Thursday, December 26, 2013

Looks Who's Here!

In the first chapter of his Gospel, Matthew lays out the genealogy of Jesus. He does so in a manner that  is a bit different than the usual genealogies that are common for kings and other important people. Rather than focusing on just the strong kings of the past and leaving out any folks who might cause others to look unapprovingly at the king's background, Matthew includes some who didn't quite fit the picture of a perfect ancestor.

The first unusual thing is the inclusion of women in the genealogy. In our culture, that would not be notable but in the culture of that day, women didn't count. Women were seen as property, and any mention of a woman in a document would more than likely be an afterthought. Royal women were more likely to be mentioned in a ruler's history, but not someone who was a commoner, especially if that commoner was a foreigner. Matthew includes five women, each one coming with baggage.

First, we see Tamar. She's the one who was left without a husband or a child. Her father-in-law Judah, tried unsuccessfully to hook her up with his other sons and in the end fathered her two sons went she posed as a prostitute in order to seduce him and trick him into sleeping with her. The second woman in the list is Rahab, the prostitute from Jericho who married a good Jewish boy named Salmon. By the way, Rahab was not Jewish, although she seems to have converted. Salmon's son Boaz didn't fall far from the tree, as he also married a Gentile. If you remember the story, Boaz married Ruth, who was from Moab. So far, this genealogy is not looking quite kosher.

The fourth woman mentioned by Matthew is Bathsheba. You remember her. She's the one who was out taking a bath one day, not realizing that King David was lustfully watching. After committing adultery and murder, David brought her into his house as one of his wives. She gave birth to Solomon, through whom the line of the Messiah continued. Fast forward a few generations, and we come to the fifth woman, Mary. Mary was Jewish, so that was good. She was also a descendant of David, so she came from good stock. However, there was a pretty big issue.

Mary and Joseph, while betrothed, we're not yet married when Mary told Joseph that she was pregnant. Joseph, being the kind man that he was, planned on quietly divorcing Mary. After the angel revealed that this child was from the Holy Spirit, Joseph took her in to be his wife. There was still talk though, and the opinion of some seemed to be that Jesus was an illegitimate child. So, in the line of Jesus we have Gentile women, adultery, and seeming illegitimacy.

Looking at this list of the ancestors of the Messiah encourages me. First, I am encouraged to see that this King came as the King of all people, Jew and Gentile. This genealogy also tells me that God can use anyone to accomplish his purposes, even those who don't fit the mold, those who don't belong. In fact, it seems that God works more through those who are not the ones everyone expects. Those of us who don't seem to fit in wonderfully (let's face it, that's most of us), are the very ones that Jesus came to rescue and bring into God's family. Rejoice at the works of our loving Father!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Weekend Wanderings: Condensed Version

Since I haven't posted a weekend post in a couple of weeks, I thought I'd take a few minutes and share a few of the good things I've read lately. This doesn't begin to scratch the surface of all the good stuff out there, but since this is another one of those crazy busy weekends, I'll do what I can.

Here they are:

The most loving thing?
Bethlehem space.
Impractical Jesus.
Keep Christ in Christmas?
The women of Advent.

Michael Spencer may have been right after all.
Why Christians need Flannery O'Connor.
Tacky Christmas tree.

Enjoy your reading. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas as you celebrate the birth of the One who came to set us free.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Lord's Prayer: Lead Us Not Into Temptation...

The final petition in the Lord's Prayer is the request that our Father not lead us into temptation but deliver us from evil. As we have prayed for our Father's name to be glorified, for God's kingdom to come to earth and be lived out in his provision for us and in our forgiving and being forgiven, we then pray to be kept from temptation and evil.

Another way to translate this could be, "Don't let us give in to temptation." We are told elsewhere in Scripture that God does not tempt any of us to sin, although he does bring things into our lives to try, or prove our faith. This is the idea of the refiner's fire that burns out impurities, thus proving the metal. God does try, or test us in order to refine us and develop the character of Christ in us. There is a danger that we will be tempted during the trial, tempted to trust our self instead of the Father. We are drawn into temptation by our own desires, and those desires can easily lead us to sin by not letting God work in us through the trial.

We pray for the strength to resist temptation and for the Spirit to help us avoid areas in which we would be tempted. We also pray for Christ to fill us so that our sinful desires are pushed out. As we become more like Jesus, and as he lives in us more and more, we find that our desires start to line up with the desires of our Father. More and more, we are able to say with Jesus, "I do what I see my Father doing." As that happens, we are better able resist temptation when it's comes, and we are even tempted less and less in many areas. Until we see Jesus face to face, our prayer will continue to be that we are delivered from temptation and the evil one who tempts us.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

World Vision Wednesday

On December 5, Nelson Mandela passed away. Here, World Vision pays tribute to Mandela and his work.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Blast From the Past: God's Response to the "War on Christmas"

This was first posted on November 22, 2010.

James Stillwell posted this a few years ago. It's titled, "God's Response to the 'War on Christmas'". This is worth a read.

Dear Children,

It has come to my attention that many of you are upset that folks are taking My name out of the season. I don't care what you call the day. If you want to celebrate My birth, just get along and love one another. Now, having said, that let Me go on.

If it bothers you that the town in which you live doesn't allow a scene depicting My birth, then just get rid of a couple of Santas and snowmen and put in a small Nativity scene on your own front lawn. If all My followers did that there wouldn't be any need for such a scene on the town square because there would be many of them all around town.

Stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree a holiday tree, instead of a Christmas tree. It was I who made all trees. You can and may remember Me anytime you see any tree.

If you want to give Me a present in remembrance of My birth here is my wish list :

1. Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way My birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year. I know, they tell Me all the time.

2. Visit someone in a nursing home. You don't have to know them personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them.

3. Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts you can't afford and they don't need, spend time with them. Tell them the story of My birth and why I came to live with you down here. Hold them in your arms and remind them that I love them.

4. Pick someone that has hurt you in the past and forgive him or her.

5. Did you know that someone in your town will attempt to take their own life this season because they feel so alone and hopeless? Since you don't know who that person is, try giving everyone you meet a warm smile it could make the difference. Also, you might consider supporting the local Hot-Line: they talk with people like that every day.

6. Instead of nit picking about what the retailer in your town calls the holiday, be patient with the people who work there. Give them a warm smile and a kind word. Even if they aren't allowed to wish you a "Merry Christmas" that doesn't keep you from wishing them one. Then stop shopping there on Sunday. If the store didn't make so much money on that day, they'd close and let their employees spend the day at home with their families.

7. If you really want to make a difference, support a missionary, especially one who takes My love and Good News to those who have never heard My name. You may already know someone like that.

