Friday, January 29, 2010

King of the Jungle

Contemporary Christian music has a lot of silly fluff, but there is some good, God-centered stuff.

Here's an important message from Steven Curtis Chapman's King of the Jungle:

What I see is telling me I'm going crazy, but
What is real says God's still on His throne
What I need is to remember one thing
That the Lord of the gentle breeze is Lord of the rough and tumble
And He is King of the Jungle

No matter how crazy things get, God is in control. Take a deep breath. Relax. He's got it covered.

Click here to watch at YouTube

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Weary in Doing Good 2

Just as we can get tired of doing good deeds, we can get tired of the struggle to do right.

Does that happen to you? Do you ever say, "I'll never get it right; why do I keep trying?"

Do you ever think you'll never be free of that temptation? Do you ever think everyone's given up on you but Satan?

I do, and I doubt I'm the only one. But when I feel that way, when my emotions betray me, my brain knows it's not true.

This is what's true: "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Phil 1.6).

So "let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us" (Heb 12.1) "for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose" (Phil 2.13).

And when we fail, "if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1John 1.9).

"Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us" (Rom 8.34).

"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin" (Heb 4.15).

Now "let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart" (Heb 12.2-3).

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Weary in Doing Good

The parallels between the recent Haitian earthquake and the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami are inescapable. Hopefully this isn't a portent of things soon to come.

The Indian Ocean earthquake started off a very troubled year including terrorist attacks, train derailments, and a record number of hurricanes, Katrina among them, plus more local issues. And we, as Americans and especially the American church, had to respond.

After a while I became emotionally numb. I simply couldn't care anymore. I had no more sympathy to give.

As the scriptures warn, I had grown "weary in doing good."

What do we do when we just can't care anymore?

We go on. We act as if we care. Caring is an emotion. Doing good is a choice.

We give money, feed the hungry, and clothe the naked. We bind wounds and hug necks and do whatever else needs to be done.

It's trite but true: We are the only gospel many people hear. So we don't get a day off.

But we do get help.

Our Savior sent us a Counselor and Helper who works in, with, and through us. What we cannot do, He can do through us. And when we grow weary, He will give us strength.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Wealthy Jesus and Other Errors

A friend sent me an article where some teachers of the "prosperity gospel" claim Jesus was not poor. I shouldn't be surprised — this is natural considering what they teach — but I am; the picture painted in the Gospels has been understood for almost 2000 years to mean Jesus was poor.

I can't believe Jesus was rich when He was described as living off others' charity (Luke 8:3).

But the bigger issue here is one that anyone can fall victim to.

These folks are torturing the scriptures to make them conform to a pre-determined theology. I'm sure they'd say their theology is based in the scriptures (everyone does), but the problem comes when, after getting your system down, you start to judge the scriptures by your theology rather than your theology by the scriptures.

Don't get me wrong — there are difficult passages in the Bible that only make sense when interpreted in light of other, understood passages. That's normal and necessary.

But we must always be willing to re-evaluate our theology in light of scriptures we haven't considered before (or recently).

Mary and Joseph offered the sacrifice of a poor person (Luke 2:24, c.f., Lev 12:8) after the birth of Jesus. They were then given valuable gifts (though we're not told how valuable) that certainly made the flight to Egypt easier. But how long did that last? We don't know.

But we do know that the adult Jesus is described as homeless (Matt 8:20) and dependent on the charity of some of His disciples. He died a slave's death and was placed in a borrowed tomb. He had to ask someone to take care of His mother, and His apostles all lived off charity.

Is this the description of a rich man? Only if your theology requires it to be.

Just Eisegesis
Debt Relief and the Jubilee
All for Good?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Goals Past and Present

Last year I suggested four goals to help us refocus our priorities:

Look up (to God)
Look around (at the need in our world)
Look away (from unwholesome things)
Step back (from the spotlight)

I'd love to say last year was a spectacular success at those things. I can't. But I did make gains in each of those areas.

For the first I turned to James Montgomery Boice's Foundations of the Christian Faith. For the second, I turned to David Batstone's Not for Sale - something I'll be bringing up here shortly.

On the third, well, there were successes and failures. There are many things in our popular culture that are unhealthy, unwholesome, even unseemly, and they're far easier to accept than avoid. But it's a new day and a new year.

On the last ... well, telling would ruin the whole thing, wouldn't it?

This year, I want to focus a little more carefully on looking up:
"I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead."
I may regret not stopping at "resurrection," but, let's face it, suffering with and for Christ has been part of the Way from the beginning. If we're doing it right, we won't be able to avoid that.

So that's my goal this year. I expect to share that journey here, and I hope you all will be along for the ride.