Thursday, December 31, 2009

Reflections on a Year

Another year has come and gone. (That's kind of a lame way to start, isn't it?) It seems like the older I get the faster the years seem to pass, and 2009 was no exception. I've heard that the only thing that remains constant is change, and that has certainly been true this year.

As the year opened, Jan and I began going to a house church on Sunday evenings. The friend who I was going to help plant a church invited us to join him one night. There were about four or five couples there, as well as some children. We enjoyed the fellowship and continued to go every week. As time went on, my friend and his family never came back. Other folks came and went, and through this fellowship we began to help at a local camp that was getting started that summer. Now the house church has faded away, as an organized gathering, but we still get together with the host couple on a regular basis, sharing food, discussing spiritual things (sometimes), and serving some of the less fortunate together.

In June, we went out to California to visit Jennie. Josh had already driven out there, and he was out tour guide during the day. We saw where Jennie works and even "helped" during the filming of a short film. When we returned home, I finished my duties at the church we had been a part of for fourteen years, and we began to look around for a community of faith that would better fit what we thought "church" should be. At the same time the discussion about planting a church came up again, and within a couple of months, St. Thomas Community Church came into existence, meeting in a local bagel shop on Sunday mornings. God is working in our little community as we gather to explore God's story and our part in it, and how we can follow Jesus in our day-to-day.

As the summer went on, the school where Jan was teaching closed. As you well know, this is not a good time to be looking for work. Jan ended up getting a part-time position in an assisted living facility. God has continued to be faithful and provide for us, although things certainly are tighter.
My duties at the school where I work changed again. I'm now in a class for emotionally disabled students. It is more challenging than what I was doing before, and I realize more and more how dependent I am on God's grace. I'm still coaching basketball, and that is a highlight in my day.

In October, Jan's mom went to be with Jesus. All of the family came in during the days before she passed, and it was good to see folks we hadn't seen in a couple of years. It has not been an easy holiday season for us.

As I look back on the past year, I can see many things God taught me. Things about trusting him, about grace, about living in the moment. A couple of my paradigms have shifted, and a couple have been completely dismantled. (Someday, I'll write a post about those things) I think the biggest change is that I have learned even more that my schedule, and my plans, are not mine. I need to hold everything with an open hand, and allow the Father to do what he sees needs to be done. So, as one year ends and another begins, I continue to try and follow Jesus on this winding road he has called me to.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Sestina for Christmas

It's the time of year we call Christmas
A time we spend with friends and family
It's a time for us to worship
We worship a baby
Who was born in a stable
But do we worship the King?

The child who came was born a King
Do we just see a baby?
Who do we worship?
During the time we spend with family
In this season of Christmas
Who do we see in the stable?

It was strange there in the stable
Not the usual place for the birth of a King
But there was the baby
His mother welcomed him to the family
We call this Christmas
Who do we worship?

There is only one worthy of worship
He lay in a stable
Surrounded by his family
At Christmas
We too often forget the King
And focus on the baby

It is wondrous that he was a baby
Born in a humble stable
So we celebrate at Christmas
Who do we worship?
A King?
Or an infant in a human family?

Yes, part of a human family
Born a baby
In a stable
He is more. He is King
He is worthy of worship
At Christmas

As we celebrate Christmas, surrounded by family
Remember that we worship much more than a baby
Born in a stable. We worship the King!

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Baby Changes Everything

One night last year we watched "A Home for the Holidays". It was a tv special about adoption. At the beginning, Faith Hill sang a song about the birth of Christ, and there was a recurring line that stated, "a baby changes everything".

To me, that sums up the message of Christmas. A baby changes everything. The world that this baby was born into was under the control of an oppressive empire. The people of God were in bondage and waiting for a redeemer to come and free them. Then along comes this baby, born into a working class family and placed in a feeding trough. What many of the folks at that time didn't realize was that the Redeemer had come. The One who would free them from bondage had arrived on the scene. Everything was about to change.

When Jesus began his public ministry and people began to follow him, most still didn't realize the extent of the changes that were coming. They didn't know that even their expectations had to change. They didn't see that the bondage they were under was spiritual and not just political. They didn't see that the Kingdom that was in their midst was a kingdom founded on love and grace, not on power.

Everything has changed. Because this baby was born in Bethlehem, because God took on humanity, we can now be saved from the oppression of sin. We can now enter the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom of love. Everything has changed because this Kingdom does not operate like the kingdoms of this world. This Kingdom turns things upside down, or maybe it's the kingdoms of the world that are upside down. Everything has changed because this Kingdom is concerned, not with serving self, but with serving others.

Everything has changed because this King will not die and allow another to take the throne. He has conquered death, and so His subjects will reign with Him forever in the new heavens and earth.

It's true. A baby changes everything.

Friday, December 18, 2009

TGIF

Today is not only Friday, it is also the last day of school before Christmas vacation. It's cold here in the sunny South, relatively speaking, and there's supposed to be a "wintry mix" hitting sometime today.

Enjoy the links:

Shaun Groves replies to those people.
An Advent confession.
New Year's resolutions.
Lessons from EPCOT.
The truth behind suffering.

Six floors of Sunday School?
Are you putting any of these on your tree?
Christmas vegans.
A good post from Bob Hyatt.
Live nativities.

What or who?
John Armstrong asks if we've missed Jesus.
Quotes on learning.
Scot McKnight found this article depressing.

This will probably be the last TGIF of 2009. Next Friday is Christmas Day and I'll probably not be blogging that day. Enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Poem for Christmas

People rushing to and fro
Traffic steadily building

Black Friday is going to save us all
Buy, buy, buy

Can't afford it? No matter
Take a year to pay the bill

It's your patriotic duty
Spend, spend, spend

What are we thinking?
We're missing something here

Do we have a clue?
Do we know what Christmas means?

The prophets knew
They predicted it

The angels knew
They sang about it

The shepherds and the wise men knew
They came and worshipped

Herod knew
He tried to have this rival killed

Christmas is a celebration becauseThe King has come
Yet we enthrone our own comfort

Worshipping the golden calf of Wall Street
We lust after power
Political, economic, social

We have forgotten something
We have forgotten this

The King has come
All the kingdoms on earth are His

The King has come
We are His

The King has come
Let us celebrate Him!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

World Vision Wednesday

There are a variety of ways to give this Christmas, from gifts found in the catalog to giving to areas where emergency gifts are needed. To find out more about emergency needs visit this page.

Christmas Questions

Here are some questions posted on someone else's blog last year. Feel free to answer them for yourself, either in the comments or on your own page.

1. Egg nog or hot chocolate? Egg nog on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, hot chocolate the rest of the time.

2. Does "Santa" wrap presents or just put them under the tree? Our presents are wrapped. We enjoy the process of unwrapping. Of course, sometimes the wrapping consists of gift bags.

3. Colored lights or white? I enjoy seeing a lot of colorful light displays, but I also like the white lights. White lights seem more peaceful to me.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? Nope. No particular reason. My parents used to hang it in the dooorway leading into the kitchen.

