Sunday, September 30, 2012

Weekend Wanderings

After a few days of almost Indian Summer type temperatures, fall has returned to the sunny South. I spent the day yesterday at the local camp and retreat center where Jan and I work from time to time. They needed someone to fill in at the high ropes course zip line and to drive the bus to pick up a couple of groups of kayackers. I love being on the island where the camp is located. To me, it's one of those thin places where the presence of God is palpable.

I've gotten behind in my blog reading this week, so the selection of links will be a bit shorter. I hope you enjoy.

A funny from Eric Carpenter.
Kansas Bob on friends.
It's time to party!
M. Morford on fall.
How much does God give us?

The harder life.
Alan Knox on learning to trust.
Arthur Sido asks a very good question.
Donald Trump and the Gospel.
Good reminder for all of us.

I hope you have a blessed week!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

World Vision Wednesday

"Mabvuto was forced to drop out of school because he had nothing to wear but tattered clothes and routinely suffered from preventable illness. Access to basic clothing and medication could make a world of difference for children like him."

Check this out to find out more.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Weekend Wanderings Correction

Thanks to Sara for catching a mistaken link in yesterday's post. The link to Dan Edelen's post on a characteristic of great Christians was to another post. The correct link is here.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Weekend Wanderings

Fall is making its presence felt here in the sunny South. It has been sunny and cool during the day, and at night it's cool enough to sleep with some cover. My volleyball team started off with three wins in a row, then played like a different team and lost the next one. I guess that's too be expected when dealing with eighth grade girls. It's okay. Coaching is still the best part of my work day. There's just over a month left in the election season. I, for one, will be glad when I don't have to read or watch any more of the political ads for a while.

On to the links:

Good question.
The Merry Monk has a fable for the candidates.
Innocent or relevant?
Zack Hunt on the new Joel Osteen book.
When truth can be a lie.

Think you're having a bad day?
Living community.
Arthur Sido on church and tax breaks.
Vessel.
iMonk classic.

Doctrinal differences.
Brant Hansen on Rich Mullins.
Lessons learned in the chemo lab.
Dan Edelen on a characteristic of great Christians.
God hidden.

Keith Giles on sacrificial love.
Seven habits of a lifeless church.
Richard Brand on a married Jesus.
The family of God in Ephesians.
Were there early Christian soldiers?

Have a blessed week!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Peace

Today is International Peace Day. All over the world, people are thinking about peace, talking about peace, and working for peace. One of the goals of the day is that there be a day where there is no fighting anywhere in the world. Sort of a global cease fire. In the school where I work, students and teachers were asked what "peace" meant to them. Most of the answers including things like not fighting, no conflict, or treating others kindly. It is all of those things, but peace is also so much more. There is something which underlies all of those ideas. It is the idea of shalom.

The Hebrew word shalom means peace. It is also used as a greeting and a farewell. Shalom means more than just "peace," more than just the absences of conflict. The word means wholeness, health, completeness, rest, and harmony. It is a concept that most don't really understand because there is so little wholeness, health, rest or harmony in the world. Every day there is news of conflict somewhere in the world, or crimes committed against property or persons. Much of what passes for political speech is nothing more than arguing and trying to prove how evil the other side is. Even in churches, there is not the shalom  that should be there.

Jesus is described in Scripture as the Sar shalom, Prince of Peace. It is in Jesus that true shalom is found. He is the one who brings wholeness, who gives health. It is Jesus who completes us, who gives us rest. Only Jesus brings harmony as he reconciles us with God, and reconciles us with each other. Unfortunately, the world looks at those who claim to follow the Prince of Peace and sees division, arguing and fighting, and sometimes hatred. This should not be. We are told in 1 Peter 3:15 to be always ready to give an answer to those who want to know about the hope we have in us. I believe that means more than just telling people how they can go to heaven when they die. A large part of that hope is the shalom that we have in Jesus. We have something that the world is desperate for. Our problem is that we don't realize what we have. We don't realize that in Christ we are whole, we are complete, we are at rest, we are reconciled. If we can grasp that truth and let the Spirit form Christ in us, we can live in shalom. We can live in a way that is truly counter-cultural. We can exhibit the kind of hope that causes others to ask.

"May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace." (Numbers 6:24-26 NLT)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

World Vision Wednesday

On September 29, the Global Festival will be held in Central Park in New York City. A number of artists will be performing, including Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Foo Fighters, the Black Keys, and Band of Horses. World Vision is partnering with globalcitizen.org to increase awareness of  the issues of global poverty and things that can be done to help the least of these.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Repost: The Presence of God

Sorry there was no Weekend Wanderings post this week. The weekend turned out to be crazy busy. This post was first published January 26, 2009. I hope you enjoy it.

Have you ever been in a church service and heard someone pray and thank God for the chance to come into his house and worship in his presence? Or maybe you've prayed that yourself? I have. Or maybe you've sung the hymn, "In the Garden." You know, the one that talks about meeting Jesus in a particular place at a particular time and then going out on your own into the world outside the "garden." I think songs like "In the Garden," and prayers that speak of "coming into" God's presence have unwittingly helped foster a dualistic way of looking at the world.

