Friday, November 27, 2009
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.
Kingdom leadership in the postmodern world.
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
From World Vision:
>> 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
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
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
The risk of love in Africa.Why dogs don't like Halloween. (HT: Brother Maynard)
Best Christian t-shirt like, ever?
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
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
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
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Friday, November 6, 2009
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.
This is a new church growth strategy.
Must have gifts for Christmas. (HT: Kansas Bob)
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.
Trouble with the law.
Scot McKnight has a good series titled, "Religion or Revolution." Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
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.