5. When do you put your decorations up? We used to put everything up a week after Thanksgiving. Now we get them up whenever we can find the time.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (including dessert)? I really enjoy all the cookies that are so prevalent this time of year. I like the fudge and pies too.

7. Favorite holiday memory as a child? There is no one memory that stands out. I remember Christmas as a time of joy and love. My family was close and Christmas was always a good time.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? I don't know. We always emphasized the birth of Jesus Christ. Santa was just something added on.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? We each open one gift.

10. Do you place a nativity set anywhere in your home? We have a number of nativity sets and we place them around the house.

11. Snow. Love or or hate it? I like snow for Christmas or at other times during the winter, as long as it doesn't stay around too long. We used to live in Cincinnati and grew tired of the snow. Now we live in the South and would like to see a little more.

12. Can you ice skate? Nope. Bad ankles.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? I've received so many wonderful gifts through the years, and no single gift stands out above the rest.

14. What is the most important thing about the holidays for you? Celebrating the coming of Jesus, and being with family.

15. Do you mail out Christmas cards/newsletters? We usually send out cards every year, and insert a letter letting folks know what has happened in our family during the year. This year we sent a letter.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Reading the Christmas story on Christmas Eve, and having a big dinner with the family on Christmas Day.

17. What tops your Christmas tree? An angel.

18. Do you prefer giving or receiving? Giving. I love seeing other people open their gifts.

19. What is your favorite Christmas song? "Silent Night". I know a lot of people don't like it, and I understand the reasons why. To me the song speaks of the holiness of the birth of the Savior and King.

20. Candy canes. Yum or yuck? I love candy canes.

21. What do you want for Christmas? My two front teeth, or a hippopotamus. :) Really, I'm not picky. Just spending time with my family and friends is enough.

22. Do you attend a Christmas party? Usually a couple every year.

23. Do you dress up for Christmas Eve or wear pajamas? We go to a Christmas Eve service every year, so we dress up a little.

24. Do you own a Santa hat? No.

25. Who do you normally spend Christmas with? My family.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Jesus

Here is another post from Christmas past:

This past Sunday, our pastor was talking about everything being wrapped up in Jesus. Since then I've been wondering how true that is. Is everything really wrapped up in Jesus?

I know it should be, but when I look at my own life and the lives of those around me, I have to wonder. Is our life wrapped up in Jesus? Is the totality of our existence really all about him?

This time of year we hear a lot about Jesus, how he came to be born as a human, how he came to save us from our sins. Is there more? Is the Christmas story only one of God coming to earth, being born in a stable, and dying on the cross so we can go to heaven? I think there's more, but we have a tendency to pick and choose the parts of the story that make us feel good.

Some like the story of the little baby lying in the straw, with the shepherds and animals gathered round. They like the idea of peace on earth and good will to others. Add the ingredients of the American cultural Christmas and you have the makings of a nice holiday that makes most people feel rather good about themselves.

Some go a little further and emphasize the story of this little baby growing up and then dying to save us from our sins.They like the idea of avoiding Hell and going to Heaven. Couple that with a certain prayer to say and a set of propositions to assent to and those who have done that and are "in" can feel superior to those that are "out".

It's easy to forget about the three years that Jesus spent walking this earth teaching his disciples about his kingdom. It's far too convenient to focus on the beginning chapters in the Gospels and ignore that this child was born to be King, that he was the Messiah promised throughout the Old Testament, that he is Lord over all creation. It's also easy to concentrate on the final chapters of the Gospels and ignore that Jesus taught about the present reality of his kingdom as well as the future fulfilment.

Both extremes forget that, as Lord and King, Jesus calls us to move beyond the baby in the straw. He calls us to not be too preoccupied with the future. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords calls us to follow him.A disciple follows his rabbi, his master, with the goal of becoming like him and being able to go make other disciples that will also become like the rabbi. An ancient Jewish saying stated that disciples should be covered in the dust from the feet of their rabbi.

Getting back to the idea of being wrapped up in Jesus; that is how our lives should be lived. To be wrapped up in Jesus means that we seek to live every moment in his presence, and seek to do every action with the same attitude that our Master has. We should strive to follow our Rabbi so closely that the dust from his feet covers us, so that when people see us in our day-to-day they see Jesus. It is not as easy as worshipping a baby in a manger. It is harder than agreeing to a set of beliefs or saying a certain prayer. It will cause us to lose our life. But, Jesus said that those who lose their life for his sake will find real life in him.

The world, and the church, needs people whose existence is wrapped up in the One who is setting all things right and who is coming again to finally bring his kingdom once and for all.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Mary's Song

This Christmas season, I'm reposting some things I wrote last year.

The other day, I was thinking about the song of Mary in Luke 1. It was actually a pretty subversive thing to say in that day. I was wondering what Mary's song would sound like in the 21st Century.

Who would be the rulers in today's world? Who would be the proud? Who are the rich? Who are the humble and the hungry?

What in our consumer driven culture could the song speak to? What would Mary have to say to the Church?

What does it mean today that the King has come and is coming again? What would happen if those of us who say we follow this King lived as if we really did?

Just some questions rolling around in my head.

Any thoughts?

Friday, December 11, 2009

TGIF

We had one fairly warm day here in the sunny South, but the rest of the time it's been colder than normal. According to the Farmer's Almanac, this winter will be colder and wetter than normal. I believe they might be right. The basketball team I coach is undefeated. I know it's only two games, but still.... We play tonight, so we'll see what happens.

Here's the good stuff:

Statistics and mustard seeds.
Interesting question.
Karl Barth meets the emerging church.
This is good.
Re: Tiger Woods.
Have you ever felt like this?
Looks like this might be a good read.

Just in case you haven't bought your Christmas tree yet.
Donald Miller's Christmas list.
Annoying gifts.
I know he's my son, so I may be biased, but this is good.
The mood of advent.
Entering the story.
How to avoid consumerism at Christmas. (HT: Scot McKnight)

Is Advent Biblical? (HT: also Scot McKnight)
Jason Boyett is not "standing" for Christmas.
Jonathan Brink on bottled water.
Table fellowship.
Have you been inoculated?
Brant Hansen sings.
The Road.

Have a blessed weekend and a good third Sunday of Advent.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

World Vision Wednesday

If you are still looking for that perfect give for the person that's hard to shop for, or the person who has everything, check out the World Vision Gift Catalog. There are many ways to give a gift that will "keep on giving."

Monday, December 7, 2009

Musings

The last few weeks our community has been looking at the first six chapters of Genesis. We 're approaching the Bible as God's story, and looking at God as he is revealed through each part of the story. What we have seen so far is a God who goes by different names - Elohim in some parts, and Yaweh in others. We've seen a God who feels, who cries out in anguish after Adam and Eve eat the fruit. A picture of God has emerged that is passionately in love with his creation, and seems to change somewhat after punishing those who disobey him.

