Tuesday, August 31, 2010

There's a Fourth Question?

Last week, we looked at three questions that Jesus asked people. Those questions are here, here, and here. On Sunday we asked a fourth question: What does Jesus say about us? Here is my answer.

You are forgiven. You are restored. Your sins are gone, as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). You are clean. You have been given a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

When the Father looks at you he sees a new creation. He sees a son, a co-heir with Christ to everything he has. The Father sees an individual who he loves, and he is pleased with you. Even though you are a human being who blows it from time to time, the Father knows that the work he has begun in you will be completed. He sees someone who is good, and who is being filled more and more with the Spirit.

Don't let anyone, whether they are a relative, friend, enemy, or preacher, tell you that you are bad, that God is disappointed with you, that you have to try harder to get back in his good graces. You are more than just a "sinner saved by grace." You are a beloved son of the Creator. God's grace is far bigger than your sin. There is nothing you can do to to make him love you any more, and it is impossible for you to cause him to love you any less. As Paul says in Romans 8:30, you are called, you are justified, you are glorified.

Rest in God's grace. Soak in his love. Trust that Jesus is enough. You are a beloved child of the Almighty God. Walk in that reality.

Monday, August 30, 2010

And Now For Something Completely Different

I'm going to do something a bit different, and post some things I've written in the past. I'll do this on Mondays for a while. Enjoy.

In The Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan Manning quotes M. Basil Pennington on prayer. I'm posting that quote here. There is no need for me to comment.

"A father is delighted when his little one, leaving off her toys and friends, runs to him and climbs into his arms. As he holds his little one close to him, he cares little whether the child is looking around, her attention flitting from one thing to another, or just settling down to sleep. Essentially the child is choosing to be with her father, confident of the love, the care, the security that is hers in those arms. Our prayer is much like that. We settle down in our Father's arms, in his loving hands. Our mind, our thoughts, our imagination may flit about here and there; we might even fall asleep; but essentially we are choosing for this time to remain intimately with our Father, giving ourselves to him, receiving his love and care, letting him enjoy us as he will. It is very simple prayer. It is very childlike prayer. It is prayer that opens us out to all the delights of the kingdom."

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Questions From Jesus 3

We've been looking at three questions that Jesus asked during the course of his time here on earth. The first question was, "Who do you say that I am?" The second was, "What do you want me to do for you?" The third question that we want to consider is, "Do you want to get well?"

This is the question that Jesus asked the man who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. At first glance it seems silly, asking an invalid who is waiting to get into the healing waters of the Pool of Bethesda. Of course he wants to get well! Who wouldn't? I think it's interesting that the man didn't answer in the affirmative. He told Jesus that there was no one to help him into the water so he could get healed. There are a couple of ways to look at his answer. I have heard preachers say that he was making an excuse, and blaming his lack of healing on others. These were usually during sermons that were in the "things you can do" genre. When Jan and I were talking about this, she said that maybe he didn't realize there was a way to healing other than going into the water. Jesus, the Healer, was standing next to the man, but he didn't recognize him. I think Jan is on to something there.

It is true that sometimes we say we want to be healed, but we don't want to go through the process of healing. In The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis tells of a Ghost who refuses to let an Angel kill the reptile on his shoulder because it would hurt too much. Sometimes being made well is a painful process, and sometimes we think it's easier to live with the brokenness than to go through something that may bring pain, but that will ultimately bring healing and wholeness.

Sometimes, we don't recognize the source of our healing. We look at all the things we think can make us whole. Things like relationships, alcohol or drugs, church activities, work, vacations, or any number of things. We don't recognize that the only one who can heal us is right there. Jesus is the Healer, he is the only one that can redeem our brokenness and make us whole.

If we truly want to get well, Jesus is the only one who is able to heal and make us whole. There may be pain involved, but sometimes healing takes a bit of pain. It's like a doctor cleaning a wound with something that stings. It may hurt for a while, but the end result is worth it.

Do you want to get well?

Friday, August 27, 2010

TGIF

Another week has come and gone. It's been cool here in the sunny South, but the temperatures are supposed to climb the middle of next week. The school year is in full swing. But, what you're really interested in are the links. It's all about the links.

So, here they are:

This is an amazing story.
Power and love.
Good question.
This is good.
Donald Miller on the Bible and Americans.
The small god of modern evangelicalism.

