Monday, October 07, 2013

Hey you, You're cancer. The New 52 #12

(caveat this is ruff and barely edited but also the only way I was every going to pick this back up, sorry Jenna don't judge me too harshly)
How strange would it be if a doctor walked up to one of their patients and said that they were cancer, not that they have cancer, or are infected with cancer but that their identity is tied in to their cancer. Its a crazy idea right?
To label a person's identity to an infection they carry around. Yet if your going to label someone by their infection  you can understand cancer right. I mean cancer is so unpredictable and invasive. It consumes and destroys those that have; and while it may go into remission there is always that fear that it might come back, that it never really went away. In many cases cancer seems hopeless. While identifying some one as cancer may seem ridiculous think about sin.
Sin is a lot like cancer. Sin is invasive and consuming. It destroys things we love and hold dear. Its unrelenting and always waiting for us. Sin is hopeless. Sin, like cancer, is also an unnatural thing. While cancer is a mutation in health cells, sin is a mutation in our souls.
Yet so many time we have very little problem labeling some one a sinner. How many times have you heard some one begin a gospel presentation with "You're a sinner." We have no problem labeling ourselves as sinners, in fact its so easy for us it is mockingly called "worm theology"
 As humans we weren't designed to sin. While we may be born into sin, we aren't born to sin. We are designed to share in the likeness of God, to bear his image and radiate his glory. We are more than a hopeless walking infection, we are image barriers. From time to time we may sin, or live a life of sin, the good news is that we are more than our sin. There is a remedy to our infection and it is the person and work of Jesus. Through him we can be health, we can be made right, be made whole.

The world may be sick but there is a cure. We are so much more than the thing that ail us.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Sinful Justice The New 52 #11

What did you expect, scales?
  I like to think of myself as a man who loves justice. If you asked my family they would agree. During a recent contest between us all, I was the one that was easily the most strict person when it came to adhering to the rules. I love justice because God loves justice. In Micah 6:8 he says it is one of the few things that he requires from us and yet justice isn't always easy.
It is easy to dispense justice when you are the one wronged. As a boy, I remember when I got to spank my brother because he allowed me to be spanked for his crime. It was such sweet justice to be the one welding the paddle. In a perfect world, justice would always be easy because we'd always be in the right. But this isn't a perfect world.
We are in a world tainted by sin and wrong doing. Even ones who love justice, like me, do wrong things. A few weeks ago I made a series of poor choices the culminated with me sitting on the side of the road receiving a ticket. As I sat there waiting for the officer to finish up his task I couldn't help but put my love of justice aside and pray for mercy. I wanted so badly to be let off with just a warning, something less just than I deserved, but all I could thing of was the rest of Micah 6:8... to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God.

Mercy shouldn't be something we long to receive, it should be something we desire to show. Just likehow justice isn't about handing out punishment to those that have wronged you, as much as it is about admitting your wrong doing to others and accepting the punishment. Because when we walk humbly with God, it begins with Him showing us mercy by giving us grace for justice.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Magic and the Prayer of Jabez The New 52 #10

While I was growing up a book was written and an empire spawned off a single verse. That verse was 1st Chronicles 4:10. The verse tells about a man named Jabez who prayed a prayer and God granted it to him. From that one verse nine books and a worship experience were created. The main point of the book was a challenge to pray Jabez's prayer for yourself everyday and watch as God would honor it. It was of course a best seller. Not long after that I remember movements in churches based of 2 Chronicles 7:14, possibly sparked from a certain song. When I got to college I was told about this thing called the "prosperity gospel" that was growing like wildfire in Latin America and lower sociology-economic groups. Along with that was the rise of the "feel good gospel", that preached that God wanted you to be happy, successful, and wealthy. It found its home in mega churches that didn't say the word sin and spoke more about living a good life then following God. The problem of all these thoughts is that they claim to have some sort of power over God. If you pray this special prayer, or do these certain things, then God is obligated to act in a certain way. That's why these thoughts are so popular. It turns Christianity into some sort of magical superstition were we have control over the powers of the universe.