As we have gone through this story so far, I have started to wonder about a few things. In my journey, I have gone from being certain about what Scripture teaches about God and his dealings with men to having questions, from holding a tight systematic theology to realizing that things just don't fit into a nice neat package. Some who knew me back in the day would say that I have slipped into near heresy, at least. Others would say , "Well, he never was that good of a student anyway." That's fine. I can live with that.

Maybe the Calvinists and the Arminians are right. Maybe God is sovereign and in control, yet at the same time gives us free will. Maybe God is unchangeable and changing, responding to the different things his creatures do. Maybe God's purpose for his creation will be fulfilled and people can hinder that purpose, at least to some degree. Maybe God is all-knowing and in some sense learning as he goes along.

There are a number of things that are seeming contradictions in God and how he deals with what he has created, yet somehow fit into his eternal purpose and nature. I'm not sure at this point in life that any of the systems we have come up with over the centuries have a handle on this whole idea of God. I've come to realize that God is far bigger and wilder than what we can even realize, that there is no box in the universe large enough to put God in. I don't think God wants us to understand him or figure out everything about him. I think rather, that God wants us to know him, to have a relationship with him based on his love toward us and our love back to him. He wants us to experience him as a loving Father, not as a subject to be dissected and studied. Jan and I have been married for twenty nine years, and while I know her better than I did when we first met, I will never know everything about her. But, my love for Jan grows stronger every day as I spend time with her, rest in her love for me, and seek to serve her and love her. I believe that's the kind of relationship the Father wants with us.

I am comfortable with the questions. I don't have to be absolutely certain about everything. Actually, I'm looking forward to being in the Father's presence and being amazed at how everything worked out.

Friday, December 4, 2009

TGIF

Another week has come and gone. Basketball season is in full swing, and the days and evenings are packed full of activity. There are two weeks left before Christmas break, and then I'll have two weeks to relax with family and friends.

As is my usual practice, here are the links:

Imperfect love.
Shane Claiborne in Esquire (HT: Brian McClaren)
What Scot McKnight thinks of The Manhattan Declaration.

Did Jesus ever go to England? (HT: Scot McKnight)
Does anyone remember this?
The Gospel in all its forms.

Heretics changing the world.
God's best bit of multi-media.
The reconquest of creation.

Camels and needles.
Putting Satan back in Christmas.
The Abominable "O Holy Night."

Eggnog!
Unifying faith and praxis.
Have a merry fair trade Christmas. (HT: Tim Hill)

Good thoughts on the season.
Evangelicalism and special seasons.
This is a good song.

Faith or fear?
Kansas Bob on eschatology.

This Sunday is the second Sunday of Advent. Remember the anticipation of the Jews that the Messiah was to come, and our own waiting for him to return.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

World Vision Wednesday

This past Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent, so this is a bit behind. You can download an Advent guide from World Vision here.

Yesterday was World AIDS Day. There are many ways to help some of the least of these whose lives have been impacted by this disease. Find out here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Little Girl

Twenty five years ago today, on a cold Saturday in Cincinnati, a little girl came into our lives. She had given us a bit of the warning that she was coming the night before, at a basketball game. That would prove to be foretaste of what was to come.

We learned quickly that this child would be different than her brother. She was always an active girl who would sing herself to sleep at night. Fiercely independent, this little girl and I locked horns a few times, although she was always "Daddy's girl." As she grew, I knew that this bent would serve her well through her years.

As she grew into her teenage years, I had the joy of coaching her on the basketball teams at school. That experience bonded us closer, as we spent a great deal of time together. I watched, and ached, as she went through the usual high school stuff of trying to figure out relationships and dealing with friends who weren't always the best. (What is interesting is that those friendships have continued through the years) I watched this daughter figure out who she wanted to be and how she wanted to relate to others. I saw her develop into a beautiful young lady. When she went to college, I cringed sometimes at the decisions she made, but I always felt proud of her, and I knew that the questions were eventually going to lead her to a faith that was real and was her own.

Now this girl is on the other side of the country, and sometimes it's hard to see what life throws at her and not be able to be there. I know that her heavenly Father loves her even more than I do, and that he is shaping her into the person he wants her to be. In all, I am confident that God is going to continue the work that he has begun in her.

Happy Birthday, Jennie. I love you, as I always have. You are a blessing from God and I am so thankful for the privilege of being your father. I pray God's grace and blessings be yours in abundance.

Friday, November 27, 2009

TGIF

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. It's a bit chilly here in the sunny South. Tonight we're going to go watch a football game between two of the local high schools. The winner plays for the state championship next week. Should be a good one.

Here's the good stuff for this week:

Consider this as an alternative to the consumerism of the Christmas season.
Good thoughts from the Watchman.
Jake Belder reviews (sort of) Heaven is Not My Home.
Tearing down walls.
Lightening the load.
Thanksgiving, stray dogs, and good invitations.

iMonk has a series on his experiences with an absent Gospel. Part 1 is here.
Required behavior modification and the Gospel.
Three questions.
Listening.
Kingdom leadership in the postmodern world.
Going tribal?

5 trends affecting the church. (HT: Scot McKnight)
This brings back memories - bad ones.
Where Jesus would live if not for heaven.
This is for the SEC football fans out there.
This is simply amazing.
The great dilemma.

Have an enjoyable weekend.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

World Vision Wednesday

Next Tuesday, December 1, is World AIDS Day.

From World Vision:

Learn more


>> Read more about World AIDS Day and what you can do to help prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
>> Watch a video featuring World Vision's Princess Zulu, who discusses the possibility of ending mother-to-child transmission of HIV in honor of World AIDS Day.
>> Read another article about procedures followed at the World Vision-supported Zamtam clinic to prevent transmission of HIV from mothers to their children.

Ways you can help this World AIDS Day, Dec. 1

>> Make a call to your senators and ask Congress to keep its promises in the global fight against AIDS, especially focusing on the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
>> Donate now to help provide care and support for HIV-infected mothers this World AIDS Day. Your gift will help provide essentials like HIV testing, prenatal and postnatal care to prevent mother-to-child transmission, counseling and education, nutritional awareness, and more.
>> Sponsor a child in a community impacted by the AIDS crisis. Your love and support for a child in need will help provide basic necessities like food, clothing, shelter, education, and healthcare, as well as AIDS-related care and prevention programs.
>> Give monthly to help provide support for children impacted by HIV and AIDS. Your monthly gift will help provide basics like food, clean water, healthcare, education, and more to the children left most vulnerable by this humanitarian crisis.



Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving

This is the time of year that we remember the Pilgrims who held a feast to give thanks to God and invited the local Indian tribe, who brought the sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. We continue the tradition our forefathers began of eating far too much, and falling asleep on the couch while watching football games on TV. The celebration continues as we get up way too early in the morning to fight for parking spaces and all the bargains presented by our friendly local merchants.

