Wednesday, May 29, 2013

World Vision Wednesday

I'm sorry the posting around here has been almost non-existent lately. There's a lot going on right now. It's good stuff, but it's keeping me pretty busy. Anyway, here is a success story about a former sponsored child showing how much impact giving to World Vision can have.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Identity

I spoke to our school's chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes yesterday morning. The seats were filled. Well, one seat was filled. Anyway, as I was preparing what I wanted to say, I was reminded of some of what God has been teaching me over the past few years.

Like most folks, I have always gained my identity and my sense of worth from the things I did, or didn't do in some cases. I was involved in sports at an early age, and by the time I entered high school I had turned into a pretty decent athlete. I had also been taught that, as a Christian, I was defined by what I did or didn't do and where I went or didn't go. As I entered my high school years, I more defined myself by the standards of my friends more than the standards of my church. Through college I was defined as a bit of a rebel, and also one who was training for "full time Christian work" (whatever that is). I began a career as a teacher and coach, and my identity became that. I was called "Coach," and I loved it. I was also teacher, athletic director, bus driver, Sunday School teacher, worship leader, deacon, and elder through the years. Add to that son, husband and father, and you can see that my identity was tied up in  a lot of things.

A few years ago, God decided it was time to change my identity. My job went away, so I was no longer a lot of the things I had been previously. I spent a few months driving a shuttle bus at an army base. This job gave me a lot of time to read, think, and pray. I did get a job in another school as an instructional assistant. Both parents passed away. After a time we left the church we had been in for fourteen years to help start a new church. So now I was a "church planter," so to speak. That lasted a couple of years and we formed a small fellowship with some folks out of that first group. In some ways, I was sort of a pastor, without the title. I was also a member of a community of faith. Those things became what I based my identity on. Within just a few months, that "church" crashed and burned, and with it went the idols I had set up. It was not a fun time.

Fast foward just over a year. We are now part of a community of faith where there is love and service that comes from hearts that have been changed by the Gospel. I am doing some teaching, and am coaching. I am still a husband and a father. But now, I realize that my identity, my self worth is not grounded in those things. The Father has taught me that my identity, the very core of who I am, is grounded in his love for me, and in what Christ has done for me. There are things I do. I teach a couple of Bible studies. I disciple others. I coach sports. I serve my wife as a husband, and I do what a father of grown up adults needs to do. However, that is not who I am.

I am a beloved child of the Ruler of all things. He is pleased with me. I am a co-heir with Christ of all the riches of eternity. As Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians, I have died with Christ, but I live. It's not me that lives though. It is Jesus Christ living in me. I don't totally understand all the particulars of what that means theologically, but I do know that it means that my identity is in the King of Kings. No matter what happens, no matter what I do, that does not change. I can do all sorts of good things, or not. The fact remains that I am a child of God. Period. End of discussion.  

Monday, May 20, 2013

Repost: The Only Thing We Have To Fear is Fear...

This was first posted on March 5, 2008.

...and yet we live in fear. Parents fear that something is going to happen to their children. Children fear that something is going to happen to their family. Democrats and Republicans both fear that the other party is going to win the White House. Christians on the right fear losing the "culture war". Christians on the left fear the right being an influence. Some fear being deprived of their freedoms, others fear the influence of "the world". Ministers fear that their ministries will fail.
We fear the future, and we fear the results of past actions. At some level, we all fear failure. We don't want to not measure up, to not please God.

I've been reading Following Jesus by N.T. Wright and Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places by Eugene Peterson, and one of the things they both emphasize is that fear is not to be a part of the Christian's life. We are children of the God who raised Jesus from the dead. The fact that Jesus is raised from the dead changes everything. It means that God is in control, that no matter what happens, God is making all things right. His Kingdom is coming and His will is going to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

We are also children of a God who has loved us with an everlasting love, and has shown us an infinite amount of grace. Because of this love and grace, we can be sure of the promise that God will work everything out for the purpose of making us into the image of Jesus. The Apostle John tells us that this perfect love drives out fear. God's grace is free and is inexhaustible. There is nothing we can do to earn God's favor and there is nothing we can do to drive His favor away.

Think about it. We don't have to live in fear. The resurrection of Jesus and the grace God has shown us mean that God is going to work in us and all of His children. We don't have to worry when our spiritual growth is not where we think it should be, or when someone else's growth is not where we think it should be. We can live freely, knowing that our Father loves us and takes everything in our lives and works in and through that. Even when we screw up, God's grace is still ours and His Spirit is still working.

I want to live a life that is free of fear. I want to totally depend on God's grace and His resurrection power. I want to sin boldly and trust God even more boldly, to paraphrase Martin Luther.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Yet Another Political Post (Sort Of)

If you've been reading this blog for awhile (is there anyone really?), you know that I rarely post anything political. Sometimes things get to a point where I just have to break with tradition and say something. This is one of those times.

The air is hot with political goings on. A congressional district in South Carolina has elected a former congressman/former governor who has been the fodder for late night television comedians. At least four storms have hit the current administration, and any number of controversies continue to pop up from time to time.Conspiracy theories abound on both sides of the political aisle, and the gap between "left" and "right" continues to widen. Facebook posts range from support of "our side" to almost wishing the other side would die horribly. To be honest, some of the things that are said and put on-line are sad.

In all of this I am reminded of one thing. Jesus is the King, the one we who call ourselves Christians owe our allegiance to. I am reminded that the United States, while it may be the best nation on earth (and you're free to think otherwise), is still a kingdom of this world. As such, it will never be God's kingdom on this earth. The President, no matter who they may be will never be perfect. And everything they do will not be "God's work."

