Friday, June 29, 2012

The Lorax

As I did last summer, I had the opportunity to go see a movie with the kids at summer camp. This year the movie was The Lorax. I'm not going to review the film, just give some of my thoughts. I have heard a lot about the movie being a bit of "environmentalist propaganda." My brain tends to work differently than most folks (whether that's a good thing is open to debate), so I came away with some different thoughts.

What I saw was a tale of unintended consequences faced by someone who was not trying to do bad things, but got caught up in things that quickly spiraled out of control. The character named The Once-Ler started out trying to make a name for himself with his invention. He seemed to be a good person and was simply trying to better himself. After the initial tree was cut down, he was willing to change his ways and harvest material from the trees without doing them harm. He was willing to think of others. Then, his family came along. The family which had never accepted him, which had always told him that he was a failure, a disappointment. The matriarch moves right in and shames her son into doing what he had promised not to do - cut down the trees. Things quickly went from bad to worse, and in due course all the trees were eliminated.

I see some things in this tale that ring true in real life. Many of our problems, especially in relationships, are caused by us doing things that have unintended consequences. Sometimes we will do or say something that is intended to help someone, and the opposite will happen. Sometimes this is because we don't know how to say or do it the correct way, sometimes it is because the other person is not ready. Eventually things are said that cut deeply, and soon, things deteriorate to the point where great damage is done to all involved. You could say all the trees are cut down. Unfortunately, this happens in churches as much as, or maybe more, than it happens in the general population.  

Like Once-Ler, we many times act out of things in our past. Good things can affect us, and so can negative things. Unfortunately, many of us have wounds from our past that we have simply covered up and not allowed to heal. We do things to try and win the approval of others, or to "show them." Sometimes, buried hurts rise up and cause us to hurt others. Sometimes, we are driven because someone once told us we were not good enough, or did not accept us. Many times those past experiences can get such a hold on us that it seems like things are out of control. We think, "I'm not bad," and we're right. We've just been caught up in things that have overwhelmed us. Don't think that I'm saying that a Christian never sins. We do, but it's not because we're bad people. It's because sin, which is still hanging around in us, takes advantage of things that we often don't realize are there and causes us to act in ways that are contradictory to who we are as God's children. Before we realize it, things have gotten out of control and are damaged seemingly beyond repair.

In his book, Life of the Beloved, Henri Nouwen writes, "It is only when we have claimed our own place in God's love that we can experience this all-embracing, noncomparing love and feel safe, not only with God, but also with all our brothers and sisters." The key is fully accepting and claiming the love of our Father and trusting him to redeem our past and present mistakes, and to heal and restore us.

At the end of the film, Once-Ler redeems himself by giving the last seed to a young man who wants a tree. The seed is planted and things are made right once again. As children of God, we can have hope that one day all will be restored when Jesus returns. Possibly, God will redeem our situations in this life.

May we fully receive the Father's love and grace in all areas of our lives.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

World Vision Wednesday

In the face of unrelenting drought and food shortages, Salissou has begun catching locusts for his sisters to eat. Ironically, after they destroyed the family's millet crop, these insects were the only source of food these children had. Salissou's little sister, Rashida, is receiving treatment for malnutrition from World Vision.

For more, see this.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Repost: More

This was originally posted on January 4, 2008.

It's another day, so I'll continue my story.

About three years ago, God started doing some things in me that would change the way I saw life and ministry. Through a "chance" look at a magazine, I discovered and immediately began to read the articles and enter into the discussions. I became aware that there were a lot of others out there that just didn't quite fit in the cubbyholes that "church" tried to put us in. I began to read authors outside of what I knew as mainstream Christianity people like Brian McLaren, Leonard Sweet, Phillip Yancey, Mike Yaconelli, John Fischer, Rob Bell, N.T. Wright, and others.

God began to show me that at least part of what I had been taught and believed was not Biblical, but was simply a part of the culture of mid to late twentieth century America. So, now my rebellious spirit had a legitimate focus. Now, I saw myself as sort of a "missionary to the fundamentalists". I began to teach some of these things to my middle school Bible classes. I tried to convey to them that Christianity is more than just mentally assenting to certain propositions and following certain rules. Hopefully some of them got it and will spread the subversiveness.

