• A Thanksgiving Reminder from a Hero of Black Church History

    Posted on November 25th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    A Thanksgiving Reminder from a Hero of Black Church History

     

    Absalom Jones was born in slavery on November 6, 1746, in Sussex, Delaware. At age sixteen he moved to Philadelphia, and by age thirty-eight he was able to purchase his freedom. Along with Richard Allen, he became a lay preacher for the African American members of St. George’s Methodist Episcopal Church. By 1794, he was ordained a deacon in the African Episcopal Church, and in 1804 he was ordained a priest.

     

    Everyday Is Thanksgiving Day

     

    The Rev. Jones teaches us that everyday can be Thanksgiving Day.

     

    On January 1, 1808, in Philadelphia’s St. Thomas’s African Episcopal Church, Rev. Jones preached a message entitled “A Thanksgiving Sermon: On Account of the Abolition of the African Slave Trade.” The sermon parallels American slavery, the bondage of the Jews in Egypt, and God’s personal and powerful Exodus rescue of his people.

     

    Rev. Jones begins his message by reading Exodus 3:7-8,

     

    “And the Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their task-masters; for I know their sorrows; and I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians.”

     

    Commenting on this passage, Rev. Jones first highlights God’s sustaining care for His people. He then relates the historical Exodus narrative to current African American life on the basis of God’s unchanging nature.

     

    “The history of the world shows us, that the deliverance of the children of Israel from their bondage, is not the only instance, in which it has pleased God to appear in behalf of oppressed and distressed nations, as the deliverer of the innocent, and of those who call upon his name. He is as unchangeable in his nature and character, as He is in His wisdom and power. The great and blessed event, which we have this day met to celebrate, is a striking proof, that the God of heaven and earth is the same, yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.”

     

    He Has Seen: Paying Attention to the Earthly Story of Suffering

     

    Rev. Jones next shows that God has been watching every event of their earthly story. “He has seen the affliction of our countrymen, with an eye of pity.”

     

    To emphasize how important it is to pay attention to the earthly story, Rev. Jones presents an outline of African American history: capture, middle passage, auction block sale, enslavement, separation from family, work from sunup to sundown, deprivation of food, clothing, and shelter, torture of the body, and withholding of religion from the soul.

     

    Rev. Jones prefaces each point with the repeated phrase concerning God, “He has seen.” Thirteen times. Can you hear it? Feel it? Imagine it? Place yourself in the congregation.

     

    “He has seen.” “Oh, yeah!” “He has seen.” “Preach it!” “He has seen.” “Come on!” “He has seen.” “Glory!” “He has seen.” “Yes, he has!” “He has seen.” Clapping. “He has seen.” Standing. “He has seen.” Swaying. “He has seen.” Hands raised. “He has seen.” Shouting. “He has seen.” “Amen!” “He has seen.” Tears streaming. “He has seen.” Kneeling.    

     

    He Has Heard: Paying Attention to the Heavenly Story

     

    He has not only seen; He has also heard. Rev. Jones preaches:

     

    “Inhuman wretches! though You have been deaf to their cries and shrieks, they have been heard in Heaven. The ears of Jehovah have been constantly open to them. He has heard the prayers that have ascended from the hearts of his people; and he has, as in the case of his ancient and chosen people the Jews, come down to deliver our suffering countrymen from the hands of the oppressors.”

     

    The suffering Israelites and the suffering African Americans are one people of God.

     

    Four times Pastor Jones repeats the phrase, “He came down.” Healing hope. God sustains and he saves. He climbs in the casket and He rolls the stone away leaving an empty tomb. He sees, and He comes down.

     

    Thanksgiving: From Our Lips and In Our Lives

     

    What worship response is appropriate? Celebrate the empty tomb!

     

    “O! let us give thanks unto the Lord: let us call upon his name, and make known his deeds among the people. Let us sing psalms unto him and talk of all his wondrous works.”

     

    What ministry response is appropriate? Work to extend justice and freedom.

     

    “Let us unite, with our thanksgiving, prayer to Almighty God, for the completion of his begun goodness to our brethren in Africa.”

     

    Liberation starts with spiritual freedom from sin through Christ. It continues with personal freedom from slavery. However, it is never finished until there is universal freedom from the slavery of sin and the sin of slavery.

