Monday, December 31, 2007

Ordination #2, Art. 5a: Creation in God’s Image and the Fall


Ringing in the New Year with a little sin talk. Don’t worry. Keep reading (if you have a strong interest in theology). I’m on Article 5 for my ordination work. Man’s creation and fall into sin and its effects. Enjoy. I guess. Any feedback, requests for clarification, or outright correction is appreciated. My final paper will be much shorter, but I prefer to make it long and cut it down rather than beef it up later. I'm rambling now.

Unlike any other being, man was created “very good” (Gen. 1.31) in the image of God (Gen. 1.26-27). Created in God’s image, humankind fell into sin (Gen. 3.1-19), but the image is only effaced, not destroyed as evidenced by the fact that as murder is still a grievous offense due to the victim’s creation in God’s image (Gen. 9.6) and it is why we are to avoid cursing our fellow man (James 3.9) – both unacceptable because man is created in God’s image/likeness. The image is increasingly recovered through the process of sanctification (Col. 3.10; 2 Cor. 3.18) and will ultimately be restored upon Christ’s return (Rom. 8.29; 1 Jn. 3.2).

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Limping into the Playoffs


Being a lifelong Seahawk fan, I don't care how we get to the playoffs so long as we get there! Hopefully there's a pleasant surprise in this year's team - Holmgren's the man to find it if it's in there.


Kevin & Katie, put on a "Brown Nose" for me and a green touc (spelling?). Go 'Hawks!

Dead Sea Scrolls Report


It was pretty cool, but pretty frustrating in terms of the crush of people to see the actual scrolls – after going through a bunch of exhibits (that were quite good, mind you). After skipping a few and seeing the main ones I wanted to see – War Scroll, Ten Commandments from an Exodus fragment, and a couple others that are slipping my mind at the moment – I was struck with a pretty crazy thought. While nobody can pin it down directly, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that John the Baptist was an Essene (not enough evidence either way). But if he was I may have been looking at a fragment that he studied while in residence. Cool … at least for a geeky guy like myself.

To the more mundane, it was amazing how small their writing was, but it makes sense if they couldn’t just run to Staples on the corner to get more paper.

I’d recommend it to people if they get a chance, but I don’t know that I’d go see them again. Once was good … but enough.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Dead Sea Scrolls


Going to see them this afternoon. I don’t know what to expect, but I’d kick myself if I didn’t make the trip to see them since we’re in town. This is why I’m reading the book on Noncanonical Writings.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Silence.



I had hoped to get my year-end review of my favorite books done, but I’m currently on vacation and have started a powerful novel, Silence, by Shusaku Endo. I remember a guy recommending it in a missions class I took in seminary – that was at least seven years ago. I didn’t know what it was about, but it is definitely not an abstract book of mission theory.

Rather, it is a novel about persecution in Japan in the late 16th, early 17th century. The persecution has been intense and two Catholic priests (thus far in the novel) go to see what is happening. They live in fear while they witness the bravery of peasants in squalid conditions – to the point of martyrdom. But there is a character who is a blatant coward; he has repeatedly denied the faith.

What haunts the priest is the bewilderment, amid this suffering, that God is silent. He is silent while these poor, faithful Japanese Christians are persecuted. It unsettles. Arguments can be helpful, but as they ring hollow when someone is in the midst of suffering, waiting to hear from God. And hearing silence.

I hope there’s some good resolution. Either way, this is a gripping book thus far.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Choose Your Weapon!


I ordered a bunch of stuff from a book publisher a few years ago (not sure which one) so they sent me a slim volume called A Mind for God by James Emery White for free. The only reason I’ve picked it up as of late is because I am always trying to find a good list of what I should read next. He has a list of books on “the great conversation” as an index. Anyway, as I’m slowly working through this little book he talks about building a library as an armory (hence, the title) in the world of ideas as we strive to have a solid Christian mind in our world.

If I get time, which is always a big “if,” particularly with Christmas shopping yet to be done, I want to highlight a couple of my favorite books for the year. Mostly as a review. I looked back at my reading list last year and couldn’t believe how much I read and how little I remembered. Maybe a little look back will be helpful in revisiting them at least a little bit.

Until then, what has been your favorite book of the year and why? What is your choice new weapon from your armory?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Ordination #2, Art. 4b: The Ministry of the Holy Spirit

I need to do a little more work on the place of regeneration in the salvation process, but besides that, here’s the rest of the Holy Spirit Article in the Evangelical Free Church doctrinal statement...

During this age the Holy Spirit convicts men of their sin that they might see the need for repentance (Jn. 16.8-11) and regenerates the believing sinner (Jn. 3.3-8; Titus 3.5), making the believer a new creation (2 Cor. 5.17). He indwells the believer (Jn. 14.17; 1 Cor. 6.19-20) as a “down payment” assuring our ultimate salvation (Eph. 1.14), serves as a comforter (Rom. 15.13), gives assurance of our adoption as God’s children (Rom. 8.16), and intercessor when words don’t come to us (Rom. 8.26-27). While He dwells in us, we are commanded to be “filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5.18). The Spirit also empowers (Acts 1.4-5; Jn. 14.12) the believer for godly living, to be witnesses for Christ (Acts 1.8). Sanctification is the work of God (1 Thess. 5.23; Eph. 5.26), but the regenerate believer is a partner in the process. As God works within the believer (Phil. 2.12-13), the believer “works out their salvation” by living according to the Spirit rather than their flesh (Rom. 8.1-21; Gal. 5.16-18). The result is character transformation (Gal. 5.22-23). The Holy Spirit also empowers for service. The gifts He gives are spiritual in nature (Rom. 12.6-8; 1 Cor. 12.4-11) and are given according to His will (1 Cor. 12.11). The church body is created to be interdependent (1 Cor. 12.21-22), with each believer having a gift (1 Pt. 4.10) for the good of the church body (1 Cor. 12.7), but nobody having all the gifts (1 Cor. 12.29-30).

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Fantastic Fourth!


Sure, it is four NFC West titles in a row, but winning four is better than not.


Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Way of Jesus: "Center of Controversy"


Tonight we looked at Jesus' conflict with the Pharisees over fasting and the Sabbath. Fasting was unnecessary because Jesus was the groom with whom his disciples are to celebrate. And the celebration is the something new that Jesus was bringing that was incompatible with the old ways of Judaism at the time. Jesus was bringing "new wine," knowing many would prefer the old wine of their custom or tradition.

Just as Jesus wanted them to experience new wine, it is our calling to be used of God to create a thirst in the lives of those around us who currently prefer their tradition (whether it be of the world or even a church tradition) to Jesus' new wine. So the questions are...

"What are you going to do this week to create a thirst for "new wine" in the lives of others around you?

What can we do as a group to create this thirst?

I go to one or two coffee shops pretty regularly, but I always buy a card and re-load it. That means I never tip (Horrible, I know). This week I'm going to put a big tip in - $20 or so - to make up for lost time and be a blessing to the workers at the main coffee shop I go to. What about you?

Saturday, December 1, 2007

My Newest Heroes: Leigh Ann Tuohy and Her Family

I just finished one of my favorite books of the year (though January was a long time away), The Blind Side by Michael Lewis. I thought it was about football, and it was, but I found my eyes misting up from time to time as I was walking on my treadmill. There’s fascinating analysis of how football has evolved since Lawrence Taylor started destroying quarterbacks and Bill Walsh created the West Coast Offense. These two forces resulted in making the left tackle a most coveted position in football.

This effects the lives of quick-footed giants – or even potential ones – in high school and college changed significantly. Lewis follows a few years in the life of Michael Oher who was taken in by a wealthy Evangelical family. I get nervous when something mainstream involves Evangelicals. Not sure we’re going to get a fair shake. This was a beautiful book that made me proud to be a Christian and challenged me to make a difference in the lives of others on a micro level.
I won’t spoil it for you, but a rich white family took in a black high school kid who had essentially raised himself, but didn’t know how to function within the structure of school – let alone a white Evangelical high school. But he became a “Freak of Nurture” due to this family’s love for him and their commitment to his success, particularly due to the relentless, fiery mother of the family who would not let Michael fail or give up on him.

And Michael Oher has been a success. He’s the left tackle for Ole Miss, but his personal transformation is what is most powerful in my mind. He earned academic honors during his freshman year of college – a 3.75 GPA – to go with his athletic prowess. It is a great story of the change that all of us are capable of if we have someone who will walk with us and help us be the person God created us to be (Michael gave his life to Christ during his high school years).
I’ll close this post with a quote from the book, but first I want to encourage you to seek opportunities to do good, to make a difference in people’s lives to help them be all God created them to be.

Near the end of the book Michael was in trouble and he ran away for a couple days and they were wondering if he was gone for good, that he had used them and their generosity and was now done with them. Upon later reflection, Sean said something helpful for those of us who might say, “What if it doesn’t work? What if we get taken advantage of?” His words: “Your mind does funny things when it’s idle,” said Sean. “But that’s when I decided that the downside was that we’d helped some kid – so even if he’d been playing us all along there really was no downside.” No downside in helping people be who God created them to be … even if they end up deciding they don’t want it after all.

I won’t tell you if he came back. Go get the book – or I’ll loan you mine (with serious collateral).