8. Here's a good one. There are individuals and whole families in your town who not only will have no "Christmas" tree, but neither will they have any presents to give or receive. If you don't know them, buy some food and a few gifts and give them to some charity that believes in Me and they will make the delivery for you.

9. Finally if you want to make a statement about your belief in and loyalty to Me, then behave like a Christian. Don't do things in secret that you wouldn't do in My presence. Let people know by your actions that you are one of mine.



P.S. Don't forget, I am God and can take care of Myself. Just love Me and do what I have told you to do. I'll take care of all the rest. Check out the list above and get to work, time is short. I'll help you, but the ball is now in your court. And do have a most blessed Christmas with all those you love and, remember, I love you.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

World Vision Wednesday

If you are having a hard time finding that gift for the person who has everything, or if you are looking for something different or special, check out these ideas.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Weekend Wanderings

This past Thursday, Americans took a day off and gave thanks for their many blessings, then went out and trampled one another in an attempt to spend money on stuff. We had a wonderful time with family and have so far successfully avoided the crowds. Tomorrow is the first Sunday of Advent. For me, celebrating Advent is a good antidote to the bustle and stress of this time of year.

On to the links:

A sign of things to come.
Meghan Tschanz on Thanksgiving.
Action alert.
Shannan Martin on love that swerves.
Ruth Wilson has some confessions.

Christmas is for worship.
How much does your life weigh?
Len on Advent.
Grace applied.
John Frye on the curtain.

Good idea.
Daniel A. Siedell thinks outside the pew.
Morgan Guyton writes about the three "family values" of Black Friday.

Chaplain Mike has a taxing question.
God sees you.
I can sleep better now that this mystery has been solved.
For that person who's impossible to shop for.

Have a blessed first Sunday of Advent and a great week!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Blast From the Past: Just Wondering

This was first posted on July 31, 2008.

I was thinking this afternoon (that's dangerous, I know) about Jesus statement to his disciples that they could expect to be hated and persecuted because he was. When I was growing up I was always taught that this meant if I didn't dress like the world, didn't listen to the same music as the world, and didn't hang around with worldly people, then those folks would hate me, make fun of me, call me names, etc. It would be okay though, because Jesus had been hated, been made fun of, and been called names. That message is still being preached in some churches around the country.

There is no question that Jesus was hated and persecuted by some of the people in his day. Heck, they even put him to death! But, I started to think about the folks who did the persecuting and the reasons why. Amazingly enough, it was not the "sinners" that hated Jesus, made fun of him and called him names. Those were the very people who followed Jesus. They were the ones who hung on his every word and who believed that he was the Messiah.

It was the religious leaders who hounded Jesus wherever he went, always looking for a way to trip him up and get him in trouble. They were the ones who said Jesus had a demon and implied that he was an illegitimate child. And, they called Jesus names like drunkard and glutton because he hung out with the "sinners". Wait a minute. I thought the sinners, the ones who drink and party, are the very people I'm supposed to stay away from so my "testimony" isn't damaged. I mean, heaven forbid someone should see me go into a bar or attend a party where "lost" people are gathered. They might start calling me a drunk or something like that, or at least might think that I'm not a very good Christian.

After all, I'm supposed to be a follower of Jesus and he would never put himself in a position where others would see him hanging out with the riff-raff and think badly of him. Would he?

Wait, you mean...?


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Weekend Wanderings

It's getting colder here in the sunny South. We've had a few days of warmer weather, but it's supposed to be quite a bit colder than usual the next few days. Friday was the 50th anniversary of the deaths of John F. Kennedy, C.S. Lewis, and Aldous Huxley. It's been a long time, and lives and works of each of them are still having an impact on many. Basketball has begun, and the balls are bouncing in gyms all around the world. Players from peewee teams to the NBA are practicing and putting their skills on display before fans, friends, and family. Thanksgiving Day is this coming Thursday, and many will be traveling to spend time with their loved ones and give thanks for the bounties given by a gracious God. A great deal of food will be consumed, and hopefully those of us who are partaking will remember those who are less well off.

On to the real reason you are here:

The decisions of poor people.
Ruth Wilson passes on some tough words.
Pope Francis on the over commercialism of athletes.
Eric Carpenter reflects on C.S. Lewis.
Thanks for godly examples.

Brant Hansen answers a question.
You could get this for me for Christmas.
Mensch on a Bench.
Where the wind still sings.
Scot McKnight reflects on C.S. Lewis.

Rachel Barnette on redefining beauty.
Messy Bible, clean lives.
Christ the King.
Keith Giles has an unbelievable truth.

Zach Hoag on niceness.
On being thankful.
Heather writes about armistice.
Soft difference.
Jeff Dunn on being vulnerable.

More gracious than God?
Eric Carpenter has a series on women of the church. The intro. is here.
Shameful, ridiculous, and cruel.
Scot McKnight on some no comments.
Hard times and free sandwiches, and a bonus.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Lord's Prayer: Forgive Our Debts...

As we pray through the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples, we pray for the Father's name to be praised, for his kingdom to come on this earth, and for our Father to give us what we need. In the midst of this we must remember that, since we live in a broken world, there will be debts that we will incur in our relationship to the Father, and debts that others will incur as they relate to us. Because the term "debt" brings to mind financial stuff, and because we have a tendency to downplay the wrong that we do, I prefer to use the word "sin."

In the gospels, we see Jesus forgiving sins and telling others to forgive. Jesus' ministry was one of forgiveness and reconciliation, and he calls his followers to be people of forgiveness and reconciliation. Luke tells us of the time Jesus was at the home of Simon the Pharisee, where his feet were washed by a "sinful" woman. Jesus stated that those who have been forgiven much are those who love much. None of us can say that we haven't been forgiven much. Well, I guess you could say it. But you'd be wrong. Just sayin'. We have been forgiven our sin against a holy God. That makes what God has done for us pretty huge. In our lives, I seriously doubt that any wrong done to us comes close to the wrong we have done God.

Matthew tells us of Peter's question of how many times we should forgive someone who sins against us. Peter though he was being generous with a number of seven. Jesus once again ups the ante. He states that we are to forgive seven times seven, or seventy times seven, depending on which translation you use. Jesus is not saying that we are to keep track of the wrongs done to us, and drop the hammer on the fiftieth or four hundred ninety first time. Many times, the number seven in Scripture speaks off completion. Maybe what Jesus is saying here is that we should forgive others completely and utterly no matter how many times they sin against us. I believe that Jesus' words imply reconciliation. Someone is not generally going to have the opportunity to wrong us multiple times unless we are in relationship with that person. We are called to be vulnerable with our brothers and sisters, being willing to be hurt by them and forgive.

