Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Ok, I have been preaching through the Psalms for Christmas and the big theme of weeks 1-3 in Psalm 80, 85 and 126 was "wait on God and he will come through. Wait on his goodness because he is faithful, wait for him to fulfill the promise. (Like he did at the Incarnation and will again at the second coming or as I preach all the time the second Christmas)  

Wait with hope, Wait with peace, wait with joy.  

Then we looked at Love in Psalm 89.  

And I didn't plan this, since I just used the lectionary readings for this year, but as I looked at it and read Psalm 89 It starts off like this

I will sing of the LORD’s great love forever; 
   with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known 
   through all generations. 
2 I will declare that your love stands firm forever, 
   that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself. 

And that hit me.  I've been telling our church to wait, to long for God and expect him to work and stick with him even when you are ready to give up...but the reality is that God is the faithful one.  He's the one who sticks with us, even after we give up.  His love is faithful forever, from generation to generation it stands firm.  This Psalm recognizes God's love in the past (v 1-37) but then asks God, "Where are you now?" from 38-51.  Kind of like us.  We see God's work, we know it in ways big and small. But there are times when we feel dissappointment and face defeat and we are ready to give up.  And sadly, sometimes we do.  

But in it all God is faithful.  

Faithfulness is the mark of God's love.  It's the mark of true love, right? Love never fails. That's why marriage and covenant are such essential elements of Biblical teaching and Theology.  These things teach us the nature of true love. 
  God's love, his promises are forever, and because of His character we should hope, not stress, and live with joy.  He asks us to be more like Him as he says wait, as he has us learn faithfulness, as he teaches us how to love.  And when we fail, he is there always ready to take us back, always ready to truly love.

Advent Illustrations

Hope Advent Illustrations

In his book, Simply Christian, N. T. Wright begins his chapter entitled "Putting the World to Rights" with the following personal story:
I had a dream the other night, a powerful and interesting dream. And the really frustrating thing is that I can't remember what it was about. I had a flash of it as I woke up, enough to make me think how extraordinary and meaningful it was; and then it was gone … . Our passion for justice often seems like that. We dream the dream of justice. We glimpse, for a moment, a world at one, a world put to rights, a world where things work out, where societies function fairly and efficiently … . and then we wake up and come back to reality.
According to Wright, our longing for justice "comes with the kit of being human." Unfortunately, although we all strive for justice, we often fail to achieve it. As Wright says,
You fall off your bicycle and break your leg. You go to the hospital and they fix it. You stagger around on crutches for awhile. Then, rather gingerly, you start to walk normally again … . There is such a thing as putting something to rights, as in fixing it, as getting it back on track. You can fix a broken leg, a broken toy, a broken television. So why can't we fix injustice. It isn't for lack of trying.
And yet, in spite of failures to fix injustice, we keep dreaming that one day all broken things will be set right. Wright contends, "Christians believe this is so because all humans have heard, deep within themselves, the echo of a voice which calls us to live [with a dream for justice]. And [followers of Christ] believe that in Jesus that voice became human and did what had to be done to bring it about."

My wife's aunt Gladys has always had a little apple orchard at her home. But this year when we paid her a visit, I couldn't help but notice the huge harvest of apples. The branches hung heavy, and some were cracking with the weight of abundance. Never, in many years, had anyone seen such a harvest.
When I asked her why, she told me that last year there was a late frost in the spring, and all the buds froze. When that happens, Gladys said, an apple tree does a miraculous thing: It stores up its energy in thousands of small bumps, or nodules, called scions (pronounced "see-ons"). All that energy pulsates through that network of scions until the spring of the following year, and then, BAM! You have an exploding riot of buds, as an apple tree unleashes all that stored up energy.
Gladys' description made me think about our spiritual lives. Sometimes the harsh frosts of this life—cancer, divorce, bankruptcy, trauma, grief, depression—cause our hearts to freeze. But at the core of the Christian faith we also live with an incredible promise: in and through Christ, there will be an abundant harvest in our lives. God's power is pulsating under the gnarly bark of this world and even our bodies. In Christ, we are being formed into a small nodule of living hope. During certain seasons of our life we feel our hearts waiting, longing, and even aching for those frozen places to burst into life. Our living hope is that one day, all of this stored up glory will be unleashed in a joyful riot of splendor.
Keith Mannes, Highland Church, McBain, Michigan