Growing up, I was always taught that it was important to have a time and place set aside to "meet with God", to spend some time reading the Bible and praying in order to be able to face the challenges of the day. We were told that first thing in the morning was the best. On top of that we should attend church services on Sunday morning and Sunday night to be prepared for the week ahead, and also show up on Wednesday night in order to refresh your faith for the second half of the week. Behind it all was the idea that if you weren't in church three or more times a week and having your own devotional time, you weren't spending enough time with God.

Don't misunderstand me. I am NOT saying that setting aside a regular amount of time to read Scripture and pray is a bad thing. I am NOT saying that a time of corporate worship and instruction is a bad thing. I AM saying that we fall short of the life that Jesus came to give us when we act as if those are the only times we are in the presence of God.

I see this in the theology that teaches that salvation is only spiritual and guarantees that one day we will escape this old world of sin and misery and go to our home in heaven. I believe that if we see heaven as "somewhere beyond the blue", it makes sense to believe that God isn't really with us in our day-to-day, and that it is essential that we go to church a lot and carve out a special time to "meet" with God. While folks may protest that they don't believe that, I think the evidence in their lives shows that they really do. Having said that, I know that there are people who use the words of this theology because that is what they grew up with, yet live as if they are always in the presence of God.

If we believe that God fills all of creation and that he is not limited to a particular place, then we can realize that heaven is all around us and that God is making all things new right now, and will finally restore his creation when Jesus returns. If we really believe that, then while we may set aside a certain time and place to focus on the Father, we will live in our day-to-day aware that we are continually in God's presence and don't have to rely on whether or not we had our "devotions" that morning. We have the Spirit in us to guide us and reveal to us what God wants us to know and do.

Yes, we need to read and know the Bible. Yes, we need to pray. But we should never think that a certain time of the day or day of the week is the only time we are in God's presence. As the Psalmist asked, where can we go where God is not there?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Larger Story

This past summer, when the wildfires hit Colorado, John Eldredge and a friend were having a meal together. They were discussing the fires and the possibility of being directly affected. They talked about what they thought Jesus was saying through everything. They both said, "Trust the Larger Story."

This is a good thing to do throughout life in general. We live in a world that is broken, and we deal with broken people. Not only that, we are broken ourselves. Stuff happens in our day-to-day lives and all around the world. Not a day goes by that we don't hear or read about tragedy and death. Sometimes we are the ones experiencing those things. We get sick, jobs are lost, friends disappoint. Sometimes we just struggle with living. But, that is not the whole story.

The story is not about us. We are not the heroes. We are living in God's story, the story of a Kingdom and the restoration of all creation. It is a much larger story that spans eternity. We are in that story, and we all have a part to play, whether big or small. It is that story that gives us hope and encouragement.. The thing we need to do is take our eyes off ourselves and focus on Jesus and what he is doing. That's the hard part. We tend to be so wrapped up in what is happening to us in that moment that we forget that there is more going on than what we can see with our limited vision.

A few weeks ago, Dan Edelen at Cerulean Sanctum wrote a good post about Romans 8:28. In this post he spoke of the good for which God works all things, and the fact that the things that happen to us don't always seem to fit into this verse. Dan asks,

"What if the Creator's intention for 'those who love God' isn't primarily for the individual crushed by circumstance? What if the 'those' consists of the greater mass of Christendom?"

 What if the intention is for the overall good of the Kingdom? The early church believed that the Kingdom spread through their suffering, just as it had been inaugurated in Jesus' suffering on the cross and his resurrection. Believers who have suffered for Christ through the centuries have understood this. Here in the West we have a hard time grasping this concept. Our vision of our faith is extremely personal.

Remember that the Larger Story began long before any of us arrived, and it will continue to be played out long after this life is over. It is a story that is about the Creator and the love he has for his creation. That story will come to its climax. Perhaps then, we will look back at our part in the play and say, "Now I understand."

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

World Vision Wednesday

Many times, public school teachers have to spend their own money on supplies and instructional materials. In the 2009-2010 school year, teachers spent more than $1.33 billion dollars out of there own pockets. World Vision has teacher resource centers across the United States that help teachers lower their costs as they provide supplies for students who can't afford them. To find out more check out this link.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Weekend Wanderings

Welcome to another edition of Weekend Wanderings! After a stormy week here in the sunny South, with rain causing the Democrats to move their stadium party indoors, the sun is shining again and there is a preview of fall in the air. Of course, those of us who live around here know that summer weather is not really  gone. It's just hiding for awhile, waiting to jump out when we least expect it.

Here are the links:

A defense of faith.
Eric Carpenter on James.
The Thread.
Jeff Dunn on doing nothing.
Safety or peace?

Alan Knox on children's games (sort of).
Feeling dumb. acting smart.
Jay Moore on missional living.
Dear God.
Scot McKnight on Peter.

Call us back.
Aly Lewis on semantics.
Christianity dying of old age?
Stephen Prothero on God in political platforms (HT: iMonk).
The dangerous business of change.

Matt on political parties and beer.
Apple pie.
Dan White, Jr. on missional marinating (HT: Scot McKnight).
Stay superficial, my friends.
Struggles.