Tim Hill on outsourcing.
Jared Wilson on spiritual greed.
David vs. the rich young ruler.
Atheist's hymnal.
Dan Allen on giving to God.
Art or advertisements?

More schools need this.
It's unbelievable, and sad, that this was needed.
Alan Knox asks, "Will you 'stop'?"
We need more than a map.
Hope in the midst of decline.
Fast food facts (HT: Scot McKnight).

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

World Vision Wednesday

The recent flooding in Pakistan has been described as "a slow motion tsunami," and so far has affected 20 million people. Aid does not seem to be coming in very fast. A texting campaign to raise money has fallen far short of a similar campaign for Haiti in the wake of the devastating earthquake. There is a tremendous need in Pakistan. To find out more, go to the World Vision home page.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Questions From Jesus 2

The second question we're asking ourselves at St. Thomas is the one Jesus asked Bartimaeus, "What do you want me to do for you?" The answer that day was, "Rabbi, I want to see."

There are many answers that are given today. Some want Jesus to make them wealthy, or healthy. Some want Jesus to save them and take them to heaven when they die, without getting too involved in their lives. Some want him to end poverty and bring justice to earth. Others want him to punish their enemies. Some of us say that we are above the pettiness of the others, and that we "just want to be like Jesus." Of course, what that means may differ from person to person.

When I think about the question, I wonder. What do I really want Jesus to do for me? I could give the stock answer with plenty of proof texts, but I don't want to do that. I want to, as much as it is possible, answer as one who, like Bartimaeus knows how needy I am. I want to answer honestly, so that means I'm going to have to think a bit.

Who knows? Maybe the answer to the first question will inform the answer to the second, or vice versa.

What do you want Jesus to do for you?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Questions From Jesus

This morning in our gathering, we were talking about some of the questions that Jesus asked during his time on earth. There are three in particular that we are going to attempt to answer as individuals and as a body.

The first question is, "Who do you say that I am?" When Jesus asked his disciples this question, Peter gave the famous answer that the Church is built upon. He said, "You are the Messiah, the son of the living God." Jesus commended him for this answer and declared that it was revealed to him from God. Not long after this, Jesus was calling Peter, "Satan" for declaring that Jesus was not going to die. Even though Peter made a great declaration of faith, he didn't totally understand all that went into that statement. He wasn't thinking of a Messiah that would submit and die. He was still looking for a King that would defeat the pagan Romans and restore the glory of Israel.

Things haven't changed that much since the first century. We make the same declaration, yet we usually don't understand everything that means. We tell people that Jesus is Savior, or that Jesus is Lord. But, do we really live like that is true? Do we really get it?

As we attempt to answer the three questions, we are going to try and do it without resorting to the stock answers we've heard all our lives. We're not even allowed to use Peter's answer. :) It will be interesting.

Who do you say that Jesus is?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Community Happenings

One of our goals at St. Thomas is to get to know each other, in order to grow together as a body and be able to build each other up. We can't do that by meeting only on Sunday morning, so we have been getting together at other times. About two weeks ago we gathered at a house and spent a few hours together, eating and drinking, and telling each other a little bit of our stories. We talked about the earliest age at which we remember being wounded in spirit. It was eye opening and I think it gave us all some understanding of where each of us is coming from and how those early experiences have shaped us.

A couple of nights ago, a few of us gathered at our house to hear one of our number and her daughter tell us about a recent trip to Europe. They showed pictures they had taken and told us about their travels. It was more than just a record of places visited though, as they shared how God had traveled with them and had spoken through their experiences, and how that continues to strengthen their faith. It was a good time of fellowship.

Some would say that what happened those two nights was not church, that it was, at best, a small group meeting. I firmly believe that the church was gathered together, and as we gathered, we mutually built each other up and grew closer as members of one another. We didn't sing any songs, listen to a sermon, or take up an offering.

But it was church. It was church.

Friday, August 20, 2010

TGIF

The first (short) week of school is in the books. So far, it looks like it may be a pretty good year. I'm going to be working more one-on-one with some students, so hopefully I'll be able to be more of a help to them. Football season begins tonight for the local high schools, and a couple of them should do very well this year.

Here is the good stuff:

When Josh drove across the country and back last year, he wrote about his travels on his blog and took a lot of pictures. He has taken some of those writings and pictures and published a book. The title is Summer School: A Record of Miles Traveled, Things Seen, and a Self Found. I know my opinion might be slightly biased, but I think it's good. You can check it out here.

