Monday, October 26, 2015

Blast From the Past: 1 Corinthians 13 for the Elections

This is usually a post for a presidential election year, but I think it works now because the division and anger seems to be in high gear a year ahead.

If I speak with a silver tongue and can sway hundreds, but have not love,
I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all polls,
and if I have a faith that can move political mountains, but have not love,
I am nothing.

If I give all I possess to the national committee
and surrender my time to run a phone bank, but have not love,
I gain nothing.

Love is patient with those of the other party.
It is not jealous of opponent's fund raising,
it does not boast of its candidate, it is not proud.

It does not rudely argue political points, it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered when others disagree, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in negative campaigns
but rejoices in the truth.

It always protects the reputation of Christ, always trusts God is in control,
always hopes for the best, always perseveres in living as a disciple of Jesus.

Love never fails. But where there are campaign promises,
they will be broken;
where there are silver tongued orators,
they will be stilled;
where there is knowledge of how to govern,
it will pass away.

For we have partial knowledge and we govern with that knowledge,
but when the True King comes, imperfect government will disappear.

When I was a partisan, I talked like a partisan,
I thought like a partisan,I reasoned like a partisan.

When I recognized who the True King is,
I put partisan ways behind me.

Now we see but a poor reflection;
then we shall see face to face.

Now I know in part;
then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain:
faith, hope and love.

But the greatest of these is love.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Weekend Wanderings

Another week has come and gone. Pray for the folks in Mexico who have been hit by that historic hurricane and the folks in Texas who are facing more rain and flooding. In lighter news, the Mets and Royals meet in the World Series. I was kind of hoping the Cubs would win it all this year just because it's been so long.

Anyway, here are the links:

Jeff Clarke on contemporary worship.
Peacemaker or pain-avoider?
Changing the world, or not.
Good post from Jared Wilson.
What makes us hope for more?

Good post from Steve Brown.
Good question from Matt Applying.
This would be interesting.
Morally overconfident?

Out of ammo.
Good post from Bob Edwards.
Halloween classic from Michael Spencer.
White belts.

Your best story, now!
Chaplain Mike on Galatians 2:20.
Thought provoking post from Zack Hunt.
Dan Edelen on civil religion and Christianity.

Have a blessed week!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Problem With Community

Community is a wonderful thing. It is how we make disciples and how we grow in the Christian life. But, there is a problem that happens when followers of Jesus come together to live in community. The problem is that there are not that many people who really want to be in community as Scripture presents it.

Most of us have an idealized picture of what Christian community is. We see it as an idyllic place where we are loved and accepted completely and there are never any disagreements, at least any that may lead to someone being hurt. We may see community as simply a group of friends, while the real work of the church gets done on Sunday. We have what Bonhoeffer called "wish dreams," utopian visions of community. These wish dreams are extremely dangerous, and can eventually kill the community. These idealized pictures cause us to try to center community around something other than Christ and to attempt to keep it going by the sheer force of our wills. I can attest, from personal experience that centering community around anything other than Jesus and what he has done for us will cause the community to crash and burn, with the resultant "loss of life."

Community is messy. I may misunderstand you or disappoint you. I may offend you or hurt you deeply. You may do the same to me. We will disagree on things. Sometimes those disagreements may be heated. None of us are perfect. Anyone who knows me knows how true that is. Sometimes though, we forget that and are ready to run at the first sign of conflict or the first hurt feeling. Some will say, "That person yelled at me and totally misunderstood me. I'm leaving." Or, " He wounded me deeply. I can't be a part of this anymore." While there may be times to leave a group if things are bad, many times the leavers have had their picture of community shattered and don't want to deal with the messiness of trying to work things out. Maybe hard things need to be said or heard. That is part of living as the family of God.

Others will say, "I'm just not being fed. I need a good preacher to feed me." Good preaching is a part of our growth in Christ, but it is only a part. I would argue, and I think Scripture would bear this out, that the intimate gatherings of God's children, whether in Missional communities, small groups, or one to one, do more to facilitate spiritual formation than even the best preaching or teaching. It is in the interaction we have with our brothers and sisters on a daily or at least regular basis that shape us. It is in those times that we learn how to follow Jesus in our day-to-day. As we spend time together, we see how others respond in certain situations. The times of disagreement and the times we mess up should be the best times to learn how to love as Jesus loved us and how to extend the same grace we have been given. The troubling times should be the times that actually form us more into Christ's image and draw us closer to one another.

To do that though, requires us to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. We don't like to do that because we may have tried and been ground under the heel of someone we trusted. It's hard. I've felt like I had my heart torn out and stomped on. Add that to the fact that we are basically selfish and living in community looks pretty hard, even impossible. That's why it has to be centered in the gospel. We are called to be people who repent, who forgive, who seek reconciliation, and who willingly lay down our lives for others. We can only do that if the Spirit has formed our community and gives us the power to live as a spiritual family.

It hurts when people leave. May our communities truly be places where the gospel is lived out and where God's kingdom comes.

