Morning Prayer – Psalm 19:14

May the words of my mouth

and the meditation of my heart

be pleasing in your sight,

O Lord, my Rock, and my

Redeemer.

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It’s (NOT) All About Me

Sometimes I remember that life is not all about me. I reflect for a split second on the fact that there are billions of people all around the globe, going about their day to day life while I go about mine. I have a hard enough time remembering that my friends’ lives continue when they’re not with me. That every hour I spend apart from them doing homework, eating, sleeping, is an hour that they are living, even if I’m not a part of it.

I watched two videos recently that were welcome reminders of how full of life this planet is. Reminders that everyone is significant, and that everyone is different. They were also reminders that this world is a broken, yet beautiful place, full of broken and beautiful people.

The first is a film I watched on Netflix called Life in a Day. The filmmakers put out a call for people all over the world to capture footage of their lives on July 24, 2010, and submit it. They ended up with over 4,500 hours of footage from 190 countries and edited it into a very interesting film. Watch it if you get the chance.

 

The second is this well-done video put together by a middle school broadcasting team.

(HT Marc Cortez)

Everyone has a story, and it keeps going whether I remember that it does or not. I hope to be always more mindful of those around me, and those far away. Obviously, God does not struggle with finitude like I do, but what must it be like to know the joy’s and sorrow’s of a planet-full of people, and to long to gather them together under his wings?

 

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,

the world, and all who live in it;

Psalm 24:1

Balancing Act: Responses to Jesus vs. Religion

In my attempts to discover and walk in the way of Jesus I’ve come to realize the importance of balance. I’m not suggesting that the way of Jesus is the way of compromise, a sort of middle way, or a blending of two extremes. The way of Jesus is THE WAY, and when we Christians err in a given situation, we find ourselves falling off of the slackline on one side or the other.

If you've not tried slacklining, you probably should.

When I’ve reflected on a particular issue in the life of discipleship to Jesus, I’ve often returned to this way of looking at things, and it was helpful recently as I reflected on the recent ruckus resulting from the YouTube video titled, “Why I Hate Religion, but Love Jesus” by Jefferson Bethke. I’ll not address the contents of the video here, because it has been done ad nauseam, but I did think the way that different people responded has been rather telling, and is a clear display of our tendency to lose our balance. To be clear,  I tend towards all of the imbalances I mention below at one time or another, depending on the situation, and am just trying to stay in balance myself.

I saw at least four different types of responses to this situation, with three rather unbalanced in some way, but one closer to the mark. The first troubling type of response to this video was the most common. This is the response of those that unthinkingly shared the video and passed it on without taking the time to think through the implications of the ideas in the video. This is the response that forgets to think critically about things, and supports them because they sound good, strike an emotional chord in them, or speak about Jesus a lot.

Another troubling response was that of the hyper-critical Christian, who will not only find  fault with everything and tell you about it in great detail (except for what is written, preached, or sang by their favorite whoever) but will fail to see what is true and good in what they are criticizing.

Another tendency I saw was for those who initially supported the video to become very defensive when the inadequacies and negative aspects of the video were questioned. Of course, some of those defending the video did so because they truly agree with everything said in it, but I fear that many, having once supported something, try hard to justify having done so, whether it is warranted or not.

Thankfully, throughout the entire situation, I noticed a great many people responding in thoughtful and humble ways to the video, both positively and negatively. A great deal of fruitful discussion was born out of the different opinions regarding what was said in the video. Perhaps most encouraging was to see the way that the guy in the video responded to one of the critiques leveled against his message. He humbly admitted to agreeing with the critique that had been offered, and said he would seek to learn what he could from the experience.

So what is the way of Jesus that we must follow when we hear something, watch something, read something?

First, thoughtfully reflect on what is communicated, both explicitly, and by implication. Don’t automatically accept something because it sounds good to you, no matter what terminology it is couched in. We are all susceptible to lazily adopting phrases or terms that tickle our ears, but are only partially true, being at the same time potentially harmful or flat-out false (I don’t know how many times in the past I’ve smiled and nodded when hearing or saying, “Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship”).