When we buy into this, we forget who God is. I, along with a large number of scholars, believe Job was the first book of the Bible recorded. In it we see God's dealing with a just man. The final chapters of the book are made up of God's reply to Job's questions regarding his circumstances. God never answers Job, instead he reminds Job who He is. He gives Job Himself. God reminds Job that He is the creator and Job is the creation. In response to this Job repents. The first recorded book of the Bible serves to remind us that we don't have some special power over God, and that He doesn't owe us anything. Also, that we can't manipulate Him into doing our will. When we do our dealings with God, we need to remember that we are His and it is not the other way around.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Being Grafted In The New 52 #9

This past weekend Melissa and I were invited to attended a church with some friends. It was different. It met in an elementary school lunch room. They meet on a Saturday nights. Not only was it different but it was small and familar. I wasn't sure what I was doing, but the Spirit inside me did. As soon as we walked in we were met at the door. We weren't just greeted, but welcomed and brought in like family. It was like being a part of the same body. After the service ended, we were invited to share in the traditional post service ritual of eating out at the usual spot. It was an awesome time of fellowship. I'm sure that if any one was watching our group they would never have know that we had just meet a couple of hours earlier.

The week before that a dear friend came to visit us for a week. I marveled at how well she was brought into the family, from being spurred on to participate in her first Easter egg hunt, to being forced to find her hidden basket. Our family brought her in and made her their own. I was so proud to be a part of that.

I guess the trick about grafting a plant is that both stems need to be cut. It takes openness and willingness from both sides, one to embrace and one to be embraced, to make Spirit-led community happen. Have you been greeted and grafted in?  Are you willing to open yourself up to the lives of others?

Friday, March 29, 2013

Is grace gray? The New 52 #8

My wife and I have a special place in our hearts for the show Les Miserables. We have seen the Broadway production twice, own the movie and I think two copies of the book. My favorite character is Javert. I love how he is black and white. He sees himself as the law and as such things are either legal or illegal. To him it doesn't matter why a person broke the law but simply that the law was broken. He is summed up in this quote "Save your breath and save your tears, Honest work. Just reward. That's the way to please the Lord." He is a pharisee; plain and simple, some one who loves the law. The saddest thing about his character is that in his zeal for the law there is no room for grace. In fact when he is shown grace he can't understand it and is incapable of handling it. His only recourse was to deny the grace Val Jean extended him, and take his own life.
This has got me thinking about grace. As we seek to make more of grace, must our worldview become less black and white? Does embracing grace decrease the firmness with which we can stand? I don't know what those answers are... but I do know that the more I learn to embrace grace, the more grace must change me. The more I must rely on it. The more I must draw on it. The more grace must change how I interact with the world around me.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A ringer gets you eternal life! The New 52 #7

A few weeks ago I was talking to some students about living a life that is imitatable. The general response was, that all things considered, their lives were "better" than most. The "all things considered" being that no one can live up to Christ and they weren't as bad as some. I challenged them to make Christ the measuring stick of their lives, not other people. This got me thinking about a game of horseshoes I was playing. I noticed that as I was throwing the horseshoes, they had a tendency to fall to the right. So instead of adjusting my throwing motion to hit the mark, I stepped to the left and changed the spot I was aiming at. I didn't hit the mark. In fact, I just had to keep moving around and changing my target. It was easy to feel like I was still doing good. I was still scoring points, and I even won a few rounds. That was only because I was getting close to the stake, but not hitting it.
Isn't that what life with Christ is like! We aim to become like him, but over time we start looking left and right. We lose the mark and become comfortable with just hitting the target and being closer to the bulls-eye than others. We get comfortable with sin, you know that area between us and the bulls-eye. Just like in that game of horseshoes, I/we need to take a moment to fix our aim back on the mark. We need to adjust our throwing motion, so that we can become less comfortable with the sin in our life.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Harder than I thought: The New 52 #6