In the same passage in Matthew, Jesus tells the story of the servant who owed his master a huge chunk of change. The master graciously forgave the entire debt, only to find out that this servant then went and imprisoned a fellow servant who owed him just a few bucks. I believe that the thrust of this story is that we have been forgiven an unpayable debt, so we are to forgive those who are indebted to us in what is essentially a minuscule amount. If we do not forgive, we are telling the world that we haven't been forgiven. Again, when we consider our huge debt that God has forgiven, how can we not forgive the tiny debt that anyone owes us. The Father has forgiven our great sin, and no wrong that is done to us can ever match that.

We are to live as forgiven, and forgiving, people. Anything less is contrary to what our Father wants.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

World Vision Wednesday

With the news of disasters around the world, it is easy to forget that there are urgent needs here in the United States as well. Some of these are in the Midwest, where a number of tornadoes recently devastated wide areas. World Vision is there, helping those who have been affected.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Blast From the Past: The Bible

This was first posted on August 28, 2008.

In Eat This Book, Eugene Peterson describes how the King James Bible is still a best seller almost four hundred years after its initial publication, even though the English in the King James is a far cry from the English used in twenty first century America. I wonder why.

I've heard all the talk about the KJV being a best seller because it is the only translation that is God's inspired and preserved word. I don't think that's the reason at all.

I believe that the fact that the KJV is still a best seller has more to do with the way most people see the Bible these days than in anything special about the language that is used. The Bible is seen by many Christians as a depository of "timeless truths" that can be pulled out and used whenever they are needed. Some see it as a rule book for life or a sort of owner's manual that they can go to and find rules and procedures for the things they do. Others search out promises and use them as something akin to magic words to try to get God to do what they want. Still others read Scripture out of a sense of duty, because someone told them that to be a good Christian they have to read the Bible every day.

What all these reasons have in common is a lack of desire to really let God's revelation of himself and the story of his people get inside them. I know from personal experience that it is easy to read the Bible on a regular basis and not be changed. I've studied Scripture (in Bible college I got A's on both my theology written and oral exams). I learned the inductive, deductive, and any other ductive methods of Bible study. Those things really didn't have much of an impact on my spiritual growth. I knew a lot of information, but it really didn't mean that much.

Peterson tells a story of an adult class at his church that was studying the book of Galatians. His purpose was to remind the people of their freedom in Christ. Peterson noticed that the class was more interested in their coffee and conversation than they were with the Scripture. This frustrated him until he got the idea of taking the Greek words of the original and putting them in modern American English. He writes that very quickly the coffee was forgotten in the excitement of seeing the revelation of God in words that they were familiar with and could understand, words that they used every day. Peterson notes that the New Testament was written in the common Greek of the day - street language.

I think the reason many people buy and read the King James is that it is in a style of English that they don't use in their day-to-day lives, and can therefore be kept separate. It's part of the division between "sacred" and "secular" that many have to keep God from messing with their routine. It's also useful as a sort of "code" that only the "sanctified" can understand. (I've noticed that a large part of some sermons is reading the King James and then translating it into modern English so the congregation can understand).

I believe that the Bible is not a book to be studied the way one would study a textbook or manual. It is not a collection of facts about God or a book of regulations and procedures. It is God's story of himself and his dealings in this world, of how he is building a Kingdom and restoring all things, and of how he will finally bring about that restoration completely. It is a story that invites us to enter in, to join our story with God's story. As we enter into this story we learn, in real ways, how to become like the Savior and King the story points to.

To do this, to enter into God's story and open ourselves to being transformed by it, we must have this story in a language we can understand and relate to. For most people the KJV doesn't fill the bill.

Monday, November 11, 2013

God Be Merciful

In Luke 18:9-14, Jesus tells a story about a Pharisee and a tax collector who both came to the Temple to pray. The Pharisee prayed in an arrogant, condescending manner, thanking God that he wasn't like all of the "sinners" around him. In contrast, the tax collector didn't even look up toward heaven, but beat his chest and begged for God to have mercy on him because he was a sinner. As I read this the other day, I was convicted of my own tendency to think that I'm better than others.

I grew up in a church culture that taught that we were better off than others because we had made the choice to accept Jesus as personal Savior, and didn't commit some of the sins that characterized those "of the world." While we claimed to be humble because we were simply "sinners saved by grace," our attitudes indicated otherwise. There was a definite divide between "us" and "them." As a Bible college student, and later as a graduate involved in "full time" Christian ministry, the temptation was to think of myself as on another level because I "knew" Scripture and was teaching others.

After a few years, I became one of the Reformed. I was fairly young, though not restless, but I was enthralled with the intellectual side of faith. Again, the temptation, which I unfortunately succumbed to at times, was to think that my study and reasoning put me ahead of those who just didn't know what Scripture "really meant." In the ensuing years I have wandered through the post-evangelical wilderness, through non-denominational church, emerging Christianity, and "simple organic" church. I have actually landed in a community that is in the Reformed tradition, although I am certainly not young and am quite content.

 I could very easily think that I have arrived. The problem is that it's still far to easy to fall into that old trap of thinking that I'm somehow better than any number of people. I can think, "I'm glad I'm not one of those_____________________ any more." We all want to think that we have it together and are better than other folks, and I am no exception. I thank the Father that it's not as bad as it used to be, but there are still times when that spiritual pride rears its ugly head. I don't want to give in to that temptation because I have learned that if God needs to humble me, the experience tends to not be a whole lot of fun.

I want my attitude to be that of the tax collector, who saw his condition without God's mercy. I know that it's only by the Father's grace that there is anything good in me, but sometimes I try to take a little bit of credit myself. I am relieved and grateful that God is my Father, and that he is working in me and will bring that work to its conclusion. He is merciful.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Weekend Wanderings

The Philippines are beginning to pick up the pieces after a massive storm slammed into the islands. Vietnam looks to be next. The total picture of the devastation is not yet clear. Pray for the folks there as they mourn losses and begin to try and rebuild their lives. It's a bit chilly here in the sunny South and there is even a possibility of some snow flurries in the next few days. It looks like we may be in for a colder than normal winter. Basketball has started, and I am looking forward to a good season.

Here are the links for the past week:

Len on the church.
Vulnerability leads to love.
Pam Hogeweide on being true.
Interesting idea.
Not too sure about this idea.

This is interesting. Odd but interesting.
Second chance.
Religious tattoos.
Jamie Calloway-Hanauer says the time to love is now.
Five traits of a false prophet.

