Friday, November 30, 2012

Power and Pigs

Matthew 8:28-34
When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?”
Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.”
He said to them, “Go!” So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region.
There are people who will see the power and God and ask it to leave.

Let that sink in. Here is the order of events:

  1. God shows up (yes, he was technically already there for all you picky people.)
  2. God does a miracle that brings healing
  3. People freak out about some pigs
  4. People tell God to go away
Oops. Sorta missed the point I think.

Sometimes, as humans, we miss the main plot point for a subplot. The pigs? Subplot. The healing of the men? Closer to the main point than the pigs but still not the main point. The power and grace of Jesus? Main plot point.

We have to pay attention to what God is doing in our lives and the world around us. Otherwise we are likely to see the pigs, miss the power and grace, and ask God to leave. And that, is a tragedy! 

Where in you life is the power of God at work? Where in your life are you or others worried about the pigs and need to see the power of God?

(As a last note, Jesus is lucky PETA wasn't around in his day. They would have jumped all over this one!)

Give me Christ or else I die!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Repetition in the Age of One Hit Wonders

One of the things I was captured by when I ran my 5k a couple weeks ago was the repetition of one foot in front of the other. Over and over and over and over again. Left. Right. Left. Right. Left. Right. For (what seemed to me) a really long time. 

We don't live in a world that values repetition. We move from one "greatest, most awesome, there will never be anything funnier/sadder/ more thought-provoking/beautiful/whatever" thing to the next. The way we consume media  encourage this. Youtube encourages us to find the next viral video and experience it before it gets old. And so we live in a hurry that discourages repetition.

The problem, is that repetition is good. It connects us to something. It connects us to God with depth that we cannot have when we run from God high to God high, chasing the next emotional moment. And sometimes the American version of church encourages this. Okay, a lot of the time. Each new study is the thing you need to really know God. Every conference is the one that will change your life.

But 40 days is not the goal. Neither is reading the Bible in a year. Or being up to date with current worship trends. The goal is to know God and enter into his work in this world. And that takes time and as Eugene Peterson put it, "a long obedience in the same direction." So don't be in a perpetual chase for the newest and best in Christian marketing and thought.

Think instead about the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years. Or Paul's years spent in prison and captivity. And live a life of faithfulness.

One of the disciplines that helps me experience this is repetitive prayers. These are short, simple prayers that I can pray over and over again to help remind me of my King and his Kingdom and to quit chasing lesser things.

Two of my favorites, give them a try (pray them over and over, left, right, left, right, left, right):

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner.

Abba, I rest in You.

What repetitive practices do you use to keep you anchored to Christ and His kingdom?

"Give me Christ or else I die!"

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Worried Mind

Matthew 6:28-34
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
Are you a worrier? I believe many of us are. We spend much of our day worried about our jobs and our bills and the list of things that need fixed on the house. The list of what we worry about could go on and on.

But Jesus tells us not to worry. When he tells us not to worry in these verses, he attaches it to something important. He says that instead of worrying, we should seek the kingdom and righteousness of God. Could it be that when we run around full of worry, that we fail to participate in God's kingdom? That we fail to try and be like Christ, living in the grace and truth that he offers?

So, the result of worry, isn't just poor sleep, gray hair, ulcers, overeating, (add your own). The most eye opening result is that we miss out on the kingdom work of God. May it never be!

Let us walk with confidence knowing that God sees us and will provide for us. Here is a beautiful prayer form St. Patrick asking for God to walk with us this day:

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.
I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me;
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,

God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me, 
God's shield to protect me,
God's hosts to save me
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a mulitude.
Christ shield me today
Against wounding
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through the mighty strength
Of the Lord of creation.

Where do you need less worry and more kingdom today?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Election Night Communion

On election night our church, with over 900 other churches across the country, held a communion service. It was not a service for praying for any certain people to win. It was not to pray against any candidates.

It was a night for remembering.

Remembering who we belong to.
Remembering the sacrifice made for us on the cross.
Remembering that our struggle is NOT against flesh and blood, but against Satan and the powers of darkness.
Remembering that the USA, while a great country, is not God's kingdom. His kingdom is larger and greater than our country will ever be.
Remembering that unity is important and can be had when we meet at the cross rather than at the polls.

