk 3:18

It’s a long drive between Amarillo and Henrietta. A looooong drive. What kept me occupied for the first hour or so of my trip yesterday were the 151 text messages I had received during and after our sermon here at Central. Kasey Love’s was the very first text I received with the inspirational words from Habakkuk, followed in order by Arlene, Stephanie, Andrew, Keegan, and then 145 more. Not everybody signed their names to the texts; those made me wonder. Some of the messages were horribly misspelled as the senders were obviously in a race to get their text to me first; those made me laugh.  All of the messages were from the holy Word of God, sent to me by my brothers and sisters in Christ, in an exercise I hoped would get us all thinking about the same thing.

We all sent the message to different people, none of whom were in the building at the time. I’m assuming there were close to a thousand people who, at about 11:15 yesterday morning, received these encouraging words from Habakkuk on their phones. I’m praying those texts prompted dozens dozens of conversations last night and today among co-workers, classmates, relatives, and neighbors. “Why did you send me that text?” “What did that text mean?” “Why were y’all doing that at church?” I’m hoping our people are telling their friends today that no matter what happens, we can find great joy in knowing our God who saves us.

“Yet I will rejoice in the Lord!”

I’m hoping that at 3:18 this afternoon, more of those texts will be flying around. I’m hoping we’re all going to be reminded every day this week at 3:18 that we serve a God who has always delivered us in the past and, therefore, will always deliver us in the present and in the future. I’m hoping we’ll encourage each other with these texts. I’m hoping we’ll remind our friends that we’re praying for them. I’m hoping people will be reminded to pray for one another. And for me.

I’m looking at these names on my phone yesterday as I’m traveling south on 287: Trey. Olen. Michaela. Michelle. Scott. Amber. Tiffani. Hannah. Jake. Matt. Larry. Adam. Glen. Mike. Erin. Chris. Cameron. John. Bethany. Bradley. Jared. Tanner. Tammy. Kelly. Tim. Kim. Teri. Melissa. Lori. Monica. Lonnie. Spencer. Gary. Ashlynn. Billy. Royse Anne. Karen. Ashley. Joe. Lowery. Judy. Erica. Lisa. Laura. Robin. Greg. Francis. Lachelle. Leslie. Rodney. Michael. Tommy. Connie. Robert. Wayne. I’m praying over every one of these. 151 of them. All of them dealing with something pretty heavy, I’m sure. Each of them carrying a weight, bearing a burden, yet declaring that they will rejoice in the Lord.

“Yet I will rejoice in the Lord!”

Then at 3:18, about ten miles north of Vernon, another round of texts: Marli. Wayne. Becky. Winslow. Jeff. Lanny. Steve. Miles. Scott. Lots of others.

I’ve been told today that at 3:18 yesterday, phones were going off everywhere, flashing and beeping what I believe is the strongest statement of faith in our Scriptures.

“Yet I will rejoice in the Lord!”

I don’t know what our God is doing this week with our little text exercise. I’m not sure how he’s going to use this to his glory and praise. I’m hoping these texts and prayers will strengthen us. I’m hoping we’ll be encouraged and our faith will be renewed. I’m hoping we’ll be united as one family, together in our meditation and application of this rich passage. I’m praying we’ll be comforted in our trials, we’ll be steeled in our resolve, and we’ll be given great hope in our Savior.

“Yet I will rejoice in the Lord!”

Peace,

Allan

Struggling Together

I believe that open and honest struggling and wrestling with God is a sign of faith. I believe that even questioning God and arguing with God reflects a strong inner conviction in his power and goodness.

Think about it. To demand that God ought to act justly is based solely on our firm belief that God is just. If we don’t believe God is just, we won’t go to him when we see injustice; we’ll go somewhere else. What we believe about God — if we really believe it — is what leads to this kind of honest wrestling.

We believe in God’s omnipotence. There is only one God. He does not share his power with any other god. He made the whole world and everything in it. He is the sovereign ruler over all creation. So, every single thing that happens, good and bad, fair and unfair, happens because God either causes it or allows it. And that leads directly to the really hard questions: Why? Why, God do you allow these things to happen? Why, God, don’t you intervene?

We believe in God’s righteousness. God loves the world he created, he is concerned with what happens to his creatures in the world, and he’s certainly not wicked in the ways he deals with the world. But we’re faced with the reality of terrible cruelty and awful suffering in our world. And if God is omnipotent and righteous, that leads directly to these agonizing prayers: How long is this going to last? God, where are you?

The prophet Habakkuk doesn’t like God’s answers. He can’t stand what he and his people are having to endure. None of it makes sense to him. So he keeps arguing with God. He keeps coming back to God. He struggles and accuses and complains.

