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.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Wish-Dreams

Last Sunday, the discussion centered around the death of "wish-dreams." Wish-dreams are those things that we want to happen, and we all have them. We can have them in any area of our lives. A man can marry a woman and believe that she is going to meet his every need and be the perfect wife. A woman can believe that the man she marries will be her knight in shining armor and make everything right. Parents have wish-dreams for their children. You can see this by looking at the adults at any sporting event their child is a part of. Leaders and members of churches also have certain things that they expect to see in those churches. These are their wish-dreams.

The problem with wish-dreams is that they usually do not come true. Often they crash and burn with disastrous results. Marriages break up when a spouse doesn't match the ideal and one partner cannot change the other. Young athletes burn out because of the pressure put on them by parents trying to live vicariously through their children. People bounce from church to church trying to find that ideal congregation that will be heaven on earth.

Wish-dreams die. Sometimes God kills them. We can either continue to pursue them and become disillusioned and bitter, or we can give them up and allow the Father to take us where he wants us. I have been through the process of watching dreams crumble and die. While painful, it is a necessary part of our growth as followers of Jesus. As we give up our dreams, God can replace them with his dreams for us.

I was originally going to write about the relationship between wish-dreams and unity, but I'll give your eyes a rest by continuing this tomorrow. (Plus, I've always wanted to post a "series") :)

Friday, September 4, 2009

TGIF

What a week! This has been a very busy one. I have a couple of things rattling around in my head, but they'll have to wait for another day.

Here's the stuff for this week:

This is very, very funny. I think so, at least. A humble prayer from Megan Twietmeyer. Todd Hiestand coins a new word. Alan Knox has a three part series on the unhypocritical church. He's posted all three parts here. Barb is responding, not initiating. The smell of (d)emocracy. Francis Schaeffer, Toby Keith, and the Watchman. You get one life. A new kind of fundamentalist (HT: Jonathan Brink).

Dan Edelen has a very good post in his equipping the saints series. Find it here. Read the other posts too. What would you say? Scot Mcknight has some fun. This is funny (HT: Scot Mcknight). John Armstron asks what the church will do.

If you have Monday off, enjoy your long weekend. If not, enjoy the weekend you have.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

World Vision Wednesday

Anyone can be an advocate for for justice and poverty reduction. You don't have to have a lot of money, or be an adult to make a difference. Read this story about a teen who found a way to raise money to provide clean water for an impoverished community in northern Ghana.

A New Morning

It was quite definitely early morning now, not late night. "I'm so cold," said Lucy. "So am I," said Susan. "Le...