Thursday, February 28, 2013
Four decades ago, I'd never go to coffee hour after worship and sit with geezers; because they talked OCDily about prescriptions, aches, pains, and pills as they longed for the way things never were or maybe were but are no more.
After a decade +1 of eligibility without joining AARP, I now sit with 'em and exchange notes.
Mirrors and what's behind 'em in the cabinets don't lie.
What's not inevitable is spirit; or as a senior wrote in my 8th grade yearbook that continues to challenge moi, "May you live as long as you want to and want to as long as you live!"
Jesus said, "Behold, I make all things new!"
He talked about never losing the flexibility to stretch and make room for the new and better and improved and possible like new wineskins.
I think a big part of what He meant is it's possible to remain vibrant and zest-filled and positively anticipatory and adventurous and learning and discovering and psyched for life and, uh, stuff like that no matter what it says on the birth certificate.
Depending upon God's grace for the opportunity/responsibility like Solomon in 1 Kings 3, I counsel lots of folks; including pastors being beaten up by churchgoers only coincidentally connected to Jesus transferring their...
Ecumenical as well as parochial.
Anyway, one pastor blurted out during a session, "You don't sound like a Presbyterian!"
"Thanks," I replied.
He asked, "Don't you want to know why I think that?"
"Nah," I responded, "but if you insist..."
He explained, "I've never heard many Presbyterian clergy talk so much about Jesus and the Holy Spirit and..."
My comment: "I guess you've caught me on a good day."
He went on, "Really, you come off, sometimes, like a Pentecostal or..."
I interrupted, "I'm having a hard enough time trying to be a Christian without thinking too much about if I'm coming off as a Presbyterian or Pentecostal or..."
As you know, I've been scratching the surface of the book more than reading books about it...lately.
I haven't found too much about being denominational in it; but I have discovered lots about just following...
People who talk more about being Presbyterian or Catholic or Baptist or Lutheran or Methodist or Charismatic or Mainline or Pentecostal or, uh, whatever concern me.
It's a Matthew 23 and especially 23:37ff. and John 17 thing; and if you're still talking more about denominational stuff than just Jesus, my guess is you're not very familiar with those texts.
No wonder Jesus told Nicodemus that some folks gotta be born...
Yeah, read John 3; especially if you're still talking about your denominational, sectarian, cultic, or whatever identity more than just Jesus.
That is, of course, if you still wanna try or regenerate what that senior wrote in my 8th grade yearbook.
I just heard about a denominationalist more than a just Jesus guy who spent 20 minutes at the table explaining why non-members of his franchise can't take the sacrament with 'em.
Jesus came to mind: "Come to Me,...all...everyone..."
Now I know why Jesus never talked about denominations.
I guess some people just need to be born all over again and from above before they can grow up about...
Blessings and Love!
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
"Contrary to what professing Christians like to think, many of God's people
are not willing to walk in perfect agreement with Him, and this may
explain why so many believers do not have the power of the
Spirit, the peace of the Spirit, and many of the other
qualities, gifts, and benefits which
the Spirit of God brings."
Rome hasn't called me...yet.
Actually, if it weren't for the silly clothes, pathological thing with Mary, transubstantiation, and celibacy, I think I'd fit in; having studied there and always coveted their fidelities to Biblical Christology and ethics as well as education not divorced from, uh, Biblical Christology and ethics.
God knows they've been a lot truer to Him than...
Of course, my mommy always thought I'd eventually be the president of the most renowned/notorious seminary in our franchise; and considering who's been installed since...
If it weren't for squandering the appropriate stepping stones through my own stupidity and sins, ya never know; especially considering who's been installed since...
How do you know if...?
There's something on that below this KD.
I am who I am and I am where I am supposed to be in Belvidere, Illinois.
While I miss some dear friends in those squandered stepping stones on my way from the high steeples and ivy-covered towers to Boone County, I've never felt better in my life or ministry.
Deep into my 8th year, every day hasn't been a hot fudge sundae.
I haven't had a raise in four years which translates as annual deductions and I'll never be reimbursed for unused days off, study leave, or vacation.
Historical hatreds/dysfunctions/feuds have been transferred to...
Dang, I inherited a...
