Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Addition

Back in May I wrote this, about how God had given me an image of myself as a clay jar to be filled and poured out on to others. At the same time I had been reading about being a warrior. As I was trying to put those two images together, God reminded me of Gideon, who was a warrior who delivered his people with clay jars and swords. The success of Gideon lay in the power of God, not in his own strength.

This is what came out of those images. I had it done this past Thursday.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Weekend Wanderings

The Christmas gifts have all been unwrapped, the paper has been discarded, and anything that didn't fit has been returned. 2011 is winding down and resolutions are being made for the year ahead. Hopes are high and expectations for a good year are on everyone's mind.

For the last time this year, here are the links of the week:

A messy New Year.
Learning from others.
Chaplain Mike finds a path.
Spirituality.

"From Jesus to Jesus."
Gabriel.
The world's coolest church?
The Church imprisoned.

Concentric circles of love.
You may have seen this on the news. Sad.

That's it for this year. Have a blessed New Year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Out With the Old...

In two more days we will say goodbye to 2011. As this year winds down, many will be making resolutions to break old habits and patterns. Others will be cleaning out closets and getting rid of old clothes. The end of one year and the beginning of the next seems to be a good time to rid ourselves of some things that are old and adopt new habits, clothes, etc.

As I look at Scripture and ponder the state of the church today, I think it is time for those of us who call ourselves Christians, followers of Christ, whatever, to jettison the old and embrace the new. When I look at the organized church, I see an institution that is still bound in an Old Covenant way of thinking and doing things. Walk into almost any church building on a Sunday morning and you will see one person standing in front of the congregation and lecturing the people. That person is part of a particular class of trained professionals who are entrusted with the task of representing God to the people and teaching them. Think Old Testament priests. Those people have traveled to a particular building (temple) on a particular day (Sabbath) to hear from God through the preacher's words. Many believe that the only way to gather in a way that glorifies God is on Sunday in a building that is set aside for that purpose. In many of those buildings the people can come to an altar in the front to sacrifice. Part of the gathering is the when the congregation gives their tithes to pay for the "work of God." Most of the rationale behind the current system of tithing is based on Old Covenant passages that deal with the upkeep of the Temple and the priestly class.

The church has been trapped in Old Covenant ways for so long that what is done goes unquestioned by many. I believe the folks in congregations are good people who love Jesus and are sincere in their faith. I also believe the abundant life that Jesus said he has for us is far greater than what can be found in Old Covenant living. Jesus abolished the Old Covenant system. He established a New Covenant based on grace, a way of life where God is present within each of his children, and where those children can gather anywhere, anytime. In the New Covenant, all are given the responsibility and privilege of ministering to each other, of discipling each other, and teaching each other. In the New Covenant, Jesus' followers live in a spirit of generosity, giving to the needs of others without being badgered or guilted into giving to support programs, buildings, or salaries. In the New Covenant, Jesus is the priority and learning him is the focus. In the New Covenant, forms and structures don't really matter as long as the King is lifted up and we learn to follow him.

Personally, I plan on living my life as an individual under the New Covenant. I will search through the closets of my thinking and acting and bring out those Old Covenant things that need to go. I wonder if Goodwill will take them.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Weekend Wanderings: Christmas Edition

Things are back to what passes for normal around here so Weekend Wanderings is back. It's been an interesting week. We spent a couple days visiting my sister in Charleston, and then I went to Myrtle Beach to coach in a basketball tournament. Thursday, Jan, Josh, and Jennie came down to celebrate my birthday. Today, we gathered with our fellowship for a Christmas Eve brunch. We had a great time sharing a meal, have communion, and celebrating the first advent of the Messiah and reminding each other of the hope we have of his return.

I know you're really here for the links, so here they are:

Harry Potter and the incarnate Christ.
Good words from Alan Knox.
Arthur Sido's favorite Christmas verse.
The first to hear.
The message of Christmas.