Peace Advent Illustrations

In a sermon entitled The Beauty of Biblical Justice, pastor Timothy Keller defines the biblical concept of shalom as universal flourishing, wholeness, and delight. Keller states, "God created the world to be a fabric, for everything to be woven together and interdependent."
Keller illustrates his point with the following picture of biblical shalom: "If I threw a thousand threads onto the table, they wouldn't be a fabric. They'd just be threads lying on top of each other. Threads become a fabric when each one has been woven over, under, around, and through every other one. The more interdependent they are, the more beautiful they are. The more interwoven they are, the stronger and warmer they are. God made the world with billions of entities, but he didn't make them to be an aggregation. Rather, he made them to be in a beautiful, harmonious, knitted, webbed, interdependent relationship with one another."
Then he offers a concrete example for the need to practice the Bible's call to shalom. In large cities around the world, children are growing up as functional illiterates—largely due to school and family situations. By the time they become teenagers, they can't read or write. According to Keller, at that point, they're often locked into poverty for the rest of their lives. Some people pin this problem on unjust social structures; others blame the breakdown of the family. But nobody says it's the kids' fault.
So Keller concludes, "Nobody says that 7-year-olds need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. And yet, a child born into my family has a 300 to 400 times greater chance for economic or social flourishing than the kids in those neighborhoods. That's just one example of the way in which the fabric of the world—the shalom of this world—has been broken … . It's not enough to do individual charity; you have to address [larger social issues]."

Marcellus speaks to his companions of the time of Jesus' birth.  In Christmas, in the birth of Jesus, in the birth of that baby boy we have a time a day where life stands still. It is a holy peaceful time he says, a time in which life grows still. Christmas is like a lake or a river at peace, In Jesus  the turmoil, the waves, the things that make life unclear subside. Its like the surface of a river so calm and clear so that we can look down into it and see glimmering there in its depth something timeless, precious, other. He goes on to  And a gracious time, Marcellus says—a time that we cannot bring about as we can bring about a happy time or a sad time but time that comes upon us as a grace, as a free and unbidden gift. Marcellus explains that Christmas is a time of such holiness that the cock crows the whole night through as though it is perpetually dawn, and thus for once, even the powers of darkness are powerless.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding is a romantic comedy about culture, family, and acceptance. Nia Vardalos plays Toula Portokalos, the awkward middle child of a proud Greek family. Her father, Gus (Michael Constantine), often embarrasses her because he always lectures people on Greek history. "Give me a word," he says, "any word, and I'll show you how the root of that word is Greek." Toula has ambitions to go to college and find a good job. Her father, on the other hand, just wants her to marry a nice Greek boy and give him Greek grandchildren.
When Toula meets Ian Miller (John Corbett), a long-haired English teacher who comes from a reserved and proper-mannered family, they fall in love and begin a complicated and secret courtship. Her family eventually finds out, and her father is livid that she's dating a non-Greek. When the couple decides to marry, the two families must come together, making for a number of misunderstandings and uncomfortable moments.
Toula's father is devastated that she's marrying outside of her heritage, and he is against the wedding from the beginning. He simply does not understand the Millers' way of life. Over time, he begins to realize how important Ian is to his daughter and how in love they are. Seeking a way to reconcile their differences, he turns to the Greek language. At the wedding reception, he gives the following speech in broken English:
"Welcome to the Portokalos family, and welcome to the Miller family. I was thinking last night, the night before my daughter is going to marry Ian Miller, that—you know—the root of the word Miller is a Greek word. Miller comes from the Greek word "milo," which means "apple." So there you go. As many of you know, our name, Portokalos, comes from the Greek word "portokali," which mean "orange." So, here tonight, we have apples and oranges. We are all different. But, in the end, we are all fruit."

Joy advent Illustrations

According to Psychology Today, in 2008, 4,000 books were published on happiness—up from 50 in 2000.

