Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A God-Breathed Book

In the beginning, there was nothing. No things. A void, not even time. Then God spoke. And out of his mouth flung galaxies at the speed of light. Black holes. Supernovas. He breathed our universe into existence.

And on the sixth day, standing on planet earth, He knelt down and took a handful of dirt in His hand. A clump of mud. Couldn’t do anything on its own.     But then, God breathed, and suddenly that dirt took on a form, and the three members of the Trinity turned to one another and said, “Let’s make it in our image.”

So they did.

Ecclesiastes 3 says God set eternity in our hearts, which meant for the rest of time, we, humans, would have the capacity to ponder, to dream, to reach for something beyond ourselves. All because God breathed into a pile of dirt.

So we were created to reach, but what did God want us to reach towards? What could satisfy that hunger we had within us?    John 1, we’re pointed back to that moment of Creation as John writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God." Verse 14, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth."

In Jesus, we have walking, talking Truth: The living, visible, love of God. Remember that moment Pilate turns to Jesus, feeling scared and confused and alone and with defeat, Pilate asks, “Quid est veritas?” “What is truth?”         And Jesus says, “Hi, I'm truth, nice to meet you.”

Pilate could have reached out and physically touched the face of God. But what about after Jesus ascended, what about us? Sure, people wrote down their experiences with Jesus. But that could just be words on a piece of paper. Flat. Tiny voices lost in the noise of culture.

But then God breathed, and the Bible became living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrows, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

In other words, the Bible is not your ordinary book.You don't just read the Bible, the Bible reads you. And the same power that God used to create the universe can be found in the words of Scripture.          Why? So we might reach out and touch the face of God. So when sin pulls us further away from God’s holy and perfect presence, we have a lifeline, sent by God to rescue us. So He can bring us close and continue His art of Creation. By re-creating us for His kingdom.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Want a job? Get married!

That was some of the worst advice I ever received. At the time I was young in ministry and meeting with a regional director of church planting to talk about my future. I thought I was ready for any encouragement this individual could give. I thought wrong:

“If you want to get a job, I have two pieces of advice: the first is to join a large church and hope to land an unpaid internship, the second is to find a wife and get married.”

Photo credit: Llamnuds via Flickr

Ugh. I felt so deflated. I had gone into the meeting excited, thinking maybe this director could help me take the next couple of steps towards a life of full-time ministry. After all, what Christian organization wouldn’t want to focus a young guy who loves the Lord, is passionate about sharing God’s message with new people, and willing to go wherever ministry took him?

This would-be mentor messed up. His advice made me feel small, alone, and unsupported. As I remember that awful day, and as we celebrate Valentine’s Day, I ponder what advice he could have given me:

1. Singleness is a gift. So is marriage. And God calls people to both in order to reveal His design for relationships to the world. Our relationship status is never a handicap to what God can do through us.

2. There are countless ways to “enter ministry,” even when we’re talking a ministry role that will help to put a roof over your head. Persist at loving God and loving people, and a door will open when you need it.

3. Ministries come in all shapes and sizes. There are benefits to going to a big church but also benefits to going to a small church. God’s provision is not restricted to one kind of church structure.

Across the blogosphere today you’ll see countless posts on how God still loves single people (which is true!), and how marriage isn’t just for our happiness but is also to show God’s love to the world (which is also true!), but I’d like to take this opportunity to encourage you, no matter your relationship status:

God has a plan for your life. It’s a good plan. You’re not waiting for that plan to start, it’s happening. Right now. You’re in it. So seek Him foremost and everything else will fall into place.

Do you have any horror stories of bad advice? Add a comment below, I’d love to hear about your experiences.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Spiritual Olympics

"Do you not know that all the runners in a stadium compete, but only one receives the prize? So run to win."  -1 Corinthians 9:24

Photo credit: U.S. Army Korea via Flickr

There's no denying how these athletes made it to the Olympics: they worked really, really hard. While many of us were sitting back, these athletes were making the long, steady climb to the top of their sport.

And the benefit of their discipline is obvious; they're breaking world records in Sochi and we gather around our televisions to cheer on their achievements. They inspire us.

