Friday, January 15, 2010

Top Three

Since I haven't posted in a few days, I'll just give the highlights of the last week. Here are my top three.

3) Working Out/Eating Better: This was week two of my and Katie's diet. It's still early on, but we're doing the best we've done in a long while. We feel better, and we feel better about ourselves. That little cloud is not hanging over my spiritual life anymore. It's great. I started working out with the P90X program. It kicked my tail last week (the X stood for eXtremely sore). This week, however, has still been difficult but much better.

2) Gracie's Question: Gracie asked me a good question this morning that had occurred to her the day before in chapel. The question was "We say that Jesus gives us eternal life, but don't we already have eternal life either in heaven or in hell?" My answer: In one sense we do all have eternal life already. This is true if by eternal life you mean eternal existence from here on out. But we are saying something more than this when we speak of Jesus giving eternal life. Here, "eternal" is a quality of life, not endless longevity of life. Eternal life is a quality of life that is characterized by love, joy, peace, goodness, beauty, trust, etc. This is why only Jesus can give it. On the other hand, life without Jesus will ultimately be marked by selfishness, hatred, pride, loneliness, fear, etc. When you really look at it, who would really call this "life" at all? So there is an eternal existence that is really a kind of death. This is what Jesus saves us from.

1) Seeing Back in Time: I learned in my Stars and Galaxies class that we can actually see back into time. Sound unbelievable? Check this out. When the Hubble telescope takes pictures of other galaxies, it is taking pictures of objects millions of light-years away. A light-year is the measurement for distance based on how far light can travel in one year. (For a frame of reference, light can circle around the entire earth eight times in one second.) To say that an object is millions of light-years away is to say that the light by which we see the object had to travel millions of years in order to reach us. This means that whenever we look at such a galaxy or distant star, we are actually seeing the galaxy or star as it appeared millions of years ago. Thus, we are essentially seeing back in time. This also applies on a lesser scale to the stars that we see in the sky with our naked eyes. Any star that you can point out, theoretically may not even exist anymore in the current moment. It could have exploded a thousand years ago. We would not know it, however, until the light from that explosion travels through space and eventually reaches us.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Wild Indians

I heard the term "wild Indians" several times last Friday. (I work at a school.) It made me wonder. How old must that term be? Maybe it's as old as the 1700's when British settlers began to occupy North America. I guess it makes it easier to take someone's land if all they are is a bunch of "wild Indians." I wonder what kind of metaphors the Indians would have based on white people if they had won the West.

Friday, January 8, 2010

One Finger

A couple of semesters ago, I was in a Language and Culture class when the professor asked the whole class a question and gave us the possible answers of, let's just say, A or B. I was relatively sure that the answer was B, but when he asked how many thought the answer was A, practically the whole class raised their hand. This caused me to seriously doubt my answer. When he asked how many thought the answer was B, no one raised their hand, including me. Too bad; I would have been correct.

I have talked with Gracie a few times about the difference between being a leader and being a follower. It seems to me that Gracie is more of a leader, and I hope to encourage her in that. Not only do I not want her to be a follower when the pack is going astray, but I also want her to be a voice that influences others for the good. Today I saw evidence, albeit small, that gave me hope.

Gracie is in the Student Government at Veritas. She is one of two fifth graders in the association. The group ranges from fifth to tenth grade, so Gracie and her friend are by far the youngest. Today I sat in on a meeting in which they were voting to make a decision. There were three choices: Choice 1, Choice 2, and Choice 3. Each person had to hold up the number of fingers that represented the choice for which they were voting. As the group began voting, the older kids held up their hands first: all threes. I watched Gracie as she was trying to decide her vote, and at one point I saw her hold up a one. She put it back down. No one else had seen her. Finally, all the other students were holding up their votes. Each voting hand in the room was holding up three fingers. Gracie was the last to vote. Everyone was watching her. Then, Gracie did something I failed to do only a few semesters ago. She held up one finger.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Tonight I met with Megan, Brian, and Collin to talk through the bylaws we are writing for the new church. Sounds boring, right? It's actually not so bad. I enjoy the chance to be together with these fine individuals.

Talking through the way we are doing things reminded us of how people find the concept of a house church unusual and even somewhat... wrong? Brian's mother is worried that he has joined a cult. Collin's grandmother is asking tons of questions trying to figure out what in the world her grandson has gotten involved with and why in the world we would meet in the afternoon. Other family members have expressed their concern. People from our old churches talk about how they don't understand what we are thinking. You would think that we were having secret gatherings at midnight to drink blood and await the mother ship of the aliens we worship. (We don't do that.) We only have to laugh and wonder at what exactly the concern is over. I suppose that, for some, a church worshiping without a "church building" is like a man walking around without clothes. Maybe that's a good analogy. I suppose what seems natural to some seems shameful to others.

The sad thing is that all of us could show up to a "normal" service at 11:00 every Sunday morning, never take a risk in order to follow Jesus, never lift a finger to help our neighbor, and as long as we sat in our pew and smiled, we would all be spoken well of and considered "normal." No, thanks. Like the apostle Paul, we are happy to be considered fools. Only let us be fools for Christ.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

What to Say?

Tonight I got a call from my dad: "Where are you?" I was on my couch. I was supposed to be at the nursing home to play some songs for a gathering. So I got dressed quickly and headed over there. I arrived fifteen minutes late and a little flustered with a half-constructed set list in my head. Other than the fact that I am never able to sing loud enough at nursing homes (I would have never made it as an orator in ancient Greece), it went fine.

