A Ministry of the School of Theology and Christian Ministry—Olivet Nazarene University

Frank Moore

Proclaiming in the Power of the Spirit

My last article for Epworth Pulpit was entitled Don’t Pray About It.  I highlighted one of our university students spending his summer in a creative access area of the world.  That means in order to protect his safety and the integrity of the ministry we do not reveal the location of the work.  I was anxious to hear from him as soon as he returned to campus in the fall not so much for a travel log of his trip but to hear what the Lord had taught him over the summer. 

As soon as my young friend began relating the exciting adventures of his ministry, I knew I had to write another Epworth Pulpit article.  I want to tell you not only what he learned from his ministry engagement but what I learned from him as well!  You see, that’s what makes being a university professor such a worthwhile profession.  Not only do we teach our students, but they teach us as well.

Before I tell you what his ministry team did, let me tell you where they were.  I’ll speak in general terms so as not to give their location away.  Their assignment took them to a remote part of the world far removed from the message of Jesus Christ and all things Christian.  Some nights they stayed in hostels; at other times they slept in tents.  They were as far from anything familiar to the western world as a college student from the United States can get.  It was truly an eye-opening experience.

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Don’t Pray About It!

I read a line in a book the other day that really set my wheels to turning double time.  I didn’t agree with the author one bit!  However, I couldn’t immediately put my finger on my disagreement with him.  His line of thought went something like this:

I know many people who involve themselves in ministry then pray for the Lord to bless their efforts.  Wrong approach.  Don’t even pray about it!  Just do an environmental scan of the neighborhood to see what the Lord is already doing in the community then throw your energies into that effort.

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The Tide Has Shifted

“The tide has shifted!”  I’ve heard that phrase used by several news commentators over the past few weeks in reference to new opinion polls of U.S. citizens.  The reference?  The U.S. Supreme Court is currently considering two cases that at their base involve the question of gay marriage.  The new opinion polls of U.S. citizens indicate that the majority favor a governmental provision for gay marriage.  This is news worthy because every state in this nation that has a law against gay marriage enacted that law when the majority of citizens of that state voted it that way.  Now, we are being told that “the tide has shifted with the rank and file citizens of this land.”

Average citizens are not the only ones who have gone public in support of gay marriage.  For the first time in history a sitting president said he personally supported it.  The evening news has an almost endless parade of both democrat and republican national legislators step up to the microphone to announce that while they once opposed the idea, they have now changed their minds.  Camera crews interviewed a few of the dozens of people who camped out in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building for up to a week, through all manner of winter weather, with hopes of getting a seat in the chambers where the gay marriage cases would be heard.  Their comments spoke of “the dawning of a new day in this country” and “equality for all under the law.”

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But We Had Hoped

Sometimes a phrase from Scripture will lodge in my brain and burn a hole like embers popping from a fireplace.  I can’t get away from it.  The implications of that phrase keep finding their way from one area of life to another.  I’m captivated by the power of the gospel message to speak in fresh ways to life situations today.

The phrase that has recently captivated my attention comes from the travelers heading from Jerusalem to Emmaus after the crucifixion and burial of Jesus.  The phrase from Luke 24:21 simply says, “but we had hoped.”  They were leaving Jerusalem now that their hopes and dreams for Israel through Jesus’ ministry had all been dashed by His sudden trial and death.  They had placed their confidence in Him; they must have been wrong.  They thought God was working through Him; how had they missed judged the situation so badly?  To make matters worse, His body had been reported missing.  As far as they were concerned, all hope was gone.  All of the “what ifs” and “if onlys” were getting them nowhere.  During their discussion along the road that afternoon, all of the ifs and buts in the world could not bring their hopes back to life.

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Swimming Upstream

 

I just finished writing a book this week.  The book focuses on The Lordship of Christ and talks about ways we can really put feet to our words when we say “Jesus is Lord.”  It will be ready for sale in June 2013.  So, I have been thinking about the theme of that book in relationship to our culture.  It seems to me that our dominant culture has lost its ability to point society in the direction of God.  It has also lost its ability to define the term lordship with any real depth of spiritual meaning such as it had even a couple of hundred years ago.  Therefore, when we begin to ponder The Lordship of Christ, we will find few, if any, clues from culture for doing this.

As I said, I was pondering what has happened in culture and society when I walked into Sunday school class last Sunday.  Dr. Kent Olney, our Sunday school teacher, is in the middle of a lesson series entitled “Marriage Matters.”  By the way, I have asked him to write a couple of articles for the Faith and Culture page of Epworth Pulpit from his series.  He has agreed; you will enjoy his material.  He believes much about marriage is up for grabs in 2012.  Dr. Olney began his presentation on marriage last Sunday, and I listened intently to his subject matter.  He then put a Power Point slide on the screen which I am sure related to his presentation.  However, the second my eyes focused on it, my mind began spinning with answers to my question about culture and my book on The Lordship of Christ. 

