Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Dr. "O" - An Unsung Hero

Today I received a very rich blessing!  I was invited to come out to Broad River Correctional Center and hear the BRCC Band Concert under the direction of Dr. Dave Osterlund.  Dr. "O" as he is called by the inmates, has done an amazing thing that not many people even know about.  17 months ago Dr. Osterlund started the first and only prison band in SC, and as far as we know, the only prison band in the nation.  All of the band members were required to learn to read music and play in a recorder choir for 15 weeks.  After that, they could choose an instrument to play.  Enough instruments were donated to comprise a 16-piece band covering brass, woodwinds and percussion.  Lexington Baptist gave a trombone, a baritone and a clarinet. 

Yes, they may have sounded a bit like the Mayberry Band, but most of these men have only been playing their instrument for 3,4, or 5 months!  And several of them were actually quite good.  I was just so amazed by what I was witnessing that I had to write about it.  Music adds so much to our human existence, and it is incalculable what this prison band will do in the lives of these men whose lives have been so broken by failure.

I told several of the men that a band is like one big puzzle.  Each individual has a piece of that puzzle that by itself may not be very meaningful until all of these parts come together in unity.  We all need to be a part of something that is bigger than ourselves.  That is the context in which God chooses to move and work in our lives.  We have got to learn how we fit in to the larger group.  Thank you, Dr. "O"  for having such a vision for this prison ministry and for sharing your personal witness for the Lord Jesus Christ!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Wow! Angels Everywhere! And, Oh Yeah, There Was This Baby

Today is October 12, 2014 and we are in the middle of the Biblical Feast of Tabernacles we are to observe according to Leviticus 23.  If we truly wanted to be accurate in our religious holidays we would be celebrating Jesus’ birth during this Feast every year because that is when He was actually born (And that can be proven using the scriptural account of when Zacharias and Elizabeth gave birth to John, but that’s another subject).  I do celebrate The Light of the World coming during December because that is when Mary was conceived of the Holy Spirit, and we believe that life begins at conception.

With that being said, look at Luke 2 which is the account of Jesus’ birth beginning with the angelic proclamation to a group of shepherds.  Verse 20 says, “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen.”

What had the shepherds heard and seen?  The immediate response from most of us is that the shepherds heard and saw an angel telling them about the birth of the long-awaited Jewish Messiah, followed by a multitude of the heavenly host praising God!

But read the whole passage and you will see something a little different which has a word for us about true worship: Luke 2:16-20:  “So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.  When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.  But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.  The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”  (That little tag phrase, "which were just as they had been told" tells us that they were rejoicing about what they heard and saw after the angelic visitation.)

The Shepherds were glorifying and praising God because they had heard that the Messiah had come and they had actually seen HIM!

Sure, the angelic choir had to be awesome, and no doubt the shepherds included that part in the telling of their story.  But they were not going around saying, “Oh, we heard and saw angels in the night!  It was the best singing and praising we have ever heard!  And these angels were so awesome!  They blew us away, and we just felt like we could have stayed there all night listening, singing along and worshipping God!  Sure, some of the shepherds thought they were too loud and dancing around a little too much, but they were unbelievable!  And, oh yeah, the Messiah was born.”
By now you get my point.  The shepherds were rejoicing because they had seen God in the flesh!  He was the focus of what they had experienced – it was not all about the grand and glorious display in the sky (or on the stage).   As a worship Pastor my goal for corporate worship is that people don’t depart saying, “Oh the choir was great!“ or “The band was awesome!” or “The orchestra was incredible!”  After worship may we “return glorifying and praising God” because we just experienced being in the very presence of the Messiah, the King of all Kings, our One and Only God!”

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Don't Live in Fear, Live in Prayer!

This week is the 13th anniversary of 9/11 when America came under attack by an un-named army from an un-named nation.  There are still many unanswered questions about that day, but we do know that there is an evil Satanic presence beyond our comprehension at work in this world, and it is capable of the most heinous atrocities imaginable.   Many of us wonder every September if there will be another attempt at such a catastrophic attack upon our soil at this anniversary, or when ISIS will claim another genocidal victory.  Most of us will agree that it is not a matter of IF, but simply a matter of WHEN we will be targeted again, and we can only wonder WHERE it will occur.

So, do I live in fear?

Well, in a word, "No!"  I live in prayer! 

