Saturday, October 30, 2010

Fear

I'm sitting in my living room, watching the Restore Sanity and/or Fear rally with John Stewart and Stephen Colbert. There is a lot of funny stuff going on, but in the midst of the fun and games, there is a message that rings true and seems to be very appropriate this weekend. One of the things Colbert and Stewart are going back and forth about is fear. Colbert rants about fear, and Stewart tries to counter him. There were many media examples of things that we should fear, from both ends of the political spectrum. Most of the fears are overblown, and only serve to stir people up.

The reason I think the timing of this rally is appropriate is that this is the weekend that many in the church fear the most: The "Devil's holiday," otherwise known as Halloween. It is also the time of year when productions like "Helloween" and "Judgement House" use fear as a means of evangelism. The month of October, especially the last week, is the most terrifying month on the church calendar. Many Christians try to avoid Halloween completely, sitting in the basement and pretending they are not home. Their kids are not allowed to participate in the festivities. Others gather together and have celebrations with others because they want their kids to be able to dress up and get candy. These gatherings have names like "Trunk or Treat," or "Harvest Festival," and are attempts to Christianize what they see as a pagan holiday. When our children were growing up, we were in that second category.

I believe that we should all live according to our convictions, but those convictions should not be based in fear. In this article that I linked to yesterday, the author states that the celebration of All Saints began in the 300s, and that the date of November 1 and the night before was fixed on the church calendar in the 700s. The idea of celebrating the saints came about as a way of saying that Satan and death do not have the last word. The saints are alive. The author makes the point that the church has looked for ways to mock Satan throughout the centuries, including picturing him in a red suit with a tail. From gargoyles on churches to Martin Luther choosing October 31 as the day when he nailed his 95 Theses to the church door, the Christians have chosen to mock Satan rather than cower in fear. And he should be mocked, because he has been defeated.

I know that Scripture says that the Devil roams around like a lion, looking for folks to devour, but I think that means something other than living in fear because some people claim evil stalks the land at the end of October. There are more important things to be concerned about, and their are many other ways Satan tries to steal, kill, and destroy. He is alive and active in this world, but Scripture does tell us that the One who is in us is greater. Satan and his greatest weapon, death, is defeated because Jesus was raised from the dead. We are not given a spirit of fear, but rather, a spirit that calls God Abba. If the creator of the universe is our Father, should we fear anything? I think not.

So, go out and celebrate Halloween. Or not. Whatever you choose to do, do it out of conviction that is based on faith in a God who is all powerful, not a feeling of fear.

Friday, October 29, 2010

TGIF

It's been a stormy week. Severe thunderstorms and tornadoes across the country, and of course all the campaign ads. I, for one, will be glad when the voting is done and the ads are no more, at least for a while. The fall leaves are beautiful here, and it's almost time to bring the plants in from the back porch.

On to the good stuff:

I don't know if I want one of these or not.
I wish I had read this when my kids were young.
This is funny.
I really like this.
These are some guidelines for Halloween.
Some think that Lost should have ended like this.

The church is a who?
In defense of women.
Faith can be found, but not forced.
If Jesus were a candidate.
Old is new again (HT: Josh).
Do Christians contribute to society?
Take the God test.

Art, beauty, and craftsmanship.
A conversation we must have.
Profoundly human.
Where children learn they matter.
Superhero or thorn?
With great power comes great responsibility.
The art of glory (HT: Scot McKnight).

Enjoy your weekend. Don't take any tainted candy. :)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

World Vision Wednesday

As Haiti continues the struggle to rebuild, another blow comes along in the form of Cholera. The outbreak of this disease is hampering relief efforts. To donate to the work of World Vision in Haiti, go here.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Back Roads

This is something I wrote a little over four years ago. It still is true.

I love back roads. When I travel, I would rather take back roads than the interstate any day. I enjoy seeing what lies in those places that most people just zoom by in their hurry to get to their destination. I like exploring and am usually willing to go out of my way to see what I can see.

What is interesting (to me anyway) is that my journey following Jesus seems to be taking me on the back roads. I know people who knew right from a young age what God was going to have them do. I thought I knew, at least in my senior year of high school. One year of Bible college, then two years learning the printing trade. One year turned into five, a youth ministry emphasis turned into a teaching and coaching gig at a Christian school, where I met my wife. After leaving that school, the plans were to get a job in the federal government. Of course, that was the time when the government had a hiring freeze. One year, a son, and a low paying job later, God told us it was time to go someplace else.

