Recently, I feel like God has been leading me into something. I’m not sure what, but the verse that much of this feeling is based on is Matthew 9:13, “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners (NIV).” Couple this with what one theologian calls the “Jesus Creed,” Matthew 22:37-40, “…‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments (NIV).”
I see a lot of pain in this world. You can tell me that people should do “this or that,” but if the “this or that” (I’m talking about the Law) is hanging on to these verses, then don’t forget that we are to love one another, and show mercy.
During my time as an adult volunteer for the youth group, that is something that I have seen time and time again. Well meaning adults, telling the students what they should do, without any grace or mercy attached to it. This kind of starts a path down legalism within a person’s life. Which then reminds me of the line in the Orange County Supertones song Go Your Way,
“Not long after my rescue
I let my failures get me down
My sin had robbed me of the joy I had in you
Then you saved me from that too”
While I was listening to a sermon, within the last six months, the parable of shrewd manager was taught. So many look at the parables as morality stories, when they are so much more, and in this case, this parable isn’t a morality story. It has always puzzled me until I heard this sermon. If you’re not familiar with it (Luke 16:1-9), the manager was crooked, and the owner was going to fire the manager. Since the manager wouldn’t beg and was too old to do anything else he went to each of the people who owed the owner something and cut their amount owed. Now, the owner could have had the manager arrested and restored amount owed by the debtors, BUT…he didn’t, the manager risked that the owner, who was an honorable man would show him mercy and wouldn’t raise the amounts on the debtors.
God is like this. We are so crooked, but God will show us mercy.
With that in mind, I’m starting to see so much of the political process, not in left and right, Republican/Democrat, or anything else. I vote, but I don’t put my hope for change in anything that is tainted by humans, we are too self-centered. I vote for where the mercy is. I wrote that I lean libertarian. I’m willing to let people do whatever they want, but if they find themselves hurting, then I am willing to show them mercy. I’m here to love the Lord with all my heart, and all my soul, and all my heart; and my neighbor as myself. Which brings me back to learning what this means…I desire mercy and not sacrifice.
Drew Spanding has been doing a talks at Chosen for a few years now. I have to say that the talk he gave at Grand Rapids on Saturday was one of his best. I didn’t take notes through the whole thing, but here was a point that has been stuck in my brain since then.
I’ll start with a story that Drew has told in these sessions before. There was a kid in a small group that he ran who once called to ask him if it was a big deal to smoke weed. Drew said it wasn’t a big deal. The kid asked, “so it’s okay to smoke weed.” Drew replied, “It’s not a big deal.” The kid was about to say good by and hang up when Drew said this, “I want you to be a big deal.” I’m paraphrasing this, but the point was that God created you to be a big deal. When you go off and do the stuff like everyone else, then you diminish who you could be.
So what does that have to do with sex and God’s plan? As Drew put it, and I agree, if you are avoiding sex, so you don’t get pregnant (or getting someone pregnant), or to avoid an sexually transmitted disease, then you might as well grab some condoms and go forth. However, if you have faith in God, then don’t, and realize that God has faith in you. In fact, to drive the point home, let’s look at what Jesus did.
First, think of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11), the Pharisees and others drag her in front of Jesus. After Jesus tells them that he who is without cast the first stone, they all leave and he then has the following conversation (NIV):
Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,”Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
Jesus doesn’t condemn her and tells her to leave her life of sin. We never hear any more about her. However, in a way He has faith in her to go forth and follow Him. Some think that this woman was Mary Magdelene although the passage is unclear.
Here’s a more direct story. Matt 14:28-33. This is where Jesus walks on the water. Now, Peter asks if he can walk on water. Why, because Jesus is his rabbi and the disciple wants to be like the rabbi. So Peter walks out there. However, he falters as he looks at the winds and waves. So what happened? did Peter lose faith in Jesus? No. He lost faith in himself to be like his rabbi. Drew’s point is this, Jesus has faith in you, but you need to have faith in yourself to be like your rabbi (Jesus).
Are you or have you been in relationship? Does it have to be sexual before marriage? You think that this person is the one, but are they? We often, in the church, fall back on the shame and honor culture of the Old Testament, when we need to introduce people, especially teens to the New Testament. If we do, the doubt they often experience comes from their own self image, and not their doubt in Jesus to forgive. They don’t think that they can be like their rabbi (Jesus).
Remember this, Jesus has faith in you to follow Him. The disciples often messed up, but Jesus always brings them back and they follow. So you think that there is no way for you to get into a relationship without sex? Think again. God will bring the right one. You have to have faith not just in God to do bring the right one, but also you have to have faith in yourself that you can hold on until He does.
The first major change in a long time has finally happened, the old house sold. Mary and I signed the papers on Friday (8/6/10) declaring the house is no longer ours. We now just own one house, the one in Boyne Falls. I praise God for that. With that bit of news, there are some negative things that have been happening, as well. I won’t list them here, they are related, and they have been rather heart breaking, in the figurative sense of the word, but change is happening.
