Friday, December 2, 2016

Daily Lesson for December 2, 2016

Today's Daily Lesson comes from 1 Thessalonians chapter 4 verses 9 through 12:

9 Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, 10 for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, 11 and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, 12 so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.

Christianity teaches self reliance. From the very beginning it has been a part of our core ethical teaching that we are to work hard and well enough that we are able to make ends meet for ourselves and save enough to help our neighbor make ends meet also.

There is an inherent dignity to work; and when we take work away or de-incentivize work through either too low of wages or too broad of welfare then the dignity of work is lost.

When the Israelites first came across the Red Sea they had nothing to eat in the wilderness. So God gave them manna. Only God did not give it to them in their dishes within their rooms. No, somebody from the family had to go out of the tent and gather it up. Somebody had to work. And the work was good. The work taught them self-reliance, independence, and gave them a sense of their own self-worth.  These were things they never had under Pharaoh.

There is the old adage: "Give a man a fish you feed him for a day; teach him to fish you feed him for a lifetime."  I was talking with a person who studies and teaches entrepreneurship at the college the other day. She said non-profits aren't doing enough to teach people real-life, practical, and employable skills in the real world job market. It makes me ask you all: Is there someone you need to teach how to fish?  Could the church provide the pole, the boat, and the tackle, rather than just a filet?

"Work with your hands . . . and be dependent on no one," St Paul said. In other words, work and learn to live free.

How can a church like ours help to make others free?

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Daily Lesson for December 1, 2016

Today's Daily Lesson comes from Isaiah chapter 2 verses 12 through 22:

12 For the Lord of hosts has a day
against all that is proud and lofty,
against all that is lifted up—and it shall be brought low;
13 against all the cedars of Lebanon,
lofty and lifted up;
and against all the oaks of Bashan;
14 against all the lofty mountains,
and against all the uplifted hills;
15 against every high tower,
and against every fortified wall;
16 against all the ships of Tarshish,
and against all the beautiful craft.
17 And the haughtiness of man shall be humbled,
and the lofty pride of men shall be brought low,
and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.
18 And the idols shall utterly pass away.
19 And people shall enter the caves of the rocks
and the holes of the ground,
from before the terror of the Lord,
and from the splendor of his majesty,
when he rises to terrify the earth.
20 In that day mankind will cast away
their idols of silver and their idols of gold,
which they made for themselves to worship,
to the moles and to the bats,
21 enter the caverns of the rocks
and the clefts of the cliffs,
from before the terror of the Lord,
and from the splendor of his majesty,
when he rises to terrify the earth.
22 Stop regarding man
in whose nostrils is breath,
for of what account is he?

Some time ago I was reading a collection of sermons from Gardner C Taylor, the great 20th century pulpiteer and mentor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  In the sermon, Dr. Taylor referred to the finest hour of preaching in all of the 20 centuries since Christ.

The occasion was the funeral oration for King Louis XIV of France, often referred to as "Henry the Great", when Jean Baptiste Masillon stood in the pulpit of the basilica of St Denis and famously began his funeral oration with these leveling words: "Dieu seul est gran." -- Only God is great.

The LORD of Hosts has a day. For Castro, for Trump, for Obama, for me. The LORD of Hosts has a day. And on that day it will be proven true. Only God is great.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Daily Lesson for November 30, 2016

Today's Daily Lesson comes from Luke chapter 20 verses 19 through 27:

19 The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people. 20 So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor. 21 So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God. 22 Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” 23 But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, 24 “Show me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar's.” 25 He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” 26 And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent.

Gotcha Politics has been around a long time.

On the face, the questions Gotcha Politics asks seem to be the important questions. Should we give to Caesar or not appears to be an important question. When it's asked everyone tunes in.  Suddenly the whole crowd wants to know, feels like it needs to know. Should we give our money to Caesar or not?  This is an important question.

But who wants to know?  Or, better, who's asking?  And why are they asking?  And why are they asking in such a public, shall we say politicized, venue?  Who gains from this question being asked and being answered?  Though I probably would have missed it then, from a distance of two-thousand years I can tell. It's Gotcha Politics who wants to know.

Beware. Gotcha Politics is still out there. He's all over the Internet and TV. He's asking all kinds of hardball questions.  I mean he's really cuts to the bone, not afraid to be controversial at all.  And I suppose I would call it good journalism if there weren't so much money and reputation to be made in it.  That makes me suspicion, wondering if the role of journalism has not over the last few decades changed from being the watchdog of the people to the attack dog of the politicians. That's something to think about when the really controversial stuff gets brought up.

"Good teacher, is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not? Just a simple yes or no will do. You know, without any equivocation. After all, a man of your position ought to be straightforward about something so black and white."

Inquiring minds want to know.

