Monday, June 30, 2008
Didn’t your mother tell you that it was inappropriate to tell secrets?!?!
I hate uncomfortable and peculiar social situations where someone whispers something into someone else’s ear and you are there left in the dark to wonder what just transpired. Maybe there is a look of fear after the secret is told or a burst of laughter and you are there thinking to yourself, “What! What just happened? Do I need to know this information? Are they talking about something important? Does this information affect me in any way? Could I be hurt if I knew, or would it help me?” You want to be in on the news. You want help. You want to be influenced by this information. You want to laugh too. But no, you are left in the dark to wonder what in the world is going on.
There is a resource out there called The Secret. It is the biggest “hot mess” I have ever seen. The premise is that there is a secret knowledge out there that you can tap into to get anything that you want, as if it were about you and me at all. The resource claims that if you can think it and channel the power of envisioning what you want, then you can achieve it. This is Gnosticism revisited and puked back out onto the self help table of the masses. “Gnosticism is a pre-Christian and early Christian religious movement teaching that salvation comes by learning esoteric spiritual truths that free humanity from the material world, believed in this movement to be evil (Encarta Dictionary: English).” In simpler terms, knowledge is power. We can know enough to transcend this material world and achieve salvation through a special knowledge or secret.
The good news of Jesus Christ is no secret. God has plainly made Himself known to all people through His son Jesus. When God saw the persistent ignorance of Himself among the Jews and Gentiles, He was persistent and chose to come down from heaven and to show us Himself through Jesus. If we have seen Jesus, we have seen God. No guess work is required and we are not left in the dark in a peculiar situation. God has made Himself known to us and has done all the work to rescue us.
“This mystery has been kept in the dark for a long time, but now it’s out in the open. God wanted everyone, not just Jews, to know this rich and glorious secret inside and out, regardless of their background, regardless of their religious standing. The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you, so therefore you can look forward to sharing in God’s glory. It’s that simple. That is the substance of our Message. We preach Christ, warning people not to add to the Message. We teach in a spirit of profound common sense so that we can bring each person to maturity. To be mature is to be basic. Christ! No more, no less. That’s what I’m working so hard at day after day, year after year, doing my best with the energy God so generously gives me. ”
Peterson, Eugene H.: The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, Colo. : NavPress, 2002, S. Col 1:26-29
In Him no secrets are hidden,
Thursday, June 26, 2008
“God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He’s set us up in the kingdom of the Son he loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating. ”
Peterson, Eugene H.: The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, Colo. : NavPress, 2002, S. Col 1:13-14
Rescue is coming. Help is on the way. What comforting words. Even more comforting are the words: “Rescue is here!” and “Help has arrived!”
I went mountain biking with a friend of mine on a trail that I often take. I had been on this trail with my friend before, so I may have gotten complacent or taken the ride for granted, we both did. We approached the first big downhill on this technical single track with some serious speed. The trail was rutted out and was covered with leaves and riddled with roots. Three quarters of the way down I looked back to see if my friend had executed the hill, I was concerned. I knew the trail was dangerous. It was difficult for me and I had done this many times before. As I looked back, I saw my friend do a high side fall and launch over the bike landing on his shoulder and flipping forward. He looked like a rag doll being tossed into the air. I stopped my bike, yelled for him not to move, and assured him that help was on the way. While this was comforting, in a limited sort of way, my friend was not truly comforted till help had actually arrived with plenty of pain killers and a sling for his broken clavicle at the hospital.
I don’t know if you have ever been in an accident or injured, or if you have ever gotten yourself into a predicament where you really needed the assistance of others, you really needed some help, but these situations can be a very frightening thing. Some of the emotions are fear, anxiety, worry, hurt, despair, loneliness, and fill in the blank with your own personal favorite.
There is good news and there is bad news about our sinful predicament. I will start with the bad news. We are sinners, we have sinned, and we will sin again. Now, for the good news: we have been rescued and we will be rescued. Rescue is here! Help has arrived! God Himself has lifted us up out of the pit that we have dug for ourselves and has saved us from the unrelenting doom that we seem to persist on putting ourselves in because of our sinfulness.