Christians in America have fallen into the trap of thinking that we can bring the Kingdom to earth using human means. Of course, this is nothing new. It started with Constantine, and has continued through the centuries. As Dr. Phil asks, "How's that working for you?" (I can't believe I just quoted Dr. Phil!) We have somehow bought into the notion that political power is the way to save society. We have embraced the sword while claiming to follow the Prince of Peace who gave his life. We have believed that we can change people through legislation, forgetting that true change can only come from within.

Many Christians live in fear, not really believing that our God is sovereign. God is the one who sets up and takes down kingdoms. All of the kingdoms of this world, including the United States, belong to Christ and are under his rule. He uses them as he sees fit, and moves on when he is finished with them. We have nothing to fear. Even if this country becomes just like the European nations, or just like an old time banana republic, our God is in control and is working to bring about the renewal of all things. Our hope is in God, not in kings or princes, congressmen or presidents.

I don't believe we have to totally stay away from the political scene. We are told to seek the good of the city where we are. We are told to be good citizens and obey those whom God has placed in power. We live in a nation where we have the right to participate in the political process. I'm not saying we should all sit on our hands. All I am asking is that we remember where our allegiance lies. We are citizens of a kingdom that does not operate by the ways of this world. The Kingdom of God does not come with a sword, but with a basin and a towel.

God help us to focus on what Christ has called us to do. Make disciples by showing the love and grace of the Father to others. Anything else is not our task.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Repost: Hi. My Name's Fred and I'm a...

First posted on February 17, 2009.
 
...recovering Pharisee. There should be a group named P.A. (Pharisees Anonymous). I would join. Growing up in fundamentalism, I was taught that the only ones who were right were independent fundamental Baptist. I fully believed that. I can remember being judgemental of those that used the RSV as their Bible. After all, they left out some things that were in the King James, which we knew was the only correct interpretation. Those who baptized infants, learned catechisms, venerated saints, or believed in the "social gospel" were somewhat lesser Christians than we were, if they were Christians at all. Even in the midst of my teenage rebellion, I still believed that I had been taught THE TRUTH, and everyone who disagreed with that was wrong. The attitude persisted through Bible college and I graduated fully ready to defend the Faith.

Fast forward twenty or thirty years. Through those years God has been working in me and teaching me that many of the things I had been taught were either not Biblical at all, distinctives of a particular group, or simply cultural. I began to experience real grace for the first time as I learned that the Father loves me no matter what. He is pleased with me and there is nothing I can do to make him any more or any less pleased with me. I desire to follow Jesus out of a heart full of gratitude and love rather than a need to "stay right with God" (I did a lousy job of that).

The problem is that I still struggle with being a Pharisee. I still have a tendency to judge people. The difference is that now I am not judging liberals or any of the ones I used to judge. Now, I tend to be judgemental of other people who are judgemental. I tend to look at fundamentalists, especially independent Baptists with a much too critical eye. I am realizing more and more that this attitude is nothing less than it was when I was younger. It's sin. I am no better than those I criticize for being critical.

I read an interview in which Brain McLaren was asked about those who criticize him and call him heretic, etc. His response was that he believed that those critics loved Jesus and were trying to follow him the best they could, and that he simply disagreed with their methods as well as some of their theology. It was one of the most gracious responses I've ever seen. He did not condemn them, but accepted them as brothers, even though they disagree. That's the kind of response I want to have in my life toward those who are critical. May God grant that to all of us.

My name's Fred and I'm try to leave Phariseeism behind.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Weekend Wanderings

It's been a good week here in the sunny South. It's Mother's Day weekend, and I want to make sure all of you know that the mother of my children, my wife, is the most beautiful person in the world. I'm totally unbiased so, there you go. The Church lost a wise voice this week with the passing of Dallas Willard. He will be missed.

Here are the links:

Nonsense.
Ascension Day.
Artists and the Church.
Playing well with others.

Cloudy.

Larry Shallenberger on seeds.
Arthur Sido on success.
Zack Hunt on loving enemies.
Alan Knox on connections. Part 1.
Matt Appling on offending.

Rest.
9 words.
Wounded faith.
The race.
Funny stuff.

Chaplain Mike on Law and Gospel.
Scot McKnight on the mysticism of Paul.
Richard Foster on Dallas Willard.
This is a good story.
Tim Elmore on raising emotionally healthy kids.

That's all for this time. Have a blessed week.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Win-Win. Or Is There Something Else?

In one of the classes I assist, the students are learning how to negotiate. One of the sections is about finding a win-win solution to a problem. That is a popular way to try and negotiate differences, as it offers a way for both parties to get at least part of what they want. Steven Covey was a popular proponent of this approach. While this is probably a good way for nations, corporations, etc. to handle ironing out conflict, I believe that there may be something else for those of us who follow Jesus.

The kingdom that Jesus is over is a kingdom that is upside down according to the world's way of looking at things. The kingdom was inaugurated when the King allowed the most powerful kingdom of that day, and the power behind that kingdom, to put him to death. This King called his followers to take up their cross, to lose their lives for his sake, and to love sacrificially. He called us to turn the other cheek and do good to those who treat us badly. In 1 Corinthians 6:1-8, Paul tells the church in Corinth to allow themselves to be defrauded rather than hurt the witness of the church. Sounds a little different from win-win, doesn't it?

What if followers of Christ began to give up their rights and wants in favor of what their brother or sister desired? What if, instead of convincing others to do it our way, we gave in. What if we were willing to lose, if it benefited a brother or sister and built up the kingdom? What do you think would happen if we all decided to lay down our lives for others in the church? What if we all decided to die to our own agendas, our own desires, our selves?

I suspect the church would look a whole lot different than it does now. But, that's just me.

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...