Suppose we were to come up with a set of Beatitudes for the 21st Century. What if we made a list of the kinds of people who seem to be well-off—who seem to have it made—by today's standards? It might go something like this:
Blessed are the rich and famous, because they can always get a seat at the best restaurants.
Blessed are the good-looking, for they shall be on the cover of People magazine.
Blessed are those who party, for they know how to have fun.
Blessed are those who take first place in the division, for they shall have momentum going into the play-offs.
Blessed are the movers and shakers, for they shall make a name for themselves.
Blessed are those who demand their rights, for they shall not be overlooked.
Blessed are the healthy and fit, because they don't mind being seen in a bathing suit.
Blessed are those who make it to the top, because they get to look down on everyone else.

Early in his career, the great American playwright, Eugene O'Neill, wrote the imaginative play Lazarus Laughed. It's about Lazarus's life after Jesus raised him from the dead. Near the beginning of the play, guests from Bethany are gathering for a banquet in Lazarus's honor. They are all desperate to hear what Lazarus has to say about his experience. As they take their seats, one guest says, "The whole look of his face has changed. He is like a stranger from a far land. There is no longer any sorrow in his eyes. They must have forgotten sorrow in the grave." Another guest, one who had helped roll the tombstone aside, recalls the scene after Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead in even more beautiful terms:
And then Lazarus knelt and kissed Jesus' feet, and both of them smiled, and Jesus blessed him and called him "My Brother" and went away. And Lazarus, looking after him, began to laugh softly like a man in love with God. Such a laugh I never heard! It made my ears drunk! It was like wine! And though I was half-dead with fright, I found myself laughing, too."

While attending a 2008 awards presentation at the Strathmore Music Center, a concert hall just outside of Washington, D.C., author Mark Gauvreau Judge witnessed what can only be described as unashamed joy—something we don't often get to see in a broken world, let alone the church. The scene was made all the more powerful because it included different people from different cultural backgrounds—a Nimiipuu Indian, a saddle maker from Idaho, a Brazilian street dancer, a leader of the music liturgy of the Ethiopian Christian church, an Iroquois choir, a bluegrass band, a master of Peruvian folk art, a quilter from Alabama, a Korean dancer from New York, and a jazz musician specializing in the traditional New Orleans style. Judge writes:
After almost three hours, it was time for a curtain call—one last bow to end the evening. As [the host of the event] reintroduced everyone, [the] featured jazz band played "When the Saints Go Marching In." That's when something happened.
The audience at the Strathmore rose to its feet to acknowledge the fellowship winners—it seemed at the time like one last blast of applause before the exit. But as they—we—clapped in time to "When the Saints Go Marching In," the performers onstage began to dance. … The jazz band, sensing something in the air, got louder, and kept playing. And playing. And playing. Onstage, the performers formed a conga line, led by one of the jazz musicians, then a circle, each person taking his or her turn in the center. The invisible line between performers and audience evaporated. It had turned into one big party—or revival meeting.
The spiritual writer Stephen Mitchell once described a holy joy "so large that it is no longer inside of you, but you are inside of it." I used to work at a record store and wrote music reviews for newspapers and websites, and I've been to hundreds of concerts over the years. I have never seen anything like what happened on that stage at the Strathmore. It was the most totally unselfconscious explosion of bliss I have ever seen in performance; the people onstage were not hamming for the crowd or blowing kisses. They were as lost in abandon as we were. I wouldn't be surprised if they had forgotten we were there. This was a spontaneous eruption of happiness. …
After about thirty bars of saints marching in, [the host] shut things down. No one wanted to leave; I honestly believe the band could have played for an hour and no one would have moved for the exits. Staggering outside, I heard a woman say she was "swimming in joy." I myself was speechless. Then I heard someone say, "I hope there was someone from the media there." I thought of saying that I was in the media. But then I had the decency to admit there were times when language failed. Like everyone else, I just wanted to stay inside the joy.

A fascinating study done by Professor Vicki Medvec reveals the relative importance of subjective attitudes over and above objective circumstances. Medvec studied Olympic medalists and discovered that bronze medalists were quantifiably happier than silver medalists. Here's why: Silver medalists tended to focus on how close they came to winning gold, so they weren't satisfied with silver; broze medalists tended to focus on how close they came to not winning a medal at all, so they were just as happy to be on the medal stand.

