Saturday, October 29, 2011

Weekend Wanderings

Autumn is here in the sunny South and the trees are beautiful. I enjoy this time of year with the colors of the changing leaves, the smell of wood fires, and the crisp temperatures. Things are about to get much busier here in the Shope household. Basketball practice begins Monday, so my schedule is going to be packed from then until February. At least it will be fun.

Here is the good stuff:

Alan Knox on charitable organizations, sort of.

Just chill.
Andrew Jones on the flight of capital from Egypt.

Alan Knox has a series on giving. Part 1 is here.

Have a blessed week.

Monday, October 24, 2011

In the book, In the Name of Jesus, Henri Nouwen wrote of the temptations faced by leaders in the church, and by the church as a whole. Those temptations are relevance, popularity, and leading.

The first temptation is to be relevant, to be able to do things, to fix things, to take care of things. All of us, individually and corporately, are called to minister to others. It is easy to think that we have to "make a difference" in the lives of the people we serve, and to fall into the belief that that they need us to change them. This is a trap that I have fallen into more than a few times. Nouwen writes that the way to change this thinking is to spend time contemplating the love of the Father for us and learning to grow in our love for him. Instead of worrying about positions on issues of the day, or trying to figure out how best to solve the problems of other people, we "must be rooted in the permanent, intimate relationship with the incarnate Word, Jesus, and they need to find there the source of their words, advice, and guidance."

The next temptation is to be popular. We all want to be thought well of, to accomplish things that will make folks look at us and applaud. If we were honest with ourselves we would have to admit that a great deal of what we do individually, and a great deal of what is done in the church, is to attract others to ourselves. The answer to this temptation is to remember that "We are not the healers, we are not the reconcilers , we are not the givers of life. We are sinful, broken, vulnerable people who need as much car as anyone we care for." We all need to remain open and vulnerable to those we serve, keeping in mind that what they need is the love of God. We are simply to love God, and let him love others through us.

The third temptation is the temptation to be powerful. This is possibly the temptation that the church has succumbed to the most. The early church had no political, economic, or cultural power; and it turned the world upside down. Since then the church has bought into the philosophy that the way to change the world is through power. While the church has continued to do great things through the centuries, I wonder how much more good could have been accomplished for the Kingdom if Christians had remembered that our power is from the Spirit of God, and that our warfare is spiritual not physical. As someone who has been in a position of authority over my students and athletes over the years, that temptation has been hard for me to overcome. I still struggle with the tension between loving those I work with and exercising authority when needed.

None of us likes to be powerless. We have been taught to not be weak, or even be seen as week. I appreciate what Nouwen says about powerlessness: "Powerlessness and humility in the spiritual life do not refer to people who have no spine and who let everyone else make decisions for them. They refer to people who are so deeply in love with Jesus that they are ready to follow him wherever he guides them, always trusting that, with him, they will find life and find it abundantly."

In my own journey, I am learning more and more to love Jesus, to trust him to guide me and give me that abundant life. May we all realize that we are not the ones that change the lives of others. We are simply the vessels that the Father chooses to flow through.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Weekend Wanderings

You know those days when you just wonder why? I had one of those yesterday. The rest of the week went well, as fall has settled in for awhile. We had to bring our plants in for the night because there was a chance of frost here in the sunny South. The world lost another brutal dictator this week. I hope the Libyans end up with a better government.

On to the links:

Arthur Sido on real men.
Alan Knox has a series on running the race. Part 1 is here.
Tim King's thoughts on an important issue.

Yes, these churches are ugly (HT: iMonk).
This is good.

Let the kids play (HT: Scot McKnight).
Laura Ortberg Turner on disappointment with God.

Jon Acuff on waiting.
Matt on Christmas. Sort of.
Jeff Dunn on dogma.

I hope your weather this weekend is as nice as ours. Have a great one!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Weekend Wanderings

It's been an interesting week. On Monday, Jan went to the doctor about some anxiety and skipping heart issues. He gave her some medicine to help things. Tuesday found us in the emergency room getting Jan's heart checked out because she was feeling worse. Thankfully her heart is okay, she's adjusted the medicine and is doing much better. Fall is fully here in the sunny South, and the weather is beautiful.

Here is the good stuff:

I don't believe a lot of this either.
An English perspective on the American church.

John Armstrong on mercy.
Jeff Dunn on the cross.

Donald Miller on intimacy with God.

Arthur Sido on power.
Evidently, the Dead Sea is not quite dead yet (HT: Scot McKnight).

Have a great weekend.

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Prayer to Christ

This prayer was written by Henri Nouwen in A Cry for Mercy. Further comment from me is unnecessary.

