3.31.2009

praying today's psalm: psa 51

Have mercy on me, O God,
According to your unfailing love;
According to your great compassion
Blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
And cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
And my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
And done what is evil in your sight,
So that you are proved right when you speak
And justified when you judge.

(Psa 51:1-4, NIV)

Father, have mercy on me a sinner! Amen

3.30.2009

funny commentary on twitter

Thanks Mike Hancock for the lead on this gem.
So do you tweet? Do you update your facebook status?
Why? What is the draw?

praying today's psalm: psa 50

“Hear, O my people, and I will speak,
O Israel, and I will testify against you:
I am God, your God.
I do not rebuke you for your sacrifices
Or your burnt offerings, which are ever before me.
I have no need of a bull from your stall
Or of goats from your pens,
For every animal of the forest is mine,
And the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know every bird in the mountains,
And the creatures of the field are mine.
If I were hungry I would not tell you,
For the world is mine, and all that is in it.
Do I eat the flesh of bulls
Or drink the blood of goats?
Sacrifice thank offerings to God,
Fulfill your vows to the Most High,
And call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you will honor me.”

(Psa 50:7-15, NIV)

Father, you have no need of us. We are foolish to think that we have anything to offer you. We need you, and you want us. You give all things as a grace—a gift. Let us be thankful for everything. You are holy. Let us not be unfaithful in our promises to you. You are willing and able. Let us call for your help. Father, we are needy, and you are not. Let us come before you in that understanding. Remove from us any mistaken notion that we have anything to offer you except our love, thanksgiving, and trust. Remove from us the pride that keeps us from humbling ourselves before you. Amen Amen

3.27.2009

read mor ded peepl

Read C.S. Lewis' depiction of Shasta's encounter with Aslan in The Horse and His Boy here.

praying today's psalm: psa 47

God has ascended amid shouts of joy,
The LORD amid the sounding of trumpets.
Sing praises to God, sing praises;
Sing praises to our King, sing praises.

(Psa 47:5-6, NIV)

Father, we sing about the things we love. We praise the things in which we delight. May we not have competing loves. May we not delight in other things as we ought to delight in you. May we have no other gods before us. As we draw near to you, may you draw near to us, and fill out hearts with praise for you. Forgive us for our divided hearts. Amen Amen

3.26.2009

sean mcdonough (of GCTS) on faithpraxis

Here is an entertaining post on God's desire to transform us, not merely to forgive us by one of my Gordon-Conwell professors, Sean McDonough. I enjoyed his classes, and I enjoyed this post. For one, it got me thinking about our Jr. High fads.

Can you think of any?
I remember the snorting of crushed smarties, hockey pucks, and atomic fireball entrepreneurs. Add some more to this list.

praying today's psalm: psa 46

God is our refuge and strength,
An ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
Though the earth give way
And the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
Though its waters roar and foam
And the mountains quake with their surging.    

“Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
The LORD Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.
    
(Psa 46:1-3,10-11 NIV)

Father, there is much to fear in this life. Trouble threatens us everyday. And yet you command us not to fear. You call us to trust. You call us to believe that you are there. That you are willing and able. That you do indeed care for us, and that you are in fact God. That even if we should lose our lives, we will not. Give us this kind of trust. Give us the courage that comes from this trust. When our minds are filled with anxiety, help us to be still and believe. Amen Amen

3.25.2009

bible as scrapbook


Over the years, I have heard a few analogies describing the nature of the Bible and why I should read it.

The first that I can remember is a love letter. The Bible is God’s love letter to us. We get excited when somebody writes us love letters, right? Well, get excited about God’s love letter to you! That was nice, but it was very hard to get the love letter feel while I was reading the census in the book of Numbers or the smiting of Canaanites or stuff like that.

The second one I heard was that of a blueprint. The Bible is God’s blueprint for successful living. That was great, but I think of blueprints as precise step-by-steps; every detail to be followed exactly. I just do not think narratives, poems, and letters really are the stuff of blueprints. They are too messy. There are laws, but even that gets messy as the story unfolds.