Love Advent Illustrations

In a short devotional for Christian Standard magazine, Paul Williams writes about an unusually bumpy flight he once had from Philadelphia to Long Island. Being a frequent flyer, Williams wasn't all that concerned as the plane was batted around in the sky. Others, however, were grabbing onto their armrests or steadying themselves on the seat back in front of them. While observing the reactions of his fellow passengers, Williams took notice of one young mother caring for her baby. He watched as she "wrapped her arms around her infant and pulled the child very close to her breast. Then she dropped her chin, rested it on the back of the child's head, and began to sing ever so quietly, 'Hush, Little Baby.'" The moment caused him to reflect on Christmas, of all things. He writes:
Helpless fragility is the lot of the infant. Those early days leave a lasting impression on the human psyche we never really resolve. That vulnerability stays with us all of our days, reminding us of the seemingly capricious nature of things—a bitter world that does not care if we exist.
But then God came—as an infant, unable to reach out and steady himself on the seat back in front of him, fully trusting a human, fallible mother to pull him close to her breast through the pitching, shaking nature of things.
What an extraordinary risk, to trust the infant of God to a frightened young girl.
But then again—watching that new mother sing to her child all the way through the turbulent skies to the welcoming runway—I realized God knew good and well what he was doing. The power of love trumps fear, rewards risk, and brings meaning and life to an otherwise frightening world. Over and over again.
For a God who would become powerless for love, and to a mother who sings softly in her infant's ear, I give my heart for Christmas, wholly amazed at the wonder of it all.

In an Esquire magazine article titled "Larry King: What I've Learned," Larry King was asked about his marriages. After being married and divorced eight times to seven different women (for his fifth marriage he remarried his third wife), King said,
Questions about my marriages and divorces always take me to the same place. I once asked Stephen Hawking, the smartest guy in the world, what he didn't understand. He said, "Women." If the smartest guy in the world couldn't understand them, what do you expect from me?
Then King said, "The three greatest words in the English language are not: I love you. That's second. The first are: Leave me alone.

According to Martin Luther, even from his birth, Jesus was standing with sinners. Luther wrote:
Christ is the kind of person who is not ashamed of sinners—in fact, he even puts them in his family tree! Now if the Lord does that here, so ought we to despise no one … but put ourselves right in the middle of the fight for sinners and help them.

Friday, October 14, 2011


A while ago I had a plan.  I am hereby continuing with said plan.

On Sin and hard Heartedness

So this was taken from Mike Dunigan a student at COD. Sin is like the rain on the windshield of your car.  If there is a ton of it the more that piles on you don't really even notice.  It's not until the windshield is wiped clean that you notice how bad and distorted things were. Once you do wipe the glass clean you notice each drop and each speck land and unless you keep wiping it clean you end up with a blurry distorted view.  In the same way we need to keep coming to God for forgiveness, we need to keep coming to him to be made clean and also to have our vision cleared up and hearts aligned to His over and over again.

On Purity

Typically people don't get why God needs complete Holiness, why can't he just accept us as we are?  Why do we need to be changed?  Why does our sin need to be dealt with, why does God demand perfect perfection?

A helpful illustration is this:  Imagine a batch of brownies perfectly baked. crisply edges moist and chewy.  Now imagine being told there is a little bit of poop in those brownies.

Just a little.  

Do you really need complete perfection?  Isnt' that being unreasonable? That standard too high?  Oh you don't think so...  God demands perfection in all things.

Jesus is all I need

There is a lot of writing about the rampant consumerism in America and growing throughout the world.  I've written about it in the past, here and a number of other places when dealing with politics and injustice.  Skye Jethani wrote the book on its negative influence in the church. CNN just had an article declaring greed the last taboo. Which doesn't really make any sense, but there it is anyway.

Anyway, I just wanted to use this opportunity to remind us all that we need to find our identity and sufficiency in Jesus alone.  Here is another article from Time.  The point is that materialistic people are less happy in marriages.  The suspected reasons, since these people find more pleasure in possessions rather than people they put their time and energy into getting stuff, rather than in the people around them.  There is truth in that. Take Ecclesiastes 2 for example

 4 I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. 5 I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. 6 I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. 7 I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. 8 I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem[a]as well—the delights of a man’s heart. 9 I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.
 10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
   I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor,
   and this was the reward for all my toil.
11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
   and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
   nothing was gained under the sun.

Solomon was one of the few people who could afford everything his heart desired, (tho Americans definitely try)  and yet it was all unfulfilling.  He was not satisfied with everything so long as his heart was not set on God. 

