Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Monday, April 28, 2014

Oops.

Sorry about the recent fiasco that was the Weekend Wanderings post. There were some links that went to the wrong sites. I tried to fix them, but when I published the corrected post, the links were still wrong so I deleted the post. I hope those of you who read it found some value in the links that did work. Hopefully, that won't be an issue next weekend. Again,, I apologize for the confusion.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Blast From the Past: I Know Who I Am

This was originally posted in 2011, and again in 2012. I am posting it again today because we all need to be reminded from time to time.

One of the perks of driving a bus part time for a summer camp is being able to go to movies for free and see films that you might not otherwise see. Last Friday, I drove a group to the local cheap seat theater and saw "Kung Fu Panda 2." Since our own children are adults, I probably would not have gone to see this particular movie on my own.

I like it when a popular film or song presents a biblical truth, whether on purpose or not. This was the case in "Kung Fu Panda 2." The main story of the film is the quest of the title character to find out where he came from, all the while saving China from certain destruction. Near the end of the movie, the main character comes back to his adoptive father (who is a goose, in case you haven't seen it). When the goose asks the panda if he found out who he was, the reply is, "I know who I am. I am your son." Since I tend to be somewhat emotional at times, that line caused a catch in my throat. I then thought what a great picture that is of the Christian.

Regardless of the circumstances of the panda's life, he realized that his identity was rooted in the fact that he had been adopted and loved by the goose. Even though he found out the story of how he came to that place, what mattered was the love given him by his father. Those of us who follow Jesus have the same story. No matter where we have been, no matter what stories our lives have told, we have been loved and adopted by the Father. Our backgrounds are as varied as can be, as are the ways we came to faith. What unifies us is that identity as God's children.

As the panda was saving China, he faced terrible odds. After he found out the story of how he had been found by the goose, he was able to triumph. I believe that was the point when he saw his identity bound with the goose, and that gave him the strength he needed. Again, we are the same. When we realize our identity as beloved children of Abba and live in that identity, we can handle the obstacles that come our way. That doesn't mean that we'll be "winners" all the time, but it does mean that no matter what, who we are doesn't change. The fact that we are loved by the Creator of the universe doesn't change. God's good heart for us is the same, whether we are "spiritual" or struggling. We know who we are. We are God's sons and daughters. Don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Seven Steps to Happiness

Another Easter post from 2010.

Just kidding. Did I get your attention? Actually, this post has nothing to do with any number of steps to anything. It's about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and what that means in our day-to-day.

A couple of days ago, I was reading a post by Keith Giles, titled "Risen?" I remember, while growing up in fundamental Baptist churches, hearing a lot about the death of Christ on the cross, but not a whole lot on the Resurrection. Resurrection was something reserved for the times the pastor preached on justification or why Christians worship on Sunday, or for Easter. The death of Christ is the loudest message that the church proclaims. Now, the death of Jesus on the Cross is essential. Because of the Cross, our sins are washed away and we are free. We must proclaim the Cross.

We forget however, that the death of Christ on the cross is only part of the Gospel. The rest of the story is that Jesus didn't remain dead. He walked out of that tomb, proving that he was indeed the Messiah. He defeated death, and began the restoration of all creation. As the Apostle Paul said, if Christ is not raised then our faith is useless. The Resurrection changes everything!

I wonder if one reason the death of Christ is the church's main message is the emphasis that is put on going to heaven, of life after death. In the circles I spent time in, everything was based on getting to go to heaven when you died. This life was seen as simply living according to the moral principles of whatever group you were a part of, keeping a "good testimony" so unbelievers would hear what we had to say, and staying "right with God." We were never taught that the Resurrection had any implications for life in the here and now.

If we believe that Jesus is raised from the dead, there are certain things that are true of us. We are raised with Christ. Death has been defeated. As N.T. Wright puts it, there is "life after life after death." We will live in a new creation, not just a disembodied state out there somewhere. We have the same power that raised Jesus from the dead at work in us. Let that sink in.

These things are not only in the future. They have begun. The Resurrection gives us the power to live as new creation now, in this life. The Resurrection means that God is restoring all things now, and that we get to be part of that restoration. Resurrection also means that the Kingdom has come. Jesus is Lord. That means that we live as citizens of the Kingdom of God right now, not just sometime in the distant future. Our allegiance is first and foremost to the King of Kings.