Tough interim period.
Control needs on steroids.
Bllllllluuuuuuurrrrrrred theology, polity, and...just about everything.
Great staff and remnant and immediately installed predecessor-pastor; buuuuuuut...
Enough...or people who should feel guilty will feel...
Uh, they're gone.
Pruned, we've started to grow in/through/for Him in unprecedented ways in every way and...
The great staff and faithful remnant that I inherited have stayed.
My predecessor's legacy of returning Jesus, the Bible, and prayer to the forefront of First's life and ministry provided a solid rock foundation to build upon for the future.
Even total cooperation, encouragement, affirmation, advocacy, and applause for all of our musical ministries; and as anybody will tell ya who's ever endured those worship wars...
It's fun as well as faithful!
I praise the Lord for the privilege to be one of the undershepherds on the corner of Lincoln and Main...for now.
Unless God writes it in the sky (see below) or Rome changes the rules...
I stay because I am who I am and I am where I am supposed to be in Belvidere, Illinois.
Sure, I miss being closer to my parents and sister and pizza; and it can be very lonely for a Jets, Giants, and Yankees fan in Chicagoland and Packerville.
Oh, the sacrifices that I'm making for...
Seriously, again, I've never felt more at home than I am right now.
I even like our presbytery!
Don't share that last confession with...
So I'm staying for three reasons: (1) call; (2) commitment to my favorite Special Olympian Billy's sister, dad, and mom about staying together for good as his friend/brother and eventual guardian; and (3) choice.
Have you ever heard of Dave Ramsey?
If you've ever had problems with plastic like I had before meeting him, you gotta get to know him.
Google his Financial Peace University and look for a Ramsey course near you!
Led by a very special woman in our family of faith, I took the course and it changed my attitudes about and management of money from reckless to responsible.
Yet, I'll never forget the first Q&A after the first several videos; as someone asked/commented and most nodded with the same curiosity, "Doesn't he have another shirt besides that blue one? He wears it for every lesson!"
It brings to mind how Mother Teresa responded to the Protestant who shared my concern about the Mary thing for RCs: "We would not have Jesus if it weren't for Mary...One day you will come to love her like Jesus loved her."
It's not about what we wear or how much we have or where we are or what went on before or what's even happening now...as long as we are who we are where we are supposed to be...for the love of Christ.
"Is not life more than...?"
Blessings and Love!
Scratching the Surface
(A Brief and Incomplete Guide to Finding the Right Job)
George Carlin joked, “Most people don’t know what they’re doing, and a lot of them are really good at it.”
When it comes to finding the right job, it’s no joke.
Unless we’re “called” to it, any job can be a bummer; conversely, if “called” to it, any job can enhance personal esteem and satisfaction while overcoming the inconveniences and disappointments attached to any job/occupation/vocation.
When we’re doing what He has designed us to do, He is honored, people are helped, and we feel whole, happy, and secure.
While this is a brief, incomplete, and indicative not exhaustive guide to finding/discovering the right job, I’ve found four signposts on the path to finding/discovering what He has designed us to do: feelings, facts, friends, and faith.
Feelings, facts, friends, and faith combine to confirm call; conversely, if conflicts or contradictions emerge in feelings, facts, friends, and faith, it may not be the right job.
How do you feel about it?
Do you feel the job honors Him, helps people, and inspires personal wholeness, happiness, and security?
Naturally, feelings can be misleading – prompted by auto-suggestion or emotional, intellectual, and spiritual indigestion; so, again, remember, it’s important to consider feelings along with facts, friends, and faith.
Can you do it?
Whether you can do something by His design/gifting is more crucial than or prerequisite to wanting to do something by preference; simply, “It’s not really a matter of whether you want to do it. Can you do it?”
Even if you can do it, should you do it?
Remember, it’s important to consider facts along with feelings, friends, and faith.
What do your friends say about it?
Do they confirm or contradict your sense of call?
Remember, it’s important to consider friends along with feelings, facts, and faith.
Where is God in it?
Is God leading you to it?
Will it honor Him and help people?