When a leader is not a leader.
Tiffany Handley asks a question.
Winners and losers.
Chaplain Mike is simply living.
Ann's wisdom.

Once upon a text.
Matt Appling on finding yourself.

That's it for this week. Hope your week ahead is a blessed one.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Lord's Prayer: Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

I could also title this post "The Real Prosperity Gospel."

In the Lord's Prayer, we pray for our Father's name to be glorified, and for his kingdom to come on this earth as it is in heaven. The next thing we pray for is for our daily provisions. This prayer is counter to the way those in the kingdom of this world operate, and unfortunately contrary to the way many Christians live their lives as well.

I believe that the teaching that God wants everyone to be wealthy and healthy and have success in everything they do doesn't go far enough. I know that sounds strange. Hear me out. Those who teach what is known as the prosperity gospel put their followers eyes on the things of this earth, on things that will not last. A new car? It will rust and quit running. A big house? It will crumble. (Especially with the way they're building houses these days) Lots of money in the bank? All gone someday. Success in business, etc.? Eventually your business will close. Fame? Most of us will be forgotten eventually.

Why do we spend so much energy playing in the mud in the ghetto when we have the offer of a trip to the beach? We have a Father who owns everything. His kingdom is forever, and is full of unimaginable riches. We are told in Scripture that we are fellow heirs of all things with Jesus. We have the righteousness of Christ. We have his Spirit in us. We have the expectation of glory, in fact, Romans 8 tells us that we are already glorified. It just doesn't show completely yet. Our Father gives us good gifts.

Praying for our daily needs means we realize our dependence on God. We put ourselves in his hands and humbly ask rather than demand. A child who loves his father doesn't go to him and demand things, unless that child is spoiled. A child who loves and is loved by her father knows that all she has to do is ask and her father can be trusted to provide for her. She also knows that her father will do what is best and not give her anything that is not good for her. In the same way, we trust that our Father will not give us a stone when we ask for bread, but knows exactly what is best for us, and will give us exactly what we need. Many times, God goes far beyond just what we need. We can simply trust Abba to do exactly what is best for us.

One of the things God has taught me through the years is that it is far better for me to simply put my needs and desires in his loving hands. It doesn't depend on how well I've been praying or on how much faith I have. It simply depends on what my Papa, who loves me with a perfect love, knows is the best thing for me. As his love fills me more and more, Jesus' words become more real. To paraphrase, seek first and foremost the kingdom of God and you will get that. The rest is just gravy.

Rest in who you are in Christ and that will bring the contentment that is able to humbly ask the Father for each day's needs, knowing that it's all taken care of. The Psalmist tells us that the Lord is our shepherd, and that we will never lack. While we may not have everything we want, we will have everything we need. Along with that we have Jesus, and with him all the blessings of the new heaven and new earth which will last far longer than anything we can hope to have on this earth.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Weekend Wanderings

We turned our clocks back here in the sunny South, as did most of the rest of the country. If you did, you gained an hour of sleep or stayed up an extra hour, depending on your preference. The weather is cooler most days and the leaves are turning. I hope you are able to enjoy the beauty of this season.

On to the links:

Ruth Wilson is at war.
Haunted churches.
Forbes lists the world's most powerful people.
Athletes' earnings.

Daniel Wells has some videos.
25 things.
Dan Edelen has a warning.
Your city.

Zack Hunt on Christian haunted houses.
Anything worth doing...
Arthur Sido on marriage.

Prayer for the church.
Drake Baer on the best time to drink coffee.
Fascinating stories.
John Frye on meals.

This is interesting.
Front yard people.
Jeff Dunnon on freedom.
Matt Appling on invoking "love."

Have a blessed first week of November!

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Lord's Prayer: Thy Kingdom Come...

After we ask that our Father's name be lifted up and glorified, we are taught to ask that God's kingdom come and his will be done on the earth as it is in heaven. All Christians believe that God has a kingdom. The arguments are over what that means. Some believe the kingdom is something off in the future, and will be a literal rebuilding of the  Davidic kingdom, lasting one thousand years. Others believe that the kingdom is happening now and will be fully established when Christ comes again.

I come down on the side of those who believe that Jesus came to bring the kingdom and it was established at his death and resurrection. This kingdom is here and now, and it will be finally realized when Christ comes again to restore all things. Jesus' teachings about the kingdom of God are about a kingdom that his hearers could enter into, a kingdom that was available to them right then. I don't believe that the Sermon on the Mount was about characteristics of citizens of a future one thousand year kingdom, or that it was an offer that was withdrawn when the gospel went to the Gentiles but will be given back to Israel sometime in the future. The teachings of the apostles also are about being part of a present kingdom, one that began when the King allowed the ruler of this world to do his worst and conquered death and hell, a kingdom based on sacrificial love rather than power and force. The early church didn't get in trouble because they were telling folks how to accept Jesus as their personal Savior and go to heaven. They suffered persecution because they were proclaiming their allegiance to a King other than the emperor in Rome.

As we pray for God's kingdom to come and his will be done, we are praying for love to reign, for grace, mercy, and justice to come more and more in this world. We are not saying that our own efforts can bring in this kingdom, but we are praying for God to do his work in and through us. Whenever we show love to our neighbor, extend grace to someone who doesn't deserve it, forgive those who have wronged us, or work for justice for the least of these, the kingdom is coming to earth. God is doing the work of redeeming and restoring his creation, and we are called to join him in that work. That is what we pray for.

May God's kingdom come and his will be done in and through us as we follow the  King.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Monday, October 28, 2013

Blast From the Past: Being Real

This was first posted on November 15, 2010.

A few years ago, there was a thread on titled "Which story are you in?" As I thought about what story I was in at the time, I thought of one of my favorite all-time stories - "The Velveteen  Rabbit". The story is about a stuffed rabbit who becomes real because of the love of a little boy.

As I thought about all that has transpired in my journey the last few years, I thought how God's love is making me "real." The process has not been without pain. In the story the Skin Horse tells the Velveteen Rabbit that becoming real may hurt but that when you do become real you don't mind the hurt. So it is with being formed into the image of Christ - the hurt pales in comparison to the final result, so in some sense you really don't mind it.

The Skin Horse also said that while you might not seem real to others, the one that matters is the one that is causing you to become real through their love. Again that has its parallel in the process of becoming like Jesus. You come to the place where the only one whose opinion of you matters is God.
Obviously, I have a long way to go in the process of becoming real. But God is working.

What story are you in?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

World Vision Wednesday

In case you were wondering (and even if you weren't), here are five facts about world hunger that are important to know.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Blast From the Past: Those Who Love Little

This was first posted on April 21, 2009.

