Tuesday, May 30, 2006

This humbling message comes from Today's Proverb, Proverbs 30: 2-6:

2 "I am the most ignorant of men; I do not have a man's understanding.
3 I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the Holy One.
4 Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Who has gathered up the wind in the hollow of his hands? Who has wrapped up the waters in his cloak? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and the name of his son? Tell me if you know!
5 "Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
6 Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.

Like the message Job and his friends received in those final chapters of that great book, I realize how different God is from me. Nevertheless, I find myself practically every moment trying to make myself god. What folly. And I do it repeatedly even after repeatedly finding myself in one jam after another as a result of that same folly. And oh how often in that quest for personal godhood do i refuse to obey verse 6. I make for myself (and, unfortuntately, try to make for others) rules that I know I can follow (but that are additive to His words) and then some how consider myself good for doing so. How utterly self-righteous is that?! And, perhaps now I am projecting to others my own folly, but it strikes me that much of the "battle" going on in the SBC and within the universal church occurs because of that same sin. Why do we feel compelled to add to the gospel? Remember that John 1:1 proclaims that Jesus is the Word. Why do we want to add to that?? Jesus alone is the propitiation, not anything that we, frail humanity, can add to it. Anything we add suggests that God alone is not sufficient and that we can be as god(s), saving ourselves and others.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Jesus repeatedly decried the religious leadership of his day, noting their focus on legalism and lack of love. Paul wrote further about how we are not to judge, lest we be judged. Growing up in a small town Southern Baptist Church I was generally taught that living a certain way and believing a certain way was what defined being a good Christian. There was one truth, the conservative fundamentalist approach of the SBC understood that, and it included following quite a few rules, whether they were scriptural or not. Now, in fairness, many of those rules were based on scriptural principles or were, at a minimum, prudent things to do or to avoid. But, generally speaking, as I've grown in my relationship with Christ, I see that much of that focus was more like the religious leaders of Jesus' day: a focus on legalism at the cost of love and such a focus risks being focused on the splinters in another's eye (judgmentally), all the while a plank is in the eye of the one adjudicating.

Oh, the freedom of seeing this and releasing that life of being saved from the world by my own good living and believing a certain way. Of course, living in the reality of God's saving grace and that salvation is not based on my conduct at all is wonderful, and liberating, but it must be tempered always by truth and love. Furthermore, what I found as I moved away from the infantile life of a conduct-based theology, I began to struggle with the same sin I was trying to move away from. Instead of judging people because they might say a bad word, drink a beer, listen to certain music, or watch an R-rated movie, I found myself judging people who lived that conduct-, rules-, and religion/me-based life. I even wanted to poke them in the eye for doing so. I might have realized that I didn't want to be a Pharisee, but now I am tempted to sit around on a high horse looking down on those who haven't gotten "there" yet (I'm saying this is how I think when i get all proud of myself). When will I be free of this self-centered focus I drift towards every time I shift my focus from God??

I am afraid I've made this too short and some of the connectors are missing. I hope readers will make sense of it...

Saturday, May 27, 2006

I am taking a moment to post something apolitical and simply a commentary on today's society.

Tucked away,
Unnatural efforts
At foreplay.
What lies inside
Driving these gains,
A desire to improve
Or distractions from hidden pain?
Why do we so often
Look in the mirror
And see something dreadful,
A caricature of what is actually there?
It seems especially odd
When to others we show
A brave facade,
And pridefully we glow,
Gracing the world with
The confident smile
Of someone who has
The epitome of style.
What is it about our society
That ever herds us to seek more,
Never content and always hungry
For the next "latest thing," we whore
After idols;
Not necessarily gold or silver,
But we worship them nonetheless;
Abandoning the Real
For something less-
For ... Plastic.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Wow. Being new to blogging, I am somewhat surprised at how cynically people can view another's words, even when the words are straight from scripture. Perhaps as an attorney and someone who is starting to have some years behind him, I shouldn't be so surprised, but I am. I recently posted the prayer that is below on several sites. These were all sites where many of the participants were people who appeared to be decrying the modern day phariseeacalism that is afflicting the church, a sentiment I share and from which my prayer and words came. Nevertheless, the words were questioned as pious and created offense to some.

