Wednesday, February 26, 2014

World Vision Wednesday

Girls are the most vulnerable people and millions around the world are trapped in slavery. World Vision has suggestions for how you can effectively pray for these victims.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Suffering and Glory

"Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward." So says Eliphaz, one of Job's "comforters." Unfortunately, it is easy for us to "comfort" others in the same way. We sometimes don't know what to say when someone is suffering, and we go ahead and say it anyway because we feel we should say something. So much of what we say can come across as uncaring or cliche and usually does more harm than good. Often times, simply being with the one who is suffering and being quiet is the best thing we can do at first.

Suffering is a fact of life, and Scripture recognizes this. One of the characteristics of the Christian faith is the recognition that we suffer. Many of the other religions of the world seek to escape suffering, or teach that it is all a state of mind. Unfortunately, within Christianity itself there are a couple of streams that see suffering as something to avoid or escape. Some preach that suffering is something that comes straight from the devil, and that God wants us to not suffer. Others preach that we will one day escape this evil old world, and in the meantime we just put up with it. Both groups miss the idea that God works through and redeems our suffering. So, where does the connection between suffering and glory come in?

In Romans 8, Paul tells us that our suffering doesn't even begin to compare with the glory that will be revealed to us. Just before this statement, he says that this suffering enables us to share in Christ's glory. It seems that our suffering is an indication that we are children of God and fellow heirs with Christ. The early church understood this. They saw their suffering as bringing the kingdom to earth the same way the suffering of Jesus did. That's why they could rejoice in their troubles.

Paul continues to state that the very creation is groaning and waiting for the final redemption of our bodies. We live in a broken world and will deal with that brokenness until Christ comes again. We can take comfort in knowing that God is with us in our suffering. He knows what we are going through, because he suffered in the incarnation. We also can know that the sufferings we go through
are things that  our Father can and does redeem and work for our good and for the good of his people. God works through our troubles to make us more like Jesus.

Paul goes on to tell us that we not only will be glorified with a glory far surpassing our suffering, but that we are already glorified. God has begun the glorification in us and will finally bring it to completion when Jesus returns. We can look at our suffering and see it not only as something that will bring God's glory in us in the future, but also something that is bringing God's glory in us in the here and now. We also know that there is absolutely nothing that the powers of this world or the powers behind those powers can do that will rip us out of our Abba's loving arms.

When we suffer, let us take heart in the realization that God is with us in the midst of our suffering, and that he is working through it for his, and our glory.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Blast From the Past: Fixed?

This was first posted on October 29, 2008.

On Tuesday, October 28, John Fischer wrote about "falling into grace" here. In this article he wrote about churches full of Christians who attempt to give the appearance of being fixed rather than broken and needy. He then went on to speak of the burden this puts on those who act as if they are fixed, yet know deep down how broken they really are.

I started thinking that maybe a big reason for the impotence of today's Church is the belief, or at least the appearance, that we are "fixed". Think about it. What does a veterinarian do to a male dog to keep it from siring puppies? He "fixes" it. Maybe churches are not multiplying because the people inside are "fixed". Maybe in our attempt to appear as if we have it all together, to "keep a good testimony", we have neutered the Gospel.

We are all broken. We are all in desperate need of God's grace in our day-to-day. None of us has it all together. As Switchfoot sings:
"We are a beautiful letdown,
Painfully uncool,
The church of the dropouts
The losers, the sinners, the failures and the fools..."

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Weekend Wanderings

The sun is out here and it seems as if we actually might have Spring this year. Of course, even here in the sunny South there is always the possibility of a late freeze just about the time the peach trees are budding. The Winter Olympics are winding down and it's getting closer to the time of year college basketball fans look forward to all year. Yes, March Madness is just around the corner. Pray for the folks in Ukraine and Venezuala, as there is a lot of bad stuff going down in both countries.

Here are the links of the week:
In case you missed it, there's been a big dust-up over Elevation Church Andrew way they do things. Here are a couple of posts with some balance:  from Slow Church, and from Daniel Wells.
A spring of water.
Excellent post from Dan Edelen.
Encouraging post from Bobby Auner.

Be vulnerable.
Another look at Philippians 4:13.
On banning "making a difference."
The Bible's vantage point.
A million moments.

M. Morford on prophets.
A good article on dumpster diving.
Kurt Willems on 5 church types to avoid.
John Frye on taking Jesus back for America.
This is interesting.

The least of God's holy people.
Don't just sit there!
Interesting facts about Martin Luther.
A sign of the Apocalypse?
Jesus doesn't want to be a part of your life.

Have a blessed week!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Blast From the Past: The Presence of God

This was first posted on January 26, 2009.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

World Vision Wednesday

One of the major problems caused by Typhoon Haiyan was the destruction of clean water sources and sanitation facilities in the Philippines. World Vision is providing help, including generators to restore clean water systems. For more information on their efforts and how you can help, see this.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Keep On Keeping On, and Rest

I've entered into one of those "I don't know" phases of my life. I feel like I'm beginning a period of transition. It seems as if there is more for me to do with the gifts God has given me, or at least something different. As my involvement in our community of faith has grown and evolved, I am sensing that God wants me to shift my focus.