Friday, November 30, 2007

Ordination #3, Art. 4a: The Person of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is vital to the Christian life, but is often misunderstood, over-emphasized, or ignored. The Holy Spirit is fully God, the third Person of the Trinity (Acts 5.3-4; Heb. 9.14; Mt. 28.19-20), not an impersonal “force” or “influence.” He is a person as evidenced by personal pronouns, as opposed to neuter (Jn. 16.13-14). He does what “persons” do, including glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ (Jn. 16.14; Jn. 15.26), teaching (Jn. 14.26), exerting His will (1 Cor. 12.11), and expressing emotion (Eph. 4.30).

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Way of Jesus: The Outcasts

Josh did a great job tonight walking through a big chunk of Scripture (Luke 5:12-32) looking at social outcasts that Jesus touched and ministered to, bringing them into God’s people when they were previously marginalized.

Near the end we settled on the importance of reaching the people God has placed us in a unique position to reach – like Levi could reach the tax collectors like nobody else (not that many people were eager to reach them).

To see the diversity of places God has put a witness within this little community, let us know some “communities” where God has placed you where you can be a witness for Him.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

One of the keys to Mary’s joyful response despite the challenges ahead of her was that she remembered God’s goodness to God’s people in the past. Because of God’s faithfulness she could be confident for the future.

How has God been good to you this year? What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Ordination #2, Art. 3b: Christology, Death, Burial, Resurrection

The rest of Article 3 - Christology.

Jesus died a humiliating death on the cross (Lk. 23.32-46), a sacrifice for our sins (Mk. 10.45; Rom. 3.21-26) according to the Scriptures (Lk. 24.23-27; Isa. 52.13-53.12). Three days later He arose bodily from the dead. The physical nature of His resurrection is evident in the showing of His physical wounds and eating (Lk. 24.36-43). Jesus’ resurrection is a guarantee that we will one day follow Him in resurrected bodies (1 Cor. 6.14; 2 Cor. 4.14), which serves as a motivation for us to serve God faithfully (1 Cor. 15.58) and with confidence (1 Cor. 15.17-19). After His resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven (Acts 1.6-11; Eph. 1.20). This ascension is significant because it is His exaltation after His humiliation of incarnation and crucifixion (Phil. 2.9-11). Jesus’ ascension was necessary for Jesus to prepare a place for His followers (Jn. 14.2-3) and so the Holy Spirit could come and work in and through the disciples (Jn. 16.7). Currently Jesus sits in a place of honor and authority at the right hand of the Majesty on High (Eph. 1.20-22; 1 Pt. 3.22) where He serves as our High Priest and Advocate (Heb. 7.25; 1 Tim. 2.5).

On to Pneumatology!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Tell Me Something About Mary


I’m starting off the Christmas series for our church this Sunday and I’m teaching on Mary. While she’s obviously vital to the Christmas story, we evangelicals tend to shy away from her. I know where I’m going with the message, but I’m open to any insight you have, or experience, on how Mary’s story and life have impacted and directed your journey with God.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Ordination #2, Art. 3a: Christology, Person & Birth

I have my next ordination anti-procrastination check in on Nov. 30th. The next two posts make up what I've come up with for the Evangelical Free Church's third point on their doctrinal statement. Please let me know if you've got any advice for content or clarity. Thanks. Here's the actual doctrinal statement.

That Jesus Christ is true God and true man, having been conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He died on the cross, a sacrifice for our sins according to the Scriptures. Further, He arose bodily from the dead, ascended into heaven, where, at the right hand of the Majesty on High, He is now our High Priest and Advocate.

Scripture is clear that Jesus Christ is true God, meaning fully God. Jesus Himself does the things God does (forgives sins – Mk. 2.5; judges the world – Mt. 25.31-46), the gospel record indicates His deity (Jn. 1.1; 8.58), as does the rest of the NT (Heb. 1.3; Col. 1.15-20). At the same time Jesus is also true man by His own testimony (Jn. 8.40) and others’ (Acts 2.22; Rom. 5.15). Jesus developed in essential aspects of personhood (Lk. 2.52). Physically, He faced limitations at times (hunger – Mt. 4.2; thirst – Jn. 19.28; fatigue – Jn. 4.6) and He died. Psychologically, we see Jesus exhibit human emotions (compassion – Mt. 9.36; sorrow – Mt. 26.37; joy – Jn. 15.11; anger and grief (Mk. 3.5) and indignation (Mk. 10.14). Yet being fully man, Jesus was without sin (Heb. 4.15). His sinlessness does not negate His humanity, but shows Him to be what humanity was intended to be without the corruption of sin. He needed to be truly man to offer an appropriate sacrifice for mankind’s sin (Heb. 2.14-17) and to offer us an example of godly living (Rom. 5.18-19). Two natures, human and divine, in a unified person is a biblical assumption (1 Jn. 2.1-2), but an unexplainable mystery. Jesus is fully God and fully man united in one Person – two natures, one person (Council of Chalcedon 451 AD). This God-man was conceived of the Holy Spirit (Mt. 1.18; Lk. 1.35) and born of the Virgin Mary (Mt. 1.18-25; Lk. 1.26-35, 2.7).

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Way of Jesus: Calling the Disciples

Ryan did a great job on Thursday night looking at Jesus' calling the disciples for the first time in Luke. They leave their nets after Jesus leads them to a miraculous catch of fish as well as calling them to follow Him. I know you shared it in your small group, but it might be good for all of us to share where God might be leading you. He might be leading someone else the same way. So... "What is one thing God may be telling you to do recently that you haven't responded to yet? What will you do this week to start responding right away?"

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Satellite Churches

One of the vision points our church has is to develop satellite churches. Let's suppose we were going to start a "satellite" in an area near you. Say, La Palma, Long Beach, Los Alamitos, etc... Knowing that it will keep Cypress Church's core vision (5 purposes, small groups, numerical and spiritual growth, hospital for the hurting, being in the world, and missions), what would you want the expression of these to be like, or what stylistic things would you like if you were to be part of the "satellite"?

Friday, November 9, 2007

The Importance of Sports ... Their Relative Unimportance


This is a fun post by John Mark Reynolds on the unimportance of sports as valuable for bringing people together and a call to keep it relatively unimportant and enjoyable.

http://www.scriptoriumdaily.com/2007/11/04/just-show-the-game-nbc-and-activism-or-how-to-ruin-a-sunday-afternoon/

But I personally have much more enjoyable when the Mighty Seattle Seahawks look a little mightier than they have been lately.

The Way of Jesus: The Platform

Last night we studied Luke 4.14-44 and Jesus’ declaration of His mission (His platform as a leader, if you will), including His first trip to actually live it out. Here’s what He said…

And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." (Luke 4.17-21)
As Jesus’ disciples, what are some tangible ways we can live out His mission in our world? What are you doing? What is God calling you to do?

Friday, November 2, 2007

The Way of Jesus: The Temptation

Last night Ryan did a great job of leading us through the temptation passage (Luke 4.1-13). One of the closing applications was that Jesus was likely meditating on a few chapters in Deuteronomy. That's where He pulled the Scriptures to combat Satan. In light of Jesus' model, what are you reading and how is God using it to help you live well?

God isn't detached from our pain

This isn't so much an argument on why evil exists as the fact that God is not a detached deity unacquainted with grief. Rather, He is intimately aware of it and experiences it. I hate it when people ignorant of basic Christianity speak like they know what they're talking about so I'll try not to do the same to them, but I think there are some faiths (Christian Science and some eastern religions) that say pain is an illusion, something that only affects the ignorant or unfaithful (I'm open to correction here, but I think I've read that from some). That's not what happens in Jesus. Whether we have a great answer for the problem of evil or not, we see that Jesus was willing to suffer at the hands of evil men to spare us the consequences of our own sin and evil. God doesn't ignore it and tell us to whistle in the dark. He recognizes it is real and He runs into the middle of it in Jesus to identify with us as one who suffers evil (even though He is innocent) and conquers it. I don't know about you, but I think it is powerful to know that, in those times where answers don't really matter anyway, in the midst of suffering, Jesus is right there alongside us, feeling our pain, grieving alongside us. Not as a distant, untouchable God, but as one who has suffered and walks with us in our grief.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

“Why does God make deformed babies and pain in the world?”

One of the college students I’m privileged to serve with was asked this question by one of her roommates and she solicited my input. This is the big one and I don’t think there are any answers that are 100% satisfactory or it would cease being “the big one” in terms of tough questions. I know a couple of guys who are brighter than I am read this blog on occasion so I’m soliciting their input as I lay out my first email to this student. This was after giving it a day’s thought, but without studying so please correct me as you see fit … or expand it. A couple more installments are to come. But here’s email #1.

Sin. Not the sin of deformed babies, or even regions where tragedy hits. But when Adam & Eve sinned (Gen. 3), Creation felt it, too. The ground wouldn't produce the way it was supposed to and Adam was going to have to work hard for food. We know that because of Adam (Rom. 5) we have our issues with sin, but Paul, when talking about the struggle with the Christian life and sin, indicates that Creation is under the weight of sin - "subjected to frustration" and will itself be "liberated from its bondage ... into glorious freedom" (Rom. 8.18-22 or so). Things aren't the way they're supposed to be ... with us as individuals, and with the created world because of our breaking covenant with God through Adam.