“O Lord from everlasting. My God. My Holy One.” ~Habakkuk 1:12

When God’s people in Scripture complain about their troubles, when they lament the injustices of life, when they seek answers to their questions about the evil in the world, they don’t write letters to the editor, they don’t hold court in the coffee shop, they don’t call the talk shows, and they don’t join a campaign. God’s people bring their doubts and their fears, their uncertainties and questions, their complaints and arguments straight to God.

And in the case of the Psalms and Habakkuk, they do so as part of their worship, in the presence of God, in the middle of the congregation.

We’re struggling together here at Central. We’re struggling with the Knebusches, the Newtons, the Pucketts; with Norma, Jack and Barbara, Christi, the Noyes family; and the list goes on and on. We’re struggling. Together. We’re questioning and complaining, trying to make sense out of things that just don’t add up with what we know and believe about our merciful Father. But we’re struggling in faith.

God bless us. God, please honor our faithful lament.

Allan

Joy at the Table

The Lord’s Supper is the central, communal, corporate act of God’s Church. Instituted by our Savior, passed on by the apostles, and practiced for centuries by God’s people, our communion meal has historically served as the primary reason for Christian gathering and the climax of the Christian assembly. It’s the high point. The pinnacle.

As most of you know by now, my great desire is to see the Lord’s Supper returned in our churches to the rightful place of prominence it has always enjoyed until recently. In our Church of Christ assemblies, our communion time needs to be the highlight. And it’s not. Not always.

And it won’t be — not consistently, anyway — until we return the joy.

When presenting the case for expressions of joy and gladness and celebrations of happiness during our Lord’s Meal, I’m often reminded by well-meaning brothers and sisters that our time at the table is meant for remembering the death of Jesus. It’s inappropriate, they say, to rejoice when thinking about death. Our time at the table is for somber introspection and solemn reflection, not conversation and singing and grinning. Certainly not laughter.

First, I would say our Sunday communion has much, much more to do with the Resurrection than with the Crucifixion. Much more. I would suggest the first Christians didn’t really think about Jesus’ death during their Sunday meals. They were too overcome by the fact that the Christ really was alive. That was the focus of communion.

But if a person insists that the communion meal is about remembering the death — and people will do this by quoting 1 Corinthians 11:26: “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” — we’re on solid ground to celebrate in that case, too.

For the writers of Scripture, the death of Jesus was and is good news. It’s great news! And it is more than appropriate at the table of Christ  to express the pleasure and the joy that are caused by his death. To “proclaim” means to announce publicly and clearly what has happened and what it means eternally. It’s not to be whispered through cupped hands into the ears of a just a few disciples in the room. The good news is to be shouted with joy.

The Eucharist (thanksgiving, right?) is the perfect time and place, not to mention the most practical form, for showing and confessing that the death of Jesus is totally different from a natural event or a criminal act or some tragic loss. The death of Jesus gives us no reason to accuse or moan or lament or complain.

Those celebrating the Lord’s Supper know the pain and the shame, the horror and scandal, of Christ’s death. However, we rejoice in the crucifixion and praise the slaughtered Lamb because God has raised him from the dead and accepted his intercession on our behalf. In Paul’s theology and in the message of John, Hebrews, 1 Peter, and Revelation, the Crucified One is always the living and reigning Christ. The One who rules the Church and the world and who will come again is the crucified Christ.

We have abundant reason to rejoice in Christ’s death and praise the crucified yet living Lamb.

And until we recapture that sense of great joy around our living Lord’s table, we will continue to commemorate a solemn service instead of a celebratory feast. It will remain a weekly task to be performed instead of a community meal to be enjoyed. And it will stay in the background. It won’t ever rise past the preacher or the music in terms of proper position and prominence in our Sunday assemblies.

What if our Sunday communion services sounded and felt more like what you’re going to experience around your dining room table this coming Thusday? What if, when we dine with our risen Lord on Sundays, joy were the prevailing mood?

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More than $7,500 raised for Madison Knebusch and her family at yesterday’s spaghetti lunch. Praise God!

Bad news received just this afternoon regarding the PET scan today on Madison’s right lung. Another round of chemotherapy to begin later this week.

“Yet I will rejoice in the Lord.” ~Habakkuk 3:18

We love you, Madison and Levi and Shannon, Britton, Londen, Gracyn, and Hudson. Our hearts are breaking with yours as you endure this horrible trial. We ache for you and with you. And all of us want so desperately to do something to help. We want so badly to help. And, honestly, sometimes we don’t even know what to say. We don’t have the words. Sometimes we say dumb things and do dumb things out of a deep love for you that is compelling us to try anything to provide you with encouragement and comfort. Please be patient with us and forgive us.

Please know how much we love you.

We trust in our loving Father. We ask for increased faith. And we continually lift you up to our mighty God for his divine purposes.