What I believe the Spirit is leading me to do is to keep on doing at least part of what I am doing. At the same time I sense that I am to rest and let God lead me rather than to go out and push things as far as relationships and service. Any of you that know me know that I have a tendency to run ahead and try to make things happen. It is hard for me to rest and trust that my Father is going to take care of everything. Two of the things God has given me are the ability to teach, and a heart that is empathetic towards other people. I care deeply about others' well being (sometimes it seems as if I care too deeply, but that's another story that's yet to be written). Because of these things, I sometimes push things too far and forget to give space for God to work, hence the need to rest and trust.

I am learning that I can rest while working because I have seen the Father work time and time again through what I do, and sometimes in spite of what I do. I have seen God redeem my mistakes, and turn them into something far better than anything I could have brought about. It's a hard lesson to learn, and is one that I am continually learning. Thankfully, God has placed me in a community that is all about the gospel, discipleship, and bringing the kingdom to bear in our surroundings. I am learning how to use the gifts God has given me in a way that shows the truth, goodness, and beauty of Jesus to those around us. Not just to "build a church," but to be the church. To be in this world as a witness to the gospel, rather than just witness to people while somehow being apart from them.

It wouldn't surprise me if some of you are going through the same sort of thing. You believe that God has gifted you in certain ways and you aren't sure how to proceed at this stage in your journey. I don't have any pat answers, no series of steps to take to fulfill your potential or whatever. All I can do is
suggest a couple of things because of how I've seen God work. These are things I've come to believe are vital.

The most important thing is to find a group of believers who are committed to living life together. Join with them, be willing to take off the masks and walk through the messiness of life with them. Not just a "small group," but a group of folks who will love and accept you as you are, and who will
also challenge you in your walk with Jesus. Commit yourself to them, and be willing to be discipled. God will also bring some your way that you can disciple. Second, allow the Spirit to use the messiness of community to work in you and shape you. In the give and take of a family of faith, you learn how to use what God has given you in a way that advances his kingdom. You learn how to live as Jesus loved, and serve as he served. Be willing to put up with the imperfectness of other people and situations in order to live life together with fellow pilgrims on this journey. Be in it for the long haul. It will not be easy, but it will be worth it.

May the Father lead you to a community of believers where you can grow in love and grace.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Blast From the Past: Hands

This was first posted on April 11, 2008.

Nickel Creek has a song titled "The Hand Song". The words are challenging.

The boy only wanted to give Mother something
And all of her roses had bloomed
Looking at her as he came rushing in with them
Knowing her roses were doomed
All she could see were some thorns buried deep
And the tears that he cried as she tended his wounds

And she knew it was love
It was one she could understand
He was showing his love
And that's how he hurt his hands

He still remembers that night as a child
On his mother's knee
She held him close and she opened her Bible
And quietly started to read
And seeing a picture of Jesus he cried out
"Momma, he's got some scars just like me."

And he knew it was love
It was one he could understand
He was showing his love
And that's how he hurt his hands

Now the boy's grown and moved out on his own
When Uncle Sam comes along
A foreign affair, but our young men were there
And luck had his number drawn
It wasn't that long till our hero was gone
He gave to a friend what he learned at the cross

But they knew it was love
It was one they could understand
He was showing his love
And that's how he hurt his hands

How willing are we to do whatever it takes to show our love? We who have learned at the cross - do we give to others what we have learned?

Are we even willing to get our hands dirty, let alone hurt them to show the same love that Jesus showed us at the cross?

They understand love. May we show it.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

World Vision Wednesday

When we usually think of prostitution, the image that comes to mind is that of the women involved in the business. Sadly, there are others who are even more vulnerable trapped in brothels in Bangladesh and other countries. See this for the ways World Vision is working to help.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Weekend Wanderings

It's been a busy week. Last weekend we were involved in an event put on by a group of local artists that focused on truth as it is found in story and poetry. It was a wonderful weekend. Due to some wintry weather a while ago, I had three basketball games in four days. The girls played hard, and I'm sure they were exhausted by the end. The regular season wraps up this next week. It seems as if it has just flown by. In other news, the Winter Olympics have kicked off in Sochi, Russia. Everything seems to be going well, as long as you're not a journalist with hotel reservations.

On to the good stuff:

It seems as if there are some things left undone.
The day the Beatles made history.
Playing catch in church.
Mr. Keshavan's wild ride.
13 witty literary lines.

Invasion of the tumbleweeds!
A no frills airline.
For all my hipster friends.
1 Corinthians in PowerPoint.
Jason Elam on prayer.

Jesus first.
You have permission.
John Frye has a question.
The day Michelangelo doubted.
I can tell you, around here it's not much.

Scot McKnight on leaders and honor.
Andy Stager on worship.
J.R. Miller has a good post.
Jared Wilson on remembering.
Chaplain Mike's Super Church.

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

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Another Attempt at Poetry

I see you, bird
Or is that your shadow?
I wonder
Do I see others?
Or is it just their shadow?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

World Vision Wednesday

For Valentine's Day this year, why not consider an item that is handcrafted and that will help others in need. For more information check this out.

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...