Friday, July 22, 2016

Blast From the Past: Encouragement

This was first posted on July 22, 2010.

While reading Jesus Manifesto yesterday morning, I came across this quote from Symeon the New Theologian (949-1022):

We awaken in Christ's body
as Christ awakens our bodies...
and everything that is hurt, everything
that seemed to us dark, harsh, shameful
maimed, ugly, irreparably
damaged, is in him transformed,
recognized as whole, as lovely,
and radiant in his light.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Weekend Wanderings

The world is a rather dangerous place to be lately. Between shootings in the US to an attack on a crowd with a truck in France to a failed coup attempt in Turkey, there are plenty examples of man's inhumanity to man. Tomorrow the circus starts in Cleveland, at least the part of the circus managed by the Republicans.

Enough political talk. Here are the links:

Marci Preheim on grace.
A mega-problem.
Interesting article.
Eric Dorman on play.

Abandoning tough love.
Keith Giles on being in Christ.
Medieval wisdom.
An obituary.
Todd Pruitt on the subordination controversy.

Scruffy hospitality.
Just us.
Scot McKnight on heresy.
Missing the gospel.
From cathedrals to movie theaters.

Good post from Dan Edelen.
Good post from Jared C. Wilson.

Have a blessed week!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Lessons From Meatloaf

The singer, not the food. I know what you all are thinking. "Fred's really lost his mind!" Now that may be true, but bear with me.

In the song, "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad," there is a line that says, "I want you, I need you, but there ain't no way I'm ever gonna love you." I wonder if this might be descriptive of many in the church in the 21st century.

One thing I do believe is true is that many in the American evangelical church have a hard time being in community with other believers. I'm not talking about gathering in a worship setting once a week, although that is a vital part of community. I'm talking about spending time with other believers, gathering in homes and other places and digging beneath the surface to build up and challenge each other in following Jesus. That is community, and it can be messy at times.

I think many are saying, "I want you, I need you, but there ain't no way I'm ever gonna love you." In other words, they crave community, being known and loved for who they are. They want to be loved and accepted. They recognize their need for community. But.

But, when it comes down to the hard stuff, the hard work of loving as Jesus loves us, the messiness of sacrificially loving others with all their warts and blemishes, that's a different story. Then it becomes, "ain't no way!" Some hang out on the periphery, never quite throwing their lot in fully. Others find a church that only asks that they show up once a week and put their money in the offering plate.

Although we do want and need to be part of a fellowship that accepts and loves us, and that challenges us, it is not really about our wants and needs. It is about obeying what our King told us to do, to love one another and to lay down our lives for each other. That is how the world will know we belong to Jesus, not by how we vote or what position we take on social issues. The first Christians, with all their flaws, learned to live with and love folks from all kinds of backgrounds and with all sorts of issues. Even though they were far from perfect, they were known throughout the world for their love for each other and for those outside. And, they turned the world upside down.

May God help us to say, "I want you, I need you, and I will love you no matter what it takes."

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Weekend Wanderings

It's been an interesting week here in the sunny South. I woke up very early Wednesday morning with a feeling like a heavy weight was sitting on my chest. After a few rounds of tests, the cardiologist determined that I have a couple of arteries partially blocked. Not enough for a stent or anything like that, but enough so that I will be on some medicine and will have to tweak a few things in my diet and lifestyle. Fortunately I found out without going through a major heart episode.

On to the good stuff:

This is cool.
Christianity is not for everyone.
An open letter.
The paradox of pretty.
The end of reflection.

Are you outraged?
A guide to religious affiliations you never knew existed.
Samson reflection.
Are things getting too smart?
We could all use some perspective.

Bad faith.
Alternate endings to Great Expectations.
Encouragement. Or not.
Brexit and beer.
Questions Jesus never asked.

Gospel and Kingdom.
Geoff Holsclaw on Trinity.
World's 50 best restaurants.
Good post from Joe James.
Instead of the sinner's prayer.

Have a blessed week!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Sticks, Stones, and Words

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me." So goes the schoolyard chant. I beg to differ. While it may be true that sticks and stones may break bones, it is equally true that words can hurt, often in ways far worse than physical damage.

Now I don't agree with the current way of thinking that wants "trigger warnings," "safe places," and other means of shielding people from speech and ideas that might challenge their own thinking. The desire to only see and hear what agrees with your presuppositions is a fast track to fear and ignorance. The lack of civil discourse is a growing problem in our society, even in the church.

