Tuesday, March 30, 2010

World Vision Wednesday

Thanks in part to the efforts of World Vision, the fight against malaria is saving lives. There is much more to be done, however. To find out more about the efforts to eradicate this disease, and how you can help, check out this page.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Palm Sunday

Today we celebrated the day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, surrounded by people hailing him as the Messiah. Evidently this procession was not the only one making it's way into the city that day. The Roman governor, Pilate, was also entering Jerusalem with his forces. This was something that happened before every Jewish holiday. After all, the Romans had to remind the Jews who really was in charge.

So, you have an imperial Roman procession on one side of the city and a subversive, Messianic parade on the other side. The people shouting, "Hosanna!" as Jesus made his way along the road thought they understood what was going on. As they saw it, this man who had performed so many miracles was the promised king who would drive out the hated Gentile oppressors and restore the glory of Israel. Unfortunately, as the week unfolded, many of these same people, now disillusioned, would join in the calls for his crucifixion by those same oppressors.

Those folks were partially right. Jesus was the promise Messiah. He had come to set up a kingdom and free them from their oppression. What they didn't realize was the nature of the kingdom. It was a kingdom that is not of this world, a kingdom that came in, not by way of overthrowing the present empire, but by the king dying at the hands of that empire. The Jews were expecting God to do things the way they expected. They didn't understand that God rarely works that way.

I thought of how many times I've prayed for things and thought that God was going to answer those prayers in a certain way, either because I had jumped through a certain number of hoops to "earn" God's blessing, or because I couldn't think of any other way God could act. I trusted in God for the things I thought he would (or should) do. Like the Jews I followed Jesus for what I could get out of it. The funny thing is, God never seemed to do the things that I expected, yet so many things turned out in such a way that I knew the Father was taking care of me. Things were not all sweetness and light, and sometimes I questioned God about what he was doing. But I can look back on those days and see that God was there, and that he was working.

During our times together at St. Thomas, we have seen that God is not predictable. He is not someone who can be counted on to always do things a certain way. God relates to people in all kinds of ways, and we cannot tie him down to a particular plan of action. None of us can figure God out, yet he calls us into relationship with him. In that relationship we learn to trust God simply for who he is rather than for what we think he can do for us.

Be encouraged. Your Father loves you more than you know. He has given you his life and his glory. Trust the Father, even when the parade of Palm Sunday turns into the darkness of Friday.

Friday, March 26, 2010

TGIF

History was made this week. Whether you agree or disagree with the health care bill, there is no question that something big has happened. It remains to be seen what all of the ramifications will be.

It's been a little chilly here in the sunny South the past couple of days. Warmer weather is ahead, it's just a question off when it'll stay that way.

Enough talk about politics and the weather. Here are the links for this week:

Jeff Wright has a very good series on Glen Beck, social justice, and the kingdom of God. Part 1 is here.
"I'm a Christian:; I'm sorry." Really?
The church and the world.
You're approved!
I had never heard this illustration before.

I don't know.This seems kind of cruel (and useless) to me.
Our brokenness and God's closeness.
So close to a father's hand.
What if the Devil made a movie?
Seeing the beauty in all of creation.

The faded tattoo.
I think I might be leaning in this direction.
Even though they beat my Musketeers, this is a great story.

By Sunday night there will be four teams left in the NCAA tournament.It's hard to believe the season is almost over.

Enjoy your weekend.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

World Vision Wednesday

For something different this Easter, give more than just eggs. Give chickens in the name of a loved one. Visit here to find out more.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Another Political Post (Sort Of)

There's a lot of words flying around the airwaves, the internet, and in public. Some of them are good words, some of them are not good. Some of the good words are spoken by Christians and, unfortunately, some of the not good words are spoken by Christians. The cause of all these words is the debate over the health care bill recently passed by Congress. Everyone from Glen Beck to Jim Wallis has weighed in on the debate.

I'm not going to get into the debate over whether or not the bill that was passed is a good one. I do have my doubts and reservations about anything that is pushed so quickly, with so much arm twisting and back room dealing. And of course, there's always the law of unintended consequences. I have friends and relatives on both sides of the debate, and my relationship with them is far more important than which side is right.