Rescued for His Kingdom,
The scripture below is taken from Colossians 1:9-12, from Eugene Peterson’s The Message.
“Be assured that from the first day we heard of you, we haven’t stopped praying for you, asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to his will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works. We pray that you’ll live well for the Master, making him proud of you as you work hard in his orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us. ”
There is an old saying that goes “life is a marathon and not a sprint.” There is another one that I really appreciate that says “work like you don’t need the money.” It appears to me that Paul was saying both of these things in this scripture, but he said it better and he took it further. We are to do everything that we do as if it were serving the Lord, because everything that we do is in fact serving the Lord. Though sometimes it is difficult, we must not grow weary in our well doing or in our service to God and others.
The only way to pull this off is going to where Paul starts, which is allowing God to do His work in us. God must have His way and give us wise minds and spirits that are attuned to His will. We must yield to and be in clear understanding of the way in which God works. Whew, this is great! So, it isn’t about our efforts at all. It is about prayer, God’s Spirit and wisdom at work in us, and the glory-strength that God Himself gives us. It is God who does the work, He labors in us, through us, and despite of us.
So may we run the marathon, work like we don’t need the money, and win the strong man contest doing all that we do as if we were doing it for the master Himself, relying on His strength, with pure Joy and excitement and partaking in everything beautiful that He has for us.
Peterson, Eugene H.: The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, Colo. : NavPress, 2002, S. Col 1:9-12
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
There is an American idiom that says, “To put my two cents in.” This expression comes from a British saying, which is to give my “pennyworth.” Basically, the turn of phrase is prefacing an opinion, something that everyone has and it may come cheaply without exuberant effort for some. However, this could also be used as sarcasm which prefaces that you are about to state your strong felt opinion, or a known blunt in your face truth and this will cost you and me a great deal. Irony, sweet irony.
This expression, “To put my two cents in,” could have deeper roots, or at least I would like to make believe that it has deeper roots in a New Testament story of the widow and her two mites from Mark 12: 41-44. The story goes like this:
“Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans (Her life savings people). So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.”
The New King James Version. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1982, S. Mk 12:41-44
My Two Mites is a presumptuous title for a blog, or is it. . . I am by no means putting into this glorified journal my whole livelihood as an offering to God and to my brothers and sisters. I am also not putting in much out of my own riches, as I own nothing and have nothing that is my own. I am only making an offering out of what has been entrusted to me. I imagine this title could be both presumptuous and humbly accurate, depending the scenario and many other factors. I am offering up all I have on a good day with good intentions and I could be terribly sarcastic, off, sinful, and opinionated on a bad day. Sometimes it is all I have and sometimes it is a drop in the bucket considering my potential wealth apart from my fallen nature.
I only hope that this offering is blessed by the Lord to point someone, myself included, closer to Jesus. If I put in all I have, my humble opinion and experience with Jesus and His word thus far in my life, may God be praised; and if I dump in all riches in abundance, may God get the glory and may He be praised all the same, as it is all His. Again, I have nothing.
My two mites, His abundant riches,
Monday, June 16, 2008
Jesus promised us that we would experience sufferings, trials and tribulations in this world and that persecution and hatred for His sake was inevitable, because the world hated Him first. This is not the most cheerful thing to talk about, but Paul sure makes it sound good in Colossians 1:24-25:
“I want you to know how glad I am that it’s me sitting here in this jail and not you. There’s a lot of suffering to be entered into in this world—the kind of suffering Christ takes on. I welcome the chance to take my share in the church’s part of that suffering. When I became a servant in this church, I experienced this suffering as a sheer gift, God’s way of helping me serve you, laying out the whole truth.”
I don’t know that we suffer well as Christians these days. I am not so sure suffering looks the same as it once did when Paul so gleefully was taking it on in abundance as a gift and service to God and His church. Suffering in North American Christianity seems more theoretical at its worse and more like a “pot shot” from the world at its pettiest. It is like subtle rust that eats away at the welds of our faith. Do we even know how to suffer or are we just taking on “pot shots” with easy passivity in hopes to maintain our comfort level and peace and coexistence with all? Me, well, I like comfort and hate conflict.