This doesn't answer the individual issues, but it explains why things are generally a mess. People are fallen and make sinful choices - that's the easy evil (bad people do bad things). But creation isn't as it should be, either. Not much later in Romans 8.28) it tells how God can use anything for our good if we love Him, which can give meaning to individual suffering for believers. John 9 is a good example of this, but there's something to be said for those who suffer for Christ and yet honor Him, even if they're not healed.
That’s a pretty quick drive by. Did I handle it appropriately? Please advise.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Ordination #2, Art. 2c: Theology Proper, Creation

Finally, God is the Creator of all things (Gen. 1.1; Eph. 3.9; Col. 1.16; Rev. 4.11) for His glory (Ps. 19.1). The Father (Gen. 1.1), Son (Jn. 1.3) and Holy Spirit (Gen. 1.2) are all active in creation. If God did, indeed, create “all things,” it logically follows that He created from nothing, ex nihilo (Heb. 11.3; Jn. 1.3). God is active in His creation (Acts 17.27-28; Mt. 6.25-30), but is also separate from and independent of creation, transcendent (Isa. 55.8-9; Ps. 113.5-6).

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Ordination #2, Art. 2b: Theology Proper, Attributes

In addition to being triune, God is eternal and infinitely perfect in His attributes. There is never a time when God did not exist in His perfection. He was there in the beginning (Gen. 1.1; Ps. 90.2) and He has always been. God’s infinite perfection bears itself out in His omnipresence (Ps. 137.7-12; Jer. 23.23-24), His timelessness (Ps. 90.1-2; Jude 25; Isa. 44.6; Rev. 1.8), His omniscience (Ps. 147.5; Prov. 15.3; Mt. 10.29-30; Mt. 11.21 – knowledge of things possible), and His omnipotence (Jer. 32.17; Mt. 19.26; Acts 17.26; Ps. 115.3). God’s greatness in these areas is eternal. It does not change (Ps. 102.26-27; Mal. 3.6). God is not only infinite and eternal in His attributes of greatness; He is also infinitely good. He is holy, both in terms of being unique, set apart (Ex. 15.11; Isa. 6.1-4) and in His purity (Hab. 1.13; Job 34.12; Lev. 11.44-45). This holiness is applied in perfect righteousness (Ps. 19.7-9; Jer. 9.24) and perfect justice (Dt. 7.9-10 – for both sides of justice; Ps. 58.11; Rom. 12.9). God is the true God (Jn. 17.3; Jer. 10.10) who tells the truth (1 Sam. 15.29; Jn. 17.17), and proves Himself faithful (Num. 23.19; 1 Thess. 5.24). God’s love is perfect in His benevolence (Dt. 7.7-8; Jn. 3.16; Mt. 5.45 – “general benevolence”), His abundant grace to the undeserving (Eph. 2.7-9; Ex. 34.6), His tender mercy toward the needy (Ps. 103.13; Mt. 9.36), and His slowness to anger that people might repent (Ps. 86.15; 1 Pt. 3.20; 2 Pt. 3.9), but His wrath rests upon those who do not (Dt. 9.7-8; Jn. 3.36). Given God’s greatness, He is deserving of all honor and, as such, it is appropriate that He be jealous if He doesn’t receive the honor due Him (Isa. 48.11).

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Ordination #2, Art. 2a: Theology Proper, Trinity

I'm starting to get to work on my ordination paper now. I'm doing this thing called "Gateway" with the Free Church District we're in. I probably won't crank it out all at once, but I'll be a little more steady than I've been. The first two articles are due to be dissected by my peers on Friday. I did Article 1 several months ago - check the "Ordination" tab below if you're into reading amateur theology. This is the first post of Article 2. The official statement of faith reads as follows: "In one God, Creator of all things, infinitely perfect and eternally existing in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit." What follows is my expansion on this truth. In this first one it is just hte Trinity. There will be two more to follow in this Article.

We believe in a triune God, one God, but this God exists in three persons. Scripture is uniformly clear that God is one (Ex. 20.4; Dt. 6.4; Jas. 2.19). This one God exists in three persons. The Father is routinely equated with “God” (1 Cor. 8.4; 1 Tim. 2.5-6; Mt. 6.26, 30), Jesus is likewise considered God (Phil. 2.5-11; Heb. 1.3), as is the Holy Spirit (Acts 5.3-4). The unity of God in Dt. 6.4 (echad) is the same unity used for man and woman’s union in Gen. 2.24, indicating a unity with distinctions. The NT develops this compound unity by linking the three persons together as equal units on several occasions (Mt. 28.19-20 – singular name, three persons; 2 Cor. 13.14; Mt. 3.16-17 – all three persons present simultaneously; Acts 2.33, 38; 1 Cor. 12.4-6; Jn. 16.13-15). The eternality, greatness, and perfection of God demands that, while the Trinitarian members at times subordinate to one another for the purpose of mission, there is no inferiority. The Truine God is co-equal in its members.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Please Pray

These are fellow skydivers ... and friends ... of my little brother. Please pray.

http://www.komotv.com/news/10316012.html

Update (1:30pm): http://www.king5.com/video/index.html?nvid=181801&shu=1

Update (10/9): http://www.komotv.com/news/10316012.html

No survivors. Please pray for grieving friends and families.

Your Money and Your Life #13: A quick review

Our culture has much to tell us about money and wealth, and it is often at odds with what God calls us to. Thankfully God gives us a picture of what He wants for us with “Your Money and Your Life.”

God has blessed most, if not all of us, with wealth at varying levels. We need to cultivate the character to handle that wealth – righteousness, humility, hard work, and fair work. Then we need to put it in perspective. Hard to do, but we have to think on the most important things, and money isn’t it.

But God knows our hearts and that we can forget what’s most important. So He gives us some tools to make sure we put wealth in its place. He asks us to tithe, give 10% to the church. And then He asks us to be generous on top of that – to any number of places, most specifically to the poor.

That’s the picture in Proverbs. The big question for us now is, “What’s next?”

If you aren’t tithing, start. God asks us to test Him in this. It isn’t often that we’re to test God, but we’re challenged to with tithing. Scary? Yes. But it’s also clear. It is an act of obedience. It feels odd to lay it out there because we don’t like to talk about it, but it is for your benefit. God will get done what He’s gonna get done. He doesn’t need it. You need to give it. I need to give it.

After your tithe, look for opportunities to be generous – whether at a whim or planned out with regular giving. Even if you don’t want to do it, start looking for options. Peru. India. Los Angeles. Cypress. Your community

Now some of you may be like Donald Miller, or myself at times, and your finances are somewhere between utter disarray and not as organized as you’d like. You don’t know where you’ll find the space for these disciplines. I encourage you to get help. We’ll be offering a biblical financial stewardship class soon. Sign up today and start honoring God in an area that is so challenging to us as individuals, particularly in the culture we live in.

Friends, God wants to bring balance to “Your Money and Your Life” for your good, and my good. Let’s cooperate with Him in obedience, and then enjoy the blessings of His goodness without hindrance.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Your Money and Your Life #12: Give More of Your Wealth … to the poor and suffering

We need to give above and beyond our tithe and we can do it in a bunch of different ways. It is clear that God wants us to be generous, but God wants us to particularly be generous to the poor and the suffering.


Proverbs 14:31 Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.

Proverbs 19:17 Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed.
This is sometimes challenging, isn’t it? You don’t know who’s lazy and who’s oppressed. But we can’t get away from God’s heart for the suffering, the hurting, and He calls us to be generous towards them.

You can give to the poor in a variety of ways – your local food bank, the nearest mission, or spending money to make care packages for homeless people you see – clean socks, toiletries, a bottle of water. There’s poor suffering all around the world. Check out organizations like Jane’s House or World Vision to care for the world’s poor.

We live in a world of plenty. At the same time, the needs are vast and God intends to meet those needs through the generosity of those He has given an abundance to. Like it or not; think it or not, that’s us. We’re called to tithe, and we’re also called to be generous. Let God move your heart to be generous toward those around you – locally or around the world.

What are some good organizations you’re familiar with when it comes to caring for the poor?

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Your Money and Your Life #11: Give More of Your Wealth … but how much?

OK. Be generous. But how much should we give? You got me. I suppose since God wants to form us with our giving, one size doesn’t fit all. But CS Lewis has some good ideas – he has that way about him. CS Lewis’ rule in Mere Christianity for giving is that you should give more than you can spare. If you are able to live at the same standard as those who earn as much as you, you probably aren’t giving enough. It needs to “pinch” us. There should be some things we want or want to do, and can’t, because we’ve been generous elsewhere.

Anyone eager to do this? I don’t look forward to more of a pinch than a tithe, if I can avoid it. But I also know God doesn’t want me to avoid it. I’m busy trying to figure out how to get what my neighbors have, not make sure I don’t have enough to get it because I’m giving stuff away. Who’s with me? But Proverbs is clear. We’re to be generous with what God has given.

This “pocket” from which we give is where we give to missionaries and other charitable causes – or different funds within the church, like the camp fund that blessed so many kids last week. Or even random needs of friends, family, or people you meet on the bus or at the supermarket.

There are a million opportunities to give – go to the Jane’s House link in the margin. You likely know missionaries who want to get overseas. If you don’t, contact me. I’ll get you some info on them.

Be sure to remember, though, this is outside the tithe – above and beyond the tithe. I learned this in 201 and it changed how we give. The tithe is where I surrender the 10% with no choice of where it goes as a discipline that the money isn’t mine, it’s God’s. There’s discipline in me “not having a say,” in not having control. I don’t like it, but I see how that forms me all the more. It is submission to the church leadership to spend my tithe well.

Giving (in contrast with tithing), generosity is where I’m a more active steward, putting the money in places where God specifically leads me.

What do you think about tithing to your church for 10% and giving on top of that? What are your giving habits … and why?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Your Money and Your Life #10: Give More of Your Wealth, Be Generous

As the last post makes clear, God gives us a way to break our addiction to wealth and “stuff.” The tithe. But are there any good Pharisees reading along? I’m one. Give me a rule to follow and when I’m old I shall not depart from it. Given our relative prosperity, it may take more than a tithe to break us of our addiction to, and trust in, stuff. Really.