     

  • 7 Biblical Truths That Must Shape Life and Ministry

    Posted on November 11th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    7 Biblical Truths That Must Shape Life and Ministry 

    In our post-modern generation shaped by relativism, even the Church is filled with differing views on the largest issues of life and ministry. 

    The question that defines us more than any other is: 

    “Upon what do we base our life and ministry?”  

    Here are seven truths that must shape the way we see life and ministry. I call them: 

    Life’s Seven Ultimate Questions and Answers.  

    They teach us what makes biblical ministry truly biblical.  

    1. Question 1: “What is truth? Where do I find answers?” 

    Answer 1—The Word: “God’s Word is sufficient, authoritative, profound, and relevant.” 

    All that we need for life and godliness we find in Scripture (the written Word). In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (the Living Word). We live and breathe every nano-second not by bread alone but by the Word of God. Therefore, in life and ministry every question is ultimately a God-question and every answer is fundamentally a God-answer. 

    2. Question 2: “Who is God?” 

    Answer 2—The Creator: “God is Trinitarian.” 

    God is not the “alone with the alone.” The God of the Universe is, always has been, and always will be Three-in-One, communitarian, Trinitarian. Before God created, He related. Thus God created us not out of need but graciously from the overflow of infinite Trinitarian fellowship. Reality is relational because God is Trinitarian. Therefore, in life and ministry our purpose is to glorify God as we combine Scripture and soul, truth and love. 

    3. Question 3: “Who am I”? 

    Answer 3—Creation: “We are created with dignity by God in the image of Christ.” 

    I am not an accident. I am fearfully and wonderfully made with the purpose of worshipful fellowship with the God of the universe and sacrificial one-another fellowship with my fellow human beings. Together we are to enjoy God by glorifying Him forever as we fulfill our calling as stewards of His universe. Therefore, in life and ministry our goal is to reflect increasingly the inner life of Christ. 

    4. Question 4: “What went wrong?” 

    Answer 4—The Fall: “We sinfully and foolishly choose god-substitutes over God.” 

    The only explanation for sin and suffering is humanity’s fall into rebellion initiated by Adam and Eve and continued to this day by every person who ever lived. We sinfully forsake and attempt to replace God because we have lost our awe of God and chosen to love false gods. Therefore, in life and ministry we must recognize and confess that our core problem is spiritual adultery. 

    5. Question 5: “Can we change? How do people change?” 

    Answer 5—Redemption: “We must apply our complete salvation to our daily sanctification.” 

    Our only hope for change is our acceptance by faith of God’s grace in Christ. Those who are new creations in Christ can change because they have already been changed. Justification (our new pardon), reconciliation (our new peace), regeneration (our new purity), and redemption (our new power) provide the four-fold basis for daily growth into the image of Christ. Therefore, in life and ministry our identity in Christ is monumental. 

    6. Question 6—“Where am I headed? What is my destiny?” 

    Answer 6—Glorification: “Heaven is my final home.” 

    For those who enter into eternal relationship with God in Christ, our destiny is endless relationship and purpose—sacred communion within God’s holy and happy family. The biblical answer to the question of ultimate destiny ought to impact drastically how we live today—our future destiny impacts our present reality. Therefore, in life and ministry, reading the end of the story makes all the difference in how we respond to present suffering and how we overcome besetting sins. 

    7. Question 7—“Can I help? How can I help?” 

    Answer 7—Sanctification/Ministry: “We dispense God’s cure for the soul—grace.” 

    Grace is God’s prescription for our disgrace—the disgrace of sin and the disgrace of suffering. Grace is God’s medicine of choice for our sinful and suffering world. God calls us to be dispensers of His grace which sustains and heals us in our suffering, which reconciles and guides us in our sin, and which moves us toward sanctification in Christ. Therefore, in life and ministry we must be dispensers of grace. 

     

  • Facing the Giants

    Posted on November 5th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    The Anatomy of Anxiety, Part 11:

    What’s Our Goal?

     

    Note: For previous posts in this blog mini-series, please visit: Part 1: http://bit.ly/aHstk, Part 2:  http://bit.ly/20R01P, Part 3: http://bit.ly/HAoxI, Part 4: http://bit.ly/1I6XmF, Part 5: http://bit.ly/19Jdqt, Part 6: http://bit.ly/19vCXx, Part 7: http://bit.ly/21wPLg, Part 8: http://bit.ly/m50On, Part 9: http://bit.ly/4vhNIt, part 10: http://bit.ly/1ClPr4.

