Wednesday, July 31, 2013

World Vision Wednesday

Next month, children across the United States will be heading back to school. It will be an exciting time for some and an anxious time for others. Students in Oklahoma will be facing all of those things. They will also have the added burdens caused by the tornadoes that ripped through the state this past spring. World Vision is on the ground helping these children prepare for the year ahead.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Weekend Wanderings: Monday Edition

It's the weekend again. I know it's Monday. We'll just call it a three-day weekend. This week has gone by quickly. Things were busy, with a lot of coming and going. Jan and I are going out of town again this week, so there may not be a weekend post. We're going to my 40th high school reunion (I know, I know. I don't look that old.). Things have dried out a bit here in the sunny South, and the weather is getting back to normal for July. In other words, hot and humid, with thunderstorms likely every afternoon.

Here are the links:

Alan Knox has begun a series on ministry. Part 1 is here.
Andy Stager on zagging instead of zigging.
Luke Bretherton reviews a book by Jim Wallis.
Kansas Bob on justice.
Rich Wagner reflects .

Darwinian Christianity.
The problem of evil.
So, Jesus is in Siberia?
When the church gets all OT on you.
Ten easy ways to improve your performance.

Jon Acuff has a secret.
Various authors on Christianity and nationalism.
Nate Pruitt on parking (sort of).
Mike Erich with some good thoughts.

To-do lists.
So, it looks like Buddhists have leadership issues too.
For freedom.
Good news for women, and others.
Unmet expectations.

Chaplain Mike on approaching the Bible.
Scot McKnight on meals and the sacred.
Responding differently to Jesus.
Let God speak.
Presidential last words.

Have a blessed week.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Weekend Wanderings

Weekend Wanderings is back this week. Jan and I had a wonderful weekend in the mountains of North Georgia last week. It rained off and on the whole weekend, but we had a very nice time. Here in the sunny South, we were beginning to think we had moved to the Pacific Northwest. The last few weeks have seen a much larger amount of rain than usual. Many folks have been flooded out of their homes, trees have come down, and river recreation areas have been closed. The sun came out finally. At least I think it's the sun. It's been so long.

Here is some of the best in the blogworld:

Wise words for all of us.
No quick fixes.
Thought provoking cartoon from nakedpastor.
Eat the words.
Courage was born.

Good post from Brant Hansen.
Good advice from Terry Dorsett.
Good thoughts from Alan Knox.
Good article from Scot McKnight.
Good ideas from Nate Pruitt.

Follow who?
No "I" in "church."
God of the group. Followup to the previous post above.
The message of the Kingdom.
Politics and the problem of Jesus.

Matt Appling on inerrancy.
Zack Hunt on Jesus.
If you're going to do this, at least clean up after yourself.
Ohio State fans will understand this.
So, who is it really all about here?

What your coffee says about you.
Rise.
Soundtrack from the wander.
I've been mad at God before, but not to this extent.
The free bank.

Have a blessed week!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Do What You Do

This was originally posted on another blog in February, 2006.

I just saw an Italian female figure skater finish her Olympic routine. She had retired in 2002, but came out of retirement just to skate in her home country. She really didn't have a chance to medal, but it was enough for her to skate at home. Near the end of her program she did two spin jumps in a row and nailed both of them. She threw up her hands and you could just feel the joy. I actually got chills and thought that, even though she might not realize it, she was bringing glory to God by doing what she had been gifted to do and thoroughly exulting in doing it well. It reminded me of what Eric Liddell said in Chariots of Fire - "God made me fast, and when I run I can feel His pleasure."

How would our lives be if we recognized what God made us to do, and felt His pleasure when we did it to the best of our ability? What would our witness to the culture look like? I suspect far different than it currently does.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

World Vision Wednesday

One of the ways we can help people in deep poverty climb out is by giving a micro loan. A loan enables an individual to begin a business, lifting themselves and others out of poverty. To find out how you can help check this out.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Christ or Narcissus?

Jesus Christ. Son of God. The Messiah. Called his followers to pick up their cross, die to their selves, and follow him, living a life that is others focused. Giver of eternal life.

Narcissus. Son of a Greek god. Self centered. Treated others with disdain, especially anyone who loved him. Fell in love with his reflection in a pool of water and couldn't tear himself away. Died.

We live in a narcissistic culture. We have been told to look out for number one, and that the greatest love is a love for oneself. Even acts of altruism are many times done because of how good it makes us feel. We are encouraged to make sure we get what we want out of life, whether that be career success, fame, love, or just being happy. Advertisers make millions because they can convince us that we need the newest product to make our lives complete. We in the church look at the culture and say, "Boy those folks sure are selfish."

