Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Get Inspired

The caption to the link read, get inspired or just start typing. Sound advice. I have found again and again that when I am bogged done the only way to get "unstuck" is to start typing. If the inspiration is not present, then the time has come to make the perspiration.

An Abrahamic like vision is not the normal method of God's communication. If you here too many still small voice you may need to adjust your medication. Most of the time, God wants us to trust the desire of our hearts. For me that has not always been easy. My desires are constantly changing. I hear about Project A and my adrenaline starts pumping and I swing into action. I become a 'Martha' . The excitement of a new venture, new possibilities is exciting. The tasks are fun until the tasks become repetitious, deadlines go unmet, help from others evaporates. Then I start complaining to myself, then to my wife, then to anyone who will listen and then maybe to God.

Oh, I spend time at the feet of Jesus. I have studied the art of listening to God. I have a Dmin to prove it. I can find 100 quotes from the spiritual mothers and fathers on listening. I can quickly look up how Baxter, Owen and Manton would have instructed a seeker. At some point in the academic regurgitation I might even pause to take a breath and sit to relax.

It is usually in those periods of relaxation that God really does speak. That is not to deny or minimize the perspiration. Even God only got water out of rock once. We have to be willing to dig the wells to enjoy the refreshment of the water. But we also must sit and pause or we will not taste the waters clarity.

I will not condemn Martha for her busyness. Nor will I withhold praise for Mary. The two are absolutely essential for every one who wants to live in God's presence. However, we must be willing to imitate each one at just the right moments. Marys appear lazy and serve as barriers when there is real work to do. Marthas create guilt, anxiety and tension when people are not conforming to their expectations. Marys must learn when to engage and Marthas must learn when to disengage.

Maybe one day I will learn the secret to both. (Gosh, when I started this blog I had no intention of connecting it with the story or Martha and Mary) The fruit of a little prespiration!

(Gosh, when I started this blog I had no intention of connecting it with the story or Martha and Mary)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Caring for Creation

This week Ritz-Carlton announced that they are making a switch from plastic bottle water made from oil to plant based bottles. The move will significantly boast the Ritz's "green" image but not is bottom line. The "green" bottles will cost as much. This is a first of its kind move and could lead to other hotel chains following the Ritz's decision.

This is at least a step in the right direction. I was stunned when I discover the plastic waste dump that has form in the Pacific Ocean because of all the plastic that we have thrown away. If you are not away of what I am talking about google "sea of plastic pacific ocean" Plastic breaks into tiny pieces that drift with the currents. A Plastic Vortex has been created in all the major oceans from all the garbage, especially the plastic that we throw away. The Gulf Oil Spill receives all the press but this human-made continental size islands of plastic are created their own nightmare for plant life.

Carol and I do not intentionally purchase water in plastic bottles for that and other reasons. I cannot justify the transportation costs and the consumption of fuel that occurs simply because I can have my own individual water container. The water from the Detroit Public Water system is amazingly clean based upon the tests results that I have read. We have fallen into the trap that the secular culture has present which states that our personal convenience is more important than anything else. As a stewards of God's creation we are called to care for and tend the earth not consume resources for reasons of convenience.

This summer when the scorching sun drys out your mouth and you must replenish necessary body fluids, I would hope that you would consider the environmental impact of the water contain you are using. I am not saying that you are cursed if you use plastic water bottles but we must consider that God will ask us how we took care of his Creation. Did our lifestyle inflict excessive damage when other options were also available? Did we make good choices whenever we had the opportunity?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Friday, March 26, 2010

Busting with Praise

This week we studying the passage that describes Jesus entrance into Jerusalem. I am going to look particularly at his disciples and their spontaneous outburst of praise as a model for our approach to worship.

