Sunday, November 22, 2015

Weekend Wanderings

It has become a bit chilly here in the sunny South. The low temps are supposed to be down into the upper 20s the next couple of days. The political climate has become more chilly too, with the debate on accepting refugees gets more heated and vitrolic. There is probably a good solution to the issue, but right now it seems to be buried under the rhetoric. I guess we'll see how it plays out.

On to the good stuff:

Evidently,some Americans' feelings toward immigrants are not new.
Turns out pop music is bad for you.
Did you think the song was about you?
Chaplain Mike on pastoral care.
What we really need.

Good post from First Things.
The exhaustion of outrage.
Good post from Keith Giles.
Jeff Clarke on what God is like.
Classic post from Michael Spencer.

Jonathan Storment on gluttony.
If you're going through hell.
The decline of writing.
Turns out there is a war on Christmas after all.
Being like Jesus in a polarized culture.

God of second chances.
Upside down kingdom.
Giving up control.
Bob Edwards on contentment.

Have a blessed week!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Church Signs: Don't Look Back...

A church near us has a sign up that reads, "Don't look back. You're not going that way."

In one sense, I agree with the message. We shouldn't live in the past and should focus on what is ahead of us each day. The Apostle Paul said that he was forgetting what was in his past and looking forward to what God had ahead of him. It is true that many times we long for the "good old days," tending to romanticize the past. We also tend to use our past as an excuse for our actions in the present. Looking back can be detrimental to living in the present.

On the other hand, I believe there are times when looking back can be beneficial, even necessary. It's been said that those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it. We can learn much from the experience of others. We can also learn much from our own experiences. Much of what we call wisdom is simply learning from what has happened in our past.

Sometimes our problems in the present are caused by our refusal to look at our past. Rather than confronting things which we have done or which others have done to us, we bury them and move on. Except we never really move on. Like a bad horror movie, those things which we think we have buried come back to haunt us. Not forgiving someone who has sinned against us can cause problems with present day relationships. Not dealing with past abuse and putting it behind a wall can cause any number of problems. Sometimes our own past actions can affect our lives if they are not dealt with.

Like Paul, we do need to look ahead to what God has for us. Sometimes we need that to make it through our day-to-day. But there are times when we need to look back. When driving a vehicle, it is necessary to occasionally check the rear view mirror to see if we can safely change lanes or to see if any danger is coming up behind us. Sometimes we need to check the rear view mirror of our life.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

World Vision Wednesday

World Vision president Richard Stearns weighs in on the Middle East refugee crisis. It is worth your time to read this.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Weekend Wanderings

It's the first weekend in November. The leaves are changing and dropping to the ground. Christmas decorations are popping up on houses and in stores. I think it's too early, but no one is asking my opinion. Our little town was in the national news last night. The Democratic presidential candidate forum was held at Winthrop University, here in Rock Hill. I didn't watch the forum, as we were spending the evening with a few friends.

On to the links:

Good post from Karina Kreminski.
The deeper message of Charlie Brown.
This is pretty interesting.
Answering the phone.
A guide to evangelical lingo, Part 1.

Good post from Chaplain Mike.
The irreplaceable Father.
Spellbooking the Bible.
Singing lies in church?
Instagramming the sin of omission.

DIY spirituality.
A guide to colloquialisms.
Identity and reinvention.
Good post from Keith Giles.
Waiting on God.

Zack Hunt on football and prayer.
The challenge of culture.
Missing piece.
The unknown sea.

Have a blessed week!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Blast From the Past: 1 Corinthians 13 for the Elections

This is usually a post for a presidential election year, but I think it works now because the division and anger seems to be in high gear a year ahead.

If I speak with a silver tongue and can sway hundreds, but have not love,
I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all polls,
and if I have a faith that can move political mountains, but have not love,
I am nothing.

If I give all I possess to the national committee
and surrender my time to run a phone bank, but have not love,
I gain nothing.

Love is patient with those of the other party.
It is not jealous of opponent's fund raising,
it does not boast of its candidate, it is not proud.

It does not rudely argue political points, it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered when others disagree, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in negative campaigns
but rejoices in the truth.

It always protects the reputation of Christ, always trusts God is in control,
always hopes for the best, always perseveres in living as a disciple of Jesus.

