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.

A Poem: Home Again

I wrote this one a couple weeks ago. HOME AGAIN It’s been said that you can’t go home again I decided to see for myself, so ...