Saturday, February 26, 2011

Weekend Wanderings

The last full week of February is about over. March will begin on Tuesday, and the promise of warmer days is ahead, for everyone. It's been nice here in the sunny South, but I know that some other parts of the country are still dealing with Old Man Winter. It even snowed in Los Angeles today! It turns out that my problems from last week are digestive issues. Nothing major, but something I need to keep on top of.

On to the links:

Dr. Terry Dorsett writes another lesson from the Holy Land. This may be the best lesson yet.
Jeff Dunn on grace and freedom.

Jared Wilson on discontentment.
Alan Knox writes about theological sources.

Joshua Graves has an e-mail exchange with St. Matthew (HT: Scot McKnight)

Have a fantastic week.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Free!

I read a couple of posts this morning that started the wheels turning in my head (that's what the squeaking noise was). The first post was by Dan Edelen here, and the second was by Jeff Dunn and is found here.

As one who grew up and served in conservative Christian circles, I have constantly bumped against walls that were put up to keep us from engaging in certain behaviors, or to make us do other things. I've always been anti-legalism, and over the years cultivated an image as a bit of a rebel. Unfortunately, the image was many times driven by a desire to do what I wanted rather than what God wanted. I was more anti-legalism than pro grace.

I am learning that a reliance on God's grace and love is what should define my life. The posts mentioned above are part of that learning. I am learning that Romans 7:5-6, Galatians 2:19-21, and Colossians 2:20-23 are good passages to live by. I am learning that my Father loves me no matter what I do or don't do. I am learning that Jesus took away all my sins: past, present, and future. Not only that, but the power of sin has been broken by Christ.

Sin is no longer the defining force in my life. I still sin, but I also have a Savior that has freed me. When I do sin, it's not because sin is controlling me. It's life. It's part of being a man who is still learning how to follow Jesus and live in God's grace. Fortunately, my Father doesn't condemn me, he is not disappointed with me. He sees me as his beloved son. He teaches me and leads me, and continues to fill me with his love.

I'm learning that I am not in control of my life, God is. No matter hard I try, I can't please God more. I can't do things that are going to influence God to bless me. It's not up to me.
I'm learning that I am a dead man. I have died to sin and its power. I have died to this world. I am dying to the opinions of other people, because the only opinion that counts is that of the One who calls me child. That last one will take some time.

I want to be as Jesus, who only did what the Father told him to do. Jeff Dunn says that folks accuse him of being "all grace." I'll gladly accept that label. Dan Edelen writes, "Anymore, the only rules I impose on myself on this walk of faith are, am I loving the Lord, and am I loving other people." That sounds good to me. Jesus himself said that the two greatest commandments are to love God and love others, and that everything else hangs on that.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

World Vision Wednesday

"An offer to good to refuse leads to a nightmare." This is true of what happens to a number of children around the world. World Vision is working to help those who have been trapped in a life of slavery. To find out more read this.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Church the Way It Used to Be?

The other day I was traveling down the interstate here in the sunny South, and I saw a billboard that advertised a certain church that also had a Christian school. The sign proclaimed that this particular ministry was "Church and school the way it used to be." I got to thinking about this sign, and wondering what they meant.

Did they mean church the way it used to be when the American culture gave lip service to Christianity with blue laws and other vestiges of Christendom? Maybe they longed for the days when some churches in the South defended racism with Scripture proof-texts. How about going back to the days when the differences between churches were enough to start a war? Or perhaps, the folks in this church wanted to go all the way back to the first century, when churches argued over which teacher to follow, or treated the poor in their congregation with disrespect.

It doesn't really matter what they meant by "church the way it used to be." We are not living in any point of time during the last 2000 years. We are living today, in the 21st Century. While human nature is still basically the same, there are so many things that have changed. While some of us would like to be able to gather daily with the church as they did in the early church, that may be impossible today. Attitudes toward the church in America have changed in the last 50 or 60 years, so a different approach is necessary. In other parts of the world, the church faces an entirely different set of challenges. Their "good old days" may be a time when there was no church in that land. Should they long to go back to that?

