Category: Habakkuk (Page 2 of 3)

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?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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

Yet I Will Rejoice

“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?
Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!”

Jenny BizThese are the words that popped up on my screen at just after 4:00 this afternoon. These were the triumphal words chosen by the family and friends of Jenny Bizaillion to communicate to their thousands of brothers and sisters in Christ who have been as united by her illness and struggle for life as they are by the blood of the Lamb that Jenny died today at 3:38pm.

I don’t understand it. I don’t get it at all. I don’t pretend to know why our God allows such a thing as this to happen. Why do horrible things happen to wonderful people? I don’t know. Why do great things happen to lousy people? I don’t know that either. Neither did Habakkuk.

“Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,

I will be joyful in God my Savior.”

As long as I live, I’ll never ever forget the faith and the strength shown by Rick and Beverly and Josh and Jonathan and their families during this very difficult ordeal. I pray that I would show half the faith in a similar circumstance. I also pray that nobody ever has to endure a circumstance like this. I’ll always remember David’s courage and endurance and steadfastness in caring for his sweet wife and their precious daughter. Tirelessly. Loyally. Faithfully. I was sitting quietly with Rick and Beverly Saturday afternoon when David emerged from Jenny’s room to go watch Malaya play in a church league ball game. He had been working with Jenny’s legs and knees, doing everything the doctors and therapists said needed to be done following the Wednesday amputations.

Hug your kids today. Kiss your spouse tonight. Call your parents. Express your love. Show your appreciation. And then get down on your knees and face and thank God for the wonderful people he’s put in your life.

Like the Rosses. And David. And Jenny Biz.

While you’re down there, pray for these families. Pray for our merciful Father to bless them each with his grace and comfort and peace.

“On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine — the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces;
he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.
In that day they will say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him and he saved us.
This is the Lord, we trusted in him;
let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.'”

Peace,

Allan

God, Heal Jenny Biz!

Jenny Bizaillion, a dear friend of ours from our days in Mesquite, is fighting for her life today at Baylor Grapevine. Please join Carrie-Anne and me in begging our great God to heal her.

Jenny BizJenny is the daughter of Rick and Beverly Ross. Rick was the preacher at the Mesquite Church of Christ in those days and now proclaims the gospel in Decatur. He is a godly man beyond reproach. Dedicated. Determined. Reflective. Solid. He’s one of the reasons I went into preaching. Beverly is his amazing wife. A renowned speaker on the women’s ministry front. Positively optimistic. Outgoing. Spiritual. Inspirational. Jenny’s brother, Josh, is the preacher at the Sycamore View CofC in Memphis. Dynamic. A completely sold-out disciple of our Lord. Jenny’s other brother, Jonathan, is the worship leader at the Bammel Church in Houston. He regularly takes huge groups of people directly into the presence of God. It’s easy for him because, obviously, Jonathan lives there. In the presence of God.

Jenny and her husband, David, have a nine-year-old daughter, Malaya. She’s just a few months younger than our Carley. Jenny and David are both such sweet-spirited followers of Jesus. Sensitive. Compassionate. Selfless. Sacrificial. Open hearts and confessing spirits. We shared many meals together during our nearly four years in Mesquite. We also shared prayers. And Bible studies. Theological discussions into the night. Planning church programs. Feeding the poor.

David and I planned the very first “24 Hours of Prayer” event together there in Mesquite. We planned the men’s advance at Camp Carter in Fort Worth where we both got lit up by Jason Reeves on the paintball fields. (If you’re dividing up paintball teams, don’t put the career police officer and SWAT team member on the other side!) David and I took in several forgettable Rangers games together in those days. We were also together in my pickup truck on I-45 on September 11, 2001. We were heading to Houston to watch Barry Bonds against the Astros. We were talking during the trip, not listening to the radio. And we didn’t realize anything had happened in New York and D.C. until we saw all the flags in Houston at half-staff and made a phone call.

I’ll never forget that day with David. Taking turns calling Carrie-Anne and Jenny on the one cell phone we had between us. Watching the news reports on the TVs in the bar at Chili’s. Praying. Waiting in David’s sister’s living room until Bud Selig cancelled the baseball game. Driving back to Mesquite, listening to news radio, talking to our wives. Meeting together at the Mesquite church building for a prayer service.

We sort of fell out of contact with David and Jenny six or seven years ago after we moved to Arlington to be closer to KRLD and the Ballpark. We kept up with them through Rick and Beverly and mutual friends from Mesquite. But, until last Friday, I don’t think I’d actually seen David since 2004.

Friday.

In the ICU waiting room at Baylor hospital in Grapevine, just ten minutes northeast of our house. Jenny, a beautiful, funny, competitive, stubborn, loving 31-year-old wife and mother and daughter and sister — a wonderful child of our God — was on life support. David had taken her to the hospital Thursday after she just wasn’t able to shake the flu. By Friday her kidneys had both shut down, her lungs had quit, her liver had failed, and her blood pressure had fallen to almost nothing. It’s a Strep-A infection. It’s in her blood and organs. It’s eating her up. By late Friday night, doctors were giving Jenny a 50-50 chance of survival.

Today, Jenny is still fighting. And, today, our God is still good. Very, very, very good.

It’s been a relentless roller coaster for this precious family. Jenny is making slow progress. Very slow. But we are getting tiny bits of good news. The numbers, as bad as they are, are heading in the right direction. Her condition, as bad as it is, is getting better. And our merciful God is to be praised.

Please join us in praying for Jenny and David and Malaya and Rick and Beverly and Josh and Jonathan and all of their family and friends. You can keep up with her progres by clicking here. This CarePages site will ask you to enter your name and email address and create a personal password. When you do it, you’ll be able to monitor what’s happening with Jenny and you’ll be able to send the family encouraging notes. I know they are reading these notes constantly. They’re even reading them to Jenny in her room. And they’re regularly updating the page with very specific prayer requests.

Please, I’m begging you to stop what you’re doing right now and ask our God in the name of his Holy Son, Christ Jesus, our crucified and resurrected King, to heal Jenny. Ask God to take everything out of her body that is doing her harm. Ask God to bring her blood pressure up and to obliterate this infection from hell. My brothers and sisters here at Legacy, the family of God in Marble Falls, in Benton, out in Fresno. The community of faith at Austin Grad. My brothers in ministry in Waco and Temple and Robinson and McGregor. Everybody reading this blog, please pray today for Jenny Biz.

“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

« Older posts Newer posts »