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Monday, January 31, 2011

What's Love Got to Do With It? : Love 101

For all the things that college actually teaches you and equips you to learn, it simply cannot tell you about love. Now, you may learn about love at college by accident, but college in of itself is not prepared for such a momentous and sagacious task.

Wouldn't it have been nice though?

What would such a class look like? Who would teach it? Who would be qualified to teach it?

Is there anyone who is qualified? No, not one.

However, the Scriptures have a little bit to say about love; other than the kingdom of God, it is the most dominate theme in Scripture. The Apostle John writes in I John 4:16 that, God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. Clearly, if we wish to learn about love, we simply look to God, but who can show us God?

The Apostle Paul, in Colossians 1:19, commends to us that, in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. Who is the “him” Paul is referring to? Previously in Colossians 1:13 we see that, he (meaning God) has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son. So, then the fullness of God is found in the “beloved Son,” who is the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is almost Valentine’s Day again, the time of year where everyone gets all romantic and conjures up the warm fuzzies for that special someone. Most of what we celebrate and what this holiday represents is decidedly not love. Romance is only the initial and a relatively minor part of love (though romance in of itself is certainly not bad). Love is so much more than the weak feelings and ridiculous lack of self control we associate with it. Love is found only in relationship and communion with Jesus Christ.

What is Love?

Love finds its source in God.

Jesus states in John 15:9, that as the Father has loved me (Jesus), so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If love finds its definition in God, then naturally it must come from God. Human “love” is simply companionship, familial ties, or some other network of mutual existence; human love is based on one’s disposition toward me. However, God’s love is capable of showing compassion and service toward those who hate me or could care less about me. We simply cannot love like that; it is a love that comes only from God and Jesus personified this kind of love while on earth.

We need to abide in Christ’s love, meaning we need to be constantly filled with the love of Christ through the Gospel. We need to remember that our sins are forgiven and that God’s grace has the power to take our wretched lives and make them something great and beautiful. Christ is glorious in both his death and his resurrection; this is the power of the Gospel.

To be continued.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Cross and the Flag: Republicans are PCs and Democrats are Trying to be Macs

There is something to be said for the political landscape in America; the old world of the 1950s - early 1990s has completely faded into the background and the 21st century has ushered in a completely new society with all sorts of new issues at stake.

One party understands that and is trying to adjust with the times, while the other party wants to pretend that the 1990s never ended; that the world is still the same.

Mind you, I am not a Liberal Democrat, but I am also not a Conservative Republican; I am an independent voter and thinker and so this is not a biased “haha, my party is better!”

What I got from listening to President Barack Obama’s speech last night (besides the insanely optimistic progressive rhetoric) was the President, though he has been somewhat of an enigma since taking office, wants to be conciliatory and has some actual good ideas. It at least appears to me to he is trying to get some sort of intellectual discussion going on the Hill.

It is also very clear that the Republicans want to act like the Constitution is the Bible and does not need to be constantly updated and evaluated to meet the needs of our citizenry. Instead of being willing to try some new ideas and to give us some sort of direction, the GOP has decided to emphasize the “o” which stands now, not for “ole,” but for “old.” They do not want innovation; they want the same old Conservative agenda that favors corporations and people who make over 250,000 a year; every time you point that out they scream “socialism” or “class warfare” at the top of their lungs. Why? Because it is their money that is at stake; their greed is what fuels a mindless consumer economy, extreme capitalism does not reward the hard worker; it rewards the capitalist, the one who manages to destroy the competitor to get to the top. Capitalism can be just as dehumanizing as Communism.

That is why we need both the Government and the Free Market keeping each other in check; we need a balance. We cannot go back to the Jeffersonian days when the government only delivered the mail, raised the military, and collected taxes (which is ultimately the vision of the Tea Party minus the taxes). We need to realize that the Free Market can be just as corrupt as the Government and that we as the Church need to keep both of them accountable to the ways of God revealed in the Scriptures. We cannot let a Conservative or Liberal mindset overthrow our faithfulness to the truth of the Scriptures and we must be willing to defy either ideology in order to be faithful representatives of the kingdom of God.

I will hand it to the Democrats, they are trying to innovative and engaging; the Republicans need to stop scaring people and stop talking to us like we are five.

I am not a fan of politics, because ultimately, politics cannot save us or make heaven come to earth. However, I think it is time for a series on political issues and why we need to apply a truly biblical perspective to every area of politics. You may not agree with me on a lot of the issues to be discussed, but I hope that it gets you thinking about how your Christian faith plays out in your political beliefs.

Grace and Peace

Why is it that Christians tend to swing Left or Right politically? Why might this not be helpful?

Monday, January 24, 2011

You Wish This Week Were Over

  Eph 5:15  Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,
  Eph 5:16  making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.
  Eph 5:17  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

There are some Mondays that I wake up in the morning and feel like Simba off The Lion King; I wake up in a gorge and there is a mass of angry, frightened, hurried wildebeest headed my direction.

Normally I will respond one of two ways:

I will change into a groundhog and run back in my hole because I did not see my shadow.

I will run for my live hoping that that I will find some small canyon or outlet to avoid being trampled.

But, I think the Scriptures offer a third alternative:

I could run at the stampede.

You saw correctly. When we get out of bed on Monday morning and we feel life’s many decisions, obstacles, and people bearing down on us; maybe we should not hide or run away, but move forward.
Because, whether we want to admit it or not, God may have purposely allowed a really sucky week to arrive on our calendar; for some it may be a sucky month, year, or decade. If we are just victims of life’s relentless currents and undertows then we are justified wishing these times away; no one can impugn our honor if we hide and run away.

