Wednesday, August 31, 2016

My Car Smells Like Sin

Monday morning, as I was leaving home, I put a couple of bags of household trash in the back of my car, intending to put them in the dumpster of the first property I visited during my workday. It was a hot morning.

After my first property visit I drove to the second property on my schedule, and as I rolled onto the property, with the temperature in the back of my car rising, I smelled the distinct aroma of garbage and realized that I had forgotten to remove the bags of trash from the car. Even though I promptly pulled over to a dumpster and removed the bags, the sun had done its work and the sweet fragrance remained. For the rest of the day the smell of garbage greeted me as I entered the car. Tuesday morning the stink was still there and said "Hello Bob!" as I began my workday.

Sin is like garbage. Even once you've dealt with it, even when it has been removed and forgiven, sometimes the stink remains and it takes time to air the car out.

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Process or the Answer?

We are so fixated on giving the right answer so that we don’t give the wrong answer that we don’t focus on the process, and if we don’t understand the process and work through it and refine it then we are not equipped to work through the next problem or situation.

Is this a result of our pursuit of trivia? Trivia does not demand a critical process, only a regurgitation of data.

Is this a result of insecurity and an absence of identity – are we so insecure that we dare not reveal that we may not know how to arrive at the answer?

Is it a fruit of our nanosecond culture where sustained thought fatigues us and interruptions beset us?

Is this what happens when society relies on “experts” for answers?

I would often rather have a wrong answer from someone that is the result of working through a process than a right answer that was arrived at by a shortcut. There is hope for growth in the person who worked through the process while the person who took the shortcut, who arrived at the right answer because he asked someone else, is ill equipped to negotiate the next problem on the horizon.

This is true in business, it is true in church, it is true in all of life. Business leaders who give their people the answers don’t help them, but those who coach them how to think about finding the answers serve them well. Pastors and small group leaders who do all the talking, who give people the “right” answers, interpose themselves between their people and the Biblical text thereby creating a dependency that the church should only have on God. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Sleeping on a Pearl?

A fisherman in the Philippines has been sleeping on a pearl that is probably the largest on record at over two feet long and weighing around seventy-five pounds. He found it ten years ago, didn’t realize what it was, put it under his bed, and only recently showed it to others who realized its value. It is estimated to be worth around $100 million.

He found the pearl when the anchor of his fishing boat became wedged beneath a giant clam, once he dislodged the anchor and discovered the pearl in the clam he took the pearl home as a good luck charm.

How many times in life do our anchors become wedged and rather than seeing these situations as possibilities we see them as inconveniences to be dealt with as quickly as possible so that we can move on with our own agendas? How many times do we miss the treasures that our kind heavenly Father has provided for us? How many times do we view things as “luck” rather than as God’s provision?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Disgrace at the Olympics – Lies and more Lies

Not to excuse the lies told by some American swimmers regarding a drunken night out, and not to excuse the term “I over exaggerated” (what does that mean?), but honestly, what do we expect when our society itself is drunk on immorality and lying (we call it “spin”) has become a way of life?

Our politicians and corporate leaders lie, many of our religious leaders and academic leaders lie – but they are too powerful for us to do anything about…or we are too lazy to do anything about the lies…when we take time to investigate them.

Perhaps the mistake the swimmers made was in not understanding that they are not rich enough or powerful enough to be admitted to the fraternity of those who can lie with relative impunity.

The swimmers are us – just as our politicians are us – that may disturb some of us, while some of us may think it is life as usual and as long as our needs and wants are being met we don’t really care.

I don’t think we are all that upset about the lies the swimmers told, it is just that they were stupid about it – haven’t we taught them better, haven’t we taught them that if they lie they ought not to be caught, and that if they are caught they are to spin and spin and spin and to do it well. That is not a stroke they have mastered in swimming in our society - they are not yet gold medal lying material...let us hope they never will be. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Eric Liddell

This is a link to a documentary produced by the Chinese on Eric Liddell - it contains some interviews with people who knew Liddell, and it seems to be a straighforward account without embellishment. One of the things that strikes me is that Scripture is used as a background in some segments and that Liddell's Christianity and the work of the London Missionary Society is presented. The video was produced for the British when the UK hosted the 2012 summer Olympics in order to promote Chinese - British relations. 

Friday, August 19, 2016

Full Employment

A friend sent me an email blast about unemployment and how political parties calculate it. Here is my response:

But isn't it great that in the Kingdom we are all employed because we all have a calling and all have a job to do!?

Man is always manipulating facts and figures and story lines - we have to in order to justify ourselves - but in Christ and His Cross we  have redemption and our true calling.

The more we are about our Father's business and encourage one another the greater our impact on this poor dying world.

The only One who promises full employment is Jesus Christ!