What I do feel strongly about is the way folks who claim to follow the King of Kings have forgotten that we are citizens of a kingdom that is not of this world, a kingdom that has an agenda that is far different than that of any kingdom of this world, including this one. Christians on the right and on the left have invested far too much emotion in ensuring that their side is in power and their agenda is pushed. There is nothing wrong with folks supporting and working for whatever party fits their political views, but when that causes them to call opponents names, to angrily shout down those on the other side, or to even bring into question their spiritual life, then there is something wrong.

We are Christians before we are Republicans or Democrats. We are God's children before we are conservative or liberal. We are citizens of Christ's kingdom before we are citizens of any country on this earth. We are part of the same Body. To paraphrase the Apostle Paul, would the eye scream at the foot across a barricade? Would the ear call the elbow a racial slur? Would the nose tell the knee that it's not part of the body? This little toe has a hard time hearing parts of the Body belittle and disparage other parts because of their view of what this part of the kingdoms of this world should look like. Didn't Jesus say that the world would know that we are his because of our love for one another?

I believe that whatever happens in the coming years because of the health care bill should ultimately make little difference in how followers of Jesus conduct their lives as citizens of heaven. We are called to spread the Gospel and make disciples who will follow King Jesus and in turn make more disciples. Christians through the centuries have done that regardless of the government in power, whether the Roman Empire, the Soviet Union, China, or an Islamic dictatorship. If they can do that, surely we can do what we are called to do whether a liberal Democrat or a conservative Republican is in charge.

Follow your political persuasions. Be passionate about your ideas. Just remember that your first allegiance is to the One who told Pilate that his kingdom is not of this world. The agenda of the kingdom of God is not the agenda of earthly governments.

Check out some of the writings by Stanley Hauerwaus and Greg Boyd. They put it far better than I can.

Friday, March 19, 2010

TGIF

March Madness has struck! Millions are infected! No, I'm not talking about all the celebrating on St. Patrick's Day. The first round has been exciting so far, with close games and upsets that not too many saw coming. Thousands of brackets have been ruined and possibly millions of dollars have been lost in office pools. The fun continues for another two weeks.

Here's some of the good stuff out their on the web:

A prayer by St. Patrick.
12 mostly true facts about St. Patrick.
When is church not church?
A good question.
Jonathan Brink on marriage.

A time to weep. Indeed.
What should be our response to the times?
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are more than just days of the week.
Donald Miller has some good thoughts on Glenn Beck.
Food choices as theology.

A classic iMonk rant.
Scot McKnight has a series on N.T. Wright's book, After You Believe. Part 1 is here.
The just and the unjust.
What would you do if you had your life to live over?
Here is what to do if your books get soaked. (HT: Scot McKnight)

I hope your weather is getting more spring-like. Enjoy your weekend.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

World Vision Wednesday

World Vision child protection policy advisor, Jesse Eaves, continues his reports on his visit to Eastern Europe. You can read about it here.

Friday, March 12, 2010

TGIF

This has been the first week this year here in the sunny South where the high temperatures have been 60 or above every day. The weather is finally starting to get close to normal, although it is still raining a lot. My softball team has had to practice inside most of the week. This weekend, we set our clocks ahead one hour. It'll be nice to have the sun stay up longer in the evening.


On to the good stuff:


Don Miller has started a series on commercialism and faith. Part 1 is here.
More good stuff from Josh.
The company Jennie works for (Stargate Studios) is doing some amazing things. Check it out here and here.
An update on iMonk.

A Ballad of the Seasons.
Good thoughts.
Lessons from a bass guitar.
The two-fisted Gospel.

A needed reminder from Jason Boyett.
Scot McKnight responds to Glenn Beck.
Artificial hipsters (HT: Scot McKnight).
Scum of the Earth.

Meals as maps.
A good way to respond to postmodern skeptics.
Fellowship is fundamental.
Hotel of cards.

Enjoy your weekend. Don't forget the clock.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

World Vision Wednesday

As World Vision serves around the globe, the workers sometimes run into dangerous situations. Such was the case in Pakistan, where six staff members were killed in an attack. Please pray for the families of those killed, for those who were wounded, and for the folks who were being served.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

El Nino

The other day, Jennie and I were chatting on-line, and the conversation wound its way to the weather. Here in the sunny South, we've had an unusually cold and wet winter, the coldest in about thirty years. Jennie said that there in Los Angeles, they had a greater than normal amount of rain the past few months. Every part of the country has been affected by weather patterns that come from a strong El Nino. I remarked to Jennie that El Nino had really disrupted things this winter.


