Wednesday, July 13, 2011
~There are 6,900 world languages, and 2,100 still need to start to have the Bible translated into their language.
~The percentage of all missionaries who work to serve the unreached is 2.5%.
~There are more Evangelical Christians in China then there are in the United States.
That last one-that one stopped me in my tracks. I could not stop thinking about that statement, how the country best know for it's opposition to America, liberty, freedom and democracy had so many people that were fighting against the norm, the accepted, the 100 million-plus strong Buddhist juggernaut. Not how a country where labeling yourself a Christian could result in persecution, harm and even death could still have so many people willing to do that, but how I lived in one where labeling yourself a Christian did not result in that most of the time, and we had less willing to "take up the cross."
Is America the blessed nation of Christians that we think we are? Sometimes, it is easy to think or even say that God blesses the USofA, but to what extent? More than other countries? There are more people proclaiming and practicing Christianity in China-are they a blessed country or people also? God is not an American. He is also not Chinese. He exists and lives and functions outside of our walls or country lines or divisions.
On the brink of destroying the people God had set them to do, Joshua sees an Angel of the Lord, and has this conversation with him:
"Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” “Neither,” he replied..." Joshua 5:13-14
Neither, he says. Not on their side and not on his. God wins, ultimately. We cannot expect Him to line up to our side, and we must be willing to line up to His.
Saturday, June 18, 2011
Help me to be the blessing you designed me to be, for as a man blessed beyond my wildest hopes I am inclined to focus inward-help me to focus outward, to be a blessing that your plans set forth so long ago for all of us.
I pray that when given a chance to speak, or stand or demonstrate your love, I do that and give that situation my all. Help me to less of a fan, and more of a teammate.
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
I had a conversation this last week with a friend about a lot of different Orthodoxy/Orthopraxy subject matter. In this discussion, we were able to (at least in my opinion) challenge each others thoughts and ideas, and hear what the other person said and see how they worked it into their own life. I have heard and try to practice the idea of putting what I believe "on a shelf" and hearing what someone else is saying, and I think this friend did as well.
The neat thing about it-there was no fighting, no name-calling, no childish behavior exhibited...we were sharing how we felt and what we thought and believed and how that looked in practice with an open, inviting discussion. I love that. I need that, and I think we all need that. We all need to be challenged and to challenge someone else, if it is the same person or with others in your life, you need those that fit both areas in your circle.
I appreciate the wisdom of friends, and I hope they appreciate mine. It is my hope that when we do this thing we call "church"--aka "body of believers", that it is done in a positive, engaging fashion that screams wisdom, love and Jesus to those around us.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
According to the website for Merrian-Webster's Dictionary, these are the definitions for the following words:
Orthodoxy-Conforming to established doctrine especially in religion, conventional.
Orthopraxy-Correctness of action or practice.
Most of our focus in the Western Churches is on the subject and training of Orthodoxy, and what we believe, should believe and know. The doctrine, the ideas and the proper way to process out what we think.
But what if, instead of Orthodoxy our focus was on Orthopraxy? What would it look like if the actions, the activity of my life was more important than what I studied and what I wanted to believe was the right thing to do? Instead of thinking and discussing, I acted and practiced the right way, the way I was intended to function.
For me, I an trying to be less focused on what i read and formulate in my head, and more on how I treat those around me, how I communicate God's love and His plan to the world. Today, what is your spiritual walk focused on? Are you more concerned with proper thought, or proper action?
Sunday, May 22, 2011
1. Christian or not, many people found this funny.
Yes, I know the group that originated this on FamilyRadio has done it before, and there are claims that should not be made, because no one knows when Jesus will be coming back. I agree with that, hands-down. We don't know the date, the time and should not make those predictions or promises or assumptions.