In chapter 7 of his gospel, Luke tells the story of Jesus at a dinner party at the home of Simon the Pharisee. During the dinner, an immoral woman comes into the room and washes Jesus' feet with her tears, dries them with her hair, and then anoints them with very expensive perfume. Of course Simon is appalled that this wicked women would dare to interrupt his event, and wonders why Jesus is allowing her to do this to him. Jesus then tells a parable of two men who were forgiven debts, and makes the point that the one who has been forgiven much will love much.

There are a couple of things that strike me about this account. The first is the attitude many who call themselves Christians show toward Jesus. In that time period, it was a common courtesy for a host to provide water to wash the feet of his guest, removing the dust of the journey. It also was customary to give a kiss of greeting and anoint the head of the guest with oil. By doing these things the host showed that he valued his guest and was glad for the visit. Simon did none of those things for Jesus, displaying an attitude of indifference, at best. Simon seems to think that Jesus is very fortunate to have been invited to a dinner at the home of an esteemed religious leader.

It seems that many, by their actions and attitudes, give the impression that Jesus is lucky to have them on his side. The statement by Jesus that we can do nothing without him is forgotten completely, or is explained away. I have heard folks talk about how great it would be if certain talented and famous individuals would become Christians and how much all their fame and talent could do for God. How many have given in to the idea that because I am doing all these things for God, he owes me? We wonder how God can let trouble into our lives when we have worked so hard and been so faithful.

This attitude also comes out in the way we treat others. We withhold forgiveness.We denigrate those who don't see eye to eye with us. We judge others who don't appear as spiritual as we try to. We place a premium on looking good in front of people, and spend a great deal of energy creating masks to hide our brokenness. So much of what we do is designed to put everyone, including Jesus at arms' length from who we really are. At some point we forget just how much we have been forgiven.

By contrast, the immoral women was not interested in hiding who she was. She knew she was a sinner. She knew that Jesus was the only one who could help her, and she was desperate to get to him, no matter what anyone thought. If she had any masks, she left them at home. She not only did for Jesus what Simon should have done, she lavished her attention on him. Many would probably say that she went a bit overboard with her worship. She not only sacrificed an expensive possession, but she also sacrificed any shred of dignity she may have had left. All because she realized how much she had been forgiven.

May we all be reminded of the great love God has shown us in Jesus and the great forgiveness he has given us. May we love greatly.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Weekend Wanderings

The government is back in business, at least until the next time. It seems that the only thing that remains to be seen is which party will suffer the most in the next election. It seems that both parties are more concerned with their side winning than the good of the country, so I think my vote is going to go to someone who is not an incumbent. On a lighter note, the sunny South is a beautiful place to be. The leaves in the higher elevations are at their peak, and those in the lowlands are beginning to turn.

On to the links:

Living with wonder.
Scot McKnight on standing vs. sitting.
As it turns out, we should eat more bacon.
Some kind of wonderful.

Wayward Son on time.
A call to meditation.
Arthur Sido pleads for humility.
Best modern churches in the UK.
T.E. Hanna on a pernicious temptation.

More on the NSA's activities.
Dan Edelen on feeling like an imposter.
"Arts church".
Zack Hunt on taking a sabbatical.
What is prayer?

Keith Giles on the gap.
Who am I?
Chaplain Mike on facing aging.
Is it edible?
Mike Erich on waiting.

Have a blessed week!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Lord's Prayer: Hallowed Be Thy Name

Jesus tells us that we can call the God of the universe, Father. He is our loving, gracious Father. Jesus then directs us to ask for God's name to be hallowed, or lifted up. I think this is an important part of the prayer that we sometimes forget in the course of our day-to-day. Our aim is to live our lives out in light of this prayer, rather than just repeating it from time to time.

If we pray for God's name to be hallowed, we are praying for that name to be made much of, to be lifted up and glorified. As the Westminster Catechism states, the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. The Psalmist tells us that creation itself declares the glory of the Creator. Everything and everyone is made to bring glory to God.

Sometimes we ask for God to be glorified, but we are not sure that we really want that. Sometimes God is glorified in things that we would consider tragedies. It is hard to look at the loss of a job, the death of a loved one, or anything else we would see as negative and see any way God can get glory through it. We can easily see glory for the Father when things go our way, but when it all hits the fan we act as if God's name is irrevocably damaged. I can think of many times when I questioned how in the world God could get any glory from things that happened.

It has been a hard lesson to learn, but it is true that the Father can be glorified through any and every thing. He is God, after all. Romans 8 tells us that God works in everything, even the messes in our lives, for the good of those who love him. This good could be directly for the person who is going through the stuff, or it could be for the body of Christ as a whole. Either way, God is glorified, whether it's through an individual becoming more like Christ or a group of Christians being strengthened by what the individual has gone through.

We are taught to pray that our Father be glorified. We need to understand that that glory may come through trouble in our lives. At the same time, we can be encouraged that the one who loves us with a perfect, inexhaustible love can and does redeem everything.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

World Vision Wednesday

The country of India was recently hit by a massive cyclone. While the loss of life was not as large as it might have been, there is still a great deal to be done to restore the area. World Vision is there, helping to rebuild. For more, check this out.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Failing? Maybe. Failure? No!

I'm beginning to notice a sort of mini epidemic. Lately, I've heard a fair amount of folks state that they feel like a failure, that they feel as if nothing they do means anything. To quote author Steve Brown, that is " from the pit of hell and smells like smoke." When we begin to feel that we are failures who can't do anything right, we are listening to the wrong voices. We are listening to lies direct from the father of lies.

I know what is is like to feel like you can't do anything right. I know what it's like to feel like a failure and wonder if the people in your life would be better off without you. I know what it is like to give up because, "it doesn't matter anyway." I have listened to those lies. Even now, some of those feelings rear their ugly heads from time to time. It's not a good thing, and can harm us and those around us.

One of the things God has taught me over the years is the lesson that those of us who are followers of Jesus are beloved children of the Creator of the universe. We are not only children, but we also have the inheritance of a son. Everything Jesus has, we have in him. We are the dwelling place of God, his temple. Our Father has began a work in us, and he will finish that work in us. God works in everything in our lives for the good of those who love him, and he will conform us to Christ. Because of what Christ has done, we cannot be failures. God is working in us and that work will not fail. We have the word of the King on that!

Will we fail at things? Yes. Will we royally screw up sometimes? Of course! We must remember that making a mistake or failing at something is not necessarily sin. Sometimes it's a lack of knowledge or  skill. Other factors may be involved. One thing it is not is a reflection of our character, of who we really are as a son or daughter of God. It does not change how the Father sees us, or how much he loves us.