One of the better Christmas hymns.
"The Nativity."
Christmas and empire.
Is there any hope?
Waiting for baby Jesus.

The fullness of Deity.
Chaplain Mike has a series on the Magnificat and today's gospel. Part 1 is here.
Candy canes.
Happy Holidays?
Peace on earth.

A Sestina for Christmas

Another replay:

It's the time of year we call Christmas
A time we spend with friends and family
It's a time for us to worship
We worship a baby
Who was born in a stable
But do we worship the King?

The child who came was born a King
Do we just see a baby?
Who do we worship?
During the time we spend with family
In this season of Christmas
Who do we see in the stable?

It was strange there in the stable
Not the usual place for the birth of a King
But there was the baby
His mother welcomed him to the family
We call this Christmas
Who do we worship?

There is only one worthy of worship
He lay in a stable
Surrounded by his family
At Christmas
We too often forget the King
And focus on the baby

It is wondrous that he was a baby
Born in a humble stable
So we celebrate at Christmas
Who do we worship?
A King?
Or an infant in a human family?

Yes, part of a human family
Born a baby
In a stable
He is more. He is King
He is worthy of worship
At Christmas

As we celebrate Christmas, surrounded by family
Remember that we worship much more than a baby
Born in a stable. We worship the King!

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Poem for Christmas

This is another replay from Christmas past.

People rushing to and fro
Traffic steadily building

Black Friday is going to save us all
Buy, buy, buy

Can't afford it? No matter
Take a year to pay the bill

It's your patriotic duty
Spend, spend, spend

What are we thinking?
We're missing something here

Do we have a clue?
Do we know what Christmas means?

The prophets knew
They predicted it

The angels knew
They sang about it

The shepherds and the wise men knew
They came and worshipped

Herod knew
He tried to have this rival killed

Christmas is a celebration because
The King has come
Yet we enthrone our own comfort

Worshipping the golden calf of Wall Street
We lust after power
Political, economic, social

We have forgotten something
We have forgotten this

The King has come
All the kingdoms on earth are His

The King has come
We are His

The King has come
Let us celebrate Him!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Prayer for the Fourth Week of Advent







Father, in between the joy of the coming of the Messiah and the joy that will be ours at his return, help us to find our joy in you. In the midst of the busyness of the season give us that joy that goes far beyond our circumstances, the joy that comes from knowing that you love us and take joy in us. Amen.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Weekend Wanderings

Something is going goofy with my blog, so I can't post any links right now. Maybe it will be fixed in time for this weekend. If not, Weekend Wanderings will be back next weekend.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Waiting

Replay from last year:

There is a lot of waiting this time of year. Shoppers wait in traffic so they can get to stores and wait in line to pay for their merchandise. Students (and teachers) wait for vacation to start. Children wait to see what gifts they will receive. Other people wait for the season to be over. One thing that seems present in all the waiting is stress and conflict. Sometimes the very act of waiting causes the problems.The people of Israel were waiting. Waiting for the promised Messiah, waiting for God to speak again, and deliver his people. They had been waiting a long time. Today, we wait for that same Messiah to return and deliver us. It has been a long time.Some in Israel had grown tired of waiting and were content with just getting by. Others had put their hopes in their religious rituals, or political works. Before we are too hard on them, let us ask ourselves how we are waiting. Are we waiting for a trip off this old earth, up into the sky? Are we waiting for the right leaders to be elected or the right laws to be passed to turn our nation back to God? Have we given up and been reduced to just getting by?We are told to not become weary in doing good. Jesus is King, and one day he will return and set everything right again. Their will be justice, mercy, and peace. Creation will be renewed. The Kingdom of God will come in its fullness. That is what we wait for. That is what we long for.This Advent season remember that we wait in anticipation of a Kingdom that is here now, and is still to come. We wait in anticipation and in hope.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Runners and Soldiers

