Thursday, November 17, 2011

Chaplain Finds Pleasure in the Pulpit

Yesterday I preached during the weekly chapel service at Anderson University School of Theology. I have attended there since 2006 and am now a senior M.Div student with three (3) classes to go to graduation. Unfortunately I take just one (1) class a semester, so that means I won't graduate until spring of 2013.

I must say that these years of continued formal education have been just in time for me. The Anderson SOT students and professors have been amazing resources. I hope that I have been a similar blessing to them. It is more evidence to me that God is working in me (even at the age of 54) to will and do His good purpose.

I would be honored if you would listen to my chapel message by typing this address into your browser:

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ten Years Since

Tomorrow will be a big day for me, so I post this on the eve of 9/11. Franklin Roosevelt said of another deadly day that it would "live in infamy." I wonder if anyone held a special remembrance on December 7, 1951? Maybe not because by then the US was involved in another conflict, this time in Korea. Over 50,000 Americans died in that war then ended in an armistice that has never turned into a peace treaty. As I look back over my 53 years, I find few years when the shadow or reality of war -- hot or cold -- hasn't been there.

It will soon be ten years that the US (and other nations) have been fighting in Afghanistan (and later, Iraq). Days after the planes hit our leaders were urging us to continue life as usual, "lest the terrorists win." I don't believe the terrorists have won, but life has never been the same since. None of us have been untouched by either the military, economic, or political consequences of 9/11.

Tomorrow I will teach a Sunday school class at my church on Matthew 24:1-14. Jesus announces to the disciples that a day would inevitably come when their society, symbolized by Herod's Temple in Jerusalem, would come tumbling down. In those days the love of most will grow cold through exposure to increasing and seemingly unrelenting "wickedness." This prophecy was immediately fulfilled in the Roman siege of Jerusalem in AD 70, but it has application to any age characterized by "wars and rumors of wars, famines and earthquakes." Sounds a lot like the last ten years to me.

What does Jesus counsel his people to do? Escape to a bunker? Take over the government? Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die?

No. He counsels two things of us:

1. Remain a people known for love. During the fall of Jerusalem and the later collapse of Rome itself, the Christians engaged in amazing works of self-sacrifice that helped preserve some manner of order as western culture fell back into barbarism.

2. Remain a people known for hope. Keep proclaiming the Gospel. In today's sectarian environment, this is crucial. This is not proselytizing. This is simply telling the story of human history from the perspective of the Jewish and Christian Scripture. The theologian Robber E. Webber died in 2007. His last book was titled "Who Gets to Narrate the World?" His answer? Whoever tells the better story. These days, Christianity is known more for shouting moral advice at the world rather than sharing good news. In bad times like ours, people need a reason to hope.

I'll finish tomorrow at a prayer meeting. I hope it will be a service that is careful to keep the "stars and stripes" lower than the cross. I hope it full of personal repentance, not political tantrums. I hope it is a moment when Spirit of God casts down our temples and warms our hearts to each other.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Sacred Ground

This is the title of the Star Trek: Voyager episode I watched on Netflicks the other night. Please don't stop reading if you are one of those who consigns everything Star Trek to the cosmic wastebin (i.e. gehenna). There's wisdom here.

I thought about calling this post "The Bottom Line" because when you are face to face with your own bottom line or that of another person's, you're on sacred ground. In the episode, Captain Janeway is helped to experience the paradox that is faith. While faith exercises itself to some degree through reason, it is based upon something that transcends reason. She discovers that faith is not pre-rational or irrational, but what some theologians terns transrational.

She wants to save the life of a crew member and sets about to scan, research, and otherwise cogitate her way through the mystery that is called "speaking to the ancestral spirits" by the natives of the world on which her crew member got in trouble when she acted like a tourist where holiness was required. Janeway's motivation is pure: she is ready to do "whatever it takes" to save her crewman's life.

A "guide" is provided for her and tells her that she already has what she needs to secure the healing. Janeway comes to the end of her ability to "understand" and steps into the normally deadly energy with nothing more than a beginning trust that the spirits are really there. She literally puts herself at their disposal, prepared to live or die with her crewmate.

Being a Star Trek episode, it all ends well, especially for Janeway who has a taste of life that is based not on prideful rationalism, but on trust in another realm that cannot be measured, quantified or turned into a formula.

Whether one is modern, post-modern, or prehistoric, God's invitation remains the same: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Acknowledge Him in all your ways and He shall direct your steps." (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Salsa Day!