You see, there’s a very God-like quality called generosity that He wants to cultivate in each of us. How do we do this? Give more of your wealth.

The tithe may be easy for some of us because we’re quite wealthy and it’s a drop in the bucket of the bottom line – or at least we still have a pretty big bucket after giving 10%. The tithe is easy for me because I’ve built the habit – even if it isn’t a huge amount. Some may think a tithe is generous, but it isn’t. How do I know? I tithe, and I know I’m not that generous. I know generous people and I stand in stark contrast to them much of the time.

God doesn’t call us just to tithing, but to generosity.

Proverbs 11:24 One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.
If I’m not generous, I need more training to be a person who reflects God’s generosity.

If you’re generous, what are the joys of generosity? If you struggle with generosity, why?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Your Money and Your Life #9: Give the Firstfruits

Now, like me, you live in America where wealth is a premium value – or at least acting like you have it is. Comfort is king. We are expected to pursue wealth and spend money. Our culture wars against the thought that wealth isn’t king. How do we stem the tidal wave of our culture’s values? How do we put wealth in its place? How do we find that middle ground of “neither poverty nor riches”?

Start by doing something really difficult. Give the firstfruits of your wealth. We’ve looked at the attitudes, particularly humility, and the need to put wealth in its place. But that’s easier said than done, isn’t it? Thankfully God gives us tools to help us do it. Namely, the tithe.


Proverbs 3:9 Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; 10 then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.
Give a portion to Him … your first portion. It isn’t that He needs it – Scripture tells us He owns the cattle on a 1000 hills. It isn’t His need, I need to give, you need to give. We’ll be blessed when you do. In Donald Miller’s book Blue Like Jazz, Donald, after a humorous run-in with an unlikely tithing friend, tells of his confession to his pastor, Rick, that he didn’t tithe:


Rick had come over to the house, and we were lying about how much we could bench-press, and then I just blurted it out, “I am not giving any money to the church, Rick. Not a dime.”
“Okay,” he said. “Interesting way to change the conversation. Why?” he asked. “Why aren’t you giving any money to the church?”
“Because I don’t have any money. Everything goes to rent and groceries.”
“That sounds like a tough situation,” he said, very compassionately.
“So am I exempt?” I asked.
“Nope,” he said. “We want your cash.”
“How much? I asked.
“How much do you make?”
“I don’t know. About a thousand a month, maybe”
“Then we want a hundred.
And you should also know how much you make. Part of the benefit of giving a portion of your money is it makes you think about where your money goes. God does not want us to be sloppy with our finances, Don.”
“But I need money for rent.”
“You also need to trust God.”
“I know. I just think it would be easier to trust God if I had extra money to trust Him with.”
“That would not be faith, then, would it?”
“No.”
“Well, bud, I just want you to know I hate this part of the job, ‘cause it sounds like I am asking for your money. I don’t care whether or not we have your money. Our needs are met. I want to tell you that you are missing out on so much, Don.”
“So much what?”
“The fruit of obedience,” he said, looking very pastoral. “When we do what God wants us to do, we are blessed, we are spiritually healthy. God wants us to give a portion of our money to His work on earth. By setting aside money from every check, you are trusting God to provide. He wants you to get over that fear – that fear of trusting Him. It is a scary place, but that is where you have to go as a follower of Christ. There are times when my wife and I don’t have enough money to cover bills, but we know the first bill, the first payment we make, is to the church. That is most important. If the other bills get neglected, then we need to watch how we are spending money. And there are times when we have found ourselves in that situation. But it works out. We are getting good at trusting God, and we are getting good at managing money.”
The next week I emptied my checking account, which had about eight dollars in it,
and I gave it to the church. Another check came a few days later, and I gave 10 percent of that to the church, then I got another writing gig with a magazine in Atlanta, and as I deposited that check into my account I wrote a check to the church. One after another, I started getting called to speak at retreats and conferences that usually pay pretty well, and each time I would write a check to the church. Since then, since that conversation with Rick, I have given at least 10 percent of every dollar I make, just like Curt. And I have never not had rent. For more than a year my checking account had hovered or dipped just over or just under zero, and suddenly I had money to spare. I decided I would open a savings account in case some day I would get married and have a family, and with each bit of money that came in I would give 10 percent to the church and 10 percent to the savings account. I was actually budgeting money. I had never done that before. But that is not the best part. The best part is what tithing has done for my relationship with God. Before, I felt like I was always going to God with my fingers crossed, the way a child feels around his father when he knows he has told terrible lies. God knew where I was, He didn’t love me any different when I was holding out on Him, it’s just that I didn’t feel clean around Him, and you know how that can affect things. (And he goes on a bit from there…)

This isn’t just a proverbs thing, either. Malachi 3:10 is pretty clear: “Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.”

This is a discipline in knowing that it isn’t your money, it’s God’s, and we need to learn to trust Him with His money. Because it is ultimately His, not ours. It isn’t your wealth, it is God’s that He’s given you as a steward. I like what Miller’s pastor said. Our needs are taken care of.

At our church we have a big budget for this coming year, big plans, that depend on giving, faithful tithing. God will provide for what He wants done. But there’s bigger things than meeting budget. The thing about 400-500 people tithing that would make Satan tremble is not the church budget. It is 400-500 people who are willing to trust God in one of the areas we’re often last to be obedient in. It is the symbol of an army of people who are mobilizing to stomp Satan because it reveals our obedience to God – even in the tough stuff, even if we would rather buy some flashy new technology or a new outfit.

Tithing is as much a gift to us as it is to God. Probably more. It shows us whose money it is. It teaches us how to trust. It teaches us who or what to place our trust in.

What are the challenges you face in tithing? What are the joys you experience in it?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Your Money and Your Life #8: Put Wealth in its Place … It’s Unreliable

This screed might be getting old, but my inability to post with any consistency likely makes it seem less monotonous. Anyway, what’s the next reason we should “put wealth in its place?” It is unreliable. It isn’t worthy of our trust. We might work tirelessly for it, and there’s still no guarantee that we’ll get it.

Proverbs 23:4-5 Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.
On top of the fact that it might be gone regardless of your diligence, the desire to get rich can destroy our souls. Paul pulls no punches on this very real fear, particularly in our culture that loves money and materialism.

1 Timothy 6:6 Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
Wealth can only offer so much, and it isn’t as much as we often think (see Prov. 18.11). More importantly, it can easily play the idol in our lives, dulling our hunger for God. You may think I mean those who are driven to accumulate more and more, seeking satisfaction in material things rather than God. You’re right. But I also mean more than that, or maybe less than that.

There’s another, more subtle idolatry with wealth. Trusting it more than God to be your security. Ps. 20.7 says some trust in chariots, some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. In our world, some trust in their IRA, some trust in bank accounts, but do we trust in the name of the Lord our God?

Now we all want financial security, don’t we? There are passages about planning to take care of your family in Proverbs, but we need to be careful. Are you placing your trust in a who, or a what? God or money?

Wealth is nice. It is a blessing to the righteous, a curse to the wicked (and through the wicked), but it has its place. Proverbs speaks of wealth highly, but of other things more highly. A good capper to this point is Proverbs 15.16.

Proverbs 15:16 Better is a little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble with it.

So who are you trusting? Next we’ll get to how we can start actually putting wealth in its place.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Your Money and Your Life #7: Put Your Wealth in Its Place … After Wisdom

The last post on money, which was too long ago (my apologies to the throng who reads this blog) was something we knew the right answer to, even if we don’t live it well. Our family is more valuable than wealth. This one might be a bit more controversial. Proverbs also tells us that wisdom is better than wealth.

Proverbs 8:10 Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold, 11 for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.
The story of King Solomon himself illustrates this principle. God asked Solomon what he wanted and Solomon was smart enough to know he wasn’t smart enough to govern God’s people so he asked for the wisdom to know the difference between good and evil. Conspicuously absent from his request is wealth and honor. God was so pleased with the request that he gave him wealth and honor on top of wisdom. (Want the whole story … or don’t believe me? Read 1 Kings 3).

It is doubtful that anyone reading this is governing a great people, but we’ve each been given great responsibility in our areas of influence and nothing is more important than wisdom that comes from God if we want to influence others for good and for God. Wealth is, in many cases, a blessing, according to Proverbs, but it is likewise clear that there are plenty of better things. Specifically, living well, which is what wisdom helps us do.

We’re encouraged not to give wealth pride of place because there are so many other things that are better – character, family, and wisdom to name a few. There are probably more, but these are enough to chew on for a bit … and this last one might be the most difficult.

How do you see wisdom as really being better than riches?

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Changing of the Seasons

Since baseball season is effectively over for me, time for football. Great start - Huskies 2-0 and the 'Hawks...

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/seahawks/2003876833_webhawks09.html

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Your Money and Your Life #6: Put Wealth In Its Place … After Family

Character is important when it comes to dealing with our wealth. The next aspect of living well with “Our Money and Our Life” is putting money in its place, which isn’t first place, despite what our culture would tell us. We’ve already seen that character is more important than money. The next is well illustrated by a joke I found in The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart by Charles Swindoll (a book of sermon illustrations):

Two women met at a cocktail party after a separation of many years. After the initial delighted exchange of greetings, the first woman noticed that her friend was wearing an extraordinary diamond. She couldn’t help commenting, “That’s the most beautiful and enormous diamond I’ve ever seen!” “Yes, it’s an unusual diamond,” was the reply. “It’s the Calahan Diamond. And it comes complete with the Calahan curse.”

