Pots & Kettles

Recently, I read an article from The Blaze about the evil motives behind Sesame Street. My initial reaction was of the knee-jerk persuasion. I ranted about hypocrisy and double standards, highlighting that the author of the article was in fact pushing his own agenda, much like the liberals who he blasted.

The next day, I did a little more digging in the book covered in the article, and stumbled upon a slightly more thorough (and decidedly not Glenn Beck affiliated) article.

All of this goes to say one thing: I have a confession. IN the midst of my tirade against what I perceive as the “insane right”,” I engaged in the kind of behavior that I loathe about them. I jumped to conclusions just because an article was associated with Mr. Beck (and its not even THAT closely associated with him). In truth, I’m ashamed of myself.

But, as a pastor I listen to occasionally once said, the trick is to own your sin (my paraphrase).  Good advice, and a necessity for maintaining honesty with God. When John the Baptist told the crowds, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near,” this is what he was talking about. Part of of confession is not clamoring for excuses. It’s what separated David from Solomon. And I hope it’s what separates me as well.

Forgive me of my haughtiness, Lord. Never let me forget that it is not my political or social ideologies that determines my life, but rather my relationship to You which is of the utmost importance. Thank You for Your Grace and Kindness. Teach me to share those things with all that surround me. In the name of your precious Son, Amen.

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A New Year’s Suggestion

As New Year’s approaches, and many set their sights on some kind of renewal or resolve, I’d like to offer some advice. It’s not mine, but it is a beautiful suggestion that I believe many of us could use.Including me.

The resolution: to pray for five minutes a day five days a week. It might sound hard, or might sound too simple, but it’s a start for sure. Choose one, or mix and match. However you go about it, there is no greater place to begin anew than with God.

1. write your prayers in a journal. This helps you keep track of your prayers and see progress (or areas where you might be stuck).

2. meditative prayer. which means that you memorize a prayer, like the Lord’s prayer, or the 23rd Psalm, or the prayer of St. Francis.  Then, having memorized it, you say it slowly, offering a phrase (aloud or silently) with each exhaling breath.

3. contemplative prayer. which means, practically, sitting silently and envisioning the reality that you are wrapped in the arms of a loving God.  You don’t need to say anything, and when your mind wanders (it will) you simply return to pondering God’s loving presence.  Another way of doing this is to repeat a word that God might give you.  I’ll sometimes pray this way:  ”I receive your wisdom Lord – thank you” or instead of wisdom, maybe ‘peace’, ‘patience’, ‘courage’ or whatever is needed for the day.

4. identity prayers . read through specific bible verses that declare your identity in Christ, thanking God in prayer for each truth as you read them.

5. talk to God. if you’re not a journal keeper, then just talk with God.  If you need some structure to the conversation, try categories:  a) Give thanks for a blessing you’ve experience (whether a sunrise, or good conversation, or….)  b) confess where you’ve failed or are struggling, and thank God for his forgiveness  c) request from God things that are own your heart, as you express your need for provision, direction, healing  d) pray for others, asking God to respond to situations in your sphere of concern.

Maybe New Year’s resolutions aren’t your thing. That’s fine. I still believe we could all greatly benefit from five minutes with God.

It’s definitely worth trying, right?

Evolving Faith

Earlier, I was ranting about my general disagreement with the perspective held by most Christians that salvation is summed up in terms of going to heaven or hell.

“So what do you think salvation is about?”

Well, more than heaven and hell.

In truth, the position that the whole point of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection was about saving my eternal soul from an everlasting time experiencing pain and torment has never seemed complete to me. I’ve never understood how a person could read John’s Gospel and come away thinking that Jesus was only about heaven. Eternal life is knowing Jesus. He came to give life more abundantly. These things aren’t some future promise about eternity. They’re for the here and now. I’m learning that the rest of the New Testament speaks in the same way, but more on that later.

My problem always was that I didn’t know what it meant. What is life more abundant? What does it mean to know Jesus? How do these things effect us now?

In my frustration, I kind of abandoned the argument, and decided to let things be. If I didn’t have an alternative, I didn’t see any point in saying anything. I mean, going to heaven is important. And bringing the Gospel to people is crucial. So why object?

Object isn’t the right word anymore, though. Now, what I do is beg for completion of the message. I ask that Christians think about what the Bible teaches.

I’m glad I gave up trying to argue with evangelism. I was wrong in that idea. Since I felt the “heaven vs. hell” doctrine was incomplete, I was trying to throw out the whole thing (although I didn’t realize that until later). I’m glad that I didn’t think that Jesus’ work stopped in heaven, but instead I still seek to fully understand what it means to have life more abundantly.

Because I’m not alone in thinking there is something more to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. And others have done a good job of explaining what that means (I was pointed to this work by a pastor whom I respect greatly).

The essence of salvation is this: God did not save you to take you out of this world. His purpose is redeeming His good creation (which has been corrupted by sin), and He saved you so that you can be a participant in that. Yes, you will go to heaven when you die. But Jesus is coming back. And He is going to bring you back with Him. Thus, when His reign is visibly established on this earth (His reign has already begun, but few believe that), all that Christians did to reflect God’s kingdom in this life will be a part of God’s New Heaven and Earth (which will be one place, rather than two). This is why Paul encourages the Corinthian church:

…be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.

He isn’t encouraging these Christians to be good so that they will go to heaven. He is reminding them that their work here matters, because the God of heaven rescued them from sin and death, giving them new life through His Son, Jesus Christ.

We’re called to that life now.

Maybe you disagree with this. Perhaps you think I’m abandoning conservatism, supporting liberal ideas, or whatever. The truth is, I just think what we do matters. Politics. The environment. Education. Feeding the hungry. Helping the poor. We act like these things are divorced from Christian life because they’re tied to government or liberal organizations or whoever else we don’t like. And the excuse for much of that separation is because preachers tell their flock that what matters most is going to heaven. But true religion isn’t spending eternity in heaven with the angels. Its something we do here. Now. This very moment.

So I ask, what has your salvation done? Has the Grace of God in your life helped this world? Or has it simply given you a ticket to the afterlife?

Spilling Hope

Even though I don’t attend Richard’s church, and my own home church has some cool things going on for Easter, I thought I’d share this video that Bethany Community Church put together about using Easter as a time to raise money for providing water for those without. Think Advent Conspiracy, but at Easter. Which is really how it should be right? I mean, instead of just helping people at Christmas, shouldn’t we help people year round?