Saturday, May 28, 2011

Weekend Wanderings

The school year is winding down. We have four days left, and then the summer break will begin. I don't know who is looking forward to summer more, the students or the teachers.

On to the links:

Pam Hogeweide on asking questions.
Ethan Bryan on play.

Arthur Sido on ministry.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

As It Turns Out, Love Does Win

No, this isn't a post about the recent book that has some corners of the blogoverse all a-Twitter. Sunday morning, we were talking about following Jesus in 21st Century and how to convey the idea of Christ as King and Lord to a culture that knows nothing about kings and masters. We live in a country where we elect our leaders, and we can vote them out if we don't like the way they lead us. How do we talk about a ruler to people who cherish democracy and hate being told what to do?

As I thought about this question, I realized that a possible answer lies in the type of kingdom Jesus established. Jesus came in the midst of a world that had much experience with kings. Kings who established their kingdoms by overthrowing others. Kings who ruled by force and fear. Jesus came to inaugurate a kingdom based on love, a kingdom begun by a king who submitted to a cruel execution at the hands of the Roman empire. Jesus kingdom later turned that empire upside down. By love.

When you think about it, our world really isn't that much different than the Roman world in the first century. We elect our leaders, but how many of us obey the laws of our land because we love them. For the most part, people obey the law because they don't want to face the consequences of breaking that law. Just notice all the brakelights that come on when drivers on the highway see a state trooper on the side. Most people live lives full of fear. They fear the opinion of others. They fear the future. They fear being seen as they really are. There is force as well. The force of public opinion, the force of things that control us, the force of religion dictating how they live their lives.

As the early Christians did, we have a message that can free folks from their chains of fear and force. We are part of a kingdom, economy, world, family (whatever you want to call it), in which love rules. The reason we are in this is the love of Christ for us. Because Jesus loves us, we love. We love the Father, and we love his children. We also love those around us. We do what we do because of love. It is love that shows the world around us that we belong to Jesus, not the force of our moral or theological arguments. It is love that makes us different, not a set of behavioral rules. It is love that takes us to serve the least of these rather than expect them to come to us. It is love that lets us forgive when everyone else says we should get our revenge. It is love that allows us to lay down our lives for others when the world tells us to look out for number one. Love is the foundation of Christ's kingdom, and it is by love that his kingdom will conquer.

"Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth." (1 John 3:18)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

World Vision Wednesday

After the historic vote for independence in South Sudan, many refugees returned to their homeland looking forward to freedom. Instead, they have become part of a humanitarian crisis. Many are homeless, unemployed, and sick. Read this to find out what World Vision is doing to help.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Weekend Wanderings

It's starting to get warmer here in the sunny South. In a couple weeks, school will be out and the easy, breezy days of summer will begin for some. Others will just have to deal with the heat. It's been a good week, although it didn't end the way some thought it would. Maybe folks will finally be convinced that Jesus meant what he said in Matthew 24:36.

On to the good stuff, since we're still around to enjoy it:

Dan Edelen says farewell.
Don Miller on partnering with God.

Chaplain Mike talks eschatology.
Lynne Hybels says that love wins (HT: Scot McKnight).

John Armstrong on thinking.
Musicians on their favorite Bob Dylan songs (HT: iMonk).

Arthur Sido says that Sunday is just the start.
Wayward Son wonders what we do now.

Have a great week!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Church: First Century and Twenty-first Century Part 2

On Tuesday, we looked at the first two things to which the church in Acts 2 was devoted. To sum up, the early believers were committed to Jesus Christ and to each other. Today, I want to discuss the other two things that had the church's devotion.

The Christians in the first days of the Church were devoted to the breaking of bread, according to Acts 2. Breaking bread meant something far greater than taking communion together, especially the way it is done in many churches today. I believe that this goes along with fellowship. In those times, to break bread with someone meant to share a meal with them. Sharing a meal meant that person was accepted as an equal, as someone who was valued. When the Apostle Paul gives his instructions concerning the Lord's Supper, he is talking about more than just passing a few crackers and cups of grape juice around. The early church met together for meals, and it seems that "communion" was a part of those meals (Someone who has more knowledge than I do can feel free to correct me). Table fellowship is an important part of living life together. It is around the table that conversation flows, and folks get to know each other. It is around the table that the relationships so vital to the body are formed and strengthened.