It is easy for the above scenario to actually be true in our lives. We can get caught up in all the hype that has come to surround us this time of year. In the midst of the feasting with family, television watching, and shopping, we can forget what is really important. We can forget to be grateful for all that God has given us.

As I look back on this past year, there are many reasons to be thankful. The first, and most important, thing is the grace of God. I am thankful that God has adopted me into his family and that he loves me no matter what. I am thankful for the work of Jesus which makes me a child of God. I am thankful for the Spirit's guidance and work in me to make me more and more like Jesus.

I am thankful for a wonderful wife who loves me and is patient with my quirks and idiosyncrasies. Jan's love and support has been a truly amazing thing. I am thankful for a son and a daughter who have grown into responsible adults who love God. I am thankful for my in-laws, and for the testimony of God's grace in my mother-in-law as she passed out of this life and into the presence of her Savior. I am thankful for my sister and her family and for the times we are able to get together.

I am thankful for friends who make me think, and challenge me to turn knowledge into action. I am thankful for the part of the body of Christ known as St. Thomas, a group of people learning together what it means to follow Jesus in the day-to-day of our lives. I am thankful for the things that God has taught me and the ways he has changed me.

I am thankful for the girls I have the privilege to coach, and for the opportunity to minister through sports. I am thankful that I am still employed, and am in a position where there is a chance to have a positive impact on young lives. I am thankful for life, health and all the things that we take for granted.

What are you thankful for?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Signs and Wonders

At our gathering yesterday morning, one of our number told of buying supplies for a local homeless shelter and the way God moved others in the store, including an outside delivery man, to help her find what she needed to buy. Some of them then helped her load the supplies in her car. Our teacher made the statement that maybe the signs and wonders that accompany the Gospel today are the acts of mercy and kindness that we do for those around us, especially those in need.

I think he is on to something. In the early day of the Church, the signs and wonders that authenticated the message that Jesus is Lord included healings and other miracles, and speaking in other languages. In a world where medicine was primitive, and many health problems that we never experience were fairly common, healing a person was a pretty big deal. The gift of speaking in tongues was many times , in a world without many translators, the only way the Gospel could be communicated. Some of these same things accompany the Gospel in developing nations where conditions are not that far removed from those of the 1st Century.

In 21st Century America, medicine has advanced so that most of the problems found in the early days of the Church have been eliminated. God does miraculously heal, but it is not so widespread as to be seen as a sign authenticating the Gospel. Language is not usually a problem, as there are a variety of ways to communicate and be understood.

I believe that the signs that should accompany the message that Jesus is Lord are the things that stand out as being outside the norm. I'm not talking about carrying a big KJV Bible, or shutting ourselves up in a "Christian" bubble and separating ourselves from those around us. I'm talking about showing that the One that we follow calls us to own him as our Lord, not any person, government, political party, or other organization. Because Jesus is our Master, we do what he says. One of his commands is to love our neighbors, and take care of the least of these. Giving to the poor and doing what we can to meet their needs shows that we take seriously the commands of the One we proclaim as Lord. In a culture that teaches us to look out for ourselves, often at the expense of others, caring for others marks us out as being different.

Jesus said that the world would know that we are his disciples by our love. If we don't love each other and love those around us how can we expect the world to take us seriously? If we don't treat the "least of these" as we would treat Jesus, what business do we have claiming that Jesus is our Master? As our faith is marginalized more and more by the culture, the only thing we will have left to authenticate our message is the willingness to lay down our lives for Jesus and others. God help us to live the Gospel that we claim has changed our lives.

Friday, November 20, 2009

TGIF

Another week has come and gone. Basketball has started, and my days are much busier. Thanksgiving is coming up, and then the orgy of consumerism we call the Christmas shopping season. More on that later.


As always, there have been some good thoughts floating around the internet. This is just a sampling:


The risk of love in Africa.Why dogs don't like Halloween. (HT: Brother Maynard)
Best Christian t-shirt like, ever?
Jake Belder on the Lord's Supper.
Further thoughts from Dan Edelen.

Thoughts on the end of the world.
Kairos..chronos..
Crazy quotes (HT: Jonathan Brink).
The Bubble.
Fringe benefit to being a pastor?

John Armstrong weighs in on the Conservative Bible.
Event or truth?
The Rapture?
Some of these are just scary.

Enjoy your weekend

Symphony

In The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis writes, "If all experienced God in the same way and returned Him an identical worship, the song of the Church triumphant would have no symphony, it would be like an orchestra in which all the instruments played the same note."

That would be a boring orchestra, to be sure. In the world in which I grew up, we were taught that the only ones who were right were the ones who saw things the way we did. The true church was fundamentalist, Baptist. and independent, or at the most, part of a particular group of like minded churches. We didn't quite feel that we were the only ones going to heaven, but we were sure that some groups wouldn't be there, or would be far from the Throne.

Over the years, the diversity of the Church became more and more evident. I no longer believe that the different denominations are simply the result of deceived men departing from the "truth." I now believe that the growth of different groups is due, for the most part, to the different ways that people relate to God. Some are quieter and more intellectual in their faith, some are much more expressive and vocal. Some are more free in their worship, while others prefer the structure of liturgy. Different translations and paraphrases speak to different folks. Some people are more contemplative, and others are action oriented.

There are certainly some things which we must all agree on. I'm becoming more and more convinced that those things can be distilled down to "Jesus is Lord," and "Love God with all your being, and love your neighbor as yourself." If those of us who follow Jesus would focus on that, many of the problems created by our perceptions of others would fade. As those problems go away, we would see the diversity in the Church for what it is; a beautiful tapestry that shows the grace of our Father, a symphony of heavenly music.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

World Vision Wednesday

In the Washington, D.C. area, World Vision has a number of ministries, from reading programs in schools to a 28,000 square foot storehouse for food for the hungry. To read more and find out how you can help, go here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Motives

The other day, I heard someone say that the motivation for the Christian life is not in gaining what we do not have, but in living up to what we do have. I immediately thought, "That seems kind of legalistic." The emphasis is on what we can do, what we need to do. Knowing the background of the speaker, I am sure that many of the things we must do to "live up to" what we have in Christ include things like going to church every time the doors are open, avoiding things like tobacco and alcohol, and keeping ourselves "separated" from those outside. If the "Christian life" consists of sins to avoid and certain practices to embrace, then it makes sense that we are to be motivated by a desire to live up to a certain standard.

My fundamental disagreement is with the implied definition of the "Christian life." I believe that life in Christ is not a set of "standards" that we must keep. It is not a set of "truths" that we must give assent to. There are certain things that we believe, and certain things we will or won't do, if we are followers of Jesus, but the motivation behind that is not an attempt to live up to anything. I believe that the motivation for the Christian life is found in God's grace through the Holy Spirit. The Spirit teaches us and takes what we learn and changes us. Our knowledge becomes somethng more than just something rattling around in our brain. It is something we experience, something that becomes who we are as the Father's love and grace fill us.

