Friday, February 5, 2016

Church Signs: "The Bible is Chock Full of...

...New Year's Resolutions. "

I'm not against making resolutions at the beginning of a new year (although I don't make them), and I'm definitely not against the Bible. I do have a problem with trying to mix the two. It is true that there are commands in the Bible and we are told that there are certain things that characterize followers of Jesus.

Trying to improve in certain areas of our lives is a good thing. As an athlete, I was always trying to improve my skills. As a coach, I never let my players rest on past accomplishments. In many careers, if you're not improving, you're going backwards. It's good to try to be a better husband, father, etc. There is nothing wrong with trying to be a better human being.

Where I differ from what seems like most of American Christianity, is seeing the story of the Bible as a story, not of what we can or need to do, but of what God has done. A great deal of evangelical preaching is on how to be a better (fill in the blank). Fundamentalist preaching is about what we need to do to stay "right with God." I beg to differ with both.

That kind of preaching can be inspirational, but it is not the gospel. The gospel is not about what we can do. It is about what Christ has done. Ultimately, there is nothing we can do to improve our standing with God, nothing we can do to make him love us. All we can do is put our total trust in the finished work of Christ on the cross. There is no amount of resolutions that can ultimately make us what we already are in Christ.

Again, let me emphasize that I am not against making resolutions, having goals, or trying to improve in areas of our lives. I can think of more than a few areas where I can use some improvement. I just don't see the "gospel" of self improvement in Scripture. Your mileage may differ. Feel free to disagree.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Weekend Wanderings

There's quite a bit of excitement in this part of the sunny South. The Carolina Panthers will be playing in the Super Bowl and everyone is hoping they will come home with a win. The primaries begin soon and it will be interesting to see who is the first candidate to finally accept the inevitable and drop out.

On to the good stuff:

John Frye on bread crumbs.
Zack Hunt asks a good question.
I'll bet you didn't know this.
Francis Schaeffer on culture.

This makes sense.
Future church.
This is interesting.
Scary Christians.

A celebration(?) of sinkholes.
Run, dog, run!
Good post from Chad Bird.
Maybe this should be real?
Funny article.

Bearing witness.

Have a blessed week!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Weekend Wanderings

Well, the 2016 snowstorm has passed through our area and left mostly ice with a dusting of snow on top. It made for some interesting driving conditions yesterday, but nothing as bad as the folks north of us. I pray that those folks are okay and that conditions get back to normal soon. Folks around here are getting ready for hosting the NFC championship game tomorrow. It's the first time our area has hosted, so it's kind of a big deal. Hopefully we'll show the visitors from Arizona some Southern hospitality. Up until game time that is.

Anyway, here are the links of the week:

Here is a timely poem.
Things are changing in the basketball world.
Sean Palmer on worship.
Three lessons.
A good word.

Not an option.
Faithful presence.
One more reason to drop the landline.
This looks like a good thing.
The return of the used bookstore.

This is good.
This is pretty amazing!
Art's power to spark change.
Good article by Alex Early.

Grief police.
Evidently, we should try to avoid heavier waiters.
If it's not Jesus, it's...
Daniel Emery Price is done.
Don't be desperate.

Stay warm and have a blessed week!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Blast From the Past: Sad Cafe

In remembrance of Glenn Frey here is something I posted a while back.

A few years ago the Eagles sang a song titled "The Sad Cafe". Here are some of the lyrics:
It seemed like a holy place,
protected by amazing grace.
We would sing right out loud
the things we could not say.
We thought we could change the world,
with words like love and freedom.
We were part of the lonely crowd inside the Sad Cafe.

I think this is a good picture of what the church should be. A holy place, protected by God's amazing grace. A place where people are free to share their needs and struggles without fear of condemnation. A place where the people go out to change the world with the love of Christ and the freedom that is found in Him. A place where the lonely can come and find community.What would this world be if the church was really the place it should be?