Thanks for giving me something to think about.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Oh What Their Glory Must Be

Oh What Their Glory Must Be

“Oh what their joy and their glory must be,
Those endless Sabbaths the blessed ones see!
Crown for the valiant; to weary ones rest;
God shall be all, and in all ever blest.

Now in the meanwhile, with hearts raised on high,
We for that country must yearn and must sigh,
Seeking Jerusalem, dear native land,
Through our long exile on Babylon’s strand.”

These two verses are excerpts from Oh What Their Glory Must Be, by Peter Abelard, translated from the Latin by John Mason Neale.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Corporate Mission Statements

Corporate mission statements can make hypocrites of employees, for a text that most people realize is fa├žade and yet which employees must pretend is true makes employees hypocrites.

On the other hand, if corporate mission statements are used as a text to challenge the entire organization, then the statements become living, something to interact with, something to challenge culture and actions with – but otherwise such statements foster deceit for people must learn, in the interest of self-preservation, to act as if they are true when in fact they are not.

Many mission statements are probably written because competitors have them and clients expect them. Few are likely written with the expectation that they actually be used to measure not just corporate behavior but, more importantly, executive behavior. Where is the CEO or chairman of the board who says, “Critique me by using our mission statement and our core values”? 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

An excerpt from the prayer book - The Valley of Vision (page 243)

"Let all thy fatherly dealings make me a partaker of thy holiness.

Grant that in every fall I may sink lower on my knees,
and that when I rise it may be to loftier heights of devotion.

May my every cross be sanctified,
every loss be gain,
every denial a spiritual advantage,
every dark day a light of the Holy Spirit,
every night a trial of song."

I am reminded when I pray these words that life is about knowing the holy Trinity; from our first waking moments, through the day, and into the night, we are called to know and love the Lord.

This in turn reminds me of another prayer found in the Valley of Vision (page 216) that contains these words:

"Compassionate Lord, thy mercies have brought me to the dawn of another day, vain will be its gift unless I grow in grace, increase in [the] knowledge [of you], ripen for spiritual harvest.

Let me this day know thee as thou art..."

What more can we desire than to live the life we were created to live? This is the life of God in us, as Paul writes, "Christ in you the hope of glory." How sad that so many professing Christians view life not as a fellowship with God, but rather as a constant striving to be accepted by God - how sad because our Lord Jesus has reconciled us to our heavenly Father and He now wants us to know our Father as He knows our Father...Jesus is the one who taught us to pray "our Father"...and yet we refuse to accept the glorious news of the Gospel that we have been justified and sanctified and glorified in Jesus Christ.

We live in mindsets that are not portrayed in the Bible - we think we are sinners when it is clear we are saints - if we don't know who we are it is doubtful that we will ever live as who we are in Christ - we seem determined to say "Yes but" to every promise of God, to every reality of Christ - even the realities of justification, sanctification, and glorification. 

We make excuses, God makes promises. 

We look at ourselves, God calls us to behold Christ.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

A Sense of Call

Kathleen Norris writes, “Walter Brueggeman, in a book on the prophets entitled Hopeful Imagination, suggests that “a sense of call in our time is profoundly countercultural,” and notes that “the ideology of our time is that we can live ‘an uncalled life,’ one not referred to any purpose beyond one’s self.” “

“Our idol of the autonomous individual is a sham; the truth is we expect everyone to be the same, and dismiss as elitist those who are working through a call to any genuine vocation.” The Cloister Walk, page 41.

We are ground down into the dust of conformity, especially conformity of thought; and those who once had dreams of things beyond the material, who once had dreams that called for fulfillment, now walk with hollow imaginations; what was once fertile ground is now polluted by the spirit of the materialistic mechanistic electronic self-seeking age and nothing organic can be grown…so we plant artificial plants and flowers and delude ourselves into thinking “that’s nice.” It is as if we live in a zone in which a nuclear reactor had a meltdown – all is polluted, all is sterile…will there ever be life? The difference is that we are told to live by the doomed reactor, we are not told to flee…how can this be?

Is there a call in your life that you have abandoned?

Monday, August 8, 2016

Pain from Identity

“All of us, I suspect, have times when we’re made to suffer simply for being who and what we are, and we become adept at inventing means of escape…but Jeremiah [the prophet] reminded me that the pain that comes from one’s identity, that grows out of the response to a call, can’t be escaped or pushed aside. It must be gone through…It was as a writer that Jeremiah spoke to me, and it was as a writer I listened. I couldn’t have asked for a better companion.” Kathleen Norris, The Cloister Walk, page 38.