We centered our night around Isaiah 26:8:
Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws,
    we wait for you;
your name and renown
    are the desire of our hearts.
And we remembered that our lives are about seeking God and living in a way that makes Christ known and brings glory and fame to Him.

It was a beautiful gathering and one I will remember for a long time. I will leave you today with a couple of the prayers we read together that night.

Call to worship #2 
From Cahill United Methodist Church (Alvarado, TX), published by re:Worship
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
And also with you.
Happy are the people who serve the God of Jacob.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.
Let us pray.
Loving God,
we gather to praise and worship you
and to pledge to you our loyalty and our service.
Bless our gathering and our remembering,
our hearing and our speaking,
that all honor and glory may be yours.
Bless us that we may be a blessing—
a blessing to you, to our community,
to our nation, and to our world.
We ask it in the name of Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prayer for the election
By Joanna Harader, author of the “Spacious Faith” blog
God of justice and compassion,
God of Republicans and Democrats and Independents,
God of the poor and the 1% and the middle class,
in the heat of this election year
we pray for our nation, our churches, and ourselves.
In the midst of meanness and deception,
may our words be kind and true.
In the midst of loud speeches and harsh accusations,
may we listen well and try to understand.
May those who follow Jesus do the work of Jesus–
breaking down the dividing walls
speaking the truth in love
meeting together in the face of disagreements.
Holy, loving God, have mercy on your children.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day Thoughts

One of the reasons I hear most often given as a reason to vote is that, "If you don't, you can't complain for the next 4 years!" While this line of thinking seems great, I think it is wrong. Here's why:
1 Corinthians 10:31- So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
So, if you are able to complain and whine AND bring glory to God, then maybe you could somehow say it's ok to complain. But as followers of Jesus, our ultimate goal is to love God and love others. Complaining about the President or the senate or whomever certainly is not loving them. We can think critically and have opinions, but I often see those turn into attacks against people. Especially President Obama.

Maybe even more compelling is this verse:
Philippians 2:14- Do everything without complaining or arguing.

So care about politics? Yes. Complain? No.
Vote? Sure. Use your vote as an excuse for complaining? Nope.

So, tomorrow morning or whenever a winner is declared, here's my humble advice:

Pray. Then pray. Then pray. Our president could use it.

Monday, November 5, 2012

5K Recap

To start, I want to give you a clear idea of my training regimen for this race. I signed up 2 months ago, then proceeded to have about 5 weeks of completely debilitating allergies and a week of sickness. So obviously, I was at my peak physical shape as I entered this race.

It was very cold Saturday morning with a brisk wind. So I dressed warm and milled around trying to fit in or look like I knew what was happening or wasn't very scared of what was about to happen.

My goal was to not be the first person to start walking. As the start sounded, my fear of being last was quickly gone as some people made it less than 100 yards before walking. So I trudged along and realized at some point that I could just keep going at a slow jogging pace somewhat indefinitely. The only point I walked was coming over a hill and turning right into the wind. It just stopped me.

The thing that I found most interesting were the people who would sprint for a short distance then walk. Then sprint, then walk. Eventually those people mostly faded into the background somewhere behind me. I don't understand their strategy. It seems painful.

After all 5k's were complete and I ran under the inflatable finish line, I was overwhelmed. I honestly thought this was something I couldn't do. And I had just finished it. Wow.

I think I am officially bit with the bug. I want to do it again and be faster. And have it resemble actual running. What a great experience. Glad I showed up and tried it!

Friday, November 2, 2012

180 Degrees

"Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is near." -Jesus

Jesus calls people to repentance. Repentance is not just:
  • Being sorry.
  • Feeling bad.
  • Wishing you could be different.
  • Wanting to stop sinful actions.
Repentance is turning around and taking a new course. When Jesus called people to repentance, the call was to be a new person. To take hold of the "new creation" and leave behind the life that was controlled by sin and self. To live the story of God in their life rather than the story of Adam.

Repentance is kind of a big deal. True repentance changes a person's life completely. It alters it's direction. It is beautiful. And it is found at the cross. So lead people to the cross. Go to the cross yourself. And turn in the direction of Jesus.

"Give me Christ or else I die!"