“What’s the Calahan curse?”

“Mr. Calahan!” she said.

It may be a bad joke, but Proverbs agrees…

Proverbs 19:13-14 A foolish son is ruin to his father, and a wife's quarreling is a continual dripping of rain. House and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the LORD.
If any ladies are offended, I’m sure the sentiment works for husbands and wives … and nobody is honored like the Proverbs 31 woman in the book of Proverbs.

Work hard to provide for your family, but don’t sacrifice your family on the golden altar of wealth. They are more important than wealth.

How do you maintain balance in this? I know it can be particularly challenging for men, but it can be for anyone career-oriented, man or woman. This is one of those things we know in our heads, but our actions, our drive to succeed (or to not fail), and external forces making demands on us can push us.

How do you keep your family first (after God, of course)?

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Are you sure?: The Faith Continuum

One of Smith’s critiques of McLaren was his assertion that modernism is built on “Cartesian foundationalism. McLaren thinks there’s no room for doubt as a Christian in the modern model, that we must have “indubitable beliefs.” But Smith asserts this is too high a bar for faith. There’s actually a faith continuum (“degrees of justification”) that was helpful for me in the sense that it puts me at ease that I can still believe something and not defend against any and every weird possibility that a skeptic may throw at me. Here’s the key paragraph on this issue in Smith (116-117):

“So beliefs can have degrees of justification, and the amount of
justification a belief may enjoy may vary over time, due to a variety of
influences on our assessment of the evidence (such as more cognitive material to
process, or very painful circumstances from our past). Roderick Chisholm
has classified a scale of these degrees of justfiiction:
6. Certain
5. Obvious
4. Evident
3. Beyond reasonable doubt
2. Epistemically in the clear
1. Probable
0. Counterbalanced (the evidence for and against offset each other)
-1. Probably false
-2. In the clear to disbelieve
-3. Reasonable to disbelieve
-4. Evidently false
-5. Obviously false
-6. Certainly false
I don’t know where all my beliefs fit on this, but it is liberating for me to some degree. I also admit I’m not necessarily philosophically astute, so I’d love some gentle rebuke if this is bunk. Like I say at the top of the blog, I read a bunch, but I’m not the greatest thinker all the time. What do you think?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Truth & the New Kind of Christian

I want to take a brief hiatus from the money series and touch on a book I've recently read. I’ve really enjoyed the emergent books I’ve read over the last year or so. The latest is Truth & The New Kind of Christian by R. Scott Smith. I thought it was great. It was helpful on a bunch of levels. In terms of the emerging church, it was highly complimentary in areas that I’ve also felt are strengths of the movement in general – approaching our culture as missionaries, matching life with doctrine, and others. He definitely doesn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, in my opinion. It was nice to think that I’m not crazy to think the movement isn’t all bad, but there are some things not worth buying.

Against the emerging church, Smith gives an insightful critique of McLaren (and Jones, who I haven’t read) and shows some of his conclusions to be issues of sinful arrogance rather than modernism (specifically referring to pastors with “bombproof” answers and faith with no room for doubt). There will be another post on “certainty” in faith because I found it pretty helpful.

Much of the book was a critique of postmodernism as a philosophy, particularly the issue of truth and language. It was bit over my head at times, but the reality of objective truth seems painfully obvious – even if we can’t always agree on what it is. The necessity of it seems iron-clad.

This was a helpful read for philosophical novices like me that shows practical implications for the life of the church moving forward in our culture. It is a critique of emerging churches, but a friendly one. Even Tony Jones (a leader in the emergent church and victim of Smith’s critiques) gives a kind recommendation of the book, noting Smith is a “friendly critic and a brother in Christ.”

Monday, September 3, 2007

Your Money and Your Life #5: The Character Foundation, Work Fair

The last post laid open the question of why getting rich quick can be troubling. I think this next one is a pretty important reason why getting rich quick is a dangerous temptation. We may be tempted to hurt others, oppressing others to get ahead.

Proverbs 13:23 The fallow ground of the poor would yield much food, but it is swept away through injustice.
Proverbs is hard on the lazy, and rightfully so. The wisdom writers let them know that the lazy deserve their poverty. But texts like the one above show this is not exclusively the case. Some are poor because they have been treated unjustly by people in positions of power. The wicked are wealthy in Proverbs at times, and it is dangerous. Here’s likely why … the wicked are more prone to oppress than the righteous.

Whatever fortune you’re building, make sure you work fairly. You may not run a sweatshop, but how do you treat your employees? Do you lead with humility, and more important to this sub-point, do you treat your employees well, with respect and fairness?

God has stern warnings for those who oppress. Work fair.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Your Money and Your Life #4: The Character Foundation, Work Hard



The last post dealt with humility. God gives us the ability to earn what we earn. We owe God much when it comes to our wealth. It is very much a gift from Him. Now we look at the flip-side of the coin when it comes to the character that can bear wealth well. We need to work hard.

Proverbs 10:4 A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.
This is a good time to note the nature of Proverbs. They aren’t iron-clad, true-in-every-circumstance promises. They are general truths to live by which means there could be some overlap and tension at time between proverbs. It isn’t that they are contradictory, but that they are general wisdom to applied differently in different situations.

In this case, Proverbs is generally clear. Hard workers are generally rich; the lazy are generally poor. We get in a “get-rich-quick” society. Think lottery and frivolous lawsuits. But that can be a problem. It is admittedly anecdotal, but I’ve heard the lottery destroys lives in many cases. This, too, aligns with Proverbs…

Proverbs 13:11 Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.
Why is this? Why is hastily gained wealth sometimes problematic? I think there are a couple reasons. First, I think part of it is that personal character isn’t built to carry the wealth well. The humility, righteousness, and hard work are not in place to carry the burden of wealth well. The next post will have another reason why getting rich quick is a dangerous temptation.

But for now, why do you think getting rich quick can be dangerous?

Friday, August 31, 2007

Your Money and Your Life #3: The Character Foundation, Humility

Humility seems as much a mismatch with wealth as righteousness, but Proverbs continues to be clear.

Proverbs 22:4 The reward for humility and fear of the LORD is riches and honor and life.
And it isn’t just a Proverbs thing. God is clear to Israel, as He is establishing them as a nation, that they ought not be prideful, but realize that God gives them the ability to do their work.

Deuteronomy 8:17-18 Beware lest you say in your heart, 'My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.' You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.
The ability to work is a gift from God. That means the stuff and money you work so hard for is a gift from Him by extension. This offers some tough, searching questions for each of us…

Whatever your wealth status may be, from obscene wealth to relatively little, where do you think it comes from? What do your inner attitudes toward your stuff reveal? What does your life show, your actions?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Your Money and Your Life #2: The Character Foundation, Righteousness

We often don’t associate wealth with character. It could be the starlet of the week who has been destroyed by the fatal cocktail of wealth and fame because there isn’t the maturity or character to stand up under it or corporate scandal that defrauds thousands of stockholders – also painfully routine. Proverbs agrees: “The wage of the righteous leads to life, the gain of the wicked to sin” (10:16). The next few posts will look at the character that God says lives well with wealth. In this one we’ll look at righteousness.
Proverbs 16:8 Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice.
Proverbs 28:6 Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.
Wealth is a tool. A powerful tool. It is deadly in the hands of the wicked, life-giving in the hands of the righteous. It is clear what we should strive for.

Righteousness isn’t easy, but it isn’t a mystery. It is a matter of submitting to God as He reveals Himself in Scripture, relating to Him in prayer and obeying Him in that, and submitting to other believers in community. Not easy. But there’s a clear path God has laid out for us.

How do you cultivate righteousness in your life as a believer? How does it affect your finances?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Welcome Cael!

The few people who read this blog likely know, but we welcomed our newest edition on Sunday...

Cael Rainier McElderry
6 lbs., 12 oz.
19.5 inches

He has two big sisters who are kissing him into submission, but he has yet to be put in a dress by them. Though I'm sure it won't be too long.

Your Money and Your Life #1: Introduction

I haven't posting much as of late ... obviously. But one way for more frequency is to post the different sections of my most recent sermon for points of discussion. We're going through Proverbs on Sunday mornings. We actually conclude this Sunday, but the next several posts will be my teaching on "Your Money and Your Life." I think it is challenging to most of us, if we let it. I hope it is helpful for you.

Listen to some of our culture’s wisdom on money and wealth.

John D. Rockefeller and Lee Iacocca agree that whatever you have, you want a little more.
George Bernard Shaw: “The lack of money is the root of all evil, not the love of it.”
Oscar Wilde said, “When I was young, I used to think that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am older I know that it is!”

(All found in The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart by Charles Swindoll)

From “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous” to “Cribs,” we don’t celebrate balance when it comes to wealth. We celebrate opulence, which should, if we take Proverbs seriously, scare us to death as believers.

Proverbs 30:7-9 Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, 9 lest I be full and deny you and say, "Who is the LORD?" or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.

Those Proverbs clash decidedly with our world’s perspective on wealth. How does this struggle challenge your thinking? Your practice?

The next several posts will tackle the issue of wealth and the believer in Proverbs – our money and our life.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

What next?