At the nursing home was a young man, I'd say in his early twenties, who was severely disabled. He was somewhat attentive, but he could not (or didn't) speak. Afterward, my parents were asking some of the others from their church what had happened to him. No one was sure, but someone thought that it involved a car wreck. My dad said that the young man's mother seemed angry at God when he had spoken to her briefly. That is not an uncommon emotion in such a tragedy. On the way home, I began to think of what I might say to this woman if we ever had an appropriate conversation to talk about what happened to her son. As I write this, I am not claiming to have an answer for what to say in a situation like this. I am simply trying to work through my own thoughts. I think I would hope to say something like this:

"Ma'am, I am very sorry for what happened to your son. I can't imagine what you and your family must be going through. What I can imagine is that you must have lots of questions without answers. I can imagine that there must be a lot of pain and doubt and what-ifs. I can even imagine that you would find yourself with feelings of anger, especially toward God. What happened to your son was a terrible, terrible thing. It doesn't seem fair. Why would God allow it to happen? But maybe anger toward God is a natural thing to experience here. Maybe it is even the right thing to feel in a way. I mean, what causes this anger toward God? Maybe the cause is that deep down you know there is a God. You know there is a God who is supposed to be loving and powerful and just. That is the right thing to believe. But how do we understand this situation in light of a loving and powerful and just God? There doesn't seem to be a satisfying answer. I can't tell you why God would allow this to happen. But I do think that, if anyone, God knows exactly how you feel. His Son suffered, too. Jesus was crushed unjustly, unfairly. The Bible says that He was a Man of sorrows, familiar with suffering and acquainted with grief. The good news is that after He suffered, God restored Him. He was murdered, but God brought Him back to life. God did this because this is exactly what God wants to do for all of us, for the whole world. Just like God raised Jesus, He will one day raise the whole world. He will mend the broken places and put everything right. Ma'am, I don't know why this happened to your son, but I do know that Jesus is his only hope for truly being well again: mind, body, and soul. Jesus is the only hope of wholeness for us all. I know things must be difficult, but please don't give up. Thank you for letting me share. Please just know that my heart is with you in hoping for your son and his recovery."

Monday, January 4, 2010

Pointing and Building

Missio Dei exists to point to and build for the Kingdom of God in tangible ways as we embody the life of the risen Jesus Christ.
- Missio Dei Mission Statement

So the mission of God is to announce and expand the Kingdom of God. How then is it announced and expanded? What is our role as the church of Jesus in this work? Here is where we begin to speak of pointing to and building for the Kingdom.

There is a very real sense in which the Kingdom of God is a present reality. Jesus told us to "repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand." That is, the Kingdom is upon us. It is here. Now. Perhaps closer than we think. We see it in every act of Spirit-filled act of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. We sense its new ethic in every Christ-empowered sacrificial act of service. We sense its beauty and power in every breath of new life blown into some dark corner that death or despair had claimed. The mouth of Jesus' empty tomb proclaims a new hope over all of creation. This is all the work of God. Our role in this present Kingdom is to point. We point to this outworking of God's Kingdom like a local who knows all the best spots in town. We are to help others see these mysteries that are hidden in broad daylight. God is at work. Our role is to help others see that work and understand something more of it. We point to the present Kingdom.

But there is a very real sense in which the Kingdom of God remains a future reality. God is accomplishing His will, but there is still much resistance to that will. There is still much that is not good, beautiful, or true. There are powers that are visciously working against these very things. Death and decay still seem like the final word. But they are not. God's Kingdom will come; it will be fully realized. As Samwise Gamgee observes in The Lord of the Rings, everything sad will come untrue. All things will be made new. This future Kingdom is what we are building for. Notice that we do not build the Kingdom itself (which is God's work alone), but we build for the Kingdom. N.T. Wright makes this distinction in his book Surprised by Hope. He gives this illustration: Suppose we are stonemasons who have been given the task of building a statue for a great cathedral. We are aware that other teams are busy working on other structures (coats of arms, columns, turrets, etc.) and that other entire departments are busy about completely other tasks. We have not seen the overall blueprint, but we do our work trusting that the architect knows exactly how our work will fit into the whole. And when our statue is complete and is placed in its proper place within the cathedral, it will take on the full measure of its beauty and worth such as we could not have imagined when we were chiseling it back in the stone yard. We did not ourselves build the cathedral, but we built for the cathedral. In the same way, when we work for truth, goodness, beauty, and justice, we are committing acts that matter. When we serve others in love, when we tell of Christ and His mission of restoration, when we display unity as His body, we are building for the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom of God is here. The Kingdom of God will come. Until then, we will point and build.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


This morning as we began worship, Bethany challenged us to allow God the opportunity to speak to us each day. She reminded us that we live in a time and place in which we enjoy unparalleled access to God's Word, yet many of us neglect this access while believers in other parts of the world starve for it. She is right. We are so busy answering the question "What are you doing?" that we forget to ask "What is God doing?" The former question may be easier to answer, but let's be honest, it's far less interesting.

But perhaps asking what God is doing is not the place to begin. The question I must first answer is this: How do I become a better listener?


Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year

It's a brand new year. There is fertile soil ready to be turned. May the fool I was last year lose himself. May some measure of Christ-likeness be formed in me these next 365 days. God have mercy and grant us grace and peace for the year ahead. Amen.