When a friend told Fred Rogers – yes, Mister Rogers – that he was considering moving from one church to another, Fred wrote to him, “By now I wonder if there has been a decision about your move. Please know that I’ve been thinking about you all. All that matters is your motives. God will lead the way. You know that.”
A faith-filled call will be consistent with Christianity’s confession and conduct as personified in Jesus and prescribed in Holy Scripture.
Take many moments to read meditatively Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4.
If feelings, facts, friends, and faith are in agreement, go for it!
Finally, a word from Basil Pennington: “The fundamental Christian vocation lies in intimacy with Christ-God…God does not really care what way we choose, so long as we do choose a way to grow in His love and choose it for love of Him…We should always and in all things seek to do God’s will, to please Him.”
Are you still looking for a different way to do church?
Are you tired of the SOSO RELIGION?
Are you put off by posers in pews, politics, and pulpits?
Are you searching for something/Someone real,
honest, timely, and true to…?
Try our family of faith on the corner of Lincoln and Main!
Sundays at 7:20 and 10:00 a.m.
And so much…
Sunday, February 24, 2013
Scratching the Surface of the Song of Songs
I'll never forget going to see the Broadway production of Stephen Schwartz's Pippin with my female French professor back in 1972; featuring the original cast directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse that included Ben Vereen, Jill Clayburgh, Leland Palmer, Irene Ryan, John Rubinstein, Ann Reinking, and so many rising stars of stage and screen.
And I'll never forget the ooooooohs and aaaaaaahs and swooning sighs in the audience as well as in the seat next to me as Clayburgh and Rubinstein sang Love Song.
Though it ain't Jill and John, the next video will, uh, help, uh, illustrate, uh, what, uh,..
Pretty, uh, romantic stuff from the guy who wrote Godspell.
Actually, the Bible is full of romance with Solomon's Song of Songs at the top of the hit parade.
If it weren't in the Bible for reasons that I picked up while scratching the surface, it could/would have been picked up by a scriptwriter for AMC, FX, HBO, or Showtime.
It's flirty, real, and even erotic in describing courtship, celebrating a satisfying sexual relationship, and marriage with the four essential emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and physical components.
Several conclusions about sex for a believer can be reached by a contextual reading of this book.
First, there is monogamous marital intent: "My heart is your captive..."
Second, the conclusion of Genesis echoed by Jesus is confirmed throughout the book without exception: "Haven't you read that in the beginning God created humanity male and female? Don't you remember what the story of creation tells us about marriage? 'For this reason, a man will leave his mother and father and cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' What God has brought together, let no one separate.'"
Third, the best time for sex is within the covenant of marriage - not before or apart from the covenant of marriage - between a woman and man who acknowledge God as Source, Starter, Sovereign, and Savior: "I charge you not to excite your love until it is ready...Don't stir a fire in your heart too soon..."
The sexual component of marriage is a gift from God for wife and husband; moreover, along with the emotional and intellectual and spiritual components, it is an essential component of marriage.
As long as both wife and husband are able, they are expected to be willing.
Whether it's this book or Proverbs or the apostle or common sense related to human behavior, it's undeniably clear that a woman and man called to spend the rest of their lives together in marital bliss have an emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and sexual bond and passion for each other; desiring and not denying the celebration of that emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and sexual bond.
Let me be crude.
If they ain't, they ain't.
A healthy and balanced marriage - emphasizing, again, both wife and husband being able - will include all four components; and if any component is missing, the marriage is not healthy or balanced and vulnerable.
That's a big part of what this book says and it is confirmed within the context of the whole book.
Surely, I'm not suggesting this one book or these few paragraphs just scratching the surface of it are comprehensive to the subject of sex in marriage; but I am saying He's saying through this book confirmed by the rest of the book that a healthy marital sex life is one of the best barometers of a marriage's health as confirmation of God being the Source, Starter, Sovereign, and Savior of the marriage.
Bluntly, as I recall Barth writing, "A divorce only occurs where a marriage never existed."
Within the context of this book within the context of the whole book, marriage includes sex.
If not, not!
Let me be even more specific.
According to the book, marriage must include sex along with or as measurement of the emotional, intellectual, and spiritual bond.
Not good sex.
It's right there in the book!
One more thing.