And so do Grand Inquisitors.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Daily Lesson for November 29, 2016

Today's Daily Lesson comes from 1 Thessalonians chapter 2 verses 1 through

For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. 2 But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. 3 For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, 4 but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. 5 For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. 6 Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. 7 But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. 8 So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

What a wonderful picture of a minister. Strong, and unashamed of the Gospel and willing to stand up and speak its truth boldly even amidst much conflict and opposition. Speaking a truth that is Godly, and not predicated on deception or watered down for the sake of moderation. Proclaiming a Gospel that is not predicated on self-interest, whether that self-interest be one of greed or the idolatry of wanting to be accepted and liked. This is stern medicine.

Yet it's also tender medicine. There is gentleness in the minister's way, true affection for the people, and an openness to share not only the Gospel but also the fullness of his or herself and life with the people, in the community, and in the neighborhood.

What a wonderful picture indeed; and a lot to try to live up to today.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

In Memoriam

I want to thank those who have reached out to offer condolences to me and my family in the loss of my uncle Jeff Whillock.  Your kindness to our family is a grace.

For those who may not yet have heard, a memorial service for Jeff will take place Monday at 10am at Second Baptist Church.

Sometimes death comes as a mercy. Jeff struggled with an increasingly debilitating autoimmune disease for two decades. In recent years he had grown very weak and very tired.  This condition, plus the loss of Jeff's daughter Ellory six years ago, left the light of this life only a smoldering wick and the light of life to come a brighter and brighter hope. In the end, Uncle Jeff reached out to that light that was coming and took hold.

In spite of our loss, there is still much for which our family is grateful.  We are grateful for Jeff's generous spirit and concern for the less fortunate -- something he shared in common with both his father Fred and his beloved Aunt Mary and passed down to his daughter Ellory.  We are grateful for Sharon, Jeff's wife and Ellory's mother, who loved and cared for Jeff in so many ways, even unto his last hours. And above all, we are grateful for Jeff's love for Ellory and the hope we have that they are now together again forever.

"And now these three things remain: Faith, Hope, and Love. And the greatest of these is Love."

And Love never ends.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Today's Daily Lesson comes from 1 Thessalonians 5 verses 16 through 19:

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

It is 7:30am Central and the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade will be starting in 30 minutes. Watching the Parade is the first of many Thanksgiving Day rituals I have enjoyed since a boy we still enjoy as a family.

I always cry at the beginning of the Parade. It's another Thanksgiving Day ritual, a little lump in the throat to begin the holiday season. The moment is bittersweet as Thanksgivings past come back. My grandmother B's giblet gravy. The first Thanksgiving she was no longer there to cook it. Trips to Arkansas to see our Aunt Mary. The smell of hotcakes in her kitchen. We only had pancakes in Texas; but hotcakes in Aunt Mary's kitchen was not only another state it was another world. Racing down the hill in front of her house. My great-grandfather driving my great-grandmother down the hill, stepping out of the car, and slowly walking to the trunk to pull out her wheelchair. The Thanksgiving we were still in the high school football playoffs and had practice in the cool, November air that morning. I still remember the Cowboys won that afternoon on their way to a Super Bowl Season. The Thanksgiving after 9/11 when I was in seminary in North Carolina and so far from home and the trees were so dense and the days so short. The next year when I went to the Parade in New York City and watched from the 57th floor balcony of some friend of a friend of a friend's apartment building and got sick to my stomach because I was so high in the air and had drank so much the night before. Our first Thanksgiving with a child of my own. The first Thanksgiving after my cousin was killed and my grasping for words during the prayer as my uncle stood beside me.  The time dad was too sick to be with us at Thanksgiving. This year, when he'll be well.

All of these Thanksgivings come back to me that moment the Parade starts.  They are with me when the TV comes on. The highs and the lows. The good times and the bad.  The hard and very hard ones. And the ones which were and will be again purely joyous.

The first Thanksgiving in Plymouth was celebrated in 1621 after 45 of the 102 colonists who set out for America had passed away during the harsh and devastating winter before. Yet the harvest was plentiful and the storehouse was full and there was much to be thankful for.

And then there is the Thanksgiving Proclamation itself, given to the American people by Lincoln in 1863 amidst the terror of war.  Gettysburg passed, with its myriads and myriads of thousands lost, and yet Lincoln calls on the people to recognize the blessings of the Almighty with these fine words:

Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

And so, Lincoln said in his memorable way, it was "fit and proper" to set aside a day for observing thanks.

"Give thanks in all circumstances," St. Paul says. We do. And we remember giving thanks in a circumstances also.  It is fit; and it is proper. And it is what Americans will always do.

Thou hast given so much to me,
Give one thing more,—a grateful heart
Not thankful when it pleaseth me,—
As if Thy blessings had spare days,—         
But such a heart, whose pulse may be
Thy praise.    
(George Herbert)

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

When Governor Nikki Haley ordered the Confederate flag to be removed from the South Carolina State Capitol grounds she earned the respect of the whole Price family, including Gabrielle, who wrote the Gov. the letter below. 

We are pleased at the Governor's nomination as Ambassador to the United Nations and hope she will continue to work for the good of all Americans everywhere.