World Vision Wednesday

It's not too early to begin thinking about Christmas, and what to give that special person who has everything. Consider a gift from the World Vision Gift Catalog.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Weekend Wanderings

It's a beautiful fall weekend here in the sunny South. Yesterday, Jan and I spent the day at the farm of one of our friends, drawing with a group of artists. Jan did a good job on her drawing, and considering it was only about the second time I've really tried to draw anything, I didn't do half bad either. While our state is drying out, the folks in California are getting much needed rain. The problem is that the ground is so dry that the rain ran off and caused flash flooding and landslides. Hopefully they'll get more rain at a slower rate.

Here is the good stuff:

David Moore interviews Scot McKnight.
Sweden is going cashless.
Interesting, and disturbing.
Good article from Thom Ranier.
Son of a carpenter.

The neverending workday.
A poem.
Excellent post from Stephanie Phillips.
Waking up with Leah.
7 strikes.

Fathers and sons.
Letting go.
Just what is purpose?
Is there a tiny church movement?
Good question from Zack Hunt.

A prayer from Michael Spencer.
Just stories?
Which character are you?
Good post from Chaplain Mike.

Have a blessed week!

Monday, October 12, 2015

1 Corinthians 13: More Than Just a Sentiment

1 Corinthians 13 is one of the most widely known passages in the Bible. It is known as "The Love Chapter," and is well loved. Many times it is read at weddings and is often used in premarital counseling. I think, though, that most of the time we miss the whole picture.

This chapter is set down in the middle of a section on spiritual gifts and the use, or misuse by the Corinthian church. The letter was written to a congregation that had a number of serious issues, issues that would be enough to cause many church leaders to quit. There was immorality, dissension, and arrogance. There were factions, and the people didn't do a very good job of treating each other right. They were more concerned with their own spiritual gifts and using them for themselves than they were with loving their brothers and sisters.

It is in this context that we find the Love Chapter. Think of it this way:
Love is patient...with that person who just doesn't get it.
Love is that jerk who thinks they are God's gift to mankind.
Love does not envy...the success of that one who always gets everything they want.
Love does not boast...of my success.
Love does not dishonor gossiping or slandering them.
Love is not self-seeking...even when I'm not getting my way.
Love is not easily angered...even when someone tries to tick me off.
Love keeps no record of wrongs... even when it keeps happening again and again.
Love does not rejoice in evil...even when we think they deserve it.
Love rejoices with the truth... and glorifies God.
Love always protects...because we are family.
Love always trusts...even when he has blown it again.
Loves always hopes...even when she is a hopeless case.
Love always perseveres... even if it's taking forever.
Love never fails...the greatest of these is love.

As an old song used to say, love hurts. It hurts to love people who are not all that loveable. You may get your heart torn out and stomped on. Loving our brothers and sisters is not for the fainthearted.

But, without love, we are nothing.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Weekend Wanderings

The last two weekends have been extremely busy, so the links post took some time off. It is cooling down here in the sunny South and fall has arrived. Last weekend's rain put much of our state under water and there are a lot people who lost everything. Dams have been damaged and there is more water coming from the mountains, so the devastation may become worse. Pray for those folks.

On to the links:

A heartwarming story.
Bacon. 'Nuff said.
Maybe they were wrong.
And then, there's coffee.
The blessing of belonging.

Living the thug life in Oregon.
Don't waste that food!
Good post from John Frye.
Irony obsession.
Come home.

Guilt hangover.
Getting ready for the end of the world.
Art critics.
The Withertongue Emails: Part 1.
Don't think this is a good thing.

Drinking games.
Halloween do's and don'ts.
Good post from Jeff K. Clarke.
Sounds like an excuse to me.

Have a blessed week!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Love Revival

I know. It sounds like the title of a Motown song. It's the best I could come up with.

A number of Christian groups are seeking revival. Of course, revival means different things to different people. To some, a revival would mean a return to the morals of the past. To others, it means an increase in charismatic activities. Still others are looking for a revival of adherence to doctrine.

While a revival of some of those things may be a good thing, I believe what is needed is a revival of love. The vital importance of love is a theme that runs all through the New Testament. In the gospels, Jesus tell is that the two greatest commandments are, love God with all our being and love others as we love ourselves. He later upped the ante when he said to his followers that we are to love our brothers and sisters as he loved us.

The Apostle Paul said that we can perform all sorts of good and even spiritual acts, but if we don't have love we are wasting our time. He also said that what counts is faith working through love. Peter tells us to love one another deeply. It is hard to read through any of the apostles' letters and not find commands and encouragements to love one another. We are commanded to love more often than anything else we are told to do. It seems that love is something that God thinks is pretty important.

I believe the Church needs a revival of love for God that is shown by following Jesus and doing what he commands, and a revival of a love for others that is self-sacrificing and lays down our lives for others. It was said of the first Christians, "Behold how these Christians love one another." Stop and imagine with me. What would the Church be like if those of us who claim to follow the one who laid down his life for us really loved God and didn't just talk about it? What would it look like if we laid down our lives for others and were known for our love rather than what we were against.

I for one, would love to find 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...