Saturday, February 26, 2011

Fear and Trembling

When I was still Youth ministering, there was a great series of videos that came out called Nooma.  The Nooma series was intentionally challenging, questioning, and open ended.  They were great for the youth minister who always wanted to push and challenge teenagers to go beyond memorizing the ABCs and moshing at a Christian concert.  The man behind the NOOMA series was Rob Bell, and he has created quite a stir with this new video promoting his new book:

Rob Bell - Love Wins

Now, I haven't read the new book, nor do I claim to know Mr. Bell's stance on many issues theologically.  What I do know is that this video has caused many high profile ministers to condemn Rob Bell as a "universalist," and thus a heretic who has cheapened the Cross of Christ.  John Piper tweeted "farewell Rob Bell," and suddenly the whole Twittering world was looking in as, once again Christians tore each other limb from limb over a book that nobody has read yet!

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,  for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.- Philippians 2:12,13

I have said zillions of times from the pulpit and in private conversation - "even as your pastor, I reserve the right to be wrong."  The truth is, no matter how sure we are of our interpretations of God's Word, we simply don't know for sure all the answers.  So why not ask the questions?  In particular, why not struggle mightily with the most important idea - who is saved and how?  If we truly believe in Hell, why would we be so eager to talk about those we think are doomed to go there?  I think universalists have a lot of questions to answer in regards to God's Justice and the necessity of the Cross, but I confess that I have a hard time deciding just HOW graceful God is, and just how far He is willing to go with His love.

I, for one, will continue to work out my faith in fear and trembling.  I will continue to focus on God's love and grace, and on how to live humbly with the idea that I have experienced that saving grace, and continue to experience it daily.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Baby Legs

Our son Evan is now, officially, a walker.  I say "officially" because he has decided that he likes walking more than crawling.  He walks so much I have changed his last name to Texas Ranger.  Yep, its on!

Its so fun watching his confidence grow.  At first he was a teetering, tottering mess.  He tripped over his pants legs.  He would mange 3, 4, 5 steps and then, BONK!  Right on his fanny.  (yes, we parent folk use the word "fanny," deal with it!)  You would think that with so much consistent failure, that babies would never learn to walk.  That they would just give up at some point and decide that crawling is safer and easier.  Of course babies know somehow, internally, that we aren't designed to crawl.  We are designed to walk and run.

but those who hope in the LORD
   will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
   they will run and not grow weary,
   they will walk and not be faint.
  - Isaiah 40:31

Its remarkable really, that when you see the faithful in Scripture they are "walking" in faith, never "idling" in faith, or "snoozing" in faith, or "drawing up doctrinal creeds" in faith.  We are designed to walk.  Are you?  Or have you fallen on your fanny too many times, and decided that crawling is safer?

Give it a try.  Find somebody to show a small act of love or grace to.  Forgive someone who didn't ask for it.  Be kind to a stranger.  Volunteer your time.  Meet someone that doesn't look like you or think like you.

Will you go BONK!?  Maybe, but you know, just like Evan knows, somehow, deep within, that we aren't designed to stay down there.  We're designed to walk.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Normal days

Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are… Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect Tomorrow. One day I shall dig my nails into the earth, or bury my face in my pillow, or stretch myself taut, or raise my hands to the sky and want, more than all the world, your return.
- Mary Jean Iron

Today has been, by most all measures a pretty "normal" day.  We had a great time at church this morning, with deep worship and a sermon preached in sweat pants!  Then, Jenn and I went for a little early Valentine's Lunch since I'll be at Hickory Ridge tomorrow night for round 1 of the Conference Tournament.  Top that off with Baskin Robbins and nap time and its been a great...normal day.

After such a long cold winter, the weather today is wonderful.  But the truth be told it was only slightly warmer than average.

Our meal was good, but not great, just an "average" meal.   But when you spend it with a family you love so dearly it becomes awesome.

Even now as we are enjoying a little TV time and a sleeping baby, everything is just spectacularly...normal.

