God Grew Tired of Us

Last week I heard a friend of mine had discovered what looked like an interesting movie (thanks Tina C). She and her husband were renting the DVD through Netflix. Since her description of the movie sounded interesting, Lourene stopped by Blockbuster and picked it up for us to watch, too.

God Grew Tired of Us is a fascinating account of the Lost Boys of the Sudan, telling their story of survival and the relocation of some of them to the USA. This movie touched me deeply. It provoked thought on so many levels. And so here I am asking you to watch the trailer (2:31) and consider renting the DVD and watching this remarkable story of hope.

Here’s the trailer.

Build Up One another

“Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11).

The second-coming of Jesus was important to the church at Thessalonica. Even so, Paul did not provide them a timetable as to when it would all begin to unfold. In fact, he suggests that while they may have been ignorant about some doctrinal matters, they were well-aware that the specific schedule for the end times was revealed on a need-to-know basis and they didn’t need-to-know.

Jesus’ return would be as unexpected as a thief’s arrival but as inevitable as the onset of labor. Jesus is coming – count on it! But don’t concern yourself with when the return will take place. Instead, be ready now and always.

The timing of Jesus’ return might be a well-guarded secret, but that should not keep us from being prepared. We Christians need to steadily live our lives in a manner consistent with our commitment to Jesus: living in light as opposed to darkness, being alert and self-controlled rather than unprepared, undisciplined, and drunk.

Since we are God’s people, our lives ought to be characterized by faith, hope, and love. We need to remember the most basic of doctrines: Jesus died for us. Because we know Jesus died for us we have a new identity as God’s children, “sons of the day.” Jesus died for us so that we would not have to endure the wrath of God. Jesus died for us so that we could live with Him forever. That promise of being with Him in the end is good no matter if you are dead or alive when He comes again.

The church needs to be a people like no other who encourage each other and build up one another. When we see a brother drifting off, losing his alertness, we need to speak a word of encouragement. “Wake up, you belong to the day!” When we see a sister living carelessly without self-control we need to build her up. “Jesus died so we would be prepared for His return!”

The timing of second-coming will be a surprise. But don’t be unprepared.

Faith, Hope, and Love

“We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3).

Seems people are always looking for a church pattern in the New Testament.

Some look in the book of Acts, after all, that is where Luke records the earliest days of the church. What were they like? What did they do? What was their mission priority?

Some look at the gospels, after all, if the church is the second incarnation of Jesus it should be patterned after the first. What was He like? What did He do? What was most important to Him?

While both approaches deserve consideration, it helps to remember that Jesus was perfect, without sin, and the early church was far from perfect. Surely that must influence our choice of patterns.

As I read Paul’s opening lines to Thessalonica, I wonder why I have never heard them mentioned as a possible pattern for the church?

Faithful work. These folks had a kind of faith going beyond talk, penetrating the mind and heart, and overtaking the entire person to produce faithful work. We don’t like to talk a lot about works of faith, probably an overreaction to the preaching of works-based salvation. But we need to remember that Paul, in the very passage about salvation by grace through faith, writes that we were “created in Christ Jesus to do good works (Ephesians 2:1-10). Saved by grace for works. The church at Thessalonica was living out their faith. The church today could use some of this faith to accomplish works humanly impossible. The kind of works that can only be accomplished by God.

Loving labor. This church was known for their loving deeds. Not only were they doing faithful works, they were doing them for the right reason. They were motivated by loving hearts. Faith reaches up to God. Love reaches out to others. Love does not demand a return on the “investment.” Love just gives. A church loves when God fills their hearts to overflowing with His love. Some churches seem to be fueled by anger and labor out of fear. The church at Thessalonica labored out of love. Faith provided a platform for work. Love provided the fuel.

Hopeful endurance. You can do the right things. You can do the right things for the right reasons. But you still have to put up with things going wrong. Not everyone is going to be receptive to the kingdom message. Not everyone who begins the journey will complete it. Not everyone will be tolerant of existence of church and the presence of Christians. Bad things happen. Good people suffer. But Jesus is coming again! And the church filled with second-coming hope endures, come what may – apathy, opposition, even persecution.

So if you are looking for a church pattern, may I suggest consideration of these verses? As patterns go, this could be a helpful one (see also: Romans 5:1-5; Galatians 5:5-6; Ephesians 4:1-5; Colossians 1:1-5; 1 Peter 1:1-8; Hebrews 6:10-12, 10:22-24 and, of course, 1 Corinthians 13).

