Sunday, November 27, 2011

Black and White

It has occurred to me lately that there are a lot of black and white sort of people around me. Maybe I am the same way, I am not sure. Sometimes it is hard to see how we really are because our hearts are deceitful.

What am I talking about with regard to "black and white people"? It seems there are many who see something written down and then decide that is the way it is- period. "The Bible says this" or "The rule says this" and that is the end of the discussion. It seems that Jesus had to correct some thinking as He went about teaching. He said "You have heard it said, but I say..." The people, especially the religious people, of His day seem like they were also pretty black and white. They had the law and they were gonna stick by it, which is not a bad thing, but then they started to add to it. They added many burdens that no one, not even they, could carry.

Is this how it is it normally with the B&W's? Maybe they say, "Praising God has to be done in this way and you can't change it because if you do then it is 'Devil worship'". Maybe it's -If you don't have X tradition then you are sort of a second class Christian, if you're a Christian at all. Or, - you did such and such and so they conclude that you must not be a Christian.

I am so thankful that we have the law but that we don't live under the law. I am happy that there is gray areas in the Bible and in our lives; that we can disagree with someone over some doctrinal issue, who is really smart and yet stills loves Jesus, and still be friends and have fellowship; I mean we are going to spend eternity together so shouldn't we practice living together in harmony now? Is it ok to throw out everything someone writes or says because you don't agree with their eschatology? What makes you think that you are right? It's good to believe what you believe but not to think that you have all the answers and everyone else is an idiot and has no understanding of anything.

I want to be one who is grounded in the majors and glad there is a lot of gray in the minors. I want to be ready to listen and understand what others are saying while still be friends of we don't perfectly agree. I want to listen to the points the "smart people" make, be able to allow the Spirit to teach me and still be friends when I don't agree with all that they are saying about everything. It seems like that is more unifying than the "you don't believe what I believe so you are either not a Christian or you're stupid" approach. There is a lot of gray here on earth and having discernment to know what is B&W and what is ok to be gray is good. I hope I get it soon.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Can I get a Witness?

Are you witnessing to the people around you?

What does that question conjure up in your mind? What's the first thing you think about? If you're old like me it is probably handing out tracts or giving someone a bunch of Bible verses when you talk to them. Are you smelling what I'm stepping in?

But is that the way that most of the "witnessing" is done in life? In John 4:1-15 Jesus is talking with a woman whose life is kind of a mess, in fact buy all customs of the day Jesus should not have even been talking to her. But notice that Jesus engages the conversation in a very interesting way; He asks her for water- ok He tells her to give Him a drink.

I know that everything that Jesus said is a Bible verse and so you can make that argument, but He doesn't immediately go to the OT and start quoting verses, but rather He engages her right where she is and draws, no pun intended, her into the conversation; she is hooked and is now listening to every word He says.

Jesus' life was different than the rest of the men this lady knew; he actually talked to her and then He told her that HE would give HER water. That was counter cultural.

When we live differently than the world we are apt to have more opportunities the share the hope that is in us, but we have to live and live differently. We are witnessing all the time- with words and without. It just might be that the witness we are being is saying that we are just like everyone else the people know; hopeless.

The woman left Jesus' and what seemed to impress her most was that Jesus knew about her personally, not that He quoted the OT. He did give her verses but He connected with her heart and life. He was different than everyone else and she could tell that He cared for her. He gave her hope.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Friday, November 11, 2011


I have been thinking a lot as of late about the idea of leaving a heritage for our children and children's children. Of course maybe thats bc our little Job has flooded our lives with joy and gratitude or maybe it's bc of the events of the past year or so, either way, I think it's good to reflect, consider, plan and maybe repent.

This morning I was in an email conversation with a friend of mine who owns multiple businesses; very diverse in nature and all surrounding on thing, but in today's economic climate there are so many things that can bring a business down that there is no way to consider all of them while still trying to run those business ventures. So what do you do? How does one know where to spend their money or not spend it, how do we know if God wants us to be in this endeavor or if it's time to move on? Is this where God wants me for the next 20-30 years? Hard questions that have no Bible reference linked to them and no multiple choice, as we know it, answer.

So, connected to working the opportunities that God has given you charge of- work like it all depends on you, pray like it all depends on God and rest in knowing that HE cares more about your heart than your wallet, but He understands your need and He promises to provide for those needs. If your rest is dependent on whether I can keep my promise or if you can work hard and smart enough you, my friend, are in trouble. But as a believer it doesn't depend on those things, it depends on whether you know and trust Him.

Connected to heritage- you and I may be thinking that the heritage we leave for our children and grandkids is in some bank acct, property or even the business we are trying to keep afloat and make successful. Maybe that is part of it, but as believers it had better be just a part and maybe a small part.

What we are leaving as a heritage is how we live, how we love and how we teach- which is filled up with the previous. We teach the following generations what is important and how to live by example. If we say we trust God to provide but are often worried then we are not teaching that at all. If we say we are teaching love for God and the majority of time others see us they only hear us talking about "I" rather that "Look what God did here" we are not teaching what we think we are teaching bc we are not living what we say we believe.

Imagine- kids who know who God is by watching us old people right now, in the middle crashing waves, blowing winds and hot fires. Imagine them seeing us old people trusting that God is good, in control and waiting on Him expectantly and ever-ready to rejoice in His kindness and faithfulness. Imagine the heritage that will leave. Imagine the value of that rather than an inheritance that an rust, be stolen or fades away with time.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Does your day Suck?