As we spend time with Jesus, and the Spirit works in us, we will be changed so that the things the Father wants us to do will become more and more natural for us. We're not perfect, and there is a certain amount of responsibility on our part to put ourselves in the place where God can work, but doing what God desires and becoming more like Jesus is something that God must do. It is not a case of trying to live up to what we have in Christ. If that is our motivation, then we will fail, because it is impossible for us to lift ourselves up in that way.

If you are in Christ, rest in God's grace for you. Trust that everything you have in Christ is everything you need, and that the Father loves you and sees you as he sees Jesus. It is already accomplished. Let the Spirit guide you and teach you, and change you in the way the Father wants you to change. It's all about God's grace, not our own puny efforts.

Friday, November 13, 2009

TGIF

Some of you with a bit of age under your belt, (like me) may remember the comic strip Pogo from a few years back. The picture is from that strip.

I haven't been able to get my brain in gear to write anything this week, but I have been able to do a lot of reading. So, without further ado, here are the links:
TSK says he's not a New Calvinist even though he should be.
For the Ayn Rand fans.
A convicting post from Dan Edelen.
Josh has a good post on silence.
Another "ministry."
Enjoy your weekend.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

World Vision Wednesday

World Vision is involved in the battle against HIV/AIDS, administering programs that help those affected by the disease and advocating for funding. Here you can read an update and find out how you can help.

Friday, November 6, 2009

TGIF

This week seems to have gone by a bit slowly. I guess that's what happens when you spend two days sick and just laying around the house. It's getting colder here in the sunny South, and the trees are changing color and littering the yards with bright red, yellow, and orange leaves. Unfortunately, we can't just leave them there, so tomorrow I start chopping them into mulch.

Pray for the folks at Fort Hood, those that are injured, and the families of those killed in this tragedy. In that light, if you haven't read anything from iMonk yet, you need to read this.

Seeing the spiritual.
Splintered Kingdom.
This is a new church growth strategy.
Must have gifts for Christmas. (HT: Kansas Bob)
What if...

A quick way to find a church.
Being careful with technology.
A sweet gig. But is it right?
A good reminder not to live in the past.
What love means.

I know things are supposedly bigger in Texas, but this seems like a bit of overkill.
Handling money in the church.
Joining the Apaches.
Are you a Bible snob?
Sad but true. (HT: Scot McKnight)

A good post from John Frye.
It seems there's something wrong about this.
Deconstructed spirituality.
Trouble with the law.
Scot McKnight has a good series titled, "Religion or Revolution." Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What's Going On?

Barb wondered what is happening in the lives of her readers, so I finally got around to writing about what's going on with me.

Things have changed quite a bit in the past few months. In July, Jan and I left the church we had been a part of for fourteen years. That same month, the school Jan taught at closed because of financial problems caused by dwindling enrollment. At the beginning of August we joined a small community of faith that was just starting up. We meet in a bagel shop on Sunday mornings, and we average between twenty and thirty people. We are hoping to form a body that will show the love of Christ to those outside the church, whether "unchurched" or "de-churched." It's going well, and we are looking for opportunities to reach out to our city.

Jan found part-time work at a retirement village here in town. She is a resident assistant in the assisted living facility. Working part time allowed her to spend more time with her mom and dad, which was a good thing because her mom slowly went downhill until she passed away in late September. We saw the grace of God during that month, as the three daughters and all nine grandchildren were able to visit and spend some good time with her. Each time a new set of visitors would come, Mom would rally. She recognized each one and was able to talk with them. It was a blessing.

Josh is in his last year of grad school. This year is proving to be a very busy one as he works on his thesis in addition to the regular classes. Hopefully the economy will have improved next spring to the point where architectural firms will be hiring. Jennie has been promoted and is a still photographer for a special effects studio in Los Angeles. She loves California, and is doing well. This school year, I am still a teacher's assistant, but I am in a different class. I'm still coaching girls' basketball, and in the spring I will coach softball. There is a different set of challenges this year as I learn to love a different set of "neighbors." I'm still enjoying what I do, although it does get wearing at times.

My spiritual journey continues along the twists and turns on the back roads. I'm becoming more and more convinced that we Christians have failed at the main thing Jesus told us to do - love others. I'm learning to look at Scripture as God's story. Not a set of rules. Not a storehouse of individual verses to be mined in order to put together a system of theology. Not a textbook to be mastered. Not a handbook for life. It has some of those aspects in it, but now I see it as the story of how God shows himself and relates to the world he created. Scripture is to be taken as a whole narrative, not chopped up into proof texts. I believe that we are called to proclaim the Good News that Jesus is Lord, not tie the Gospel to a particular political or economic system of thought. While we may participate in the process (or not), the important thing is the Gospel.

My beliefs on a number of other things have changed. I won't go into a whole lot of detail here. Some of that will probably come out in future posts. Those of you who are regular readers, (and if you're not, why not?) have read about some of those changes. If you haven't, there's an archive on the sidebar. :)

Anyway, that's a bit of an update. I would be interested in reading what's going on in your life. Drop me a note in the comments so I can check it out.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

World Vision Wednesday

Efren Penaflorida is a former World Vision sponsored child. He was recently named a Top 10 CNN hero. You can read his story here.

Friday, October 30, 2009

TGIF

Not only is it Friday, but it this weekend is the time when we get to turn our clocks back an hour. You can get an extra hour of sleep, or you can stay up an hour longer.

Last night, we went into Charlotte to see a work of performance art. The artist is a professor at the University of Chicago who does some pottery and travels around doing performances and teaching at various schools. One of Josh's classes has been working with him on an architectural piece of art. Tonight is the opening of the exhibit.

Faceless International is an organization doing good work to help lift women and girls out of the circumstances that put them into the hands of human traffickers. Check out their website and go here for information on how to win some prizes.

Sad but true. (HT: Tony Jones)
Bob Hyatt finishes his series on submission.
One of the more unique marriage proposals I've ever seen.
Anyone looking for a spiritual father?
If you're famous, you can write a book. Or get someone else to write it and put your name on it.
What if we met to edify one another?

Just in case you were wondering how to worship.
Josh wrote a moving tribute to his grandmother.
Three ways to push iMonk's buttons.
Labels.


I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

World Vision Wednesday

Some of the most heart rending stories coming out of the recent natural disasters in Asia are those concerning the children. To read more and find out how you can help go here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Which Comes First?

No, this isn't about chickens and eggs. Something I heard the other day made me think. I know that can be a dangerous thing, but here goes.

"Till sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet." I heard this line from Thomas Watson quoted in a sermon I heard on television. I understand the thinking behind this statement. We must realize our need of Jesus before we turn to him. The more we realize just what Christ has done for us, the more wonderful God's grace will become to us. I believe that there is the danger of this teching being abused. I have been in churches, and heard stories of those in churches where the bitterness of sin was preached and hammered into the people to the point where they were beaten down and left with the idea that they were totally worthless pieces of trash.