But do we need to laugh? And what are we laughing about? And why are we laughing? Don Miller, in his book "Searching For God Knows What" talks about the notion that we are all on a lifeboat, pushing someone else over the edge or "under the bus" if we can. Trying to make ourselves look better but at the expense of another. It is the school bully/bullied persona-if we can get out of the way so others can laugh at someone else, than no one will laugh at me. These are fellow Christians who need help in better understanding the Words of Jesus-they don't need us to join in with the "Rapture Party" humor and laugh at them.
2. The people of FamilyRadio had a few things right.
When was the last time you had a chance to talk to someone about the Rapture? When was it out in the mainstream, or all over your facebook/twitter/work conversations? Although the date wasn't right, they gave us a chance to discuss it and bring it into the forefront. Jesus is coming, there is a plan in the future for a new heaven, and new earth and a reconcilliation with our Creator.
A local mega-church preacher was just interviewed on the news about this. And after his joke of "oops, I am here but I did not prepare a sermon", he focused on the "no man knows the hour" idea, and said that the man making the prediction "is a kook". Where is the mention of Jesus or the need to get aligned to God or so many other things? The nightly news just gave you a chance to talk about God's love-instead you used it to showcase humor and "oh, not me-it's him who is wrong"...which brings me to:
3. Many missed an opportunity.
The question needs to be asked-did you use it as an opportunity to share God's love and his plan for the world-or did you use it a chance to say something witty and funny, and loose the opportunity to share? This was a chance that you may have missed. What do we discuss now as Christians? How wrong this guy was? How we were in the "correct" camp by not saying he was coming May 21st? How about just telling someone that He is coming-have you done that to anyone recently who wasn't a believer? Really threw out your convictions and faith to them?
4. Jesus is coming.
This isn't funny. It is isn't humor. Jesus is coming. He will be here, and we won't know the date or the time-and when He comes, we will know it according to the Revelation to the Apostle John. Make sure you have all of your heart where it needs to be, and that you have done everything you can to help those around you know it as well. Love will win-Jesus will win. That is the side I want to be on.
“Look, I am coming soon! Blessed are those who obey the words of prophecy written in this book.” Revelation 22:7
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
In many churches around the world, there is an essence of shared experience that we go through...
There is fellowship, prayer, singing, teaching, offering, invitational
And all of those components to the experience help move US closer to God.
But the Lord’s Supper is different, isn’t it?
While all of these forms of worship move US towards God, Communion is unique in that it isn’t about us and what we do that is so important, but it is what we receive here that frames the moment
While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is My body." And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you; For this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.
The words of Jesus reflect that it is HIS actions, HIS giving to us.
We understand how we do something, taking the bread and cup but we may not see how God does anything.But during Communion, God does something-He acts.
We do not come to the table to learn something with our minds---we come to meet God. God and people meet here and something happens.
Here we touch eternity. Here God gives love, forgiveness and grace and we receive.
He graces us, and for a moment we are in the presence of the Almighty reaching out to us. Heaven meets earth, like a wet sloppy kiss. There is an essence of God meeting us here on this plane, this moment and reality and it is real and it is present.
In prayer we go to God. In the Lord's Supper He comes to us.
In the moments you get to experience Communion, focus on the knowledge that God through Jesus is reaching out to you and asking you to remember, asking you to experience His presence and feel His love.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
There are a lot of opinions floating around the blog-verse, about the right answer to numerous quandaries and controversies. Each of the topics have sparked a wide variety of responses, and they range from full of love to full of malice. Currently, Rachel Held Evans is the driving force behind a "Rally to Restore Unity", and it got me thinking about what that unity looks like in light of our "virtual water-cooler discussions".
Got an opinion or idea about heaven or hell or Osama or Obama? What makes a good politician or what should those values look like? How about earthquakes, evangelicals, unity or proper ways to react to others around us? Who is Christian enough, or too Christian or too liberal, conservative or too indecisive? These are all open to interpretation and criticism-and if someone will listen, someone else will tell you what they think.
But who is asking? Who is listening? What does it look like to someone outside of the Christian-a-verse in blogs and on twitter and book-face and everything else in-between? Have we effectively argued our way into a conversation that looks nothing like the conversations Jesus would have us partake in? What do our interactions look like for those who need to hear the words of Jesus the most?
