In a first world nation, particularly our own, we have not often faced our mortality up front and personally. When that happens it significantly disrupts how we process things. Our prosperity, overly busy lifestyles, and brushing aside all things pointing to death leave us Ill-equipped … Continue reading Why faith is needed
Looking for home…
Greatness is forged in adversity and the only substance it cares about is character. Adversity purifies character. It makes it shine. This is the development of Christ likeness. We too often find ourselves in the “prosperity gospel.” It is a false notion that if things are going well, then God must be pleased. Life isn’t saved and easy, it’s saved and hard.
We too often forget there are brothers and sisters in Christ who daily wonder if today is the day they may earn the martyr’s crown. Are they any less godly from the persecution they endure? No. Nor are they any better. God developed a plan for us all. Like art, some of our lives are tragedy, others drama, action, mystery, and some comedy.
We too often forget that here is not our home.
All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God ; for He has prepared a city for them. ~Hebrews 11:13-16
When we meditate on stories of triumph or sacrifice we see heroes. They are not perfect people. They often have great flaws. God is in the process of shaping us. Just as He shaped them. In each of these stories we see the glimmer of the image of God. As God brings out that spark He as well as we look to the day when all things are made new.
I would suppose it is much easier to write this than to live it. I’m sure it’s much more engaging to read about it then to be in it. Perhaps we too often shy away from it. The pleasantness of here can cloud the future far greater than any discomfort can. This may not make sense, but life in a fallen world doesn’t. We look to the day when all things are new.
There are no silver bullets, no perfect formula’s, no quintessential programs. There is work, study and prayer. Such should result in a growing love for God and a passionate desire to love people. Often living godly in daily life and building opportunities to share the Gospel may seem unsexy, but there is no getting around work. We all want bling, but I find it ironic that it was in a gentle breeze that God’s presence was made known to Elijah.
There is a funny thing I’ve found about heroes. While we fawn over their stories- they are often reluctant to share them and are glad that it is over, wishing none to go through it. Still, character is evident in adversity and shows a pure product. One day the glimmer will shine brightest when we are in the City God made for us. That City will be home.
If you thirst for heaven, then its time to man up. When adversity hits you will see how far He has brought you and how far you have yet to go. Home is soon, but not yet.
Why not Wednesday? Going retro
Let’s face it, tradition for a long time got a bad rap. Often hailed as the opposition to change, tradition has an aspect of humanity we cannot run from. It grounds us. Allusions to the past, or retro, shows up everywhere and for quite a while. Going retro demonstrates some cool things.
There is no school like old school. Often the old school has the art and delight for something we now take for granted.
Mimicking is the highest form of flattery. The quest to allude to things past celebrates the work and efforts of those in generations past.
Things of old contain value. Retro understands this but adds to it a flare of modernity. In a real sense, it is our contribution. Appreciation is the parent, depth is the new birth.
Tradition grounds us in a way that helps us navigate life and understand the world. It gives us perspective and stability in an (overly) fast paced world.
In a church context, the retro movement can be seen as a rediscovery of what church is. There is a sense that many churches have lost who they are in running from tradition. There is movement to have a more classic approach to church, but not stodgy. In large measure it comes from a realization that church is unique and it has a rich history. Tradition wasn’t the enemy, and each generation must add its nuance.
The bottom line:
Culture wide there is a reach for all things past. In one sense, perhaps this is a realization that we’re a unique culture. (America is still very young.) But, in another sense I think people are seeking stability. Connecting with the past gives a sense of calmness. After all, we’ve been here before.
Don’t Marry Your Dream by H Hamilton Comings
… H. Hamilton Comings is a dear friend and mentor of mine. There is great wisdom in connecting with pastors seasoned by life & ministry. This post on dreams is excellent. You can see his blog here…
Dreams can be like a marriage. When that happens we are in trouble. Friendships can exist on different levels and can move away leaving space for replacement. Marriages can only end in the grief of death or the bitterness of divorce.
