Friday, February 27, 2009

TGIF

It's time for another edition of TGIF! The weather here in the sunny South continues to tease, with temperatures in the 60s today and highs in the 40s forecast for Sunday. I guess March is going to come in like a lion.

Who knew? Evidently there was virtual church in the 1940's. Lenten offsets? Good thoughts on helping the homeless. Structures for renewal (HT: Len). Do we really need another leadership conference? (HT: Jonathan Brink). Jeff McQ continues his series on love.

This is good. Brant Hansen reviews the John McArthur Study Bible. Grace writes about being missional. A network in need of a name. Dan's thoughts on economics. Lent e-cards. How to be a gadfly. Amy's thoughts on the upside-down Kingdom.

May God bless you this weekend.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

In The Bet by Anton Chekhov, a lawyer made a bet with a banker that he could stay in solitary confinement for fifteen years. If he did the banker would pay him two million dollars. During the imprisonment the lawyer read an extraordinary number of books, on a wide variety of subjects. At the end of the fifteen years, the lawyer escaped five minutes before the time was up, thus losing the bet. The night before, he had written a note that read, in part,
"And I despise your books, despite all worldly blessings and wisdom. Everything is
void, frail, visionary and delusive as a mirage. Though you be proud and wise and
beautiful, yet will death wipe you from the face of the earth like the mice underground;
and your posterity, your history, and the immortality of your men of genius will be
as frozen slag, burnt down together with the terrestrial globe.

You are mad, and gone the wrong way. You take lie for truth and ugliness for beauty.
You would marvel if by certain conditions frogs and lizards should suddenly grow
on apple and orange trees, instead of fruit, and if roses should begin to breathe the odor of
a sweating horse. So do I marvel at you, who have bartered heaven for earth. I do not
want to understand you."

An argument could be made that the lawyer's note shows the emptiness of man's wisdom and learning without Jesus Christ. On the other hand, think about it from a different angle. What if the words in the note were written to the church? What if the church today is built on man's wisdom and pride, and is frail and delusive as a mirage? What if we are mad and have gone the wrong way, taking lies for truth? What if the church has bartered heaven for earth?

I think I'm going to have to think about this for awhile.



Friday, February 20, 2009

TGIF

I tried to think of something clever to say, and failed miserably, so I'll just get right to the good stuff:

Will technology be the death of preaching? Jake Belder says that life is not a circle. Dan Edelen is writing a three act tragedy. Part 1 is here. Pam doesn't want to be normal, and thinks that small is good. imonk asks why more churches aren't being planted in the inner cities. These aren't the tree houses you remember from your youth. (HT: Scot McKnight)

Brant Hansen has some ideas for T-shirts. Jeff McQ is doing a series on love. Part 1 is here. The perfect Christian dating profile. I tried to link to Brother Maynard's blog, but something's gone terribly wrong. Generosity and fear. Simplicity and simpleness. Switchfoot's Jon Foreman on the American dream.

That's it for this week. Enjoy your weekend.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hi. My Names's Fred and I'm a...

...recovering Pharisee. There should be a group named P.A. (Pharisees Anonymous). I would join. Growing up in fundamentalism, I was taught that the only ones who were right were independent fundamental Baptist. I fully believed that. I can remember being judgemental of those that used the RSV as their Bible. After all, they left out some things that were in the King James, which we knew was the only correct interpretation. Those who baptized infants, learned catechisms, venerated saints, or believed in the "social gospel" were somewhat lesser Christians than we were, if they were Christians at all. Even in the midst of my teenage rebellion, I still believed that I had been taught THE TRUTH, and everyone who disagreed with that was wrong. The attitude persisted through Bible college and I graduated fully ready to defend the Faith.

Fast forward twenty or thirty years. Through those years God has been working in me and teaching me that many of the things I had been taught were either not Biblical at all, distinctives of a particular group, or simply cultural. I began to experience real grace for the first time as I learned that the Father loves me no matter what. He is pleased with me and there is nothing I can do to make him any more or any less pleased with me. I desire to follow Jesus out of a heart full of gratitude and love rather than a need to "stay right with God" (I did a lousy job of that).

The problem is that I still struggle with being a Pharisee. I still have a tendency to judge people. The difference is that now I am not judging liberals or any of the ones I used to judge. Now, I tend to be judgemental of other people who are judgemental. I tend to look at fundamentalists, especially independent Baptists with a much too critical eye. I am realizing more and more that this attitude is nothing less than it was when I was younger. It's sin. I am no better than those I criticize for being critical.

I read an interview in which Brain McLaren was asked about those who criticize him and call him heretic, etc. His response was that he believed that those critics loved Jesus and were trying to follow him the best they could, and that he simply disagreed with their methods as well as some of their theology. It was one of the most gracious responses I've ever seen. He did not condemn them, but accepted them as brothers, even though they disagree. That's the kind of response I want to have in my life toward those who are critical. May God grant that to all of us.

My name's Fred and I'm try to leave Phariseeism behind.

Friday, February 13, 2009

TGIF

For those of you who are superstitious, today is Friday the 13th. For the rest of you, it's just Friday. I'm tired. Tired of school and tired of winter. Oh well. Like a kidney stone, this too shall pass.

I know how much everyone looks forward to the links of the week, :) so here they are:

Karen Swank writes a letter to Bible study ladies. Death by Church? Todd Hiestand is feeling limited. How "Lost" would handle the economic crisis. Encouraging words from Jared Wilson.
Brother Maynard revisits the church doors. This is great photography, as well as being in the right place at the right time. (HT: Brother Maynard).