The last focus of the church was prayer. When the early church prayed in Acts 4, the place where they were was shaken. Their prayers shook buildings and empires. Today, we have reduced corporate prayer to something that happens on one night of the week or when there is an emergency situation. I wonder if one of the reasons we don't pray as a church is because we don't know each other. If we aren't devoted to the life together, we aren't going to feel comfortable letting each other know what our real needs are. So, our times of prayer as a body can tend to be very shallow. Our personal prayers for each other can also become flat, if we aren't able to be open and honest with each other. Prayer may be the single biggest thing missing in churches today. I think that lack may be tied to the lack of devotion to Christ and to each other.

A great deal of negative rumors were spread about the first Christians, but the one statement that no one could deny was, "Behold, how these Christians love one another." I pray that statement once again becomes the truest thing that people can say about us.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

World Vision Wednesday

The recent storms in Alabama left a wake of devastation not seen in decades. Many lives were lost, and large numbers of those who survived lost everything. World Vision is in Alabama, serving those touched by this tragedy. Read this to find out more.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Church: First Century and Twenty-first Century

In Acts 2, Luke gives us an account of the first days of the early Church. Verses 42-47 describe what the earliest believers did as a group:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

I don't believe that the accounts of the practices of the first century churches are prescriptive. Many of the things they did would not fit in another time or another culture. However, I do believe that the attitudes that the first Christians had, and the actions driven by those attitudes, are necessary for any group to be vital and show Christ to a watching world. This is especially true in smaller fellowships where it is not easy to get lost in the crowd.

Notice verse 42. The early followers of Jesus were devoted to four things. We'll talk about the first two in this post, and the next two in another post. The first was the teaching of the apostles about Jesus Christ. They were committed to learning how to follow this Lord from the ones who had spent three years as his disciples. They weren't learning how to be a better ____________________. Somehow in the last 2000 years, we have drifted away from that original teaching and replaced it any number of teachings that could easily pass for motivational lectures, or sermons that betray the speaker's desire to control the lives of his listeners.

The second thing they were committed to was fellowship, or as The Message puts it, "the life together." Again, we have drifted away from the original. Fellowship now means a covered dish supper or some other type of special event where church members get together. To the early church, fellowship carried the idea of living life together, of being involved in one another's lives, of having an intimate relationship with their brothers and sisters and fellow members of the Body. There was a bond that they were committed to.

You could say that the first century Christians were devoted to Jesus Christ and to each other. In a later post, we'll look further at the devotion of our spiritual forerunners.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Hearing From God

When I was growing up, we were taught that the only way God spoke to us today was through the Bible. Most of the time that meant the Bible as interpreted and explained by the man preaching from the pulpit up front. There were numerous Bible study aids and approved teachers that could further explain anything anything we needed to know. God may have spoken to the saints in the Bible, but that ended when the canon of Scripture was complete. Folks who claimed that God spoke to them were out there on the fringe.

Over the past few years, my views on the subject have changed. As I have been exposed to the wider variety of people and ideas in the Body of Christ, I come to accept that God does speak to his people today. I realize that the One who created the universe can speak to anybody he pleases, in any way he chooses. Up until the last couple of months however, I wondered if, and how, God would ever speak to me.

While reading Walking With God by John Eldridge, it was suggested to me that I try an exercise that is in the book. The exercise was to ask God how I felt I was doing, and then to ask him how he saw me. So, I decided to give it a try. I asked what I thought about myself, what I really felt deep down. I was thinking something along the lines of "okay," "could be better," or something along those lines. While I was asking, the word, "failure" came to me. I immediately recognized it because I knew that was exactly how I saw myself. Not that I was a total, abject failure, but that I just never quite measured up, that whatever I did just wasn't quite good enough. Needless to say, that threw me for quite a loop.

