Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Weekend Events

I was on a brief hiatus over the Memorial Day weekend. First, this is the time of year for graduation parties. And as it turned out I hosted one, and went to another. My daughter graduated from nursing school. Now's time for job hunting and NCLEX taking. (Board exam to put the registered in front of the nurse.)

On Monday, we took half of China (OK, there were six Chinese students) on a hike along the Susquehanna River. There is a spot referred to as the Pinnacle, that is situated high above the River. The river is very wide at that place. The combination makes it quite a spectacular view. To get there, the trail goes along, and across occasionally, a creek. Lots of hopping from rock to rock.

It would have been a really wonderful day except I lost my car keys. I immediately thought I dropped them on the trail. So, I backtracked along the trail. Obviously, I never found them. Equally, obviously, I am here typing, so we did get home. 

A man, his son and two black Labs asked me if I were me. Of course, I was. They had found my keys back by the car. The man spent quite a bit of time asking about my welfare. It was hot, and the extra water was in the locked car. So, I was tired, thirsty, but not hungry. Too much graduation food in the days before. But he seemed genuinely concerned I was going to make it back up the hill. And I was and am grateful for his concern. I did make it on my own.

As it turned out, an older Amish woman found the keys and asked my wife if she were looking for keys. (With my luck, there were probably about 20 feet from the car.) A large group of Amish were having a picnic at the park where we parked. There was a volleyball game of about 20 girls in long dresses and aprons. There was a softball game. The older ones were sitting in the shade on very modern looking folding chairs. And one of them found my keys.

There is probably a spiritual lesson to found here somewhere. Something about community. Concern for people. Service. I could probably add something about out of shape Chinese student slipping, and sliding on wet, moss-covered rocks. At the moment, it tickles the synapses in my brain, but nothing I can express at the moment. So, we'll put this on the mental shelf for a couple of days.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Kingdom - 7

Jesus told his disciples something closer to a true simile about the kingdom. He said the greatest in the kingdom is like a child.

A child has a simple faith. He hears, believes and acts. There are no conditions. There are no if’s, and’s or but’s. There are no convoluted explanations why something is true in one place, but not in another.

Jesus specifically mentions humility. I like thinking about humility as being a realistic perspective of who\what I am. It recognizes personal strengths and personal weaknesses. Personal weakness means personal failures. But it also means weakness or inability inherent in humanity.

God’s kingdom does not have geographical boundaries. It penetrates and changes hearts. Human beings from God’s family are given the assignment of being kingdom extenders and change agents. But human beings do not have the power to change hearts. They cannot reach into someone’s heart, rearrange the wires and Voila! The new person is suddenly following Jesus.

People come up with all sorts of plans and strategies to convince the world to follow Jesus: new methods of proclamation, campaigns of literature, meetings or events, and slick demonstrations. Some people believe that if we can get back into the flow of producing healing, people will come to God. Jesus told a story about a man named Lazarus to demonstrate that even if someone is raised from the dead, it does not guarantee people will choose to change their allegiance and follow Jesus.

That is not to say that we should not pray for the sick. That is not to say we should not strategize, learn new ways to present the gospel, or have crusades and call forwards. (Though, the “call forward” was not invented until the 1800’s. Jesus never had a call forward. There were whole revivals without a single call forward.)

Rather, we need to become like a child and move into a dependent position. We should be faithful to do what God has called us to do. (To love, To pray. To give. To make disciples. To worship.) We should be available. We should have a heart to learn, ready for change and new things.

Monday, May 21, 2012


Worship is the focus of the heart and mind on the greatness and goodness of God. It will definitely involve a person’s mind. It may involve the emotions. It may involve the body.

If a person sits, not moving, not speaking, but his mind is fixed on the faithfulness of God. His spirit is given to thankfulness for God’s faithfulness. He remembers episodes of that faithfulness being demonstrated. In all the time, he is so engaged, he is worshiping.

And if that thought process moves him to speak aloud prayers of thankfulness, that is still worship. And if the move him to sing and dance, that is still worship.

Often we get caught up in the words, the style of worship. People argue. Hymns or worship songs. Guitars. Suits and ties or cut-offs. If we are caught up in the cultural expressions, our hearts and mind are not given over to God’s goodness and greatness.

Friday, May 18, 2012


I read a blog this morning about compromise. Namely political compromise. The article concerned a situation where a political leader introduced, passed and began to implement a piece of legislature that a large portion of the people wanted. But a large, active, vocal part of the people did not want.

The leader has stuck to his guns, his principles and is being vilified all around. Other leaders are calling for compromise. The writer called for compromise. The writes seemed to assert in the article that the leader’s religious background is one of the main reasons he had an unbending position.

Compromise or standing on principle?

In the US today, we seem to have a large group on both sides of the political spectrum who are standing on principle. Neither side is interested in compromise. And solutions to problems are not getting discussed. So, it seems like compromise is needed to grease the wheels of political progress.

But what would have happened if Lincoln or Wilberforce compromised? A United States of America and a Confederate States of America? Slavery in some form? Wilberforce stood on his principles for 26 years, in the face of stiff opposition, until England abolished the slave trade. Seems like standing on principles can achieve a lot of good.

So, when does one compromise? When does one stand on principle? I don’t have a rule for deciding at the moment. Both seem to be necessary and one needs considerable wisdom to decide ones course of action. And maybe a lot of Christian charity when dealing with people … those for you and your position, and those against.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Kingdom - 6a

There was a metaphor used several years ago to describe what it meant to become a Christian. The metaphor said that “self was on the throne of your heart.”