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Weekend Wanderings

It's a beautiful weekend here in the sunny South! The sun is shining and the air is a bit warmer. Of course, it's supposed to get pretty chilly on Monday. For some reason we watched the Republican circus the other night. Did anyone else get the feeling from watching that Trump and Cruz were engaging in the middle school girl exercise of arguing over who had the most people liking them?

So much for the political commentary. On to the good stuff:

Good post from Scot McKnight.
Karl Vaters is tired of the show.
Jerry Walls weighs in on the Same God controversy.
New healthy foods for 2016.
This is a great idea!

Top five religious trends for 2016?
John Barclay on Paul and grace.
3 signs it's time to make a change.
This is good news.
There is hope.

He never left.
Wonder or doubt.
Doctrine or idolatry?

Zack Hunt asks a question.

That's all for now. Have a blessed week!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Church Signs: Show God Your Faith...

...and He Will Show You His Faithfulness.

I saw this sign the other day on my bus route and my first thought was, "Boy am I glad God showing his faithfulness to me doesn't depend on my faith." Unfortunately that is the message that seems to come from many sides of the Christian world, from the prosperity preachers who say that if you have enough faith God will give you anything you want, to those who will tell you that if you are living right God will reward you.

It's so easy for us to want to think that we can somehow earn God's faithfulness. We want to pretend that we have some sort of goodness that will induce God to show his favor to us. We think if we pray (ask, seek, knock) hard enough and long enough, God will do what we want. Been there, done that. I can remember being absolutely convinced that if I really, really believed that God would let me have a certain job then I would get it. Well, God had something completely different in mind, but the initial disappointment was enough to knock me back a bit on my faith journey.

Sometimes we think that our good behavior will convince God to be faithful. That one doesn't work either. Of course, maybe it's because I haven't behaved too well, at least according to some. Reading the Bible and praying more than another won't make God sit up and take notice of us so he can reward us. Most of the time, that way of thinking will only turn us into insufferable bores.

God shows his faithfulness to us because he is a loving and faithful Father. At the cross, our sin was taken care of  and Christ's righteousness was given to us. We became children of God who have the same standing as Jesus. As the Father is faithful to the Son, so the Father is faithful to us. This faithfulness doesn't depend on us, but depends soley on our position in Christ.

Maybe part of our problem is we have somehow gotten the notion that it's all about us, about our ideas and wants. Like little children, we want what we want and have a hard time with what we consider "inferior." We have a hard time trusting our Father to be faithful, even when he has shown his faithfulness again and again. I know I have had to relearn that lesson multiple times.

Should we pray and tell God our desires? Absolutely. Should we live in a way that glorifies God? Of course. But, we shouldn't fall into the trap of thinking those things will cause God to smile on us. Instead, we should trust our Father to be faithful and trust that everything he does is good and loving. The more we can put our trust in our Abba, the more freely we can live, knowing that we are being taken care of by the One who created everything.

God will show you his faithfulness. Period.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Word for the Year: Love

Every year, I try to pick a word to focus on for that year. Two years ago it was grace, and last year's word was trust. I have learned a lot about receiving and extending grace and I have learned to trust God and people a bit more, although I am still very much a work in progress in both of those areas.

My word for this year is love. I chose it because I realize how far short I fall in loving. I think I do a decent job of loving those who love me. I can generate good, warm feelings toward my family and friends. I can even treat others with respect. Where I want to focus is that self-sacrificing love with which Jesus loved us.

I want to love Jan as Jesus loves his bride, the church. I want to give myself up for her more and more. I want to treasure her as she is, a person with a God given dignity all her own. That means I have to listen and not be in a hurry to get back to what I was doing. That means I have to not take her for granted and realize every moment how much she means to me.

I want to love others as Jesus has loved me. I want to see others as made in the image of God, whether they are a part of my Tribe or not. That means I have to stop judging others, even those who are guilty of judging. That means I have to truly see others as my Father does and treat them with the respect I want to be given.

I want love to become my defining characteristic. That means I have to lay down my life, my wishes and desires, for the good of other people. That means I have to be a servant, as Jesus was. That is scary, because I have no idea how that will all shake out. I also know that I will fail, at times miserably, so I ask forgiveness in advance.