What is sad is that there is a narcissistic Christianity that has infected the church. Jesus has gone from being our "personal Savior," to someone who will give us whatever we think we need. In Jesus Manifesto,  Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola noted that at the beginning of the twenty-first century the majority of the 100 top selling Christian books were focused on the personal and private. 6 books were about the Bible, 4 were about Jesus, and 3 were about evangelism. The other 87 were essentially "self help" books. If you look at the titles in any Christian bookstore, you can learn how to have your best life now where every day is a Friday, you can find out how to be a king in your own personal kingdom and have dominion over everything that comes your way, or you can find out to be a better (fill in the blank). If you watch Christian television, you can find out how to increase your finances by giving to any one of a bunch of ministries. Sounds kind of like the lottery to me. There was even a preacher on one program telling folks how to get what they wanted from God, comparing the ruler of the universe to a fast food restaurant! It's all about us!

Jesus calls us to something far different. He calls us to live as he lived. Instead of an inward focus, Jesus lived with an outward focus. His first focus was his Father. Jesus stated that he did nothing but what the Father told him, and that he came to do the Father's will. His other focus was on those who needed love and grace. Pretty much everyone. Jesus' mission was to redeem those who were in need of redemption. He went around doing good, forgiving sins, healing, and loving. He loved the Father, and us, so much that he died a shameful death in the most agonizing way known to that day. He was the sacrifice that did what we could never do, reconcile us with God. That death, taken for others, brought us life. We who follow Jesus are called to the same kind of life. A life that is focused first on loving God, and then on loving others as Jesus loved us. It is a sacrificial life, a life that gives up, a life that wins by losing. How well do you think that title would do in the market?

Christ or Narcissus? One died because he couldn't get his focus off himself. The other calls us to come and die, and find that we may truly live. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

For My Beautiful Wife

Today is the thirty-third anniversary of the day I married my beautiful wife Jan. When we wed, we vowed to stick with the other through better or worse, health or sickness, etc. At the time neither of us really knew what that all entailed. As the years have passed, we've learned a bit of what it means to support each other in the good and the bad.

Through it all, I have been blessed to have such a gracious partner by my side. In Genesis, we are told that God thought it not good for man to be alone so he created a helper suitable (meet) for him. In the Hebrew the words translated "help meet" could be translated as a "helper who complements." Not a helper in the sense of a servant, but a helper in the sense of a rescuer or deliverer. The word "ezer" is used of God as a deliverer. The word "k'enegdo" can be translated "against" or "opposite." The idea is something which corresponds to, like a mirror image. So, you could say that a wife is to be a deliverer who mirrors her husband. Opposites attract right?

Jan has certainly been an ezer k'enegdo for me. She has been my deliverer by her love and loyal support. She is a complement to me and I have learned much from her through the years. I can not imagine what it would have been like without her through the moves, the job losses, the losses of my parents, and all the other ups and downs of life. As I look back over thirty-three years, I marvel at the grace of a loving Abba who knew exactly who I needed. I can't fathom it.

Jan, it's been an absolutely wonderful journey together these thirty-three years. I can't imagine life with anyone else, and I pray the Father gives us many more years together. You are a tremendous blessing to me. I love you.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

World Vision Wednesday

As Syria enters its third year of civil war, over a million refugees have fled the country. Here is an update on the crisis and what World Vision is doing to help.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Community: Sunday at 10:30

There's a church sign near us that reads,"Join our community. Sunday at 10:30." Giving the benefit of the doubt, I imagine the leaders of that church meant well. They were inviting folks to come join their community of faith, which meets on Sunday at 10:30. Unfortunately, much of the time churches are simply inviting people to come into their building at a particular time on a particular day to sing a few songs and listen to a sermon.

Community has become a buzzword in society, including church circles. There are on-line communities, work communities, and housing developments have been replaced with communities. Some of these communities may develop a sense of camaraderie in the members, although I don't believe the contrived, "planned communities" of houses are anything more than typical suburban sprawl. In the larger sense of the word, many "communities" in society may well bring people together.

I believe the church is different. Community is something that is not based on personal preferences, on a charismatic individual, on shared experiences. In the church, the only kind of community that matters must be based on the Gospel and our shared identity in Christ. The community that God wants is a community that lives life together, learning together to follow Jesus and love our brothers and sisters. In order to do this we must be together more than one day a week. Community needs time and contact to develop. The disciples were with Jesus 24/7 for three years. The first Christians met daily, going from house to house. I know things are different in the 21st century, but we still need time with each other often. We can not do this without learning from each other on a consistent basis.

We are family. While families go through periods where the members don't spend as much time with each other as at other times, a functional family will not give up getting together. As brothers and sisters in God's family, we are to spend time with each other. If you are part of a church body that meets in a building at a particular time on a particular day and gathers as friends and family at various times throughout the week, good for you. If not, why not begin?

Third Week of Advent: Anticipation

This was first published on December 12, 2012. Jesus, as Israel waited in anticipation for you to come, so we wait. We anticipate your ret...