Thursday, October 28, 2010

Have We Met?

It's occurred to me after over 200 blog posts that I may have failed to properly introduce myself. Since this is a slow blog week for me (and I have not scheduled any other posts for today) I'll do that now. Although...

I'm not really sure why. At the time of writing this, I have exactly 3 followers on my actual blog. I may have paid one of them and begged another. I can't even convince my wife to follow me to help boost my numbers. I'm not sure if she thinks I care too much or if she's still learning how to do more than email on the internet. Oh well.

Allow me to explain the title. If you had as demented a childhood as I did, you may have been exposed to professional wrestling in the 1980's. One of these fine actors was 'The Nature Boy' Ric Flair. (Yes, I'm embarassed that I recall his nickname.) Whenever he said his name, he would shout 'woo'. Lest you think I have aspirations of becoming a professional wrestler, I will tell you that teens I work with have taken to saying my name, then saying 'woo'.

That explains the title and is probably more information than you needed to know about me, but at least I rolled it all into one neat little paragraph. What I write about is a little more complicated to explain. But allow me to try.

Over the past decade of life and ministry, I have seen over and over again how God has tried to make it clear that life is not about us. We make it about us, but it's not really about us. It's about God. Go ahead, read any book of the Bible and you'll see. Sometimes it's a small clue. Sometimes it's Jesus talking about how He brings glory to God alone. Whichever, the message becomes clear.

But it's not just in scripture that I find this to be true. It's all over my life. So I write about those small details. I pass along any comfort I find in being less than what I think I should be. I hope to make it clear that it's not about you either. But let's not make this about you or me. Because it's not about you or me. It's about God. It always has been. It always will be.

So, welcome to my blog. It's my search for insignificance.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Room For Two

Sometimes the fascinating details come inbetween the major stories about Jesus. If you have read the Gospel of John much, you may remember John 3 as the chapter that contains Jesus' convo with Nicodemus. John chapter 4 tells the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well. These are both great stories that contain wealths of truth.

But inbetween...

We're told that Jesus went with His disciples to spend time with them. Oh, they also baptized. Where they baptized is significant. Jesus and His crew were in the same place as some guy who sort of became known for baptizing. John, the gospel writer, even notes that there was plenty of water. John 3:22-24

It's almost a side note, but do you see what happened here? Jesus, the Son of God, came and was baptizing. First of all, how cool would it be to be baptized by Jesus. ('I baptize you in the name of the Father, of me, and of the Holy Spirit.') We're told in John 4:1-3 that it was actually the disciples of Jesus doing the baptizing. But consider this; Jesus allowed John the Baptist to continue doing what he was doing. He didn't have to. He could have smiled at John and said, 'Hey, I appreciate it and all. But I got this.' He didn't.

And what about John the Baptist. He could have been bothered by Jesus bringing His ragtag crew to double the effort. He could have reminded Jesus that he was the older cousin, that he was there first, and baptizing was in his name. He didn't.

This is a call to Christians that there is room for more at the table. We fight over the sanctified while there are plenty of people to go around. We look for differences and explain why our brand is better, while lost people remain lost.

It should not be this way. If Jesus did not mind doubling the effort of John, then neither should we. There is room for two.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Irresistible Revolution

There are certain books which are fun to read. They are light and merely for entertainment. This is not one of those books. Make no mistake, this book should be read. I'm talking about The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne.

The subtitle pretty much sums it up. 'Living as an ordinary radical.' Everybody is looking for something extreme and radical to stand for. Perhaps living as Jesus called us to is that extreme.

Shane Claiborne has written a call to the Church to rise up and be what God created her to be. As he shares story after story, showing us the reality of his dream, one starts to believe it can be done. He tells of how, in a setting where his group of college friends were helping the homeless, a church group brought microwave popcorn to them. They barely had electricity and the church showed her lack of knowledge of real need. Then another group, the mafia, brought bicycles for all the children. "I guess God can use the mafia, but I would lke God to use the Church" (page 63).

This book is over 300 pages of Shane attempting to show an alternative to the trappings of the modern day church. It can at times be very difficult to see this happening where we live. But in many ways, that is the challenge we have before us. We have our eyes on another world while we still live in this one.

In the end, we have to choose what we will do with this book and the ideas presented. It is much like our decision with God and His Son, Jesus. We have to decide what we will do with the life and the challenge presented. Perhaps the best advice comes from one of Shane's college professors.

"All around you, people will be tiptoeing through life, just to arrive at
death safely. But dear children, do not tiptoe. Run, hop, skip, or dance,
just
don't tiptoe" (pg 225).

You can learn more about the challenege at The Simple Way.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

09.24

Do you remember that dread you would feel when you walked into a classroom, only to hear the teacher say those fateful words, 'Time for a pop quiz.' It was in times like those that I asked God the hard questions in prayer, 'Why, God, do bad things happen to good-looking people? Why?'