It has been a while since I shared about my spirituality. The short version is that I “sense” more than I used to, and reading the Bible has become more revelatory than I used to know. In this case, despite a few of the negatives that have shown up, I got the impression that Jeremiah 30:17 is in play, but only if people will do what Matthew 5:23-24 says. I’m struggling with this, because I feel the need to go to some of the heart breakers and talk to them, because they did hurt me. So, I have been praying. Now, I’m not sure when an answer to this prayer will come, but I heard three pastors a few months ago, that I think God was speaking through, to me, in preparation for this moment.
1. Rob Bell preaching about a Sacred Waste
2. Brian Zahnd preaching about Salt and Light
3. Duane Van Der Klok preaching about Mega Faith
I know that I will have to pour out an offering in figurative terms. That I will have serve those I pray for.
That I will not see an answer right away, even though it looks like nothing will ever happen.
In my RSS reader were these posts from some bloggers that I read. The first was from Don Miller, the author of Blue Like Jazz. His post about Let Story Guide You had this excerpt that was rather reminiscent of events here, as of late.
The other problem with real life is it’s hard to tell whether or not you are the bad guy. We all believe we are the good guy or that our words and actions are justified. The other day I lost my temper at a stranger. I really let them have it. I still feel like they deserved it. It was a bully situation in which somebody was being threatened. But I went too far, honestly. I pretty much said things that person will be thinking about for years. I went for the jugular and put him in his place. Or perhaps it went in one ear and out the other, I don’t know. But regardless, I was thinking about that today, and realized that the things I said could be placed word for word into a film in which the character that said it got “what they deserved” at the end and nobody would really care. Stink. Can’t believe I said those things.
I worry about my temper at times when I need to confront things, because I don’t want to end up in this situation. Besides, when I do get angry in an argument, I can’t think clearly enough to make sense. So to combat this I pray. Of course, the book study that I happen to be reading online from theologian Scot McKnight is Psalms. The post that I read about has been Psalms 25:17-22. Here’s his commentary:
The psalmist’s inner heart is in need of relief (v. 17); the psalmist is in trouble and wants forgiveness (v. 18); the psalmist then thinks of his enemies and wants deliverance (v. 19). So he prays for deliverance (20-21).
And then suddenly, the psalmist moves to the People of God: redeem Israel (v. 22).
Read more here.
So the Psalmist is praying just the way I have been feeling, and for the resolution that I believe that we are looking for. That is my prayer tonight…Lord, give strength to reconcile without the anger, heal my broken heart, heal your church, and give me rest. Amen.
My rest is the only thing I can control. That is the one thing I will work on is resting. For these changes have been exhausting.
Okay, maybe dread is a little strong, but the way we celebrate Christmas in the U. S. to me is just wrong. What I mean is this, the church fights about the wrong stuff with this “War on Christmas,” stuff, instead of the problem that is more insidious. Consumerism.
Henry Neufeld, a United Methodist blogger, makes the point that I have been feeling for a long time.
While we’re worried about losing the external trappings of Christmas, such as public trees and manger displays, the real war on Christmas is practically won already. Christmas has almost nothing at all to do with Jesus. This has been my opinion for many years. Christmas as celebrated in America, even in most of our churches, is about us and our economic prosperity, not about Jesus and his good news.
This is something that needs to be taken out of the church. It is hard to extract, but I think that if we extract this consumeristic view of Christmas, we may just get a revival in this land. I think that some of this is happening. It will be a slow process.
Read his whole post.
I have been struck at the number of people that I have come across recently that have expressed faith in Christ, or have in the past, but for what ever reason push it aside as if it was just the one or two hour a week thing at church. I guess that’s the frustration that comes sometimes in youth ministry when you are doing everything you think is right. You think you are doing the right things, and you think they are beginning to get with the plan, but then they fall into the same patterns. A few people over the past couple of months have gotten me thinking about this.
So with a culmination of things, it has me feeling a bit down. However, on the brighter side, we are getting back a big chunk of our taxes. Which means, that I need to make adjustments to our W4’s so that we can keep that in our paychecks. Besides Christ is Risen!
Being a meteorologist that has to work on rotating shifts, there are a few weekends when it is my time to work. Some people would ask how I do church. For one thing, I have found that my first day off from work is my sabbath. I tend to not do a whole lot on that day. Next, while I miss our church worship on Sunday, I listen to the podcasts of two other churches, Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, MI and Imago Dei in Portland, OR.
This last Sunday was interesting as I find myself evaluating how am I being part of the priesthood of all believers, fulfilling Isaiah 61, Acts 2:42-47, and wondering what more can I do. The reason that it was so interesting, was due to the fact that Mars Hill and Imago Dei had almost the same teaching with the difference being their geographical areas and the Lifespring podcast the hosts wife shared how they are trying to share God’s peace with kids who don’t have any peace. Coming from a Methodist, who tries to knows a little bit of the life of John Wesley, I find myself wanting to emulate Christ better.