 There is a time for everything,
   and a season for every activity under the heavens:
 a time to be born and a time to die,
   a time to plant and a time to uproot,
  a time to kill and a time to heal,
   a time to tear down and a time to build,
  a time to weep and a time to laugh,
   a time to mourn and a time to dance,
  a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
   a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
  a time to search and a time to give up,
   a time to keep and a time to throw away,
  a time to tear and a time to mend,
   a time to be silent and a time to speak,
  a time to love and a time to hate,
   a time for war and a time for peace.
  - Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

We aren't guaranteed anything in this life.  Even those who are walking fully with God are still subject to the changes in the tides and the difficulties of a world spinning out of our control.  So treasure your normal days.  Don't find them "boring" or "wasted," enjoy them for what they are.  Tomorrow will bring its own trouble.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

On Roller Coasters

As some of you know, and some of you are about to learn, I moonlight as a basketball coach.  This year I have been assistant coach to the boys teams at Hickory Ridge High School , where Grace Crossing meets each Sunday.

Tonight the basketball teams at Hickory Ridge High will face the Concord Spiders.  Concord is ranked #1 in the state in 3A.  They walk, talk, and play with overwhelming confidence.  Swagger.  Last time we met them at their gym, they beat our Varsity by 48.  Yep, that's a total butt-whoopin!  We were, at that point on a downhill slide and Concord provided the out of control loop-de-loop at the bottom of the hill.

But a funny thing has happened since then.  The boys have recommitted themselves.  To each other, to the little things, to defending and running the plays and playing the way we play.  And we're winning now, which brings me to roller coasters.

Flying down hill takes no effort for a roller coaster, you just let go and let gravity take over.  That's what losing streaks are like.  Hands high, screaming (not joyful screaming, stark terror!) and hoping the bottom comes soon and not too hard.

Then you start heading back up hills.  You get some momentum.  You climb.  You dip, you turn, you start to feel like you're back in control.  But on every roller coaster there is at least one hill that momentum just won't carry you up.  You climb that hill with a "clack" "clack" "clack" of chain links and gears.  One "clack" at a time.  "Clack"  Up.  "Clack" Up.  "Clack" Up.

For our team, tonight is that hill, and if we're going to climb it, we're going to have to climb it one link at a time.

The one thing I love the most about sports, is how often it mirrors life.  Our church finds itself in the same situation.  We're on a roll right now.  We have some upward momentum.  But we're not going to get as high as God wants us to get without the "clack" "clack" "clack" of each and every link in our chain.

There are some hills that simply take more work to climb.  But when you get to the top of them, well, that's when the fun starts!

Friday, February 4, 2011

The Big Game*

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. - Matthew 6:24

I wanted to title this post with the name of "that big game," but you know how the NFL guards its money.  They probably have a team of lawyers combing obscure blogs from even more obscure pastors to make sure they get paid a couple cents every time the name of "that big game" gets used.

And of course, after "the game" is over, the talk of the sports world will be the impending strike/lockout that will almost certainly wipe out the off-season for the NFL, if not part or all of next season's games.

Billionaires and Millionaires arguing over percentage points.  The NFL is a $7,800,000,000.00 (yep, 7.8 BILLION DOLLAR) industry.  That amount is staggering.  To put it in perspective, that is about $23 per every man, woman, and child in the U.S.   Its more than the entire GDP for 78 COUNTRIES in the world.

Now, please understand I am speaking as a huge sports fan.  I love sport.  High School, college, pro, if there is a ball and a scoreboard, I will absolutely watch it.  But I'm reminded of just how far out of whack our priorities are as a people when we spend more money on the NFL each year than we spend in aid to sub-Saharan Africa, more than private businesses and foundations spend in TOTAL aid in the world.

A final bit of perspective.  The number 1 cause of death in developing nations is lack of access to clean water.  The estimated TOTAL cost to give every single person in these countries access to this most basic human need?  10 billion dollars.

Maybe if they do lock out, we can all send our money here: