Monday, September 14, 2009

You need Devotion

As the NFL season begins, rabid football fans will declare their loyalties and devotion to their teams. Some will wear favorite player's uniforms. Others will paint their faces in their favorite team's colors. Devotion is something that is not lacking in our world, whether it is a devotion to our country, our school, our jobs, or our favorite football teams. As Christians, God calls us to be devoted as well. Luke in Acts 2:42 described the early church as a group devoted to the apostles' teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayers. As Christians, what are we devoted to? Is our life a reflection of these four "marks" of the church? Do we have a devotion to God's word? Do we have a devotion to hanging out with each other? Do we have a devotion to the sacraments of the church and to worship? Do we have a devotion to prayers? In the tradition of rabid football fans, Jews have a tradition of showing their devotion to the word by writing scripture on their bodies and all over their homes. Catholics show their devotion to prayer through pocket-sized rosaries. As I think about devotion, how can I be devited more to my faith and express that devotion in a tangible way?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Need glasses?

For about as long as I can remember, I've been basically blind without the aid of glasses or contacts. A quick glance around my office with my naked eye reminds me of this fact. The picture of my wife and me on my desk looks like two brown blurs, with one of us (presumably my wife) having a black, blobby blur on top of it with both brown blurs surrounded by a silver blob. The emergency exit sign on top of the back door appears like a red traffic light would appear to a slightly inebriated driver on a dark, rainy night. (Not that I would have first hand knowledge, wink wink!) The calendar on the wall opened to the month of August with a beautiful picture of a river valley looks like a distorted white and green spot.
Often our naked, unaided desires to seek God are much like my naked eye seeing the world. We squint and squint trying to see God, guessing at the blobs, wondering if what we think is God working really is God working. Unfortunately, much of what passes as "spirituality" is marked by this same sort of conjecture. We think we have a clear view of God but don't realize that without some aid, we are merely seeing blobs. Bottom line: We need glasses! Fortunately, God has sent us glasses to help us get a better sense of him in the world. The theologian John Calvin, from whom I graciously stole this metaphor, reminded us over 400 years ago that Scripture is like glasses given to help us see God. But God has also blessed us with other glasses. He has given us a community called the church, through whom years and years of reflection on God, Scripture, and the world help us to see God more clearly. He also blesses us with the "glasses" of suffering. Job reflected on this when he said in Job 42:5, "Now my eyes have seen you!" This was after Job's trial of suffering where he lost his children, health, and wealth. God became clearer to me when I was out of work for nine months after dropping out of grad school. He was able to sustain me when I was no longer depending on "me." I was able to see him clearer as a result.
Never grow to the point where you start to believe that you need nothing and no one in order to grow closer to God. Our vision is blurred because of sin, our perspective, our background, and our limited knowledge. Yet God graciously has provided us with glasses so that, in spite of our impediments, we can one day clearly see him.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

What does God see?


Image is everything! I still believe that slogan to the old Canon (or was it Minolta) commercial with Andre Agassi holds true today…And from reading the Scripture this week, it apparently held true yesterday as well. This week I read the story of the calling of David in 1 Samuel 16. The story goes that God had lost his patience with King Saul and was taking the kingship of Israel away from him and bestowing it upon another. The prophet Samuel is instructed to go to the house of Jesse in Bethlehem to find this new king. Samuel goes to Bethlehem, has an "invitation-only" worship service where he invites Jesse and the clan. The family comes in and Samuel is immediately drawn to Eliab. Maybe it's because he's the oldest. Maybe it's because he's tall or attractive. But something about Eliab led Samuel to believe he was the one that was to be the next king. But God has a way of shattering our belief in appearances and image. He tells Samuel literally, "God does not see what man sees." As I look at my life, I wonder what does God see? On the outside, I'm a good churchgoing person who tries to live a moral life. I certainly have the appearance of a good Christian. But I struggle in my heart with extreme selfishness and lust, attributes that I'm able to hide from the world with some degree of success. As I look at the church, I wonder what does God see? Does he see a church more concerned with image and appearances than with spiritual growth? Does he see a church that is busy with everything except kingdom building? God does not see what man can see nor can man even begin to see what God sees. God saw the next king of Israel in a "ruddy" shepherd boy named David, the son that Jesse didn't even bother to bring. When he looks into your life, I wonder what will God see?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Seriousness of Sin