Like other books in the Bible, the Song of Songs may use romance and marriage as a metaphor for God's lavish love and marital-like commitment to His people and vice versa.
This mutual fidelity includes total commitment to each other.
God proved His part by total commitment to us in Jesus.
We prove our part by our total commitment to Him - emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, and physically.
It works either way.
Either way, it's a very, very, very inclusively big match made in heaven.
...to be continued...
Blessings and Love!
Friday, February 22, 2013
"We have too many gods...We have too much theology...We have too much religion...
God isn't in there by Himself.
He says, 'If I'm not in your heart by Myself, I won't work.'
When Jesus Christ has everything cleansed from
the temple and dwells there alone,
He will work."
Adamson said, "Christians do not believe in works righteousness; because it's impossible to work hard enough to earn eternal life in heaven."
He was asked, "Then how can I know for sure that I'm going to heaven after I die?"
The old monk answered, "Jesus!"
Pressing, "What do you mean Jesus?"
Explaining, "We believe heaven is graced upon us through faith in Jesus."
Pressing, "If heaven is graced upon us rather than earned by us, why does the Bible talk so much about righteous works?"
Explaining, "What we say and do is an expression of what we believe and what we believe determines destiny."
Pressing, "Are you saying we show signs or proof or evidence or fruit of being heavenbound?"
Pressing, "Can you say more about that?"
Replying, "I cannot improve upon what has already been revealed to you in Jesus and Holy Scripture."
Pressing, "But I need you to tell me more about what that means."
Ending, "We're already talking too much."
"Elegant speech sounds odd when it comes from a fool."
I spend lots of time with churchgoers getting beaten up by churchgoers.
One cried, "I can't believe they behave so..."
I said, "Their behavior betrays what they really believe."
Abba Hyperichius: "One who is obedient will have answered prayers and stand beside the Crucified in sure faith. This is the way our Lord went to His cross - obedient unto death."
The spiritual is easily differentiated from the natural.
"Faith without works is do-do."
(Real Life Version)
Pope Benedict XVI has retired.
First one...in a long time.
Lots of speculation; mostly suspicious, slanderous, and stupid.
Here's my take; apart from him being 86 which kinda seems like a good time to...
He's gonna live out the rest of these aka his/His days in a monastery.
He's gonna pray.
Read the Bible.
Psalmist: "As a deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God."
"I'm a monk..., and the strangest thing happened in my monastery. We had a visit...
He stayed overnight, but he slipped away very early in the morning. When the
monks woke up, they found graffiti all over the cloister walls...One word -
TRIVIA - TRIVIA - TRIVIA
Words upon words...spoken and written...total confusion...
I cried out, 'Stop! Stop!'
I was only adding
words to words."
I'm trying to keep a vow of silence as taught to me so long ago by Trappists at Assumption Abbey in Ava, Missouri.
Essentially, it doesn't mean not speaking; but rather saying what you mean and meaning what you say.
Devoid of distractions and vanities.
Or as Lapsley and Hanson tried to convince seminarians, "When in doubt, shut up!"
Jesus: "Don't say anything you don't mean...You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk...You don't make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say 'yes' and 'no.' When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong."
Getting back to distinguishing who's natural from who's spiritual, religions about Jesus are wordy while relationships with Him/His are Wordy.
Blessings and Love!
Thursday, February 21, 2013
Scratching the Surface of Ecclesiastes
For as long as I can remember, I've always been told to read each text of the Bible within the context of the entire Bible.
That means to read each verse within the context of the chapter within the context of the book within the context of the testament within the context of the Bible so that we don't end up going down some rabbit trail of irrelevance, irreverence, and error.
There's a real danger in reading some texts out of context and building an entire theology, spirituality, life, and ministry around them.
For example, let's compare Isaiah 2:4 ("Hammer your swords into sickles") to Joel 3:10 ("Hammer your sickles into swords").
Taking each verse out of context can cause more bad than good as Isaiah comes off like a dove for God and Joel comes off like a hawk for Him. Actually, taken out of context, some would say Isaiah is a mindless pacifist for God while Joel is an insufferable warmonger for God.
That's what proof-texting or taking texts out of context to build an entire theology, spirituality, life, and ministry often do in producing irrelevance, irreverence, and error.