Instead of looking back to an imagined time when "things were better," and striving to get those days back, we should be looking for ways to be followers of Jesus in the time and place we are in. Although I can think of one way we can do things the way they used to be done, or at least should have been done all along. The first command that Jesus gave his church was to love one another as he loved us. That command has never changed.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Weekend Wanderings

The sun is shining and the temperatures are rising here in the sunny South. Winter's icy grip has loosened, although there's still a good chance that we'll have one more go-round with the cold. I had a bit of a scare yesterday, and spent the afternoon at the hospital getting checked out. I was having severe pains in my upper side, and they wanted to makes sure my heart was not the problem. The old ticker is in good shape (whew), so I have to go to my family doctor Monday to see if we can figure out what is going on. I'm thinking it might be stress,because there's a lot of stuff going on right now. We'll see.

So, anyway, here's the stuff you're really waiting for:

Alan Knox has a good post on messy meetings.
Becky Garrison on Roger William's legacy.
Jake Belder on the perfect church.
Kansas Bob on The Gospel of Wealth.
Jon Acuff on going solo.


Dr. Terry Dorsett continues his series on his Holy Land pilgrimage.
Scot McKnight asks if the weight has shifted.
Chaplain Mike has some strong words to say.
Pam Hogeweide writes about black dog Shame.


Last, but not least, here is a classic for the start of spring training (HT: iMonk).

Have a fantastic weekend!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

World Vision Wednesday

John Fischer has written an excellent article concerning lessons learned working among Muslims. I've quoted it below.

This morning I had the opportunity of hearing Dave Robinson speak at a Women of Vision Orange County Partnership Breakfast. Dave is the Senior Advisor for Operations for World Vision International. He has also lived most of his life as a Christian amongst Muslim people, and this is what I have to say about that: Why don’t we let this man inform our thinking and our activity towards Muslim people in this country and around the world instead of listening to a man who has lived in suburban America all his life and whose only claim to understanding Muslims is the fact that he is a popular radio talk show host? Why were 75 people listening to what the qualified man said and hundreds of thousands listening to the other? Why is fear more popular than reason?

Among a number of stories Mr. Anderson imparted was this one. In the wake of initial U.S. successes in Iraq, a moderate Muslim man said to Dave, “America is great.” To which he responded, “No. God is great,” which is actually a very common Muslim phrase of worship not unlike our Christian, “Praise the Lord.”

“Are you Muslim?” asked the man excitedly when he heard that.

After some thought, Dave replied, “I am a student of Jesus Christ.”

Notice he didn’t say, “I am a Christian,” which would have put him at odds with the Muslim man. Actually, Muslims are students of Jesus Christ too.

“Initiate open ended conversations that will eventually lead to Jesus,” Anderson said over and over. “Seek common ground even though the core of the message is missing.”

How often do we do that?

Last September, we had as global crisis on our hands because a pastor in Florida wanted to burn a copy of the Koran in retaliation for the memory of 9/11/2001. Anderson said that had he succeeded, it would have ended World Vision’s presence in any and all Muslim countries of the world.

Seek common ground. Initiate open-ended conversations that will eventually lead to Jesus. Not a bad way to operate with everyone. Cast aside fear and get smart.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Community: All For One, One For All

"All for one, one for all" was the motto of the Three Musketeers. It could very easily be the motto of the church. As a people who follow Jesus Christ, you could say that we are all for One, and that One is for all of us. At least, that's the way it should be. Sometimes though, it seems that the church has become more "all for us."

I think that Jesus had the same idea as Alexandre Dumas when he established his Church, his Body. Scripture records Jesus teaching the importance of our relationships within a community of his followers. In Matthew 5:21-22, he says that treating others with anger or contempt puts us in danger of judgement. In verses 23-24 of the same chapter, Jesus tells us to get our relationships put right before we come to worship him (Hmmm, I wonder how many places would be empty on Sunday mornings if we really believed that). I think it is interesting that in those verses Jesus tells us to go and be reconciled with our brother or sister if they have anything against us. He doesn't put that responsibility on the one who has been offended, and he doesn't tell us to go if we think we are responsible for offending someone. In Matthew 18, Jesus does direct us to go to those who sin, but again, the goal is reconciliation. And, let's face it, almost all of our problems within a community are due to things other than direct sin (although sin can result because of those things).

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul describes the church as a body. To me, this chapter contains a perfect picture of what a community of faith is. It's a body. Think about your body. Does your hand deliberately form a fist and hit your nose with it? Of course not! If your hand accidentally moves in a way that causes it to strike your nose and cause it to bleed, does your hand say, "Oh, well. I didn't mean it, so I don't need to do anything." No, your hand is involved in getting tissues and holding them to your nose and trying to stop the bleeding. Every part of the body is important, no matter how small or weak. If any part of the body is hurt, the rest of the body feels that pain. A bad headache can cause the stomach to feel sick. An imbalance in the feet can cause damage to the knees, or a misalignment of the spine. The body is designed by the Creator to function as one, and when it does we see the glory of a great athlete or a prima ballerina.