I wonder though, if there isn't another way of looking at the bitterness of sin and the sweetness of Christ. When I look at Jesus' time here on earth, I see one who interacted with people where they were, and did not throw their sin in their faces (except for the religious ones who thought they had it all together). When "sinners" saw Jesus, they saw someone who loved them and cared about their day-to-day, not a stern judge who condemned them. Seeing the love and grace of this beautiful one led them to the point where they turned from their sin and followed him. Zacchaeus and the woman who anointed Jesus' feet are just two examples. Romans 2:4 states that it is God's kindness that leads us to repentance.

If we hammer at people's sin without showing them the beauty of Christ, we produce folks who know they are sinful and get depressed about it, folks who try their hardest to "pull themselves up by their own bootstraps," or folks who turn away from God altogether. If we can get across to others that Jesus is the most wonderful, beautiful Savior, who has done for us what we can't do for ourselves. Yes we are great sinners. But, there is a great Savior. Instead of trying to make sin more ugly, how about if we made Christ more beautiful, by our words and actions.

How about if we said, "As Christ becomes sweeter, sin becomes more bitter." Or as the hymn writer put it, "Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace."

Saturday, October 24, 2009

In Memory

Yesterday, we buried Jan's mom, so there is no TGIF this week.

I'm sure you've all heard various mother-in-law jokes. They are a staple of stand-up comedy and TV sit-coms. Some of you may have experiential knowledge of mother-in-law jokes or stereotypes.

In the thirty one years that I have known Jan, twenty nine as a married couple, I never experienced any of the things that seem to make mother-in-law jokes so popular. From the first time I met Jan's mom, I was accepted and loved. One of the best qualities of Wilma Parkis was her unconditional love that she showed to her family, extending to the men who married her three daughters. We were not just sons-in-law. We were sons. That love was also extended to my mom and dad. It was not really a matter of two families joined simply because of a marriage as it was two families merged into one. Even after we moved away for a few years, our parents continued to get together on a regular basis. When we moved to South Carolina, both sets of parents moved here, and their friendship continued.

At the funeral yesterday, some of the grandsons spoke beautifully of their memories of their grandma. We have heard stories from the nurses and others who were her caretakers at the nursing home where she spent her last four years. All of those accounts stressed her unconditional love for those she met and, most importantly, her love for her Savior.

Wilma Winifred Lazear Parkis (she was proud of that name) was a wonderful wife, mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, and great grandmother. We will all miss her, but we are comforted knowing that she is resting in the presence of God.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

World Vision Wednesday

In another two months, it will be Christmas. If you are looking for a gift that is different from the usual and will help those in need, check this out. It's a good way to give a gift without getting caught up in the commercialism that Christmas has become.

Friday, October 16, 2009

TGIF

The past few days it's been cold and rainy in the sunny South. Now, I know that "cold" is a relative term and what we think of as cold is a far cry from what other parts of the country have experienced this fall. But hey, it's cold to us.

Here's the good stuff:

Life as a prayer.
Speechless prayer.
Unfortunately, they are serious.
Part 3 and part 4 of Bob Hyatt's series on wives and husbands.
Our daily bread.
Jonathan Brink understands the critics.

Good thoughts on education.
What are you doing for Halloween?
A brief question from Brant Hansen.
The top 100 live albums of all time (HT: Scot McKnight).

Enjoy.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Dancing Spirit

John Fischer posted this at his site. I thought I'd share it with you.

The Spirit of God dances. He can't be tamed. He won't be contained. He refuses to be confined to a weekend retreat, an evening meeting, or a moment of devotion. He doesn't follow schedules, programs, or agendas, and He doesn't wait for His name to be called.

The Spirit of God dances. He dances right under the noses of those who don't believe in dancing; and He dances right on by those who do. He dances through the assemblies of the keepers of the dance, and right on out the door—and no one sees Him go. And as the dancers continue their pantomime, the Spirit of God dances in the streets.

His favorite dancing places are those where the keepers of the dance don't want Him to go, like on smoky stages with microphones that smell of whiskey. The Spirit of God loves sinners and dances best where life spills out on the floor.

Occasionally He dances on the clean, sweet-smelling stages of the keepers of the dance—but not as often as He would like. He dances there when there is pain or grief—whenever life spills out on the floor. But usually the floor is clean and the dance is simulated, carefully choreographed by the keepers of the dance to use only those steps with which they feel secure.

The Spirit of God refuses to be choreographed. His dance is raw, new, and jerky. It's not always pleasing to the eye, but His dance is fresh in the lives of those whose floors have not been cleaned up. It isn't well rehearsed, polished, or perfect; it slips and slides, sometimes innovative and shocking and at other times just exhilarant, but it's always real.

Sometimes the dance turns to mourning, but always there's the dance. Happy dance or sad dance… the Spirit of God always dances.

Most people, even those who pride themselves in their dancing, are afraid of this unpredictable dance. They're afraid of anything they can't control; and His dance is wild, unmanageable—even mad. But most important, it's vulnerable, open to criticism—the quality they fear most. So they must create their own dance of predictable steps and prescribed routines and send all their people through dance school—or outlaw dancing altogether.

But this should come as no surprise. It has always been this way. The Lord of the Dance himself was here once, and it was the same way then. He danced on the keepers' holy days and broke their holy laws. His timing—if not His whole dance—always seemed offbeat. He wanted to turn their empty religious movements into heartfelt, joyous dancing. He wanted them to exchange the grip of the Law for the freedom of the dance. But they thought He was a clumsy dancer, always bumping into their traditions and stepping on their toes. He even danced with the wrong crowd, in smoke-filled rooms, with messy floors.

Once, describing His generation, He declared, "We played the flute for you, but you would not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn. For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon.' The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Here is a glutton and drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.' "

…and the Spirit of God dances on.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Happy Birthday, Coach Wooden

Today is the birthday of the man many consider to be the greatest basketball coach ever. John Wooden turns 99 today. Any basketball fan who is my age or a bit younger remembers the string of national championships that "Coach" won at UCLA. From 1967-1973, his teams emerged as champions seven years in a row, and they added three more to that streak for a total of ten. During those years, Wooden rarely traveled to recruit. Players came to him, seeking to be part of a dominant program.

Basketball coaches all over the world have studied Wooden's coaching methods. Not just to learn the x's and o's, but to learn the philosophy behind the program. Famous Wooden maxims can be found in countless coaches' offices and locker rooms. Some of the more famous are:

"Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be."

"If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?"

"It's what you learn after you know it all that counts."

"Success is never final, failure is never fatal. It's courage that counts."

"Material possessions, winning scores, and great reputations are meaningless in the eyes of the Lord, because He knows what we really are and that is all that matters."

Coach Wooden left a great legacy, not only at UCLA, but all over the world. Happy birthday, Coach.

World Vision Wednesday

World Vision is involved in making lives better all around the world. Here is another success story about a World Vision program to train young women to be midwives in Afghanistan.

