Thursday, March 28, 2013

Thursday

Tonight is the night that Jesus began to show us the full extent of his love. He gathered with his disciples and performed the work of a lowly household slave by washing their feet. He then served as the host of the Passover meal, reworking it to be something that would commemorate his sacrifice for us. After the supper, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane, where he begged the Father to let the cup of suffering go on by him. I believe that in the garden, Jesus began to experience all the grief and agony that is common to those of  us who are human beings. Had he not been upheld by the Father, the grief would have been overwhelming. As it is, his sorrow is unfathomable to us.

As I think about that night, there are some things that I feel God wants me to learn. The first is the sacrificial love I am to show to others. As Jesus not only gave his life, but also humbled himself to do a dirty, abasing job, so I am called to do whatever it takes to show love to others, especially to my brothers and sisters in Christ. While I may not be called to host dinners, I am called to invite others into the presence of the One who gave his life. I can do this by proclaiming the Gospel to those who haven't embraced it. I can also live out the Gospel as I relate to others and let them see Jesus in me by my love.

As I look at Jesus in the garden, I see a God who has gone through pain and suffering. I don't believe that the Father intends for us to live a pain free life. Instead I believe that Jesus entered into our pain and grief while here on earth, and that he calls us to also enter into his suffering. I don't like suffering at all, but it is a huge comfort to know that Jesus has experienced what I go through, and understands. I don't belong to a god who tells me to buck up and take it like a man. I belong to a Father who understands, who is there to comfort me in my affliction, and who has redeemed, and is redeeming everything in my life. I am part of a kingdom whose history is a salvation history, a kingdom where all things will finally be made right, a kingdom whose King went through the worst that death and hell could muster and came out victorious. Because of this, there is nothing I need to fear.

May you find comfort and encouragement in remembering this night.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

World Vision Wednesday

This past Friday was World Water Day. Contaminated water is a severe problem in many parts of the world, bringing disease and death. To read more and find out how you can help, go here.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Week Begins

This was first posted on March 16, 2008.

The first thing they did was go into the city and find a donkey for him to ride on. This was the first indication that today was going to be different. On the way, one said to the other, "I wonder why the rabbi wants a donkey to ride on. Why not just walk like he usually does?" "I don't know. This is another one of those things I don't understand. I wonder what kind of problems we'll run into."

As they were untying the donkey, the owner came out and demanded to know what they thought they were doing. "The Lord needs it." said the disciples. The owner replied, "I see. Go on and take it then." "That was easier than I thought it would be", the two said to each other as they went back to where the Master waited.

When they got there, they noticed that a larger than usual crowd had gathered. The disciples put their cloaks on the donkey to make a comfortable seat. As the group started toward the city, some in the crowd began to spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches off the trees and laid them down in front of the donkey. The crowd began to shout, "Hosanna, to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!" The shouting continued and became louder as the crowd neared the city.

As the procession continued and grew, the disciples started to talk. "Do you hear what they're saying?" "The people are really behind him." This is it. The Kingdom is going to be restored." Yeah, we'll finally be out from under those pagan Romans."

When the group reached the city, people were asking, "Who is this?" The answer came back, "This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth". Some of the religious leaders, worried that Roman soldiers might be drawn to disperse such a large crowd and bothered by what the people were shouting, said to Jesus, "Tell these people to be quiet!" Jesus replied, "If they keep quiet, the stones around you will begin to shout. The disciples chuckled at the way the rabbi put them in their place.

The crowd continued to the Temple, where some in the group were sure the Master would begin the rebellion that would finally re-establish David's kingdom in its rightful place. They watched in awe and wonder as Jesus went into the temple area and began turning over the money tables, letting the doves and sheep out of their cages, and just generally causing havoc. The disciples thought, "Now what's he doing? I know the moneychangers and animal sellers were cheating people, but that probably isn't the best way to handle things."

As they left the city for the night, they all wondered, "What would the week bring?"

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Weekend Wanderings

The annual rite of spring known as the NCAA basketball tournament has begun, even though the weather is acting like it's still the middle of winter. The good news is, I am in fifth place in my bracket group. The bad news is, there are only five of us in the group. In other news, Puxatawney Phil is currently wanted in multiple states for fraud. Word is, he's disguised as the Easter Bunny.