The college ministry is close to being finished with the sex series - just a couple more weeks. Any ideas on what to cover next? A book? Another topic? We've covered the first few chapters of Revelation and sex this summer ... where do you go from there?!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Praying With The Church #6: Jesus & Sacred Tradition

This is the last chapter I’ll cover of McKnight’s book, Praying With The Church. McKnight says Jesus’ prayer life was both traditional and innovative. His prayer life was immersed in the psalms, which is a good idea for any of us in our prayer lives. They help us really grapple with genuine emotion an engagement with God. Mark D. Roberts has a book on praying with the Psalms called No Holds Barred. Psalms help us relate with God on a real level.

The next aspect of Jesus’ prayer life is what McKnight calls the Jesus Creed. Faithful Jews recited the Shema, but Jesus adapted it by adding the love for one’s neighbor.

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
This was such a formative idea for the discipleship of the early church that McKnight thinks it might have been part of the daily prayer office.

McKnight says the instruction Jesus gives on prayer should be translated “whenever you pray … recite” the Lord’s Prayer. This is to be a feature of God’s people praying together. McKnight states his case bluntly: “The point I wish to make is a simple one. The Our Father prayer is to be recited whenever Christians pray together” (63). Notice the prayer is “our” Father, not “my” Father.

“Pray then like this: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matt. 6:9-13).
Here’s McKnight’s “Christian Prayer Day”

Morning = Jesus Creed, 10 Commandments (optional), Lord's Prayer
Afternoon = Lord's Prayer
Evening = Jesus Creed, 10 Commandments (optional), Lord's Prayer

The rest of McKnight’s book discusses the different prayer books of the different traditions – Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and The Divine Hours. I use the latter and I’ll discuss how it has been helpful in a future post.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

God is Not Great Debate: Western Civilization

I was at Hugh Hewitt's site recently and he has the second debate on Christianity with Christopher Hitchens. I have to admit I didn't listen to the first (with Mark D. Roberts), but I'll provide the link for this one. Hitchens debates with David Allen White on the contribution of Christianity to Western civilization. Go to Friday, August 10th once you get to the page. It is two hours long. Enjoy.

http://hughhewitt.townhall.com/talkradio/Show.aspx?RadioShowID=5

Monday, July 30, 2007

Praying With the Church #5: Jesus and Sacred Prayers

I haven’t been doing this much lately, but I’m still enjoying fixed hour prayer – even if my hours aren’t “fixed.” Perhaps “flexed hour prayer” would be the better term for me. Either way, it has been good. This post will give a brief summary of the ancient Jewish prayers that Jesus likely practiced – morning, noon, and night.

There are Catholic prayer books, Anglican/Episcopal, and Orthodox, not to mention The Divine Hours for the rest of us (the one I’m using). The ancient Jewish prayer book is what we call the Psalms. While some are intensely personal prayers, they are fit to be the prayer book of Israel. Another regular aspect of the Jewish liturgical life is the Shema: “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength” (Deut. 6.4-5). They also recited the Ten Commandments and something called, among other names, the Amidah:

Blessed art thou, Lord, God of our fathers, God of Abraham, God of Isaac and God of Jacob, great, mighty and fearful God, most high God who createst heaven and earth, our shield and the shield of our fathers, our trust in every generation.
Blessed art thou, Lord, shield of Abraham.

Grant us, our Father, the knowledge (that comes) from thee, and understanding and
discernment (that come) from thy Torah.
Blessed art thou, Lord, who grantest knowledge.

Bring thy peace over Israel, thy people, and over thy city and over thine inheritance; and bless all of us together.
Blessed art thou, Lord, who makest peace. (McKnight 48).
These three elements were what Israel prayed at their hours of prayer. McKnight says it would look like this:
Psalms all the time and throughout the day.
Morning = Shema, (10 Commandments), and Amidah
Afternoon = Amidah
Evening = Shema, (10 Commandments), and Amidah

Most people who might stumble upon this blog are likely of a similar stripe as myself, hesitant to use the words of others to pray – the fear of vain repetition. But I find my prayers take on their own vain repetition as I either get lazy in articulating my prayers or I am in a request rut. I love what McKnight says about Scripture and prayer that might help those of us who are more hesitant to toy with this kind of prayer:

“…let’s probe this concern about repetition in another way. This question may actually be masking another issue, one that is part of the hesitation to use prayers written by others. Our tendency is to go to the Bible for something new, to read it in the expectation of a fresh discovery of something we did not know or had not heard or had completely forgotten. As a professor who teaches the Bible, I know the
experience.

“But the discovery of something new is not the sole, or even the main, purpose for reading the Bible. The longer you look at the idea that we read the Bible to find new meanings, the sillier it becomes. We read and return to the Bible not (just) to find something new but to hear something old, not to discover something fresh but to be reminded of something ancient.

“What we find in the sacred rhythm and sacred prayer tradition of Israel is the wise recitation of those passages in the Bible most central to spirituality, passages we need to be reminded of daily because of their importance for how we are to conduct ourselves before God and with others” (50-51).
Does this resonate with anyone else?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Praying With the Church #4: Jesus and Sacred Rhythms

I’ve been dabbling with fixed hour prayer for about a week now and I’m really enjoying it and finding it helpful. I’ll get to that in a few posts (if I’m still sticking with it), but looking at Jesus’ prayer life is a helpful guide that might help us stick with fixed hour prayer. Jesus was a faithful Jew and would have prayed regularly – at least three times per day.

Being from less of a liturgical background, I was surprised at the clarity of fixed hour prayer in the OT (Ps. 55.17; Dan. 6.10) and it is historically how Jews pray. Jesus doesn’t criticize public prayer in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 6), but praying to be seen.

OK. I’ll talk about my experience a little bit because it fits so well with the rhythm of prayer. I don’t want to belabor it, and I’m not proud of it, but I’m not a great pray-er. It is work for me. I don’t gravitate to it naturally. But I am doing it more. Why? I think it is because three times a day I “touch base” with God in prayer. I’m lingering with God more at fixed hours, which makes me want to linger with Him at other times as well.

What is your day built around? Punching the clock at work? Meals? How about prayer?

Friday, July 20, 2007

Praying With the Church #3: Jesus, Sacred Time, and Sacred Term

McKnight covers at least four aspects of Jesus’ prayer life, Sacred Time, Term, Rythms, and Prayers. We’ll cover the first two on this post.

What was Jesus’ sacred time? It is clear from the first chapter of Mark’s gospel that it was likely a habit for Him to pray early in the morning (since His disciples knew where to find Him), but He also prayed all the time, particularly when making momentous decisions like choosing the Twelve and going to the cross. Paul tells us to pray without ceasing in 1 Thess. 5.

So Jesus prayed faithfully, but on what terms? How did He address God? Abba, Father. And He has called us to do the same. McKnight states:

If we are to learn from Jesus, we will do well to begin with this: We need to open our hearts to God on a constant basis with the trust that God wants us to share our lives with him so he can share his life with us.
How does your prayer life match the sacred time and term that Jesus established as an example for us?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Happy Anniversary!

Thank God for 10 wonderful years with my phenomenal wife, Suzanne. May God grant us many more decades as good, or better, than the last one!

Praying With the Church #2: Why?

Near the end of my Sabbatical and my first couple days back I read Praying with the Church by Scot McKnight (see link below). Why? I think prayer is the most difficult discipline for me to maintain in my life. It is frustrating, guilt-inducing, et al. But I love to read. I’ve found that my prayer life improves when I’m reading something about prayer and experimenting, etc… I try to read at least one book on prayer per year. It has probably led to more head info than practice, but it is generally helpful for a season. And when prayer is the struggle it is for me, I’ll take it. (The nature of the struggle to pray is probably worthy of another post.)

There’s another reason why, however. When I read Prayer by Richard Foster I was drawn to the chapter on liturgical prayer. I bought a Common Book of Prayer to help me. It was confusing and after mediocre effort in deciphering it, I gave up. But I’m drawn to the liturgical lately. I feel like us evangelicals are missing something of the tradition and roots of our historical faith, even if it isn’t something specifically in the Bible. I admit it might be simply a romantic notion that might bore me to death if I actually practiced it, but I’m drawn to the romanticism of it nonetheless.

McKnight’s book is about using the prayer books of the great branches of the Christian church – Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Anglican. He also directs on how to use a modern one that I’ve been dabbling with the last couple days, The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle.

That’s “why” I read it. McKnight has his own reasons that are more substantive than mine and well worth reading. The next post will discuss the biblical basis for “fixed hour” prayer, which was quite a lesson for a guy with Baptist/Vineyard/Free Church background.

The book: http://www.amazon.com/Praying-Church-Following-Jesus-Hourly/dp/1557254818/ref=sr_1_1/105-5207489-3278011?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1184912372&sr=8-1

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Praying With the Church #1: Intro

Note: Originally posted on 7/10, but I just ran into it when working on this series of posts.

A few days ago I finished Praying With the Church by Scot McKnight. It is a book on fixed hour prayer. When we participate in this "liturgical" prayer, we are not praying "in" a church, necessarily, but "with" the universal church across all kinds of traditions. McKnight says it was a great help to his prayer life, helping him touch base with God a few times each day, which kept him closer the rest of the day as well. I'm intrigued and would like to try it. He mentioned several prayer books, the easiest being Phylis Tickle's The Divine Hours. I'll pick up a copy and give it a go once I find my Barnes & Noble gift cards from my birthday.

Go to McKnight's blog and check the right column for online versions of the different daily prayer opportunities. http://www.jesuscreed.org/.

Have you ever done "fixed hour" prayer (or whatever else it may be called)? What was your experience?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Most Popular Christian Blogs

I was over at Hugh Hewitt's blog and noticed a link to a list of the Top 100 Christian Blogs. I've heard of a few. Enjoy.

http://www.evangelicaloutpost.com/archives/003806.html

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Who, me?