I struggle with telling my side of "how it is" because, really-it is just my opinion, isn't it? And when I strike down a flagpole of what I believe, I choose a side, and that effectively labels everything else wrong or a non-truth because it isn't my view, it isn't my way.
I am tired of choosing sides, tired of needing to think the right way or say the right things about stuff that doesn't tie into who Jesus is and how I can be his hands and feet. How much minutia do we swim around in, only to miss the focus, the mission, the ways we can unite as one?
Donald Miller, in the quote above, says it well-when "I am" is the focus-I miss out on "I AM", I miss out on you, I miss out on us and the story and the opportunity for the unity we could have as God's people-as His segula-as His treasured possession. That is the unity I want-with the Creator and with you. Let's stop being individual pieces of trinket. Let's be His treasure.
"For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be His people, His treasured possession." Deut. 7:6
Sunday, May 1, 2011
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
I was watching the ABC show "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution" a few nights ago, and was struck by this quote. Jamie Oliver, who is a Chef from England and is trying to change the awful eating habits of Americans in our fast-food, our schools and our homes spoke it about one of the fast-food restaurant owners he was interacting with. In the episode, he was trying to figure out how to introduce healthy choices to a man who thought that customers did not need or have any interest in healthy foods or knowing what was in their food. He even said at one point that his customers didn't care about the quality of what they eat, just the quantity. That alone was sad to hear.
But the quote was golden-amidst the frustration of running into a stubborn man and many stubborn people around him, he spoke to the honest feelings in his heart. He was angry and he was real, and his emotions were raw and out there. They were the words of a passionate man with a passion he could not get others to understand and subscribe to.
Sometimes, I feel the same way as him. There are people that are influences or ones I would like to influence, and then there are the ones that make me frustrated to no ends. They may not make me feel like stabbing anyone, but frustration with others is there-it has been there since the fall of man and will always be a source of difficulty.
As the show goes on, Jamie offers a way for the owner to keep selling his high calorie food while still allowing him to offer his healthy alternatives. He humbles himself to not challenge the owner, but instead to work with him and not against him to hopefully get his passion out there and to as many people as possible.
When we don't work well together, I need to remember that disharmony dominates and unfortunately will influence that interaction. My points have been remembering to be humble, to see Jesus in the face of all the people around me and to pick my battles. That seems to be the key in my life-working hand in hand with the difficult people I run into, not trying to push against but to flow with them whenever I can. When life hands me a frustration-focused relationship, I have been trying harder to get to know that person's story, and they become more full, more 3-dimensional and easier to understand and (hopefully) eventually easier to work with.
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
I have seen a shift in my relationship with my son. He and I have had a couple of awesome adventures, time for just him and I including a trip to the Palace to watch the Pistons. During that drive home, he told me that our evening was "the best day he ever had", and-exaggerated or not, still felt awesome to hear.
We are closer I think as he gets older, we enjoy doing things together and sharing boy stuff like video games, football, mountain dew and pretend guns. As I teach him what these things mean and how to grow up, I pray that God helps me to guide him into the man he is meant to be.
I once read that good coaches don't need to give that one "big talk" if they have done the right thing all year long, talking and communicating their plans and hopes for the team. In that same way, I try to make sure each day is lived in such a way that it speaks to my son as an accumulation of plans, hopes, dreams and focus for his life. It is not the final push, but the season of preparation that will make a difference in his life, and I am honored to be the coach called dad for him.
when they're old they won't be lost."
Proverbs 22:6 (The Message)
Monday, April 25, 2011
he’s written down. In the “General Thoughts” section beside the
Spiritual/Moral component, it says, “Above all else, I realize that my
spiritual beliefs and my moral values will shape my life. I will do what
The Winners Manual: For the Game of Life
Copyright © 2008 by Jim Tressel. All rights reserved.
