Wednesday, July 31, 2013

This week's lesson: Acts 5:12-42

Nothing is more disruptive than obedience.

Consider the believers in this week's text, for instance -- believers arrested on the charge of preaching about Jesus.

"We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name," say the powers-that-be . . .

And if obedience was nothing more than sit down, shut up, and do what you're told, then that would have been the end of it.

But obedience does not always do what it's told.

Obedience does not always take orders from the status quo.

And down through the ages, trouble-makers such as Luther and Wesley and Ellen White and Dr. King have all drawn inspiration from the words of Peter in Acts 5:29 -- yes, just like him, they've said, "We must obey God rather than men."

In short, obedience is important.

But we need to remember just who we should obey.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

This week's lesson: I Peter 3:13-16

Ron Sider once noted that effectiveness and validity are two separate issues.

There's nothing wrong, for instance, with setting up a low-power radio station in Lincoln City that broadcasts in Mongolian . . . but given the lack of Mongolians on the Oregon Coast, it probably won't get much in the way of results.

Such a radio station would be valid, in other words, but ineffective.

Likewise, paying people to join the Lincoln City SDA Church would probably get lots of results . . . but it would also get me fired (and rightly so).

Paying people to join a church, in other words, would be effective, but invalid -- in fact, it's just plain wrong.

Other examples come to mind -- though some may not be so clear-cut.
  • Evangelistic brochures with scary pictures? Effective . . . but maybe not so valid.
  • Evangelistic brochures with nice pictures? Valid . . . but maybe not so effective.
  • Mass-mailing Ellen White books to the general public? Valid . . . but even though this wasn't the intent, I'd suspect its major effect has been to subsidize our publishing houses.
  • Paying people to attend an evangelistic series? The people who've tried this have told me it's effective . . . but I can't help but feel this is about as valid as paying someone to go on a date with you.
And what of the suggestion in the text for this week -- the suggestion that we live the kind of lives that make people ask questions, and give them gentle and respectful answers when they do?



And effective?

Try it, and find out!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

This week's lesson: 2 Timothy 3:14-17

The Bible isn't pretty.

Take the Book of Psalms, for instance -- a book full of songs that would never make it in the church hymnal.

I mean, try to imagine the people in your church all joining in a rousing chorus of, "strike all my enemies on the jaw; [and] break the teeth of the wicked" (Psalm 3:7, NIV).

This would be followed by the choir, singing it's arrangement of,

Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction,happy is the one who repays you according to what you have done to us. Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks" (Psalm 137:8f, NIV).
And for special music?
Why, Lord, do you reject meand hide your face from me?From my youth I have suffered and been close to death;I have borne your terrors and am in despair.Your wrath has swept over me;your terrors have destroyed me.All day long they surround me like a flood;they have completely engulfed me.You have taken from me friend and neighbor --darkness is my closest friend (Psalm 88:14-18, NIV).
To be sure, there's some happy stuff too.

But for every round of the Hallelujah Chorus, you get another psalmist who is singing the Blues.

And just like the Blues, the Psalms sing about life in a world where it's not always easy to see God -- a world where hearts get broken (but people still fall in love) . . . a world where the bad guys win (but the good guys struggle on) . . . a world where we have every reason to give up (but we're not quite ready to throw in the towel just yet).

No, the Bible isn't pretty. 

Not even the Psalms are pretty.

But then again, neither is life.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

This week's lesson: Acts 1:12 - 2:4

You don't always get the revival you want.

Consider the believers in Jerusalem, for instance -- a nice, cozy little group of people who would have found it relatively easy to pray "with one accord."
  • And with everyone in that group from Palestine, they shared a common language.
  • What's more, the apostles were right there with them -- and that made it obvious just who were the leaders of this group.
Yes, things were a lot more simple before the Day of Pentecost -- but then the Holy Spirit came upon them, and thousands of people joined in a single day.
  • That meant you'd go to church and be surrounded by strangers -- people you don't know.
  • That meant you'd go to church and be surrounded by foreigners -- people whose language you don't speak.
  • And sure enough, it wasn't long before all those strangers and foreigners started fussing about the church's leadership -- fussing about the leadership of the very same apostles who had been chosen by Jesus himself!
In short, the Day of Pentecost brought change -- wrenching change, the kind of change that most people try to avoid.

That's because we don't always get the revival we want.

But we always get the revival we need.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

This week's lesson: Revelation 3:14-22

If you want to experience Christ's message to the church in Laodicea, then all you need to do is:
  • open a can of pop,
  • leave it on your kitchen counter for a couple of hours,
  • then take a big gulp.
A good way to induce vomiting, right?

And that's the point Jesus makes about this church: it's not that "lukewarm" equals "apathetic -- and it's certainly not the idea that an apathetic church is worse than one that actively opposes the gospel.

No, the point is that Laodicea's hypocrisy is absolutely revolting -- revolting in the same way that a big gulp of lukewarm pop makes you want to throw up.

To be sure, you could spend this week's lesson discussing just exactly why Laodicea's hypocrisy is so nasty -- nothing's more enjoyable than discussing other people's faults, after all.

But I hope you'll spend most of your time discussing Christ's invitation in verse 20 -- an invitation that he extends to a bunch of nasty, loathsome hypocrites who see no need for him.

It's one thing to eat with your friends, after all.

But Jesus is willing to eat with the very same people . . .

Who make him want to vomit.