When we do sin, it still doesn't change who we are in Christ.  We shouldn't beat ourselves over the head. We confess ( agree with God that it was wrong), turn away and continue to follow our Savior. As Martin Luther said, we are to sin boldly and trust God more boldly. We are to live our lives fearlessly free, not always looking around to see where we might stumble. Many of us were taught to always be worried about sinning, being careful to stay as far away from the cliff as possible. That leads to a performance based religion which caused us to try and get our identity from what we did and how well we did it. Thankfully, our Father doesn't treat us that way. Our identity comes from God, who calls us his beloved. We don't have to perform to please our Abba. As Scripture say, the righteous fall seven time and get up each time. I read that as saying we fall and keep on getting up, no matter how many times.

Take courage. Live life as one who is free, free to make mistakes, free to fail. In Christ there is no such thing as a failure. Who you really are is not based on how well or how badly you perform. Take risks! Be bold! Your Father's got this.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Weekend Wanderings

Fall has fell here in the sunny South. Leaves are changing and falling, the air is filled with the scent of wood fires, and the days and nights are getting cooler. The government is still shut down. God is still in control.

Here are a few of the links of the week:

Begin today. 
A hot mess.
Weakness and strength.
Criticizing your pastor.

Rebecca Trotter on mountain climbing.
Matt Appling on being good enough.
Alan Knox knows how to do a Bible study.
Meghan Tschanz on living with wonder.
Jeff Dunn on surprises.

More than we need.
Tending hope.
Bad news and an attitude.
Always a neighbor.

Have a blessed week!

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Lord's Prayer: Our Father

In our Sunday evening gatherings, we have been looking at what is commonly called the Lord's Prayer. It is the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples to pray. The text is found in Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:2-4. Growing up, it was rare for me to hear this prayer in church. It was seen as something those ritualistic churches did in a rote manner and came close to a "vain repetition." I believe I missed out on something that is a good thing for us to do in our personal and corporate prayers.

Jesus begins the prayer with, "Our Father in heaven."  We are told many times in Scripture that God is our Father. We are born into God's family and we are adopted into the privileges of a son. More than that, we are told that we can call the Creator of the universe, "Abba" or "Papa." We have an intimate relationship with God. Unfortunately, many do not have good memories of their fathers. Some were abusive, or harsh. Others were absent. Some have a hard time with the concept of God as Father. I have heard that the best way is to think of the absolute best father one can imagine and realize that God is infinitely better than that. He is the perfect Father who never abuses, who is always there, and who loves his children with an inexhaustible love.

Luke goes on in his gospel to describe our Father as one who always gives us good things. When my children were growing up, I desired to give them good things and they knew that if they asked for something, I would give it to them if I was able. I didn't give them everything they asked for, because I knew some things were not good for them to have. If they asked for food, I certainly wouldn't have given them dirt or rocks. In the same way, our Father gives us good things. Does he give us everything we ask for? No. If we ask for something that is not going to be good for us, or something that is going to cause harm to others, God usually denies those requests. Just as I knew better than my small children what was good for them (at least part of the time), our Father knows far better than we what is good for us and for his kingdom. Because he loves us, we can and should trust him to give us exactly what we need.

God is our Father in heaven. In the midst of asking and receiving from him, we also remember that he is God, and we are not. He has made us his children and given us his Spirit to guide us, but God is the  final authority on how we live and on what he grants us. God is not a cosmic candy store where we can just put in our order and expect results. We often don't know what is best, but God does. We don't know how things are going to turn out many times, so we can become fearful and feel that the Father really doesn't have a good heart toward us. If we remember that God is a loving, gracious, Father in heaven, and that he knows the end from the beginning, we can trust him no matter what and be grateful for each and everything he gives us, even when it seems as if he is giving us things that are not good.

Trust your Heavenly Father. His heart is good to his children and we can trust him absolutely.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Weekend Wanderings

This has been a good weekend here. Friday was Jan's birthday. We celebrated by spending the evening with a couple of friends at a blues and jazz festival here in town. On Saturday we traveled up to the North Carolina mountains where we spent time at an art festival and saw a gorgeous sunset. In other news, the government shut down continues, and it doesn't look like it will end any time soon. Regardless of your political persuasion, real live human beings are being affected. Pray for those who have lost income or services. Pray for a quick end to the impasse.

On to the links:

Tithing $50,000,000,000.
50 amazing mosques.
Chipped cups.

Good post from Kellen Gorbett.
Kansas Bob on knowing God.
Melody Joy and chickens (or not).
Mike Bell is still an evangelical.

Our desire and God's will.
Walking on water.
Pictures of humility.
A beautiful story.

KC Procter on creating and consuming.
John Frye on Jesus at the margins.
Zack Hunt on zombies.
Mike Erich quotes Martin Luther.

One small thing.
10 airplane myths.
A mandate for grace.

That's it for now. Have a blessed week!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

World Vision Wednesday

Refugees from the Syrian crisis face many challenges. Among them is continuing the education of the children. For more on this check this out

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Repost: Commitment

This was originally posted on January 24, 2008.

In The New Christians: Dispatches From the Emergent Frontier, Tony Jones writes:
"Just ten percent of Americans are not affiliated with a church or synagogue, and another five percent hold a faith other than Judaism or Christianity. That leaves eighty-five percent of Americans who can write down the name and address of the congregation with which they are affiliated. Yes, that bears repeating: eighty-five percent. There are about 255 million church-affiliated Americans.What can be questioned is the level of commitment that Americans have to their churches. They may know the address, but do they know the doctrinal statement? Or the denominational affiliation? Do they care? The answer to the last question is most decidedly no. American Christians care less and less about the denominational divides that are so important to their seminary-trained pastors."

He is answering the notion that America is becoming more and more secularized by stating that the majority of Americans are spiritual, but without the concern with denominational teachings that divide. I think to some degree that is true, especially with those who consider themselves emerging. The emerging conversation definitely cuts across denominational lines.

The statement, "What can be questioned is the level of commitment that Americans have to their churches", raises a different issue. Looking at the fact that eighty-five percent of Americans are associated with a church (or synagogue), I question the level of commitment that American Christians have to Jesus.

We are called to be salt and light. Salt flavors and preserves, and light allows us to see. When a great deal of what passes as the "Christian" arts is nothing more than cheap knock-offs of what is already out there, and when much of the preaching is really self-help philosophy wrapped in Scripture - where is the flavoring? When we are more concerned with beginning more programs and building bigger buildings than we are with the homeless, the poor, and the hurting in the neighborhoods surrounding those buildings - where is the preservation?