“Heart” refers to the core of a person’s being. People care designed to have all life, direction, action and motivation flow from the core outward.

“Throne” obviously refers to what rules. Hearts can be ruled. Something can sit in a heart and generate impulses the flow into motivations, into actions and into life. The question them becomes what is ruling?

The metaphor begins with “self” in the ruling position. A “self” that has only one point of view, and a faulty set of motivations that create wrong actions. Motivations and actions that break God’s law. Motivations and actions  that cause us to work against God, as he seeks to bring everything into his kingdom. God works to redeem people, institutions and artifacts. (In this case, I am using “artifact” to mean anything man invents and uses in this life. “Artifact” can be a hammer, a car, or  the internet in this definition.) In living our lives with self on the throne, we live to thwart God’s redemption.

The solution, according to this metaphor, is to put God on the “throne of the heart.” God rules, instead of self. Man learns God’s point of view. Man’s motivations and actions become God’s motivations and actions. Man goes on to fulfill the design of God.

As a way to express man’s need to somehow be restored to his original design and allegiance, the metaphor fulfills its function. The prime malfunction in creation is a break in relationship between God and man. A person’s decision to go back to living in relationship with God, to establishing God as his first allegiance is the foremost way to restore and repair the malfunction. (Foremost in priority and effect.)

There is a temptation to equate the foremost way with the only way. There is a temptation to assume that when a person chooses God as his first allegiance and establishes a new relationship with him that God takes up residence on the throne of the person’s heart, waves a magic wand and the storms the person experiences immediately calm. Unfortunately, this is not true. If the person has been mishandling his finances, he will continue experience financial chaos. If the person’s friends and acquaintances all hate him, because he has been acting like a jerk, they will still hate him.

Coming to Jesus is not a silver bullet for all the ills of the world. If the change of allegiance is real, the Spirit of God does reality connect differently with the person. The core of the person’s inner being changes, and life will seep out differently. In some cases, even radically different. Motivations and actions will be different. He will be wiser with his money. He won’t act like a jerk.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Kingdom - 6

Jesus told two slightly different, slightly shorter, long similes, but they made the identical comparison. Each described a man who found something extremely valuable. He recognized how valuable it was, so he sold all his possessions to be able to purchase it.

Here is a person who found something of such value, that giving everything to get it, puts him in a much better position. What is there in life that would make a person want to go “all in”?

To gain citizenship in the kingdom, we really do not lose any physical possession. We have as much, or as little, as we did before. But our right of possession changes. We recognize that anything we have has no value compared with our relationship with the King and our citizenship in his kingdom. All we have is put under his rule. And it is not difficult to do so.

Going “all in” with the King is not a gamble. These is a change in our core about ownership and rights.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Kingdom - 5

We have seen that God extends his kingdom by penetrating the hearts of people. It can begin small, but can grow into a strong and dominating force. It can permeate its entire environment. It is intended to alter the texture, the look and feel of its society and culture.

We have not yet considered the change agents. Who\what are they? How do they work?

To understand the answers to the questions, I don’t think we need to look any further than Jesus. He spoke and acted in ways that radically affected the hearts of those around him. He began in an almost unseen, unremarkable way, but grew to become the focus of attention. His teaching and life profoundly affected everything.

We, as his followers, as his body, expressing who he is to the world, advancing his mission and his kingdom, should possess these characteristics of a kingdom change agent. Together, we should have the effects on the world that Jesus did.

We could go on to consider what he did and how he lived that rocked the world. But have you wondered why we do not seem to have the same effect he did? Since, Jesus is God, come to earth in human form, we might expect to NOT have the same impact. Except Jesus said we would a greater impact. Even if we assume that when Jesus said “greater” he meant greater scope (that is, we would impact a greater area or a greater number of people) then we still need to cope with the fact that whole areas do not have any knowledge of him or that whole population segments do not follow him. Many people in the world know of him, but they do not know him, because they have not seen him. And they need to see him in his children.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Kingdom - 4

Another long simile Jesus told is about how the kingdom is like a woman baking bread. Part of the bread making process is mixing yeast into the dough. Yeast is added, and the baker kneads and rolls the dough until the yeast is thoroughly dispersed throughout the dough. A chemical reaction releases carbon dioxide into the dough and the changes the whole texture of the dough. The changing the nature of the bread is done from the inside. It happens as the yeast carries out its natural function.

The yeast is like the kingdom. As it lives out its normal functions, it affects the texture, taste and nature of the society it is immersed in.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Kingdom - 3

The next "story" is not really a story. It seems to be more of a long simile.

The kingdom is like taking a very small seed and planting it in your garden. It germinates, grows to maturity and becomes the biggest plant in the garden. It becomes so big, birds can build their nests in it.

I don't think the point is how it ends up. I think Jesus is emphasizing how it begins. It is small, insignificant and almost unnoticed.

Jesus began with twelve untrained, uneducated people. There were no starts, no special talents and no money. They had more training, more experience when Jesus left, but they were still pretty much regular people. Regular people who turned the world upside down ... with out TV, computers, the internet, seminaries, mega-churches, sound systems, automobiles or smart phones. (The didn't even have land lines. Snail mail really was snail mail.)

Maybe "dominating the garden"  is not so much about glamour, gizmos or glitz. Maybe it's about the kind of people we become.