Today is our annual salsa making day at our house.  Nearly everything in it comes form our garden.  Nadine and I have made salsa for years and each batch is good while a little different from the others.

Life is like crafting salsa from scratch-- you expect the best but you never know what you're gonna get.

Every "Mexican" restaurant offers you salsa and chips.  I reflect on the salsas that have been set before me --   the salsas of my life.  Many were unremarkable, a predictable combination of sweet and heat.  However, I remember two salsas that represent the bookends of life experience of sad disappointment and surprising life change.

The former happened several years ago when the server set down a basket of freshly fried chips and a cold squeeze bottle of red paste.  Enjoying salsa and chips is not supposed to remind the diner of preparing to brush one's teeth.  This low point of my salsa experience was seared into my memory as I smeared a crimson bead across an otherwise worthy chip.  Oh well -- make the best of things until my fajita order arrives.

Years and bowls of salsa later came the moment in a little Colorado Springs cantina when the waiter brought us a bowl of something I had never seen before.  It was as much white as red and boy was it chunky!  My wife and stared at it for a moment before one of us tentatively dipped a chip and took a bite.  Cilantro, tomatoes, onions, and slivered cabbage.  Surprisingly delicious!  I broke chip after chip in my enthusiasm while Nadine scribbled an ingredient list onto the back of a Kroger receipt.  Since then it has been our privilege and joy to bring a bowl of "Ambrosia Salsa" to family gatherings.

But then there was the time in San Antonio when the cook added guacamole to his salsa recipe.  I believe that Guacamole could qualify as the tenth fruit of the Spirit.  Guacamole is good for you. The oil contained in avocados ranks among the healthiest types of fat.  The other ingredients in guacamole are highly alkalizing and loaded with phytonutrients.  Learn more at

Life is like a batch of salsa.  Whether life brings disappointment or ecstasy, look to God to stir in a special ingredient of His own and turn everything into something that is good for you.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Constipated Government

Are you as tired of the disunity, controversy and dysfunction as I am? Jack Nicholson said it best as the Joker in the original Batman -- "This town [country] needs an enema!" When you perform an enema you get a bucket load of #@$*%. It's stinky for a while, but it does the body good in the long run.

There comes a time when it no longer helps to add what you think will be helpful. You've swallowed enough Pepto-Bismol. It's time to take away the blockage. US citizens are losing hope that the system as it is can produce the change the country needs. This citizen believes that our elected government officials are no longer responsive. The federal government has become too big to fail. It exists to serve itself instead of "we the people."

Here's my prescription:

1. Eliminate the federal income tax and replace it with a "national sales tax." This will restore economic power to the people. Learn more about this at

2. Establish term limits upon congressmen and senators. This will take government out of the hands of "career politicians" and return it to citizen legislators where it belongs. Learn more about this at

3. Pass the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requiring the federal government to operate within an annual Balanced Budget. This will restrain those who are tempted by the power they have been given. Learn more about this at

OK. I feel better getting that out.

The common frame of reference here is the hope that the USA can become a moral leader in the world once again. It won't be easy to find our way forward with these changes, but that's what we elect these people for. As Viktor Frankl wrote, "He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how."

I'm ready to do my part to bring about this kind of change. How about you?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Creation and the Children of God

You never know what will spark a hopefully meaningful thought. I was driving home from a consult with my college adviser when I turned on the radio and heard yet another round in the ongoing debate going on these days over the ways human beings treat the environment.

In this corner, weighing in with over four thousand years of western progress based on conservative Biblical interpretation, the Dominator. His opponent, weighing in with science that exposes climate change caused by five hundred years of industrialized pollution, the Conservator.

There is an often overlooked passage Bible passage that reads, "The creation (i.e. nature) waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed." (Romans 8:19) The Christian concept of salvation is not concerned with only human beings. God created all the universe, including the flora and (non-human) fauna on planet Earth. It is a Christian belief that the present world is not as God intended. It needs salvation and re-creation. For human beings, death will be no more. For the environment, there will be a day when all weather and geologic forces will cooperate for the ultimate good of all and to God's praise.

But what about the passage quoted above? Does this refer only to the moment when reality will be changed in the end? I am thinking that there is something essential that can happen here and now. Everyone agrees that creation/nature is in trouble. The debate is over how much can be laid at the feet of human beings. People are uniquely made in the Divine image, but those image-bearers are not to lord that fact over other living things. I'd like to think that it is also "children of God" that will bring about the renewal of nature. "Children of God" are those who have been empowered, authorized, and equipped to change things for the better. They are the representatives of the One who started it all in motion in the first place. When human beings take their cues from their Maker, creation will notice and respond.