The more I though about it, the more I realized the parallels between the weather pattern known as El Nino and its namesake. El Nino begins around Christmas and the term is Spanish for "the male child," a reference to Jesus Christ. We often think of the Christ child as simply a meek and mild little baby who, according to one popular song, never cried. We love the picture of a baby surrounded by furry farm animals and shepherds, and of course, we miss the point. I think the fact that the name "The (Christ) Child" was given to a weather system that is disruptive is significant.


Jesus Christ did not serenely stride through first century Palestine like some ethereal figure untouched by the world around him. He did not come proclaiming a gospel of escape into another world after death. From his birth, he threw a money wrench into the machinery of the kingdoms of this world. When Herod learned of the birth of this new "king of the Jews" he became so afraid for his own throne that he ordered all of Bethlehem's male children under two years old to be killed. Herod was not just a child abuser. He was a king who was trying to eliminate a rival.


After this, we don't read a lot of Jesus' life growing up, although there was that incident where his parents had to hunt for him in Jerusalem. That caused just a bit of a stir in their lives. Jesus began his ministry by calling people to drop what they were doing and follow him .He then traveled around the country challenging the traditions of the religious leaders. Not only did he challenge tradition, he also took the whole system and interpreted it as pointing to him. That ruffled more than a few feathers.

Jesus didn't exactly make Pilate's life easier when he told Pilate that he was indeed a king, but that his kingdom was not of this world. Even Pilate's wife had a nightmare because of Jesus.
After Jesus left, his followers spread throughout the Roman Empire with the message that the Kingdom of God had come, that Jesus Christ was Lord, not Caesar. They refused to sacrifice to the Emperor, and were persecuted and killed because they were considered treasonous. It was said of the early Christians that they "turned the world upside down."

Just like El Nino, Jesus Christ was a disruptive figure during his time on earth. His followers, if they take seriously the words of their Master, continue to be disruptive. It's hard for us in America to understand living in a hostile environment. America has been a part of Christendom for years, and we have had it easy in a culture that gave lip service to our faith. That is no longer the case. Followers of Jesus are being pushed to the margins, and it may be only a matter of time until we are seen as dangerous because of our allegiance to another King.

Time will tell if the church will strive to keep Christendom together, or will once again be subversive and disruptive, and turn our world upside down.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Lessons Learned During Recovery 2

I am not going to write about how I'm such a humble person. Only Moses could get away with that. Beside the fact that I'm nowhere near being in Moses' league, I also know how much I struggle with pride. I'm probably like most red-blooded American men in that regard. I like being the one to give help, but I'm fine doing things without it, thank you very much. I also feel uncomfortable with what I see as "putting people out."

Hernia surgery changed that. When I awakened back in the room, I was a pretty helpless individual. When I had to get up to go to the restroom, I needed help to sit up. I also could not stand or walk without Jan holding one of my arms to steady me. As we left the next day, I needed assistance to get into, and out of the truck.

That first week of recovery was on of almost total dependence on others. Someone else went outside to get the paper. Someone else fed the dog. Someone else took care of things that I normally take care of. Along with that, I required help doing such simple tasks as washing and drying my feet, and putting on socks. Believe me, for someone who likes to be able to do it myself, it was hard, even though I knew that I needed that help.

The culmination came when we went to our church's Sunday gathering. As we shuffled into the room, one of the young men and his girlfriend were asked to give up their spots on the couch for me. Not by me, you understand. Remember, I'm too proud to ask anyone to do that. :) While I appreciate their willingness to let me sit there, I felt bad about it. I went back to work full day on Tuesday (forgetting the lesson about patience), and began to drag a chair to my morning duty spot. The teacher who does that duty with me asked if he could get that for me. I seriously thought about telling him that I was good, that I could get it. But I didn't. I let him carry it.

I think one of the problems with the Church here in the United States is our individualistic mindset. We have bought into the American ideal of the tough, independent loner, who doesn't need any help. Over the years, the idea has developed that salvation is strictly an individual, personal thing. Along with the fear of being judged if we drop our masks and admit our need, those things have produced a Church that is disjointed and week. This is a far cry from the picture we find in the New Testament of the Church as a body.