There are those who say they don't live in fear, but apart from our God, I would propose that in actuality they are living in denial with a false sense of security because we are in the good 'ol U.S. of A.  Or else they may have taken on the same attitude of disbelief like the children of Israel who thought they had taken all the necessary precautions against calamity.  But the prophet Isaiah told them:
"You built a reservoir between the two walls for the water of the Old Pool,
but you did not look to the One who made it, or have regard for the One who planned it long ago. The Lord, the Lord Almighty, called you on that day to weep and to wail, to tear out your hair and put on sackcloth.  But see, there is joy and revelry, slaughtering of cattle and killing of sheep, eating of meat and drinking of wine!  “Let us eat, drink and be merry,” you say, “for tomorrow we die!”  (Is. 22:11-13)

The Father has called us to be warriors in this battle, which is primarily a spiritual battle that needs to be fought on our knees. 

2 Corinthians 4:12 and 16 from "The Aramaic Bible in English" (Thinking of our brothers in the Middle East) puts it this way: "So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you...Because of this, it is not tiresome to us, for even if our external person is being destroyed, on the other hand, that which is from within is renewed day by day."

So, grab your sword, get out there and pray!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

This Israeli Woman Gets It

Mom of Slain Israeli Teen Naftali Fraenkel Hopes for 'Peace and Calm'

The mother of an Israeli teenager who was kidnapped and murdered said Monday that she shares the pain of the parents of a Palestinian teenager burned to death in what police say was a revenge killing. “No mother or father should go through what we are going now,” said the mother, Rachel Fraenkel, whose son, Naftali, was among three Israeli teens murdered in the West Bank.        
“Even in the depth of the mourning of our son, it’s hard for me to de “The shedding of innocent blood is against morality, is against the Torah and Judaism, it’s against the basis of our life in this country.” She concluded: “We truly hope that very soon the peace and calm will come back all over our country.”
scribe how distressed we were over the outrage that happened in Jerusalem,” she said, speaking of the apparent revenge killing of Mohammed Abu Khdeir.

Retaliation and revenge is an ever-growing snowball that will lead the Middle East into all-out war.  I believe in Justice and I believe capitol punishment can be just, and it can be a deterrent.  But vigilante "justice" is only revenge which the Torah teaches only belongs to YWHY.  "Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay. In time their foot will slip, for their day of disaster is near, and their doom is coming quickly." (Deut. 32:35)
And the New Testament validates what the Torah teaches: "Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord." (Rom. 12:19)

Even though the Prince of Darkness in this world has an apparent death-grip on the minds and hearts of both the rulers and the people of this world, it is refreshing to hear the heart of this one Israeli woman.  And please be encouraged to know that one day the Prince of Peace will come and take His revenge upon the evil of this world, and He will establish His Millennium of Peace on the earth when He comes to claim His Bride.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Joy Will Come in the Morning

It's a perfect day of rest on this Shabbat to contemplate the sacrifice that Jesus made for us on a Roman cross approximately 1,981 years ago.  But if a day is as a thousand years to God, then it all happened "the day before yesterday" so to speak.  Yet it seems so far removed from our generation, and there are so many questions that puzzle us for which there are no answers.  But one day everything will be brought into the light, and we will know exactly when and where Jesus was crucified, what became of the robe Jesus wore that the soldiers gambled for, and exactly when did Jesus rise from the dead? (All we know is that the Mary's went to the tomb "while it was still dark" and found it empty.

But today it is cold. -- The coldness of death was in that tomb where Jesus lay on a hard slab of stone at the healthy earthly age of 33.  Yet He was a part of the One and only Jehovah God from before the creation of the earth.

Today it is raining. -- The sky is cloudy and it has been raining all day.  Many poets have compared rain to tears falling from heaven upon the earth.  Indeed, the Father's heart was grieved to sorrow unimaginable for what His only Son willingly endured on our behalf.

Today it is still. -- I went out in the soft rain to get the mail from the box, and I saw no birds, heard no chirping or dogs barking.  There were no cars or people moving about....much like the stillness of the tomb - sealed, silent and still.

But in a matter of hours we will be singing loud songs of praise proclaiming, "He's alive!  Alive!  Alive, Hallelujah!  He's alive, praise and glory to the Lamb!"

Yes, it's a perfect day for mourning, but what happens if you take "U" out of mourning?  You get morning!  We know that Joy Comes in the Morning! (Psalm 30)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Proverbs 31 Woman is the Image of Christ

Proverbs 31:10-31 is often used to describe a godly woman as a “proverbs 31 woman.” But there is something very unique about this passage that is often disregarded by the English or non-Hebrew speaking world because no one would actually see this unless they were able to read this from a Torah scroll in Hebrew, and even then they could possibly miss this unless someone pointed it out.  This passage is 22 verses long.  There are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet and this passage is an acrostic of the Hebrew alphabet – each verse begins with a consecutive letter beginning with the first letter ALEPH and ending with the last letter, TAV.  Now, why is that of significant?  The acrostic of this passage which was written a thousand years before Jesus took on flesh gives us clues about how to become a proverbs 31 woman!