The athlete version is a game plan. It is nice and sporty and appeals to jocks like me. It feels like pregame films or half-time pep talks that give us what we need for battle. Again, it really did not fit what I was reading. In a way, it is meant to prepare us, and it is something we draw upon for life, but It was not a plan—at least all of it.

That brings us to the analogy of law. The Bible is an absolute law. The problem is that it is not all law-not even mostly law, and it is not all absolute as it turns out.

What is it then that I am reading, and why should I do so? I have been turned on to the analogy of heritage. It is a family history, which works on us to shape and form our identity. For many of us living in the West, we have been led to believe the real virtue comes in divorcing ourselves from our family story and heritage. We are to make it for ourselves, to stand on our own two feet, to shed traditions and form our own identity, our own story. This seems foreign, but I know something of it as a Berger. Over the years, I have heard the story of our great, great, (maybe another great) grandpa coming over from Germany all by his lonesome at the age of 15 and the stories of my grandfather and his seven siblings living on and working the farm in Missouri; and then visiting that farm which is still in the family, walking through the cemetery of the little country church 1/3 of which is filled with Bergers, looking at pictures, and taking part in family traditions. All of these have done their work—however unconsciously—to shape my identity.

For the athletes let us put it another way. What does it mean to play baseball for the Yankees? What about playing football for the University of Notre Dame? What about being a Boston Celtic? These are all programs with great heritages. When you play for them, you step into that heritage. You will walk through the stadium and clubhouse and take in that history: all of the championships, the legendary players, the memorable moments, and the traditions. As a Fighting Irish football player you will slap the same sign as you leave the locker room that every player before you has slapped: Play like a champion today. All of this creates a way of being and doing things. It raises the bar for the kind of performance that is expected. The way you are to carry yourself.

This quote I read the other day in the introduction of C.H. Dodd’s The Founder of Christianity sums this up nicely. Speaking of the habit of Christians to read the Bible in their worship services, he says:

The preoccupation with ancient history is a characteristic, and at first sight a rather curious, feature of Christian worship. Many people have no patience with it, and ask, what have all these bygones to do with the needs of people in the twentieth century? Part of the answer is that these ancient events are moments in a living process which includes also the existence of the church at the present day; and another part is that, as Christians believe, in these events of ancient time God was at work among men, and it is from his action in history rather than from abstract arguments that we learn what God is like, and what are the principles on which he deals with men, now as always. (pp. 12-13)

Thus, the Bible is our family heritage. It tells the story of our father and his dealings with his people. We hear the stories of their victories and their defeats, their faithfulness and unfaithfulness. We read the genealogies, their prayers, their poems, and their proverbs. We learn something of our father’s will, his loves, and his purposes. As we take in this heritage, we are shaped and formed—slowly but surely.

The painting is "Searching for Home" by JEM

praying today's psalm: psa 45

Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever;
A scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.
You love righteousness and hate wickedness...
(Psa 45:6-7, NIV)

Father, may your kingdom come, and may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Lord may your reign come and be established over and against the reign of darkness and terror. May your will be done and not man's. May we love what you love and hate what you hate. Your kingdom is one of justice, peace, and mercy. May we be a people of justice, peace, and mercy. Amen Amen

3.24.2009

an observation

Has anyone else noticed that everyone lists Shawshank Redemption as one of their favorite movies on blog, facebook, and myspace profiles? It must be a really good movie.

praying today's psalm: psa 44

Awake, O Lord! Why do you sleep?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.
Why do you hide your face
And forget our misery and oppression?
We are brought down to the dust;
Our bodies cling to the ground.
Rise up and help us;
Redeem us because of your unfailing love.

(Psa 44:23-26, NIV)

Father, where are you? Are we deaf, or are you silent? Are you there? Did you leave us? Did we leave you? Will you give comfort? Will you bring this to an end? Are there better days? Have mercy on us. Amen

3.23.2009

on a christian philosophy of tattoos


So, I just read an absurd blog post about tattoos. I will not link it up, but because I am an INTP, I feel an almost compulsive need to dismantle this person’s post. Especially as I read comments like “you’re an inspiration” and “this post was beautiful”. For the record, I am not emotionally involved in this debate; however, my body is and will remain tattooless. ((My genuine hope is that this post will be as offensive as possible to all of my tattooed friends.))

