this went thru my mind

 

Acts 5, Ananias, God, Sapphira & violence: How Do You Explain the Violent Judgment of Ananias and Sapphira? by Greg Boyd

“Knowing that God’s true character looks like Jesus voluntarily dying on the cross for his enemies, we will always know that something else is going on if God appears to act in ways that are contrary to this enemy-loving, non-violent character.”

Bragging, jealousy & rejoicing: Solving Your ‘You Problem’ by Sean Palmer

“I would only feel as if  they were bragging, if I felt something else first: JEALOUS!”

Church & faith: Together by William Willimon [21 min. sermon video clip; required viewing]

“Where the heck did you get the notion we wanted you to be comfortable? … The way of Jesus Christ is just too difficult to attempt it by yourself. …. the only way that you can be saved is by bringing all of us along with you. It’s together.”

Church & generations: A Head, Heart, or Hands Church? by Dan Bouchelle [truly required reading; as in "if you read only one thing this month"]

“I grew up in a church designed for the head. That is not a criticism. It is just a description. We did not trust emotions because they were easily manipulated and clouded thinking. Actions were important and we believed ‘good works’ were essential to faithfulness, but what really mattered was getting your theology straight. … The church of my heritage lost many of the boomer generation who walked away looking for a church with a heart. … Ironically, now that boomers make up the majority of leaders and have the most control in our churches, the emerging adult generation has shifted the criteria for validity again. Young adults today, and the culture in general, are not looking for a powerful experience of God or ballast for a head-heavy church. … What this generation longs for is not more heart but something to do with their hands. … While the young adult generation is not anti-logic or emotionless, they just aren’t impressed with their church options. They may show up for the show and agree with most of the teaching, but they will give their time and money to something that changes lives in tangible ways.”

Church & phones: The Cold, Hard Truth About Phones in Church by Jon Acuff

[I won't spoil it for you here. Go look at it. There's a powerful parable here, not just a smile.]

Leadership & worry: 7 Encouragements for Leaders Who Worry by Ron Edmonson

“Having a strong faith is no guarantee your emotions won’t play tricks on you at times.”

22 things bin Laden’s death has revealed about Christians for all the world to see

This is my final post regarding Osama bin Laden. Given what I have witnessed over the past ten days in my deliberate and deep observation and investigation into what I hear and see Christians “of all tribes” speaking and writing concerning the death of Osama bin Laden, I have come to the following conclusions.

A great number of Christians are apparently:

  • reluctant to value all human life as equally valuable before God.
  • unaccustomed to feeling remorse for, or even grieving, the death of any and all who die outside of a thriving relationship with Jesus Christ, unless they be a close family member or dear friend.
  • quick to go with the flow of the cultural and political river that surrounds them, rather than, if necessary, deliberately swimming against the tide with Scripture as their guiding light.
  • want to confuse American nationalism and patriotism with Christian faith and worship of God.
  • resistant to even the suggestion to pray for all people, especially those who would be rightly construed as “enemies,” even though they are commanded to do so by their Lord.
  • quite inexperienced in praying about any and all matters pertaining to war except for offering up pleas for God’s protection on “our troops” and for those troops to come home safely and quickly.
  • suspicious or even frightened by the revelation that others might interpret the Bible differently when the subjects of government or military service are raised.
  • not above making broad, sweeping statements of judgment about entire populations and ethnics of people on the basis of little or no real knowledge about such people.
  • content to have their understanding and perspective of global happenings shaped by a very limited number and kind of media sources; that is, they like to have their news thought out for them and presented from only one angle.
  • more concerned about their own national security, yes, even their own personal safety, than they are about confessing and living out the cross-shaped life of Christ, to whatever end that might lead them in this life.
  • persuaded the protection of their life is shaped and determined more by Heckler & Koch, Smith & Wesson, Colt, Glock, Sikorsky, Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, etc. than the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  • numb or callous to, perhaps even comfortable with, physical violence and killing.
  • unafraid to glory in such undertakings as we have come know as “just war,” surgical strikes,” and “acceptable collateral damage.”
  • convinced that anything even remotely resembling a pacifist understanding of the teaching of Christ and the apostles should be immediately labeled, without real investigation and consideration, as cowardly and foolhardy at best, and more likely dangerous, demented, and damnable.
  • more enthusiastic about their trust in political and military power than they are about the power, purpose, and purity of the Almighty God.
  • Biblically illiterate, being largely unfamiliar with the writings they claim are sacred and will determine their destiny, and so, are unable to converse coherently and correctly with others who inquire of them as what they believe and why in regard to current events.
  • ashamed of God, for they rarely think first of, or make mention of, him or the teachings of God’s book, the Bible, when formulating or stating their perspective of major world events.
  • divided over even the most fundamental matters of Christian faith, such as doing to others as you would have them do to you, the “Golden Rule.”
  • oblivious to the fact the world is constantly watching our reactions to world events and, on the basis of their observations, deciding whether or not there is real life-changing power in Christian faith.
  • not mindful of the fact that the only thing that separates any and all of us from someone like Osama bin Laden is a difference not in kind, but only degree, for there is none righteous, no not one; all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
  • not much different from those who are yet to believe.
  • like myself, have a very long way to go yet in terms of complete imitation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I say these things to our shame and do so with the humble prayer that all who believe – myself first and foremost – would be humbled and repent of all that does not reflect the light of our Holy God. May we come to give greater and more authentic witness of the only true, holy, and living God. May more come to believe, not stumbling over our failings to submit completely to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Father in heaven, may your Holy Spirit bathe our minds with your will and wisdom. May conviction well up in our hearts. May the blood of your Son Jesus wash our sins away. May every knee come to bow to you before their fleshly knees fail them and die. In the name of Jesus, our Lord, we pray. Amen. And amen.