A move to Cincinnati brought further adventures. The twelve years we spent there brought a daughter, success in coaching, another job loss, and more education (both formal and informal). After some difficult times the Lord moved us again. This time to Rock Hill, SC.

The place God put us in was in a Christian school where I had applied for a job seventeen years earlier. During my time there I learned how to coach some different sports and how to teach some different subjects. All along God was taking me down some spiritual paths that I had never explored before. I also had the privilege of coaching both son and daughter and watching them grow up. Then, God decided it was time to take another back road.

After leaving that school, I was sure that the road was going to lead to the fulfillment of a long-time dream. I found out that road was closed, and I had to take a detour. The road God put me on led out into the desert, to a dry and empty place where He could teach me more of the things he had already started. After wandering around for a while, I stopped and settled in for what looked like a long stay. The desert school turned out to be sometimes hard, sometimes boring, sometimes frustrating. It was a one-to-one teacher to student ratio, and I had the full attention of my Rabbi. I learned that many of the things I had been taught were not right, that many of my ideas and presuppositions needed to be scrapped. I learned what is really important, what is really essential to following Jesus. I became a disciple of my Rabbi, and finally understood what a disciple really is. Finally it was time to leave the desert.

My journey is still taking twists and turns. But I'm finding out that, even though it may be hard and frustrating at times, I am enjoying exploring some of the back roads and trails that Jesus leads me on. Sometimes I lag behind, sometimes I try to run ahead. But, I am learning that the best way is to follow the Rabbi so closely that I am covered with the dust from His feet. Life is an adventure.

May God bless you on your journey.

Friday, October 22, 2010

TGIF

It's getting cooler here in the sunny South. The temperature tonight is supposed to fall into the 30s, with a freeze warning in the mountains. I have a four day weekend, so Jan and I are going into the mountains on Monday to catch some of the fall colors. Should be nice.

Here are the links:

Jeff Dunn's little light.
Jeff's safe place.
Dan Edelen's sniff test.
The Merry Monk's home.

Al Lindskoog's passion is grace.
Scot McKnight's next book.
Jim Wallis' article on the election season.
Alan Knox hits number 2500.

Crossroads, clowns, credibility.
Are you a demographic? Jeff McQ evidently is.
Money versus wealth.
I don't know how SI could leave out Walt Frazier and Bill Walton (HT: Scot McKnight)

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

World Vision Wednesday

Ten years ago, the Millennium Development Goals were established. The aim was to cut extreme poverty in half by 2015. With five years to go, will the goals be reached?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Praying

Here's another blast from the past:

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

Friday, October 15, 2010

TGIF

It has been a good week here in the sunny South. It actually rained yesterday, for about five minutes. Jennie has come in from the left coast for a few days. It's good to see her, and we'll have a good weekend together.

Here are the links for this week:

John Armstrong has a good series on postmodernism and the Christian. Part 1 is here.
Ronnie McBrayer has some good thoughts about the future.
Jeff McQuilken on passion.Michael D. Bobo writes about humor.
Todd Hiestand gives a benediction.

Bill has another funny.
Dan Allen on worship.
Alan Knox asks who is qualified.
Jonathan Brink is wrestling with beauty.

TSK asks for transparency in clean water fund raising.
Dr. Terry Dorsett on challenges of bivocational ministry.
Mark Scandrette writes a fable.

Donald Miller on projecting an identity.
Chaplain Mike writes about the life God is in.
Jake Belder on wine at the Lord's table.
Scot McKnight has a series titled "Creation Untamed." Part 1 is here.
Allan Bevere has a series on the faith of America's founders. Part 1 (HT: Scot McKnight).

Have a great fall weekend.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

World Vision Wednesday

The Child Protection Compact Act has passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. For more about this important legislation go here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Beautiful Thing

This past Saturday, I saw a beautiful example of the Body of Christ in action. Jan and I went to a fundraiser for a young woman who had been terribly injured in an automobile accident a few months ago. There were numerous things that brought home the fact that those who follow Jesus are one body.

The fundraiser was sponsored and put on by two of the larger churches in our town, one Presbyterian and one Baptist. There was at least one other congregation that donated an item for a silent auction. People came to the festival from different faith backgrounds because they knew the young woman and her family through social contacts, or because they worked on something together. We met people there who knew people who knew people, and we saw folks we hadn't seen in awhile who were connected with us and with the family. Jan and I knew the woman's husband because we both had taught him in Maryland some thirty years ago, and he had recently moved to the town where we live. There are folks all over praying for this family because of the network of connections that has grown up. It shows a bit of the unity of those who belong to Christ.