First, the baptized philosophy on tattoos.
(1) He likes the “cultural” (???) aesthetic of tattoos. In other words, he first simply likes this as an artistic medium.
(2) He likes what they stand for: Tattoos represent an unconventional way of life that appeals to his bold and rebellious personality. They stand for rebellious, “out-of-the-box” thinking.
(3) His “theological” justification is summed up in the quote “Jesus struggled so we could be free and now we are free to struggle.” His rationale goes something like this: because our value and worth comes not from us but a work of Christ and we are freed on the basis of Christ’s merits—and not our own—we can now be free to be open and honest about our struggles and weaknesses.
(4) Tattoos, therefore, represent a way of telling our story and being honest about our struggles and regrets. Tattoos provide a documentation of sorts of our life’s regrets that have been redeemed in Christ. This translates into the rationale that I should get a tattoo that I know I will regret because it will afford me an opportunity to tell my story.

I believe that faithfully summarizes his justification. Now I must put an end to the buffoonery.
(1) I can understand the taste for the aesthetics. There are some cool tattoos out there. Here is my problem though. Tattoos are born out of a generally low view of the body. Correlations have been shown between tattoos and low body/self-image. That is tattoos are more likely to be found on the bodies of those dissatisfied with their selves as is. This is the same way that cutting or plastic surgery is related to poor self-image. Now, this is not to say this is everybody’s underlying motivation; however, it is often times the case that tattoos are related to cultural or personal beliefs and attitudes, which have a generally low view of the body. In other words, the body is an inconsequential and temporary thing that we will rid ourselves of when we die. (Admittedly, tattoos mean different things to different cultures. In one culture it something they do to their slaves. In another, it is done for status. But I believe underlying it all is a general view of the body as dispensable.) The doctrines of creation and resurrection, however, do not allow us as Christians to follow this line of thinking. The body is not the canvas; it is the work of art. The body is an essential aspect of our person. It is every bit the object of God’s redemption as the soul. In other words, God made it good, and he plans for you to take it with you when you die. Remember Jesus’ resurrection, Paul tells us, is only the first. All will follow suit in time. If Jesus took his scars with them in the resurrection, it is possible that so will we.
(2) It is hard for me to swallow the argument for individuality and individual expression. People do not get tattoos to be an individual. People get tattoos to be accepted by others. It is funny to me when groups identify themselves as nonconformist. Oh really? Is that why you all look and dress the same? It is for this same reason that I don’t take the tattoo as an act of rebellion. When it is the cool thing to do, it is not an act of rebellion. Anymore, keeping the commandments is the true act of rebellion.
(3) The theological justification is a good one...for me to poop on. I do not think this represents the mind of the person who penned that quote—at least it should not have been. There is a fundamental difference between admitting we are sinners, and trying not to be a hypocrite about our weaknesses, and writing them across our foreheads (or forearms as the case may be). The freedom for which Christ died is the freedom from sin—a freedom from the need to obey our flesh—not the freedom to indulge it or exalt it. The argument that somehow displaying our struggles on our bodies has more integrity is poopy to me.
(4) Now, the argument for a story perhaps has the most merit, but not in the form that it takes in this person’s head. I totally understand that when a change happens in somebody’s life they want to mark it in some way. They want to tell the story. This was why the Israelites built monuments where significant events took place. It was a way of remembering. It was a way of retelling the story. So also, in this way, maybe a tattoo could be a logical way of making such a marker. However, the argument that “I will do this permanent thing that I know I will regret, and I know will look terrible on me at 65 because it will give me a story to tell” is a bit like saying, “I want to get plastered tonight because I know I will regret it tomorrow morning, but it will give me an opportunity to tell the story of how my regrets are redeemed in Christ.”

