Posts Tagged ‘Erwin Lutzer’

I sought the Lord, and he answered me;  he delivered me from all my fears….This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles…The Lord is close to the brokenhearted  and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:4,6,18).

E.F. “Sonny” Dewey stands in his room in the middle of the night yelling. Is he screaming at his wife, or his kids, or some other person inhabiting his mother’s house? No, he is yelling at God.

Sonny, a Pentecostal preacher portrayed by Robert Duvall in the film “The Apostle”, has been booted from his Texas church as a result of  a power play orchestrated by his wife Jessie (Farrah Fawcett). The lady has had enough of his womanizing and abuse, and she herself has taken up with the youth minister.

“If you won’t give me back my wife, give me peace,” screams Sonny.” I don’t know who’s been fooling with me, you or the Devil. I don’t know! I won’t even bring the human into this. He’s just a mutt, so I won’t bring him into this, but I’m confused, I’m mad. I love you Lord, but I am mad at you! I AM MAD AT YOU!” 

“I know I’m a sinner every once in a while, a womanizer, but I’m your servant. Since I was a little boy and you brought me back from the dead, I’m your servant. What should I do? Tell me. I’ve always called you Jesus, you’ve always called me Sonny, so what should I do. This is Sonny talking now!”

Apparently such communication between Sonny and the good Lord is not uncommon. A neighbor calls up and complains to his Momma, who tells them,”That’s Sonny. Sometimes he talks to the Lord, sometimes he yells at the Lord. Tonight he just happens to be yelling at him.” 

Sonny’s anger issues aren’t limited to the Lord, however. At his kid’s baseball game he takes a bat to the youth minister and kills him. Knowing he’s in a heap of trouble, Sonny runs.

Somehow, even in the midst of the horrible mess he has mostly brought on himself, Sonny does not stop communicating with the Lord.

Even as a fugitive murderer, the preacher asks God to lead him. Eventually he arrives  in a rural Louisiana community.

His charismatic personality attracts the locals and Sonny plants a church with an African American minister.  He looks for radio time, and when he find out he has to pay, Sonny is offered a place to stay by a mechanic he helped out earlier.

This act of kindness causes Sonny to tell God, “I’m not mad at you, and I’ll never be mad again.” 

In the bayou and on the radio, Sonny is known as  “The Apostle E.F.”.Although his ministry booms and the church grows, his new life is on a short leash. Jessie hears a fuzzy radio broadcast of his one day and calls the cops.

Sonny is escorted away right after he preaches his final sermon. In “The Apostles” final scene, he is preaching at a group of inmates.

Robert Duvall’s portrayal of Sonny in the 1997 movie, which won him an Academy Award nomination, is not one of a typical suburban evangelical Christian in modern America. In “The Apostle”, we do not experience the stereotypical mega-church family cruising in their minivan and sipping lattes at the sanctuary coffee bar.

What we see is a precursor  of what would hit the media in the coming new century: the reality show. Indeed, the lives of Sonny,  Jessie and other characters in “The Apostle” foreshadow the brokenness of  many people in  America in the second decade of the 21st century, folks who still desire, nay, yearn for, a touch from Jesus Christ.

And not just a pat on the back from His hand. They hunger for a deep experience with Him, and one with power that will rocket their lives into outer space.

But they are broken and exhausted and don’t know how to be fixed and the church isn’t helping. Jesus is all the hope they have.

The life of the real American believer today is more true to the story of the average person we meet in the Old and New Testament. Those people were broken too and they needed the touch of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit.

What they are getting instead from today’s American Christianity in many cases is church politics and hierarchy reminiscent of the Pharisees and Sadducees,  and expectations they do not have the strength or power to meet.

People whose lives are busted into a thousand pieces may  think it is  only the church which is to blame for their  condition. They should  think again and try to get rid of that mindset.

It is not right to think of  the church and pastors in our minds like we do the government and politicians.

It would be wiser to look in the mirror. Once we get past the fact that what we see there  looks like Humpty Dumpty post tumble, and overcome our despair that we shall never be put back together again by all the king’s horses and all the pastor’s men, we would do well to grasp that we are actually right where God would have us.

Although it certainly doesn’t seem that way, He knows exactly what he is doing.

It is only in our brokenness can we comprehend that we need grace and mercy from Jesus. I may currently be walking around my room after hours yelling at God like Sonny Dewey, but he isn’t screaming back.