 So here's my question: why don't our faith communities make a bigger deal out of spiritually related achievements? If a friend has memorized 189 verses, we should cheer them on as they near 200! We should celebrate the person beside us in the pew who just completed their yearly Bible reading plan!

I realize that some may be quick to cry "legalism" but legalism is not about whether someone achieves or not... legalism is about one's attitude towards those achievements. Our goal is to glorify God. Our fuel is knowing we delight Jesus when we live in excellence.

Just imagine if the value of reading Scripture was as obvious to everyone as exercise and nutritious food. Sure, we're always starting diets that don't last. We persist because we really believe better food will make a difference. But how many people do you know who attempt Bible reading plans with the same perennial gusto? Let's be encouraged; God is our biggest fan, and He will gives us the strength to achieve beyond our wildest dreams.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Is Facebook a Good Place for Debate?

Have you ever found yourself debating someone on the public wall of a Facebook page?

My wife will often mention to me that she is about to post a comment which might be taken as controversial, or debating something that someone already said. Without fail I always say the same thing, "Just send a private message. Don't get into a conversation like that on the wall. No good can come of it."

So earlier this week when Bill Nye "the Science Guy" and Ken Ham (president of Answers in Genesis) publicly debated whether Creationism was a viable scientific model, I uncharacteristically posted a status to get some dialogue started up.

Now it's a few days later and I realize I have been launching into mini-manifestos, not just quick, tiny comments. Maybe I should have heeded my own advice; send a private message. No good can come of this.

Do you agree? What are your thoughts on the merits (or lack thereof) of debate on Facebook walls?

And just for fun, here is the debate as well as a more scientific conversation with Stephen Meyer about Intelligent Design. By posting these videos I'm not saying I agree with the thoughts presented but I do think it's worthwhile to hear the topic explored from different angles.


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Too Many Needs in the World

I have a problem I can't solve...

Yesterday I was checking out a blog of an author I like who was describing his recent trip to Uganda. There he visited an orphan he sponsors through a Christian ministry called Compassion. The blog showed some very serious needs and the trip is a great example of Christian outreach. My heart went out to them; I firmly believe that we are called to take care of every widow and orphan in the world.

Photo credit: louris.yamaguchi via Flickr

But here's where I began to have a problem: the bloggers described how small and scary their final plane ride was but it was a 20 passenger plane. They landed on a developed airstrip. They visited a slum (their word) where everyone had donated food and clothing. Compared to what I had seen visiting Congo (where my dad was born and my grandparents were long-term missionaries), the conditions didn't look so bad.

This last thought left me with a mix of emotions. I felt guilt for even making a comparison because missions is not a competition. I felt sad, wondering if it was pride that caused me to compare my own missions experiences with others. I felt selfish because shouldn't my automatic, instinctual response be to do everything I can to help out a need?

I'm not totally wrong though, am I? If you google "poorest countries in the world" you'll see that Congo is dead last on every list. Countries like Uganda, Haiti, India, etc., have serious needs but are higher up on the list. Anyway, as I'm feeling this mix of emotions I decide to click on the link for Compassion ministries and see the list of orphans I can support. As I check out the list I notice that Congo and Central African Republic are missing. And then it hits me:

GDP per capita, based on World Bank figures

The countries with the biggest needs are by definition going to be missing from those websites.

Because in order to send money, there needs to be a stable enough ministry presence that my dollars can be sent through an established orphanage or family center. The only way to get money to the more unstable countries is to send it to missionaries who are on the front lines, many of whom are evacuated when things get really bad.

I'll give you an example: the other day I received an e-mail from my uncle and aunt, who are missionaries in Central African Republic. They were happy that a recent shooting in the marketplace was an isolated incident because it meant the rebels weren't yet raiding the town. My aunt and uncle always keep a packed bag at the ready for when the rebels show up. Intense!

I have a problem I can't solve... with so much need in the world, how do I decide where to send my limited resources? How do I encourage others to give to needs that are outside the system? Am I responsible to tell the story of needs I have seen?

Fortunately we have a God who is present in all of these places. No one is outside the reach of His love and He loves those needy individuals more than I ever could. Praise God for His incredible faithfulness and lovingkindness.