I believe that these cues are best exemplified in the life of Jesus Christ, the Son (i.e. first child) of God. He restored what was broken and called life out of death. Miracles flowed from his hands as he demonstrated what he called The Kingdom (one of several ways of describing the new world).

Then he said an amazing thing: "Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these." (John 14:12) What safer place for creation to be than in the hands of those who know the heart and mind of Christ?

Whether it is a commitment to recycle, use low energy bulbs, build efficient (and eventually economical) electric cars, or simply pick up after oneself -- let us see God as the motivator, the inspiration, and the promise of our success. His redemption of human beings is not the cause of our planet's problems, but rather the solution.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Changing the World for Good

Imagine that the leader you have followed for three years was arrested, wrongfully condemned, and executed by the authorities. Since then you've been living on the lamb -- hiding out until things cooled off and you could return to your old job. But then the unimaginable happens: he shows up alive again!

Yes, I'm talking about Jesus. His one solitary life changed the world.

But you and I are not Jesus. Maybe that's what those first followers thought as they heard Jesus talk about the kingdom of God coming to pass at long last. It was hard enough for them to believe that Jesus was alive again. Now they hear that they are to take everything about Jesus to the world and that would change everything.

There are so many other powerful stories already at work. Political, cultural, ethnic, positive, negative. All entrenched for good or ill. Matthew puts it well: "Some doubted." (28:17) What makes these fishermen and tax collectors so special? Why does Jesus entrust everything to them? I think one answer is in Luke 24:44-49.

If we're going to change the world for good we need a message that is connected to everything that has come before. Jesus does this for his first followers: "Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he [Jesus] began to explain to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself (Luke 24:27). The gospel is the most recent chapter in the story God has told since Genesis 1.

If we're going to change the world for good we need to have personally experienced what we're talking about. You cannot be like I was one summer between my sophomore and junior college years when I sold memberships in a grocery buying service for my uncle's company. On one of my calls the customer asked, "Are you a member of this?" I had to say "no." I tried to explain that I was just a college student and it wasn't practical (or affordable) for me. No sale.

Christ's followers had lived with him for three years. "You are witnesses of these things." (Luke 24:48) If we want to convince someone of the power, love, or presence of God, we had better have experienced it.

If we're going to change the world for good, we probably need to wait. So many of us run off half-cocked with what we think is the best idea since the Internet. It sounds unfaithful or negligent to not act right away. Waiting can mean bouncing the thought off some trusted people or bathing it in a season of prayer. Someone told me recently that before she buys anything online she lets the item sit in her cart for three days. If the need is still there by then, she gets out her credit card.

"I am going to send you what my Father has promised. Stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high." (Luke 24:49) Since God has created the world it makes sense to me that real world change only happens when Divine power is at its core.

They say that change is good. God-inspired, recruited, and empowered change is best.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Slumdogged Again

On my way home from work I saw that the Greenfield Blockbuster store is going out of business. I had been wanting a copy of Slumdog Millionaire -- the movie produced in India that won the Academy Award for best picture in 2009. I saw it in the theater two days before I went to India on a mission trip with people from my hospital.

Little did I know but destiny was at work.

I found the film for $9.99 and was prepared to buy it when a salesperson told me that if I signed up for a trial online subscription (at no cost to me) I could have the movie for free. What did you do the last time life made you an offer like that? Me too.

Spoiler Alert! Do not read any further if you haven't seen the movie.


I'm about to reveal something.

Last chance.

OK, here goes.

I like the movie, not just for its happy ending, but for how Jamal's life had prepared him for he crucial moment when all things changed. Experience gave him the clues that served him well when life leveled its questions on him.

But he needed more.

He developed and honest and caring character that kept him from taking what looked like an easy path, but was actually a deception set to ruin him.

But he needed more.

He had a brother who sacrificed himself so he could live in peace.

But he needed more.

In his moment of utter helplessness he got lucky or God blessed or it became his destiny.

I wonder if a successful life comes down to paying attention, making the right friends, doing the right thing, and believing that Someone who knows us and loves us will never be late.

Jamal made no plans to make a great person of himself. His brother chose that path, but in the end he needed redemption (and found it).

Destiny -- it's what you make of it and its what life makes of you.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Run Home Jack! (think the movie Hook)

From the human point of view, God began the greatest chapter in his history of the universe when he created human beings uniquely in the divine image. What this means has been discussed and debated ever since. What is the "image of God"?