Friday, October 9, 2009

TGIF

President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Those of you who know me know that I am no Obama basher. I have some disagreements with his policies, but I have disagreed with every president that has held the office during my adult life. Having said that, I really don't understand the decision of the Nobel committee. They awarded a major prize to an individual who really hasn't done anything. He's only been in office seven months, and most of his energy has been expended on domestic issues. Is this a case of giving someone a prize to motivate them to carry out the actions which the prize honors?

Anyway, here's the important stuff:

When the poor die.
Bob Hyatt is doing a series on wives submitting to their husbands. Part 1. Part 2.
Love is patient.
Alan Knox asks, "what if they thought of the church?"
The bank account of the living dead.
Pam reviews Donald Miller's new book.
iMonk writes a story.
Scot McKnight has a good series titled, "God Hides in Plain Sight." Part 1 is here.
Good challenging story (HT: Scot McKnight).
fr'nklin reviews the Mosaic Bible.
Who would Jesus heal?
Buying or renting?

I have a three day weekend coming up, and I am definitely looking forward to it. I hope your weekend is restful.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Political, Cultural, Whatever Question: Part 2

On Tuesday I asked for opinions on what it would be like if the phrases "In God We Trust" and "under God" were removed from our money and from the Pledge of Allegiance. I received a number of good and interesting comments. Tonight, I'll tell you what I think.

Some of the commenters stated that they thought removal of the phrases would further inflame the culture wars as those on the right see it as another sign of how far down America has come. Others said that it would be a good thing. Still others wrote that it really wouldn't matter.

I do agree that those who believe that America is, or at least has been, a Christian nation would have their worst fears realized. They would see it as another step on the road to perdition for America, and would increase their preaching and efforts against those they see as responsible. Those who say it wouldn't matter have a valid point. America is not a nation that currently honors God and removing those phrases would not change it.

I believe that in the final analysis, removing the phrases could be a good thing for the Church. For too long the Kingdom of God has been confused with the United States of America . That has caused a number of problems, including other nations seeing some of the crap that America exports and associating that with Christianity. There are many in this country who believe that they are Christian because they are American. Add to this the bad theology that equates America with ancient Israel.

We are citizens of the Kingdom of God as well as citizens of the United States. Our first allegiance is to be to Jesus Christ. He is Lord. There are citizens of God's Kingdom in every nation on earth, and not only are they fellow citizens with us, they are our brothers and sisters. We can and should do what we can to make this country the best it can be, we need to remember that America is not the Kingdom of God. If taking certain phrases off our money and out of the Pledge will help the Church to remember who we belong to, then let them be removed.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

World Vision Wednesday

I'm sure you've heard of the multiple natural disasters that devastated a number of countries in Asia. If you've seen any of the pictures or watched any of the news reports, you have an idea of how bad it is.

If God would so lead you, please give so the people impacted by these disasters can be helped. You can find out how by going here.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Political, Cultural, Whatever Question

While I was reading The Myth of a Christian Nation by Greg Boyd, something he wrote intrigued me. Boyd suggests that it might not be a bad thing if the words "In God We Trust" were removed from our money and the words "under God" stricken from the Pledge of Allegiance.

I wonder what the effect would be if that happened. Would the effect on the Church be positive or negative? What about American culture in general? What would the short term impact be? Long term?

I would like to know what you think. Don't give your first gut reaction. Think about it and give me your reasoned answered. Thanks in advance.

Friday, October 2, 2009

TGIF

The weather has been beautiful this past week. The lows have been in the 40s and 50s with highs in the 70s. Soon the leaves will be changing color, and things will look nice for a while. We bought a new computer this week. Our dog got tangled up in the power cord and pulled our old Dell laptop off the chair, and it died. We replaced it with an Acer netbook. It takes a little getting used to the smaller size, but it's nice.

Evidently, Starbucks' new instant coffee isn't going over very well.
Experts. Well, maybe.
Jake Belder on Christian fellowship.
iMonk riffs.
Jeff McQ on shedding weight.
Strong words, but needed.
This sounds like a good idea.
This is wild.
Turns out Dan Brown isn't that good of a writer after all (HT: Brother Maynard).
Invite or invade?
Can the Church offer real alternatives?
Morality and narrative law.

Enjoy your weekend.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Three Years, Part 2

The Bible gives us a picture of God as Father. Some people have a hard time with that image because their father was far from the ideal. While my dad was not in any way perfect, he was a good example of what a father should be. Three years ago today, Dad joined Mom in the presence of God. I think the strain of taking care of Mom and the grief from losing his wife of 60+ years was too much for him.

As I think about Dad and my relationship with him, I remember his faith. He was not seminary trained, but what he experientially knew about following Jesus was far above many who we look up to as "men of God." Dad was one of those simple geniuses when it came to matters of faith. I also remember his intelligence and wisdom. He had a high school diploma, but was the type who could learn just about anything. He once took an electronics course and built a television that worked well for many years. Dad was the kind of person that other folks went to for advice. I remember people at the place where dad worked calling him for help after he had retired. While we disagreed on some things, usually when he wanted me to do something I didn't want to do, as I got older I realized how right he was on so many things.

One constant in my life as I grew up was Dad's love. There were times when I knew I deeply disappointed him, but there was never a time when I felt a lack of love from him. I knew he loved me no matter what, and that is why it is so easy for me to deeply know God's love.

It's been three years, and there are still many times when I think about Dad. I see a lot of him in me. For instance, when I bump my head. :) I still miss him, but I know that I will see him again at the Resurrection.

Friday, September 25, 2009

TGIF

Summer left us this week, and autumn began. Here in the sunny South we have to go by the calendar because the weather still says it's summer, although we have had a few cooler days. Josh and I went and saw Derek Webb in concert last night. It was a good time. If you get a chance to see him live, take it.

Now, on to the links:

Jesse Medina asks, "So you want to change the world?" A story. Travis Monroe tackles the health care question. John Cleese explains genes. Church or Kingdom? Stephen Holmes on Mark Driscoll (HT: Scot McKnight). They will know we are Christians by our what? This story in the Sun-Sentinel newspaper is sad. Jeff McQ wants to know where you are. Some folks need to think about the names they give to their business.

Here is a great example of what following Jesus is (or should be) all about. Airport theology. Josh writes an interesting story. A casualty of the culture war?

Well, that's it for this week. I hope you have a great weekend.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Truth Hurts?

Last night I saw a church sign which read, "If the truth hurts, it must be working." Well, maybe. It is true that there are times when the truth does hurt in order to work, times when hard changes need to be made in our lives. We can all think of times when truth was spoken to us, causing us pain that, in turn, caused us to change.

Unfortunately, many times the truth is used as a club. Some have an idea that they know God's truth and that it is their responsibility to make sure everyone knows it. They claim to be "speaking the truth in love," saying that they are showing love simply by speaking the truth, no matter how harshly the message is proclaimed. Of course, sometimes the "truth" that they loudly speak is nothing more than their interpretation.