One of my favorite responses to this idea of evangelistic tattooing came from the mom of one the guys in our college group. She told her son, who was set on getting a tattoo of a fish or something, “If you need a tattoo for somebody to know you are Christian, you’ve got a problem.”

***I will say it again, I am not as against tattooing as much as I am against stupid reasons. Perhaps, you will find my reasons just as arbitrary.***

youtube theologians - Stanley Hauerwas on presence

Stanley Hauerwas is a professor of theology and ethics at Duke Divinity School. This is a kind of teaser for a show on Alzheimer's disease.


I think this is one of the most important spiritual disciplines that we as Christians must learn to practice. There are two things I think we need to combat, which prevent us from giving this to each other. I speak from my own personal weakness here.

The first is the reign of the clock. We are so productivity oriented and so ruled by time that to be present with the sick and dying just is not expedient for us. Pastors are especially guilty of this. They like to busy themselves about with the "work of the ministry", but are generally terrible with these opportunities for the really important ministry of presence.

The second is our fear of death. This is not merely the fear of our own death, though we do have to confront that in these situations, but the fear of death in general. The fact of the matter is that these situations are scary, uncomfortable, and painful. But isn't this what Jesus was all about? N.T. Wright puts it nicely when he says that Christians are supposed to be "at the place of the world's pain in prayer."

I was confronted with our failure in this department during the year that I was an interim pastor at a little church in Glendale, AZ. It was a hundred year old church with an aging congregation and a pastor with terminal cancer. Two of the things that I spent a lot of time doing was sitting with the pastor and visiting the elderly who were no longer physically able to get to church. I just sat with them. The thing about it was I never knew any of them before this, but the families told me how much it meant. For the pastor, I remember the family telling me how surprised and disappointed they were that many of their 'friends' had never visited. I also realized how abandoned the elderly are in our society. They end their days confined to their rooms with very few people coming to visit them—even family.

praying today's psalm: psa 43:3-4

Send forth your light and your truth,
Let them guide me;
Let them bring me to your holy mountain,
To the place where you dwell.
Then will I go to the altar of God,
To God, my joy and my delight.
I will praise you with the harp,
O God, my God.
(Psa 43:3-4, NIV)

Father, may your light go before us in the darkness. May your truth go before us in the deceit. It seems all the world has been thrown into darkness and confusion. It seems there are only lies. But you are not a god of darkness. You are not a god of lies. May you lead us. May we follow. Father, increase our longing for your presence. May we be able to say that your are our joy and our delight. May we not be satisfied with anything less. Amen Amen

3.22.2009

praying today's psalm: psa 42:1-4

As the deer pants for streams of water,
So my soul pants for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?

My tears have been my food
Day and night,
While men say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”

These things I remember
As I pour out my soul:
How I used to go with the multitude,
Leading the procession to the house of God,
With shouts of joy and thanksgiving
Among the festive throng.
(Ps 42:1-4, NIV)


Father, that your people would yearn for your presence like this. Forgive us our divided appetites. Forgive us for being far too easily satisfied. People ask us "Where is your God?" but I am not sure it is for the same reason. For your name sake, set right our desires. May we hunger for your presence. May we find delight in you. Amen Amen

3.21.2009

throwing around big numbers

You know when our country's budget deficit and the stimulus plan are talked about, the numbers are thrown around and it is hard to really grasp the enormity of these numbers.

Here is a simple math problem to put into perspective.
Take the estimated number of years since Christ's birth (2013).
Multiply that by 365 for the approximate amount of days, not figuring leap years (365).
Multiply that by $1,000,000, not figuring inflation. So that you are earning $1,000,000 per day since Jesus' birth.

You would have earned almost $735 billion.

Now compare
$787 billion = Approx amount of the stimulus bill
$1.8 trillion = Approx amount of the budget deficit forecast for end of fiscal year (Sept). (That's over twice the size so it would be like earning over $2 million per day.)
$3.55 trillion = Approx amount of Obama's budget plan submitted for 2010.