Dear Lord, help me keep my eyes on you. You are the incarnation of Divine Love, you are the expression of God's infinite compassion, you are the visible manifestation of the Father's holiness. You are beauty, goodness, gentleness, forgiveness, and mercy. In you all can be found. Outside of you nothing can be found. Why should I look elsewhere or go elsewhere? You have the words of eternal life. you are food and drink, you are the Way, the Truth, and the Life. You are the light that shines in the darkness, the lamp on the lampstand, the house on the hilltop. You are the perfect Icon of God. In and through you I can see and find my way to the Heavenly Father. O Holy One, Beautiful One, Glorious One, be my Lord, my Savior, my Redeemer, my Guide, my Consoler, my Comforter, my Hope, my Joy, and my Peace. To you I want to give all that I am. Let me be generous, not stingy or hesitant. Let me give you all-all I have, think, do, and feel. It is yours, O Lord. Please accept it and make it fully your own.

Monday, October 10, 2011


In Gracias! A Latin American Journal, Henri Nouwen told a story of a nun who was visiting in a poor section of Lima, Peru. She had been warned to be very watchful of other people because they would "...grab your money, your purse, and your watch." She was told to "...take your watch off and put it in your purse and hold your purse tight under your arm."

The nun did exactly as she was instructed. While riding on a crowded bus, she had to keep a tight hold on the handle to keep her balance. As she was jostled, she noticed her watch on the arm of a young man next to her. As the story goes, she very aggressively took the watch away from the man, only to later find her watch still in her purse. She had stolen an identical watch from the young man on the bus! Her paranoia had caused her to rob an innocent person.

How much of the time are Christians like this nun. We've been told that we need to watch out for those ___________________ (just fill in the blank), because they will ________________. They are either a threat to Christianity, to our way of life, or whatever else you can think of. We go through our days afraid, afraid of being corrupted or hurt by others. We have done a good job through the years of holding our life tight and hiding things away to keep them from being "stolen." In the end, we end up being the thieves.

When we hide the Source of our life away by separating ourselves, or by loudly proclaiming our opposition to the bogeyman of the day, we rob others of the message that there is a God who is a God of grace, who has become one of us so we can be like him, and who is redeeming this world and will put all things right. We rob them of the love that Jesus told us to show to all we come in contact with. We rob them of the opportunity to see people who have been transformed by God's love and grace, people who are truly different. Like the nun, we steal from others, and then find out later that they really weren't out to get us.

Jesus gave us the commission to go. We are called to be in this world. Jesus gave us the example when he ate and drank with sinners, so much so that the religious leaders called him a glutton and a drunk. Doesn't exactly sound like one who was being careful to not associate with the wrong crowd, does it? One of the big differences I see between the church of the first century and the church of today is the church today seems to more known for what it is against, and the early church was know for their love for each other and for those around them.

May we hold our lives more loosely, and freely share the treasure that we have been given.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Weekend Wanderings

Another week has come and gone. It seems like this past week was only a couple days long, it went by so fast. We celebrated Jan's birthday on Tuesday, had dinner with a dear friend on Thursday, and grilled for about 200 folks on Saturday. Add that to the usual goings on, and the week speeds along.

Here are the links:

I wonder how many of us are like this (HT: Scot McKnight).
Jon Acuff on surrender.

Ronnie McBrayer on worship.
Craig Bubeck on holiness.
Scot McKnight on the Gospel.

Arthur Sido has a question.
Alan Knox on vision.

Well, the weekend is almost over. Have a great week!

Monday, October 3, 2011

New Ways of Community

Bob Edwards left a comment on this post, wondering about a more contemporary expression of community beyond the "going house to house" of the first century church, especially for those with limited mobility. He made the point that we can be blinded to new ideas by trying to hold on to a form that doesn't necessarily work as well in the 21st Century. I believe that the form is not as important as having devotion to Jesus, and to one another.

Here is the question. What other forms of community are possible, that can meet the needs of different groups of people, and remain true to the ideal of devotion to Christ, and to one another ? Please weigh in.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Weekend Wanderings

Fall is here in the sunny South. This morning the thermometer on our back porch read 41 degrees. That's just a bit chilly for October. We're ready for some cooler weather, but I know there will still be some hot days to come. Last night we had our first neighborhood dessert night. Jan and I delivered flyers to about 100 families, inviting them to our house. Eight showed up , and we had a nice time meeting neighbors that we didn't know and getting to know some others better. Everyone enjoyed it, and we're going to have a second one in December at one of the other homes.

Here are the links:

Here is a fun video.
On "Pulpit Freedom Sunday," here is an iMonk Classic.
Kansas Bob on people who raise us up.
Jared Wilson on worship.

Ronnie McBrayer asks a good question.
Rich Wagner on sharing.

May your week ahead be filled with the Father's love.

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...