The next part of the exercise was to ask God what he thought. So, I asked, and waited for the answer. And waited. And waited. All night I asked God what he thought. I began to wonder if maybe I was right, and that God agreed with me. On my way to work the next morning, I continued to pray. As I did the words "clay jar" came to mind. I realized that God was speaking to me. Not in an audible voice, but through my heart. God was telling me that I was not a failure, but that I was a clay jar for him to fill. Over the next few weeks, God continued to expand on that idea, and I am learning to listen and recognize the voice of my Shepherd. I am learning that that voice can come any number of ways, from a song on the radio to something I read, from a prompting deep in my heart to a friend's words to me. God still speaks through Scripture, but now I firmly believe that we cannot limit how God chooses to communicate.

By the way, try the exercise. You may be surprised.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Weekend Wanderings

We had some storms roll through the area this week. There were a lot of trees knocked down, and some folks have been without power for five days. Thankfully, there was not the damage or loss of life that some have seen in the past few weeks. We have also been invaded by a plague of cicadas. I think they are the 17 year variety. They are pretty much just on our side of town where there are more old trees and not as many new neighborhoods.

Here is some of what I've been reading this week:

Dan Edelen on internet anger.
Donald Miller on the Fall and feelings.

Wow! (HT: Scot McKnight)

Ronnie McBrayer on finishing.
Jared Wilson on hyper-spirituality.
Chaplain Mike on expecting too much.

Dan Allen is writing a novel. An excerpt is here.
Matt on why he stopped praying.
Alan Knox on following Christ.

Have a great week.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

World Vision Wednesday

Sometimes mothers have to stand up for their children against superstition as well as fighting to keep them nourished. Read this article for the story of one woman who did just that.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Stay Thirsty?

A church near us has a sign that reads, "Stay thirsty, my friends - for the Living Water." Now, aside from the fact that the sign is a blatant ripoff of the Dos Equis commercials, I have a bit of an issue with the message. I think I understand what the church is trying to say, but I don't think it's the best way to say it.

In the Gospels, Jesus speaks about thirst a few times. When he does, he doesn't tell his audience to stay thirsty. In fact, he says the opposite. In Matthew 5:6, Jesus states that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled. In John's gospel, Jesus invites those who are thirsty to come to him and never thirst again (John 7:37 and 6:35). In John 4:14 he says that those who come to him will not only never thirst again, but that this living water will pour out from them. Doesn't sound like Jesus expects those who come to him to stay thirsty.

I believe those who put the sign up meant well. There is a sense in which we need to remember that only Jesus can quench our thirst, because there are times we forget and look for other things to satisfy us. Maybe they meant that we must keep coming to Jesus, and not think that a one time experience is enough. If that's the case, I can agree with that.

Although I still cringe at churches that rip off culture on their signs. :)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Weekend Wanderings

Today is Kentucky Derby Day, one of the three days a year when I watch horse racing on TV. I don't think there is a favorite to win the Triple Crown this year, but you never know. It's been awhile, so maybe it's time. Tomorrow is Mother's Day. To all the moms out there, I hope you have a good one. For those of you who are able, let your mother know how important she is and how much you love her.

Here are the links:

Bob thinks his daughter is a pretty good mom.
Rich asks who your neighbor is.

Check out the Rally to Restore Unity. There's a lot of good people who took part.
Scot McKnight asks what Jesus would cut.
Alan Knox on heresy.

Dan Allen on promoting unity.
Jared Wilson on sand (sort of).

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

500 Posts

I realized sometime in the past few days that I reached the magical (?) 500 post milestone. When I started this blog back in 2007, I had no idea how long I would be doing this. I enjoy writing, but I didn't know if I could think of things to write about. It seems that I've been able to think of a few things over the years. Whether those things have been worth writing about is left for history to judge (Boy, that sounds pretentious, doesn't it?).

Over the three and a half years that I've been writing this blog, I've met a lot of good people on-line, and read an awful lot of good material from other bloggers. I've been encouraged by many readers, and challenged by others. Many of my ideas have been shaped and crystallized both by those I read, and by those who leave comments.