Jeff McQ on transitions, tabernacles and timing.
Diane Nienhuis prayed to lose her job.
Just in time for college football season.
Todd Hiestand asks, "Do we have to spend money to have fun?"

The Merry Monk wants God to bless you.
Tim Hill on awareness.
Chaplain Mike says, "Take cover!"
God talk is dangerous (HT: internetmonk).

Scot McKnight asks, "What's happening with Christian Music?"
This makes me feel old.
Jared Wilson on the 3 best words.
Dan Allen on Acts and Romans and the Good News.

A good post from Jonathan Brink.
Bringing the leather.
Alan Knox on the Sunday thing.
Funny literal video.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

World Vision Wednesday

The Hole In Our Gospel by Richard Stearns has been named 2010 Christian Book of the Year by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. There is now a six week study titled The Hole In Our Gospel: Six Week Quest, that can be purchased for small group or churchwide study.

Friday, August 13, 2010

TGIF

Summer is in its final weeks here in the sunny South. The teachers are back in school here, and the students come back next week. The temperature is even starting to cool down a bit and the football teams are ready to begin the season.

On to the links:

Transitions.
The perils of Hipster Christianity.
Random acts of kindness.
What about "being holy?"

Labels.
Do you want to be the best?
Dog in a box.
The pattern of worship.
Jason Boyette on Harold Camping.

Scot McKnight has a series on the future of evangelicalism. Part 1.
This is grace.
Wow. Just wow (HT: Scot McKnight).
When Christians get it wrong.

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

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Fresh Set of Footprints

A few years ago Melvin Bray wrote this piece that was published in theooze.com. It's titled "Footprints...A Brand New Dance." Enjoy.

One night I had a dream. It was a strange dream because although I was in it, I could at the same time see myself and Jesus walking down an uncertain road leading just over the horizon. As I stood astonished, looking at myself, I noticed that I looked winded as I walked along, barely catching my breath. Curious as to why, I took my eyes off the walkers and peered back down the way from whence they had come.

The sight that met my eyes is quite difficult to describe. From where I stood the ground dropped back steep down a jagged path. The drop was so great and sheer that it made my stomach queasy just looking. I staggered, stumbled and would have fallen if my guide had not reached out to steady me.

I gained my composure and looked closer at the path Jesus and I had taken. The ground was loose like gravel, and I wondered how one could have kept his footing. Not to mention there were mud puddles and brier patches along the way and low hanging limbs that feign reached out to offer a hand but looked as if they would snap under the slightest weight. The ground was so moist I could see the footprints we had left along our journey. For most of the way Jesus’ footprints went along steady, sure, consistent (I could tell they were His by their size). Mine, on the other hand, zigzagged, stopped, back-peddled and even turned around on occasion.




As we went along my ability to follow His lead appeared to improve, which was a good thing because it was just about then that the path narrowed and the road steepened. To add to the perils of our path the rocks perched high above seemed to rain down sporadically. For a while I could barely discern my footsteps because they overlay His. Where He stepped, I stepped in sync on up the mountain, until it seemed the road grew most treacherous at which point it appeared that my steps were all over the place. There were starts and stops and circles and deep gashes every which way in the soft earth. I wondered, "What could I have been doing?"

It was then that I turned to my guide to satisfy my wonder. “What on earth happened?” I asked. “We were getting along pretty well—I was growing in Him, as well I should—then it looks like I lost my mind. And it looks as if I would have killed us both if He hadn’t regained control.”

My Guide looked at me and said, “Don’t be deceived by what your eyes think they see or what your head thinks it knows about the way our journey should unfold. As long as I am with you, I am always in control. Speak to your heart; it knows the truth. Did ever you desire anything other than to walk with me? Then don’t think it strange that sometimes the Way leads off the usual path. What happened, you ask, when our steps seem uncertain? It was there we DANCED!”

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

World Vision Wednesday

Many of the minerals used in electronics and cell phones come from the Democratic Republic of Congo and surrounding countries. Unfortunately a large portion of the money paid for these minerals goes to fund violence between competing factions in the DRC.

Congress, at the urging of World Vision and other organizations, has taken an important step toward making electronic products "conflict free." Go here to find out more.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Lessons From Easy Rider

The other night we watched Easy Rider. Even though the film has been out for 41 years, it was the first time any of us had seen it. As we watched, Jan and I were both struck by the idea of freedom, although in slightly different ways.