God wants his people to cultivate friendships with dreams. A life void of dreams is a life mired in the swamp of complacency or stranded in the barren waste of apathy. However, when a dream becomes a marriage it has become an idol. This is true whether it is the dream house, the dream of some particular achievement or even a dream of ministry (perhaps the most seductive of all dreams).
Maintaining dreams at the friendship level requires not only the faith to pursue them but also the faith to let them go if God moves in that direction. As friendships they can be passionately owned, but they must not become possessively owned. In departure, their loss can be grieved, but the grief must not be allowed to fester into bitterness.
The faith to release dreams can accomplish two things. It can free our spirit to embrace the friendship of a new dream; and it can open the way for God, in his time, to bring back the released dream in better ways than we imagined. Elijah is an example of the first in his transition from a national prophet to a personal mentor. Moses is an example of the second in his transition from a premature deliverer of his people to a prepared founding father of a nation.
A key factor in this faith to pursue and to release our dreams is the recognition that is not easy. For some reason when something is not easy we tend to conclude it must not be right. The path of faith and obedience is rarely easy, and often it is not instinctively desirable. As with any parting of the ways, there will be the need to mourn. This should not surprise us. However, as with any mourning, there will be the need to get up, wash our face, thank God for the things built into our lives through the departed dream and, then accept the tasks at hand even though, at the moment, they may seem like empty husks.
The important phrase in that statement is, “seem like.” While engaged in those empty husks, we can be surprised by the unexpected visit of a new dream. When that happens we must guard ourselves against the temptation to reject it for fear that it, too, will move away unfulfilled. Wrenched away from home and dreams, Joseph, in the book of Genesis, could not have been the man he was in Egypt had he not cultivated the dream of being a man of honor. The testimony of his experience may give us an insight into the direction all dreams take us. Dreams, as with any God-given friendship, ultimately have as their reason for existence the development of nobility of spirit in our lives. When the great testimonies of Scripture are compared, God is not so much the fulfiller of dreams as the grower of souls.
Take a moment to list the dreams which have befriended you. If, in the making of the list, you find a bitterness of spirit at the memory of ones to which you have said “good-bye,” ask God to give you good and motivating memories of those past friendships. As for the dreams which are still part of your life, make sure none of them are things you “cannot live without.” Ask God for the grace to be passionately energized in your dreams because, above all, you are passionately energized by God himself with or without the dream.
Torn & Mended
This past Sunday was the most amazing life group. A small group, like many things becomes routine. It is part of weekly life. But the benefit of consistent involvement is that one amazing moment you will remember for a long time. This past Sunday stood as a reason of why small groups are important. We discussed the significance of a torn curtain and the mending that it provided.
Rescue not just judgment
In the Gospel we have the convergence of pain and suffering along with beauty and peace. People forget the Gospel is larger than a judicial matter, it’s a rescue form a massacre. Creation is fundamentally flawed. Jesus, by offering himself, resolves more than just the sin issue, He brings promise of all things new. Problems with human depravity and the brokenness of creation will one day end.
Present not removed
As sin alienates us from God, God is present and at work in His silence. God protected Israel while they wandered in the desert. While a curtain separated man from the holy of holies, God the Son was teaching in the courts of the temple. While people made themselves clean for worship, God the Son washed his disciples’ feet. As lambs were made ready for slaughter, Christ died on the cross and the curtain tore. Suffering brought peace.
Theology is practical
It is not proper to share what we discussed. But, the sharing of the Gospel has practical ramifications. It offers perspective, attitude, guidance, wisdom, hope and most importantly; it allows us to see God. Sometimes the most pragmatic thing needed isn’t practical at all. In life’s challenges what we need isn’t always a solution. We need the Gospel. The Gospel discusses our most significant need, the presence of God.
The bottom line:
We are mended through what was torn. And the separation that occurred brings people together. And this community celebrates what can no longer be separated as we look to all things being new.
Why not Wednesday? Discovery
We are a nation of the frontier. In middle school I remember reading an essay defending that idea. Without a frontier our nation is lost. I wish I had the foresight to keep the essay.