Thanks Glenn

I remember when I first read David Wilkerson's story about starting Teen Challenge in The Cross and the Switchblade. Wilkerson had read a story about a group of teenagers who were charged with murder. He believed that God was leading him to talk to the boys. He drove to NYC from PA and sat in the court room when the boys were sentenced to life in prison. Fearing that he would never be able to meet with them he stood up waved his Bible and shouted to the judge asking for an audience. The newspaper photographers went wild. They loved it. Fanatical preacher tries to save the souls of convicted killers. Wilkerson was humiliated on the front page of all the NYC papers. But that humiliation turned into a blessing because he when Wilkerson went to talk to other gang members on the streets of NYC they recognized him. They thought that the fanatical preacher was OK because he was trying to help their friends. This opened up doors for Wilkerson that would have otherwise been closed. The same thing has happened between Glenn Beck and Jim Wallis.

Glenn Beck told his listeners to leave their church if it teaches a 'social justice' gospel. Beck believes that social justice is just another version of communism or socialism. And we all know that those systems are a threat to the American way. Jim Wallis, founder and of Sojourners Magazine, objected to Beck's interpretation of the Gospel and invited him to an open forum to discuss the issues. Rather than accept the polite invitation Beck has gone on the offensive and has viciously attacked Wallis on his show. Beck has really gotten nasty. The beauty of Beck's attack has been the publicity that Wallis has received.

Wallis' views are not mainstream. No, he is not a communist but he does support cutting defense spending, reforming the immigration policies, and the current health care reform. However, he does not advocate for the redistribution of wealth or a a hostility to individual property. Whatever his views, Wallis offers sound Biblical support for them from both the Old and New Testament.

His recent book Rediscovering Values explains how the current financial crisis is really a crisis of values and offers guidance on how we can returned to a value based economy. Beck's attacks have drawn attention to Wallis' book and the Sojourners community. People are offering their support and reading the book. By slandering Wallis and threatening to ruin the reputation of other ministers who preaches a social gospel, Beck has done an outstanding job of rally believes to stand up for justice. His verbal assaults have pumped life into people who had been dormant. Beck's claim that 'social justice' is a perversion of the gospel has also shown his ignorance of the teachings of Jesus.

Thanks Glenn, maybe with the renewed enthusiasm that you have inadvertently inspired, the Kingdom of God will dawn in a few more lives of the poor, disadvantage, widows, and homeless. However, I am not taking the side of the poor just to be against Glenn Beck. I will support causes of justice and look for ways to reach out to the marginalized because that is what Jesus taught and demonstrated in his life. I do hope and pray that others will join me.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Self Interest or the Common Good

This Sunday's passage is about the woman who anointed Jesus with an expensive perfume. The passage tells us that Judas objected to her actions because the perfume could have been sold for a year's wages. That was a considerable sum. However, the author of the gospel tells us that Judas had an ulterior motive. Judas was an alleged embezzler. He was skimming off the top. I say alleged embezzler because we do not know for sure. Judas was never tried and convicted of the crime. However, the point is not to be missed. Judas’ objections were motivated by self interest.

Self interest is a strong motivation today. People have lost the sense of the common good. Detroit is the ultimate showcase of the results of years of political self interest. Politicians have enacted policies and laws to further their own political career, and not to rebuild the city. Administrators and employees in the public schools took advantage of an ineffective auditing system for their own financial betterment.

We always need to be conscious of our motivation and be willing to examine it even under a microscope. Are we against taxes because we want to retain the money or do we really believe that societal needs could be addressed more effectively in another way? Do we favor pro-choice legislation because someone in our family had an unwanted pregnancy and needed an abortion? Do we think that global warming is just a natural occurring phenomena because of the scientific evidence or because to that that it is caused by human activity would require us to make too many changes to our lifestyle?

We can be for or against a cause for many reasons. But we should never lose sight of the common good. We are in this together. What we do in our own backyard will in some way impact our neighbor even if we have a 12 ft fence around the perimeter. Our lives have a certain intradependancy. We cannot survive without one another. We are not and never will be self sufficient. We will not be able to work through the mounting social problems unless we start working for the common good. Unless we do we are nothing more than 21st century Judases who deny their Lord for a few shiny coins.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Divine Debt Collector

I have been reading stories of the nasty antics that debt collectors are using on delinquent accounts. I am stunned by some of the things that they will do. They go way beyond bills printed on yellow paper and relentless phone calls. Some threaten to set a lien against your house, while others have even camped out in the family driveway. The House in Colorado recently sent to the Colorado Senate a bill to tighten guidelines on debt collection agencies practices. This will give the consumer in the mountain state some additional protection against the unscrupulous and illegal collection tactics of some agencies.