We say we have the light, but instead of going and shining that light into the darkness, we want people to somehow stumble out of the darkness into the light inside the walls we have put up to protect the light.
We have become so afraid that somehow the corruption in society will overcome the salt, or that the darkness will overcome the light that we have put ourselves in a ghetto where we are safe within its walls and from which we lob scud missiles at those outside - with the same effect.
We say we believe that God has called us out of darkness into the light, that he has saved us by his grace, that grace gives us the power to follow Jesus and that God is forming us into Christ's likeness. We say that Jesus told us to go and make disciples. We claim to follow the King of Kings. Yet we live in fear. Fear of the culture capturing and corrupting us, fear of screwing up, fear of somehow not quite measuring up.
We are loved by the Creator of the universe! His word tells us that this love is perfect and that perfect love drives fear out! If we belong to Jesus, our day-to-day life, not just our salvation, is by God's grace and not our feeble effort! Our Father loves us and accepts us just as we are, and will change us and make us grow. He will not leave us in our current state. Yes, there are commands in Scripture for us to follow. We are not absolved of all responsibility. But the power is from the Holy Spirit.
As we focus on Jesus Christ and the amazing grace that God has given us, we will desire to follow Jesus closer and closer. We will, as the Jewish rabbis used to say, be "covered in the dust" of our Rabbi. As we become more like Christ we will truly be salt and light. We will mess up from time to time. We will fall. When we do, we just pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, agree with God that we screwed up, and turn away from it and move on. I believe it was Martin Luther who said, "Sin boldly, trust God more boldly still." Walk with Jesus and trust him to guide your steps.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Weekend Wanderings

This has been one of those weeks and one of those weekends. I haven't been able to put together the regular links posts. Instead, I give you a couple of videos to enjoy. Have a blessed week!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Weekend Wanderings

After a few days of the weather teasing us, tomorrow it will be fall here in the sunny South. (probably everywhere else too). I'm even noticing leaves starting to fall off the trees, and you know what that means. Raking and mulching! The leaves are beautiful when they change color. It would be nice if they didn't drop off, but then we wouldn't have the new green leaves in the spring. It's kind of like a lot of things in life. Life often comes out of death.

So much for philosophizing. Here are the links:

Challenging article by Rachel Barnette.
Jeffrey Macdonald on a possible trend.
Alan Knox has a question.
Matt Miles is fasting.
Mary is celebrating small victories.

Confessions of a pretender.
Two most important days.
Politician preachers.
Effortless and free.

Len on safe church.
A family story.
J.R. Miller pronounces woe.
Flip flops and feet.
A story by Daisy Lee Archibald.

Nadia on grace.
Tolkien and Lewis.
Europe: AD 1000 to present day.
Encouraging post from Dan Edelen.
Eric Carpenter writes about what he is for.

Melody rambles.
Like this, like that.
Good post from Brant Hansen.

I hope your first week of fall is a great one!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Alone and Vulnerable

We are told in Scripture that the devil prowls around like a lion, hunting for someone to devour. While I don't believe a Christian can be ultimately harmed by satan, I do think there is a warning to us when it comes to how we live our lives. We are to be vigilant because the lion has many ways to try and attack us. To me, this speaks of the necessity of being in community with fellow believers.

When lions or other pack animals hunt, they pick out the most vulnerable member of a herd. They look for an animal that is sick, or a young one that may be slower than the rest. They may focus on one that has strayed away from the herd a bit. When the pack makes its charge, the target can be brought down quickly unless it can reach the safety of the herd or unless one of the stronger members is able to defend it.

A follower of Jesus who is trying to go it alone is a vulnerable target for the enemy. If we are by ourselves, we lose the benefit of learning how to love as Jesus loved, the benefit of wise counsel from others, and the growth that comes from the messiness of sharing life together. It is very easy for us to get the idea that we are doing everything right without input from others. Our blind spots are just that. Usually we don't know about them unless someone who loves us points them out. If we isolate ourselves and only hear one point of view or one teacher, we run the risk of embracing teaching that does not match up with Scripture. Many times, we need the give and take of a group in order to discern what God wants us to know and do.  

Jesus gave us the command to love our brothers and sisters as he loved us. We cannot do that if we are separate from them. We are also told to make disciples. That can only be done in a community of folks that are committed to helping each other learn to follow Jesus. It doesn't happen in isolation.  

A community that loves, that challenges, that disciples, is a safe place. Yes, there will be messiness. Yes, there will be times when we hurt one another. But a community that is centered in Jesus and his gospel will provide what we need to follow Christ and be a light in a dark world.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Weekend Wanderings

It's been a stressful week around here. Work was very "interesting," and a health scare had Jan and me scrapping our Saturday plans. Everything is fine. Turned out to be a false alarm, but the links are a bit shorter this week.

Here they are:

This video had been around for awhile, but it's still funny.
For men.
For women.
Zeal, or anger?

Nate Pruitt on remembering, violence, and love.
Zack Hunt asks a good question.
Jared Wilson has a better word.
Mike Erich expects the supernatural.
John Watson gives us a poem.

This is interesting.
Whose are these hands?
World's ugliest animal.
Always "Plan A."
Christian without the adjectives.

Have a blessed week!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Coming Down

This past Sunday night, we were in Paul's letter to the Philippians. During the message the speaker made reference to this commercial. Go ahead and watch. I'll wait.

The point of the commercial was that the choices we make show our character. The men who were not normally in wheelchairs had made the choice to "come down" in some sense to be able to understand and include their friend in their weekly game of basketball. As he talked about this, the speaker spoke of how Jesus came down into the mess of our world in order to be like us and include us in the family of God. We could not reach up to God, so Jesus came down to us to show us the Father. This choice revealed the character of Jesus as one who is gracious and loving to the point of laying down his life for us so that we might live. As the players in the commercial immersed themselves, for a time, in the world of their friend, so Jesus immersed himself in our world.

We as the body of Christ, are called to do the same. Rather than being called to pull away from the world and wait to be rescued, we are called to "come down" and be fully in the world. Because we have the Spirit in us, we can do this without being of this world. Just as Jesus came into the muck that is the stuff of life, so we are called to get our hands dirty, living sacrificial lives that show the grace and love of God. Jesus met people where they were and gave them what they needed. Many times we try to give people something that they don't need, and then wonder why they reject us. I have heard it said that the church too often is answering questions that no one is asking. Obviously we do what we do for others because of the gospel, and we are to invite others to follow Jesus. I'm not suggesting we don't. But I am saying that maybe we start sharing the gospel by showing love to those around us in tangible ways.