Discovery landed for the last time today. I remember many people blasting the idea of funding things like NASA. Thinking of the article, we can’t afford not to fund the frontier.
Think of this. Most came to this country as a frontier. Once established, there was the West. Step by step our country innovated and discovered.
While we have over-emphasized the individual, we have also brought something else out: That we are free. As a nation our record isn’t perfect. We have grown, though. But, without a frontier, will we continue to grow toward our ideals of life, liberty and justice?
Discovery carried the dreams of many, as did the other shuttle. The program showed triumph and at the same time the frailty of humanity. Watch children at a space or flight museum and you’ll see what I mean.
The bottom line:
The frontier is key to enjoying God and His creation. In the frontier we test our limits and from it we learn and benefit others. It’s slow. It’s arduous. It’s dangerous. But, the frontier is key to who we are as a nation.
Why not Wednesday? Define and protect what’s #1
A comment by Lance Armstrong, on politics, stood out to me. Reading the morning news, I stumbled upon a USAToday article about Retirement 2.0. They asked Lance about his political ambitions. Below is the quote:
… A second career in politics someday does not seem out of the question.
“I don’t think so. I get asked that question a lot. It’s a job. It’s probably many times a thankless job. … If I were to run for any kind of office, it’s impossible or very difficult to run right down the middle,” he said.
“I would have to immediately alienate half of our constituents: ‘Wait a minute, we thought this guy was a Republican. Wait a minute, we thought he was a Democrat.’ I think the effect there would be a negative effect for the foundation. For now, absolutely not on my radar.”
Lance’s response is great in many respects and something we can learn from.
- Demonstration of respect for politics and their job.
- Communication of the nature and reality of politics.
- Clarification on what is most important.
I believe people should be well-educated and informed about politics. I also believe people engage actively in politics. At the same time we must show discernment about what takes the public stage in our lives. Ponder this question:
Is there something so important in your life that other needed and important things take a back seat?
The bottom line:
I think there is something we can learn from Lance’s response. I love politics and keeping up on current events. But, for me, a person’s soul is more important. Increasingly I’ve backed away from politics, save a couple of close friends. Privately I am engaged, publicly the missions of the church is #1.
Retirement article from USAToday:
Hot Stuff: The Song of Songs
Song of songs is an incredibly important and needed book. I believe the book describes a young woman’s process to grown and maturity as she navigates the complexity of love, culture and who she is. The book helps us navigate the unquenchable fire of love.
Song of Songs is an incredibly hard book to interpret. There are many ways to view the book. The common evangelical view is the book is about Solomon and one of his brides. I struggle accepting that view. Regardless of view, certain things hold true about the book:
1- It celebrates sex and love!
2- It describes sex and love as more than just procreation.
3- It demonstrates a potent respect for the love between a man and a woman.
Regardless of view on the Song, these things stay true. However there are certain things that always bothered me by the popular view that Solomon was the groom.
1- The picture of Solomon does not follow Deuteronomy 17:14-20. I find it a significant contradiction to use Solomon as the standard of romantic love. If anything, the book is a criticism of Solomon and the direction he lead Israel. The Bible celebrates love between one man and one woman. Solomon started well, but he failed miserably.
2- The book’s plot seems to follow a time-line. The common view that the wedding takes place in chapter 3 doesn’t seem to fit with the often repeated phrase “do not wake my love until he pleases.” The plot I would describe as the growth of the bride throughout the book.
3- The Bible celebrates modesty and quietness. There are two distinct descriptions in the book One of natural comparison and one of a flashy more urbanized comparison. The juxtaposition doesn’t seem to be more contrast than analogous. For instance, if Solomon is the groom verse 2:8-9 doesn’t fit well with 3:7. The contrast is too stark- a free running animal followed by a man being carried around.
The best handling of the book I’ve heard is by the late Dr. Colin Smith. He handles the book exceptionally well and gives clear direction on how to use it in our modern culture. Taking the time to listen to them would be fruitful.
Song of Solomon I
Song of Solomon II
Song of Solomon III
The Bottom line: Study the book, its part of the Bible and a helpful part on that!