I think this illustrates a failing of blogging. I understand that blogs create situations where we can't see body language or hear tone and all we have are words; moreover, we often don't know the individuals who are writing. Consequently, there is a lot of room for misinterpretation. It seems to me the wisest way to handle those types of questions would be to use direct, private email to the individuals if we have questions about their intentions or meaning.

Watch how you wield them;
Tools of great power
To heal and to harm.
May my heart be
To use my words for good;
Evermore prudently,
Communicating as You would.

For the record, here is, in a very short fashion, part of the reason why I began blogging. When I began reading a number of blogs this past weekend it broke my heart, not because I'm some super spiritual person or because I'm young and naive, but because what I saw was, from my perspective, having the same effect on the lost as what is noted so well at Kevin Bussey's http://studentguru.blogspot.com, when he posted the picture of an angry looking woman picketing the Da Vinci Code. It struck me that many were arguing over very insignificant things in a way that didn't reflect the law of love and liberty that we should be proclaiming. We seem to be focused more on rules and conduct than we are relationships and character. And, I know I do this as well. When I do, I have to wonder if I am falling short of bearing Christ's true gospel.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Father, may we all be one, as Christ and You are one, and may we all be one in You, that the world may believe that Christ was sent of You...Christ in us and the Father in Christ, that we may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that the Father sent Christ, and loved us all as the Father loved Christ.

Oh Father, thank you that we have been called to liberty, but I pray you protect us all from using liberty as an opportunity for the flesh; instead, show us the grace that we might be empowered through love to serve one another. Because, Lord, you taught us that all the law is fulfilled in one word: Love. That we shall love our neighbor as ourselves. And you warn us that if we bite and devour one another we should beware because such conduct will result in us consuming one another. Lord, please help us.

And Father, forgive us for making this a denominational thing. It isn't. It is about You, not any one denomination or set of beliefs. May all who believe and confess that Jesus is Lord and that God raised Jesus from the dead unite and be as one just as Jesus prayed for us. And may we refuse to proclaim ourselves and simply proclaim You, humbly, in prayer and thanksgiving. May we repent of our sins of pride and lust and selfishness and turn to You. Heal us and heal our land, Lord.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Where is yours?
Are you focused on something you can share,
or something you can't dare
Let others scrutinize?
Is there fear in your eyes
When someone might guess
What you cannot confess?
Does it keep you up at night,
Or is your heart light?
Are you afraid someone might see,
Or are you living free,
Free of worry and free of care--
a life of love and peace?
Oh sweet release.
Are you chained to something hidden,
unable to let go?
Evermore guilt ridden,
But slowly becoming a pro
At concealing your heart;
able to see "clearly" in the dark,
yet wondering if you can
Keep it all under control,
Or if it will all spin
Out of ...

A weapon
That can be wielded
Or yielded to.
Where is yours?
Does it bring you success
Or like the flame-enticed moth
Does it hold death?

Monday, May 22, 2006

I am trying to determine how debating fine points of doctrine really demonstrates Christian love to the lost. Are we more focused on religion and self-righteousness, like the Pharisee of Luke 18 than we are on loving others? Are we like the nation of Israel prophesied against in Isaiah 58:1-14, where God says stop focusing on religion and start focusing on things like feeding the hungry? I'd really like to see others' thoughts on this.