G.K. Chesterton wrote to the effect that our hopes and dreams and our identities are educated out of us as we grow up – what we “saw” in the nursery is ripped out of our imaginations and trampled on the ground – we are told to grow up and be adults. C. S. Lewis said that we are producing “men without chests”, our hearts are being torn from us – soulless bodies, empty vessels; today we are filled with and manipulated by a constant barrage of electronic cocaine and opium – it either hypes us up or lulls us to sleep.

The practical and pragmatic reduce our “call” to dust; it is costly to seek first the Kingdom of God, it is costly to love the Lord with all that we are and to love others as ourselves, it is costly to lay down our lives for our brethren. It is costly to stand apart from the flash floods of popular opinion and to speak what is transcendent when the cry all around is to live in the moment and make everyone feel better.

If we have been reduced to numbers, it has not been because someone has given us a number, it is because we have accepted the number. Jesus does not tell us that He will give us a new number, but rather a new name – we can discover that new name now, in this life, as we live out our identity and calling in Jesus Christ. How sad it is to live as if our bank account number, our 401K number, our Social Security number, our profit and loss numbers…to live as if any number or combination of numbers…is who we are.

Yes, there is pain in identity – the pain of metamorphous. 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Unfinished City

On my way into the city via the interstate I was struck by the unfinished buildings, whether one story, two stories, five stories, fifteen stories or more, none were finished. Some had roofs but no windows, some had walls and windows but no roofs.

When I thought to exit the interstate and drive down some streets to look more closely at the strange sight I found that while ramps to and from the city had been started that none were complete.

Someone once surely had a vision, had a hope, had a dream – but where did it go? How had unfinished buildings become the norm? The second unfinished building was likely easier to stop than the first, and the third easier to stop than the second, and so on until hardly a thought was given to stopping construction prior to completion – it became of way of thinking, a way of life.

I saw that the elements, the rain and snow and wind, were ruining the unfinished buildings – they had little protection, they could not be preserved. There were vines growing up and throughout the buildings, trees had taken root on roofs, concrete and bricks and block were crumbling; floors and roofs were buckling.

Someone once surely had a vision, had a hope, had a dream – but where did it go?

Unfinished buildings, unfinished lives.

Have we seen heaven’s blueprint? If we have seen it, are we following through on it? Are we faithful to our calling? Faithful to the heavenly vision?

Someone once surely had a vision, had a hope, had a dream – but where did it go?

Unfinished buildings, unfinished lives. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Leaders Mocking God

Dietrich Bonhoeffer argued, in a radio broadcast on February 1, 1933, two days after Hitler took over leadership of the government, in speaking of the Fuhrer Concept:

"...that should the leader "surrender to the wishes of his followers, who would always make him their idol - then the image of the Leader will gradually become the image of the 'misleader'...Leaders or offices which set themselves up as gods mock God." " (Deitrich Bonhoeffer, A Biography, Eberhard Bethge, Fortress Press, page 260).

We would do well to ponder that "Leaders or offices which set themselves up as gods mock God."

We would do well to look at ourselves, to look at the church, and to look that the images and people we follow.

If we don't think we are sheep that are prone to follow we are fools. This is why we must cultivate an ear to hear only one voice - the voice and Word of our Good Shepherd Jesus Christ. Otherwise we shall go meekly, dumbly, and in jubilation to the butcher shop. Of course, our bodies need not be butchered if our minds have already been.

Bonhoeffer's radio address was cut off - the plug was pulled. It seems a stretch to believe that it was a technical malfunction.

If "leaders or offices which set themselves up as gods mock God," what shall we say about those who follow such leaders? What shall we say about ourselves...lest we stray from our beloved Lord Jesus?

Monday, August 1, 2016

Ignorance of Scripture

"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ," Jerome (quoted by Kathleen Norris in The Cloister Walk).

It seems Christians can quote everything and everyone but the Bible, and when we do quote the Bible we often misquote it or quote it out of context and therefore strip it of its meaning and overlay our own meaning onto it. 

In a time of uncertainty we need to confess that only the Bible is certain and that everything outside the Bible is uncertain. It is the Christ of Scripture that is certain - the Christ of Folk Christianity, to use my friend's (Mike Daily) term, is not only uncertain but that false Christ changes with the news headlines and our whims. 

The uncritical thinking and actions of many professing Evangelicals in the current political arena is a result of not being grounded in the Bible - for the Bible is all about Jesus Christ and it recognizes and proclaims that in Christ alone is there hope and that the mandate of the Church is to proclaim Christ - not to descend into any other message, and certainly not to advocate that we gravitate toward the lesser of two evils. 

The lesser of two evils is still evil.

If we must stand alone proclaiming Christ better to stand alone - for we will never be alone - He is with us, even to the end of the age, even in the midst of chaos. 

If we are not proclaiming the Bible we are not proclaiming Christ.

What would Jerome say today?