The first chapter highlights "The Winners Manual" and what it means to those who have read it and will read it. It sounds like a great book and resource that these athletes that are growing into men can have at their disposal to grow into the upstanding citizens that many have done.
But now, with this news-what does it say about Tressel? What does it say about the words in the quote I started with? "I will do what is right!" is a strong mantra-but he didn't this time, did he?
And we all fall short, and we all eventually and many times over will fall on our faces-but what makes this bad is he played Adam, he hid and tried to make it ok-he played Cain, and by burying it into the ground he wanted to make it all go away.
But it doesn't, does it?
Our words speak-our books and blogs and conversations they speak volumes to those around us. What I write frames me, it helps you to get a better understanding of who I am and what I believe and think and feel.
But our words aren't us-are they?
Our actions, our visible and observable activities are what we do and subsequently who we are. It doesn't matter how nice I frame something in words, it is what I do that screams who I am. And to me, that is what is sad about this event, his words do not reflect his actions. I respect his coaching and team-focused approach towards football and life in general, I do. But he sets out to be an example, a mentor and what he has done is not right. I can only hope that when placed in circumstances to influence, I say and do "what is right".
Thursday, April 21, 2011
But what does it look like to have the relationship when you can’t interact? I can’t have a discussion or feel a bond to someone who doesn’t talk back to me, or discuss things or embrace me, or can I? I can’t really say I have a friendship with Paul McCartney, even though I would like too-it is a 1-way street, even if I do know (or at least think I know) how he feels and thinks and what he believes. Without the interaction, what kind of connection is it really?
But for us, Jesus gives us a keystone to starting and keeping a relationship with Him. Numerous times in the Gospels, He tells us that the way to Him is through each other…that the way I interact with Jesus is the way I interact with you. And not just my minister or wife or guys I like to hang out with, but how I interact with that person that annoys me, or the not-so-popular person at school, or the atheist/agnostic/non-Christian in my life. It has little to do with me, but more to do with them.
In John 21, Jesus asks Simon Peter if he loves Him, and in response to that with a yes, Jesus tells Him "than feed my sheep". In the parable of the sheep and the goats, Jesus tells us that there is a time in the end, when there will be two camps you can be in-the group who saw Jesus in the ones around us and cared for Him through them, and the ones who didn’t. The sick, the broken, the homeless and the ones truly in need around us-these people are Jesus. These individuals are the way we relate and bond to God.
When I look you in the eye-I see Jesus. And in that, I can treat you like a friend, like a person who I need and desire to love and serve. How can I see you any other way if I really yearn to be in a relationship with an Almighty God?
"If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen." 1 John 4:20
Friday, April 15, 2011
Sometimes, in my own life, I feel like I am trying too hard to put the cart before the horse as it were. Many opportunities to "spread the gospel" arise each and everyday, and when I am posed with those chances, I either take the chance to speak or feel a sense of guilt for not doing it later.
In the Acts if the Apostles, Jesus tells his apostles:
"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
And we read this, and the first notion is--do it, spread the Word and get it out there in whatever package that looks like and however we can. That sometimes is productive and worthwhile and positive in growing people in their realization of their walk with God, but sometimes...sometimes it's a bullhorn or a judgment with condemnation or a harsh tongue or a clanging cymbal.
But what does it look like to put the spreading of the Gospel in front of the actual implication and understanding of it in our own lives? Tozer touches on this, in that as Christians, we get to the latter-the spreading of the Word and message of God sometimes well before we are truly worthy of it. Our lives become more of a check mark-based system of do this, do that and "get them in the doors", with little regard to our own self-reflection of growth and deemed worthiness of the gospel message of love. When we try this, we are literally trying to get the cart to lead the horse-it isn't going to go where you point it and ultimately leads way off path or sits there and does nothing because it wasn't constructed to work that way....all of which leads to danger or idleness. Which is worse?
photo © Elizabeth Alcinoe
for openphoto.net CC:PublicDomain
Saturday, April 9, 2011
I have been reading Don Miller's book "Searching For God Knows What" recently, amongst many other things I love/need to read. The subject matter continues, like it is in most of his books, to be focused on him and where he struggles/shines/etc. But a recent part got me thinking...