Okay, enough foolishness. Here are the links for this week:

Kim Kardashian's pant size. Don't ask, just read it.
Amazing grace.
Rethinking the gifts of the Spirit. Part IX.
Beer and faith.
The Krusty Sage.

Good question from Dan Edelen.
Good post from Andy Stager.
Something about freedom from Jared Wilson.
Really?
Scot McKnight has something on prayer from Mark Twain.

Self-righteousness.
Labels.
A can of worms.
God's plan.
Comfort zones.

Keith Giles has a series on unbelievable truth. Part 2 is here.
Jeff Dunn is quitting.
Life-long learning.
Alan Knox on seminars and conferences.
Chaplain Mike on church.

May you have a blessed week as you remember the great love that Jesus showed us on the cross.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Repost: A Bit of Wisdom From Janis Joplin

This was first posted on September 15, 2011.

Really? Janis Joplin? I can explain. This evening, I was listening to the radio on the way home and heard the Joplin version of "Me and Bobby McGee," and a line in that song started the wheels turning. Now I know some of you are thinking I need to get my wheels checked, that they might be just a little bit out of alignment. Bear with me here. I believe that all truth is God's truth and that truth can be found in some unlikely places.


There is a line in the song that states, "Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose...." Possibly the writer of this song meant to say that it is only those who have nothing who are truly free, and an argument can be made for that. I see it a bit differently. Those who are truly free have nothing to lose. A major theme through Scripture is freedom. From the Exodus from Egypt and the laws concerning freeing servants and property, to the prophecies of One who will free the captives, the Old Testament is full of freedom.

When we think of freedom, we usually look to the New Testament. Jesus stated that he was the promised liberator of the captives. He told the people that true freedom came from the Son setting them free. Freedom echoes through the epistles, and in Galatians 5:1 we are told that we have been set free for ... freedom. Think about that for a second. Freedom is the reason we have been set free! I would venture to say that God thinks freedom is pretty important.

If we have been made free in Christ, is there anything we have to lose? List all the things the world strives to hold on to: money, possessions, relationships, pleasures, reputation, power, etc.. Because we are alive in Christ, we are dead to those things and they are to have no hold on us anymore. When we think that we have to worry about losing those things, we are not thinking according to who we are, and we are not listening to our Shepherd's voice. The Kingdom is described as a great treasure that is worth giving up everything else. The more we realize our freedom as a child of God and a co-heir with Jesus, and the more we live in that reality, the more we realize that because of freedom, we have nothing to lose. Even if we were to "lose" everything, if we are free in Christ we already have everything.

Live in freedom!



Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Thoughts on Les Miserables

A little while back, Jan and I went with some of our church family to see the movie, Les Miserables. We thoroughly enjoyed it. It's one of those movies you want to see on the big screen and then want to see again on DVD because the story is so good. A lot has been said and written about the theme of grace vs. law and the triumph of grace. The movie was saturated with grace, and the embodiment of grace in Jean Valjean and law in Javert was thought provoking and emotion producing.There were a lot of tissues used, and hopefully a lot of thinking about God's grace. My thoughts after the film, while still including grace, were a bit different than others that I heard.

There were many scenes in the film that made folks cry, and I choked up many of those times myself. However, what brought me to tears was the scene near the end when Javert dove off the bridge, finally holding on to law all the way to death and rejecting the grace that was offered. Now, keep in mind that I had not read the novel or seen any of the stage or film productions. In my wild-eyed optimism, I hoped that Javert would see the light and be transformed by grace as Jean Valjean was. It broke my heart.

My heart still breaks when I think about the many people who reject a grace that gives life and cling to law which brings death. Some don't know any better, having been raised in religions that are all about human effort. I would include the American religion of pull yourself up by your own bootstraps self-sufficiency. Many however, should know better. There are multitudes of churches and organizations that will say they are all about grace but then proclaim rules to follow to be "right with God," or any number of steps to be a better whatever. This includes those "ministries" who proclaim grace but then tell you what to do to have any number of "blessings" in your life.

If those things worked, churches would be full of perfect, completely fulfilled and whole people. Do you know any of those? I don't. Law doesn't work to bring life, whether it's religious commands or simple human effort to get better. Our effort, whether it's obeying regulations, following steps, or trying to have more faith, will not change us. It is only God's grace that transforms us, making us into people who show love to others, who trust God, and who sometimes do the right thing. This comes about because the Spirit of the living God dwells in us and changes us from the inside out. We no longer live by law, but we live by grace, out of a heart consumed with love for our Father because he loves us with an unchangeable, everlasting love.