Love never fails. But where there are campaign promises,
they will be broken;
where there are silver tongued orators,
they will be stilled;
where there is knowledge of how to govern,
it will pass away.

For we have partial knowledge and we govern with that knowledge,
but when the True King comes, imperfect government will disappear.

When I was a partisan, I talked like a partisan,
I thought like a partisan,I reasoned like a partisan.

When I recognized who the True King is,
I put partisan ways behind me.

Now we see but a poor reflection;
then we shall see face to face.

Now I know in part;
then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain:
faith, hope and love.

But the greatest of these is love.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Weekend Wanderings

Another week has come and gone. Pray for the folks in Mexico who have been hit by that historic hurricane and the folks in Texas who are facing more rain and flooding. In lighter news, the Mets and Royals meet in the World Series. I was kind of hoping the Cubs would win it all this year just because it's been so long.

Anyway, here are the links:

Jeff Clarke on contemporary worship.
Peacemaker or pain-avoider?
Changing the world, or not.
Good post from Jared Wilson.
What makes us hope for more?

Good post from Steve Brown.
Good question from Matt Applying.
This would be interesting.
Morally overconfident?

Out of ammo.
Good post from Bob Edwards.
Halloween classic from Michael Spencer.
White belts.

Your best story, now!
Chaplain Mike on Galatians 2:20.
Thought provoking post from Zack Hunt.
Dan Edelen on civil religion and Christianity.

Have a blessed week!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Problem With Community

Community is a wonderful thing. It is how we make disciples and how we grow in the Christian life. But, there is a problem that happens when followers of Jesus come together to live in community. The problem is that there are not that many people who really want to be in community as Scripture presents it.

Most of us have an idealized picture of what Christian community is. We see it as an idyllic place where we are loved and accepted completely and there are never any disagreements, at least any that may lead to someone being hurt. We may see community as simply a group of friends, while the real work of the church gets done on Sunday. We have what Bonhoeffer called "wish dreams," utopian visions of community. These wish dreams are extremely dangerous, and can eventually kill the community. These idealized pictures cause us to try to center community around something other than Christ and to attempt to keep it going by the sheer force of our wills. I can attest, from personal experience that centering community around anything other than Jesus and what he has done for us will cause the community to crash and burn, with the resultant "loss of life."

Community is messy. I may misunderstand you or disappoint you. I may offend you or hurt you deeply. You may do the same to me. We will disagree on things. Sometimes those disagreements may be heated. None of us are perfect. Anyone who knows me knows how true that is. Sometimes though, we forget that and are ready to run at the first sign of conflict or the first hurt feeling. Some will say, "That person yelled at me and totally misunderstood me. I'm leaving." Or, " He wounded me deeply. I can't be a part of this anymore." While there may be times to leave a group if things are bad, many times the leavers have had their picture of community shattered and don't want to deal with the messiness of trying to work things out. Maybe hard things need to be said or heard. That is part of living as the family of God.

Others will say, "I'm just not being fed. I need a good preacher to feed me." Good preaching is a part of our growth in Christ, but it is only a part. I would argue, and I think Scripture would bear this out, that the intimate gatherings of God's children, whether in Missional communities, small groups, or one to one, do more to facilitate spiritual formation than even the best preaching or teaching. It is in the interaction we have with our brothers and sisters on a daily or at least regular basis that shape us. It is in those times that we learn how to follow Jesus in our day-to-day. As we spend time together, we see how others respond in certain situations. The times of disagreement and the times we mess up should be the best times to learn how to love as Jesus loved us and how to extend the same grace we have been given. The troubling times should be the times that actually form us more into Christ's image and draw us closer to one another.

To do that though, requires us to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. We don't like to do that because we may have tried and been ground under the heel of someone we trusted. It's hard. I've felt like I had my heart torn out and stomped on. Add that to the fact that we are basically selfish and living in community looks pretty hard, even impossible. That's why it has to be centered in the gospel. We are called to be people who repent, who forgive, who seek reconciliation, and who willingly lay down our lives for others. We can only do that if the Spirit has formed our community and gives us the power to live as a spiritual family.

It hurts when people leave. May our communities truly be places where the gospel is lived out and where God's kingdom comes.