He talks about the change in tactic/approach by the church in the early-mid 20th century, and the introduction of Darwinian Theory and science beating down on the door of faith, and how during this time the church gained an apologetic tone, and a focus towards providing answers and defenses to every question. And the most important thing lost during this approach was our appreciation for the poetry of the Bible.
Yes, poetry. Obvious books like Song of Solomon, and the less obvious ones like Ecclesiastes and the Lamentations of Jeremiah and the really less obvious ones like Genesis, chapter 1. These expressions of work cannot be dissected and labeled and broken into so many little points, they scream to be felt and explored and enjoyed not in our western approach, but in the more eastern view of things.
The Bethel Bible Series taught me that there is a vehicle, and there is cargo; there is the message and the stuff used to get it to us. The poetry of the Bible is part of the vehicle that gets it to us, and when we over-analyze and critique passages and words and structure, we loose the message-the simple truths God puts into writing for us.
When we always try to have an answer for something in the Bible, or one of life/science/philosophy's quandaries, there can sometimes be that effort to fill every hole of doubt or question-giving firm, all-compassing answers. But God leaves room for questions, doesn't He? He leaves room for uncertainty and questioning and most important-He leaves room for Mystery. Our God is a mysterious God. But not in a shady way, but in a way that says "You don't know everything there is to know...your laws and bounds cannot hold me...I AM."
Our God is poetic, beautiful and transcends any of our attempts to answer for Him or frame Him in to a neat little box.
Thursday, March 31, 2011
I had the pleasure of organizing and implementing a Silent Auction/Variety Show/Dinner at GP this last weekend. It was the coming together of months of work, and was something that was hard work but fun all wrapped up together. When we came up with idea, my wife and I, it seemed easy.
But it wasn't easy-it was work. It was fun, but it took time and perseverance. We raised a lot of money from it, and we will be able to help quite a few of our kids go to CIY this summer. The important things I learned from this:
1. The High School kids will work hard-if encouraged to.
Like most of us see in all the areas we work, there are those that come in, do their job and work hard and there are others who need some encouragement. We had some of both-and it was a learning experience on how to manage it outside of the workplace.
2. People are very, very generous.
There are soooo many people that came through big-nationally and locally with donations. We ended up with over 170 items up for donation, and some of them were combined. From our professional photographer who donated an entire wedding package to so many restaurants who gave us gift cards-there was no end to people's generosity. I was blown away at how much people wanted to help us. This, above all in the planning process, made me feel great.
3. If you built it, they will come.
Everyone wants to be a part of something fun, something exciting and positive. Frame it in that type of box, and the event will be successful. People came, they had fun and they helped. You can't ask for more for the event we had.
4. I don't know how to run a silent auction perfectly.
I know what I did right, I know what I can do better, and will make the adaptations accordingly. You live it, you learn then you sharpen it.
5. I way over-estimated on food.
Which, of course, is better than under-estimating. But we had a lot of food, and we were able to serve everyone more than they could eat and included to-go boxes too! I had a blast making the food with my parents, and serving everyone who came to the counter. Hearing all the great comments about the food made it even better.
6. I slept worse than I have in a long time-the night after the event.
I am a stone-cold sleeper. It is near impossible to wake me up-but after this event, I couldn't sleep, I was so excited and happy for what we had accomplished with God's help. This made me tired the next day, but it was worth it.
7. CIY, and other events like it are so very important.
Why did we do this? To help raise money to send our HS youth group to a conference in the summer called Christ In Youth. And the next day, I got to hear stories about it and what it means to be able to do it to the kids. I never had the opportunity to do something like this as a youth, and I see how important and life-changing it can be in them, how it lays down memories.
So overall, had a blast. What have you learned recently?