Contextual reading of each of those verses or reading them in context enables us to see how they make sense. Isaiah is talking about a day or daydream when people get it/Him and want to get along more than get over on each other while Joel is talking about those times when the good guys must go to war against the bad guys to honor God and use force to enable justice being denied by the unGodly.
The truth is each text speaks to a specific circumstance; as sometimes we promote peace to honor God and sometimes we must go to war to honor Him.
Ecclesiastes highlights the wisdom of contextual reading of the Bible like this:
For everything that happens in life - there is a
season, a right time for everything under heaven.
A time to be born, a time to die; a time to
plant, a time to collect the harvest;
A time to kill, a time to heal; a time to tear
down, a time to build up;
A time to cry, a time to laugh...
In other words, life can be very complex; which means we must spend more and more and more time in Him to scratch the surface and keep scratching and digging until we feel like we're ready to reflect His will in our thoughts, words, and actions: "Your Word is a lamp for my steps; it lights the path before me."
That's why it cannot be said enough that being Godly requires increasing intimacy with Him by immersion into His revealed will as enfleshed in Jesus and explained in Holy Scripture.
Ecclesiastes is an extraordinarily mature understanding of life's complexity and a simple approach to it: "My advice is to remember your Creator...Remember Him... Worship in reverence the one True God, and keep His commands."
As we've noted before, wisdom comes from God; which is why we like to say, "Wise men still seek Him!"
Solomon got it/Him; and that's why God breathed Ecclesiastes into him for us to read, digest, and allow to direct us through complexities with contextual reading and remembrance of His complete revelation in Holy Scripture as perfectly personified in Jesus.
While I'm just scratching the surface of my relationship with the Lord by reading Holy Scripture with fresh eyes and trust there's so much more to it than I can grasp right now, four of the many dimensions of Godly wisdom caught my attention.
First, even after being blessed by the Lord with Proverbs, which is quite a lot of wisdom for anyone to try to handle, God revealed even more of His mind to Solomon in Ecclesiastes. There's always more to learn; or as Jesus said, "Behold, I make all things new!" That's why Jesus said we must be like new wineskins; always ready to expand and stretch and make room for the more that He has in mind for us. Or as I've come to accept, when we think we've arrived, it means we haven't even started.
Second, everything is meaningless, temporary, and unsatisfying apart from God: "Life is fleeting, like a passing mist. It is like trying to catch hold of a breath...Pleasure, work, wealth, wine, laughter, accomplishments, achievements,...are fleeting." Nothing lasts except our relationship with God. Or as I've come to accept, we're going to spend more time with God than anybody else; so establishing life's priority - Him!!! - is a no brainer. Summarily, only God satisfies forever.
Third, as we've noted in the startling difference between building theology, spirituality, life, and ministry on proof-texting or contextual reading and digestion of Holy Scripture, there are different seasons or situations demanding different responses of fidelity. While exceptions to the rule are called exceptions to the rule because they occur so infrequently that they are exceptions to the rule, there are seasons or situations demanding exceptions to the rule to be faithful. Again, citing the aforementioned, no one would doubt that the overriding emphasis of Holy Scripture is peacemaking; yet there are times when, as the Psalmist acknowledges, "We are for peace but they are for war." Sadly but truly, that means faithful people sometimes not most times must go to war to be faithful to our God who prefers for us to live in peace with each other as a reflection of living in peace with Him.
Fourth, our Source, Starter, Sovereign, and Savior wants us to enjoy the good that He has entrusted to us: "God has made everything beautiful for its time...There is nothing better for us than to be joyful and to do good throughout our lives; to eat and drink and see the good in all of our hard work is a gift from God...We humans can only stand in awe of all God has done." While never forgetting our responsibilities to care for others in need as catalogued so well in Matthew 25, our Lord does not deny us of feasting on the goodness entrusted to us.
You've probably heard wisdom comes from experience and experience comes from the mistakes that we've made.
Wisdom is just knowing how to live out His best in our lives by reading books like Ecclesiastes, digesting them into our souls, and praying along with trying to enflesh it in our experiences and expressions for God's sake which always turns out for ours as well.
...to be continued...
Blessings and Love!