This dread was matched only by the big test that loomed. You know, the one you knew you had no chance of passing unless you checked out of life and studied for 4 months. The only other possible hope you had was if the teacher decided to grade on a curve and all the nerds were sick...or if something were slipped into their lunch.

Well, that dread has returned to my home. My boy, a high achieving first-grader, is already seeing his future shrivel before his eyes as he thinks about his test today.

Luke (with tears in his eyes): Dad, I have a test tomorrow.
Dad: So, how hard can your work be?
Luke: The teacher said she's going to put stuff in there that she hasn't taught us.
Dad: She said that?
Luke: No, but I know she will, stuff like calculus and trigonometry and memorizing all the elements on the periodic table.
Dad: Do you know what any of those words mean?

Destined to fail, and sure that God has abandoned him, we went round and round with this conversation. I ended up telling him some psycho-babble about mom and dad always being proud of him. But what I should have said was this;

The prophet Haggai was going back and forth with the people about obedience and consequences. When he shows them the clear connection he gives them God's own words. "From this day on, from this twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, give careful thought to the day when the foundation of the LORD's temple was laid" (Haggai 2:18).

I don't know why but I find it interesting when a God who is outside of time, mentions a day like that. This isn't a festival day or a national birthday. It's 9/24. But for anyone who has ever wondered about God and whether He pays attention to what is going on down here, they should read this verse. This isn't just a specific verse being written about in the Bible. This is a day, month and day, spoken of by God to man.

This is for anyone who has ever asked if God was watching. Does God care? Does God see? Does He even know?

The answer is yes. Absolutely yes. For whatever reason, God finds you significant. I don't know what kind of calendar He may keep up there. My guess is that it's a fund raising calendar with pictures drawn by Thomas Kinkade himself. Whatever it is, He's keeping track of the date. And more importantly, He's keeping track of us and the dates we find important.

The only conclusion I can come to is that He's very involved with us. Keep that in mind the next time you have a math test.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Toughest Guy in the Bible

I doubt most people have ever thought of Nehemiah as a tough guy. I know I haven't. To be honest, most people don't think about Nehemiah. He's the guy from the Bible. He organized the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem.

I think most people, if they think of him, imagine some small-ish guy leading a less-prideful Israel. A lot of this may be due to the children's song about Knee-High-Miah. That's unfair. I'll give you a few reasons why I think Nehemiah was like his generation's Mark Driscoll, but without grabbing headlines.

1. He's a leader. Think less Ross Perot and more Arnold Schwarzenegger. This guy was leading reform and knew how to get it done. When he talked, people listened.

2. He helped rebuild a wall. He's a construction worker. Ever walked past a construction site and seen that 98-pound kid you knew from middle school? If it's the same kid, he's not 98 pounds. Or if he is, you just walked past a Lego construction site, which is not the image we're going for here.

3. His threats were like those of Chuck Norris. Simple, straight-forward and effective. In Nehemiah 13:19-22, we find Nehemiah (aka, the Middle East Menace) setting up guards at the rebuilt walls of Jerusalem. When he finds out some of his enemies are showing up and trying to cause problems, he tells them, "If you do this again, I will lay hands on you."

The very next verse tells us those bad guys stopped coming around. Either Nehemiah was well known for not washing his hands or he was the scariest guy in Jerusalem. This is no pastor offering to lay hands on the sick. This is Nehemiah informing the enemy that he'll make sure there are no next of kin for these guys. He is the law around these parts. This is Nehemiah doing his best impression of Clint Eastwood, 'Go ahead, make my day.'

So go ahead, talk about Samson killing Philistines with a donkey's jawbone. Tell me stories of David killing Goliath. I'll tell you about the guy I never want to cross in the shadows of the Temple. He will lay hands on you.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Say What?

My children have been a wonderful source of joy and laughter. Most of the time, they do that simply because they are fun to be around. But many times throughout their short little lives, it is because of what they have heard incorrectly. Here's just one example from each, all from when they were 4 or 5.

Jacie: She used to listen to a kid's tape of Bible verse songs at night to go to sleep. One morning she came out singing 'Bagel eat, and not the weeds, bagel eat, ooo ooo ooo.' After some thought, we realized the song said 'Be the wheat and not the weeds.' Although eating bagels is a good thing too.

Luke: His music was a little more rock-n-roll. He came out of his room one day playing the air guitar while sing-shouting 'White Giddy Up! White Giddy Up!' If not for the tune being close to perfect, I would not have figured out he was singing Skillet's Waking Up. (Say it out loud to yourself a few times, add that rock star mumble, and you can see how it works.)

Jerica: Our youngest is surprisingly good at memorization of songs and pledges. Although, she does have the Pledge to the American Flag and the Pledge to the Christian Flag somewhat mixed up and combined. (Then again, so do many Christians.) But her breakfast options were clearly not being communicated in a way she could understand. For she came out one morning hungry and asking for Crap-n-Crunch. Despite what you think of sugary cereals, it does not taste that bad.

