Wednesday, 27 February 2019
The Blessed Life
One of the early church fathers named Gregory the Great once wrote in a commentary on the book of Job that “holy people are more fearful of prosperity in this world than of adversity.” That line struck me. As a believer in Jesus we are incorporated in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. What is true of Jesus is true of us by His grace and faithfulness to us, and in return our response of faith and allegiance. As Americans (at least white Americans) we have a story as well. We tend to tell a story of progress and prosperity. It’s a story I’m proud to be part of, but it is also a story that sometimes rubs against our Gospel story. There is a tension that begs the question what really is the good life?
So what do we do as Americans who have been prosperous, who have received untold blessings from the Lord? Well, when we search the scriptures we come to the Proverbs which speaks much of wealth, blessing, and prosperity. Proverbs though contrasts wealth, blessing, and prosperity with Wisdom. For instance, Proverbs 3:13-15 states, “blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her.” When the question of the good life is taken up in the Wisdom writings of the Old Testament, the answer to the good life is Wisdom. The beginning of wisdom is of course the fear of the Lord. Where does Wisdom come from? Wisdom comes from the TORAH, the law of the Lord. If you follow TORAH, the natural result is a happy/blessed life.
What does Jesus say about TORAH? Did Jesus do away with it? No, Jesus says that He came to fulfill TORAH during the Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew 5. So how do we gain wisdom on what to do with our blessing and prosperity? We seek Jesus. We grab hold onto Jesus who has already grabbed a hold of us. Jesus did not keep His blessing to Himself, but rather poured Himself out for the sake of others. We are called to do the same with our blessing. It is out of the overflow of Jesus’ blessing that we begin to bless others. It is there we will find the good/blessed life.
Posted on 02/27/2019 10:11 AM by Dr. Ray Miller
Friday, 22 February 2019
CBC Response to Sexual Abuse in Baptist Churches
Hi, church family. You probably have read in the news or seen on social media that the Houston Chronicle has dropped a 3 part story about sexual assault/abuse in SBC churches. The articles particularly point out how there is no database within the SBC system that keeps track of sexual abusers who are ministers or lay leaders. The articles are particularly harsh about churches that dismiss ministers or lay leaders, only for that fired minister to pop up into leadership at another church a little while later. Part of that is due to our polity of local church autonomy. Our system is much different than that of the Roman Catholic Church or Anglican Church, both of which have a clear hierarchy. Baptist churches rely on churches that cooperate together for theology, missions, education, and works of compassion. While denominational entities such as the TBC or SBC can be major influencers within a particular Baptist congregation, the decision-making process is up to the local church itself.
Therefore since each individual church is responsible for the safety and well-being of the children in their care, I wanted to lay out clearly our process. While I do not think any process is fool-proof, I do believe ours goes above and beyond that which is required.
- Each person who works with children must be part of us for 6 months, unless there is a waiver signed by the Associate Pastor.
- Each adult must have a background check. We keep this confidential and on file.
- Each person must submit references. Our office staff calls to check out the reference with appropriate questions.
- Each person must submit a written application to work with children.
- We have a 2 adult rule in all our class rooms with minors. This means that no adult can be alone with a child anywhere in the church or on a bus. We also have a camera installed on our biggest bus where we are able to retrieve footage.
- If any abuse is accused, we immediately call DCS (Department of Child Services) and fully cooperate with the investigation.
These steps are just a summary of our child protection policies. We take children’s safety seriously here, as Jesus did as well (Matthew 18:6-9). For us to accomplish our mission of seeing every life changed by Christ, we must first create a safe environment. We have long had good practices in place, although we formally adopted our current policy in 2010 and recently updated them as a church in October 2017. This policy is in place because we care about every child who walks through our doors. Our ultimate hope is to point kids to Jesus as Lord and allow them to experience Jesus’ presence at CBC. Join me in praying for the victims of sexual assault in any setting, but especially in a church. Let’s make sure that it never happens here.
Posted on 02/22/2019 11:27 AM by Dr. Ray Miller
Thursday, 14 February 2019
Know Your Who
“Know your why.” That phrase is often tossed around as sound business and success advise. Know your purpose. If your purpose is to provide for your family, then that is what gets you up in the morning. PT Barnum once said “the noblest art is that of making others happy.” Guess what his why was? It was to bring joy to the people who attended his circuses.
As a follower of Jesus though, our why is wrapped up in our Who. We do not have a why without a Who. Paul in Colossians tells us to seek that which is higher, and to set our minds on things above rather than earthly things. What’s he talking about? Just look up to the sky all day? No, Paul is speaking about Jesus. Paul is speaking about the Jesus he describes as the creator, sustainer, and redeemer of the world. The Jesus in whom the Image of God is fully revealed. The Jesus in whom we find our redemption to who God has created us to be. The Jesus who will one day make this world right.
When we focus on that Jesus, our priorities shift in life. We recognize the image of God in everyone. We see the sinner in need of a savior. We see the lost, the blind, the imprisoned, and the lame. We see the world as God sees it. So seek that which is above and always remember to turn your eyes upon Jesus, the source and author of our faith. Get to know your Who and your Why will work itself out.
Posted on 02/14/2019 2:38 PM by Dr. Ray Miller
Tuesday, 12 February 2019
The Tension of Promises and Pain
Have you ever felt a tension between the promises of God and the pain of life? Maybe it was a marriage that started out strong, but turned sour. Maybe it was a health issue that ended with suffering rather than healing. Maybe an untimely death or a traumatic experience still lingers. There is a tension between the present “now” and the future “not yet” within the Kingdom of God. Yet Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of God is present and draws near. How do we resolve this tension?