As Moody Bible Church pastor Erwin Lutzer notes, God has promises for us he intends to keep.

An old friend told me this weekend to think about the term ‘covenant’. In biblical terms, a ‘covenant’ is a set of commitments that God has made with his people.

Lutzer says that God’s promises to us aren’t based on our brokenness, but on his faithfulness and power. If Abraham had gone to God, he says, and posed a set of “what if” questions to Him, God’s answer in each case would be that He would keep his promises to him.

For example, if Abraham had asked ‘what if I lie again” or “what if my people have a king named David who commits adultery” or “what if my descendants crucify your Son”, God’s answer would still be the same.

“How can God talk like that”?, asks Pastor Lutzer. “Because God is not a man like you or I.”

God will not change and he remains faithful because he cannot deny himself. It is upon that that we stand today.”

In the words of an old hymn:

“Fear not, I am with thee, oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by My gracious, omnipotent hand.”

Like t E.F. “Sonny” Dewey, a man who was purportedly a man of God, many of us are messed up and torn apart and our pieces are spread out all over the landscape.  We would do well to follow his example and hang with Jesus regardless.

The final stanza of the aforementioned hymn says it all:

“The soul that on Jesus doth lean for repose,
I will not, I will not, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.”


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To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’ (John 8:31).”

I finally did it for good. I deactivated my Facebook account.

I had done it before. Once I unfriended everyone and THEN deactivated it.

One person thought they had offended me and wrote me. They hadn’t. I had just had it with Facebook.

However, not long after that “killing” of Facebook I activated it again and got new friends. Meet the new friends, same as the old friends.

This time I am serious though. Facebook just isn’t giving me any joy or fun. Indeed, it is doing the opposite.

I was reminded of this when I responded to a blog written by Tim Chailes, a pastor. He had written about what he calls “the lost sin of envy”. I wrote in his comments section:

Tim, this is great stuff. And as a blogger, I’m envious of you. (Just kidding–really.) U know where I got envious this week: looking at people I knew on Facebook from the old days, people whom I haven’t seen in 40 years. They looked happier than me, more prosperous, and so on. It did begin to rot my bones…. I think one of the faults of FB is its false sense of what’s true and real. Heck. I have no idea if those people are really happy or not.

Tim Chailes responded by giving me his link to his earlier blog post called Facebook Makes Us Miserable.  In this piece Chailes notes that instead of making us happy as we intend it to, Facebook conjures up bad feelings when we see other people portray their successes.

What drove me to drop Facebook for good was a photo which included several people I knew. They were posing, showing off a successful activity of theirs.

I knew most of the people in that photo. In fact, except for what I deem an injustice I could have been with them.

There’s nothing really wrong with the people in the picture. I just didn’t care for some of the rottenness beneath it.  I finally thought that then and there that it was time to say goodbye to Mark Zuckerberg’s fantasy land.

Facebook isn’t the only place filled with posers. Today I was on the bus and encountered two people that made my life tough this year.

One of those persons got on the bus and glanced at me and went on. The other never saw me, as they were riding by on a bicycle.

Both of these people had been dishonest in my dealings with them. When I exposed them, things got difficult for me.

In fact, the bus rider came out smelling like a rose in the community in which we participate. I, on the other hand, am on my way out of this group, having been forced out.

The alternative  to constant musing about all these Facebook friends and other less than forthcoming people  is to look to God. However, as Erwin Lutzer pointed out in a sermon to his church this year, this task can be daunting.

Pastor Lutzer decided to preach on this text:

One of the teachers of the lawcame and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’

 Lutzer told his congregation that thinking about teaching on this Scripture sent him into what he called “emotional convulsions”.  He told them why:

“I thought to myself, ‘this is an awesome passage of Scripture. Who in the world could love the Lord his God with all of his might, with all of his strength, and with all of his heart?  That seems like an impossible dream.’  And I thought to myself,’I’d like to be able to love God like that’, but I looked within my heart and I saw coldness and indifference and thought “who could love God with such passion?’. It seemed impossible.”

I had those same feelings at the time I sought out Lutzer’s message. I had felt led to look at the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) because I knew my bad feelings about the photos and messages on Facebook violated the last one:

“You shall not covet  your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” (v. 17)

However, as I looked them over I determined that I daily broke about half of them. Oh, I may not commit murder for example, and thus violate the sixth one seven days a week, but I sure get angry at people in my heart. Jesus equated the two (see Matthew 5:21-24).

