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Of God and Dogs

On Friday night we hosted our annual Fall Festival.  Matthew Road has been hosting this Halloween alternative for over 25 years.  We invite all the community to attend.  There is no costs to attend but we do ask everyone to watch a brief 2 minute video about our church.  This year I introduced Bossier, our new border collie to the congregation.  More importantly I wanted all in attendance to see the grace of God in His adoption of us.  Below is the link to that video.

https://vimeo.com/110798450

 

The Sweetness of Honey

A family friend recently gave us a couple of jars of honey from their honey bee ranch.  As I was thinking about the joys of opening a brand new jar of this honey and putting it on my favorite cereal for breakfast tomorrow morning, I was reminded of the verses in Psalm 19 with reference to the Word of God.

Psalm 19:7-11

7The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.
10 They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them Your servant is warned;
In keeping them there is great reward.

The psalmist writes about the nature of the revelation God gives us.  God's Word is perfect, sure, right, pure, clean, enduring forever, true and righteous.  He also describes the impact of God's Word on individuals.  God's Word impacts us by restoring the soul, making wise the simple, rejoicing the heart, enlightening the eyes.  After this series of superlatives and descriptors, the psalmist seems swept into a poetic groundswell of thinking of the beauty and value of all that he has said about the revelation God has provided.  God's revelation is more precious than gold.  God's revelation is sweeter than honey. 

The question came to me, do we crave God's word the way I craved the opportunity to enjoy the new honey provided by the friend.  God's revelation is precious.  It is sweet.  The world doesn't see it this way.  Like a person with no taste buds, the world doesn't perceive the sweetness of God's word.  However, through God's grace, believers in Christ have had their spiritual taste buds engaged.  We can now tastes what was once tasteless.  Does the Bible produce that in us?  When we read it are we enthralled with God's revelation.  Do we crave it?  Do we hold it as more precious than gold?

For those that do, there is a promise in the psalm.  "In keeping them there is great reward."  Following the scriptures produces great reward.

Posted by Daniel Sweet with

Prison Theology

I heard Bob Fu speak at the Voice of the Martyrs Conference in Frisco this summer.  He was so engaging and encouraging as were all of the speakers.  I thought the conference would depress me, but I left with a sense of joy at the faithfulness and hopefulness of the various churches around the world.  Even in the face of persecution, many of the testimonies were about God's provision of joy and peace.  There was also a sense of purpose.  Often when we hear about the persecuted church we feel helpless.  What can we possibly do to impact someone in prison half way around the world and under the authority of a powerful regime?  This conference provided specific actions that American believers can follow to help those who find themselves in difficulties because of their faith.  We will discuss this more as we near Paul's statements about his ministry in I Corinthians chapter 4. 

My family has been reading a book by Bob Fu entitled, God's Double Agent.  His biography gives an incredible account of his life as a child of an impoverished rural farmer in China to successful college student swept into the Tiananmen Square protests of the late 1980s to political enemy of the state to English teacher at the Communist School in Beijing to refugee and then becoming an advocate for persecuted peoples in China and around the world.  Somewhere in the middle of this wild swing of events, God intervened in his life.  I would prefer not reveal more than that as I would love it if many of our congregation would have the opportunity to read the book.  We have also reached out to Bob Fu to see if he would be available in 2015 to speak at Matthew Road.  Maybe that will work out for us. 

When Bob first becomes a believer he is speaking with a man who had been a believer for many years in China and had faced great persecution.  This Christian leader told Bob that at some point all Christian leaders in China have to experience "Prison Theology."  If a Christian is in leadership eventually their commitment to following Christ will run counter to the purposes of the government.  Many pastors are currently in prison in China.  Some have been in prison for many years because they were hosting house churches or giving out Bibles and Christian literature.  Bob's own story intersects with this inevitable reality.  He and his wife both go to prison for the faith. When released a few months later they are followed closely by government secret police.  His description of that time in prison is quite challenging. 

For many of us, "prison theology" is completely foreign to anything we have ever experienced.  I wonder if these types of trials would be too difficult for us.  I also wonder if these types of difficulties would actually purify us.  The discipleship of American believers is challenging for different reasons.  Here, the difficulty is the unbridled flow of sensory input which stokes sinful desires.  For us, we don't run the threat of arrest because we own a Bible or give Christian literature to a neighbor.  However, we are under a different kind of assault, the assault of a culture that drinks deeply from the comforts and pleasures afforded a nation of wealth and freedom.  Freedom is a great thing, especially for expressing our religious beliefs (or not expressing them or not having them at all).  Freedom of mind, body, speech, religion, etc. can ironically lead to bondage.  As I have read Bob Fu's biography I have been challenged to say "no" to myself more, not out of government compulsion but out of love for the One who bought my everlasting freedom.  There is a "prison theology" for American believers.  It is the theology we learn when we become imprisoned by our unbridled passions fulfilled in a culture that has very few boundaries.  Feel the bars of our physical passions.  Smell the smell of being surrounded by other prisoners also under the sway of the "needs" of the moment.  Feel the emptiness of eating and drinking only prison food of this culture.  The consumption of greed, lust, materialism, envy and jealousy provide such a meager sustenance as to leave the prisoner feeling constantly empty and malnourished.  There is a worse prison than the physical ones described by our suffering brothers and sisters from other parts of the world.  There is a greater freedom in those prisons than many of us will ever know. 

 

"It is for freedom that Christ set you free," is Paul's encouragement to the Galatian church.  May we live free even in this culture of great bondage.

Posted by Daniel Sweet with

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