Jeff McQ does man thing. Grace on fasting. The search for Noah's Ark. imonk writes about compartmentalizing.

Enjoy your Valentine's Day tomorrow.

Friday, February 6, 2009

TGIF

It's been an interesting week here in the sunny South. We missed our second day of school due to "snow" and "ice". I think we had maybe a half inch of ice on certain spots on the road, but it was all gone by the afternoon. It was a nice day off, but now we have to make up two days. That means no break from now until April. :(


Enjoy these links:


Jared Wilson quotes Ed Stetzer. Good thoughts from Bob Hyatt. Dan Edelen tells a tale of four churches, and Robbymac writes about guys and trucks. Is strategic planning a good thing for the church today? Is cinema the new cathedral? (HT: Jonathan Brink). Jonathan also asks how we can be faithful to scripture.

Jeff McQ writes about fences and wells. Do you want to be cool? Scot McKnight on Obama and God's sovereignty. imonk writes about believing the Bible, and gives us a list of 25 things. Some might think this is shocking (HT: imonk). This is funny.

That's it for this week. It's going to be sunny and in the 60s here this weekend. I hope you enjoy your weekend.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Availability of the Kingdom

In The Divine Conspiracy, Dallas Willard asserts that the Beatitudes are something far different than what I was taught as a young Christian, and even through a good deal of my adult life. I think he is correct in his interpretation. Rather than a set of characteristics of people in some future millennial kingdom or a set of characteristics necessary in order to be a good Christian, the Beatitudes are Jesus' way of turning the first century attitudes toward who was blessed upside down. The general attitude then was that those who were "religious", wealthy, and powerful were the ones who were blessed. The religious leaders taught this and the common folk believed it. There was a long list of folks who weren't blessed and who never would be.

In the twenty-first century, have things really changed that much? So many times the gospel is a message that the ones who are blessed are those who have said a certain prayer and now follow a set of rules that make them good Christians, those who are part of a particular church or denomination and give assent to a certain set of doctrines, or those who work for social justice. The Holy Spirit does many times lead a person to a point of decision. There are doctrines that are important to believe. Social justice is something every follower of Jesus should be concerned with. These are important, but someone can do any of these without being a part of the Kingdom of God.

A large segment of Christendom presents the image of a Christian as someone who has all of their material wants taken care of, who is happy all the time, and who never struggles with the things that the great unwashed (or unsaved) masses struggle with. We give the impression that we have it all together, and that we are somehow better than those around us. In doing so, we follow along with the culture around us. The picture in American culture of one who is happy (blessed) is an individual who drives a nice new car, has white teeth and fresh breath, wears fashionable clothes, is zit free, keeps the weight off, and enjoys sex whenever the mood strikes (or within 36 hours). I wonder what Jesus would say today?

Maybe he would say that the Kingdom of God is available to the losers, to the ones who weep over a lost loved one or a lost job, to the ones who don't have the skills necessary to even get a job. It is there for the person in pain with a terminal disease, the homeless, the drug addict who is estranged from his family. The Kingdom is available for those who are the bottom, the hopeless, even those who are the worst sinners. All that is necessary is for the person to recognize their condition and turn to the King, the one who can make them blessed.

Those of you who are already followers of Jesus and are part of this Kingdom, please remember that the message that we give is that Jesus is there for all who will follow him, whether they see everything the same we we do or not. If anyone who is not a follower of Jesus happens to come across this post, I want you to know that if you have been given the impression that only a certain class of people can be blessed by God, forget what you have seen or heard. The Kingdom is available to you, no matter what your condition. You don't have to "get yourself right with God." All you have to do is change your way of approaching your life and begin to follow Jesus the Christ, who is Lord over all. His way is the only way that leads to true happiness, the kind that is there regardless of circumstances.

May God make you truly blessed.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

25 Random Things About Me

I've been tagged by a few people to do this thing, and since this is a restful Sunday afternoon with nothing to do except watch the Puppy Bowl I thought I'd go ahead and get it done. Since this blog finds its way to my Facebook page - Eileen and Kim, here it is, even though it's been slow in coming.

1. I have been coaching basketball for 26 years, 13 years with guys, 13 years with girls.
2. I am over-educated, with a bachelor's degree and two master's.
3. My third birthday party was at the White House. Sort of.
4. I once sat on a fishbowl - with the results you would expect.
5. My favorite food is Cincinnati Chili.
6. In high school, I was the third fastest senior sprinter in the Washington, D.C. area.
7. I was a Christian college All-American sprinter my senior year.
8. I'm now too out of shape to do any kind of sprinting. :)
9. My favorite dessert is German Chocolate Cake.
10. I like most kinds of music, except rap, heavy metal, opera, or southern gospel.
11. I love to read.
12. I have been happily married for 28 1/2 years to the best wife ever.
13. I have 2 grown children who make me extremely proud.
14. I used to play the accordion.
15. I work with students with learning disabilities.
16. I like comedies.
17. The first time I cried at a movie was in 1977, while watching "Brian's Song."
18. I don't understand how someone can hate someone else enough to torture or kill them.
19. I don't understand how folks can buy into the prosperity gospel when all they have to do is look around them and see that's not how things work.
20. My favorite sport is basketball, followed closely by track.
21. I have googled myself. Yes, it's true, I admit it.
22. I was born in Washington, D.C., in a hospital that doesn't exist anymore.
23. I am a procrastinator. That's why this has taken so long to do.
24. I am a fan of bad puns.
25. I drive a small pickup truck, but would love to own a restored MG.

Weekend Wanderings

Weekend Wanderings will be away for the next two weekends. We're heading out to the Left Coast to meet our new grandchild, who is expect...