Let us reject law, with its striving and death. Let us embrace God's grace, which does what we could never do and transforms us into the new creation God means for us to be. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Weekend Wanderings

Happy St. Patrick's Day! It's beginning to look like Spring here in the sunny South. The days are getting warmer and the sun is staying up longer. It took a week, but I finally recovered from losing an hours sleep when we moved the clocks ahead. A new pope has been chosen and the world waits to see what his time in office will be like. March craziness (I don't want the NCAA to think I'm violating their trademark or anything) has begun, and those of us who are fans of college basketball are looking forward to the next few weeks.

Here are the links:

Something good to consider.
Rebirth poem.
One hundred things.
St. Patrick.
Commentary by Jesus.


A good reminder from Mike Erich.
A short history of St. Patrick's day from J. R. Miller.
Alan Knox imagines.
Zack Hunt on being fundamentalist in Alaska. Part 1.
John Frye has some suspicions.

Enough punishment.
Grateful.
The 1 command.
The woman at the Circle K.
New ministry dictionary.

Have a blessed week!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

World Vision Wednesday

World Vision has joined with 10x10, a campaign promoting the education and empowerment of girls. This story from Ethiopia highlights how child sponsorship can help.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Weekend Wanderings

The cardinals have gathered in Rome, and there soon will be a new pope. In other news, the cardinals, blue jays, and robins are gathering in our yard, and spring weather is making its way in. Since it's March, the madness is about to begin, with some of the smaller college conferences running their tournaments this weekend. Who will be Cinderella this year? It will be interesting to see.

Here is the good stuff:

How to become a pope.
A good reminder from Kansas Bob.
Raised with Christ.
Jim Wallis on "The Bible".
Fun facts about popes and conclaves.

Jared Murray on solitude and community.
Using social media.
Daniel Jepsen begins a series on being radical.
The prime directive of Scripture.
Zack Hunt on Christian unity.

Keith Giles begins a series on unbelievable truth.
The young goat god.
Alan Knox on ministry.
Lessons from an ass.
John Frye on discipleship.

Caffeine facts.
Scot McKnight  on the Sermon on the Mount.
The Gardner.
Frank Viola has a series on the Holy Spirit. Part 1 is here.
Doubt.

Have a blessed week!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Repost: Pursuing the Virtuous Life

This was first posted on April 22, 2010.

One of the things I learned during my days as a teacher in fundamentalist Christian education was the fact that many of America's founding fathers had lists of virtues or rules of behavior that were good things for the students to know and emulate. Ben Franklin had a list of thirteen, while George Washington had one hundred ten rules to follow. All in all the rules and lists are not bad things for people to check out and learn from. We obviously could use more civility and manners in today's society.


The problem comes when we try to make ourselves virtuous by following a list of rules. Ben Franklin realized that while he had become a better person in many ways, he had not reached the state of moral perfection that he hoped to attain. Many churches preach, and many people believe, that following the dictates of their church or a set of rules from a particular group will help you be "right with God." Many other churches who don't have a long list of "standards" still preach steps to be closer to God, or any number of things you can do to be a better Christian. This kind of thinking, while it may make life a bit better, is nothing more than man's attempt to do what only God can do.

What is forgotten in all the lists to follow is grace. Grace is the word that Christians use when they are talking about salvation. They are correct; we are saved by grace, not by anything we do. What is so often neglected is that we also live and grow by grace. As God's children, there is nothing we can do to make him love us less. We can not tear ourselves away from God's grace and love. It is also true that there is nothing we can do that will make God love us any more. We cannot add to the Father's grace and love toward us. I love my son and daughter unconditionally. They cannot do anything that is going to make me stop loving them, and they do not have to do anything to earn my love. So it is with God. He loves us, period.

As we learn to accept and rest in that love it grows in us and our love for God and for others grows. The way we grow in the Father's love is by spending time with him, seeing each day as an opportunity to be guided and shaped by the Spirit. We learn about the Father by looking at the Son, by immersing ourselves in the Gospels and seeing Jesus as he really is. The first disciples spent three years with the Master, eating and drinking with him , traveling with him, hearing his teachings and seeing how he lived those teachings out. After that, they were given the Holy Spirit and went out and turned the world upside down. We have the account of Jesus' life and teachings, and we have the same Holy Spirit to guide us and empower us to become like Jesus.