I plan on continuing to write, for awhile anyway. There's still a lot of stuff rolling around in my head. Some of it is actual thoughts. As those thoughts form, I'll put them into words and put them on here for all to see. Hopefully some of you will be encouraged, some of you will be challenged. Some of you may even be angered, but I'm going to try and not worry about that. My writing comes from the heart, and from the point of view of someone who sees what has happened to the movement that Jesus started and doesn't like much of what he sees. Thanks to all of you have read, comment, or have ever read or commented. Your encouragement is a huge blessing to me.

As the journey continues, I'll keep you posted on the twists and turns of the road.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Resurrection and Unity

Rachel Held Evans is the force behind the Rally to Restore Unity. I am not really worthy to be in the company of some of the bloggers that are adding their voices to the effort this week, but I am chipping in my two cents anyway. As part of this, there is a a fundraising campaign going on for Charity: Water. Even if you think I'm full of hot air (or something worse) :), consider helping out this worthy charity.

Alan Knox wrote this post in April concerning the failure of the disciples to believe in the Resurrection until they had actually encountered the risen Christ. I immediately thought about the folks who came to faith during the first century. They also came to believe in the Resurrection because they encountered the risen Christ. Not in literal bodily form, but in the followers of Jesus they encountered in the day-to-day. It was the presence of Jesus in the "Christians" (little Christs) that cause those people to put their faith in Christ. Those early Christians lived a Resurrection life. They could not have done what they did had the Resurrection not have really happened.

Today, the world looks at the Church and sees a fractured, disunited body. They see us divided into camps based on anything from translations of Scripture to what styles of music. They see a group of people that are known more for what we are against than what we are for, and if we're not busy fighting the culture war we are fighting each other over how to interpret prophecy or who is a "real Christian." Is it any wonder the world doesn't believe in the Resurrection when they don't encounter the risen Christ? We celebrate Easter and put on a big show, but do we live in the power of that resurrection the other 364 days of the year?

The Resurrection of Jesus changed everything. It still does, if we realize that the same power that raised Jesus is now in us. Life as a follower of Jesus is not an easy one, especially when it comes to living in unity with those we disagree with. Our tendency is to hang out with those who we agree with. That extends to our gatherings as the church. We want to be comfortable and accepted, and I don't believe there is anything wrong with wanting to be accepted. What we fail to remember is that because of the Resurrection, we are accepted by God. Because of the Resurrection, we are part of God's family.

Because of the Resurrection, we have the power to live as brothers and sisters, as friends, as members of one another in the Body. We have the power to look past the differences, the disagreements, even the passionate (ahem) "discussions." Because of the Resurrection, we can have Jesus' prayer that we be one as he and the Father are one answered in and through us. When that happens, the world around us will be like the ancient Romans who said, "Behold how these Christians love one another."

Then they will encounter the risen Christ. Then, maybe we'll turn the world upside down.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Weekend Wanderings

This has been an interesting week. Terrible storms devastated large parts of the Southeast, particularly Alabama. It is heart breaking to see the destruction and loss of life, and it also good to see the Church moving in to help. Here in this part of the sunny South, it has been cooler than normal, but we have been spared the worst of the recent weather.

It was interesting to see the fascination that we Americans have with what goes on across the Atlantic when it concerns the royal family. I saw bits and pieces of The Wedding, and it is interesting to see the tradition and history involved.

On to the good stuff:

Dan Edelen writes about the forgotten prayer of Jesus.
Richard Wagner writes about coconut.
Part 1 of a series on living as Easter people.

For those who believe that China is granting more "religious freedom," comes this news (HT: iMonk).
David Sehat writes about church and state (HT: Scot McKnight).
John Armstrong writes about a clash of worldviews.

Dr. Terry Dorsett writes about rudeness.
David B. Hart writes about Ayn Rand.

Jeremy Myers writes about activities that are not church sponsored.
Jon Acuff writes about 9 words.

Enjoy your week. Continue to live in the Resurrection!

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...