Indeed, Jesus calls us to an even higher life than pure actions. He wants holy hearts as well.

Lutzer’s message added another disobeyed commandment to my already full portfolio. I learned from the pastor that I am committing idolatry when I value other people, things or circumstances above God. I sure do this a lot, too.

Thus, I have felt like the Chief of Posers this week and Facebook has contributed to that.  Chailes says it all when he comments about our reactions to the messages we get from Facebook. We believe we are the only ones that are miserable when we view Facebook, and drag ourselves down. He writes:

“What a ridiculous lot we are. What a sad, jealous, envious, idolatrous lot.”

We believe the lie. And the world system we live in is indeed a lie.

It tells us that while we are looking at the loving Facebook couples that our marriages aren’t good enough. It communicates that we don’t measure up while we notice the old friend on a world tour. Yet, if truth be told, what I see on Facebook of other people’s lives is just an illusion, only part of the whole picture.

This constant lying in our midst should not surprise. Lying is the native tongue of Satan, the ruler of this world (John 8:44).  We’re all just using our mother tongue.

I know I need to learn a new language: God’s truth.  It’s main textbook is the Bible.

The Bible tells me who God, who I am and who other people are. It tells me what I am supposed to believe and to do.

I’m better off spending my time in the Bible than on Facebook, which Chailes tells us “sucking 700 billion minutes between the lot of us every month.”  At least in the Scriptures I’ll learn the language of truth.

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“Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!  Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.  Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, ‘We have defeated him!’ Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall. But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me (Psalm 13:3-5).”

I once had someone tell me in a professional situation,”I can tell you’re not happy here. I can tell by the way you walk.”

I initially was offended by this statement. For one, the person had hardly seen me in three months. In addition, I wondered what my ambulatory methods had to do with my performance in a job that was more mental than physical.

However, the more I thought about it the more I tried to take these comments to heart. It was not the first time someone had commented on my appearance as I walked. Someone close to me once said,”You walk like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders.”

So lately I have been trying to get more of a spring to my step. I have been out walking in the forests in my community, giving my body a good hearty push. No more of this dead man walking stuff!

While I initially had reservations about someone commenting on my body language, in all fairness our nonverbal features do communicate. I should have known better since I teach language and cultural behavior.

One of the great incidents in American history involved a nonverbal action which may have saved the country during the Revolutionary War. It involved an attempt by George Washington to convince his officers not to rebel against Congress due to this bodies lack of payment for the army’s services.

According to William Safire, the officers called a private meeting. Washington learned about it and showed up where he really wasn’t welcome and gave some remarks to persuade them against their potential insurrection.

The speech apparently didn’t have much affect, but something Washington did after it  carried the day in his favor. Here is Safire’s account:

At the conclusion of his speech, which he read from pages of his own clear writing, Washington looked at his sullen audience and drew a letter from his pocket. It was from a member of Congress, he said, explaining the straits the country was in and what the body was attempting to do to pay the debts of the war. He squinted at the writing in the letter and could not go on. The audience of officers sturred in their seats, wondering what was wrong with their commander. Washington then groped in his waistcoat pocket and drew out an item that only his intimates, and very few in his audience, had seen him use. They were stunned to see him requireds to put on a pair of glasses to read the crabbed writing.

“Gentlemen”, he apologized,”you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in the service of my country.”

Biographer James Thomas Flexner writes.”This simple statement achieved what all Washington’s rhetoric and all his arguments had been unable to achieve. The officers were instantly in tears, and from behind the shining drops, their eyes looked with love at the commander who had led them all so far and long. Washington quietly finished reading the congressman’s letter. He knew the battle was won, and avoiding, with his instinctive sense of the dramatic, any anticlimax, he walked out of the hall…”.

Actions sometimes do speak louder than words. Erwin Lutzer emphasizes how the father of the prodigal son demonstrated his joy at the boy’s return.

Luke describes it:  “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.(Luke 15:20).”

Lutzer mentions how uncharacteristic the father’s behavior would have been in the culture of the time. So would have been clothing the boy with his own robe and ring, symbols of authority, as the father did.

I figure that sometimes I just worry too much and it shows. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve.

In talking about the our great country and its standing with God, Lutzer mentions that in the great scheme of things we should as individuals put our presents and our futures on His loving shoulders. I think if I do that there will be more of a lively step in my gait, and a gleam in my eye.