I want to give you an outline of his slide.  I am sure as soon as you see the analysis, you will begin to see other applications for it as I did.  Dr. Olney looked back over the last 60 years in western culture and characterized each decade since World War II.  He pointed out the social or personal revolution of each decade and what our culture redefined in that time period.  With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at Dr. Olney’s slide.

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The God of Christianity and Islam: The Same, Right?

Leading evangelical Protestant ministers, Roman Catholic priests, and Jewish rabbis are coming together in record numbers to encourage us to join hands with our Islamic brothers and sisters and celebrate the fact that we all worship the same God.  So, in the interest of shedding light on this faith and culture notion, I want you to think with me for a few minutes then decide for yourself if you believe it is true.

If you go to the Internet for your authority, you will be quickly convinced that the proposal is, in fact, true.  Hundreds of people have posted articles, research, blogs, and comments that affirm that God is the same for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  They believe the T-shirt slogan one of my students used to wear to class just to annoy me!  It had symbols of all of the world religions on the body of the T-shirt; under the symbols read “One God; many paths.”  I know a religion professor at a Christian college near my boyhood home who teaches that God took all knowledge of God’s self and distributed it evenly among the world religions.  He says we must all get together and put our puzzle pieces of God on the table to have a complete understanding of God. 

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Culture Responding to the Church?

The news reporter on the evening news made a thought provoking statement that sounded strange to my ears.  I perked up a bit as I listened more closely to the news item.  I’ve been thinking about it all day today.  Here’s the line.  Give it some thought along with me.

“Tonight is the last night of Mardi Gras in New Orleans.  So we have to live it up all night tonight, because we’re going to have to start our fast for Lent in the morning.”


Really?  Is this guy serious?  A whole series of questions hit my mind all at once as I pondered that statement about Mardi Gras.  I knew the word literally meant “Fat Tuesday.”  I knew the event started as a celebration that takes place in the days prior to the Christian calendar’s Wednesday which begins the Lenten season.  I knew the purpose of Lent was to prepare our hearts for the Easter season.  So, with that in mind, what do I do with all of the questions rolling around in my mind from the news story on Mardi Gras?

1.    Is secular culture really taking its cue from the Christian calendar?
2.    Does our culture sense a need to party excessively prior to a most sacred time of heart searching leading up to Easter?
3.    Does preparation for Lent grant a license for an entire night of wild parades, liquor consumption, partying, and immoral activity that marks this Tuesday evening?
4.    Will these same people who live-it-up all night during Mardi Gras also be fasting and preparing their hearts for Lent as the news reporter implied?
5.    How do we compartmentalize our lives so completely between a bacchanalian Mardi Gras Tuesday night and a worshipful Lenten Wednesday evening service just 12 hours later?

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Overcome by Our Love

A story on the morning news caught my ear this week as I got dressed for work.  Sixty major national-chain television advertisers – I mean the heavy hitters with the big bucks, not the late-night, low-budget guys – are pulling their support from The Learning Channel’s weekly program All-American Muslim.  The show looks into the lives of Muslim families living in Dearborn, Michigan, a Detroit suburb which is reported to have a 30% Muslim population.  

Those who criticize the show have successfully appealed to advertisers to pull their support, alleging that the program is un-American and calls America’s traditional values into question.  Those who support the show say it does nothing more than cast a spotlight on the daily lives of Muslim families living, working, and raising their children in this country.  What’s more, supporters say the First Amendment and the Constitution protects freedom to practice religion as anyone sees fit; that's what America is all about.

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A Charitable Accommodation

 

Usually when I sit at my computer to put my thoughts to paper for the Epworth Pulpit I write about something which excites me in some way.  I have no trouble making my point and giving you several illustrations of it.  This is not one of those times!  Today’s contribution comes as much as a reminder to me as it might be to you.  In fact, I think I might even surprise myself with some of the things I am about to say.  This is not one of those articles that has been burning in my heart, just waiting for the right opportunity to share with you.  Rather, its message hit me unexpectedly; I’ve been pondering it for days.

The catalyst for this article came from a tearful conversation I had last week with the mother of one of our university students.  Her words floored me, to say the least.  In order for you to understand the impact of her words, let me tell you two unrelated stories.  These two stories will soon converge in an interesting way.

Story #1.  A young man moved to our campus to start college this fall in answer to many prayers.  His story fits the classic model of a young person still seeking his way spiritually, needing a fresh start, away from home for the first time, and ending up providentially at our university.  I got the word that he was coming our way after he was already packed and on the road.  His was one of those situations where we wanted desperately for all the pieces of life’s puzzle to come together quickly for him.  We wanted all of his classes to go well; we wanted him to make friends quickly; we wanted him to get involved in campus life and like it!

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VIDEO: Holy Love and Homosexuality

VIDEO: Holy Love and Homosexuality, 10/24/11

 Frank Moore, Eddie Ellis, Kevin Mellish & Kent Olney        

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