Archive for the ‘Thirsty’ Category

burning churchAs this is my last Thursday post for The Weekly Mash [and Peace!] I decided to use both of the posts I had set aside for Thursdays to come because they are both so powerful. So there is not intrinsic link between the two except to say that maybe they both capture the heart of what this thing we believe is truly supposed to be about. The first is an article called: ‘Open letter to Church: Let it die’ which I’m sure prompted a lot of well-meaning people to chime in with angry comments without reading this first. It is an article by a guy called Aaron from the Cultural Savage blog page which in essence is saying’let that which the church is not meant to be about but has become, die’ – it really is a good read, but you really need to listen carefully to what Aaron is trying to say and especially hear the big CHURCH I LOVE YOU halfway through the piece:

http://culturalsavage.com/christianity/open-letter-church

Next up is N.T.Wright who I have sadly not been able to read much of yet but he is a name that comes up a lot and I respect him just from the little I know him and how highly recommended he comes from people I really respect. But this video clip of him was my first main exposure to him in which he talks about what the gospel really is about and it is a very powerful and accurate piece so really try and find for yourself the 13 or so minutes it takes because this is great stuff to hear and be reminded of:

[For last Thursday’s Jesus rose from the grave [and you can’t even get out of bed] click here]

I was going to ask my friend Robert Martin for permission to reblog this recent post he did looking at a Jon Foreman song that is almost straight out of the Old Testament prophets, but which I imagine still holds true today. It contains the following verse:

I hate all your show and pretense
The hypocrisy of your praise
The hypocrisy of your festivals
I hate all your show
Away with your noisy worship
Away with your noisy hymns
I stomp on my ears when you’re singing ‘em
I hate all your show

And you can go and watch and listen to the rest of it here if you want to.

But then I figured he has already done that and it reminded me of a man who influenced my life a lot and that is a guy called Keith Green who my favourite and most life-transforming book [after the Bible] No Compromise is the story of. If you haven’t read that book, I can’t encourage you enough to.

I have never been a fan of people calling songs or books or other people ‘anointed’ because of the certain understanding of the religious jargon that goes with that definition largely in the circles I have heard it used. But there are at least two of Keith’s songs which just connect with something in my spirit and a number of lines just smack me in the face every time I hear them [in the best of Godly prophetic ways]. If you have a lot of time then you can seek out the other one, which is his interpretation of the story of the Sheep and the Goats which you can find here, but the one I want to share with you is this one called ‘Asleep in the Light’ – listen to the words and hear the passion and feeling that Keith pours into them [this video comes with bonus Spanish subtitles so forward it to all your Spanish speaking friends] Just listening to this again has struck a chord in me [and a future blog post] about how comfortable we’ve made the Gospel in so many ways so that it almost doesn’t have to affect us at all:

The world is sleeping in the dark
That the church just can’t fight
Cause it’s asleep in the light
How can you be so dead
When you’ve been so well fed
Jesus rose from the grave
And you, you can’t even get out of bed

I hope this challenges and changes you. I hope this challenges and changes me once again.

[For last Thursday’s Definitive Guide to Insulting the Creator, click here]

leftovers or your best?

‘Those who oppress the poor insult the Creator, but those who are kind to the needy honour him.’ [Proverbs 14:31]

Tweet from my good friend, Sean du Toit that I saw this morning as I logged in.

And it’s the part of Christianity many of us don’t gravitate to quite as quickly. Give me worship [me], good teaching [me], fellowship with my friends at church on Sunday [me], weekly small group meetings [me], encouraging promises from God [me] and eternal life [me, and maybe you if you live right] but turn the volume down just a little when you start focusing on the looking-after-the-poor aspect if you don’t mind.

But James, the brother of Jesus, had quite a lot to say about our treatment of the poor as well in chapter 2 of his letter:

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Even earlier on in that chapter, he encourages us not to discriminate, with a reminder that it is usually not the poor who are the ones giving the rest of us a hard time:

1 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God.Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.’

In fact he ends chapter 1 with this verse:

27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

While it doesn’t mention the poor specifically there, it is understood that orphans and widows would have been among the poorest of the poor, because not only do they not have money, but they don’t have anyone to look after them either. Worthy religion is the type that makes sure that they are well taken care of.

Which brings us back to our original Proverb and the writer is pretty specific about the implications of not treating them well. Here are two other translations of the same verse:

You insult your Maker when you exploit the powerless;
    when you’re kind to the poor, you honor God.

Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker,
    but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.