No judgment either way, but it is hard to even get your head around those numbers.

on the economic crisis

Here is a good article by Walter Brueggemann reflecting biblically on the economy.

And in light of everything, maybe Agur's prayer in Proverbs [30:7-9] is one we should start praying ourselves.

Two things I ask of you, O LORD;
Do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;

Give me neither poverty nor riches,
But give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
And say, ‘Who is the LORD?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
And so dishonor the name of my God.
(Prov 30:7-9, NIV)

3.20.2009

youtube theologians - brian rosner on happiness

I was lucky enough to take a nt ethics class with Dr. Rosner last summer. He is an aussie scholar and a great guy. This is a three part interview where he digests some of the thoughts conveyed at a conference on happiness. Some of the meatier stuff comes in the second and third parts. Your looking at about 7 minutes each (so don't watch at work).

If your interested in what it means when Paul calls greed "idolatry" or the greedy person an "idolater", his book Greed as Idolatry is worth picking up.

3.19.2009

3.18.2009

a little evangelical self-reflection

Here is another post (or re-post) from the internetmonk about why they hate us. It is worth pondering.

3.16.2009

coming evangelical colapse

PG, here is a little something for you [kind of] in response to your comments on the Greg Boyd post. A bit of an in-house debate on the future.

It starts with this blogger's prediction that Evangelicalism, as we know it, will collapse in the next 10 years. InternetMonk

Then you can go to the editor of Christianity Today's response.

And a scholar near you, Scot McKnight at Northpark Seminary, chimes in here.

read mor ded peepl

H. Richard Niebuhr and The Responsible Self. Click Here.

1 Year Bible Reading Plan

So, over the years I have read each book of the Bible, but I have never been able to read it through. Most of the 1 yr reading plans were too daunting psychologically because they went day-by-day and if you missed a day or two or three it became overwhelming. Beyond that, they are generally too choppy, jumping around the Bible each day so you get snippets of the OT and a snippet of the NT each day.

So I made this plan, and so far so good.
The advantages in my mind are:
(1) it breaks down by week, which makes it psychologically more doable. What is better: "Read six or seven chapters every day" or "Finish Genesis by Sunday"?
(2) it breaks down to 1 Bible book per week (2-4 for the really short ones and 1/2 for larger ones) and 1 Psalm or Creed for every day. This helps you to better grasp these books as whole documents not chopped up pieces. Also, it takes you through the Psalms and three important creeds twice in the course of a year.
(3) it tackles the whole OT before touching the NT. This might seem like a disadvantage for some, but I think the payoff is worth it as so much is missed or misunderstood in the NT because we have no knowledge of the OT.
(4) it breaks down by the OT in the order of the Hebrew Bible rather than our English Bibles. What!? There is a difference? Yes there is. Our English Bibles are broken down by the Historical books, The Poetic books, and the Prophetic books. The Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) is broken down by Torah, Nevi'im (Prophets), and Ketuvim (Writings). The differences are books like Joshua, Kings and Samuel are read with the prophets and books like Daniel, Ezra, Chronicles round out the writings. This order was likely already solidified in some form by the time of Jesus, and so could have been the order he would have had it organized in his head.
(5) The NT narratives are rearranged to highlight their unique features. Mark is first, which is likely the first Gospel actually written (and one that Matthew and Luke used and expanded upon). Luke and Acts are read as what they really are, one story in two parts.

I am no good if I don't have a list/plan to tell me what to do. This has helped me stay on track so far. This list also includes a column where you can write in other books you've been wanting to read but keep putting off.

Give me feedback on what you think about it, and if you try it, let me know how it works for you. If it is two much cut it in half and make a 2yr reading plan.

