Archive for the ‘Transitions and Change’ Category

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Traditions Are A Funny Thing

June 16, 2011

Traditions are funny things. I don’t know how many baptisms I have witnessed in my life. But in all of them I remember seeing the person doing the baptizing raise his hand as he spoke before baptizing the candidate in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. In artist renderings of the baptism of Jesus, John the baptizer is often shown with his hand raised as he prepares to baptize Jesus. I was just looking at a picture of a recent baptisms that took place in Africa and there it was again, hand raised before the
baptism.

I know of no verse in scripture where we are told that we should raise our hand, nor do I find an example where this practice is described, yet this tradition has crossed oceans and cultures as it has traveled around the world, especially among our tribe.

As I reflected on this tradition we practice at baptism I thought how it has not been a tradition among us to raise our hands when we
pray or sing. In fact in some circles people are thought to be strange or weird if they do. I have even heard folks say, “It makes us look like the Pentecostals”, as if that were a bad thing. I see a contradiction here. And what makes this contradiction more odd is that the people who often pride themselves in being a people of the book, who “speak where the Bible speaks and are silent where the Bible is silent”, don’t practice something that the Bible says a lot about.

“I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.” (Ps. 63:4) “I call to you, O Lord, everyday; I spread out my hands to you.” (Ps. 88:9) “Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord.” (Ps. 134:2) “Ezra praised the Lord, the great God; and all the people lifted their hands and responded, ’Amen! Amen!’” (Neh. 8:6) “Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens.” (Lam. 3:41 KJV) “I fell on my knees with my hands spread out to the Lord my God and prayed.” (Ezra 9:5-6) “Solomon knelt down before the whole assembly of Israel and spread out his hands toward heaven.” (2 Chron. 6:13) “As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up – one on one side, one on the other – so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword … Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner. He said, ’For hands were lifted up to the throne of the Lord.’” (Ex. 17:11-16) “I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer.” (1Tim. 2:8) “Every day,” David says in Psalm 88:9, “I call to you and spread out myhands to you.”

Buddy Owen in an article adapted from his book, “The Way of the Worshiper” said, “Look at your hands. They aren’t going to hurt you; just look at them for a moment. Magnificent aren’t they? Who gave us our hands? God gave them to us. What do we do with our hands? Well, we work with our hands. We feed ourselves with our hands. We play with our hands. We give gifts and receive gifts with our hands. We show affection with our hands. We also fight with our hands. We sin with our hands. Why are we so hesitant to worship God with our hands Lifting our hands to God is a biblical posture of prayer. It is another physical demonstration of a spiritual truth. Just as we bow our hearts when we bow our knees, so we lift our hearts when we lift our hands (Lam. 3:41). By kneeling before God and lifting our hands to him, we are presenting our bodies to God as a spiritual act of worship. “

When we lift our hands with palms open it is a physical display of openness. As with kneeling in prayer, another Biblical practice lost by us over the years, lifting our hands is simply a posture of devotion that expresses humility and worship. David said, “Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? And who may stand in His holy place?  4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood and has not sworn deceitfully.” We understand that David was not speaking of physically clean hands. When hands are open it is a gesture of openness and expresses we have nothing to hide. It is also an appeal for help. It reminds me of the child that comes to his or her parent with arms out stretched open wide and hands lifted up.

Regardless of what we do with our hands before a baptism or in a time of prayer and worship it is the condition of the heart that is most important. I am not arguing for or against any tradition.  But for me personally there is something freeing about physically and outwardly expressing what is going on in my heart. At first it was awkward and uncomfortable, because it was different and I wondered what others would think. It became freeing when I kept my focus on the ONE I was worshiping and it became a very natural expression of praise and worship.

I began this article by saying, traditions are funny things. Today when someone lifts their hands in worship some may feel uncomfortable, but if we could be transported back to the early church or even further back to the Old Testament period, I think we would be very uncomfortable if we did not raise our hands.

Traditions are funny things.

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NATION OF ANGER. NATION IN DANGER.

November 1, 2008

By Terry Rush

(Borrowed and adapted)

I am very concerned about our nation. The threat of simmering unrest is nearing boil. I don’t think I’m exaggerating. The political scene is fire-red hot. Debate—bitter, rude, insulting debate—does not reveal information as much as it reveals skill. Millions of dollars are spent for a job which pays thousands. Office workers, church members, and neighbors are divided into camps of strong opinions backed by hard feelings.

Politics is only one front. The Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series last night. Was the danger and damage of rioters found to be in the losing city of Tampa Bay? No, it was found in the city which won! Whether victory or loss, some are filled with such anger they are anxious to find any excuse to create havoc.

Level-headed, quite responsible leaders of all fields are burnt over the shameful and unrepentant scandal of the Wall Street moguls. Congress’ volunteer blindness toward both the problem and solution exacerbates the thread-bare nerves of common man. Our nation is in a mess. I believe it to be so big, I couldn’t exaggerate it.