I think it’s pretty clear. And I’m sure none of us are looking to insult or show contempt to our Creator and Father God. But let’s be honest for a second – those people who really needed to hear this stuff more than likely stopped reading at the first mention of the poor…

For those of you who didn’t though, there was an article that Val linked to yesterday on the Two Cents blog page that takes this question to a whole other level for those of you who employ domestic workers. Moving the discussion from the point of “good enough” to actually “good”. We would love to hear your thoughts on that one, having been reminded of these words in the Bible.

Can it really be ‘Good News’ before it is Good News for the poor as well?

[For last Thursday’s The Same Question, click here]

I remember when I was a child and I wanted to do something because my friends were doing it [my only argument] and some parental figure type would take me down with, ‘Oh yeah, well if your friends all jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?’

You can’t beat that kind of logic, right? Well, I couldn’t. Not back then at least. Beaten every time.

Sometimes it feels like that when I get into a discussion [the pacifist word for argument] with someone who is not a follower of Jesus. Their arguments sound a lot cleverer than mine and I often don’t know how to respond [at least not in a way that will stop them responding as they always have a response, but then maybe so do I – perhaps there is a reason we both believe as strongly as we both believe?].

There are some bible verses that help me make sense of this, but the same verses just ‘prove’ to those on the outside how logical they are being because I am able to ‘hide behind these verses’ that obviously make my argument unchallengeable. And they’re right. Well to the extent that the verses kind of make challenging them impossible which if you’re a follower of Jesus backs up your following and which if you’re not, backs up your skepticism.

I get that, I really do, so in essence they don’t prove anything, but they still bring me great comfort and make a lot of sense to me.

Passages like 1 Corinthians 1.18-31:

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
    the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him.30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

And then also this passage from 2 Corinthians 5. 13-15:

13 If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

If I was going to make up a religion to try and fool the hugest percentage of people on the planet, then Christianity and the Bible is probably not the one I would go for. That right there doesn’t make sense:

“The one who wants to be greatest must be the least of all.”

“Love your enemies, bless those who persecute you.”

“To follow Me, deny yourself, take up your cross [live as if you are dead] and follow Me.”

God, the creator of the Universe, coming to earth via the impregnation of a virgin teenager.

Assembling a crew of uneducated, cowardly misfits as the team I am going to leave in charge to take care of this thing.

The leader and Saviour of the group hangs out with  poor people and prostitutes and the lepers [who were  quarantined outside of the whole city]  and  the marginalised and demonstrates his leadership by getting down on his knees and washing the feet of this followers. 

I could go on. But it doesn’t make a lot of sense. That in itself does not make it true. But it has to maybe make you wonder for a second if it is so completely ridiculous in concept, then just what if it was true?

The people who have turned people away from Christianity through their words and actions are always those who have lived and spoken in a way that is very much unlike the way Jesus Christ lived and spoke. It is not when we live like Him that people are repulsed, but when we get it horribly and completely messed up so much so that people start identifying what they see with following Him and run away violently from both.

Jesus’ message is one of being known by the Love [a special, sacrificial, higher version of what we have generally witnessed] we have for each other and for those who disagree with us and even those who would see us dead. His invitation is to a life that is life lived to its absolute fullest. To an extreme of Love that the world has seldom experienced.

It is crazy. It is foolish. It is mind-boggling why anyone would choose to take on all the baggage that comes with being identified with the church and with those who call themselves little Jesuses without very much resembling Him.

But there is something in me that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to clearly express in an argument that will change anyone’s mind ever. It is the part of me that just knows. I have identified this foolishness of Jesus, of the cross, of the bread and the wine, of community, of that real kind of unconditional Love, of sacrifice and surrender and submitting, of Good News, deep within me. And I know that it’s real. I just know.

And for that you may call me crazy. You may see it as foolish. You may ask me, “Well if your friends all jumped off the bridge, would you?” And this time, I might just answer, “Absolutely. ” Sometimes it is the most foolish things in the world that make the most sense.

well, would you?[An Xkcd.com strip]

[For next Friday’s Everything happens for a reason, click here]

[For last Friday’s Presents vs Presence, click here]

i'm talkin' 'bout the man in the mirror

Two men lying under a tree. The first turns to the second and says to him, “I’ve often wanted to ask God why He doesn’t do more about the violence in the world, about people suffering from AIDS, about the homeless situation and the fact that so many women are still abused and oppressed and struggle to find a voice. I’ve wanted to ask God why He doesn’t do more about the racism that is still prevalent in so many areas around us or about the hatred often shown towards people who are “not like us”, why He doesn’t step into situations of war and poverty and malnutrition and do something.”