Our lives do not hang on man-made rules or anything else that comes from our own efforts. We can become better people, but the Father's goal is for us to become like Christ. That can only come from the grace of God working in our lives through the Spirit. It happens because God loves us. Rest in that love. Don't try to be a virtuous person. Instead, learn from Jesus and let the Spirit teach you. Trust in the fact that the Father is shaping you into the image of Jesus. As the old hymn says, "Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace."

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Lessons From The Man Who Ate New Orleans Part 4

In the first three posts, we looked at the cardinal virtues of community, generosity, resiliency, openness to outsiders, and diversity. In this post I want to look at tradition and celebration.

Webster defines tradition as a time honored practice or set of such practices. Tradition is complicated. There are many who see tradition as a bad thing, and it certainly can be. Tradition can be something that binds, that excludes, that stifles. Many of the conflicts between Jesus and the religious leaders of his day were about tradition. Tradition can be lifted up to something more important than it is, even to the point of something close to worship. Church programs, styles of music, or any number of things are sometimes elevated to almost the level of Scripture. A common phrase in some circles is, "We've always done it this way," when an opportunity for change comes along. Tradition can take precedence over the good of others, and can keep us from loving them. Jesus was very clear about the wrongness of putting tradition ahead of loving others and doing good to them.

On the other hand, tradition can be a good, life affirming thing. It can draw folks close and build them up. A family gathering around a table can be a good tradition. Certain practices in the church can be good traditions and can connect us with others and with those who have gone before us in the faith. Traditions can keep us in touch with our heritage, give us a sense of oneness with others, and make us feel a part of something beyond ourselves. There are many today who are rediscovering some of the traditions of centuries past, and who are experiencing a deeper faith because of it.

One of the traditions that can be a good thing is the tradition of celebration. The people of God have a long history of celebration. Israel was given days of feasting as well as days of fasting. In Deuteronomy 14:22-26, the people were even told they could sell their tithe for silver and buy enough food, wine, and strong drink to have a feast with their families. The Israelites were a celebratory people. Jesus came and spent so much time celebrating that his critics accused him of being a glutton and a drunk. When asked why his disciples didn't fast, he replied that there was no reason to fast at that time, that it was time to celebrate! Of course, those of us who follow the resurrected Christ have the best reason of all to celebrate. We are accepted by God because Jesus gave his life and then rose from the dead! Death has been defeated! If that's not a reason to celebrate than I don't know what is! N.T. Wright states that our Easter celebrations should be blow out affairs, with champagne! He says that we should party so boisterously that others look at us and wonder why. I think I agree with him. Think of all the things we celebrate. Is there really anything worth celebrating as much as the resurrection of our King, guaranteeing our resurrection? Even if we don't want to throw a huge party to celebrate what the Father has given us, we should at least be people who celebrate and not folks who go around looking down all the time. Even in the midst of the mess and suffering of life, we know we are loved by the One who is going to renew all things, and that we are being renewed as well.

Let us be people who hold to those traditions that bring us closer to Christ and who are free to celebrate with abandon the grace and mercy we have been given. 

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3     

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Weekend Wanderings

Winter is hanging on here in the sunny South. We even had snow yesterday. Actually, it snows more in March around here than it it does during the other months. Does it seem like there are more winter storms now that they are named? I think we're up to S or T. I don't know.


Here are the links of the week:

Frank Viola asks a good question.
Being there.
Neal Paradise on spiritual gifts.
Scandal.

Neighboring.
Bill Kinnon on discipleship.
Lessons in faith.
Arthur Sido on an issue.

Matt Appling on equality.
Church models and methods.
Zack Hunt on the cross and evangelical Christianity.
12 resources for Christian generosity.

Keith Giles is annoyed.
How have you changed?
Another reason why March is one of the best months.
Talk like a human being.


This does not surprise me at all.
John Frye on the dark night of the soul.

I hope you have a wonderful week!

Weelend Wanderings

The first weekend links post of autumn is here! The weather is beautiful here in the sunny South. It was fifty degrees on our back porch thi...