By focusing on things that are cultural or religious practices, are we neglecting the fact that God is God and we are human? I do not deny that we have Christ in us or that He has given us everything we need for life and godliness, or that the Spirit can reveal to us the meaning of scripture, but our relationship with God is primarily that--each individual's personal relationship with God. And, as C.S. Lewis emphasized through Lucy and Aslan, each human's story and relationship with Him is unique to that individual, and what one individual may eat or drink or not eat or not drink, or what one individual may believe about a nonessential aspect of our faith (whatever that means) versus another is really more about God working in that individual's life to make him or her more like Christ.

Moreover, it strikes me that if we are focused on someone else's beliefs or practices we are neglecting the race we are supposed to be running. No runner wins by looking over their shoulder at the other racers. God desires that we fix our eyes on Him and Him alone and then to allow Him, as we offer ourselves to Him, to transform our lives. And, even by focusing on a practice or doctrine are we in some way not taking our eyes off of Him or elevating something to idol status? And do we become like the Pharisee who says, "Thank God I am not like that sinner, who believes that it is okay to drink alcohol" or "who believes it is okay to accept someone baptized in that way" or "who believes that it may not have been six literal days of Creation" or "[fill in the blank doctrine]"? God's love alone saves others, not the law or anyone's rendition of doctrine. And, if we think our doctrine can save us then we have moved God off the throne and placed ourselves there, the sin that humanity has been battling since Adam and Eve decided they knew better than God. Our goal and hope and prayer should be that the love He instills in us will radiate to others and thereby bring Him glory and demonstrate to others the One True Source of Love, Life, and Acceptance.

It is disconcerting to men and women who simply want to love God and grow to be more like Christ to see leaders of churches go to task over matters that may ultimately be insignificant. Furthermore, it turns away lost men and women who may otherwise be seeking God's love. Sure, some may fear the slippery slope. Or, some might say if you don't have the faith to believe "X" then it shows you don't have the faith to believe "Y." And, yes, many fear that we are going to succumb to picking and choosing what we accept from the Scripture and what we don't. But, I would challenge that we all already do that at some level. And, it scares me when someone appears to to proclaim something as true in the name of the Lord and then rejects any other interpretation or apology... Bottom line, it is not demonstrating Christ. They don't know we are Christians by our doctrine. They don't know we are Christians by our lines. They don't know we are Christians by our lipservice to any particular creed. They will know we are Christians by our love. How can we better show our love??? How can we follow the commands to love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds and love our neighbors as ourselves???

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Here's something I wrote while on an airplane, facing the fact that I so often focus on me rather than on Him. How often I try to be the "god" of my world rather than living in the reality of Who God is, for me and for all in this world.

My breathing is rough,
And my heart, a wreck;
My mind is reeling--
Everything unchecked.

How did I get here
This tailspinning travail,
Where all i see
Is my own misery?

It seems I've built myself
A house of mirrors--
Where the only view
Is the one I idolize.
Yes, I've buried myself
In a coffin of my own design
Where all i can see . . .
Is me.

One step away from death,
This mirrored house of horrors.
I must stop this nightmarish trip,
And find One who is worthy of my worship.

When I try to break the glass
I can't find any tool;
Because I keep looking in the mirrors
Enraptured by my own tears.

No, I've built a life I can't tear down,
So I'm asking you to do it for me--
For though you gave me the solid foundation,
I erected a self-serving station.

Break me down;
Destroy this narcissistic clown;
I want to see the world as it is--
A world that isn't all about me.

I know you have created a beautiful place,
But I stopped looking at it years ago.
I just want to be able to see reality--
Once again . . . finding liberty.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

As a hummingbird flutters its wings
So my focus shifts--
One moment joy,
The next despair;
A thought of love
Deteriorating into lust.
What should I do,
When my own heart I can't trust?
At once giving freely
And holding tightly;
Letting go
While gripping fast;
Then uncontrolled;
Then urgent.
The paradoxes of my soul
Overwhelm me.
In spite of all this
You promise me love and life,
So as I sink lower
Into this melancholy strife
I can only say 'thank you
For loving me,'
And then, suddenly,
Your indescribable peace
Comforts me.