Therefore, rely on the Spirit of Christ. Lead your people to Him. Have them hide their wealth by giving it away. Lead them to save their lives by losing them. Teach them that our citizenship is in heaven; not on earth. Train them of the value and truth of the outstretched arms of both the Son on the Cross and of the prodigal’s Father back at the family farm. Adorn hearts with the news which is heard louder than Paul Revere’s; Our Savior Reigns ! Our Savior is King!

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“Gentlemen, this is a football”

August 6, 2008

“Gentleman, this is a football”, Vintage Vince Lombardi. The quote was all about getting back to basics. And it is true with reference to more than football. Whenever you find yourself floundering…get back to basics. If you are not growing…get back to basics. If you don’t know what to do next…get back to basics.

 

Followers of Christ are in a numerical decline. Even the Baptist are beginning to fess up to their over inflated “membership” numbers and admit that there are many more on the roles than in service to the King. (Read more here). Today there is a greater profession of believe in God and a greater lack of evidence of that faith than at anytime in history. Evangelism has not only become an archaic word that strikes fear in the hearts of Christians, it is no longer practiced as a response to the marching orders of our King. Percentages of those who are involved in pornography, that are getting divorced and that are materialist to excess are about the same for both Christian and Non-Christian alike. Christ followers need to get back to basics. Can I get an Amen?

 

“Ladies and Gentleman, this is a Bible”.

 

Prophets of old along with John on Patmos were told to, “Eat this book” referring to the message that God had given them. Read it, chew on it (meditate), digest it; make it apart of who you are. This is an individual responsibility.

 

As for the assembled church, Bible Classes need to become Bible Study Classes.  Does this sound familiar? A teacher stands up and reads a verse, then asks the class, “What do you think that means?”  And off they go into 30 to 45 minutes of shared ignorance, parroted answers learned by rote and uneducated guesses.  No wonder our kids are leaving the church in greater numbers than ever before.

 

Sincere and genuine Christians are trying to be better Christians and think that the answers will be found in the next great spirtual novel or spiritual self help book. They are fighting a battle with no armor, no weapons and no ammunition. The roaring lion is hot on their trail and they are trying to fight him off with a switch.

 

If you are stubbing, falling over things in the dark and trying to feel your way through life…turn on the light!

 

 

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UNCHRISTIAN…THE BOOK

June 24, 2008

You may not like the conclusions of this book, but you will have a hard time saying that they are not true. The following is a CNN interview with the book’s author. The interviewer is pretty savvy and I think fair in the questions he asks.

Take a look at this one also.

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Churchgoer vs Christian

May 20, 2008

Taking their lead from the PC – Mac parodies that you have seen on TV a group has a whole series of the Churchgoer vs Christian videos. Here are a couple. If you like them click on the YouTube logo in the video and it will take you to these and others.

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Irresistible Revolution

July 27, 2007

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“Don’t the Bible say we must love everybody?” “O, the Bible! To be sure, it says a great many things; but, then, nobody ever thinks of doing them.” Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncles Tom’s Cabin.

I am presently reading, “The Irresistible Revolution”, by Shane Claiborne. I had seen a number of reviews about the book, but was moved yesterday to buy it, and it has captivated me since I began reading. From his stories of working with Mother Teresa in Calcutta, to his work with “The Simple Way”, in Philadelphia, I have been challenged to the very core of my being.

Some will consider him radical, and maybe that is the reason for the sub title of the book, “living as an ordinary radical”. But he is more like a gentle prophet who doesn’t pull any punches, but at the same time speaks with love and devotion. Shane attended Eastern College and one of his teachers was Tony Campolo. He said that Tony said, “Jesus never says to the poor, ‘Come find the church,’ but he says to those of us in the church, ‘Go into the world and find the poor, hungry, homeless, imprisoned,’ Jesus in his disguises.” Shane took that lesson to heart. I personally have felt for a long time that our giving to a common treasury that uses a third part to meet the needs of the poor keeps them at arms length and robs us of many blessings. Shane says, “I learned a powerful lesson: We can admire and worship Jesus without doing what he did. We can applaud what he preached and stood for without caring about the same things. We can adore his cross without taking up ours. I had come to see that the great tragedy in the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor.” P113.

The consequences of the way we show benevolence causes both the giver and the receiver to miss out on the blessings of the gift. “When the church becomes a place of brokerage rather than an organic community, she ceases to be alive. She ceases to be something we are, the living bride of Christ. The church becomes a distribution center, a place where the poor come to get stuff and the rich come to dump stuff. Both go away satisfied (the rich feel good, the poor get clothed and fed), but no one leaves transformed. No radical new community is formed.” P159

If we were to compare what we as Christians spend on brick and mortar, something Jesus said nothing about, to what is spent meeting the needs of the poor, something Jesus talked about constantly, we would surly hang our heads in shame. Rob Bell said about Shane’s book, “Be warned, my friends: Shane is a poet, a friend, a brother – but underneath it all, he’s a prophet with a fire in his belly and a story to back it up. If you listen – or in this case, read – you will not be the same.”   

I did…and I won’t!

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What If I Really Decided To Follow HIM…

July 26, 2007

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“The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world? Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Ok, priceless scholarship, what would we do without you? Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament.” Soren Kierdegaard, Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard, ed. Charles Moore (Farmington, PA: Plough, 2002), 201