Unfortunately, this chapter in my life was to come to a rather abrupt end. The school decided to basically eliminate all the middle school teaching positions and give those classes to the high school teachers. They also decided to eliminate the athletic director position, and since I was both a middle school teacher and the athletic director, my contract was not removed.

More to come...

Monday, June 25, 2012

Repost: A Little Bit About Me

Evidently, there are a few more folks reading my ramblings and ranting these days. So, I'm going to reach back a few years and let you have a look at some things I wrote previously. Hopefully, this will give you an idea of who I am and where God has brought me through my journey. I hope you enjoy some "classics." :)

This was originally posted January 1, 2008:

I started my journey as a follower of Jesus when I was four years old. I know that may seem young, but I distinctly remember asking God to forgive my sins and save me, and I believe that's when I became his child. Obviously, at that age, I didn't have a clue about how this was going to work out in my life. I grew up as a pretty good kid, started a period of rebellion as a teenager, went to a conservative Bible college where the rebellion continued, actually graduated and began a few years of ministry in Christian schools.

My rebellion continued, but changed from a general fighting against "authority" to a realization that a lot of the things I was taught in fundamentalism were not only not sensible, but were not even Biblical. For awhile I tried to still minister in fundamental schools, while growing increasingly frustrated with the legalism and lack of grace and love that I saw around me and sometimes experienced. I know that I was seen as a "black sheep" by many.

About three years ago, God began to take me on a part of the journey that would change my life.

But, that's a story for another day.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Something Quick

Sorry I wasn't able to get Weekend Wanderings up this weekend. I've been crazy busy. I thought of something tonight as our church looked at the parable of the sower. I'll leave you with this:

Jesus did not come to make us happy and comfortable, to give us the American Dream. He came to turn our lives upside down and inside out and give us the Father's dream of a Kingdom where the paltry treasures of this life pale in comparison to knowing and loving Him.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

World Vision Wednesday

Children should be in class - not on the streets doing dangerous jobs. But Socheata and her brothers had no other choice. They were forced to go out and collect recyclable garbage to sell so they could buy small amounts of white rice. The alternative was to go to bed hungry every night.

To read more, go here.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Son Screen? Really?

On the bus route that I drive this summer, I pass a church that sometimes has interesting messages on their sign out front. The current message reads, "Son screen prevents sin burn." Really? Comparing the Son of God to junk that people put on their skin so they can spend time in the sun? Not only is the message degrading to our Savior, it's just plain cheesy.

The other problem with the message is that it seems to be denying the existence and effects of sin in the life of the believer. That evidently is a popular way of thinking and preaching these days. I have read and heard that because of God's grace in Jesus, we are no longer under the law, therefore there is no sin for those who are in God's grace. The reasoning goes that since sin is the breaking of law, and we are no longer under law, there is no law for us to break. No sin. The biggest problem I see is that this is contrary to the entire context of the New Testament. We are not under the Law of Moses and all that went along with it. That law can never make us right with God. No regulations or human effort can make God be pleased with us. That only comes through God's grace in Jesus' blood shed on the cross.

But, we are under law. *gasp* We are under the law of love. Jesus said that the greatest commandments were to love God with everything we are, and love our neighbor as ourselves. Those cover everything. I believe Jesus took the command to love our neighbor a step further when he told us to love each other as he loved us. That means laying down our lives for others. Now, we keep the commands to love because God has loved us and not to try and earn his favor, but because we are not perfect and there is still the presence of sin in us, we sometimes fail. Anything we do or say that does not show love to God or to those around us is a violation of the law of love, and is sin. This sin does not change our relationship to our Father, although it may cause us to feel distant for a time. The violations of the command to love others can and do burn. They burn those we are in close relationship with and they burn those who are looking at those of us who say we are following Jesus. They also burn our own consciences, at least they should. Jesus said that the world would know we are his by our love for one another. When we fail to love, the world has good reason to wonder if it's really worth it to give it all up to follow Christ. That burns the cause of the Kingdom.

We are all guilty of burning others with a lack of love. I know I am. Even though we belong to the Son, sin still rears it's ugly head from time-to-time. May we grow in our love for God and for those around us.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Weekend Wanderings

Today is Father's Day. I think of those without fathers and I pray for God to make himself real as your true Father. I think of the single moms out there who have to do many of the things a father is supposed to do, and I pray for strength and grace to fulfill a difficult task. I think of the single dads who also have a hard job to do and I pray for strength and grace for you as well. I think of fathers and I pray that our Father would keep us mindful of the awesome privilege we have and give us the grace to reflect his image as we serve our children. Happy Father's Day to all of you.