Jesus said that our love would show that we belong to him. Maybe the choices we make really do reveal our character.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Weekend Wanderings

The football season is underway, which means basketball can't be far behind. Things are cooling down here in the sunny South and it won't be long before the roads in the mountains will be crowded with folks looking at the fall foliage. It's possible that the United States could be involved in yet another nation in the Middle East by next weekend. We'll see. Well, enough current events. On to the important stuff.

Here are the links:

Eric Carpenter on freedom in Christ.
Andy Stager on a different church growth strategy.
Ruth Wilson confesses.
Mike Bell on being the church.
M. Morford asks a good question.

Serious allegations.
Victorious life?
Old Erich proverb.

Kansas Bob on being authentic.
Maybe not in a church service on a Sunday morning.
Wayward Son is un-persuaded.
Len on slow church.
Matt Appling asks a question.

Peacemaking and churches.
World's 50 most unusual churches.
Homily on grace.
A new legalism.
Doxology in darkness.

Have a blessed week!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Blast From the Past: Obedience Leads To Freedom

Originally posted on August 18, 2009.

 ...or does it? I was listening to Steve Brown the other day. He was speaking about a teaching that I had heard all my life and fully believed, until about a year or so ago. This was the idea that obedience leads to freedom. I heard the story about how the fence around the yard allowed the little dog the freedom of running around the whole yard and protected it from the big dogs outside the fence. I also remember preachers talking about how the train tracks allow the train the freedom to run without wrecking. All of this was to emphasize how we need rules and regulations in our lives and how obedience led to freedom.

Now, it is true that rules do allow many things, including our lives , to run smoother in a lot of ways. Sporting events run much smoother with rules, and obeying those rules does bring freedom as you compete. The problem with applying this to our spiritual lives is that is just not true. The Pharisees rigidly obeyed the Law. They even came up with rules to keep people from even coming close to breaking the rules. They not only had no freedom, they didn't realize they were in bondage. We all know people who obeyed all the rules while they were growing up and rejected the faith as soon as they got out on their own. Many of us also know folks who obey and stay in church, yet are obviously not free. Of course, that brings up the question of whether they are obeying God's commands or man's rules, but that's another topic.

We aren't free because we obey. We obey because we are free. Because God has been gracious to us, and has set us free, we can now obey him. Because we are free, we can also choose to disobey. But, because God has given us his Spirit, he works in us to make us more and more like Jesus. That is not to say that we have no responsibility to learn and be a disciple, but rather to say that the strength to do that comes from God and the motivation to do that arises out of gratitude and love. God puts in us the desire to obey. We often fail miserably, but the desire to do what is right and become more like Jesus is from our Father.

It is good for us to realize that it is not our own effort that brings freedom. We are free because of what Christ has done for us. As we sink deeper and deeper into the love the Father has for us, and seek to be more like the Master, we will more naturally do what God wants us to do.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Three Day Weekend Wanderings

Happy Labor Day weekend! This weekend is sort of the official end of summer, although school has been in session in many places for a week or more, and fall doesn't arrive until later in September.  The typical August weather has returned to the sunny South, after a week or so of fall like temperatures. It was nice while it lasted. It looks like we might be sending an airstrike against Syria soon. I hope this doesn't get us bogged down in another war.

On to the links:

Dan Edelen is looking out from a glass house.
Meghan Tschanz has learned something from William Wilberforce.
Zack Hunt on a faith worth losing.
Melody has some things you should do today.
Andy Stager on work and play.

Seeker sensitive churches.
What's interesting is that a couple of these churches were also on a list of the ugliest.
War on Syria?
Slow Church.
Hippie doorway beads.

Alan Knox on making a difference.
Matt Appling on ideas.
Brit Tasjhian on communion.
Michael Lucaszewski on puffer fish pastors.
Scot McKnight on soul freedom.

When charity is illegal.
How not to comment.
Morning prayer.
Free church.

Have a blessed week!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Weekend Wanderings

It's been a beautiful autumn weekend here in the sunny South. Of course, it's August. We're finishing up one of the coolest and wettest summers on record. School has begun, and volleyball practice starts Monday. I'll be working with the 7th grade team this year, so I'll be doing more teaching.

Enough small talk. Here are the links:

Should Christianity be so boring?
The insanity of prayer.
The Gospel and the American Dream.
Your state and your rep's religion.
Superhero Christianity.

Mike Bell asks an important question.
Jon Acuff is on a rollercoaster.
Alan Knox on the gospel.
Zack Hunt finds the kingdom of God in an interesting place.
Kelley J. Leigh writes a good post.

What is beauty, anyway?
Blessed assurance.
True meaning of influence.
7 obnoxious Jesus jukes.
Good question.

It's been a busy weekend, and I'm tired. I hope you have a blessed week!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Blast From the Past: Gold

This was originally posted on May 20, 2010. The commercials are still running, with different people.

According to G. Gordon Liddy and others, gold is what will save us in these tough economic times. At least it will save our financial portfolios. Besides the question of whether you would buy a used car from that man (a few years ago, Liddy was pushing mutual funds), there are other issues with the pitch being made by the gold sellers, at least for those of us who follow Jesus.

The commercials are based on fear. Fear of the future, fear of the government, fear of losing the American Dream. In contrast, believers are told to not fear. We do not fear because we are children of the Creator of the universe. God gives us a spirit of adoption, not a spirit of fear. Jesus tells us to not fear those who can kill the body (I would add, or take our things), but to fear God. We are loved by a Father who tells us not to worry about the material things, because he knows even the number of hairs on our heads (of course, it's easier for him to do that with some of us).

The other thrust of the buy gold campaign is security. In one ad, Liddy drops gold coins into one hand and says, "That's the sound of security." He's telling us that his security is in a bunch of rocks that come out of the ground. I wonder what he would say if the price of an ounce of gold suddenly dropped to a much lower amount. Where would his security be then?

As humans, we tend to put our security into what we can see, whether it's minerals, jobs, possessions, or people. It's perfectly natural for someone to put his security in gold. For the Christian however, our security is to be in God alone. In Romans 8, Paul tells us that there is nothing in the entire universe that can separate us from the love of God. I think that counts as security, don't you? All through Scripture, God's children are encouraged to trust their Father to take care of them and meet their needs.

I really don't have any problem with people planning their financial future. We do need to be aware of the danger of making things like gold, retirement accounts, and home equity idols that we put our trust in rather than putting our trust in the One who has promised to take care of us.

Besides, if the literalists are correct, when we get to heaven we'll be walking on streets paved with gold, so it can't be worth all that much. :)

Moving On

It's been a while since I've written here. Life has been happening the past few months. I have decided to start fresh, so I'm mo...