Nothing else satisfies, and chasing after it destroys our other relationships.  Therefore guard your hearts and minds from this insidious idol, this greed that seeks to control. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Anti Corruption God.

 I just read this article http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2091395,00.html that I think reaffirms the truths we had been learning about in Micah.  It makes me long all the more for God's Gospel to keep going forth in this world, and ultimately for God's glory to be shown when he brings final justice to a world rife with injustice.  

Remember and reflect on these 2 verses from our study in Micah

 Micah 6:8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. 
   And what does the LORD require of you? 
To act justly and to love mercy 
   and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 7:7 But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, 
   I wait for God my Savior; 
   my God will hear me.

The first is how we are part of the solution here.  How we can work towards a world that reflects God's goodness.
The Second trusts that even tho we will never finally deal with all the corruption and Justice, we hope in the one who will set it all right.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Right Questions Wrong Answers

The other day I ran across this quote from C. S. Lewis.

Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.
C. S. Lewis 

There are certain strains in our society that tell us that education is the solution to all the ills of our society. As someone who actually believes in sin I disagree with this position.  The problem isn't uneducated people, the problem is people.  As a society we've been reminded of this with the recent economic abuse enacted on regular people by Bernie Madoff and his ilk, but we also see it in the political sex scandals of Wiener and Strauss-Kahn. These were all well educated people who commit wrongs against others, abusing their position and justifying there wrong doing.  All of this lines up with this quote and what ultimately underlines humanity. Sinful and corrupted human beings  to serve self first. Sadly when the educated sin, it often has the potential to hurt many more people.

This TIME article reinforces this idea that its not only the uneducated (or entitled "celebrities") who sin.  The author points out that the rich steal more often than the poor.  From an economic and needs standpoint that doesn't make sense at all. Yet this is the reality, educated people easily rationalizing why they don't need to follow the rules.  Why they can do as they see fit.  

I think its the unwillingness to submit that is at the heart of all sin.  We rebel against God and his ways, we put ourselves on the throne and proceed to serve self above all.  For some of us those sins might express themselves in shoplifting, or sex scandals or financial indiscretions, but for all of us we stand against God rather than at his feet.  Education (while extremely important and highly recommended and something my kids had better commit to or else) doesn't help us submit our will to God.  Instead it gives us more tools with which to rationalize and justify our self serving nature. Scripture says since knowledge puffs up and as we are grow ever prouder it becomes harder and harder to submit. So lets pray that God would give us humble hearts, that we would see our sin for what it is, and that we wouldn't pin all of our hopes on the answers and pathways the world provides. Instead lets pin our hopes on Christ and walk humbly and act justly.  

I'm hoping to post a follow up relating to awareness as the hipster answer to social problems related to this idea that education is the answer to everything...

Friday, June 3, 2011

Pure Church

So I've been preaching through the 7 churches in Revelation.  The American church is very much like Laodicea. 

14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:   These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
   19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
   21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

When you see what is going on in China you see the persecution and the strength that comes from true belief and not a watered down faith.

Perhaps they are like Smyrna or Philadelphia,

7 “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:
   These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. 8 I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. 9 I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. 10 Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.
   11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. 12 The one who is victorious I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will they leave it. I will write on them the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on them my new name. 13 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

Perhaps we could learn

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


My posting has been anything but.  However I'm gonna start posting illustrations here for my own future reference and if anyone else wants to post them. As I read I'll rewrite them, not verbatim and only reference the book not pages.  

The cockapoo and the pitbull

Once there was this cockapoo (cocker spaniel/poodle mix) that was a long time resident of a couple who then decided to get a pit bull as a puppy.  The cockapoo did not like this uninvited guest in the least and bullied the puppy into submission, even as the pitbull outgrew the cockapoo it didn't dare challenge its former tormentor.  One day the cockapoo got some gum or something in its hair and needed too get it cut off.  Well upon his return he started walking around as if he owned the place, but the pitbull saw this skinny shaved dog prancing about in his house and jumped his housemate with the full force of a pitbull.  At that moment the relationship changed forever...
In the same way, Satan is a parading pretender and we don't live in the victory that Christ has won for us. Instead we are bullied, and beaten down under the weight of our sins when we should really be reminded of the power of God's grace and not our own weakness.  

