Friday, July 25, 2008

life is a series of accumulations.

you attend school to gain knowledge, you gain wisdom, go to work to become gainfully employed, gain weight, gain wisdom, gain strength, lose the weight you gained only to gain it back again.

we get a life, get the credit, get involved, get high, get lost, get married, get divorced, get hired, get fired, get around, get around to it, and some of us just get it.

we get our fill. We are full of secrets, full of bottled-up emotions, full of things left unsaid, full of love that we are afraid to give.

a kind of fullness that is really ...


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Breach of contract???

I recently read an article titled "How Responding to People's Needs Hurts the Church" by Elizabeth I. Steele. The article talks about how in a consumer culture, talking about a church's ministry in terms of responding to people's needs, "puts the church in the position of being defined not by its faith or history but by people's wants." People come to church because the church feels a perceived need that is not fulfilled elsewhere. Some of the needs/wants that people expect to be fulfilled by a church are things such as unity, non-judgmental acceptance, fellowship, Biblical principles, and accountability with other Christians to strengthen each other to live holy lives. Some look for specific programs to meet the needs of their family, such as youth or children's groups, social outlets, or ways to use their gifts to serve the community.

But what happens when the church fails to meet these needs? Often, a person may see this lack of fulfillment as a "breach of contract" on the part of the church. After all, they see the church as a place that fills the needs of people. In response to this "breach," they may leave, or they may challenge what is (or is not) happening and who is in charge until the "promised" care-taking and attention are provided.

Wait ... I didn't realize that a church had a "contract" with its members to provide for such things. So I asked a few people on a Christian chat service for their input.

Most of the "wants and needs" the chatters mentioned are stated in the opening paragraph. One of the people that I talked with said that she and her family recently moved to their area and were presently attending a mega-church. She commented that in a church that size it was difficult to connect with other members who are like her. She also admitted that there are many opportunities to connect, and it was up to her to put forth the effort to start building relationships.

After a brief discussion, the general consensus was that if people want music and aesthetics and a message that gives them a warm-fuzzy feeling, then they're going to church for the wrong things. God's needs should be met first -- the need for us to be in a relationship with Him. Then our own needs will be met by God, starting with our need for reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 20:28, "The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." He also tells us, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (Matthew 14:24). If we are followers of Jesus we should not have the mindset of the church exists to fill our needs. As Ms. Steele puts it, "Lost is the idea of people being and becoming the church. Lost is the understanding of the church as a community of faith whose members struggle together to draw closer to God and to express that closeness in how they live and interact with the world."
As disciples of Christ, we should actively participate in partnering with God to use the gifts and resources He has given us to reach out to those who are lost, and point them to a place where they can encounter the saving grace found through Jesus Christ.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Reading the entire Bible

I recently read a post on Revelife by mr pine, where he talked about recently being given a copy of the book How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. At the end of the post he posed the question "Do think it's important for Christians to read the entire Bible?"

Here my thoughts:

Bear with me for a bit, and let's step outside of the Christian bubble for a second, and take a look at an analogy. My intent is not to offend or diminish the transforming power of the Bible, but to put the question into perspective.

Let's take the word "Christian" and put "soldier" in its place. And let's take "Bible" and put the word "Comprehensive Operational and Battle Strategy Manual" in its place.

Do think it's important for soldiers to read the entire Comprehensive Operational and Battle Strategy Manual?

It depends on the role and goal of the soldier. Yes, there are some parts that are essential for basic survival in the life he has chosen. Without those basics ingrained into him, he may face serious, life-threatening danger. There are other parts that can give insight into various situations that he may encounter, or help to process a past experience to better understand it.

But does the soldier have to read the entire manual?

What's his goal? To remain a soldier? Or to be better equipped? If he feels that he does not want to advance in his soldiering career, then he is free to not pursue reading the manual further. If he is not satisfied with where he is, then digging deeper into what's contained between the covers is a good place to start.

Personally, I'm not satisfied that I have gone as far as I have in my Christian walk. I don't think that I ever will be. Have I read the essentials and understand the basics? Yes. I believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God, came to earth, died for my sins, and rose from the dead. I believe that I have eternal life through Jesus. Have I read the entire Bible? No, there are still pages in my Bible that have not seen light. Will I ever read every word of the Bible? That's hard to say.