According to the American Heritage Dictionary Online, a pot shot is a random or easy shot, or a criticism made without careful thought and aimed at a handy target for attack. The etymology of the word tells us that a pot shot is called this because such a shot is fired by a hunter whose main purpose is to get food for the pot. This is an act of desperation on the part of the hunter and the target of his aggression is more likely safe from harm than in the threat of harm.
She wanted to feel better. Like a hunger pain that was needing suppression, her hunger to feel better about herself or to feel justified or vindicated made her take the shot. I was making my purchase and out of nowhere she starts talking about how the crazy Christians are writing verses on the sides of the camping soap. It caught me off guard. “Wait a minute,” I thought, “I am a Christian,” but what do you say to that? Before I could say anything, however, it was “have a nice day,” and the damage was done. It was a direct hit. She had met her need and dinner was served, she was satisfied, her assumptions were assumed correct and the damage was done, the rust set in and the joint was weakened.
May the Lord grant us the strength, wisdom, courage, timing, clarity, and wit to suffer well for Jesus and His gospel.
Enduring the world’s “pot shots,”
Peterson, Eugene H.: The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Our lives read like a book. They tell a story. What do they say? How will they end? Do our lives speak of us, or do they speak of God? Yes. They speak of both, but my hope and prayer for me and for you is that God has the last influence and the last word on our lives, that the author of life himself, the grand story, edits and completes our stories as we live them out for Him and in Him, and that they read much like Colossians 1:21-23:
“You yourselves are a case study of what he does. At one time you all had your backs turned to God, thinking rebellious thoughts of him, giving him trouble every chance you got. But now, by giving himself completely at the Cross, actually dying for you, Christ brought you over to God’s side and put your lives together, whole and holy in his presence. You don’t walk away from a gift like that! You stay grounded and steady in that bond of trust, constantly tuned in to the Message, careful not to be distracted or diverted. There is no other Message—just this one. Every creature under heaven gets this same Message. I, Paul, am a messenger of this Message.”
I used to read these choose your own adventure books when I was a kid, which in itself was a miracle, because I hated to read, but these books were cool. I could actually participate in how the story would turn out. Each decision that I made as I read this book would lead me in a direction with another decision which would lead me to another outcome and another decision to be made and on it would go until the story ended. The authors of these books are extremely creative and artistic and allow for many different adventures and choices that came to a few choice endings. I remember when I found out that I could cheat the system and read the last pages for the ending that I wanted. I then would go through the book and make choices that would take me to that ending.
What Paul is saying to us here in Colossians is clear: “Choose God’s adventure.” Paul wants us not to put the book down. He wants us to make the right choices to live out the author’s story. We are not to look at other stories and we are not to look away from the one that God has called us into. As one adventure leads us to the next and till that glorious end comes may we not close the cover, may we not give up, be distracted or diverted to a lesser tale.
Choosing His Adventure,
Peterson, Eugene H.: The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
I did it again this weekend. I went backpacking. I could not help myself.
I love the great outdoors and getting away from the claustrophobic “nature” of Northern Virginia where everyone is rubbing elbows and traffic presses into every crevice of space that you wish you could occupy and run free in, or at least drive in during afternoon and morning rush hours.
Backpacking in Dolly Sods this weekend was like the antithesis of this experience. The sods are an open grassy plateau where the sky lights up like Christmas because of the lack of light pollution and the silence makes your ears feel numb because there is no white noise of traffic, people and planes. You feel God’s presence. There is plenty of room for Him there. It is open and wild, wild in the way that life should be wild. It is free. It’s like . . . well; it is like a picture of Jesus from Colossians 1: 18-20:
“He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he’s there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross. ”
Seeking, harmony, repair, vibrancies, and open spaces in Jesus,
Peterson, Eugene H.: The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language.