Friday, April 30, 2010

TGIF

It's Friday already! This week has just zipped by. I spent today touring a university with a group of eighth graders. I always enjoy being on college campuses, and this was a nearby school that I had not previously visited. Tomorrow is the running of the Kentucky Derby. I usually don't watch horse racing, but the three races of the Triple Crown capture my attention every year. I wonder if this year will bring a Triple Crown winner. Maybe.

Here is the good stuff:

Are we missing something?
Something in my size?
Dallas Willard on atonement. (HT: Brian McLaren)
Asking the radical questions.
Church on the Boardwalk.
When you don't like what the government does.

Good words from John Bunyan.
Church in a coffee shop. Good discussion in the comments.
Are we this honest?
Good words from Mark.
Do you own your successes?
Good question. How would you answer?

Scot McKnight continues his series on changing culture. Part 9.
Options and doubt.
Awful Christian T-shirts.
Is N.T. Wright dangerous?
Just hearing, or doing?
Convinced in our own minds.

Thanks for reading my blog. Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

World Vision Wednesday

In Nepal, World Vision has been working with the people there to develop organic farms. These farms are a way for families to provide food for themselves, and surplus to sell for income. You can read about one of these farms here.

Friday, April 23, 2010

TGIF

The trees here in the sunny South have all leafed out, so now the pollen comes from grasses and flowers. It doesn't leave a green-yellow dust on everything, but it still makes us sneeze. Soon it will get hot, and the schools will let out for the summer. There will be great rejoicing from the students...and teachers.


Here is the good stuff:


Toward a meaningful and generous faith.
It's OK. Good words.
An iMonk classic on the Kingdom of God.

Scot McKnight continues his series on changing culture. Part 4.
What the message of the Gospel is not.
For those who like to argue on the internet.

Teaching or just giving information?
Remembering our humanity.
There's just something about cowboy boots.
Good thoughts from Jeff McQ.

An Earth Day post.
How we hide.
Missional pizza.
Excellent post from Stuff Christians Like.

Thank you for reading my blog. Have a great weekend.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Pursuing the Virtuous Life

One of the things I learned during my days as a teacher in fundamentalist Christian education was the fact that many of America's founding fathers had lists of virtues or rules of behavior that were good things for the students to know and emulate. Ben Franklin had a list of thirteen, while George Washington had one hundred ten rules to follow. All in all the rules and lists are not bad things for people to check out and learn from. We obviously could use more civility and manners in today's society.

The problem comes when we try to make ourselves virtuous by following a list of rules. Ben Franklin realized that while he had become a better person in many ways, he had not reached the state of moral perfection that he hoped to attain. Many churches preach, and many people believe, that following the dictates of their church or a set of rules from a particular group will help you be "right with God." Many other churches who don't have a long list of "standards" still preach steps to be closer to God, or any number of things you can do to be a better Christian. This kind of thinking, while it may make life a bit better, is nothing more than man's attempt to do what only God can do.

What is forgotten in all the lists to follow is grace. Grace is the word that Christians use when they are talking about salvation. They are correct; we are saved by grace, not by anything we do. What is so often neglected is that we also live and grow by grace. As God's children, there is nothing we can do to make him love us less. We can not tear ourselves away from God's grace and love. It is also true that there is nothing we can do that will make God love us any more. We cannot add to the Father's grace and love toward us. I love my son and daughter unconditionally. They cannot do anything that is going to make me stop loving them, and they do not have to do anything to earn my love. So it is with God. He loves us, period.

As we learn to accept and rest in that love it grows in us and our love for God and for others grows. The way we grow in the Father's love is by spending time with him, seeing each day as an opportunity to be guided and shaped by the Spirit. We learn about the Father by looking at the Son, by immersing ourselves in the Gospels and seeing Jesus as he really is. The first disciples spent three years with the Master, eating and drinking with him , traveling with him, hearing his teachings and seeing how he lived those teachings out. After that, they were given the Holy Spirit and went out and turned the world upside down. We have the account of Jesus' life and teachings, and we have the same Holy Spirit to guide us and empower us to become like Jesus.

Our lives do not hang on man-made rules or anything else that comes from our own efforts. We can become better people, but the Father's goal is for us to become like Christ. That can only come from the grace of God working in our lives through the Spirit. It happens because God loves us. Rest in that love. Don't try to be a virtuous person. Instead, learn from Jesus and let the Spirit teach you. Trust in the fact that the Father is shaping you into the image of Jesus. As the old hymn says, "Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace."

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

World Vision Wednesday

The Action Summit to End Malaria is being held in Washington, D.C. today and tomorrow. Here you can read an account of what this devastating disease does.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Worship, or Something Else?

Christianity Today has an article about research that has been done that shows that taking certain hallucinogenic drugs can provide an experience that is similar or identical to religious experiences. Aside from jokes about staying home and just popping a pill to get a church experience, there are a couple of important implications of these findings.

Many churches work hard to provide a "worship experience" for their members and any visitors that may be attracted. The leaders strive to create an atmosphere that draws people into a sacred encounter with God. Things such as music, lighting, candles, incense, and structures can all be used to evoke a sense of awe and sacredness. My son, Josh is an architecture student and firmly believes that church buildings should be designed with that end in mind.

Some people go from conference to conference, from worship concert to worship concert. They continually look for a bigger, more meaningful experience. I can understand the feeling. I remember a few years ago I was at a conference where the music and singing was great, and I felt very let down during the service the next day at the church we were at. I think some of the excesses seen in some of the charismatic meetings led by Bentley and others is fueled by this desire for a bigger and better worship experience.

I have no problem with churches doing the best they can to create an atmosphere that helps people worship God. I enjoy a good band and good time singing. I'm one who likes low lighting, candles, incense, etc. I value times of silence, and times of call and response. I believe communities of faith should gather together for times of corporate worship.

What we need to be careful of is the danger of letting the "worship experience" become the the main thing. Whether it's in a Sunday morning church service, or a Saturday night concert put on by a renowned worship leader, some folks make it the center of their faith. It becomes all about the experience. Somehow the rest of life seems to just not be as important.

If our faith is nothing but times of "experiencing God" in between the normal events of life, then we really have nothing to offer those who do not know Jesus. There are many other religions that offer mystical, ecstatic experiences, including those that ingest mushrooms or other substances. If all we have is a way to have another experience, then we are really no different than anyone else. I know, we are experiencing the true God, while others aren't. Telling someone that we gather to worship the only true God isn't likely to convince them that what they worship isn't God.

When we place too much emphasis on the event, we do folks a disservice. When we neglect to teach them what it means to follow Jesus in the day-to-day, and give opportunities to live that out by interacting with each other through the week, we fall short. When we limit "discipleship" to a Sunday school class, or a small group, we fail.

Jesus didn't establish the Church as a place we go to, or as an event we attend. The Church is something we are 24-7. Discipleship is something that happens as we interact with our brothers and sisters in the trenches of daily life. Worship is what happens when we undertake every activity with the objective of loving and glorifying God. We show we follow the King of Kings by our love for each other and for those around us.

If the Holy Spirit leads us into a mystical experience with God, we can rejoice. That is not the thing we should be chasing after, and that is not going to be the case with most of us.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

TGIF

It's time once again for your favorite Friday post: TGIF! Well, at least it's my favorite of the post that I write on Fridays. :)

If there is such an entity as Mother Nature, she's really being a b**** lately. There's been another large earthquake, this time in China. The death toll is currently over 600 and is sure to climb in days to come. That makes at least the fifth large earthquake in the past three months. I don't know if this is far beyond normal or not. I am sure that some parts of the Church are positive that the end is very soon, maybe even before May, 2011. Regardless, please pray for those affected by all of the recent quakes.

Here are the links:


Jennie put a couple of videos together for the company she works for, here and here. It's amazing what cameras can do these days. (Yes, I am a proud father)
The apolitical old evangelical.
Holy ignorance.
Church buildings.

Alan Knox has a thought provoking post on unity.
Some of you might be able to use this post. I don't think it's something I have to deal with. :)
The Church beyond the Cross.
Donald Miller wants to tell you a story.
A house.

Everybody's broken.
An interesting way to use an old organ.
Our dangerous God.
Scot McKnight starts a series on changing culture.
A good question. (HT: Scot McKnight)

I hope you have a blessed weekend.

Thank you for reading my blog.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

World Vision Wednesday

It's been three months since Haiti was devastated by an earthquake. Along with many others, World Vision has been serving the people there since the disaster happened. Here you can read a report on what has been done in the last three months.

Friday, April 9, 2010

TGIF

This has been a sad week for many. Michael Spencer AKA the Internet Monk, passed away at the beginning of the week after suffering from cancer. He was an influential voice in Christianity, especially for those of us who are in what he called the "post-evangelical wilderness." Michael's heart was focused on Jesus Christ and the grace of God, and his writing reflected that passion. He will be missed here on earth. Continue to pray for the family.

Here are the links:

Rich's views on the current state of pop music.
Dream with her.
Pam asks, "What if...?"
The remedy.

Classic Keith Green.
Classic iMonk.
Recovering the beautiful.
Exploiting the Resurrection. (HT: Scot McKnight)
Living with liminality.

A cup o' joe, or...
This is pretty funny.
The Giving Tree.
Now here are seven steps to success I can agree with.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Seven Steps to Happiness

Just kidding. Did I get your attention? Actually, this post has nothing to do with any number of steps to anything. It's about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and what that means in our day-to-day.

A couple of days ago, I was reading a post by Keith Giles, titled "Risen?" I remember, while growing up in fundamental Baptist churches, hearing a lot about the death of Christ on the cross, but not a whole lot on the Resurrection. Resurrection was something reserved for the times the pastor preached on justification or why Christians worship on Sunday, or for Easter. The death of Christ is the loudest message that the church proclaims. Now, the death of Jesus on the Cross is essential. Because of the Cross, our sins are washed away and we are free. We must proclaim the Cross.

We forget however, that the death of Christ on the cross is only part of the Gospel. The rest of the story is that Jesus didn't remain dead. He walked out of that tomb, proving that he was indeed the Messiah. He defeated death, and began the restoration of all creation. As the Apostle Paul said, if Christ is not raised then our faith is useless. The Resurrection changes everything!

I wonder if one reason the death of Christ is the church's main message is the emphasis that is put on going to heaven, of life after death. In the circles I spent time in, everything was based on getting to go to heaven when you died. This life was seen as simply living according to the moral principles of whatever group you were a part of, keeping a "good testimony" so unbelievers would hear what we had to say, and staying "right with God." We were never taught that the Resurrection had any implications for life in the here and now.

If we believe that Jesus is raised from the dead, there are certain things that are true of us. We are raised with Christ. Death has been defeated. As N.T. Wright puts it, there is "life after life after death." We will live in a new creation, not just a disembodied state out there somewhere. We have the same power that raised Jesus from the dead at work in us. Let that sink in.

These things are not only in the future. They have begun. The Resurrection gives us the power to live as new creation now, in this life. The Resurrection means that God is restoring all things now, and that we get to be part of that restoration. Resurrection also means that the Kingdom has come. Jesus is Lord. That means that we live as citizens of the Kingdom of God right now, not just sometime in the distant future. Our allegiance is first and foremost to the King of Kings.

I don't know how all of this works out in the individual lives of followers of Jesus. There really are no steps to follow that will work for everyone. I've been thinking about what living in the Resurrection would look like in my life. I do know that I need to be more sensitive to the Holy Spirit's leading as I live in my day-to-day. I do know that I want to live as one who is risen with Christ, who is a subject of the King of Kings, who is part of the restoring of Creation.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

World Vision Wednesday

April 25 is World Malaria Day. For six things you can do to help fight malaria check this out.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Saturday, April 3, 2010

A New Morning

It was quite definitely early morning now, not late night.
"I'm so cold," said Lucy.
"So am I," said Susan. "Let's walk about a bit."
They walked to the eastern ridge of the hill and looked down. The one big star had almost disappeared. The country all looked dark gray, but beyond, at the very end of the world, the sea showed pale. The sky began to turn red. They walked to and fro more times than they could count between the dead Aslan and the eastern ridge, trying to keep warm, and oh, how tired their legs felt. Then at last, as they stood for a moment looking out toward the sea and Cair Paravel (which they could just now make out) the red turned to gold along the line where the sea and the sky met and very slowly up came the edge of the sun. At that moment they heard from behind them a loud noise--a great cracking, deafening noise as if a giant had cracked a giant's plate.
"What's that?" said Lucy, clutching Susan's arm.
"I--I feel afraid to turn round," said Susan; "something awful is happening."
"They're doing something worse to Him," said Lucy, "Come on!" And she turned, pulling Susan round with her.
The rising of the sun made everything look so different--all colors and shadows were changed--that for a moment they didn't see the important thing. Then they did. The Stone Table was broken into two pieces by a great crack that ran down it from end to end, and there was no Aslan.
"Oh, oh, oh!" cried the two girls, rushing back to the Table.
"Oh, it's too bad," sobbed Lucy; "they might have left the body alone."
"Who's done it?" cried Susan. "What does it mean? Is it more magic?"
"Yes!" said a great voice behind their backs. "It is more magic." They looked round. There, shining in the sunrise, larger than they had seen him before, shaking his mane (for it had apparently grown again) stood Aslan himself.
"Oh, Aslan!" cried both the children, staring up at him, almost as much frightened as they were glad.
"Aren't you dead then, dear Aslan?" said Lucy.
"Not now," said Aslan.
"You're not--not a--?" asked Susan in a shaky voice. She couldn't bring herself to say the word ghost. Aslan stooped his golden head and licked her forehead. The warmth of his breath and a rich sort of smell that seemed to hang about his hair came all over her.
"Do I look it?" he said.
"Oh, you're real, you're real! Oh Aslan!" cried Lucy, and both girls flung themselves upon him and covered him with kisses.
"But what does it all mean?" asked Susan when they were somewhat calmer.
"It means," said Aslan, "that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward."

C.S. Lewis: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Christ is risen!

Waiting

"How could this happen? How could we have been so wrong?"
"We believed the kingdom was going to be restored and those pagan dogs sent back to Rome where they belong. But this 'messiah' turned out to be just like all the others."
"Now here we are hiding from the priests and the Romans."
"Why didn't we fight back? What kind of wimps are we?"
"Fight back? Did you see how many men they had? Besides, Peter tried and he told him to put the sword away!"
"Well, I don't know about the rest of you, but as soon as all this mess dies down, I'm going back up to Galilee."
"Me too. Back to the old life. When the only thing we had to worry about was catching fish and fixing nets."
"Yeah. It's been an interesting three years, but I'm through with messiahs and kingdoms. Just give me my boat out on the water. As soon as I can, I'm getting out of here."
And so, they waited.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday

More from C.S. Lewis:

"Muzzle him!" said the Witch. And even now, as they worked about his face putting on the muzzle, one bite from his jaws would have cost two or three of them their hands. But he never moved. And this seemed to enrage all that rabble. Everyone was at him now. Those who had been afraid to come near him even after he was bound began to find their courage, and for a few minutes the two girls could not even see him--so thickly was he surrounded by the whole crowd of creatures kicking him, hitting him, spitting on him, jeering at him.
At last the rabble had had enough of this. They began to drag the bound and muzzled Lion to the Stone Table, some pulling and some pushing. He was so huge that even when they got him there it took all their efforts to hoist him onto the surface of it. Then there was more tying and tightening of cords.
"The cowards! The cowards!" sobbed Susan. "Are they still afraid of him, even now?"
When once Aslan had been tied (and tied so that he was really a mass of cords) on the flat stone, a hush fell on the crowd. Four Hags, holding four torches, stood at the corners of the Table. The Witch bared her arms as she had bared them the previous night when it had been Edmund instead of Aslan. Then she began to whet her knife. It looked to the children, when the gleam of the torchlight fell on it, as if the knife were made of stone, not of steel, and it was of a strange and evil shape.
At last she drew near. She stood by Aslan's head. Her face was working and twitching with passion, but his looked up at the sky, still quiet, neither angry nor afraid, but a little sad. Then, just before she gave the blow, she stooped down and said in a quivering voice,
"And now, who has won? Fool, did you think that by all this you would save the human traitor? Now I will kill you instead of him as our pact was and so the Deep Magic will be appeased. But when you are dead what will prevent me from killing him as well? And who will take him out my hand then? Understand that you have given me Narnia forever, you have lost your own life and you have not saved his. In that knowledge, despair and die."
The children did not see the actual moment of the killing. They couldn't bear to look and had covered their eyes.
While the two girls still crouched in the bushes with their hands over their faces, they heard the voice of the Witch calling out,
"Now! Follow me all and we will set about what remains of this war! It will not take us long to crush the human vermin and the traitors now that the great Fool, the great Cat, lies dead."

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Thursday

From The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe:

A howl and gibber of dismay went up from the creatures when they first saw the great Lion pacing towards them, and for a moment the Witch herself seemed to be struck with fear. Then she recovered herself and gave a wild, fierce laugh.
"The fool!" she cried. "The fool has come. Bind him fast."
Lucy and Susan held their breaths waiting for Aslan's roar and his spring upon his enemies. But it never came. Four hags, grinning and leering, yet also (at first) hanging back and half afraid of what they had to do, had approached him. "Bind him, I say!" repeated the White Witch. The hags made a dart at him and shrieked with triumph when they found that he made no resistance at all. Then others--evil dwarfs and apes--rushed in to help them and between them they rolled the huge Lion round on his back and tied all his four paws together, shouting and cheering as if they had done something brave, though, had the Lion chose, one of those paws could have been the death of them all. But he made no noise, even when the enemies, straining and tugging, pulled the cords so tight that they cut into his flesh. Then they began to drag him towards the Stone Table.
"Stop!" said the Witch. "Let him first be shaved."
Another roar of mean laughter went up from her followers as an ogre with a pair of shears came forward and squatted down by Aslan's head. Snip-snip-snip went the shears and masses of curling gold began to fall to the ground. Then the ogre stood back and the children, watching from their hiding-place, could see the face of Aslan looking all small and different without its mane. The enemies also saw the difference.
"Why, he's only a great cat after all!" cried one.
"Is that what we were afraid of?" said another.
And they surged round Aslan jeering him, saying things like "Puss, Puss! Poor Pussy." and "How many mice have you caught to-day, Cat?" and "Would you like a saucer of mill, Pussums?"
"Oh how can they?" said Lucy, tears streaming down her cheeks. "The brutes, the brutes!" for now that the first shock was over the shorn face of Aslan looked to her braver, and more beautiful, and more patient than ever.

Weekend Wanderings

I wasn't able to post any links last weekend because we were I Georgia with our son and daughter-in-law, who were waiting for the child ...