I don't know how all of this works out in the individual lives of followers of Jesus. There really are no steps to follow that will work for everyone. I've been thinking about what living in the Resurrection would look like in my life. I do know that I need to be more sensitive to the Holy Spirit's leading as I live in my day-to-day. I do know that I want to live as one who is risen with Christ, who is a subject of the King of Kings, who is part of the restoring of Creation.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A New Morning

It was quite definitely early morning now, not late night.
"I'm so cold," said Lucy.
"So am I," said Susan. "Let's walk about a bit."
They walked to the eastern ridge of the hill and looked down. The one big star had almost disappeared. The country all looked dark gray, but beyond, at the very end of the world, the sea showed pale. The sky began to turn red. They walked to and fro more times than they could count between the dead Aslan and the eastern ridge, trying to keep warm, and oh, how tired their legs felt. Then at last, as they stood for a moment looking out toward the sea and Cair Paravel (which they could just now make out) the red turned to gold along the line where the sea and the sky met and very slowly up came the edge of the sun. At that moment they heard from behind them a loud noise--a great cracking, deafening noise as if a giant had cracked a giant's plate.
"What's that?" said Lucy, clutching Susan's arm.
"I--I feel afraid to turn round," said Susan; "something awful is happening."
"They're doing something worse to Him," said Lucy, "Come on!" And she turned, pulling Susan round with her.
The rising of the sun made everything look so different--all colors and shadows were changed--that for a moment they didn't see the important thing. Then they did. The Stone Table was broken into two pieces by a great crack that ran down it from end to end, and there was no Aslan.
"Oh, oh, oh!" cried the two girls, rushing back to the Table.
"Oh, it's too bad," sobbed Lucy; "they might have left the body alone."
"Who's done it?" cried Susan. "What does it mean? Is it more magic?"
"Yes!" said a great voice behind their backs. "It is more magic." They looked round. There, shining in the sunrise, larger than they had seen him before, shaking his mane (for it had apparently grown again) stood Aslan himself.
"Oh, Aslan!" cried both the children, staring up at him, almost as much frightened as they were glad.
"Aren't you dead then, dear Aslan?" said Lucy.
"Not now," said Aslan.
"You're not--not a--?" asked Susan in a shaky voice. She couldn't bring herself to say the word ghostAslan stooped his golden head and licked her forehead. The warmth of his breath and a rich sort of smell that seemed to hang about his hair came all over her.
"Do I look it?" he said.
"Oh, you're real, you're real! Oh Aslan!" cried Lucy, and both girls flung themselves upon him and covered him with kisses.
"But what does it all mean?" asked Susan when they were somewhat calmer.
"It means," said Aslan, "that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward."

C.S. Lewis: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Christ is risen!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Waiting

"How could this happen? How could we have been so wrong?"
"We believed the kingdom was going to be restored and those pagan dogs sent back to Rome where they belong. But this 'messiah' turned out to be just like all the others."
"Now here we are hiding from the priests and the Romans."
"Why didn't we fight back? What kind of wimps are we?"
"Fight back? Did you see how many men they had? Besides, Peter tried and he told him to put the sword away!"
"Well, I don't know about the rest of you, but as soon as all this mess dies down, I'm going back up to  Galilee."
"Me too. Back to the old life. When the only thing we had to worry about was catching fish and fixing nets."
"Yeah. It's been an interesting three years, but I'm through with messiahs and kingdoms. Just give me my boat out on the water. As soon as I can, I'm getting out of here."
And so, they waited.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday

More from C.S. Lewis:

"Muzzle him!" said the Witch. And even now, as they worked about his face putting on the muzzle, one bite from his jaws would have cost two or three of them their hands. But he never moved. And this seemed to enrage all that rabble. Everyone was at him now. Those who had been afraid to come near him even after he was bound began to find their courage, and for a few minutes the two girls could not even see him--so thickly was he surrounded by the whole crowd of creatures kicking him, hitting him, spitting on him, jeering at him.
At last the rabble had had enough of this. They began to drag the bound and muzzled Lion to the Stone Table, some pulling and some pushing. He was so huge that even when they got him there it took all their efforts to hoist him onto the surface of it. Then there was more tying and tightening of cords.
"The cowards! The cowards!" sobbed Susan. "Are they still afraid of him, even now?"
When once Aslan had been tied (and tied so that he was really a mass of cords) on the flat stone, a hush fell on the crowd. Four Hags, holding four torches, stood at the corners of the Table. The Witch bared her arms as she had bared them the previous night when it had been Edmund instead of Aslan. Then she began to whet her knife. It looked to the children, when the gleam of the torchlight fell on it, as if the knife were made of stone, not of steel, and it was of a strange and evil shape.
At last she drew near. She stood by Aslan's head. Her face was working and twitching with passion, but his looked up at the sky, still quiet, neither angry nor afraid, but a little sad. Then, just before she gave the blow, she stooped down and said in a quivering voice,
"And now, who has won? Fool, did you think that by all this you would save the human traitor? Now I will kill you instead of him as our pact was and so the Deep Magic will be appeased. But when you are dead what will prevent me from killing him as well? And who will take him out my hand then? Understand that you have given me Narnia forever, you have lost your own life and you have not saved his. In that knowledge, despair and die."
The children did not see the actual moment of the killing. They couldn't bear to look and had covered their eyes.
While the two girls still crouched in the bushes with their hands over their faces, they heard the voice of the Witch calling out,
"Now! Follow me all and we will set about what remains of this war! It will not take us long to crush the human vermin and the traitors now that the great Fool, the great Cat, lies dead."