Christ's body is also designed to function as one. In John 17:11, Jesus asks the Father to make us one, just as he and the Father are one. When the body of Jesus functions as one, we see the glory of grace, the beauty of love, and the Kingdom of God is built up. When that body stubs it's toe, or when a hand accidentally flies up and causes hurt to another part, that damage must be repaired. If it is not, the result is a deformed caricature of a body that is ugly and repulsive. The result is a body that does not bring glory to its Creator.
All for one, one for all. What would things be like if Christ's body on this earth lived by that motto?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Weekend Wanderings

This has been a momentous week. Egypt has seen it's leader for the past 30 years leave. Hopefully democracy will win out in the days ahead. My junior varsity girls wrapped up the season on Friday and finished with a record of 10 wins and 8 losses. It was one of the most enjoyable seasons in quite a while. It's also been a stressful week. There's a lot of stuff going on right now and it's not an easy time.

But, enough about that. Here is the good stuff:

Is Jesus the Way, the Truth, and the Life? This is a question that begs an answer.
Larry Shallenberger used to miss the point of fruit.
Seth Barnes finds unexpected grace in India.

This is pretty doggone amazing.
Tim Hill writes about the right instrument, right song.
A classic from iMonk.

Dr. Terry Dorsett has a series on lessons learned during his trip to the Holy Land. The first post is here.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Foundations

Today was Professional Career Day at school. This morning the sixth grade had an assembly where they heard a speaker talk about preparing now for their future careers. He spoke about foundations, how everything they did now laid a foundation for what they wanted to do. If they didn't lay a good foundation now, they would never be what they wanted to be.

Jesus said that we must build our house on a solid foundation. He said that unless we listened to his teachings and followed them, the house that we build will fall flat when trouble comes. I think this is applicable to the church as well as to our individual lives.

There have been many foundations on which churches have been built over the centuries. Some have been built on the authority of a man or council of men. Some have been built on this creed or that confession. Others have claimed that they were built on Scripture alone. Some have even been established on the foundation of a political leader's ideas of church and state. Today, some churches are built on a foundation of building a large organization. Others are built on a certain idea of what's going to happen in the end. There are churches erected on the foundation of doing things differently from the way they've always been done. Others are established on building community, or helping other people.

Not all of these things are bad or useless. Some of them are very good. People are brought to faith and Christians are built up by many of these things. The problem comes when we make anything other than Jesus Christ the foundation. When anything else is the base of the house we are building, there will be strong areas to be sure. There will also be areas that will be terribly weak, with holes and other defects. It is those weak areas that will cause the house to eventually come crumbling down.

Like our lives, our churches must be built on Jesus Christ and his teachings. He is the head of the church, and we are his body. He is the sole reason the church exists. He is everything. Let us make sure that our lives and our communities of faith, regardless of what we call them, are built on the only foundation guaranteed to be strong and sure - Jesus.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

World Vision Wednesday

One in five people worldwide live on less than $1.25 a day. 500 people could potentially benefit from microfinance, but only 3 percent of that need is being met. To find out more about microfinance and learn how you can help, read this.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Weekend Wanderings

A lot has been going on this week. There's been protests in the streets in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, and a number of other countries in the Middle East/North Africa. Evidently the Italians want to get in on the action. I heard today that there are protests demanding the resignation of the Italian president. I wonder who's next.

Basketball season is winding down. We have one week left in the regular season, and then the state playoffs begin. It's almost time for the spring sports season, although with the rain we've been having, the teams may be spending a lot of time indoors.

Here is the good stuff:

Cupcake Countenance.
The evangelical myth of transformation.
Good question.

Jake Belder on getting work right.
Rachel Held Evans on women speakers at conferences (HT: Scot McKnight).
Scot McKnight on seeking God in Haiti.

The American altar call.
Don't screw things up by thinking too long.
The non-critique that refuses to die.

Dan Allen on the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Is Alan Knox a wolf in sheep's clothing?
Keith Giles on remembering the poor.

Censored faith.

I hope you have a great week.

A Poem: Home Again

I wrote this one a couple weeks ago. HOME AGAIN It’s been said that you can’t go home again I decided to see for myself, so ...