After getting to know me, you might say that I was a lot like my Dad. That wouldn't make sense if you did not know my Dad. Unless I had met my Dad or at least had a picture or some stories, your words would have no meaning for me.

I am more convinced that ever that the divine image is our capacity for relationship. While many philosophies and religions may concede that God is loving, Jesus Christ revealed a God who "is love." Take love out of God and nothing is left. God is powerful, but God is not Power. God is intelligent, but God is not Intelligence. God is everywhere, but God is not Everything.

This is the core of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. We have tried and failed to adequately define the roles and functions of the separate persons of the Godhead that we call Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We miss the point that the Three are One exist in a perfect unity of love and intimacy where the three remain distinct but also given over to a new oneness not possible to an independent monad.

This is what God shared with human beings -- the capacity to enter into intimacy with God and each other (Genesis 2). This is what humans lost when they decided they could do better on their own (Genesis 3). This is what God determined to restore through Jesus (II Corinthians 5:14-19).

What God created, God has also reconciled. The destiny of the human race is a renewed eternal relationship. Jesus said, "This is eternal life -- that they know God and Christ Jesus whom He has sent." (John 17:3) Salvation is not just a matter of the body escaping death or the soul escaping hell. Salvation is when the whole person escapes isolation and loneliness and enters into the joy of the Lord.

I feel that all of this may lead us to nod our heads in agreement. God wants more. He wants us to throw our arms wide and welcome Him and each other. This is not a doctrine to be defended but an experience to be entered and shared. God is the protagonist in the story that wants to receive and return the love of every antagonist.

How might this be described?

1. As the end of estrangement. This happens when forgiveness is granted and received. God forgave the entire human race across all of time when Jesus cried from the cross, "It is finished." There is nothing God holds against us any longer. It is we who now need to be reconciled to God. We are the one's who need to let go of what we have held against God all these years. All the hurts that happened and could have been stopped. All the questions that God has refused to answer and all the hoops that God would not jump through to please us. We need to forgive God.

2. As a re-alignment of the will. We reconcile ourselves to the righteous will of God. We no longer hold our will as a separate thing. We stop living at cross-purposes. Before we ask "what is your will for my life" we ask the question "what is Your will"? We fit our little lives into His big life. Our energy and resources get deposited into His bank for distribution for His glory and the greater good.

3. As an affection displayed. Reconciliation is a warm thing. The prodigal is welcomed. The ill is cured. The embarrassed is sheltered. It is to the Father's house that we return, not a bunk in a barracks. Our brother Christ is glad to see us and the Holy Spirit drapes the sky with color like the sunrise.

No wonder the Apostle Paul wrote, "We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God!" (II Corinthians 5:20).

I can't think of a happier ending!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

There's a New World Coming

Tuesday nights mean Anderson U. and my class "Christian Witness in a Pluralistic World." We finished up the section on Islam tonight, but we only just began.

A lot of people are anxious about the cultural shifts that seem to come faster and faster all the time. In my more anxious moments/seasons, I am like a lot of people who fear the end of the world as we know it. I get anxious when I forget the One who is behind human history. This does not absolve me of my responsibility . . . but then, what is my responsibility?

Nicodemus was also nervous when he went to Jesus at night (John 3). He was part of a group that wanted to keep things like they were, or at least manage change to suit themselves (the Pharisees). He's the one for whom Jesus compared the working of the Holy Spirit to the wind: "The Spirit blows where it will. You can feel its passing but you don't know where it comes from or where it goes."

Wouldn't it be convenient if we could blow the Spirit where we wanted? Convenient but ultimately fruitless. We religious humans like to predict the work of God. We spend millions of dollars buying schemes in the form of the latest prophecy books in the hope of comforting ourselves and deciding who's in and who's out of the kingdom.

Jesus says that when the Spirit of God blows through a person or a culture, life as we know it ends. Usually we consider that to be a disaster. The disciples sure did as they watched Jesus die on the cross three years later. Even after the resurrection, they thought God would now create a kingdom after their liking and consistent with their priorities.

Think of the kind of God you have. Do you think that the world is out of his control just because some terrorists bomb a building, an earthquake hits below the equator, or Islam is no longer sequestered "where it belongs." Perhaps God is doing a new thing. God is used to us not understanding his doings as he seeks the reconciliation of the world through Christ.