The second is about submission.  Say a car and 18 wheeler are driving down the highway, but soon a lane is merging in and the 18 wheeler is in the lane that is being merged.  The big massive truck is the one that needs to yield due to nothing more than its position. It is required to follow the rules in order to avoid a big mess.  In the same way we are all called to submit in lots of situations, the most talked about one is wives to husbands. Less talked about are the biblical commands to submit to God, (James 4:7) Pastors and Elders (Hebrews 13:17) Gov't (1 Peter 2:13-15) and Employers (1 peter 2:18) as well as children to parents.

Both are taken from PB Wilson's liberated through submission

Monday, March 21, 2011

Amos Lee

Cup of Sorrow by Amos Lee is especially meaningful right now in light of the tragedy of Japan and the little we can do from thousands of miles away. (As well as send cash)

The Line that hit home

I send a prayer out across the ocean,
To a man that's forced out of his home.
I send a prayer out across the ocean,
So that he may not suffer there alone. 

And the song in its entirety:

Cup Of Sorrow"

I want to drink from your cup of sorrow,
I want to bathe in your holy blood.
I want to sleep with the promise of tomorrow,
I know tomorrow may never come.

I send a prayer out across the ocean,
To a man that's forced out of his home.
I send a prayer out across the ocean,
So that he may not suffer there alone.

I want to drink from your cup of sorrow,
I want to bathe in your holy blood.
I want to sleep with the promise of tomorrow,
I know tomorrow may never come.

I want to sit at your table of wisdom,
So that not one crumb shall go to waste,
For if we keep down this pathway to destruction,
Oh will our children will suffer for our haste.

I want to drink from your cup of sorrow,
I want to bathe in your holy blood.
I want to sleep with the promise of tomorrow,
I know tomorrow may never come [x3] 

I am amazed by how many Christian artists there are in mainstream recording.  Christ and Culture is a classic book by Reinhold Neibuhr. It talks about the different ways Christians approach the world around them.  His point is we need to have lives that overlap with people who aren't Christians.  We shouldn't conform to the culture,we shouldn't hide from it and we shouldn't develop an us v. them attitude.  Instead we should be like Jesus himself who loved people from all backgrounds, but encouraged them to be renewed and transformed, to leave their lives of sin and come unto Him.  I think that the reality of Christians making music that isn't only intended for a Christian audience is a reminder that all of us need to step into the lives of the many people around us, and to live as Christ.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Law as Gift

This week I was reading Luke 6:1-11.  A few thoughts that really impressed me were related to the point of the Law.  Ultimately, the Sabbath and the entire law are not meant to be oppressive burdens.  That's the problem that results from legalism.  God's reason for giving the law is as gift. (As well as to show us our sinfulness when we reject it.) But I'm going to focus on the gift part.

In v. 5 Jesus says, the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath. Now this can be read as Jesus saying, "Look here pharisees, I'm God I don't need to follow the law. I am the law!"  Kind of like a corrupt policeman.  But in the context He's talking about David and that David (and Jesus and the disciples) were doing what "some pharisees" (v. 2) considered work (and other pharisees didn't).  But David and his companions, to stay alive ate the consecrated bread. Jesus point is that people (sons of men) are Lord over the sabbath and that the sabbath is not Lord over them.  
The Sabbath is a gift designed to give life.  God mandates rest becuase we need a break, that we need rest,  we need to refocus, we need to trust in God and not in our own efforts to truly enjoy this life.  But if Sabbath becomes a burden if it ends up destroying life v. 9. thats a problem.  That's a corruption of the law.  That's a teaching that needs to be fixed.

We need to see all of the law as gift and not just a burdensome list of rules meant to weigh us down.  When we believe that God is good and trust his gift of law we see that.  Not stealing, coveting, hurting, lying, sleeping around, cheating on our spouses, lusting, boasting etc. is a gift.  When we don't do those things our lives and more joyful because they are less painful, and less oppressive for ourselves and for those around us. Instead we are supposed to be serving, loving, being patient and humble. If we praise God and give thanks, and follow the "do" commands we see our lives being filled with joy and meaning.  