But, if God has orchestrated life to where the results of our sin drenched world are to be transformed for his glory, then we cannot hide or run away. We have to stop being foolish (rebellious, unteachable, hard-hearted) and we need to understand what the will of the Lord is. That is the only way to be wise and to redeem the evil 
days (weeks, months, years) that this life throws our way.

What is the will of the Lord?

The will of the Lord is for us to be conformed to the image of his Son, Jesus Christ. (Romans 8:29)

The will of the Lord is for us to use this transformation to make disciples of all nations. (Matthew 28:19)

The will of the Lord is not some puzzle we need unlock; it is not some mysterious destiny that you somehow bump into. The will of the Lord is for you to become like Jesus Christ and to make Jesus Christ known to everyone else.

So, when you and I wake on Monday morning and we see life charging at us at full speed, killer instinct engaged; we need to be wise and pursue becoming like Jesus by facing the circumstances, obstacles, and people seeking to crush us. By doing so, our response shows his glory in us and we are used to make his name great among the nations.

Redeem the time; it’s the only time you have before eternity.

Grace and Peace

How does understanding what God wants to do with a bad week affect your response to the circumstances?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Don't Ask Me Out- Anna Watson

This is an original poem by my good friend Anna Watson; it will make you laugh.

What? What is that you say?
You want to take me out one day?
Well, there’s just one thing I’d like to say:
I am not a girl you want to date.

There’s nothing you need to do.
I assure you, there’s not one thing you have to prove.
Believe me, for what I tell you is completely true!
I’m only looking out for you!

Now you may want to stand and shout,
“Is this some sort of copout?!”
Forgive me; I can’t have you waiting around.
I must tell you what this is all about.

You may begin to act a little queer.
I may even cause a brand new fear,
Or worsen one you’ve had for years!
Oh, please close your smitten eyes and lend a perfect ear!

You may then refuse to shop at certain stores,
Because of the fear I mentioned before.
People may wonder more and more……
…..And I may become a total bore!

No sir, I am not the girl you want to date.
I must confess a thing I hate.
My ex-boyfriend, I heard today--
Turns out…I turned him gay!

By Anna Kathleen Watson


Impulsive Church Habits: Part I- "Oh, Brother!"

There are things that we do as Christians that we don’t give much thought; little things that probably lead to bigger things (and bigger blunders). My goal with this series is to point out some common habits we do as the Church that are impulsive, traditional, and not things we give much thought. Feel free to comment and discuss.

What mental pictures do you get when you hear the word, “brother” used when greeting someone at church? For me, I picture the monks from Monty Python and the Holy Grail chanting some requiem in Latin and hitting themselves with the object they are carrying *THWACK.* So, every time somebody refers to brother Howell or brother Larry, I always imagine that individual in a rope-bound sack nodding and saying, “Bless you my child.” (Unless of course they have taken a vow of silence) I cannot be the only one who is reminded of medieval Catholicism, can I?

Normally we will use the term “brother” (or the superlative, “pastor”) when referring to 1) someone we are not intimately acquainted with or 2) someone we are trying to show deference or respect. Let me say first off, that there is nothing wrong with showing respect to the elders of the church (aged, proven Christians) and Paul even admonished that you should give an elder “double or twice the honor,” because of his (or her) faithfulness to following Christ. However, unconsciously we have  developed this is a habit that mat have implications for undermining a cardinal doctrine of evangelical existence.

Five Words: Priesthood of Believers

Let me say that is ok, to use “brother” or “pastor” when speaking in a more formal manner at church. For instance, I do not know my pastor, Tim Anderson, that well; if I called him “Tim” then that would be assuming familiarity that I don’t have (though I don’t think he would give it much notice, he is not hung up on things like that). Now, if I and Pastor Tim were to hang out more often and we were to visit each other’s house and have long, mentor-like discussions it is likely (and at that point appropriate) for me to call him, “Tim.” I refer to him as “pastor” now because that is what our primary relationship is (if it were a secular boss it would be Mr. Tim or Mr. Anderson [welcome back, we’ve missed you, like what I’ve done with the place?] depending on how casual he was). If you are not relationally familiar it is ok and appropriate to use formal terms.

However, I am concerned about using “brother” or “pastor” to denote some special rank within the church. The hierarchy of the Church is level with Christ on the top; yes, we have people who are given authority because of their function within the Body, but it has nothing to do with their organizational position. For instance, I have become good friends with the College/Youth Pastor/Minister of Students Justin Bedingfield (also affectionately known as “jbed” and “slim jim”  [not really, made that up]). I do not call him “Brother Bedingfield” or even “Brother Justin.” I have hung out, talked to, and ministered with Justin long enough that I don’t have to be formal with him (it would just be awkward and weird). If Justin were to ever become the head pastor of Clements Baptist Church (haha, not prophesying Justin, I promise) then I would still call him Justin. We need to be careful that we don’t undermine our own doctrinal beliefs by giving paid (or unpaid) church leaders an exalted status. There are plenty of ways to show respect without giving the illusion of superiority (just like one can be respectful even if you don’t say, “yes, sir,” and “no, m’am,” contrary to the popular belief that people born outside the South are rude and purposely disrespectful, but I digress).

Honor your elders, pastors, and faithful church leaders but don’t exalt them to “uber-Christian” status. We need to start asking ourselves why we call our leaders what we call them and then we need challenge our lack intimacy with those people and perhaps get to know them better. Formal titles are appropriate but if it stays formal for too long, we need ask ourselves whether we care to know the other person at all…which brings me to the next topic in the series.

Grace and Peace

P.S.: Bonus points if you caught the Monty Python word miscount and the quote by Agent Smith in the Matrix: Revolutions. Too bad the points don’t matter.

Am I off base? Have you ever considered the implication of this impulsive habit? How could it be a part of what is contributing to the inferiority complex experienced by most “non-leadership” Christians?