When I set out to do this one new entry a week thing aka 52 new entries in a year I thought that it would be challenging but not difficult. I mean with all the hours I have during a week, how difficult would it be to find two to sit down and write a post. Well it has been a lot harder than I thought. Its been difficult to not only find and take the time to write but to also seclude myself so when my wife listens to her music or radio it doesn't break my train of thought. Its been hard to not feel pressure mounting as I miss one blog, then a second, and now all of a sudden I'm three weeks behind with a new one due in two days. So really I need four post by Monday AHHH! While I realize this is a personal challenge and no one is going to come walking up to me in December and say "Hey, I noticed you only got 49 post written. For shame." but it is important to me to meet my mark. Yeah I'm just that kind of guy. I like to meet my goals. Yet the single most difficult thing I've found about this so far is the creation of a post. Having a thought, fleshing it out, writing it down. Its a process that takes time. Creating engages me with God in a special way, it makes me more like him. That being said it is daunting, its more difficult than I remember it being, but it is more than worth it. I hope you are enjoying this journey.

Think some thing, Think some thing...

Now go be like God and create something.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Without limits: The New 52 #5

As I have been trying to live a more fit life, which means eating better and exercising more, I noticed that I'm very comfortable. I've noticed that I have a tendency not to push myself. I noticed that instead of forcing my muscles to push out the last rep or pull up the extra weight I'll just call it done a few reps early or leave that little bit of weight off the bar. Why run... when I can just walk my 5k? I'd like to say that it was just physical exercise that I was slacking off on but when I looked at my life I realized in just about every area I allowed myself to be comfortable. I positioned myself well behind the boundary of my abilities to keep my life easy. Maybe you can relate? When I thought about my life I realized that I haven't been pushing myself physically since high school and mentally since college. Sure there were moments of testing my metal, like Marriage: year one (yes that is a reference to comic books) or packing up everything I own and living out of a backpack for 3 months Czech, but in reality my life is comfortable. But I want that to end. No in fact that is ending. Just the other day I started to run during my nightly walks. I can't even remember the last time I ran for anything yet alone just because its different from walking. I'm going to start teaching Sunday school to teenagers which mean I best be bringing my "A" game. I mean you know teenagers in the morning. Maybe you feel the same. I think it is natural for us to desire comfort. It is a rare human being who pushes their limits continuously.What if Paul was hinting at this concept in 1 Cor 9:27 and in Romans 12:2. What if pushing our limits, pushing our humanity, is something God wants from us?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

"No you move." the New 52 #4

Its no secret that I like comics and base some of my ideas on life from the stories I read. While I haven't always been a Captain America fan one day I encountered to following panel and thought to myself that is the truest understanding of integrity I've ever heard. From then on out Cap has been my favorite Marvel super hero. While this might be a little weak as for as original entries go I just wanted to share this with you. I've come back to this over, and over again used it in lessons and tried to live it out in my own life. It has always been a challenge. Not bad from a comic book huh? Guess they're not just for kids anymore.

Amazing Spider-Man # 537 copyright Marvel comics

Imago Dei the New 52 #3

Sorry for the delay I got busy then I got sick and when I get sick I just stop caring about everything. So I guess this week I owe two post. So lets get this thing started.
Do you every think about what you are saying? Do you think about how you talk to our about people? I've noticed that we, as people, have become very at ease with speak our judgement about people. Judgements that are based solely on our personal opinions about people we don't even know. The evangelical world lit up this past weeks with the inauguration, the 40th anniversary of Roe v Wade and countless other things. I've heard sports media running off the rails about the personal struggles of a young man. I've slowly become sickened with state of how we relate to one another.
While I'm all for having and experiencing personal opinions, I think that before we share them we need to ask ourselves three questions.
  1. Does this need to be shared? You can ask me on my opinion on a great number odds are I have one but that doesn't mean that it is accurate, informed or necessary. The world doesn't need to know my opinion on Manti Te'o, it doesn't need to be shared. (Yes I did have to check on how to spell his name.)
  2.  Is my opinion informed? This has two parts a) is it rooted in fact b) is it rooted in a relationship. Its easy to lob shots from for away with out facts, with out knowledge, and with out a supporting relationship. I don't need to call into question the salvation or beliefs of the president because I have a twitter. I don't know the man and the evidence I do have actually speaks the opposite. When we share our uninformed opinions we are acting like lighting rods and talking heads stirring up controversy for our own gain.. Jesus was controversial because he said he was the son of God coming to take away the sins of the world not because he said Caesar was a jack-ass.
  3. How do I respect the Image of God? When we answer yes to the first two questions we are left with one last thought How can I share my opinion while honoring the image of God inside me and inside the other person. We can say how so and so is the worlds biggest idiot and dumbest liar or we can say Jimmy that wasn't the wises choice you could have made no was it really in line with what you have presented as the truth. When we speak not only are we speaking about others we are revealing things about ourselves to. Especially as a Christian, I represent Christ with my thought and deed, I best be sure to speak in truth and love not ignorance and disdain.
So what are you doing with your tongue?