I’m still working on St. Augustine’s Confessions. It is still some good food for thought. Looking back, in his spiritual autobiography, he remembers how he viewed sin as a young man, which doesn’t seem far from how our culture, even within the church, sometimes views sin. Consider this:
It still seemed to me that it is not we who sin, but some other nature within us that is responsible. My pride was gratified at being exculpated by this theory: when I had done something wrong it was pleasant to avoid having to confess that I had done it, a confession that would have given you [God] a chance to heal this soul of mine that had sinned against you. On the contrary, I liked to excuse myself and lay the blame on some other force that was with my but was not myself. But in truth it was all myself, and my sin was the more incurable for my conviction that I was not a sinner” (89).
Maybe it’s me, but Augustine doesn’t seem like a “the devil made me do it” kind of guy. Self-examination may not be fun, but it can certainly be used of God to move us toward godliness. If you dare, pray along with David: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalms 139:23-24).

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Encouragement to be patient in prayer

I'm working through Augustine's Confessions and he has this great section about how he's deceiving his mother (before he was a Christian) to move to Rome to teach a new group of students.

That same night I left by stealth; she did not, but remained behind praying and weeping. And what was she begging of you, my God, with such abundant tears? Surely, that you would not allow me to sail away. But in your deep wisdom you acted in her truest interests: you listened to the real nub of her longing and took no heed of what she was asking at this particular moment, for you meant to make me into what she was asking for all the time (86).
I thought this helpful for those prayers that seem unanswered or even answered in the negative.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Death by Ministry?

I was just perusing Rhett Smith's blog (http://www.rhettsmith.com/) and he linked to Mark Driscoll's series called "Death by Ministry." It would be worth checking out if you're in leadership. I haven't read it all, but the first post (#1, not the one at the top of the page) is interesting and frightening in some regard. If you're a leader at Cypress Church, you may hear from these posts again in some leadership venue.

Here's the link to Driscoll: http://www.theresurgence.com/md_blog_2007-06-13_death_by_ministry_part_1

Monday, July 9, 2007

Back to Work!


I haven't posted for a bit, but, since Sunday, July 8th, I've been back to work. Thanks again to Cypress Church, the elders, the Trustees, and Pastor Mike for making the sabbatical possible. It was a great time for me and my family. I hope it is a benefit to the church as well. Well, back to work. I'll be preaching this Sunday on friendship in Proverbs. I'd love any friendship insights or stories you have.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Sabbatical #26: Confessional Prayer (Path of Celtic Prayer #7)

It is likely something comes to mind when you hear “confession.” Miller says there are three ways to define it – confessing a creed, confessing personal sin, and confessions in the sense of a spiritual autobiography, like Augustine’s, for instance. At its most foundational level, confession is agreeing with God. This is where power for prayer is unleashed because it is evidence of a trusting step toward union with God.

We tend to be too much like our first parents who passed the buck when God came calling after their sin (see Genesis 3) rather than agreeing with God that we’ve done wrong. We’re quick to justify or slow to name our sin and own it. But when we do, we take down the barriers between us and God, it puts us in step with Him. And the goal of our prayer, and the source of our power in prayer is union with Christ.

Listen to Miller:

Here is where the eternal God in Christ drops his huge hand over the threshold of our sinfulness to hold hands with us. This is precisely what the incarnation was about. We want to be one with Christ, and this oneness is born in our willingness to live in agreement concerning our sin and his forgiveness (p. 142).

Miller gives a three part “pilgrimage” in confession. It starts with longing for God and then moves to agreeing that our sin is sin, agreeing with God in this fact. The final aspect of it is not some worm theology, but finding ourselves in abandoning ourselves to God and serving Him. This will bring us into a “dangerously close” relationship with God.

Miller offers several forms in this book, but notes that confession is the “hardest to formalize” (p. 155). Even so, he offers a template that might be helpful. Start by praying this prayer, and then use the following template as a tool (pp. 156-158).



I come to you Father, acknowledging my longing after you.
I come to you Son of the Father, acknowledging that my sin has met the cross.
I come to you Spirit, asking you to fill me so that I may keep my place of ministry in bringing the world to a full confession of its own.


To you, merciful Father, I pray, against you have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.
To you, merciful Son of the Father, I pray, wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
To you, merciful Spirit, I pray, create in me a pure heart.

Now believing in your cleansing and trusting in your mercy, I offer you this confession:

I, [YOUR NAME HERE], freely acknowledge my sin.


I take no credit for my redemption, yet I know it stands in place forever, as eternal as grace itself. Give ear to my desperate longing for you, O Father.

For this is how I feel my neediness, and express my longing:

I agree with you that I have sinned. I express what my sins have cost you and how in the past they have barred me from the fullest relationship I might have had with you.



I am seeking that perfect expression of your will for me in the world. Help me rediscover what every moment holds for me so that I can serve you in the exact manner you will equip me to serve. Here is the substance of my search:



Here is the story of how I first met you, how I first felt a longing for your love.



Here I rehearse my first feeling of brokenness for our years of separation and the joy of my homecoming.



As a final expression of my confession, I write out here in prayer my calling in the world. As far as I know here is what you have called me to do and when my service is to begin.



Father to you I give thanks for my purpose.
Son to you I give thanks for your cross and my redemption.
Spirit to you I give thanks for empowering my ministry in the world.

Amen, Father Almighty.
Amen, Son who saves.
Amen, Spirit who empowers.

Sabbatical #25: “Lorica” Prayer (Path of Celtic Prayer #6)

“Lorica” prayer is “breastplate” prayer, prayer for protection. This isn’t self-preservation for its own sake. Rather, it is that one may fulfill what God has called a person to do in this life and have the strength to do it.

This can be challenging for us on two fronts. First, many of us may have a tendency to miss the heart of the prayer and make it about us and our longevity rather than our commitment to fulfilling God’s mission with our lives. Our lives are not our own – they belong to God.

The other challenge is that we, at least I, often think I go to the doctor to get healthy. The modern mind thinks health is largely in our own hands – unlike the Celts who lived on the edge of life and death more often than not. Now don’t get me wrong. I love those who have discovered God’s ways through science and medicine for the benefit of us all. But let us not forget that God has our hairs numbered. He’s in control. He holds our lives in His hands. Let’s pray to Him for protection.

An example prayer is this “Breastplate of Laidcenn”…

O God, defend me everywhere
With your impregnable power and protection.
Deliver all my mortal limbs,
Guarding each with your protective shield,
So the foul demons shall not hurl their darts
Into my side, as is their wont.

Deliver my skull, hair-covered head, and eyes,
Mouth, tongue, teeth, and nostrils,
Neck, breast, side, and limbs,
Joints, fat, and two hands.

Be a helmet of safety to my head,
To my crown covered with hair,
To my forehead, eyes, and triform brain,
To snout, lip, face, and temple.

To my chin, beard, eyebrows, ears,
Chaps, cheeks, septum, nostrils,
Pupils, irises, eyelids, and the like,
To gums, breath, jaws, gullet.

Protect my spine and ribs and their joints,
Back, ridge, and sinews with their bones;
Protect my skin and blood with kidneys,
The area of the buttocks, nates with thighs.
Protect my hams, calves, femurs,
Houghs and knees with knee-joints;
Protect my ankes and shins and heels,
Shanks, feet with their soles.

Protect my toes growing together,
With the tips of the toes and twice five nails;
Protect my breast, collarbone and small breast,
Nipples, stomach, and navel.

Protect the whole of me with my five senses,
Together with the ten created orifices,
So that from soles of feet to crown of head
I shall not sicken in any organ inside or out. (pp. 125-126)
Did they forget anything? I'm not even sure of what all those are. Bottom line: God is our protector. Pray for your protection and of those who God puts on your heart.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Sabbatical #24: Nature Prayer (Path of Celtic Prayer #5)


I read this chapter a few days ago, but just yesterday I went with Suzanne and our girls on a drive to Mt. Rainier to play in the snow. It was a brief time in the snow, but a great drive to look at beautiful forests, snow patches, rivers, waterfalls, and craggy ledges all about. It was beautiful.

We control our environments so much that we can easily forget, apart from the natural tragedies on CNN, the wonder and power of God’s created world. The Celts lived in nature and had a hearty appreciation for it. So much so that they could be considered by some to cross the line into nature worship. According to Miller, though, their goal was to celebrate the great God behind nature, not nature.

Nature gives us a picture of God’s character and should evoke wonder and praise in us. Note this choice quote from Miller challenges the modern “inside” world that most of us inhabit…

A supersized God makes us aware of our smallness and our humble place in the universe. But in order to see him, we must give up our addiction to electronic media. Once we have seen the God of Yosemite and the Everglades, we will be better able to celebrate his awesome reality and our hearts will overflow with praise. Cognizant of God’s majesty, we will subsequently and spontaneously confess our need. (pp. 104-105)
It’s easy for me to say, up here in Washington where Mt. Rainier reminds of God’s greatness whenever the sky is clear (come to think of it, maybe not that easy!), but take some time – even in looking at the details of creation in your garden – to be reminded of God’s greatness through His creation. Go to the beach. Or the mountains.