Consider the contrast between the tactics of these debt collectors and our practice of evangelism. Then consider the difference between the two outcomes. The debt collectors are merely pursuing temporal wealth, while we are dealing with matters that have eternal consequences. This week’s story is found in a troika (a Russian term for three) of stories about lost things--a coin, a sheep, and a son. In the first one we find that a woman frantically searches for her lost coin. The second story tells us about a shepherd who abandons his entire flock to look for one lost sheep. Both the woman and the shepherd have urgency in their task. They know that if they are not successful the coin and the sheep will be lost forever.

The stories are typically used to describe the 'frantic' efforts that God employs in His search for us. He does not give up. He goes after us; excuse the pun, like a starving debt collector. He is relentless because He knows that if He does not find us, we will be lost forever. That is definitely reassuring news. In a world that only cares about us for our money, it is nice to know that God cares about us for other reasons. But the stories can be turned slightly and used to prompt us to action. If God pursues us with such diligence, why don't we imitate him in our pursuit of our friends and family?

We prefer the model of the 'waiting father.' Dad patiently allows his son the freedom to nearly destroy his life. Dad does not try to manipulate, cajole or beg his son to return home. He just waits for his son to discover that happiness is not found in the material world. Pleasure that is fed through indulging in physical pursuits has an insatiable appetite and will eventually bankrupt the soul. This is a very attractive model. However, I am glad that God used both with me.

There was a period in my life that God backed away and allowed me to do some really stupid things. It took me a while to realize just how dumb I was. Once I did, he came after me with the zeal of a debt collector but instead of demanding payment he offered his love. We need wisdom to know which method to use with every person. But we also need to be willing to be aggressive when the situation demands a more assertive role as well as patient. Let’s enjoy how these parables remind us of God's love and grace as well as use them as a model for proclaiming the kingdom.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

What makes you a better Christian?

This week's sermon was inspired by an article entitled--How the LA Clippers Made Me a Better Hindu? The Hindu idea of karma and Luke 13:1-9 have a connection for me. However, I thought that maybe I should save my thoughts on that subject for my sermon and take another approach in my first new blog entry. So you will have to wait till Sunday to hear about my ideas about karma, this blog will hopefully prompt you to think about being a better Christian.

The author of the Clipper and Hinduism article is a professor at USC. He does an excellent job of showing how his enthusiasm for the Clippers compliments his Hindu faith. What in this world compliments your Christian faith? Varun Soni writes about causality and non-attachment. He explains how victories for the hometown heroes "resemble mystical experiences."

Central to the Christian faith is the idea of redemption and sacrificial love. Sports has several examples of both. Announcers tell us that a player "sacrificed" his body to make a play. Baseball has the sacrificial bunt or fly ball. These may be rather trite examples to the sacrificial act of Christ but they are a start. You should try to think of your own that are more meaningful.

Redemption is found even more frequently in the sporting world. It is the process by which someone takes advantage of a second chance and uses the opportunity for the betterment of himself and/or to help others. Those of you who are fans of "LOST" know all about redemption. Every character in that series has had to undergo some form of redemption. Several years ago Pudge Rodriquez 'redeemed' himself by his contributions behind the plate and in the batters box. The Tigers would not have had that stellar year when they played the St Louis Cardinals in the World Series if not for Pudge. Several teams had given up on Pudge saying that he was too old to play. He redeemed himself.

However, there is a big difference between the world of sports and the spiritual world. In the former and in the real world we have to do the work of redemption. We have to turn the failures into success. We have to use our gifts to help others. In the spiritual world God does thine in and for us through the power of the Holy Spirit. We never have to prove ourselves to God. We never have to experience a probation period before he is willing to extend his love and grace.

Sports can help us become a better Hindu, Buddhist, and even Christian. I would hope that you will look around for other things in your world that strengthen your faith.