There is also truth that does not hurt. The message of God's grace and mercy is one example. The promise of resurrection is another. And while it is true that we all struggle with sin, it is also true that the Father loves us unconditionally, has given us the Holy Spirit to work in us, and is forming us into the likeness of Jesus Christ.

The reality is that truth transforms as the Spirit takes it and uses it in the life of the Christ-follower. It may hurt, but then again it may feel wonderful.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

World Vision Wednesday

Child sponsorship makes a difference, not only in the life of the child being sponsored, but also in the lives of those around them. This is one of the many success stories.

Friday, September 18, 2009

TGIF

Another work week is coming to a close. It has gone by quickly, as most weeks seem to. I guess that's one of those things that happens when you're not so young anymore.

There's a lot of good stuff floating out on the internets. Here's the sampling for this week:

Barb is pursuing the sinless life (or not). Interesting thoughts from Frank Schaeffer. I think he maybe overstates the problem (HT: Molly). How to evangelize a bear. Good post from Tim Hill. A good reason to get your kid a personal computer? Three good ones (among many) from iMonk, here, here, and here. Good thoughts from Alan Knox. Three dying myths (HT: Brother Maynard). Scot McKnight has a good series on Deep Church as Third Way. Part 4 is here. You can also read Parts 1, 2, and 3. John Frye writes about Jesus and expectations. Part 1 is here, part 2 is here, and part 3 is here.

I hope you have a great weekend. Tomorrow is Talk Like a Pirate Day so, Aaaaaaaargh, matey!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

World Vision Wednesday (on Thursday)

I'm sorry I didn't get this in yesterday. The day slipped away from me completely.

On September 2, an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.3 struck Indonesia. The damage was severe, and new reports indicate that it is even worse than originally thought. Read the full report here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Political Post... Sort of

I'm beginning to see the attraction that Christian anarchy has for some people. The past few weeks has just about turned me off politics (and I have a Master's in Public Affairs, taught government, and considered going into politics at one time). I have read statements made by Christians on their blogs and on Facebook. I have read discussions on the political forum on TheOoze. The thing that has struck me is the lack of love that is shown. I am not pointing fingers at just those on the right, although many of the comments have been from more conservative folks. The left has been just as guilty, especially during the previous administration. There is enough junk thrown around by both sides to spread the guilt equally.

Jesus said that the one thing that would show the world that we are his followers is love. Not holding to a particular set of theological doctrines, not following a certain political platform, but love. I don't see a great deal of love shown in the current political climate. Jesus also said that his kingdom was not of this world. The disciples understood this. They were drawn from a variety of political views, yet all put those aside to be a part of God's kingdom. The early church understood this. They loved everyone around them, even those who were persecuting them. They turned the world upside down with no economic, social, or political power. They realized that the kingdom of God was different from the kingdom (and kingdoms) of this world. The kingdom of this world advances through exercising power over others. The kingdom of God advances through serving others and showing them love.

Human government has legitimate purpose, and can be used by God to accomplish his will. O the other hand, all human kingdoms are subject to doing wrong and advancing the will of Satan. Many times we forget that there is no government on earth that is going to completely do what God wants done, whether that government is conservative Republican, liberal Democrat, or socialist. At times, any government can approach the kingdom of God, but any government can also work against God's kingdom.

Those of us who are part of God's kingdom do great harm to the cause of Christ when we let ourselves get caught up in politics to the point where we think that our team can do know wrong, and the other team can do no right. When we attack and devalue others who claim Jesus as Lord because we disagree with their political views, we deny the kingdom of God.

What is more important, a kingdom of this world that will fade away, or a kingdom that is advancing and will finally come in its full splendor? There is nothing wrong with participating in politics and debating issues. Just do it in a way that advances the interests of the True King.

Friday, September 11, 2009

TGIF

In remembrance of the innocent victims of the 9-11 attacks and the subsequent wars, there is no TGIF today.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

World Vision Wednesday

In July, at the G8 summit in Italy, $20 billion was pledged over three years to combat global hunger. In 2005, the G8 leaders promised to increase aid to Africa by $25 billion by 2010. This has not happened. This month the G20 summit will be held in Pennsylvania. World Vision is urging those leaders to take action to meet the first Millennium Development goal of halving the number of hungry people in the world.

Go here to read the rest of the story.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The President's Speech

Today, President Obama spoke to the nation's students. He spoke of things like personal responsibility, persistence, working hard, listening to teachers, and other values that students need to have to be successful in school and in life. The things that he talked about are the same values held by those who didn't want their children to hear the President.

Those parents who kept their children home certainly have that right. I believe that there is one lesson that those children learned today. They learned that you shouldn't listen to people you disagree with, that you shouldn't be open to learning things from people who see things differently, because you might find out that they are human beings too, and that you might have more in common with them than you think.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Community and Unity

Yesterday, I wrote about wish-dreams and how we need to let them die and be open to the dream that God has for us. Many times in churches those wish-dreams revolve around building community and unity within the church.

Community is seen as something that can be created. Things such as home groups, Sunday School classes, separate men's and women's groups, and youth groups are put in place in an attempt to bring about community. Usually these groups are based on something that the members already have in common, such as age, gender, or location. Sometimes they are formed around certain subjects. Some churches simply rely on their members attendance at every service or event.

Unity is usually centered around agreement on certain doctrines or practices. In the circles in which I grew up, those who were trying to foster unity among the various Christian denominations were seen as soft on doctrine, or even as heretics. According to this view, heaven would be a sparsely populated place, or if others did make it, they would be far from the throne.

As a church leader trying to bring about change in a congregation, I fell into the trap of thinking that community could be created by having a more laid back, contemporary style of worship with comfortable furniture, and small groups through the week. Unity would come about when everyone came to see that a more up to date, "relevant" way of worshiping and presenting the Gospel was the way to go. As I began to question some of the things I had been taught, I even thought unity would happen when we all felt free to question. I've come to believe that all of those ways of seeing community and unity are wrong.

I think community is something that can not be created by us. We can spend time with people, serve with them, worship together, but community happens as the Spirit pulls us closer to each other and, as a group, closer to God. Community can come about in groups that are combinations of age, gender, etc. Our differences contribute to community, rather than detract from it. Unity is also something that can not be created. If it comes about through human effort, there will eventually be some doctrine or practice that will drive a wedge into a church.

I think Bonhoeffer was right when he said that that our unity is in and through Jesus Christ. The same thing could be said for community. It is not in agreement on doctrine, practice, politics, or any thing else. Unity based on those things can quickly disappear. If our community and unity is in and because of Christ, we can disagree with others about politics, ways of doing things, and areas where Scripture is interpreted differently. If we have the most important thing in common - Jesus, then we are unified. We are not told in Scripture to unify. We are told to make every effort to keep the unity that we have. We can destroy that unity by getting our focus on our own desires and ideas, or our wish-dreams. We must keep our focus on Jesus, and on his command to us to love others as he has loved us. The one sign that Jesus said would show that we belong to him is loving each other.

Let us strive to keep the unity we have been given by loving each other and focusing on Jesus.

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