Will my salvation be lost if I never read the entire Bible? Absolutely not! And that point is more important than whether or not I read every chapter and verse from Genesis to Revelation.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Listening to God ... (or not ...)

God speaks to us in many ways. But, being the independent-thinking human beings that we are, we sometimes use our "selective hearing" when receiving input from the Almighty. The following is a conversation between God and a fictional character called "ME". Any resemblance between ME and any person, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

GOD: I've created you in my image, right down to the ability to decide things for yourself. I'll help you get started. Here are ten commandments for you, along with this book that will help you to fill in the blanks.

ME: Where's the rule book that
you follow?

GOD: I wrote the rule book, based on my characteristics.

ME: So then why can't I let my character guide my decisions?

GOD: (thinking, "what, is she kidding me?") It's your choice ... but you really should read the book and refer to it as you go. Also, I want you to know that I am always available to help you if you get stuck or need anything. All you have to do is ask.

ME: So, you mean I can do this life thing however I want?

GOD: I've given you free will ...

ME: Cool!

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see where this will take ME ...
  • Poor family relationships
  • Divorce
  • The kids don't respect ME
  • Coworkers don't trust ME with much anything told to ME in confidence
  • A mountain of bills from wanting to keep up with ME's best friend's lifestyle (a lifestyle that ME really couldn't afford to begin with)
  • Loneliness
  • ME's therapist won't even take his/her calls

ME: God, how did my life become such a mess?

GOD (ears perking up): ME? Is that you? Did you just call out to me?

ME: I thought you told me you'd always be here to help me. Where were you while my life was spiraling down the toilet?

GOD: Let's look back at our earlier conversation, shall we, ME? I did say I would be available to help. But you had to ask. I wanted you to acknowledge your need for my help. It was your choice to do things according to your own will, guided by your own imperfect human character.

ME: But you also said that I was created in your image. Shouldn't my character have been like yours?

GOD: You would have been a lot closer if you fol.lowed the commandments and referred to the book I gave to you.

ME: Oh, you were actually serious about that?

GOD: Mmm-hmmm ...

ME: God, I made such a mess of things. How can I even begin to make it right?

GOD: You can't. Not on you own.

ME: So you're telling me I'm stuck here.

GOD: (silence)

ME: But I don't want the life I have. It's not even living, really. I want something better. I want what you intended for me to have. Can't you help me?

GOD: You're starting to get it. I can help you.

ME: God, I don't even know where to start. To be completely honest, I've hurt so many people and in the process ended up hurting myself. I don't think anyone would ever be able to forgive me. I so much want to start over. I want a new life, like being made new.

GOD: I can do that. In fact, my son Jesus specializes in helping you with forgiveness and being made new.

ME: Why would Jesus want to help someone as wretched as me? I'd think he'd be too perfect to want to be around someone who lived my life. Someone who wouldn't listen to you.

GOD: Believe it or not, I knew from the start that if I left you to your own devices you'd end up where you are now. But in my holiness I could not allow your "wretched" self live in my glory. You see, my standard is absolute -- perfection. And the consequences for not meeting that standard is absolute as well -- death. Spiritual death. You'd be separated from me.

ME: Like where I am now.

GOD: Exactly. But I love you too much to spend eternity apart from you. So, in order to fulfill that absolute consequence of death, I sent Jesus -- my only son -- to take your consequences upon himself.

ME: I've been dealing with the consequences of my screw-ups here on earth, from people all around me. I didn't realize there was a punishment from you that was so severe.

ME: Let me see if I get this -- Your punishment is separation from you. Yet we're able to have this conversation right now because Jesus took that separation so I wouldn't have to?

GOD: You're getting it!

ME: No one ever loved me like that ...

ME: But wait ... your son is dead. You must be heartbroken.

GOD: Not at all. He came back from the dead!

ME: Really?

GOD: I don't lie. It's all here in this book.

ME (remorseful): You mean the one I should have been reading all along ...

ME: I'm so sorry I made a mess of the life you gave me. And I'm grateful to you that you would send Jesus to take my consequences upon himself. I couldn't have met your perfect standard on my own. I never can ... Can you forgive me?

GOD: I don't only forgive you, but I also give you a clean start. I don't even remember your past. In my sight, you're a new creation!

ME: You're giving me a do-over?


ME: Well, since I'm starting over, can I have a look at that book?

GOD: I thought you'd never ask.