I'm behind in my blog reading, so here is just a sampling of the good stuff out there:

Eric Carpenter on unity.
Frank Viola talks about destiny.
Brant Hansen on guilt.
Simon Jenkins on Facebook piety (HT: Jake Belder).
My blues name is Hollerin' Liver Davis (HT: iMonk).

Good question from J.R. Miller.
Coming home.
God the (ultimate) Father.
Letting go.
Silent sentinels.

Scot McKnight with some research on shoes.
Arthur Sido on the wounded.
Jeff Dunn takes another look at God.
Nate Pruitt writes about the life "with."
Alan Knox on church.

Free XXX Christian porn!
Repent, and believe..and...
The hammer and the life raft.
Jesus, the stronger man.
Jesus love me, this I know...

Have a blessed week!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Dead, Yet Alive

Those of you who have read this blog over the past three or four months know that one of the topics I wrote a fair amount on was death. Death to self, dying for others. Those posts came out of some recent experiences, and as I was thinking about them the other day, I was concerned that I may have come across as a bit morose. Over the last couple of months, I have learned a few things. Believe it or not, I am still very much a work in progress and am continually learning.

The biggest thing that I am learning is the difference between what so many of us see as living, and what Scripture tells us about life. Many people (Christians included) see life as all about getting as much stuff as you can. That stuff can be money and possessions, or career satisfaction and success. It can be friends and followers, or family. It can be any number of things. The prosperity gospel preachers tell us that if we just have faith, God will give us a life filled with health and wealth, and devoid of problems. Some preachers preach that if we just love everyone, our lives will be filled with friends. Many evangelicals preach that if we follow a number of steps (based on the Bible of course) we will have great marriages, successful children, and a joyous life. Even those who look on horrified at all those things teach that if we keep all the rules our life will be wonderful.

In John 10:10, Jesus states that he came so we could have an abundant life. There are many places in Scripture where a life of following Jesus is presented as the ultimate way to live. Jesus says in Luke 17:33 that those who lose their lives for his sake will find life. In Luke 18, Jesus states that those who give up family, etc. to follow him will receive those things back, and then some. Jesus does call us to come and die. He also says that dying is the way to real, abundant life. The problem comes when we expect that abundant life to include lots of friends, success in our endeavors, good health, enough money to do anything we want, or anything else we think will make us happy. We are like those described by C.S. Lewis in Weight of Glory“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”  

We tend to see life in terms of what we can see and touch, when the life Jesus offers us rises far above the mundane things of this life. We are far too easily pleased. We set our sights on things that will pass away and miss the eternal pleasures the Father has for us right now. I wonder how many of those who believe God is in the business of giving them whatever they want believe that they will have those things in the new heavens and new earth. I hope none of us really believe that the things of this earth are the things that count. We do act like it many times.

As Christ calls us to die, let us remember that he also calls us to live. Live in him.  

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Weekend Wanderings

School is out and summer vacation has officially started. At least in some places. Some of the districts will be in for another week. Now that June is here, the weather has cooled off a bit here in the sunny South. I've heard that other parts of the country are experiencing cooler temperatures as well.

Here are some of the best of the past week:

Michael Bird on the same-sex marriage debate (HT: Jake Belder).
Assent and belief.
Ross Gale on God's calling.
How the genius thinks.

Kansas Bob has some ideas for elevator riders.
A missional moment with Jesus.
Doing the math.

Is Anabaptism the answer? Arthur Sido says no.
Women in early Christianity.
Alan Knox on community and community.
Nate Pruitt on faith and family secrets.

Good post from Dan Allen.
Never kill a question.
Good one from Eric Carpenter.
The 14 most popular pilgrimage sites, none of which are in this country.

Be careful about which sunscreen you use.
Trust and what?
"Bible codes" just seem to never go away (HT: iMonk).
The fog.

That God kind of love.
This is good.
A parable.
Not one jot or tittle.

Since this is Sunday, I will wish you a blessed week.

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...