Scripture portrays life as a follower of Jesus as running a race. In 1 Corinthians 9:24, Galatians 2:2, Galatians 5:7, and Hebrews 12:1, we are told to run a good race with discipline and perseverance. Alan Knox has a post on his blog titled, "It's a long, hard road, but we're running together," in which he writes about a group he is a part of that runs trails together. In this post, Alan tells how each member of the group watches out for each other member as they navigate the hazards of running trails. There are roots and rocks that can trip an unsuspecting runner, and the results can be painful or catastrophic. Since trail running can be so dangerous when done alone, running in a group is a necessity. Alan writes of a runner in their group who had knee problems and at one point needed to walk. The entire group walked with her rather than leave her behind.

We are also given the picture in the Bible of being a soldier. Philippians 2:25, 2 Timothy 2:3 & 4, and Philemon 1:2 speak of being a soldier and Romans 13:12 and Ephesians 6:10-13 exhort us to put on our armor. A characteristic of a good army is that they do not leave any of their number behind. Men will risk their own lives to rescue a fallen comrade and bring him back to their lines. When soldiers go to war, they have to know that the person fighting alongside them will give up their lives for them if need be. On the flip side of this, the Church has been called the only army that shoots its own wounded. This should never be.

In our fellowships, we need to remember that God brings people into our lives for a reason. They are there for us to serve them and be a blessing to them, or for us to be served and blessed by them. We are in this race, this war together. We are all at different stages in our spiritual journey. All of us are wounded, some more than others. Some can run a long time at a sprint, while others tire easily and have to walk a lot. Sometimes those who can run faster and longer must adjust their pace to stay with the walkers. Sometimes we may be called on to sacrifice ourselves in order to rescue a fallen brother or sister. Jesus said that the greatest love we could have is the love that causes us to lay down our lives.

We must walk this walk, run this race, fight this war together. If we don't we give our enemy a foothold to steal, kill, and destroy, and we fail to show the world what God's love is truly like. God help us to live in love for each other.

Monday, December 12, 2011

What's in a Name?

The Southern Baptist Convention is thinking about changing the name of the denomination. I don't believe they have come up with a new name yet. I do have a suggestion, but I doubt they'll take it. There are some who don't want the name to change. One leader of a church in California said that if the convention dropped the word "southern" it would water down their theology. He also advocated keeping "Baptist." I can understand wanting to keep "Baptist." I used to be one. I didn't realize that there was some sort of a southern theology. I wonder what that entails.

Names are important. Parents put a great deal of thought into picking meaningful names for their children (although I wonder what some of them were thinking). A name can open or close doors in certain situations. Names carry the weight of a family's history and can be very encouraging and challenging. Names can also be an albatross around the neck. A name can cause shame and can drag a person down.

Names also distinguish and separate. That can be a good thing, but it also can be a problem. When a group of Christians put a particular label on themselves, they automatically put distance between themselves and other Christians. Most of the time that distance is never bridged. That is a problem. Jesus prayed that his followers would be one. I believe there are currently something like four hundred denominations in the United States. Somehow I don't think that's what Jesus had in mind. Over the years, those who claim to be followers of Jesus have separated themselves into increasingly restrictive groups, many times over insignificant points of dogma.

The early Church had no problem knowing what to call themselves. They were known because of who they followed, not the creed or doctrines they adhered to. At one point they began to be know as Christians, because they were acting like Christ. Unfortunately, even that term has become something other than what it should be. Most of the time the early Christians called themselves disciples, followers of the Way, believers, the church that meets _____________.

What do we call ourselves? I prefer follower of Jesus, because that describes me better than any denominational label. Besides, I don't think Panerist is a denomination is it? Anyway, how about we simply live our lives as subjects of the King and show his love in such a way that the world has to talk about that love, even if they don't know what to call us. Maybe we can be like Christ enough that the term "Christian" becomes a good thing again.