God's commands are gift, and meant to give life.  When we see this it makes all the difference in how we see God. (Authoritarian taskmaster v. concerned and loving Father)

Basically it comes back to that first temptation of Satan...when he asks Eve to question if God is really good.  Can you really trust him?  Don't you think he's holding out on you?  I used to think of God as Iron fisted, and capricious like Zeus waiting to throw Lightning at me if I screwed up.  

Now that I've screwed up a lot, and rarely been hit by lightning I know he works a different way, a restoring and redeeming way.  I hope you see that too. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Borders and Crossing the Line

With the closing of 30% of Borders stores and its chapter 11 bankruptcy this may be the end of the book as we know it.  Mike Shatzkin in the Wall Street Journal predicts a 90% reduction in bricks an mortar bookstores as Amazon and e-readers take over the market.  Are traditional books to follow and with it, perhaps analytic and grounded thinking.  

I offer myself and my own thinking as examples.  I read a lot of stuff online.  As I look for sermon illustrations and even insights on passages I often scour the internet for illumination, but often I don't trust what I get online because everyone's opinion is on here and who is to say it is worthwhile.  So I often turn to books, articles and to commentaries from trusted authors and publishers.  As books and publishers and even bookstores fade, where will all of these things be grounded?  What and who will we recognize as authorities or at least as informed people whose opinion should be considered and trusted?  The internet is full of opinions, many of them are completely uninformed, developing unfounded conspiracy theories, making seriously defective conclusions. Thus the reason for websites like snopes.com. The concern for critical thinking as it relates to students and adults has quickly become a concern in Academia. in 2000-2002, 16 articles and books at least were written  to address the reality that we need to do a better job helping young people internalize truth and reject unfounded claims.  Suffice to say, the prospect of undermined quality printed material makes this more difficult.

Ultimately, this brings me back to Scripture and that we as believers say that God's Word is authoritative.   Without authority, we are all free to make our own reality.  We make our own rules, we make ourselves our own gods.  That may sound good at the outset.  I think that making our own reality and self actualization  are things that our culture promotes.  But when it comes down to it ultimately self centeredness is a dead end.  Without things we all hold in common we will become increasingly divided.  Without a common law a common authority we'd find ourselves in anarchy pretty quickly.  In the same way without a common authority (or at the very least opinions based in fact) we'll quickly descend into intellectual anarchy where every opinion is equally valid.  Even the stupid ones.  Even the dangerous ones. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Culture wars...to what end?

With the recent statements of David Cameron, Nikolas Sarkozy and Angela Merkel, Leaders of Europe's 3 largest nations saying that multiculturalism is a failed experiment, and with the recent abandoning of democratic process in Indiana and Wisconsin (links everywhere) I'm wondering if there really is a way forward for America. 

 Chuck Colson, former advisor to Nixon, who came to faith in prison and started Prison Fellowship, a Christian ministry to reach and help rehabilitate prisoners said in a recent article that he believes multiculturalism is impossible to sustain without some unifying aim. One of America's Motto's is E pluribus unum- of many, one. My fear is that there are 2 clear directions we are headed as Americans.  With two strong philosophical polls pulling us further and further apart we will be incapable of moving forward.  Incapable of meaningful or lasting change.  I fear that while we aren't decrying Islam as the incompatible culture like Europe is, it is we who have a much bigger problem on our hands, rather than minority subcultures, we have 2 equally large divided cultures in America, the rhetoric and actions seem like they will only escalate.  

As always Ideas have Consequences.  Let's pray we can start to see the ways we can work together.

I should also add that God's Kingdom will be multicultural.  The people from every tribe tongue and nation will be in God's presence.  And that while we will be many it will be possible because we do have that one thing unifying us, that one aim which is to give glory to our God and Savior.  Amen.

Add this to my points. http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2052843,00.html?xid=rss-mostpopular

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

New Playlist Arcade Fire

I'm including a new playlist by Arcade Fire.  A Pitchfork Review said this about their faith.

Lately, gospel-- not to mention fundamentalist Christianity-- has been experiencing something of a renaissance, so it's no shock that the same label that sometimes frowned upon Cash's religious recordings is eager to revisit them today. But times are different. Big music names from Bono to Mary J. Blige to Arcade Fire are believers of the highest order.