     

    Does worry, doubt, or fear get the best of you sometimes? Do you wonder where anxiety comes from and how to defeat it in your life and the lives of those you love? Then we need a biblical anatomy of anxiety. And, we need God’s prescription for victory over anxiety.

     

    What’s Our Goal?

     

    If you or someone you care about is struggling with anxiety, what’s our goal?

     

    You shout, “To get rid of the anxiety!”

     

    Well, that’s a great desire. It certainly is an acceptable prayer. “Lord, if it be Thy will, remove all feelings and experiences of anxiety.”

     

    The problem is, this side of heaven, not all feelings are “healed,” not all negative emotional experiences are “wiped away.” It’s on the other side of heaven that we have no more tears, sorrow, pain, or suffering.

     

    There’s no guarantee that medication will eliminate anxiety. There’s no promise that talk therapy will remove all feelings of fear. There’s no pledge that biblical counseling or scriptural meditation will eliminate every negative emotion.

     

    When anxiety is totally eliminated, that’s a special grace of God for which everyone gives thanks. But that’s not the everyday result nor should it be our ultimate goal.

     

    Peace in the Midst and Godly Living All the Time

     

    Our goal is peace that passes understanding. Peace that empowers us to live and love like Christ even if we still feel anxious.

     

    Even if we still have fear, our goal is to face our fears in and through Christ for God’s glory and the good of others.

     

    We can and often should change how we respond to our emotions, what we do with our emotions, and how we manage our moods.

     

    We can change the choices we make as a result of the feelings we have. We can address the motivations of our hearts.

     

    We can renew our minds and change our thinking about our feelings, about God, about ourselves, and about others.

     

    We can return to a focus on loving God and others, regardless of our feelings.

     

    All of those are good, godly goals—much better goals than changing or eliminating feelings of anxiety.

     

    Nothing is more courageous than doing the right thing even when we’re terrified.

     

    Nothing is more godly than facing our fears even when our fears are not eliminated.

  • When Life Is Undependable…

    Posted on November 4th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    The Anatomy of Anxiety, Part 10:

    God Is Dependable Even When Life Is Undependable

     

    Note: For previous posts in this blog mini-series, please visit: Part 1: http://bit.ly/aHstk, Part 2:  http://bit.ly/20R01P, Part 3: http://bit.ly/HAoxI, Part 4: http://bit.ly/1I6XmF, Part 5: http://bit.ly/19Jdqt, Part 6: http://bit.ly/19vCXx, Part 7: http://bit.ly/21wPLg, Part 8: http://bit.ly/m50On, Part 9: http://bit.ly/4vhNIt.

     

    Does worry, doubt, or fear get the best of you sometimes? Do you wonder where anxiety comes from and how to defeat it in your life and the lives of those you love? Then we need a biblical anatomy of anxiety. And, we need God’s prescription for victory over anxiety.

     

    God Is Dependable

     

    What message does someone struggling with anxiety need?

     

    When life is bad, we need to remember that God is good—all the time. And when life is undependable, we need to know that God is dependable—all the time.

     

    Life can feel like it is out of control, capricious. Stuff seems to happen for no reason and with little or no warning.

     

    When cares overwhelm, we need to remember that we can cast all our cares on Him, because He cares for us. We can depend on Christ’s care because He is the same yesterday, today, and forever—He is eternally dependable.

     

    Listening to Sad Stories

     

    Helping one another to embrace our dependably caring God is the ultimate goal. However, that does not necessarily mean that our first response is to spout verses about trust.

     

    Before we race in telling others about God’s story, we need to earn the right to speak by listening to our friend’s story.

     

    People will hear us as we talk about God’s story of healing only if we have been compassionately listening to them talk about their story of hurting.

     

    It’s excruciating to feel enslaved to fear. It’s confusing and even maddening to have something so good (that “vigilance” that we spoke of in Parts 1-8) turn so harmful.

     

    As a spiritual friend, we want to empathize with our friend who is struggling with anxiety. We want to compassionately identify with them in their story of life that feels so out of control.

     

    If you’ve never experienced panic or phobia, if you’ve never been overwhelmed by nebulous anxiety, if life for you means charging ahead, then you will need to prayerfully ask God to enable you to connect with and comfort those who feel like “anxiety” is staffed on their forehead.