And think on some awe-inspiring texts as well. Start with Job 38-39.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Sabbatical #23: The Taste of Sin


I’ve started reading The Confessions by St. Augustine. He talks about stealing some pears as an adolescent simply for the rush of stealing. He didn’t want to eat the pears. He didn’t need them. He just wanted to steal. He had a taste for sin. His discussion on motives is a good reminder that we need to resist sin and be with God in prayer, fasting, Scripture, and the rest of the disciplines that we might cultivate a taste for godliness rather than sin, particularly when good things are used to lead us into the corruption of that good thing, ending in sin. Here’s what Augustine has to say…

Sin gains entrance through these and similar good things when we turn to them with immoderate desire, since they are the lowest kind of goods and we thereby turn away from the better and higher: from you yourself, O Lord our God, and your truth and your law. These lowest goods hold delights for us indeed, but no such delights as does my God, who made all things; for in him the just man finds delight, and for upright souls he himself is joy (31).
It is a reminder of the oft-quoted words that Augustine shares near the beginning of his work, “…you have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is unquiet until it rests in you” (3).

Sabbatical #22: Wandering Prayer (Path of Celtic Prayer #4)

I should be better at wandering prayer. I’ve been walking around Lake Wilderness out here in Maple Valley, WA. Believe me, I’m not fast so wandering may be the most apt description of what I do.

The Celts had guys that were called perigrini, wanderers. They would start walking or riding in their boat, trusting Jesus as their guide. They had no destination. Their joy was being on the journey with Jesus, led by Jesus. This helps to keep us constantly in prayer. This is a lifestyle we’re called to embrace.


Whatever our apparent earthly destinations, our life itself is a
pilgrimage. Once we understand we will never “arrive,” we can remain in a
continual state of prayer. This doesn’t mean we are always talking to
God. The fullest definition of long, wandering prayer is journeying in the
presence of the triune God. And even when our hearts are not wrapped (or
rapt) in conversation with the Almighty, we are yet in his presence (p. 79).

Miller talks much about life as a journey. I agree, but this has been helpful for me in a practical day-to-day sense, too. This “journeying” prayer reminds me to shut the radio off in the car. To pray while I walk. There’s some who do a good job of this, like my wife. Not me, though. This is a good, helpful reminder.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Sabbatical #21: Don’t Forget Elizabeth!

I was just reading Luke 1.39-56. What a rich passage! The thing that swept me up in the story (perhaps another post on Eugene Peterson’s Eat This Book) was Elizabeth’s response when Mary arrived.

Think about Elizabeth for a minute. She’s pregnant with a miracle baby of her own and her husband saw an angel in the process. But when Mary walks through the door, she becomes totally self-forgetful. She doesn’t swap stories with Mary. No. Instead she, and John in her womb, delight at the presence of the King – still in the womb of his teenage mother.

What a picture of worship. I’m trying to connect more deeply with God during this sabbatical, but I find that a lot of my time is focused on me getting connected with Him rather than just losing myself in Him, delighting in Him, worshiping Him. That’s the union that God wants for our lives. Thanks, Elizabeth, for the picture that I exist to delight in Him and everything else revolves around that.

My purpose is to worship Him, to be come self-forgetful in His presence. When I do that, potential idols are put in their place. And I’m not just talking about money and that stuff, though that’s true, too. I’m talking about the idolatry of self, or of being a great husband, or worshiping my kids in the sense that our family’s life revolves around them. It doesn’t. It revolves around God – when everything’s working as it should. A worship-centered life isn’t one that is irresponsible. Everything will be taken care of, but in its proper place.

Sabbatical #20: Praying Scripture (Path of Celtic Prayer #3)

One key element of Celtic prayer was praying God’s Word back to God. Their goal was not to ask God for stuff so much as union with Christ. Scripture was seen as “literature born on the high ledges between this world and the next” (54). What better way to strengthen our union with God than by communicating to Him in His language?

What are the strengths of praying Scripture? First, it helps us listen to God’s Word – it moves from the eyes to our ears (via our own mouths). Next, it reminds us that prayer isn’t about us only, but about union with the Triune God. Finally, it can unite the church as we pray together God’s Word corporately.

Miller goes on to talk about the spiritual power in Scripture in several ways. In the struggle with sin, go to Rom. 7.25-8.1. When going through difficult times, read/pray Psalm 23. When grieving, read/pray 1 Cor. 15.51-58. For those who are facing their final days, reading/praying 2 Tim. 4 can be of great comfort.

I actually tried this the other day. I’m working through Luke (this passage is 1.26-38). Here’s what it looked like for me. Maybe it will be of help to you. Maybe not.

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, "Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!" 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.
Lord, may I receive Your Word – through Scripture, prayer, whatever – with the same gravity as Mary. May I not take you lightly, but cultivate an awe for You and the fact that You would communicate with me.
30 And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."
Thank You for Jesus and the wonderful Savior He is. Thank you that there will never be anyone like Him, nor has there ever been. Help me enjoy His greatness and become increasingly conformed to His image.
34 And Mary said to the angel, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?" 35 And the angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy- the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God."
Lord, I praise your infinite greatness. Help me live in the reality that nothing is impossible with you and to live and pray like I believe it.
38 And Mary said, "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.
God, help me become the kind of person who, regardless of what You ask, will say "let it be to me according to your word.”
This was a profitable experience that has helped bring my Bible reading to life, even if just for a couple days at this point.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Sabbatical #19: Be Our Guest?

I miss my family. Suzanne, Eliana, and Vivian will be here tomorrow evening, and I can’t wait. But I also miss my church family. Being immersed in church life, it’s been almost 10 years since we’ve looked for a new church. I’ve visited a couple mega-churches where anonymity is expected, but over the last couple weeks I’ve tried to visit smaller churches. I couldn’t find the church I was looking for in Milwaukee, but it was my discomfort with Plan B that I wanted to post about.

I was in the neighborhood, I presume, of the church I was looking for but couldn’t find (I’m becoming increasingly disenchanted with Mapquest) and I saw a Lutheran church. I’ve never been to a Lutheran church. I thought about going, but I worried that I wasn’t dressed nicely enough. I wasn’t sure where to park. So I didn’t. I went and read my Bible at a coffee shop.

Now the Lutherans are our brothers and sisters, as far as I understand Lutheranism. And still I was not comfortable going there. It put me in the position of the guests who come to Cypress Church. It can be awkward, intimidating to go to church, particularly when you aren’t a believer.

But what if you actually get in the door and make it to church? I did that yesterday (Father’s Day) and I was greeted at the door and someone shook my hand when I left. The senior pastor did, too. It was nice, but nobody else talked to me. I felt alone (reason #587 that I can’t wait for my family to get here!), which didn’t trouble me to a great degree. But what about the person who was dying for someone to reach out to them, to show them the love of Christ?

To be fair, this is one of the bigger churches in my hometown and I was really impressed with the church in many other ways. I’d probably go back and I’d have to make the effort to get plugged in to their community.

I’m thankful for the great ministries that welcome people, like the Greeters and the Connection Center, but there’s no substitute for the person sitting in the row behind you tapping you on the shoulder, welcoming you to the church, and maybe even inviting you to lunch.

Sabbatical #18: Happy (Belated) Father's Day!

Happy Belated Father’s Day to any who might be checking today. I had a good time with my dad and brother – we went out to Thai food. Before that I went to my dad’s house and we put pavers in. We’re having a family reunion in a couple weeks. I think more than anything my dad taught me how to work. It wasn’t always fun, but it something I am incredibly thankful for now.

My form of work has changed significantly, however. I was reminded of this by the work I did with my dad yesterday … pavers. I don’t think I’ve ever been this sore the day after anything like I am today. Last night I couldn’t dial my cell phone without much effort – thumbs shaking, and everything. I’m totally worn out, but it was a joy to work hard with my hands, something I rarely do now.

At the same time, it isn’t anything I want to do day in and day out. But I am thankful for all the people who work hard with their hands. It is a proud part of my heritage and we couldn’t live without them.

I hope you had a good time with your dads and were able to honor them.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Sabbatical #17: Trinity Prayer (Path of Celtic Prayer #2)

While we tend to go to different members of the Godhead depending on the content of prayer (praise the Father for creation, ask Jesus for help on daily stuff, and ignore the Spirit), the Celts regularly prayed to the Trinity, particularly in the morning and in the evening (“If I die before I wake; I pray the Lord my soul to take” is Celtic because they thought evil spirits could steal souls in the middle of the night). Here’s an example of a “typical morning prayer,” according to Miller:

I awake in the name of the Father who made me.
I arise in the name of the Son who died to save me.
I rise to greet the dawn in the name of the Spirit who fills me with life.
The evening prayer was similar:

I lay me down in the love of my Father.
I surrender my body to rest in the love of my Savior.
I trust my life in sleep to the Spirit who fills me with life.
Miller suggests writing your own morning and evening prayers with more personal and expanded “endings” to the prayer prompts (48-49). Here’s what he gives, if you’re interested.

Morning
Holy God,
I am rising today in the name of the Father who…



I am rising today in the name of the Son who…



I am rising today in the name of the Spirit who…


Evening
God of all that is and was and shall be, for this day and its fullness I give you thanks;
Thank you father for the Earth and its endless beauty. Thank you especially for…



Thank you, Son, for your example of obedience to your Father which taught me faithfulness this day as I endeavored to…



Thank you, Spirit, for your infilling of my life, I especially thank you for your presence today as you walked with me through…



Father, give me sleep tonight, so that my praise in the morning may…



Son, wake me in obedience tomorrow so that I may…



Spirit, offer me your presence tomorrow so that I may…



Amen


I haven't had a chance to work on it, but it seems like a fruitful exercise to even do once, let alone make it part of one's devotional practice.