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Right Fit. The New 52 #2

I have often thought about life as a puzzle. In this puzzle we are the pieces, and we run around tying to find the right fit. Imagine dumping one of those 5,000 piece puzzles out and trying put it together blind fold. You couldn't start with the edge pieces because you couldn't find them. You couldn't look at the picture as a reference to make sure that things were progressing as needed. You couldn't even be able to tell if all the pieces were right side up or on the table. Sounds chaotic and difficult if you ask me, some would even say it is impossible.
No imagine talking all of those pieces and giving them to 5,000 people, one piece a person. How long would it take to but that puzzle together? No picture, no borders just pieces; how would you start? Where would you start?
This is life. This is life together lived in community with others.
We walk around with our piece. We use our desires and feelings to define our edges. We look at friends and relationships trying to find the perfect fit. We take our pieces to work placing them into the scope of the company making sure our pieces fit just right, or at least well enough that it can be managed. Sometimes we fit into a spot we find thinking its perfect but after time and close examination we see were there is a slight gap between our notch and the others groove or we see that the other is the mountain peak and we are the reflection in the lake and we move on. Yet still sometimes we find a piece and we know its spot is close at hand but we just can't make sense of it yet so we but it some where close by waiting for the picture to become more clear.
That's what happened to Melissa and I. After stepping out in faith believing that this was going to be the year that pieces fell into place. This was the year that we were going to move forward, raise support for the mission field, and figure out where we were headed for the at least the next couple years. We were told that we really like your pieces, we really want your pieces but we just can't see where they fit right now.
So here we are almost a year later. Almost a year after committing to journey to Czech , to put life a hold and explore something new, to press our pieces together and see if there was a fit. We are left with the same pieces, in the same places, with the same mismatches trying to figure out were we fit in now.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Something new 52 #1

When I started this blog, I planned on it serving as a creative outlet. A place where I could write and share my thoughts. At first I was intimidated and scared. I was scared to open my ideas up to be read and critiqued by others. The thought that someone, some faceless nameless person, would have acces to this intimate thing was hard to get over. Timidly I shared on, and to my suprise people liked it. I was given feedback by others that it was good, they like my poetry, were challenged by my thoughts, and enjoyed getting to walk some of my journey with me. I was no longer afraid to share myself with others. Yet sure enough like any good narrative a new problem arose.
I became overwhelmed with the task of creating. I found the challenge. For me, it isn't to just have a thought, but to nurture it into maturity. My mind is filled with half-thought blog posts and partial stanzas of poetry. Creating wasn't difficult. Well... creating the spark wasn't difficult, but fanning that spark into flame was the part that got to me. Over time I became full of ideas but lacked the time, desire, fuel to turn them into something share-worth. That is now going to change!
It's a new year. A time when we make goals and plans to change ourselves. We accept new challenges and push ourselves to try new things. For some it is a picture a day, others seek to read a set amount of books or lose weight. Well, to borrow an idea from DC comics... I'm starting a new 52! This year my goal is to write 52 new blog post. That is one entry a week, for a full year. I'm excited, intimidated, and curious. Join me for my new 52 and we can journey together for a little bit.