Second, seek to learn, grow, and be challenged by what you’re interacting with, even if it is far from perfect. Avoid the temptation to pridefully and viciously tear apart someones flawed logic or poor rhymes, as if you are the sole and undisputed judge of all things. If you find yourself being critical of every sermon you hear, unable to learn anything because you know everything, please reflect on the humility of Jesus. Don’t abandon truth, but if and when you must fight for it, do so gently, especially when speaking to an earnest brother or sister in Christ.

Third, whether someone directly criticizes something you say, or indirectly criticizes you by addressing something that you agree with, try learning, growing and being challenged before you immediately start defending or criticizing in return. Consider the fact that you might be wrong or that there might be a side to the issue that you hadn’t considered. Take note of the tone in which criticism is offered. The word itself merely means to interpret or analyze and criticism need not be negative, arrogant or harsh. If someone attacks an author’s character because of a poorly constructed argument or questions a poet’s salvation because of a paltry rhyme, push back and challenge them to offer substantial and constructive arguments instead of tearing each other down. However, if someone does offer substantial and constructive arguments against something you approve, interact with them thoughtfully and humbly. Learn something from each other.

Be humble people. Be thinking people. Don’t support ideas without thinking through their implications. Don’t be so turned off by critics that you fail to address lies.  Don’t be so turned off by untruths that you attack the person unwittingly spreading it. If you see truth, name it. If you see falsehood masquerading as truth, name it, but humbly and with love. When you see a sister or brother wobbling on the path, gently steady them rather than shoving them off.

I realize that not everyone fits neatly into these categories, and I’ve been a bit hyperbolic in order to delineate the differences between them. I’m also not suggesting that these are the only options…just some interesting ones that I noticed.

How to Disciple 1.3 Million People: Compassion International in Kenya

Tim Kimberly over at Credo House has been doing a fascinating series of posts about the work that Compassion International is doing in Kenya. He was invited on a trip with Compassion to see firsthand the kind of ministry they are doing among some truly needy people.

When I was in college, I sponsored a child through Compassion International. However, due to the vagaries of college existence, especially in regard to my financial situation, I ended my commitment after about a year. I didn’t like to discontinue my sponsorship, but I also didn’t have a great idea of what exactly CI did with my money, other than to provide for the physical and spiritual needs of the child I was sponsoring. I didn’t know how they went about it, what it looked like, or if they had any sort of long-term, big picture plan for making disciples of the people they work with.

As I’ve been reading Tim’s posts, I’ve gotten a much clearer idea of what Compassion International is all about. I wish I had gotten this kind of information earlier, as I think I would have been much more inclined to continue my sponsorship if I had known more about the various programs they have in addition to child sponsorships and about the heart and the goals behind all that they are doing, as well as the success that they are having. Tim has written three posts (1,2,3) so far with more to come. I’m looking forward to hearing more about this unique ministry, and hope you’ll check out his posts if you’ve ever sponsored a child through Compassion or wondered what exactly they do with the funds that they raise.

Doctrinal Statement: Person of Christ

Who is Jesus Christ? Who is the second person of the Trinity? What is the nature of the relationship between the two? My third and final (for now) doctrinal statement explores the Person of Christ. These are works in progress, but this is what I have thus far.

Person of Christ

Jesus’ life began when he was miraculously conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in Mary, a virgin (Lk. 1:26-35, Matt. 1:23, Isa. 7:14). The baby she carried is the incarnation (Jn. 1:14, Col. 2:9) of the second person of the Godhead, the eternal and pre-existent Word of God (Jn. 1:1-2, 8:58, Heb 1:8). He is called Emmanuel, God with us (Isa. 7:14, Matt. 1:23), and Jesus, YHWH saves (Matt. 1:21). Jesus is one person, but is both fully God and fully man, having a divine and a human nature that are never confused, changed, divided or separated (John 1:1-14; Mark 1:3,8, 11; Col. 2:9). He chose to empty himself of the divine role, lifestyle and prerogatives so that his human nature was not overwhelmed by his divine nature, yet without giving up his divinity (Phil. 2:6-7; Mk. 13:32; Jn. 5:19, 11:15, 21). Jesus himself claimed to be God, the Bible agrees with him in its claims and it describes him as doing things that only God can do such as create and forgive sin (Col. 1:16, Mk. 2:5).