Faith, hope, and love provide a pretty good template for any church, not because they were found in Thessalonica, but because they reflect Jesus.

Good News Lost

How sad it is to lose all hope.

A forty three year old man who lived just south of London recently committed suicide. The man had received intensive treatment for testicular cancer. He lost hope and hanged himself. What compounds the sadness of this story is what the patient didn’t know. His cancer treatment was successful – his body was cancer free.

He lost hope and slipped into despair because he never heard the good news. Doctors suspect that because the patient had recently changed doctors, there was a mix-up that resulted in his never getting the all-clear letter. The hope-bringing good news was never communicated.

How sad, even tragic it is when the Good News gets lost.

So many people in this world have lost hope and slipped into despair. They wonder if there is any purpose for their existence and whether they should carry on with their lives. A few choose to end their lives. Many more just continue living a life of hopeless despair. And it’s all so unnecessary.

There is hope. But there has been a mix-up and the word isn’t getting out. Churches get sidetracked arguing with one another over peripheral matters and so never get around to spreading the message of hope. Christians are so busy entertaining one another they forget about those who are despairing for lack of hope. How many people have never heard the Good News? Oh for worship that compels us to take hope to the world (see lyrics below).

Jesus is Good News — spread the hope!

Take to the World
(Recorded by Derek Webb
on his album She Must and Shall go Free — words and music by Aaron Tate)

go in peace to love and to serve
let your ears ring long with what you have heard
and may the bread on your tongue
leave a trail of crumbs
to lead the hungry back to the place that you are from

and take to the world this love, hope and faith
take to the world this rare, relentless grace
and like the three in one
know you must become what you want to save
‘cause that’s still the way
He takes to the world

go, and go far
take light deep in the dark
believe what’s true
He uses all, even you
may the bread on your tongue
leave a trail of crumbs
to lead the hungry back to the place that you are from

and take to the world this love, hope and faith
take to the world this rare, relentless grace
and like the three in one
know you must become what you want to save
‘cause that’s still the way
He takes to the world

A Scream-O Life

Music moves me. I love listening to music. I try to keep up with new musical trends and make an effort to appreciate all genres (admittedly, that is sometimes difficult). Through the years I have had several brushes with musicians — some famous, some not. My friend Ronnie Caldwell played keyboards for the original Bar-Kays (he died in the plane crash with Otis Redding). As a kid I took drum lessons from Tommy Boggs, drummer for The Box Tops.

My sixth grade school teacher was the wife of Al Jackson, Jr., legendary drummer for Booker T. and the MG’s. There were numerous brushes with Elvis (you wouldn’t believe most of them if I told you). Though I don’t fly much, I have been on an airplane with the drummer for Shaded Red, country star Kenny Chesney, jazz guitarist Larry Carlton, and the lead singer for Candlebox. I even met the Christian band The Benjamin Gate at the exit 20 Exxon off I-40.

So when I found myself in the North Jackson Chick-fil-A rest room with a guy who looked like a musician I asked him, “You in a band?” He told me he was and named the group. I can’t remember the name of the band. I got rattled when he answered my question about what kind of music he played. Scream-O. Screamo-O? Here I am thinking I am well-informed about the latest styles and I have never even heard of Scream-O.

So I did a little checking and found that Scream-O is described as hard core music with fast guitars accompanying raw, emotional, ear-splitting screamed lyrics. Music is a window to the heart and mind. Praise music overflows from a thankful heart. The blues painfully escape from a heart that knows trouble. My love for music translates into a love for the Psalms which include both praise (117) and the blues (69).

So what do you see when you look into hearts through the window of Scream-O? My guess is you see a heart full of anger, frustration, and disappointment. I have never actually listened to any Scream-O (I have read some lyrics). Really have no desire to do so. But I was thinking about Psalms that might provide good lyrics for the genre and came up with a few – 2, 10, 60, 64, 74, 79, and 83. Problem is – even the darkest of Psalms usually has at least a hint of hope. Maybe Ecclesiastes, an examination of life without God, would be a better text for Scream-O. But wait, folk-rock already claimed Ecclesiastes with The Byrds’ classic, Turn! Turn! Turn! The Psalms are full of passion, disappointment, even anger, but you just don’t find the hopelessness that seems to be expressed in Scream-O.

I’m glad I ran into that guy at Chick-fil-A. I pray that the church will be faithful in proclaiming the good news of Jesus so that everyone, even those who living a Scream-O life can find hope.