fresh bread: that I may have confidence

Many people have already applied themselves to the task of compiling an account of the events that have been fulfilled among us. They used what the original eyewitnesses and servants of the word handed down to us. Now, after having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, I have also decided to write a carefully ordered account for you, most noble Theophilus. I want you to have confidence in the soundness of the instruction you have received. (Luke 1.1-4 CEB)

If you know me very well at all you’ve likely heard me say it many times: Luke’s Gospel is my favorite book in the Bible. I suppose there are a dozen different reasons, not the least of which is the fact many of the themes of Christ’s gospel that I seem to be attracted to the most appear, judging by how frequently he brings them up, to be Luke’s favorites as well. For example, the cup of Luke’s Gospel overflows with thoughts regarding:

  • The good news of Christ is for everyone, no exceptions.
  • How every individual is significant in God’s eyes.
  • The way there is plenty of room in God’s kingdom’s for those easily overlooked in our culture and society – women, children, the poor, the socially-unacceptable, the fallen, etc.
  • The way the Spirit of God is constantly moving among and working on the lives of people.
  • How long-standing social barriers are broken down and lives full of deep commitment to Christ are built up.
  • The fact God has a plan and purpose to work in this world that involves the lives of all and results in great joy and meaning in life, come what may.

I could go on and on, but there is one reason in particular this Gospel speaks so powerfully to me and that reason actually has little to do with this book’s content, but much to do with its human author, Luke himself. You see, though we can’t say with absolute certainty that Luke is the only Gentile author of any portion of the New Testament, all of the evidence we have points that direction. And Luke not only comes from an entirely different background than the rest of the New Testament writers, he also comes from a different place altogether.

What I mean by that is that unlike other authors such as Matthew, Peter, John, James, etc., Luke never laid his eyes on Jesus, much less got to spend a significant amount of time with him. Even the apostle Paul met Jesus in his wondrous encounter on the Damascus road, but Luke had no such advantage.

Since Luke wasn’t an eyewitness of Jesus, his faith wasn’t based on someone he had personally seen or heard. His faith was, well, even more about “faith.” He believed and came to share his belief with others because he had come to faith completely by faith. His curiosity, conscience, and convictions drove him to deeply research Jesus and his people and he emerged from his investigations believing.

And that’s precisely where all of us find ourselves today, isn’t it? We are now as Luke once was, which gives the lie to our excuses “If I could have seen what the apostles saw, etc., well then, perhaps I could believe, but you see, I am at a disadvantage and there is no way around it.” No, we cannot see Jesus, walk with Jesus, eat with Jesus, listen to Jesus, witness the miracles performed by Jesus, etc. We, just like Luke, simply encounter the story of Jesus and then choose whether to believe it or not. To decide on the basis of something completely beyond the basis of our physical senses, whether Jesus even existed and is worthy of our further consideration.

I find it quite powerful that the author chosen by God to write more than any other author of the New Testament began at something akin to the same starting point all of us start at today. Here is a story we not only find intriguing, but find is authored by one with whom we can readily identify. And this one, having readily researched all that he could, believed.

Father in heaven, I thank you for the labor and diligence, love and faith of others who you have used to make it possible for us today to simply know about Jesus Christ. May I never take them or what you have worked through them for granted. Rather, Father, may I become like them, believing and sharing, becoming one with the message and You. In the name of Christ I pray. Amen.