Jesus lived a normal human life experiencing physical, mental, and spiritual growth (Lk. 2:52) and a full range of human emotions. He experienced hunger and thirst (Jn. 4:7, Lk. 24:41), anger and anguish (Mk. 3:5; Matt. 26:37-38), joy and compassion (Lk. 10:21, 7:13), temptation and suffering (Heb. 2:18; Matt. 4:1-10). He lived in obedience to his parents, human traditions and human government (Lk. 2:42, 51; Matt. 17:25-27). He was tempted in every way yet remained perfectly sinless, living as a perfectly Spirit-filled human (Acts 10:38; Heb. 4:15), and as such is our example (Mk. 8:34). He continued in relationship with the Father and Spirit, whose will he followed and on whom he relied for the power of his miracles, respectively (Jn. 6:38; Acts 10:38). He became obedient to both physical (Jn. 19:30; Phil. 2:8) and spiritual death (Matt. 27:46) in obedience to the will of his Father (Matt. 26:39; Jn. 14:31). After his body lay dead in the tomb for three days, he conquered death by being raised from the grave in the same, though glorified body (1 Cor. 15:3-4). After appearing to many people, he ascended to exaltation at the right hand of the Father and will return some day as King (1 Cor. 15:5-7; Acts 1:9-11, 2:33; Phil. 2:10-11).

Your thoughts on the Person of Christ, or on what I’ve written?

Take a look at my first doctrinal statement which explores the doctrine of Revelation and my second doctrinal statement which explores the doctrine of God.

Who Should I Select as my Historical Mentor?

One of the tasks we’ve been set in my Church History Course is to choose a prominent theologian from Church History as a sort of historical mentor. The idea is to get to know an important person from church history through what they have written and by seeking to understand what they have to offer us as followers of Jesus Christ today.

I’m quite excited by this opportunity, but as is usually the case, there are far too many interesting options available, and I must choose one. The only real restriction is that the person have produced a large enough body of work to engage with for a long time, and that they are dead.

If you read this, I’d love to hear your recommendation for a historical mentor and why.

The Hardest Thing we do as a Christian

Yesterday and the day before I got to spend a little bit of time with Alexander Strauch and was blessed to hear him speak on the topic of prayer. It was a challenging message in many ways, and one that I needed to hear. He ended his sermon with this quote from Martyn Lloyd-Jones:

Martyn Lloyd-Jones

“When a man is speaking to God he is at his very acme. It is the highest activity of the human soul, and therefore it is at the same time the ultimate test of a man’s true spiritual condition. There is nothing that tells the truth about us as Christian people so much as our prayer life. Everything we do in the Christian life is easier than prayer.”

I was particularly struck by the last statement. I’m curious if you agree with it. If prayer is truly the most difficult part of the Christian life, how should that change the way we think about it, teach about it, and practice it. What is it that would make it more difficult than the other aspects of our lives as disciples of Jesus?

On a side note, Alex has a fantastic sense of humor and was really generous with his time to spend some of it with a group of seminary students. It is wonderful when someone can challenge you deeply, spend meaningful time with you, and make you laugh uproariously all the while.

“Sinners” Who Are Forgiven or “Saints” Who Sin? – Robert Saucy | Parchment and Pen

“Sinners” Who Are Forgiven or “Saints” Who Sin? – Robert Saucy | Parchment and Pen.

C. Michael Patton from  Credo House Ministries recently posted this excellent article by Robert Saucy. In my Theology class last term, Gerry Breshears made a similar point, suggesting that our Soteriologies have often emphasized Conversion and Justification, while leaving out Regeneration.

While always affirming the idea that I am a new creation in Christ, I grew up thinking of myself only in terms of a forgiven sinner, and not also as a saint who sins. This imbalance certainly led to a defeatist attitude towards my own sin, and more importantly towards my identity. What a liberating truth it is that our deepest desires are those of Jesus Christ, and that though I may sin, I am identified as a Christ-ian, not merely a sinner.

Do you see yourself primarily as a sinner or as a saint? Which do you think is the proper way to view yourself?