    I was reading the famous story of the Israelites and the Bronze Serpent, a story that Jesus references in John 3 when he says "Just as the serpent was lifted in the desert so must the son of Man be lifted. " The story goes that the Israelites, in typical fashion, were complaining about being in the desert. "They spoke against God and against Moses," according to well, Moses himself, saying, "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food." Well, God didn't like this complaining and he promptly sent serpents among the people causing many of them to die. At first glance this seems mean and capricious. After all, can't people have a right to complain or to voice their protest? Well, yes they can but there is a difference between complaining and questioning the providence and justice of God. This act was not just a mere complaint but an act of rebellion. They were suggesting that God, the one who had delivered them from Egypt and Moses, his emissary, were no longer worthy of being their leaders. Let's take a modern example. Let's say that I and a few of my like minded friends decided to storm the White House in protest of its sovereignty. There is a name for this act. It's called treason. The punishment for treason is death. Make no mistake about it. The Israelites were declaring treason on God. God, in protecting his sovereignty, punished the rebels. This is a picture of God's response, by the way, to all sin. All sin is a rebellion against God. It is a way of saying "I don't care what your word says or what you believe. I'm going to do what I want and ignore your rule." Well, we can certainly do that, but the consequence for that rebellion, for that act of treason is death. Sin is serious. We must constantly see it in that light and be thankful that God, in spite of our rebellion, provides a snake in the desert or a Son on a cross to provide grace and life!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

What’s your gift??

The past couple of months I've been leading a men's group in spiritual gifts….Mine turn out to be teaching and helping… My weakest are evangelism and mercy…pretty scary, huh?? It's my ISTP makeup I guess (for those unfamiliar with Myers-Briggs it basically means I'm an uptight introvert). One thing I've taken away is that God has intended ministry to not be a one man show but to me a team effort. God blesses us with different gifts so that we can work together for the good of the body. That means that preachers (most of whom are gifted teachers) can't be the evangelist and the mercy giver and the administrator and the servant and the teacher…well you get the idea..A church works best when it places members in the places where they are most equipped….By the way, what is your gift?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Talk is Cheap?

People used to say that talk is cheap. I used to believe that until I heard Tuesday's speech by the President. Evidently talk just got a lot more expensive! Like 3.6 trillion dollars expensive… I understand and appreciate the president's desire to be vigilant and compassionate. Yet there is something to be said about the virtues of prudence and stewardship. My fear is that the devil of these various spending bills will be in the details. President Obama may have good intentions for this money, but once this money gets to the local level, I can be fairly certain that the projects that will be funded will be politically motivated. In other words, the "infrastructure" and "investment" projects will happen to go to the people who are Obama cronies or who are powerful Democratic political players. Unfortunately, there are more Rod Blagojovichs out there that are eagerly anticipating the reception of this money. As for stewardship, let me gently and respectfully remind President Obama that the money he is spending belongs to other people. Spending it willy-nilly on projects and programs he approves of is not a wise use of this money. I personally would rather see more incentives for investment and the rest of the money go not to propping up failing businesses, but for unemployment benefits to the people who will fall through the cracks. But that's just a thought…

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Great Life

    Today I went to the funeral of a friend of mine named Willie. Willie wasn't a great man, at least by the standards that men are often considered great. He attended a public high school here in St. Louis, although I'm not sure if he graduated. Willie didn't possess a large house. In fact, he lived in a nursing home, although he was only in his forties. Willie, for the last several years, battled a failing body, a body assaulted weekly by dialysis and other medical procedures. He didn't have a mastery of grammatical diction. (One time he told me he was going to dialysis, I thought he said he was going to Dallas!) He didn't possess a ton of charisma. Many at our church didn't even know who he was when his death was announced although he attended church frequently enough. Yet Willie's greatness came from his implicit understanding that greatness in the kingdom came from simplicity, the simplicity that Jesus associated with children. Willie simply loved Jesus and loved people. He always had a smile for everyone he met. He always said kind words about others, even those who were hateful toward him at his nursing home. The last words he shared with me were words of encouragement. He said he enjoyed my teaching and that he learned a lot from my class. Sometimes greatness comes in packages we don't expect. Jesus said something about the rules in his kingdom would be inverted; the first would be last and the last first. Willie wasn't a great man, at least by the standards that men are considered great. But he was great by God's standards and he will be missed.

Monday, February 16, 2009

I’m here…again



Ok, So I published a blog about a year ago..and never came back..Oh well…Call it technical difficulties…Call it laziness..Call it life…But hopefully as I try to rededicate (as if I was dedicated in the first place) to a disciplined life, I hope to be more frequent in my blogging. Well, I've heard some news has happened in the past year…The economy is shot, we elected a black president, and the Arizona Cardinals went to the Super Bowl. At least two of those three things I thought would never happen…But who cares about the past? What am I doing now? Well, I'm looking to serve as a minister full time…Anyone looking for a misfit preacher??? I've lost 15 pounds so now I can finally fit into that suit that my wife bought me…(How vain is that? Losing weight just to fit into a suit…) I also have been reading some interesting stuff, listening to great music, and thinking random thoughts that I hope to share with you. Call this my reintroduction to the blogosphere…I'm BAAAACK!!!!! HELLO??? CAN ANYBODY HEAR ME????