Little kids are not the only ones who misunderstand and misinterpret. It happens to all of us. Dates get mixed up in our heads. Details are missed. Mayhem ensues. Just because we're talking with one another does not mean we are communicating.

We are trying, oh, how we are trying. We'll underline important things to remember, add exclamation points to important dates, and have reminders set up all over the place so we do not forget. I have been known to have my watch alarm, computer reminders, and cell phone alarms go off to remind me to look at the string on my finger so I don't forget...now what was it I was trying to remember?

Try as we might, we are not always the best at communicating. Sometimes we don't even know our urgent needs.

I think I've seen this happen in prayer as well. We're trying to remember all the things we promised we'd pray for. On top of that, we're trying to figure out how to best say the words to God, perhaps hoping for that magic key to God's will.

But I have been to the end of the prayer road and I'm sure you have as well. We know that we should be praying something, anything at all, because we believe in the power. But we don't know what. And we might even be scared that God might misunderstand our prayers. What if we ask for the wrong thing? What if what we ask for is un-Biblical?

Well, I have good news for you. You don't have to worry about not saying anything at all. See, God knew ahead of time that we are weak and we sometimes mis-communicate. So He hooked us up with His Spirit.

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. Romans 8:26


Enough said.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Can't You Hear Yourself?

My wife is teaching in the classroom of the preschool she works at. She doesn't normally do this, so she's getting help from her highly efficient team of crack professionals. This includes her 9-year old, 7-year old, 4-year old and me.

It's preschool, so all lesson plans revolve around a letter each week. Next week is F-week, so I'm encouraging my kids to think of all the F-words they can. They've only been in school a few years, so I know I'm not in any real danger. Aside from the art of passing gas, they don't really know any dirty words.

We're all sounding out words. Ffffffrogs, ffffffeathers, ffffffffairies. "Fantastic', my wife says. We name songs and objects that start with f. The ideas are really flowing. Then our 4-year old chimes in. "Fff- Fff- Fff- Chicken!"

I think two thoughts to myself. #1. What am I paying her preschool for? #2 Can't she hear herself?

I say none of this out loud, of course, but gently remind her that chickens do not, in fact, start with f. She tries again. "Fff- Fff- Fff- Cheese!" Apparently ch sounds like f to her little ears.

But she's not the only one who can't seem to hear herself. Christians do the same thing. We constantly call out 'love, love, love.' But the our actions do not show love. They show hate. So to many we sound very immature in our offerings to the world, 'Love, love, love, hate!'

When we focus more on the sin of a person and less on the person, we can't hear ourselves. When we talk about people behind their backs, we can't hear ourselves. When we'd rather look the other way than help those in need, we can't hear ourselves.

We're pretty good with our selective hearing. We pick out life verses and have great discussions about what Jesus came to do. We sing lots of songs and read lots of books. We have all sorts of ideas about how things should be done in this world, our country and our communities. But when we actually go to speak, one would think we cannot tell the difference between love and unlove, between a word that starts with ch- and one that begins with f.

Here's an f-word. Fail. It's what we do when we can't hear ourselves.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Can't Wait to Go Back?

This past summer my family went to Family Camp. We borrowed the cabin of a friend. This was the first time our family had gone to a week-long camp. As I was bringing in our bags and food, I heard a scream come from the loft of the cabin, where my very curious 8-year old had opened a window. When she closed it, she forgot to get her finger out of the way.

We hadn't been there 10 minutes and now I was taking my screaming daughter and her bloody finger around looking for a nurse. So started our week.

As the week continued, scrapes and bumps continued to mount. Playing outside can be dangerous. Which is why we were a bit safer when it rained. Which it did. A lot.

Despite all this, tears flowed when we left camp that week. Fast forward 3 months. I am reading a paper my daughter wrote for class. Here's the gist:

I love camp! This summer my family went to camp. It was awesome. I almost severed my finger. I bumped my head. It rained everyday. I love camp!


Are you kidding me? There was crying everyday. There were injuries. But my daughter can't wait to go back. It makes me wonder how I deal with low points in my week.

In Exodus 14, Moses and the Israelites are trapped between the Red Sea and Pharaoh's army. The people start to panic and ask Mo why he didn't just leave them alone in Egypt (Exodus 14:10-12). To be sure, Moses smacked them around a bit and God got them out of this predicament. But this would not be the last time the Israelites would cry about leaving Egypt.

Let's ponder their time in Egypt for a moment. This is where they were enslaved and mistreated for 400 years. Yeah, can we go back. I miss those days.

What's your perspective like these days? Are you trying to make lemonade out of the ingredients life is throwing at you? Are you longing for glory days gone by or simply day dreaming of how much better the future will be?

Today is the day that God has made. You should be humming a song by now when you read that sentence. But more importantly, you should be living it out. Today is more than just what you make it. It's what God is making for you.