     

    Can you listen to a friend’s hurt without compulsively needing to immediately fix your friend? Or, are you afraid of their fear? Anxious about their anxiety?

     

    The Rest of the Story

     

    What do you listen for? How do you respond to what you hear? We’ll address those vital questions next time.

  • Our GPS for Anxiety

    Posted on November 3rd, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    The Anatomy of Anxiety, Part 9:

    God’s Prescription for Victory Over Anxiety

     

    Note: For previous posts in this blog mini-series, please visit: Part 1: http://bit.ly/aHstk, Part 2:  http://bit.ly/20R01P, Part 3: http://bit.ly/HAoxI, Part 4: http://bit.ly/1I6XmF, Part 5: http://bit.ly/19Jdqt, Part 6: http://bit.ly/19vCXx, Part 7: http://bit.ly/21wPLg, Part 8: http://bit.ly/m50On.

     

    Does worry, doubt, or fear get the best of you sometimes? Do you wonder where anxiety comes from and how to defeat it in your life and the lives of those you love? Then we need a biblical anatomy of anxiety. And, we need God’s prescription for victory over anxiety.

     

    God’s Prescription

     

    In parts 1-8, we’ve been good medical students of the soul. Here’s a one paragraph summary of what we’ve learned.

     

    Anxiety is the fallen counterpart to God’s original design for the soul. God created us with vigilance—the ability to respond to threat with creative energy that protects others and depends upon God’s protection. Anxiety is our fear response (stuck vigilance) to threat with destructive energy that protects self through flight and/or fight behavior that fails to depend upon God or protect others.

     

    God’s Care and Cure: Our GPS

     

    How do we respond to destructive anxiety? How do we minister to someone battling stuck vigilance that seems to leave them in a perpetual state of alarm?

     

    Ultimately, the “cure” for anxiety involves embracing the reality that God is dependable even when life is undependable.

     

    However, in helping others, we can’t rush in with our answers until we’ve patiently heard their questions. We must enter souls before we direct souls. We must express God’s care before we offer God’s cure.

     

    What’s involved in that? Today I share an overview. Consider it our GPS: God’s Principles from Scripture.

     

    GPS # 1: Empathy—“It’s Terrifying to Experience Anxiety”

     

    It means compassionately identify with people experiencing overwhelming fear. Can you sense how frightening it is to experience anxiety? Can you empathize with and embrace your spiritual friend’s trembling body and anxious heart?

     

    We’ll learn how together.

     

    GPS # 2: Encouragement—“It’s Possible to Experience Peace Even When You Feel Worried”

     

    Over the course of several blog posts we’ll interact about the empathy process. Of course, we don’t want to stop there. People do want to change. They do want peace.

     

    So we’ll also explore how to move from anxiety to shalom—peace in a frightening, fallen world.

     

    Having embraced our spiritual friend through empathy, we’ll learn how to encourage one another to embrace Christ. What difference does it make that Christ never leaves us or forsakes us?

     

    We’ll find out.

     

    GPS # 3: Exposure—“It’s Horrible to Self-Protect”

     

    If you watch the show “Monk” then you know that Detective Adrian Monk struggles with OCD and a multitude of phobias. He has a very sweet assistant, Natalie. As much as I love the show and like the character Monk, it drives me crazy the way he mistreats Natalie by only thinking of himself. Monk’s friends and therapist enable him (in the bad sense of that word) by never or rarely confronting him with the self-centered side of his anxiety.

     

    Yes, we need to empathize and encourage.

     

    However, since anxiety includes self-protection rather than trusting God’s protection and protecting others, we also need to expose sinful self-protection. And, we need to expose God’s forgiving grace and His accepting heart.

     

    We’ll learn how.

     

    GPS # 4—Empowerment—“It’s Supernatural to Trust and Defend”

     

    Every once in awhile Detective Adrian Monk does something brave, something that protects Natalie or his other friends and co-workers. It seems almost miraculous. And, really it is. It is not natural for any of us to care about others. It is supernatural.

     

    How does someone who is terrified of life begin to trust God and defend others? How do they, how do we, tap into Christ’s resurrection power to overpower fear with faith, hope, love, and peace?

     

    Stick with us as we’ll learn how.