Imagine what would happen if we realized our unity in Christ all the time.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Change is Coming

Change is coming
You can hide from it
You can try to ignore it
You can fight it
You can preach against it
You can try to control it
Or
You can welcome it
You can embrace it
You can learn from it
You can ride it
You can grow from it
But,
You can't stop it
Change is coming
Change is here.

Friday, October 8, 2010

TGIF

Is anyone else getting tired of all the political ads? I listen to one candidate running down the other, and vice versa, and of course neither side is telling the whole story. It seems everyone wants you to vote against something, rather than for something. When we lived in Cincinnati, there was a radio host who would "blow up" all the political radio ads the day after the election. I always enjoyed that.

Anyway, here is a taste of the good stuff from the week:

In this case, silence is not golden.
Donald Miller on meaning.
Why is faith so hard?
Some good quotes.
Is spiritual covering scriptural?
Definitely a karaoke fail.
Worldly lifestyles or Christian freedom?

Don't define your neighbor.
Sinner!
Poverty is a perception.
Discipleship on Christ's terms.
The radical center.
This is funny.
Leading by manipulating?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

World Vision Wednesday

More than 13,000 children will die today because of hunger, while Americans will spend almost 1 billion dollars today on eating out. Check this out for a way to help those in need.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Learning

This is something I wrote a few years ago.

I was there
I knew the truth

Then you decided I had more to learn

At first it was easy
The new things were "positive" and encouraging

Then you decided I had still more to learn

Then it was hard

The new things were "negative" and discouraging

Hours of solitude and inactivity
Silence from heaven

I was in the desert
Waiting and waiting. Waiting and wondering

When will it end?
How long will I be out here?

Faith had been mine
But faith was misplaced

My faith was in what you would do
And you didn't do

What is going on here?
Why isn't this working?

You finally spoke
You told me to be patient

You sent me teachers
Those who had traveled the same path

I finally learned
To trust in you

Not in what you might do
But in you as you are

I departed the desert
But I left some things there

Just in case



Saturday, October 2, 2010

When Is Worship?

This morning, I passed a church with a sign that read, "Worship is Sunday, 11:00 AM." I guess that what they meant was that their Sunday service was at 11:00, so potential visitors would know when to show up. As usual, my thoughts went in a different direction.

I think there are many churches that would make the same statement, with the emphasis on the word is. They might not say it with words, but their actions speak loudly. For many Christians, worship is Sunday at 11. That is the event, what church is all about. How many times have you heard people say, "I go to church on Sunday to get refreshed and prepared for the week ahead." Now, it is true that the times we get together with our brothers and sisters in Christ should be refreshing. It is also true that times of teaching and encouragement are needed to enable us to live in this world. We in the body do need each other.

What I take issue with, is the idea that worship is only singing and praying, and that corporate worship only happens when the church gets together in a certain place at a certain time. I believe that worship (declaring the worthiness of God) can happen any place, at any time, and in anything we do. When our community gathers on Sunday morning, that is worship. When we meet at someone's house, and eat together, listening to, and encouraging each other, that is worship. When some of us help one of our number with yard work, or serve meals at a homeless shelter, that...you guessed it. Worship. For the follower of Jesus, all of life is to be worship to the One who gave his life for us. As the Apostle Paul says, eating, drinking, and everything else is to be done for the glory of God.

So, gather with other followers of Jesus tomorrow. Sing praises to God, and be taught. Just remember that there are six more days in the week to gather together and build each other up, six more days to love God by loving others.

Worship is 24/7.

Friday, October 1, 2010

TGIF

We finally got rain here in the sunny South, after about a month and a half of dry weather. The liquid sunshine came down Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday. The grass is turning back to its regular green color and is growing again. Of course, that means mowing. I hope I still remember how.

There's a lot of good people writing a lot of good stuff out there. Here is a sampling:

Dan Edelen says we should bury the Proverbs 31 woman.
Al says that diversity is the key to adversity.
Chaplain Mike admits that he doesn't get it.
Jake Belder doesn't like the Gospel vs. religion distinction.
Richard Dahlstrom on the political problem of two kingdoms.
Tim Hill on shelf life.
Jared Wilson gives his 10 reasons for the institutional church.
Jordan Cooper gives his thoughts on church.
Scot McKnight has a good series on hell. Part 1 is here.

Saved in the nick of time.
Kill the spirit of fear.
Learning or winning?
Imitation as flattery.
Don't be religious.
I want one of these.

I'm looking forward to a restful weekend. Monday is Jan's birthday, so if you know her, please
wish her a happy one.

Have a great weekend.

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...