Grace & Peace,

Allan

So the People Begin to Sing

“Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord.” ~Habakkuk 3:2

The prophet’s song in Habakkuk 3 is his response to God’s revelation that things are about to get really bad for the people. Habakkuk has spent the better part of his prophesy questioning God, accusing God, lashing out at God for just standing around and watching while wickedness abounds. And God answers those laments by telling his prophet that things are about to get a whole lot worse. Eventually, the Lord says, things are going to work out. But you’re going to have to wait.

So, the people begin to sing. According to the way Habakkuk 3 is written, judging by the style and the directions for singing at the beginning and end, and the technical musical notes throughout, it appears that all of God’s people sang Habakkuk 3. Together.

Habakkuk 3 is a corporate song of corporate worship.

It recounts the ways God has delivered his people in the past. It gives glory to God for his actions in history. It praises God for his power and his might. The song remembers God, it honors God, it worships God.

The song doesn’t really answer any of Habakkuk’s questions. But the song gives Habakkuk a new perspective. It shapes his vision. The song leads Habakkuk to pen the greatest words of faith found in all of Holy Scripture:

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will  rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.” ~Habakkuk 3:17-18

There’s something special about our corporate worship. There’s something really powerful in an assembly of God’s people coming together to give him praise. When God’s people assemble to worship him, when we come together to give ourselves to him in worship — and I’m not talking about showing up and sitting in a pew; I’m not talking about watching your watch and worrying about your lunch plans; I’m not talking about just going through the motions and checking off another duty or obeying another command —when we give ourselves wholly and holy to our God in praise, something really wonderful happens.

True worship of God, sacrificial praise in spirit and truth, recounting to God and to one another his marvelous deeds, leads directly to changed hearts. Attitudes change in real worship. Outlooks are shaped. World views are molded. Really worshiping God together always causes us to see things differently, to view things as they really are, to even look at one another in a more genuine Christ-like way. There’s strength in singing. There’s power in worship. Real worship moves us from fear and anxiety to faith and confidence and joy.

Real worship reminds us of what’s important. It focuses us on eternal, big-picture things instead of the little petty things that distract us from what our God is doing. Corporate worship is where things really make sense.

When’s the last time you really gave everything you have to God in praise? When’s the last time you joined your brothers and sisters and sang at the top of your lungs about God’s amazing deeds and matchless grace? Try it this Sunday. Scripture shows us that it’ll change your life.

Peace,

Allan

Renew Them In Our Day

“Lord, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord.
Renew them in our day,
in our time make them known.” ~Habakkuk 3:2

I’m still learning how to pray. I read the psalms and I read the prayers of the prophets and I realize I have such a long way to go. In order to pray with the mind of Christ, I must pray the will of the Father. But during my moments of most honest reflection, I admit, I’m usually praying for the will of the preacher.

Habakkuk prays that God’s deeds, not his own deeds or desires, might be renewed. Usually, I’m sorry to say, I’m talking to God about some specific project or idea or initiative and asking him to renew my work. I’m cruising along preaching and ministering and administrating and doing what a good preacher in a good church is supposed to do and everything’s great. But as soon as somebody bumps the table, as soon as there’s a little mess, suddenly prayer becomes very, very important to me. Now I’m really alert to prayer and the deep need for prayer and my intense dependence on prayer.

And I beg God to renew my work. God, fix my preaching. Lord, help our Small Groups. God, would you please revive my Bible class? Lord, build my ministry back up. If I’m not careful, my interest is really on what I’m building and not really on what God may actually want. It’s humbling to admit, and a tough lesson to learn, that quite possibly God’s not nearly as interested in my little stacks of programs and sermons as I am.

God, renew your deeds. Revive your work.

Do a new work, Lord. Don’t just refurbish or clean up what I’m doing. God, create something brand new here, something I haven’t even thought about. Do something I would never dream of, Lord. For your purposes. To your eternal glory, God. May your will be done in my preaching, not mine. May your will be done at Legacy, not mine. Lord, may your will be done in our Small Groups, in our elders’ meetings, and in this community, just like it is in heaven.

Renew your deeds, God. Not mine.

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I’ve added a new link to the list there on the right. This is a blog I read regularly and have been meaning to include on my site for quite a while. I’ve just not taken the time.

John Mark Hicks’ blog, John Mark Hicks Ministries, is a wonderful source for Restoration and Church of Christ history and perspective. John Mark’s is a prophetic voice, speaking God’s Word into the culture and into our churches with spirit and truth. And, as regular readers to my blog know, I’m a huge fan of his research and writings on the Lord’s Supper, baptism, and our corporate worship assemblies. His trilogy of books on those three “sacraments” are among the best written on the topics in decades. “Come to the Table” is arguably the greatest work on communion ever produced by a C of C scholar. OK, I know. All that sounds a little over the top. Sorry. Hicks is good. You’ll like his blog.

Peace,

Allan

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