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Thursday

This Easter season, I'm putting up some posts from 2010.

From The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe:

A howl and gibber of dismay went up from the creatures when they first saw the great Lion pacing towards them, and for a moment the Witch herself seemed to be struck with fear. Then she recovered herself and gave a wild, fierce laugh.
"The fool!" she cried. "The fool has come. Bind him fast."
Lucy and Susan held their breaths waiting for Aslan's roar and his spring upon his enemies. But it never came. Four hags, grinning and leering, yet also (at first) hanging back and half afraid of what they had to do, had approached him. "Bind him, I say!" repeated the White Witch. The hags made a dart at him and shrieked with triumph when they found that he made no resistance at all. Then others--evil dwarfs and apes--rushed in to help them and between them they rolled the huge Lion round on his back and tied all his four paws together, shouting and cheering as if they had done something brave, though, had the Lion chose, one of those paws could have been the death of them all. But he made no noise, even when the enemies, straining and tugging, pulled the cords so tight that they cut into his flesh. Then they began to drag him towards the Stone Table.
"Stop!" said the Witch. "Let him first be shaved."
Another roar of mean laughter went up from her followers as an ogre with a pair of shears came forward and squatted down by Aslan's head. Snip-snip-snip went the shears and masses of curling gold began to fall to the ground. Then the ogre stood back and the children, watching from their hiding-place, could see the face of Aslan looking all small and different without its mane. The enemies also saw the difference.
"Why, he's only a great cat after all!" cried one.
"Is that what we were afraid of?" said another.
And they surged round Aslan jeering him, saying things like "Puss, Puss! Poor Pussy." and "How many mice have you caught to-day, Cat?" and "Would you like a saucer of mill, Pussums?"
"Oh how can they?" said Lucy, tears streaming down her cheeks. "The brutes, the brutes!" for now that the first shock was over the shorn face of Aslan looked to her braver, and more beautiful, and more patient than ever.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

World Vision Wednesday

Here is an interview with a man who participated in the genocide in Rwanda. It is a stunning account of the impact repentance, grace, and forgiveness can have on an individual, and on a nation. It is also a good reminder that we all need forgiveness and reconciliation in our day-to-day.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Blast From the Past: Palm Sunday

This was first posted on March 28, 2010. It has been edited.

Today we celebrate the day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, surrounded by people hailing him as the Messiah. Evidently this procession was not the only one making it's way into the city that day. The Roman governor, Pilate, was also entering Jerusalem with his forces. This was something that happened before every Jewish holiday. After all, the Romans had to remind the Jews who really was in charge.

So, you have an imperial Roman procession on one side of the city and a subversive, Messianic parade on the other side. The people shouting, "Hosanna!" as Jesus made his way along the road thought they understood what was going on. As they saw it, this man who had performed so many miracles was the promised king who would drive out the hated Gentile oppressors and restore the glory of Israel. Unfortunately, as the week unfolded, many of these same people, now disillusioned, would join in the calls for his crucifixion by those same oppressors.

Those folks were partially right. Jesus was the promised Messiah. He had come to set up a kingdom and free them from their oppression. What they didn't realize was the nature of the kingdom. It was a kingdom that is not of this world, a kingdom that came in, not by way of overthrowing the present empire, but by the king dying at the hands of that empire. The Jews were expecting God to do things the way they expected. They didn't understand that God rarely works that way.

I thought of how many times I've prayed for things and thought that God was going to answer those prayers in a certain way, either because I had jumped through a certain number of hoops to "earn" God's blessing, or because I couldn't think of any other way God could act. I trusted in God for the things I thought he would (or should) do. Like the Jews I followed Jesus for what I could get out of it. The funny thing is, God never seemed to do the things that I expected, yet so many things turned out 
in such a way that I knew the Father was taking care of me. Things were not all sweetness and light, and sometimes I questioned God about what he was doing. But I can look back on those days and see that God was there, and that he was working.

During my life, I have seen that God is not predictable. He is not someone who can be counted on to always do things a certain way. God relates to people in all kinds of ways, and we cannot tie him down to a particular plan of action. None of us can figure God out, yet he calls us into relationship with him. In that relationship we learn to trust God simply for who he is rather than for what we think he can do for us.

