Saturday, December 16, 2006

Where is Your Credit Card Now?

As I was standing in line at my local grocery store, the customer ahead of me paid with his credit card. As he signed the pinpad he stated to the cashier "There is no room here to sign my entire name, yet the machine accepts my signature anyway. If my card was stolen, the thief could just sign my name and the transaction would be approved. "

"Yes, I know" replied the smiling cashier. "A friend of mine signed with a smiley face and the machine accepted it."

Doesn't this make you feel secure in the age of electronic transmissions?

Where is your credit card now? If someone else has it, remember, your signature on it may not prevent you from being charged.

We Have Been Here Before

I am heartened by reports that President Bush is rejecting key elements of the Baker report, such as negociating with Syria and Iran. In fact, the report has come under greater critical scrutiny than I expected. Of all the critics, the ones that interest me the most are the Kurds. They oppose centralizing political power in Baghdad and negociations with Iraq's hostile neighbors, both of which are advocated in the Baker report. They also criticize the Baker group for not visiting Kurdish regions. These objections have led the Iraqi Kurdish Leader, Massoud Barzani, to declare: "We do not accept anything that opposes the constitution and the interests of the Iraqi and Kurdistan people."

Could one source of Kurdish uneasiness stem from the identity of some members of the Baker group and those who helped bring it about? The group was organized by the Foreign Policy team of the first Bush administration. This is the team that brought about the postwar settlement of the First Gulf War. The Iraqi government remained in power and many Kurds were allowed to be slaughtered. This fact cannot be lost on the Kurds as they see the western press laud the group and its report. They must be saying to themselves, "We have been down this road before with these guys. We saw where that led us. We do not want to travel that way again."

Just What Did Jesus Do?

Does something strike you as odd when you read Matt:17:14-21? This passage describes what happened when Jesus and a few chosen disciples came down from the Mount of Transfiguration. They were met by a man whose son had a demon that the other disciples could not cast out. After Jesus cast out the demon, the disciples asked him why they could not cast it out. Verses 20-21 gives us the answer. "So Jesus said to them, "Because of your unbelief, for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain,'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting." (NKJV) As I was reading this passage many years ago, the question came to my mind: When did Jesus fast? Did he go away quietly and fast before casting out the demon? No. Since Jesus told his disciples that only fasting would expel such demons, and he did not fast, what is the message here?

In the newly published collection of essays by Dallas Willard,The Great Omission, Willard expresses his concern over the thinking behind the WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) movement. He believes that it encourages Christians to think of Jesus making decisions and acting on them on the spur of the moment. And so as Jesus did, so we shall do. When faced with difficulty, all we have to do is decide for ourselves on the spot what course of action Jesus would follow, and we act on this decision. What this mindset overlooks is that Jesus did not act on the spur of the moment. Jesus's actions were the result of a lifestyle of spiritual dicipline. Because he spent time in prayer and studying and meditating on God's word, because he fasted and worshipped God when he was alone, in public he was able to operate in the power of the Holy Spirit which annointed Him at His baptism. In my example from Matt 17, Jesus was able to cast out the demon because he fasted in private. Because Jesus practiced spiritual diciplines, he was ready to do what needed to be done in the circumstances God placed Him in. John was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day when he received the visions he wrote about in Revelation. Paul and Barnabus were worshipping in the church at Antioch when God called them to their mission. Peter and John were going to the temple for prayer when Peter told the lame man to walk and five thousand were saved that day. And Jesus obeyed God in the obscuritry of his earthly life before he began His public ministry. We are called to the same life of dicipline. Our practice of these diciplines empowers us for the service of our Lord, even when these opportunities for service come unexpectedly

Mary, The Greatest Disciple

Have you ever been asked who your favorite Bible character is, besides Jesus? Most of you would probably give Paul as your answer. After all, didn't his example of obedience surpass the other disciples, including Peter? When others may have hesitated to obey, Paul boldly did what God commanded him to do. Is there any other New Testament figure whose obedience matched, if not surpassed Paul?

Jesus said to Paul on the Damascus Road "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks."(Acts9:5, KJV) The NKJV replaces the word "pricks" with "goads." While this verse may not appear in other modern translations, this verse appears in nearly all translations in Acts26:14, where Paul spoke before Agrippa. A goad is a sharp stick used to guide the direction of an animal. How does this apply to what Jesus was saying? Was God drawing Paul to Himself, and Paul refusing to respond? Was the witness of Stephen being resisted by Paul? Why would Paul fight God's drawing? Pride? Not wanting to admit his way was not God's way? Did he fear losing his status? It is reasonable to suppose he feared death if he followed Christ. After all, what was he doing to Christ's followers? Perhaps if he had not resisted Jesus, the Damascus Road meeting would have been unnecessary.

The question remains. Did anyone rival or surpass Paul in obedience?

Yes. The answer is Mary, the mother of Jesus. It had been centuries since God had spoken to anyone in Israel. And who did God send His angel to, besides Zacharias? A young girl fifteen years of age. When told she was the chosen one to give birth to Jesus, did she protest? Did she beg God to chose another? There were reasons to be fearful. She would risk the fury of her espoused husband, Joseph, who could have legally had her stoned on the grounds of adultry. (Lev20:10) She would also be risking her reputation. Who would believe her story that God caused her to be with child. Suspicion and ridicule would follow her and her child all their lives. Mary had just as much to fear as Paul. Even though she questioned how a virgin could give birth, when the time came for understanding, she showed no fear or hesitation. "Behold the maid servant of the Lord!" she said. "Let it be to me according to your word." (LK1:38, NKJV) Wesley wondered if the conception of Jesus happened then, at the point of Mary's obedience.

Was she perfect in obedience? No. But certainly if Paul can be rightly held up as a model of fearless obedience, so can Mary. Her attitude can be summed up by what she told the servants at the wedding in Cana. "Whatever He says to you, do it." (Jn2:5, NKJV) Let us not let unbiblical worship of Mary by some rob her of her exaulted stature as a fearless disciple of Christ.

Thursday, December 7, 2006


Greetings! Welcome to The Right Hand of Fellowship. This short post is for the purpose of officially launching this site. Regular posting will begin soon. jhg