Have a blessed week!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

We All Need Abishai

Many of us who grew up in the church have become disillusioned with the stuff that has been piled on the gospel of Jesus. Some of us have been hurt by others, others have left when the questions they had were dismissed as irrelevant or evil. Some became fed up with the organization and institution that had replaced simple gatherings of God's people. Many of us were looking for a community of faith where we could be devoted to Jesus and other believers.

Some have found a home in liturgical churches, while some have formed "organic" churches. Others continue to wander in the post-church wilderness. I was one of those for a while earlier this year. I was burnt out on the whole idea of church, and was hoping that I would find community with other followers of Jesus somewhere, somehow. I didn't know what form that community would take, and I was open to just about anything. Except church. I just wasn't ready to go back.

As it turns out, God led us to a community of faith in what some would call a traditional church. In the last few months, the Father has taught me a number of things. One of those things is that I need to spend time with others who love me, pray for me, challenge me, and allow me to do the same. I've also seen that I need this more than just an hour or two once a week. I need folks with whom I can share life. Jeff Dunn, over at  internetmonk, has written a post that does a very good job of explaining how those of us who have gone back into church-world feel.

In the post, Dunn writes of the time David was about to be killed by a giant by the name of Ishbi-Benob. David was older and was exhausted by the battle. This was a giant that David was not able to slay. Think about it. The mighty warrior-king of Israel, the slayer of ten thousands, was not strong enough at this time in his life. Fortunately, one of David's men, Abishai came to the rescue and killed the giant. David had to depend on another to save his life. I'm sure this was humbling for David. I know it would be for me.

Like Jeff Dunn, Jan and I gather with this church because there is first of all a love for Jesus that is evident. The other reason is the community that we have with the people. We have felt loved and accepted from the first day we visited. We gather together on Sunday, and at various times throughout the week. We realize that our relationships will get messy and difficult from time to time, but we hope in the Gospel to bring us through the mess and into deeper relationships. We need folks around us who can be Abishai to us, and to whom we can be the same. There are things I disagree with, but to me, the essentials are there.

If you are one of those who is still wandering, search for those who can be Abishai to you, whether it's in a "traditional" church, or just a group that shares life in Jesus together.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Repost: Be Blessed?

This was originally posted on August 27, 2008.


The sign guy has another one up. This one reads, "Be blessed. Stay in his favor."

I grew up hearing messages along that line. If you want God to bless you, you had to make sure that you did things that would keep you on his good side. I remember making sure I had confessed any and all sins that I could think of before I would pray for something really big that I wanted from God. I always "searched my heart" before Communion to make sure I was "right with God" so I wouldn't get sick or die. I lived in a carrot and stick relationship with God. The carrot was his blessing if I lived right, and the stick was missing blessings or being punished if I didn't. Even through my teen years when I got involved in things that I shouldn't have, I still held on to the idea of getting "things squared away with God" before I wanted him to bless me in some way.

One of the biggest things the Father has taught me over the years is that he loves and blesses me because he wants to, because I am his child. I am in God's favor because I am in Christ. I did nothing to earn his favor, and I can do nothing to lessen it either. I sin, but my Abba Father loves me far beyond what I can understand. My performance doesn't cause God to love me more or less. I am accepted as a son by the One who is over all, and therefore I want to do those things that are compatible with my standing. I want to do those things that bring glory to my Father and that advance his Kingdom. I don't do those things because I think that doing them will keep me in God's favor and bring his blessing down.

I am through with a performance based religion that keeps its followers in fear that they might knowingly or unknowingly do something that is going to cause God to take his hand off them. I am through with a religion that acts as if God can be manipulated to give favor by man's actions.

I embrace a grace that loves me no matter what, that has already given me God's favor, and that is forming me into the image of Jesus Christ.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Weekend Wanderings

This was the first full week of school, and it was very busy. That explains why there are no other posts for this past week. Once I get used to the different schedule, there will be more posts for your reading pleasure. Hurricane Isaac has come and gone from the Gulf Coast, leaving behind a mess from the tremendous amount of rain it dropped. Continue to pray for the folks affected. The Republicans have had their convention, and the Democrats are getting ready to meet in the town just up the road from us. I'm glad I don't work there, as the traffic is expected to be a mess.

On to the links:

Kansas Bob on friends.
Dan Edelen on delusion.
Scot McKnight on leadership.
Arthur Sido on following Christ in the midst of persecution.

Jesus, faith, and a universe of fear.
The trans-congregational church.
Too wonderful for us.
Andy Stager on being an upper room.

Learning to read the Bible (HT: Jake Belder).
Learning to let go.
Good question from Alan Knox.
Good words from Mark Davidson.

Good series from Keith Giles. The link is to Part 1.
Good post from Jon Acuff.
Lisa Dye writes a challenging post.
So, pray the hurricane away from the Republican convention so it hits the poor folks who are still recovering from Katrina?

I wonder how long this guy kept his job?
Into the cross hairs.
Five myths.
Mercy vs. sacrifice part 1.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend and have a blessed week.

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...