I would agree that there is a point where we can become too careful with our words, walking on verbal eggshells in order to avoid making anyone feel bad. At the same time, I believe that those of us who follow Jesus are called to be careful with our speech. While we are to speak truth, we are called to do so in love. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says that using terms of contempt is equal to murder. Ephesians 4:29 tells us we are to not let any corrupting or unwholesome talk come out of our mouths but only say things that build one another up. I believe this goes beyond just an admonition to avoid cussing and dirty jokes.

In his letter, James tells us that our tongues should be instruments of blessing rather than cursing. Paul says that our words should be gracious and add "flavor" to others. All through Scripture we are commanded to guard our speech, to say things that build others up rather than tearing them down.

Most of can remember times when the words of another cut us to the quick and caused long lasting damage. If we're honest, we can also remember times when we have done the same. Churches have split over things that have been said, as have whole denominations. Hateful, evil speech is not just a problem outside the church.

Jesus said that the world would know we are his by our love to one another. May we follow our Master and King by being careful and gracious with our words, and also being gracious and forgiving toward those who blow it, because we all will.
Let us grow more and more into the likeness of Christ Jesus in everything, including how we use our tongues.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Weekend Wanderings

It's getting hot here in the sunny South. The high Sunday is supposed to reach triple digits. And, along with the heat comes the humidity. The NBA finals are moving along and it looks like it could go seven games.

On to the good stuff:

Are you a stressed out millennial?
The death of self.
Good article from Tim Suttle.
A picture.
Faking it.

Funny post from the Babylon Bee.
Jared Wilson on pastoral ministry.
fresh approach to education.
Good post from Trudy Smith.
Good post from Cara Joyner.

As it turns out, you can grow your brain.
Just in case you've wondered what Rob Bell is up to.
Dealing with discouragement.
Good post from Ed Cyzewski.
Creative sentencing.

New theory on PTSD.
Bob Edwards on Gandhi's seven social sins.
Standing desks.
Good words from Chaplain Mike.
Jonathan Merritt on the Gospel Coalition and blocking.

Have a blessed week!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Five Year Plans and Wondering

Last night, I was asked where I saw myself in five years. I had a hard time answering that question for two reasons. First, I'm sixty years old and don't know how a five year plan fits in. The second reason is the simple fact that I have done all the daily, weekly, yearly, etc., goals throughout my life, including thinking five and ten years down the road, and very few of my long term plans have come to fruition.

I used to be one of those who bought the concept of setting all those goals in order to have success in career and life. I had all sorts of plans. Plans to coach at the college level, eventually being part of a national championship program. Plans to have a great impact in the lives of young people through my coaching.
Before that, I had plans to be an Olympic class sprinter.

Anyone want to take a guess at how those goals turned out? If you have followed college basketball or international track and field with even the smallest interest, you will know that I never reached those heights. While I was an assistant coach of a women's basketball team for one year at a small college, and I did spend one year running for a nationally recognized track club, those were quite a bit below where I wanted to be.

I used to be somewhat envious of those I knew who had their career track in mind at an early age and were doing exactly what they had envisioned. They had no deviations from the straight and narrow on their career path, while mine looked more like a drunken sailor on his way back to the ship. Not only did the path take some back roads, it sometimes ran along trails that seemed to go nowhere.

I have come to realize that my journey has not been of my planning or of my doing. I know, some of you may be saying, "Here we go. All of the excuses for why he's not successful." And, you may be right. I beg to differ. I believe long ago, God decided that I was not to do this whole planning, accomplishing, and succeeding thing on my own. I tried. I went to school, earned degrees, did internships, sent out resumes, all those things I was supposed to do. I watched folks less qualified get positions I was wanting. I spent time in jobs that didn't come close to fitting my plans. I never did grab the brass ring.

But, you know what? As I look back on my life, I realize that I wouldn't change a thing. Well maybe a couple of things here and there, but overall not a thing. I have had the opportunity to travel as a part of jobs I had. I have had the opportunity to work with some fantastic people and coach some amazing young folks, whether they were star athletes or not. I have had opportunities to learn some lessons that were life changing. Most importantly, I have had a wonderful wife by my side and the privilege of being a father to two wonderful children, both of whom I had the opportunity to coach. And, I have experienced the love and grace of fellow followers of Jesus that I am grateful to own as my brothers and sisters.

To quote the philosopher, Jerry Garcia, "What a long strange trip it's been." I am thankful for the way my Father has led me through all the twisting and turning. I am grateful for all those who have helped me along the way. I guess it's turned out pretty well. I think I'm looking forward to where the road takes me over the years to come. Should be fun.