3.14.2009

Greg Boyd - Myth of a Christian Nation

This is part 2 of 3 of an interview with Charlie Rose. Thanks to Travis for the the lead. There is no part of this interview that I disagree with, except that in part three, in a part that had the two of them kind of talking over each other, he made an unclear comment about the Judeo-Christian values. I think if we sat down to talk, we would actually agree 100% on this, but I believe that the foundational values of the American Experiment owe more to the philosophical enlightenment (i.e. modernity/liberalism [in the philosophical sense not the left-wing political sense]) than it does biblical Christianity. Sounds like his sermon on this issue went over a lot like mine, except for the fact that I didn't have a 1000 members to lose.

prayer for the weekend

Father,

May we love what you love.
May we hate what you hate.
May we seek what you seek.
May we oppose what you oppose.
May your will be our will as well.

Teach us.
Lead us.

Amen

3.13.2009

we've got spirit, yes we do...


A couple of weeks ago some of us were discussing the subject of the Holy Spirit, and more specifically what it means to “walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16ff). There are a few notorious problems when it comes to this subject. First, we are given plenty of commands to do it, but we are not really given explanations of how to do it. Second, how does one discern between the Holy Spirit and the bad Thai food they ate last night? Finally, why do so few experience anything special? Here is how I understand at least part of these issues.

The closest thing I have found for a formula of how to walk by/live in the spirit is Galatians 3:1ff where Paul rebukes the Galatians and reminds them that they first received the Holy Spirit at their conversion by hearing with faith. That is, Paul came in the power of the Spirit preached the Gospel to them, they responded in faith, and they received the Holy Spirit. He then concludes the life toward maturity that follows should be of the same nature; that is, hearing with faith. This means—I think—that to walk by the Spirit is essentially to hear and to respond in faith. In Romans, we are told anything not done in faith is sin, but the righteous live by faith. When somebody does something by the power or full of the Holy Spirit, it is the Holy Spirit bringing power to that act of faith making it effective and fruitful. On the other hand, grieving the Holy Spirit is an act of rebellion to what is heard.

How do we hear the Holy Spirit? I think there are a number of ways he can speak to us including the Scriptures, preaching, teaching, the encouragement or rebuke of a fellow Christian (or non-Christian), our consciences, and even—I won’t rule out—a direct word. We are simply to put ourselves in a place to hear, to keep our eyes and ears open, and to respond in faith.

How do we discern between the Holy Spirit and our (or anyone else's) random thoughts? Ethically, does it affirm the virtues of the Spirit? So, Paul's lists in Galatians 5 works almost like a filter for what we hear. Is it for the common good (1Cor 12)? Theologically, does it affirm the true nature of Christ as Lord, come in the flesh, who died and was raised (1Cor 12; 1Jn 4)?

So how do we do it? First, we start with what we know. Rather than looking for God to overpower us with prophetic speech, or lead us to a desolate road in Gaza, or raise somebody from the dead; we listen to what he is saying in our daily circumstances: concerning our spouses, friends, enemies, work, speech, temptations, and so on. It goes something like this…When you are in an argument with your spouse, and you have two impulses (voices): (1) to say something cruel, and (2) to apologize and make peace. Choosing option two in faith is walking by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives the power to complete that decision and brings it to fruition (i.e., restores love, joy, peace...). Or, when you are at work, and you hear two voices: (1) telling you to lie, and (2) telling you to tell the truth. Again, to choose option two in faith is walking in the Spirit.

This does not preclude the possibility that God could do a work in spite of us or in explicitly miraculous ways, but that is usually his prerogative and not what we are commanded to do.

Push back welcome…

Painting is "Between Lands" by JEM

in difference


"The indifference of some Christians to God is much more troubling to me than Nietzche's anger."

Above is a comment I heard theologian Miroslav Volf make a while back in a podcast. It has stayed with me because it articulated so well my own uneasiness. Nietzche understood that belief had consequence, and it seems to me that many Christians are dishonest atheists and agnostics. Practically speaking, what is the difference between stating with your lips "he is not there" and going through our days as if he is not? Those who hate God are at least engaged. They recognize the need to kill him.