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 “My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip—  he who watches over you will not slumber;  indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you—the LORD is your shade at your right hand;  the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore (Psalm 121:2-8).”

Gregory House, the doctor on the TV series that bears his surname, is appearing before Dr. Cofield.  House is being questioned by Cofield about a mecial case that went terribly awry.

House defends himself: “My process is proven. Good things usually happen. Bad things sometimes happen.”

Cofield replies: “And when bad things happen, we should figure out what went wrong, so we can learn from it and correct it.”

House isn’t buying it. He has been around long enough to develop his view on such matters.

House disagrees, telling Cofield tartly,”So that we can assign blame instead of recognizing that bad things sometimes happen. It was nobody’s fault.”

The “it” was the near death of House’s colleague and subordinate Dr. Chase. He was stabbed with a scalpel in the heart by a patient who went berserk.

Dr. Cofield hears the testimony of House’s team and learns of the manaical methods he uses. He comes to the conclusion that the case was a fiasco.

Cofield determines that House is responsible for setting an atmosphere that led to the stabbing, even though the team agrees with their boss that the stabbing was “nobody’s fault”. House is only saved from being suspended and sent back to prison because it would constitute a parole violation by the last minute testimony of the wife of the patient who knifed Chase.

The patient was transferred to another hospital, but his wife tells Cofield that House told her of the cause of his problems as he was being taken away and has saved his life. Cofield suddently switches what appeared to be a guilty verdict to one exonerating House.

Surpisingly, House calls Cofield a coward and tells him he only declared the situation as nobody’s fault because of some spouse’s bursting into the room and intervening. This is surpising. House is a curmudgeon and has never been one to admit mistakes.

However, down deep he does care,, and he blames himself for what happened to Chase. In the end, House goes to Chase, who is going through physical therapy in order to walk again.

House uncharacteristically says to Chase,”Cofield says what happened to you was nobody’s fault. He was wrong. I am sorry.”

House has experienced a sense of shame and tries to deal with it. Since the beginning of the episode he has been transformed to saying that what happened was “nobody’s fault” to admitting his guilt.

Erwin Lutzer, the pastor of Moody Church in Chicago,  says that there are two kinds of shame. One is the objective shame we experience before God, who justly calls our actions “sin”.

Then there is subjective shame. This comes from our experiences. For example, we may be shamed because of being abused in a terrible home while growing up.

Lutzer says shame began at the Fall. It was there that he says the “blame game” began.

 After the fall Adam blames Eve. Eve blames the serpent.  

As a result, there is a defense mechanism in the human psyche that is going to say,”I am not responsible you are responsible”. Lutzer notes that some people are psychologically incapable of taking responsibility for their sins and their mistakes,and they will through ingenious  ways seek to  destroy all the people around them to protect themselves from exposure.

 Lutzer notes that society aids and abets this. It says to reconstruct the reality around us to exonerate ourselves from shame.

Shame, says Lutzer, is felt deeply and it can ruin us. Is it any wonder we go to such lengths to avoid it.

I find myself this day trying to make sense of shame. I was told today that my contract at my job would not be renewed.

Frankly, I saw it coming. My attitudes and responses to these circumstances have not been the best. I have been trying to exonerate myself and put the blame on others.

The truth is that the blame for my demise is difficult to ascertain.  I can’t decide if I was a victim of office politics or if I dug my own grave. Even so, there is shame.

In the last year I have learned an important lesson that I hope will help me deal with m job loss, at least in terms of my view of my identity. It involves having gained an understanding of whose land I live in.

Much of the world lives in what I call “the land of apples”. In this place, what matters is the plaudits of others, trophies and respect from men, and things like acclaim from your employer. I have decided that this land is not my home.

Where I try to live every day now is in “the land of oranges”. They are sweet oranges because Jesus lives there and runss the place. This country runs on the basis of His promises and His grace.

My thoughts fall in with Lutzer’s ideas about dealing with shame. He notes that Jesus took our shame on Himself.

Lutzer says His crucifixion was shameful. It destroyed His  reputation, silenced Him, exposd His obvious weaknesses, lead to His abandonment, and diminished Him (Hebrews 6:6).

In the midst of my shame at losing my job, it would be easy to go after some people. However, it is clear to me that this is not God’s way. It is better to entrust myself to His care.

Furthermore, my natural inclination would be to be shamed and beat myself up over today’s developments. This is fruitlless. What is fruit-full is to continue to live in the land of oranges as I have been training myself to do.

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