If we are being honest, we cannot fully resolve the tension. Paul’s words in Romans 8 do comfort though. Paul writes, “In the same way the Spirit also helps us in our weaknesses, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings (Romans 8:26).” Sometimes the pain of the present reality can be overwhelming, even to the point we do not know how to pray. Yet the Holy Spirit prays for us and with us. Not only that, but the Holy Spirit groans for us. When life gets overwhelming what often fails us first is our ability to use language effectively. God understands that, and groans for us.
Not only does God groan for us, God comes to us. At the end of the Gospel of Luke, Cleopas and his friend were discussing the troubling events of Jesus’ crucifixion. As they were trying to process what happened, Jesus came to them. He listened to them. Then Jesus reoriented their story and broke bread with them. Suddenly, their eyes were opened. Jesus comes near to us, and can reorient our world, even the world full of pain. There is a tension between the now and the not yet, the pain of life and the promises of God. Until the not yet happens, God groans in the now, and Jesus draws near to reorient our world.
Posted on 02/12/2019 1:08 PM by Dr. Ray Miller
Friday, 8 February 2019
A Life of Forgiveness
“Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors . . . for if you forgive the sin of someone who sins against you, your father will also forgive your sins. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins (Matthew 6:11, 14-15).” These are Jesus’ words. They are beyond tough to swallow. Forgiveness is a great intellectual concept until you actually have to forgive someone who has deeply wounded you and sinned against you.
How is this possible? Paul reminds us to “forgive each other, just as Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32).” That tells me that people in the earliest church who had personally known Jesus or knew people who knew Jesus in the flesh and blood, had a hard time forgiving. That’s because forgiveness is always costly.
When you read the Old Testament sacrifices for forgiveness, something always had to die to bear the weight of the wrongdoing. There was a cost to forgiveness. Jesus of course paid the ultimate cost at the cross where he lost His life. In one of Jesus’ final moments he cries out “Father, forgive them for the do not know what they do.”
Forgiveness must be embodied. Forgiveness was obviously embodied by Jesus, who displayed it on the cross. It was taught by Jesus in the prayer he taught us to pray and in Matthew 18’s parable of the debtor who was forgiven an extraordinary amount of debt by the King, only to put someone in debtor’s jail for a little amount of debt that was owed to him. He did not understand the grace gift of forgiveness and the cost of that forgiveness from the King.
My theory is that forgiveness is not an event. Rather, forgiveness is an embodied lifestyle that begins with a relationship with the Triune God. Forgiveness is not truly possible without the aid of the Holy Spirit. However, we have to cultivate forgiveness in our lives through reflecting on our salvation constantly, practicing confession, taking part of the Lord’s Supper, and going through a process of forgiveness. Over the next few Wednesday nights we are going to be doing just that, learning how to embody forgiveness together. I hope you join us!
Posted on 02/08/2019 10:54 AM by Dr. Ray Miller
Tuesday, 5 February 2019
The Antidote to Acedia
Yesterday we explored the Greek concept of acedia, and it’s relation to our soul. (You can read that one here if you have not read it). The antidote of acedia is the Fruit of the Spirit listed out by Paul in Galatians 5. Here is how this plays out in my life: Apart from the Spirit, I can become selfish and disengaged. With the Spirit, I am able to love fully. When acedia takes control, I can become depressed or anxious. When I walk with the Spirit, joy abounds, no matter the circumstance. Apart from the Spirit, the burning fire of worry consumes my chest and head. When I walk with the Spirit, God’s peace that passes all understanding takes control of my heart.
One of my strengths is an achiever. I love accomplishing tasks. When that is in overdrive, I tend to become impatient and hurried (especially on I-24). When I walk with the Spirit though, I am able to patiently sit with people and listen with intent. I do not know about you, but when I walk apart from the Spirit, I tend to run over people with my words, and sometimes fail to offer basic kindness. Walking with the Spirit slows down my soul to see another person, and to offer the kindness of God.
Another one of my strengths is competitiveness. When that is in overdrive, I tend to “do things for God.” I become self-righteous rather than God-righteous. However, walking with the Spirit brings me into communion with God. What flows out of communion with God is goodness because God is good. Sometimes I can be harsh and judgmental apart from the Spirit. Walking with the Spirit allows gentleness to take hold of my soul. Finally apart from the Spirit, I seek to gratify my own desires and seek my own pleasure, even destructive pleasure. Walking with the Spirit though allows self-control to discipline my body, soul, and mind. No wonder Paul writes “Let us keep in step with the Spirit!”
Posted on 02/05/2019 9:54 AM by Dr. Ray Miller
Monday, 4 February 2019
Acedia vs. the With God Life
There is an ancient Greek vice that creeps up on us without us even noticing most of the time. The Greeks called it acedia. Literally it means to not care. Ultimately, acedia is a failure to love. It’s an apathy toward life. We often use the phrase “going through the motions.” That is a form of acedia.
Sometimes, our spiritual lives get attacked by acedia. The author Kathleen Norris describes acedia as “restless boredom, frantic escapism, commitment phobia, and enervating despair.” Does that sound like life for so many people today? We belong to the most affluent society there has ever been on earth. So much of our entertainment is distraction from boredom. We want to escape into a story. Or we escape into social media or video games. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of those forms of entertainment. However, they can distract us from a life with God. They can cause us to disengage from the world, disengage from our family, and disengage with our soul. Life with God is one of engagement, fruit, and love. Pursue the life God has for you, which is the With God Life, and not the acedia of the world.
Posted on 02/04/2019 1:36 PM by Dr. Ray Miller