In the book of Revelations we find 3 instances where Jesus says, “I am the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end.”  Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet.  But the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet are Aleph and TAV.

Where am I going with this?  I believe that although the NT has been recorded in Greek, The Hebrew language is the only language God used in the Bible whenever He spoke audibly.  Therefore Jesus did not say, “I am the Alpha and the Omega”. 
He said, I am the Aleph and the Tav.  And guess what?  He is also everything in between the Aleph and the Tav.  Each one of these verses in proverbs beginning with the Aleph and ending with Tav are telling us that the Proverbs 31 woman is a living manifestation of the Lord Jesus Christ – there is no other way to portray agape love except to be filled with the Character of Jesus Christ by the indwelling of His Holy Spirit.

So read this passage with the knowledge that every one of these attributes are revealed in Christ who is the Alpha and Omega, the Aleph and the Tav, the beginning and the end, and everything in between:

10 A wife of noble character, (A better translation of the Hebrew is “a woman of valour” like a warrior) who can find?
    She is worth far more than rubies.  (Lord, you are more precious than silver, more costly than gold)
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
    and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
    all the days of her life.  (Jesus only wants the best for you)
13 She selects wool and flax
    and works with eager hands. 
14 She is like the merchant ships,
    bringing her food from afar.  (Jesus is the Bread of Life)
15 She gets up while it is still night; (Jesus rose from the dead while it was still night)
    she provides food for her family  (He is Jehovah Jireh, our provider)
    and portions for her maid servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
    out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.  (He is the vine dresser, we are the branches)
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks.  (The Lord’s arm is strong and mighty)
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
    and her lamp does not go out at night.  (He is the light of the world – no darkness is in Him)
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
    and grasps the spindle with her fingers.  (Thy rod and staff, they comfort me)
20 She opens her arms to the poor
    and extends her hands to the needy. (He came for the poor and needy)
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
    for all of them are clothed in scarlet. (He came to clothe us with the scarlet of his own blood)
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
    she is clothed in fine linen and purple. (This is the clothing of a priest and a King)
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
    where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
    and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity; (We are to be clothed with the whole armor of God which is Jesus)
    she can laugh at the days to come.  (Only Jesus can give you that kind of courage for the days ahead we are facing)
26 She speaks with wisdom,
    and the Torah (or instruction) of kindness is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.  (He that watches over Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps)
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
    but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.  (The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom)
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
    and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

– and what did He do with his hands?  He allowed them to be nailed to a cross to take on the punishment for our sins.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Past, Present, Future

Today I was in the town of Olney, England.  It is the spot on the globe where former slave trader John Newton wrote “Amazing Grace,” and also pastored the Olny Church of St. Peter & St. Paul.  It is also the location of the Sutcliff Baptist Church which is considered the birthplace of the Baptists who first met on that site in a barn around 1650.  We were all very surprised to walk in that historic church in this quaint little village to find dual projection screens, drum set, flat screen rear monitors, sound and light board in the rear.  Coming out of the church and taking a picture of the sign, a little lady was walking by and asked why we would be interested in taking a picture of her church’s sign. 

That’s when I met Connie Page, a 90-year-old member of the Baptist Church.  Telling her we were Baptist Singing Men from SC, we asked her what worship was like in Sutcliff 25 years ago when she came to Olney.   As expected, the worship was very traditional with a pipe organ.  The church removed and sold the organ about 6 years ago which caused quite a stir in the congregation as you can imagine.  But yet, this lady was still at the church and has a love for it.  She has seen a lot of changes in her lifetime in her country, her family and in her church.  So she seemed to be taking the changes in her church in an attitude of mixed emotions—a sadness in losing certain things of the past and yet knowing that the younger generation are making changes for their future.

Before we parted I asked if we could pray for her and if she had any special prayer requests.  She had no specific request, and it struck me that perhaps she had not been asked a question like that in a while.   I asked about her family and it sounded like there were not many of her family left and that she was alone and ready to leave this world.  When I finished my prayer she had a tear running down her check.   Charlie and I gave her a hug and a little bit of God’s love fell down upon us all as we parted, each to our own, yet similar worlds.