Jan saw the characters as people looking for freedom. Wyatt (Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper) traveled across America free to do whatever they wished. The folks at the commune wanted to be free to live off the land as they saw fit. George (Jack Nicholson) saw traveling with Wyatt and Billy as a chance for freedom. What Jan said is that while they were looking for freedom, or thought that they were free, all of them were bound by something. I think that's true. All of the characters were bound, by drugs, prostitution, prejudice, the weather, or the actions of others. That's true in real life as well. People are bound by any number of things. As Jan said, everyone who is outside of Christ is bound by sin. Only in Jesus do we have freedom.

That brings me to my thoughts as we watched the film. There was a section where George talks about freedom:

"They're scared of what you represent to them....

What you represent to them is freedom....

But talking about and being it, that's two different things.

Don't tell anybody that they're not free, because they'll get busy killing and maiming to prove to you that they are. They're going to talk to you and talk to you about individual freedom. But, they see a free individual, it's going to scare them. Well, it don't make them running scared. It makes them dangerous."

There are a lot of churches that loudly proclaim grace and freedom. "By grace are you saved" is a common theme. Some put grace in their name. They will tell you that they are all about grace and freedom. If you take a closer look, however, you will notice that the folks in those churches are like the characters in Easy Rider. They are bound. Bound by the expectations of others, by their pursuit of the American Dream. Bound by rules handed down from the pastor or group of leaders. Bound by a system of theology or a tradition of worship. Bound by guilt or prejudice. Just don't tell them that they are not free or let them see an individual who is living free in God's grace. That's when they become dangerous.

People who try to truly live in freedom are looked upon as "backsliders." They are "lawless" and "they need to get right with God." They are removed from leadership roles, or expelled from institutions. People who live in freedom are ostracized. Some are even branded as "heretics," and are denounced in writing or on blogs. Christians are scared of grace and of the freedom that we have because of grace. It's nothing new. Paul was accused of promoting lawlessness because he preached grace.

I think we are scared of freedom because freedom is a dangerous thing. It causes us to rely completely on the Holy Spirit to guide us, rather than a law handed down from an authority figure. If we live in freedom we have to think, and we have to be willing to make mistakes and then own up to those mistakes. We even have to be willing to sin. Yes, I said that we even have to be willing to sin. Face it, we are going to sin. Instead of trying to hide it and pretend we don't, we should own up to it. We shouldn't live our lives constantly looking around for some sin to jump out from the shadows and attack us. We shouldn't go through our day worrying about avoiding sin. We should flee temptation when it presents itself, but we shouldn't be anxious about it.

We are called to live in freedom. Christ has fulfilled the law, and it is for freedom that he has set us free. Learn from Jesus. Let his Spirit fill you and teach you. As you grow more and more in the grace of God through Jesus, and let Christ live through you, the more you'll be able to live in grace, and the more you will be truly free.

You might be scary to some. But, that's a good thing.

Friday, August 6, 2010

TGIF

This has been a good week. We went up to Morgantown, WV to spend a few days with Jan's sister and her husband. Wednesday and today, I mowed the yard. I hadn't mowed since July 2 and it has only been in the last week and a half that the grass has grown. Yesterday, I volunteered at the World Vision table at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit. It was interesting, and I realized how far I have come from the attractional church model with the pastor as CEO. I still came away with a few good thoughts.

And now, here are the links:

Human trafficking does not just happen overseas.
The spark.
Speaking the language.
Is evangelism a dirty word?
Needing Jesus... and his followers.
The Merry Monk is editing his life.

What's in a name?
The terror of faith.
Jake Belder says we don't know how to feel any more.
Jason Boyette rants.
Dan Allen on unity.
Scot McKnight continues to imagine. Part 6.

Love believes all things.
Thinking outside the treasure box.
Get chopping.
Christ followers underground.
There is more than one way to forsake meeting together.
A history of Christian Hipster music (HT: Scot McKnight).

Enjoy your weekend.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

World Vision Wednesday

Niger is on of the poorest nations in the world. If that isn't bad enough, the country is facing its worst food crisis in years, due to severe drought conditions. World Vision is working to feed a number of severely malnourished children. Go here to learn more.

Weelend Wanderings

The first weekend links post of autumn is here! The weather is beautiful here in the sunny South. It was fifty degrees on our back porch thi...