The rain is falling, it's a Saturday in the middle of June and you wanted to work in the garden. You're driving to a game and the traffic is horrible and you want to get there in time to see your kid start. The plane is over booked and you want to get home because you are tired of being away.

All these things and many more similar but different crowd our lives seemingly almost daily. There is always something happening and it doesn't seem like it is often going the way we had planned. We have things that are important to us, and they should be, but maybe there are more important things happening in other's lives.

So, look at the rainy day from the perspective of the bride who is having an outdoor wedding that day, right around the corner from where you are trying to get into the garden. Maybe the traffic is backed up because someone was just in a really bad car wreck and your game doesn't seem quite as important. Maybe the person who really NEEDS the seat is going to see their family for the last time, or to the hospital to be with their dying friend.

We get so caught up in what is "important" to us that often we forget that there are others who have things that are actually important. Just a reminder as I think about my friend Brian Young going to Afganistan today and there are games that are "important", there are dinners to get ready and the list goes on and on. Pray for Brian and his family.

We are blessed in so many ways and the little inconveniences of life that aren't scheduled, not planned and make us grumble are not really that important. The things that are important are the relationships. I'm terrible at this but am often reminded of it so I want to be better.

Have a great day sitting in traffic, in the rain on the way to the airport.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Old, Tired and Deformed

I have been hearing a lot about the YRR- Young, Restless, Reformed- debate as of late and this topic has caused me to think about my history in fundamental, conservative churches over almost 50 years of my life.

While I have lived from New Jersey to Tokyo and have been in many different kinds of churches, from independent "Baptist" churches to GARB's, I have found that often there is something in common. I don't want to throw a one word description out so I will tackle it from the other side; what most have NOT been.

As a small bit of history, my grandfather and great grandfather were both full-time, long-time overseas missionaries who knew their Bibles and loved God. While I didn't know my GGF I lived with my grandfather for about 2 years in Tokyo while growing up. Sadly, the thing I remember most about my grandfather is not that he loved Jesus, or not that he really loved the Japanese people or not even that he was such an expert linguist that he had an audience with the emperor of Japan, but rather that he loved to argue.

He loved to argue about Calvinism, what is the greatest of God's attributes, whether one should go to the temple to preach and really anything else you might have an opinion about. There is no question in the minds of those who knew my grandfather well that he loved Jesus, but he had a real hard time making you know that he loved and cared for YOU. That's not so good when you're his grandson.

There is nothing wrong, and a lot right, about having a head full of truth. There is nothing wrong with having strong convictions. There is nothing wrong with having the centrality of Scripture guide our conversations, but the Scripture must also guide our lives and our affections and I never saw that in my grandfather and I didn't often see it growing up in the conservative Christian churches we went to, from pastors to deacons or elders.

So today we have a large discussion about whether the YRR's are loving the Bible as much as they are loving their freedoms. If they are actually living their lives by the Word and even if they actually care about the Word. I am not a Bible scholar and for sure there are many who know much more than I, but it seems like there were plenty of people in Jesus' day that knew the Scriptures, many teachers and religious leaders but Jesus didn't question them as much on their knowledge of Scripture as much as He did about how they lived. They said a lot and yet did little.

I have seen recently that there are many who certainly know their Bibles better than I, who can argue about pre and post and have lots of long words that end with -ology, but I don't see much difference in their lives compared to a professor at a local college or university- super smart and often kind of grumpy. Grumpy about the fact that the "students" haven't caught up to them on their teaching. But why would an outsider want to fill their heads with all this stuff if in the end they come out grumpy old men who think their brain buckets are what will impress Jesus?

Again, I am not saying that we should not strive to increase our Biblical understanding as well as pass that Spirit given understanding on to future generations, but if it comes at the cost of joy in what God is doing in His people right now, mourning with them in times of sadness and rejoicing with them in times of celebration, then it seems we have missed the point.

The reason I titled this in this way is because it often seems like it is those who have been around the church for a long time who are tired and crotchety and with enormous heads and tiny little hearts, they are deformed. Will the world ever ask them of the hope that is in them if they are always going around acting as if there is no hope for the "stupid" people? Will their neighbors ever talk with them if they are feeling as if they are not smart enough to carry on a conversation "on their level"? Where is the hope of the Gospel? Where is the love of Christ shed abroad in hearts? Where is the light that is supposed to be shining in a dark world? It's stuck inside of church walls acting as if a huge head will bring sinners to repentance.

Maybe the YRR are not all that the conservative, fundamentals are, and maybe they need to increase the centrality of Scripture, but the way to get them to do that is not to have an argument about how foolish they are, tell them they are completely missing it, when it seems like at least they are living their lives the way Jesus did- with the people. We have churches with big brick walls that are not inviting but rather seem like they are there to keep people out of the "club" of us 4 and no more.

I will close with this. A friend was over last night for dinner and some visiting. They said that the thing they noticed most about the church they are currently going to is that the people actually seem like they have joy, love each other and there doesn't seem to be any complainers. They said that they have not experienced that at ANY other church they have ever been to. That is a sad indictment on the state of the conservative churches of America- not much joy, not much love and complaining.