Be encouraged. Your Father loves you more than you know. He has given you his life and his glory. Trust the Father, even when the parade of Palm Sunday turns into the darkness of Friday.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

World Vision Wednesday

It has been twenty years since the genocide in Rwanda. A great deal of healing has taken place, but there is still much that remains to be done. For a report on what has been accomplished, go here.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Obedience and Faith: A Fourth View

A few months back, Steve Fuller wrote this post. He wrote about the differences between Kevin DeYoung and Tullian Tchividjian in their view of the relationship between obedience and faith. Essentially,  DeYoung believes that obedience comes from faith but still requires effort along with faith, while Tchividjian says that the effort involved is focused on strengthening our faith, and then obedience will follow. Fuller then writes of John Piper's view that obedience comes from faith alone but that faith is in the promise of God to justify and to completely satisfy us with himself. You can read the post to get a fuller picture. Now, I am not a theologian and I don't play one on TV, but I got to thinking (that's dangerous, I know). With a number of issues, I tend to look for a third way. I wonder if there might not be a fourth way here.

In this post, I wrote about our union with Christ and all of the things that flow from that. Our justification, sanctification, our continued faith, and our obedience come from being in Christ. We have been crucified and raised to life in Christ. It is Christ living in us. Everything is ours because everything is Christ's. I believe that our faith comes from our union with Christ. Paul tells us that our faith is a gift from God. John 15 tells us that our fruitfulness in life comes from abiding in Christ. We love because God loved us first. Christ's obedience is ours. Christ's faith is ours. I would go so far as to say that Christ's satisfaction in the Father is ours. Everything we need to live in obedience to our Father is ours. When we keep our focus on the fact that we are in Christ and he is in us, we trust him to live in us and that in turn leads us to obey. We still disobey, but that is because we forget who we are and allow sin to co-opt our desire and tell us the lie that things other than God can satisfy us. When we remember who we are in Christ, we find our only desire is to live in obedience and intimacy with the only One who can satisfy us and who loves us with an inexhaustible love.

These are just some thoughts. I would love to hear some of yours. Feel free to tell me if I'm out to lunch, although I don't think I am.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Blast From the Past: You Paid $11Million for What?!

This was first posted on July 9, 2009. I have edited it a bit.

Keith Giles over at "subversive1" turned me on to this story, which unfortunately is a picture of where the church as we know it in America has been going for some time.

11 million dollars for a new building for the church to worship in. 90 thousand dollars each month from the members' offerings goes to pay off the loan. This amount would be higher if not for the gifts of the members. One couple gave 10 thousand dollars.

The trend in American Christianity the past few years has been to build bigger, more elaborate buildings. In a desire to reach more people, churches have been erecting large, comfortable, "worship centers" where folks can go listen to a kicking worship band, maybe sing along, hear the latest news about the church's programs, enjoy an inspiring message from a top-notch professional speaker, listen to a couple more songs, and then go home feeling good about themselves for a few days. All the while, the spiritual life of the average church spreads and becomes more shallow. Somehow, I don't think that's what Jesus had in mind.

I personally have nothing against using technology to advance the Kingdom. I like good "worship" music. I have been challenged by and have changed my thinking because of listening to excellent speakers. What I have a problem with is the attitude that bigger is better, with the idea that we have to put on a show to get folks in the church building, and with the idea that we have to "get people into church" in the first place. Jesus told us to make disciples, not church members. It has been shown that many of these churches do a better job of attracting members from other churches than those outside the church.

I also have a problem with an 11 million dollar edifice and a 90 thousand dollar a month mortgage. 
That's almost 1.1 million a year. Even with a fifteen year loan, the church will have paid out over 16 million dollars before the building is paid for. Imagine for a moment what a million dollars a year could do for the needy in the area where the church is located. Imagine the impact 15 million could have. I have heard it said that if the Christians in America would simply give a tenth of their incomes, global poverty could be brought to an end. Whether that is true or not, it is certainly true that the church in America seems to be more concerned with making itself comfortable than in serving the least of these. There are exceptions, but they seem to prove the rule. I know churches that spend almost all of their income on building debt and maintenance, and salaries.

I am becoming more and more convinced that the smaller, missional churches, wherever they meet, are the future of the church. As these small parts of the Body of Christ minister to each other and to the community around them, disciples will be made. As those go and make disciples, the Body will grow. Look at what has happened, and is happening in China, in India, in other parts of the world where small groups of followers of Jesus are bringing hundreds of thousands into the Kingdom. Look what happened in the first two centuries of church history. They turned the world upside down.

I'll bet they did it without building multi-million dollar buildings.

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...