The Gospel According to Snow
We are fallen
The LORD furthermore said to him, “Now put your hand into your bosom.” So he put his hand into his bosom, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow.
“I am accounted wicked, Why then should I toil in vain ? “If I should wash myself with snow And cleanse my hands with lye, Yet You would plunge me into the pit, And my own clothes would abhor me. “For He is not a man as I am that I may answer Him, That we may go to court together. “There is no umpire between us, Who may lay his hand upon us both. “Let Him remove His rod from me, And let not dread of Him terrify me. “Then I would speak and not fear Him; But I am not like that in myself.
“For to the snow He says, ‘Fall on the earth,’ And to the downpour and the rain , ‘Be strong.’
“Drought and heat consume the snow waters, So does Sheol those who have sinned.
Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean ; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
He gives snow like wool ; He scatters the frost like ashes.
Fire and hail, snow and clouds ; Stormy wind, fulfilling His word
We need to respond
Like the cold of snow in the time of harvest Is a faithful messenger to those who send him, For he refreshes the soul of his masters.
She is not afraid of the snow for her household, For all her household are clothed with scarlet.
[“Let Us Reason”] “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow ; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater ;So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth ; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.
Snow is the look of the Savior
[The Ancient of Days Reigns] “I kept looking Until thrones were set up, And the Ancient of Days took His seat ; His vesture was like white snow And the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne was ablaze with flames, Its wheels were a burning fire.
And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow.
His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow ; and His eyes were like a flame of fire.
~Scripture taken from The New American Standard
The Gospel first, The Gospel central
What if everything was fine
Imagine no issues between couples, the husbands loving wives and wives honoring their husbands. No children being disobedient, growing in wisdom, stature and favor with men. In laws knew their place and no outlaws in disgrace.
Imagine every gun silenced. No wars, rumors of wars and espionage. No government clandestine plots to overcome. No pollution, perfect climate and people knew what the left lane was for.
Imagine every belly full, every person with a warm bed and not a job a person dreads. No poverty, no debt not even a single regret. No trash on the street thrown or cancer in your body grown. No aids, colds and malaria. No suicide, depression or hysteria.
Imagine if we could bring about a world such as this. We’d still have a problem. We’d still be empty. The church would still be needed.
The Gospel first
The Gospel is of first importance. If all is well and good. No problems, secure job, everything kosher, you still need God. In fact Adam and Even in the garden had a perfect life and the issue was the same, they needed God. Ironic that in an Earth of perfection mankind chose rejection but in an Earth of depravity man must accept the message of the Gospel. The issue is the same. We need God. We don’t evangelize in heaven, for at that point it is too late.
The Gospel central
Our need of God makes the Gospel central. I am sure each of us can think of organizations that were about the Gospel but today are no longer. If we hold to pet doctrines and make them our mainstay, what we do is in vain. If Christ did not raise from the dead, it does not matter our view on things like creation, end times and other deep theological questions that should be discussed. Without the Gospel, we address societies ills in vain by meeting needs without hope.
Is God enough
If we move off the Gospel as saving us, of the Gospel making all things new, we dive deep into despair. The key question regardless of our circumstances or station in life is this: Is God enough? That is the central question to life and history. Even if we were to bring about a perfect world that question would still be there. For Adam and Eve, a relationship with God was not enough. Today we see the effects of running from God, to numerous to count.
The bottom line
The Gospel first, The Gospel central understands that Christ is truly the cornerstone of the church as well as a stumbling block. You cannot get around that without causing the church to fizzle out. With the Gospel being first and central it gives clarity to why we study and pursue the Scriptures; not as religion, but in relationally knowing God. It motivates to serve and love everyone. It understands the that problems of the world are far deeper than politics; they are issues of the soul needing God.
There is much more to knowing God than just the Gospel. But the Gospel is the doorway. The Gospel is not the only thing, but it must be first and central to the church. For in the Gospel the central question is answered: Yes, God is enough, and that changes everything.