The past two weeks have taught me how important each part is in the function of the physical body. In the church, we also need each part. Everyone is important to the function of the body.
I've also learned that it's okay to ask for help, that no one is going to think any less of me if I can't do certain things by myself (at least no one who matters). It's not an easy lesson to learn, and I'll probably have to be reminded more than a few times.

We need each other. Jesus said that the world will know that we are his disciples by our love for each other. It is hard for that love to happen if we continue to try and convince ourselves, and others, that we can go it alone. Let us consider how we can meet the needs of those around us, as well as let our own needs be known.

Friday, March 5, 2010

TGIF

Another week has come and gone. February has finally gone the way of all months, and March has announced its arrival with a snowstorm on the second day. The extended forecast here in the sunny South is for warmer temperatures. We may even see the sun a bit more. I'm continuing to recover from my surgery.

And now, the links of the week:

Provocative thoughts from Dan Edelen.
Jesus statues.
Faith through the pain.
Definitely a casual service.

Check this out!
Non-negotiables from Jared Wilson.
Time to man up.
Bob Hyatt is not done with church.

Scot McKnight on legalism. Part 1 is here.
Scot McKnight reviews Brian McLaren's new book.
Just in case you find yourself in a Baptist church.
The Gospel Groove workout.

Marvelous Milly.
Anyone want to buy me one of these? (HT: Kansas Bob)
Should pastors/elders be paid a salary?
This is interesting.
Would folks ask this question of us?

I hope your weekend is great!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

World Vision Wednesday

While it hasn't drawn as much attention as the disaster in Haiti, the earthquake in Chile over the weekend has been as devastating to those affected by it. World Vision is serving the people in Chile. You can read more here.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Lessons Learned During Recovery

I'm not exactly a patient person. In some situations I can be, but when it comes to going places and doing things, I want it done right now. In my track days I was a sprinter, and I still have to remind myself to not be in such a hurry when I'm driving somewhere.

Last week, things came to a screeching halt. After spending a couple of hours in surgery, and a few more in recovery, I was wheeled to a room for the night. When you're in the hospital recovering from surgery, you can not be in a hurry. The schedule doesn't revolve around you, so a good bit of the time is spent waiting. Waiting for something to drink, waiting for medicine, waiting for the nurse to change the IV bag so it stops beeping. And of course, waiting all day for the surgeon to see you and release you to go home. Add to that, 30 minutes waiting for a wheelchair to take you to the car.

After getting out of the truck at home, it was then my responsibility to get myself around, with help from Jan. So, I hopped out of the truck, and ran up to the front door. Wrong! On the old Carol Burnette Show, Tim Conway played a character. He was a little old man who moved excruciatingly slow, to great laughter. That was me, only there was no laughter. It wasn't a matter of putting one foot in front of the other. It was a matter of putting one foot slightly ahead of the other, until we eventually reached the front door.

Everything has been slow ever since. Sitting down, laying down, getting up, walking, showering, dressing have all been at a pace that would make a dawdling child proud. I've been back at work for two days, and everything I do there is in slow motion. I spend a lot of time sitting in one place, and any movement must be done slowly. Thankfully, our dog has understood, and hasn't been as playful with me as he usually is.

This week has given me a lot of time to read and reflect. It's good to do that from time to time. Our lives get filled up with so much activity. We rush from place to place, from event to event. Our relationships with other people get crowded out, or simply left in the dust as we rush down the road. It's easy for us to let our relationship with God fall victim to the hustle and bustle of our day-to-day. We give the Father a few hurried minutes in the morning, or a tired nod in the evening. We go through the day checking things off our to-do list, sometimes even including God.

We forget that we have a relationship with the Father. Any relationship suffers when either party hurries too quickly through life and leaves the other behind. Jesus called his disciples to coma apart and rest. The three years they spent together were at a pace that would drive most of us crazy. The idea was for the disciples to just be with Jesus. Through spending time with the Master, they would learn his teachings,and would learn to be like him.

Sometimes we need to "be still" and simply know that God is God. That's hard to do, unless something happens, like surgery, to slow us down. Living a life that is in tune to the rhythms of the Father, rather than the noise of the world around us goes against what we are told by that world. Sometimes it even is contrary to what we are told in the church. It is counter-cultural, but that is what we are called to be.

In a couple of weeks, when I have recovered to the point where I can get around normally, I hope I remember to take things a bit slower, being sensitive to the Spirit.

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...