Slavery in America: The Year of Jubilee

The following was originally posted March 29, 2010. It's being reposted here today as part of National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. In 2010, I wrote a series of blogs titled Slavery in America. This particular blog in the series is on worship and jubilee. 

On the way to church this morning, my mom and brother and I talked about how our world would be so different today if we still practiced Jubilee. We talked about how great it would feel to have our debt wiped away and the opportunities we’d be given if only it were still practiced today.

Directly after the service, I ran into a friend of mine who I traveled with to Malawi in the summer of 2008. It had been a few months since we’d run into each other. It was great to see him. He shared with us that he had been in our neck of the woods earlier in the week and had thought of me while nearby. He drew out the night and day differences between the area where I live and the area where we were attending church. He asked me, “Why aren’t we hanging out with the people who live in your neighborhood more?”

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Moses and God Upon Mount Sinai

In the last post, and first of a series of 3 on Moses and the supernatural encounters he had with God, we looked at the story of the burning bush.

Don't Just Hear...See!

Job:  “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-6).

Here was the most righteous man of his day, steadfastly withstanding the condemnation of his three close and misguided friends.  These friends came to Job in his misery and waited with him in silence for seven days.  Then they began their escalating (in directness) and diminishing (in effectiveness) arguments against Job, trying to show him that wickedness produces suffering.  And Job was right to fight this argument by maintaining His innocence.  God was not bringing suffering on Job because of his wickedness.

But then Elihu came to Job, and he spoke of God’s purpose in suffering, to bring sinners to repentance.  “If they are bound in chains and caught in the cords of affliction, then he declares to them their work and their transgressions…he opens their ears to instruction and commands that they return from iniquity” (Job 36:8-10).  And Job realized that, despite his righteousness, he was still a sinner before a holy God.

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When the Will of God is Scary

True or false? “God yearns to rescue people so that they know God is good.”

Awhile back I visited a mini conference in the Los Angeles area with Gary Haugen as the speaker. Gary Haugen is founder and president of International Justice Mission, a DC based organization that works in a number of countries to combat slavery and ultimately wipe it out completely.

Immediately following the quote above, Gary said, “We are called to help rescue people.” I agree with Gary. As I continue to seek in the Bible what God would have of me in this life, I am more and more convinced that it is the work of justice. In fact, God doesn’t even want my offering and worship to him if I’m not obeying his commands to care and serve those in need. Read Isaiah 58 and you'll see what I mean.

The Masters and the Greatest

“Sing praise-songs to God. He’s done it all!

   Let the whole earth know what he’s done!

Raise the roof! Sing your hearts out, O Zion!

   The Greatest lives among you: The Holy of Israel.” (Isaiah 12:5-6, The Message)

They wore their emotions for all to see on Sunday. Anger. Frustration. Disappointment. Happiness. Satisfaction. Glee.

And I emoted right along with them, from Charl Schwartzel’s holeout at the second just after I turned on the TV, to Rory McIlroy’s crushing blow at the tenth, to Adam Scott’s dart at the sixteenth, to Luke Donald’s bizarre pin-slamming, chip-dunking birdie at the last.

We are what we worship

I was reading Psalm 135 and came across what appears to be a pretty provocative claim: 

"The idols of the nations are but silver and gold, the work of man's hands. They have mouths, but they do not speak; they have eyes, but they do not see; they have ears but they do not hear, nor is there any breadth at all in their mouths. Those who make them will be like them, yes, everyone who trusts in them" (Psalm 135:15-18).

Idolators will become like what they worship - or, as in the title of this post, we are what we worship. I find this interesting. One of Jesus' most biting claims was that the religious leaders had eyes to see but could not see, and ears to hear, but could not hear - a classic use of the prophets language against idols which were formed with eyes and ears but no life in them. And yet the religious leaders were far from worshipping idols, at least in the classic sense, so what was he doing with that claim? 

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American Idolatry

The fact that we have a television show called American Idol is a bit of an indication that we don’t really know what an idol is – or what our attitude toward one ought to be.

I will confess, I am sufficiently behind the pop-culture curve that I have never actually watched American Idol, but because I do not live under a rock, I am familiar with what the show is about, and how it works. (Call it cultural osmosis.) As far as I can tell, it’s a harmless and entertaining show.

I do find the name interesting, however. American Idol. Who will be the next Idol? Lots of people want to be an idol – and millions more are eagerly waiting to find out whom they will idolize next.

But what really is an idol?

An idol is anything that we worship other than the one true and living God.

Patriotism and the House of Worship

I grew up in a church that celebrated the Fourth of July every year with a big patriotic musical. That was the one Sunday of the year when everyone was encouraged to "dress casual," the service included a lot of patriotic songs, and the preaching focused on how America needs to get back to her Christian roots. Songs were sung about how we are one nation under God. Military veterens dressed in their uniforms. There was a color guard that marched in with the American flag and led us through the Pledge of Allegiance. Come to think of it, the entire sanctuary was decked out in American flags, and everyone dressed in red, white and blue. Following the worship service, there was always a church picnic on the grounds.

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Being the Greater Worshiping Church

I have long been an advocate for sustained relationships between local worship leaders/pastors. When I meet a young worship leader, one of the questions I may ask them is, "Where are you in fellowship with other worship leaders like yourself?" It is an important question—one that exposes our attitudes about ministry, mission, worship, and even ourselves. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

I guess if I were to start at the beginning, it would be about twenty years ago. A small fellowship of senior pastors in our area, the Twin Lakes Christian Ministerial Association, has been meeting faithfully every week for about twenty years. The group shares their struggles and successes, and they pray for one another—and one another's churches.  In this era of church shopping and hopping, it may come as a surprise to the people in our area that their local pastors know and care deeply for one another. In fact, I think it is one of the hidden, longstanding strengths of our community — that the Christian pastors of our area are united in friendship and in faith.
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An Attitude of Worship

[My Response to Spirituality vs. Religion] - Most young adults today don’t pray, don’t worship and don’t read the Bible (1). USA Today posted an article on a study LifeWay did reporting 72% of Millennials (ages 18-29) are more ’spiritual than religious.’ I find this rather fascinating and deeply disturbing. Why? Because I think we’re missing the point.

Our attitude of worship.

“The Lord is king! Let the earth rejoice.” Psalm 97:1 NLT

If you had the best boss, partner, authority figure, or president in the world. Would you brag about him or her? Yes. 100% yes. All in favor? Yes! Why? Because we were created with heaven in mind. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that God is worth it. All my worship. And then some.

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