The Apostle Paul used to be in Nicodemus' club for the self-righteously correct. Jesus broke him loose from that and send him around the known world talking about the new thing He was doing. Toward the end of his life, Paul wrote "I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me." (Philippians 3) He prayed that another group would follow God into "the length, the depth, the height, and the breadth" of what He was doing. Unlike many today, Paul was convinced that in spite of some appearances, the darkness was already past and the true light was shining all the more brightly.

Let's stop wringing our hands and pointing out bogeymen. Instead let's get ready the keep in step with the Spirit as He moves.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

From a Corner of My Mind

Maybe this title prompted Barbara Streisand's voice in your head ("Memories . . ."). If that song makes you feel warm and fuzzy, well and good. If it makes you want to run away from your computer screaming, I'm sorry but that is not the effect I had in mind.

That's the way it is when we reveal ourselves. I have have a meaning in mind, but you may experience something totally different. Even so, I am believing that something in that exchange will benefit both parties. That's why I started this blog. If I cannot believe this, then I am condemned to finding my way alone and should protect myself off from all alien intruders.

Something in the sermon at church this morning sent me 40 years into the past. My family lived in Victor, NY at the time and my parents had bought their first house. We lived about a mile from the school I attended, so quite often I would walk or ride bikes with friends. I remember one winter when I decided that riding the bus with others who wanted to make life rough on me (i.e. bullies) was not worth it, so I walked to school.

This is upstate NY where each February we took a week off because it just got too hard to get students and teachers through the lake effect snow and ice. We just wore out and couldn't keep doing it. We'd take a week off and called it mid-winter break. This is the kind of winter I walked through. It was kind of a test of my endurance of those years of oppression. Today we call it "middle school."

It helped that there was a self-service laundry 1/2 way there. I'd duck in there and warm up before continuing my journey.

(I hadn't really intended to write about that episode, but maybe it was as good for you as it was for me.)

What I remembered this morning in church happened during the brief summer of my eleventh year. On the way home from school we walked up the hill called Church Street to Clover Street where we would turn right into the Victorwood Subdivision.

Long before that housing development arrived, it was farmland. The remnant of the farm was a house with some fenced-in acreage. One of the owner's crops was Concord grapes. If your middle-school arms were long enough you could grab a handful of sweetness as you passed. The really brave future delinquents would jump the fence, scoop up an armload and escape before Farmer Jack knew anything. I don't remember being that brave (or brazen).

This memory reminds me that everyone is either a newcomer or an established resident. This is true in the workplace, a church, a family, a nation, etc. Too often as a newcomer, I have failed to respect the work and sacrifices of those who arrived here ahead of me. A lot of labor and love has gone into the "vines" growing around me and I would do well to ask permission before imbibing or using them to suit my own purposes.

If God grants me enough time, everyone will be a "newcomer" to me. I hope to have some fine vines growing by then and I hope I will remember to put a gate in the fence and keep it oiled. How much juice and jelly can one guy eat anyway?

Maybe all of this launched you somewhere down memory lane. If it didn't, keep reading because I plan to keep writing.

Memories are what we exchange the days of our lives for. Trade well.

Friday, February 18, 2011

An Aligned Life

The Artist's Way is a classic work on developing a spiritual path to creativity. I recommend it for anyone's advancement in life. It is not typical "devotional" reading, but I find my spirit deeply touched/massaged/caressed every time I read a chapter.

The author returns regularly to an awareness that we are alive on purpose and this awareness imparts to us the opportunity and obligation to live well. "What we are talking about is an induced or invited spiritual experience. I refer to this process as spiritual chiropractic. We undertake certain spiritual exercises to achieve alignment with the creative energy of the universe." (p. 1) She says we are best like our Creator when we live creatively, whatever our choice of artwork. I agree and I appreciate the practical help she gives toward launching and maintaining a creative life.

However, as I strive to know and be like God, I believe two additional elements are needed. (Perhaps she will come to these as I continue reading.) These qualities are redemptiveness and joy. A life well-lived is one lived creatively, redemptively, and joyfully.

Whatever God creates also needs -- at least in this universe -- redemption. If what I write is not in some manner redemptive, it is disconnected from reality and may only distract or disempower readers. I want my art (and my life) to be of some help to those like me who have fallen and cannot rise up on their own. This is why I take such issue with how the movie adaptation of "Dear John" so changed the ending from the way Nicholas Sparks wrote the book. The whole point of how the main character grew and changed regarding his sense of his part in life lost its redemptive power. Hollywood scripts a "happy" ending, but life can be good even if the boy doesn't get the girl.