While I do think there are hints to their faith in many of their songs there is also a criticism of hypocrisy in the church.  The most explicit is in the last song on the playlist Antichrist Television Blues.  Basically about a guy praying for a child to make it big.  I think it may also be an indictment concerning Christian Music; saying that we can make music that mines the themes of faith for the masses or just grab the cash that comes more easily to Christian Artists.

Either Way enjoy the music, consider the lyrics.  I hope that we are willing to bring the love of God to all people through all means

Good Times

There are a lot of things I look back on fondly and miss about my childhood, especially as I raise my kids in this new and ever changing world.  One thing that I miss most is letter writing.  I used to write a lot of letters and they were good.  They were my artistic medium, honed and crafted. I wish that carried over to these blog posts, but writing to a person and the masses are vastly different enterprises.  Regardless, the thing I miss about letters was not only the formation of the letters on my end, but the anticipation of a response.  Nothing was instant, and ideas and hopes and emotions would fill me in the meantime.  Waiting was formative.  Now we don't wait.  Its all instant, and while I like getting stuff now, I miss the waiting.  I miss the patient waiting, and hoping.  I think it taught me something valuable that maybe I stopped learning a long time ago. 

My cousin Ryan posted this on his FB account today.  I'm sure I read it only moments later. Ha.  anyway it said "In the end everything will be OK.  If its not OK, its not the end."

In other words wait for it.  

This is also my song post.  The Song "We used to wait"  (Also to experience it in an amazing way from a happier(?) time of your own life, you must check this out http://www.thewildernessdowntown.com/)

basically what I just said. But it also speaks of the value of having words on paper, tangible and lasting rather than digital and easily deleted. Forever.  In a letter you put yourself into it. You think about it. You craft and form it. It comes from your heart.  A tweet, email, Wall post typically doesn't have that much investment....

I used to write,
I used to write letters I used to sign my name
I used to sleep at night
Before the flashing lights settled deep in my brain

But by the time we met
By the time we met the times had already changed

So I never wrote a letter
I never took my true heart I never wrote it down
So when the lights cut out
I was left standing in the wilderness downtown

Now our lives are changing fast
Now our lives are changing fast
Hope that something pure can last
Hope that something pure can last

It seems strange anekatips
How we used to wait for letters to arrive
But what's stranger still
Is how something so small can keep you alive

We used to wait
We used to waste hours just walking around
We used to wait
All those wasted lives in the wilderness downtown

oooo we used to wait
oooo we used to wait
oooo we used to wait
Sometimes it never came
(oooo we used to wait)
Sometimes it never came
(oooo we used to wait)
Still moving through the pain

I'm gonna write a letter to my true love
I'm gonna sign my name
Like a patient on a table
I wanna walk again gonna move through the pain

Now our lives are changing fast
Now our lives are changing fast
Hope that something pure can last
Hope that something pure can last

oooo we used to wait
oooo we used to wait
oooo we used to wait
Sometimes it never came
(oooo we used to wait)
Sometimes it never came
(oooo we used to wait)
Still moving through the pain
(oooooo) anekatips

we used to wait (x3)

We used to wait for it
We used to wait for it
Now we're screaming sing the chorus again
We used to wait for it
We used to wait for it
Now we're screaming sing the chorus again

I used to wait for it
I used to wait for it
Hear my voice screaming sing the chorus again

Wait for it (x3)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

If Your Life Ends the Day you get Married, this would be Convenient. Otherwise I'd say no

Long title I know. But I couldn't be anything other than disturbed by this growing trend to have weddings in funeral homes.  Weird.  I think its part of our lessening the value of marriage in our America.  Here are some interesting other thoughts of late.

1) Marriage rates are shrinking among those who would benefit most from marriage, the working poor.  The article says that the wealthy elite introduced the ideas of marriage as an unnecessary human construct, but generally marry.  

2) The same arguments made to advocate same sex marriage are now used to defend incest.  The reason we shouldn't allow incest according to social commentator Willaim Slatean, It's bad for families.  I agree, that's what people have been saying about homosexuality and divorce for forever.   I don't think that holds any water legally.   If you read most of the comments they promote the idea of incest for consenting adults, so long as they don't have kids. These same arguments are being used to promote polyamory... Slippery Slope anyone?  (not that we have to just that there is no logical reason not to change our stance)

How can we be so messed up and not even know it?  

Romans 1:21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
 26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
 28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.