I ask myself all the time, "Do any of us really believe this stuff?" I mean if we did, would our lives be so impotent? Would we be so bored? Would our discipleship groups and bible studies continually degenerate into this chit-chat about inconveniences? Would our prayer meetings consist of 58 minutes of sharing about aunt Sally’s turf toe, Grandma’s constipation, and someone else’s unbelief followed-up with a two minute prayer? Would we turn to each other after the pastor’s sermon, and say, “Now, where are we going to eat lunch?” Would not our lives be substantively different than the rest of the world—at least on some level? To be honest, this is the stuff that makes me doubt [in God’s existence and in my own salvation]. What is the difference? Where is the power? Where is the transformation?

We ask the question, “How are you doing spiritually?” and the answer is something like “Well, I worked out four times this week so I feel pretty good?” Really?

…So, I tried to think of questions I think we need to be asking each other and ourselves.

(In no particular order)
Do you delight in God?
Do you believe there is pleasure in his presence?
Do you feel like you know him?
Do you feel like you are known by him?
Has anything differentiated you from a nice atheist today?
Do you believe Jesus’ tomb was empty?
But is it because of the resurrection or because his disciples stole the body?
Do you believe God cares about you? Do you care about him?
Could the words “they worship me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” be said of you?
Do you yearn?
For what?
Is it God’s presence?
If you look back on the last week, what does it reveal about your “first love”?

All I am saying is that I—for one—want more, and I do not want to be content until I get it.

Did I just contradict my previous post?

3.10.2009

changing diapers for Jesus


Last week - Lord willing - I changed my last diaper—at least until the day I will have to change my own. Of course that only means that I began wiping it up off the floor. And in those moments, when I am wiping up "poopies" and "peepees", I am more often than I would like to admit in a state of discontentment and frustration. Let us just say "Praise the Lord!" is not what is being muttered underneath my breath.

There is the temptation within me to look to bigger, better, and more significant work as the stuff of real significance. "Lord, there has got to be something more significant for me to do for you than this?" There is always something and someone to covet. Whether it is the friend doing his PhD while my "I regret to inform you" envelop fattens, or the successful pastor experiencing a numerical explosion, or the author of the book I am reading, or the peers experiencing success in a new business venture; I am often overcome by a sense of disappointment.

I talk to people all the time discontent with the present. Honest and earnest people, who at least say they want to do something in service of God, but do not because the conditions are not yet right: work is not right, money is not right, relationships are not right, and so on. On top of this there is the unspoken belief—sometimes propagated by clergy—that the only real service to God is that done in the church. There was a time when I came face-to-face with this belief in my own life. It was a time when I had to learn how to be a Christian when I was not a professional one.

Reading the Bible has not always helped me because I read a highlight reel of big things being done for God, but for every superstar in the Bible "doing big things for God" there are thousands of nameless disciples anonymously and without fan fare honoring God with their simple lives. Think of this, the apostle Paul writes to Colossian slaves and gives them the simple command: "Do you work with soul as for the Lord and not for men. Know that you will receive from the Lord the reward of the inheritance. You serve the Lord Christ.” Setting aside the questions surrounding Paul’s attitudes toward slavery, consider some of the significance of what Paul is saying. One, Paul is telling these slaves that they stand to receive an inheritance. Inheritance is only for sons and daughters—not slaves. Two, doing your seemingly mundane and unspiritual work spiritually is an honorable and significant service to God. Jesus did a similar thing when he praised the poor widow who gave her last pennies, saying her act of faith was greater than all the large and conspicuous gifts given by the rich.

Everyone has inherited the call to follow Jesus and make-disciples. For some that will take them into adventures in foreign lands. Others will speak to thousands and make a great name. But this is no more—and is sometimes far less—significant than the simple, mundane acts that we do in faith. So while, I am stewing in my discontentment, I am forgetting the opportunities that are placed in front of me right now. Disciples making is not necessarily out there. It is right here with these little Halflings, who keep leaving puddles on the floor.

We live between the times. We yearn for another life, but the challenge is to bring that life into the present and to see things as God does—upside down.

Painting is "Lost Between Lands" by JEM

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The Meanderer was killed, but behold he is risen. He is risen indeed. But the new blog is not like the old.