The other God-pointing quality is joy. This is hard to define and it transcends circumstancial happiness. At this point in life, I believe it is a confidence in the ultimate goodness of human existance. This is not to say that everything that happens is good or that everyone is good at heart, but that the plot of God's story is leading somewhere worthwhile. Maybe the opposite of joy is not saddness, but rather cynicism and boredom. Joy inspires a creativity that needs to be shared with others (i.e. living redemptively). My wife and I had a sick day together this week and we watched the movie "Pay It Forward." The lead character made a choice within horrible circumstances: to believe that something he did could and would make a difference. Waves of redemptive action rolled out from his acts of kindness. He did not learn of all of all the impact he had, but that speaks to how the choice to live joyfully is an act of faith. We will not learn "the end of the story" (i.e. Paul Harvey) until the Great Author weaves it all together. That will be a joyful moment!

I hope that your reading of this entry helps you achieve alignment with the creative energy of the universe. It has helped me to write it.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Alive Man Walking

I have a book in mind to write. It is about the inner life of the Christian apostle Paul. Other than Jesus, this one person has more to do our experience of Christianity in the west than any other. My thought is to study the "crucial transition points" of his life. Paul refers to them as "fighting the fight of faith." I believe that they have much to say to those who desire to grow into the kind of persons God has in mind. Paul wrote, "I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me." This is not something external to him such as a project or program. "We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works." "Good works" arise out of the work God does within us. In my experience, the most meaningful work God does in me happens as I journey through stress, conflict, confusion, loss and seeming defeat.

And yet Paul seems to continually rejoice in his sufferings. This is far from resigning himself to a life of hardship. I believe it has to do with Jesus' call to be crucified. His Lord died and then rose again. Paul had every confidence that when something in his life died, God would bring an even greater resurrection. Suffering and such things were not just inevitable parts of life. They were God's tools to make something greater out of him. Perhaps there has been no one who has gotten this better than Paul. I (at least a part of me) wants to follow in this way. This does not mean that I will look to inflict suffering upon myself. Enough will come my way of its own accord. Right now it means that I will study Paul's life and write that book for my own good, if not for anyone else's.

Paul wrote "Whatever happens, conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ." (Philippians 1:27) Everyone has something for which they conduct themselves. There is a song playing somewhere, a story being rehearsed in the heart, an memory of something that matters. What we are committed to shows up in the choices we make. It may be like this: Conduct yourself in a manner worthy of --

our family

this company
the shame you bear
the secret no one must know
the next pleasure
your individual rights
protecting all you have accumulated
success, winning, being King of the Hill, etc.

The best thing a Christian can do is walk worthily of the Gospel of Christ. This is the great work in the heart -- that everything is measured and directed by the Gospel.

The good news is that if we don't like the way our lives are going, we can change. This is the work God does in those who are willing. As we pray, read the Scripture, and engage authentic fellowship with other believers, the Holy Spirit replaces our old internal music with something more in line with His eternal purpose. Soon, we start whistling along with it and more of the image of God gets on display for the redemption of the world.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

On my way to a small group prayer meeting tonight, I read the following passage from one of my textbooks for my upcoming class at Anderson U:

"In a fragmented and pluralistic society it is even more important that ever the church in each time and place to embody and communicate the life of Christ exactly where it is . . .Christians are called to live the story, not restate it in the forms of universalized propositions. . . Christianity is not an ideology to be recovered or a philosophical system to be remembered."

Tonight's prayer meeting felt a lot like "living the story."

Our theme was the passage often used for Christian prayer meetings: II Chronicles 7:14. As we finished/God released us, two ideas came to me: "a healed land" and "making space." Few doubt that we need a healed land. I wonder what a healed land is like? I know a lot of people appreciate the appeal President Obama made following the Arizona shootings. The first thing we need to do is really listen to each other. Sometimes Americans can be as bad as those who make everyone else "the Great Satan." Lord, heal our land from the disease of turning everyone who disagrees with us into an enemy.

What about "making space"? I think it has to do with how overwhelmed most of us are. We have no emotional space left for our neighbor we never get to know, the stranger we fail to greet in the hallway, or the child who labors to do good but is never praised by her parent. We accept without protest the pace of life forced upon us and then wonder why our relationships decay. No one will make space except ourselves. Do we really need to buy this, commit to that, or agree to take on another thing?

In the end we become like the god we worship. I don't see the God who called Abraham and sent Jesus getting too busy to listen or care. God wants to heal our land. What are we waiting for?