Ready for my suggestion? Drop the denominational labels and let our actions speak.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Prayer for the Third Week of Advent

Father, as we wait in anticipation for the return of our King, help us to not sit passively by, but to rejoice in the great privilege you have given us to join you in your mission of reconciling the world to yourself. As we await the final culmination of your Kingdom, help us to be about bringing that Kingdom to bear in every part of our day-to-day. Amen

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Weekend Wanderings

Another week has come and gone, here in the sunny South. It is getting a bit chillier and it looks like it could be a colder than normal winter. One more week of school before Christmas break, and I think the teachers are looking forward to the break as much as the students. There's lots to do between now and Christmas, and it seems like we're going to be pushing it to get everything done. Oh well, as I always tell Jan, "It'll get done."

On to the links:

Do you think Jesus was a free-market capitalist? Me neither. (HT: iMonk)
Another post on ministry.
This is interesting.

Talk about your no-frills flight!

This is amazing.

A Christmas classic (?) from Jon Acuff.
I'm not sure either.

Alan Knox on Christmas lights.
Good words from Jared Wilson.

Chaplain Mike has a series on tools. Part 1 is here.
Scot McKnight has some good links over on his blog.

Have a great week.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Prayer for the Second Week of Advent

Lord Jesus, we live in a world that has lost hope, that runs after things, relationships, and so much more in a vain attempt to fill the emptiness. Help us to stay out of that rat race, and remind us that our hope is in you. In the midst of the stuff of life, remind us that you are making all things new and that you will one day finish the job. Thank you for what you have already done in us. Thank you for calling us to join in your mission of restoring your creation. Thank you for the privilege of bearing the hope of your Kingdom to those around us. Amen.

Weekend Wanderings

This has been a week of happenings and celebrations. Basketball season began on Tuesday, and I have learned just how much work I have to do to get the team where they will be at the end of the season. On Wednesday our son, Josh became engaged to his girlfriend, Alicia, and Thursday was Jennie's birthday. Yesterday we met Alicia's parents for the first time, and looked at a couple of possible wedding venues. Last night we went to a Christmas celebration in our neighborhood. A couple of months ago, we began having some of our neighbors over for a dessert night. The first night was such a success that they planned to have the celebration last night and one of them volunteered to host it. Everyone wants to continue getting together, so it looks like we'll be able to build good relationships with our neighbors. This morning our new faith community had its second gathering at Panera. We had a good time learning and discussing the meaning of the hope that we have in Christ.

Enough about me. Here's the good stuff from the past week:

Hmmm. What do you think about this guy?
This is something I need to keep learning.
Very cool (HT: Scot McKnight).
Maybe the church needs more of these.

What Proverbs 29:18 is not about.
Where do you stand in the "war on Christmas?"
I'll agree with this.

This is good.
I like this.

100 greatest guitarists of all time (HT: iMonk). I think they left a good one off the list.
This is a bit disconcerting.
Not a model (HT: Alan Knox).

Have a wonderful week.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

For My "Little" Girl

27 years ago, God blessed us with a little girl. She came into this world the day after I coached a basketball game, and it seemed like she grew up in the gym. This little girl was a whirlwind of activity right from the start, and I've always maintained that she was put on this earth to have a good time, and to help others have a good time as well.

It has been an absolute joy and wonder to watch this little girl as she entered school to begin her education, as she entered the teenage years and I was blessed with the opportunity to coach her, as she went to college and began to mature into a young woman, and as she struck out to make her own impact on this world (although we still wish she wasn't all the way across the country). It has been wonderful to watch how God has worked in her life, and how he continues to work.

Jennie, we are extremely proud of you. You bring joy into our lives simply by being who God made you to be. We pray that your heavenly Father will continue to bless you and hold you in his arms. We love you.

A New Morning

It was quite definitely early morning now, not late night. "I'm so cold," said Lucy. "So am I," said Susan. "Le...