His friend thought about it for a few moments and then looked back and asked, “So why don’t you.”

The first guy replied, “I’m afraid He’s going to ask me the same question.”

[For next Thursday’s Definitive Guide to insulting the Creator of the Universe, click here]

[For last Thursday’s When You’re Weary, click here]

sad face

I was thirsty today.

I was feeling down and out and broken and alone and in pain. And in a laundromat but that was more a geographical state of being.

And one of my favourite verse came to mind: Psalm 34.18

‘The Lord is close to the broken-hearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.’ 

That’s it. I think there was a moment of God calling down and adding, ‘And stop feeling sorry for yourself’ but that might have just been me.

But it is a true and powerful scripture. The reminder that no matter how low it goes, no matter how desperate you are, God is there. He gets it and He knows and He will be with you and as one of my new favourite sayings of late has seemed to be, ‘This too shall pass!’ 

And it shall.

Can you get any lower than having your heart broken [end to love? or end to love anticipated or expected or hoped for]?

Can you get any lower than having your spirit crushed [hope wrestled away, energy stolen, life brought low]?

For me those both seem to be the lowest of lows that you can ever arrive at and it is so comforting to know that even in those valleys, God is around.

I sent out a bit of a cry for help, and was cursing the fact that the time differences mean that so many of my cavalry were sleeping while it went out… but it has been so uplifting and encouraging to have the emails and the messages and Skype calls set up as they saw the smoke signals…

This too shall pass. And in the meantime, ‘The Lord is close to the broken-hearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.’ 

May you find strength in this when you need it… or perhaps pass it on to someone you know who might need to hear it today!

happyface

[For next Thursday’s The Same Question, click here]

[For last Thursday’s John Piper and the Three Little Pigs, click here]

So this week there was a big and vicious tornado that swept through Oklahoma killing a number of people and wreaking devastation in its path.

Within 24 hours there was a tweet sent by John Piper apparently that read like this:

“Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, 19 when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!” [Job 1.18b-19]

Now don’t get me wrong, I have not been a big John Piper fan since the first thing I really heard directly from him was the ‘Farewell, Rob Bell’ tweet he tweeted when Rob Bell’s ‘Love Wins’ book came out [apparently in reference to Rob Bell’s theology on hell, or the perceived lack thereof].

Before that, there was someone in my old church who was always listening to John Piper messages and going off about how great he was. So that tweet and a rather mediocre devotion that he led at the latest Lausanne conference in Cape Town a couple of years ago are my only exposure to him. [Fortunately none of that is too relevant to the point I am going to be making here].

Now my initial reaction is to wonder whether Piper has some preset verse tweeting service, because I cannot imagine someone will respond that way to the tragedy that has just happened and the lives that have been lost. So benefit-of-the-doubt stuff here people.

And then I read this blog post by Rachel Heard Evans whose writing I often do enjoy, which is titled ‘The abusive theology of “deserved” tragedy’ in which she strongly suggests that this is how Piper has responded to a number of other tragedies and the mind boggles when I read some of the examples she gives. [And once again I’ll state this, because I know a lot of people I know think differently, but I believe that if you make public theological statements or commit public actions like that, then there is a time to be exposed publically – think Jesus, Paul…]

In fact this very second I flipped over to Twitter and read this quote from Rick Warren which just arrived in my feed:  In deep pain,people don’t need logic,advice, encouragement,or even Scripture.They just need you to show up and shut up.

Which is perhaps what is most needed here. To show up and shut up. Let me explain:

All of the above is actually just the intro to what I was wanting to comment on here. It took just a few seconds in the comments section under Rachel’s blog post to come across such uplifting comments as these:

‘You can NEVER assume unwarranted motives or meanings on the speech of another human being regardless of past anything. You sir, are a bigot.’

‘Are you retarded? What better timing is there to teach the lesson of unavoidable suffering in this life? It’s real for people now. Job’s words should be a resounding trumpet to the faithfulness of the word of God. You obviously don’t value the bible much.’ 

And my own personal favourite: ‘If I had to guess what an fMRI scan of Rachel’s brain would have looked like during this post it would have been highly activated in the septum and the amygdala…’

And more. In fact, it really does seem like the comments sections of controversial or cutting edge blog posts and newspaper articles are where those lacking in Love [and possibly oxygen] seem to enjoy hanging out.

When Jesus was spending time with His disciples for one of the last times before He would be crucified, this is how He described the mission:  34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” [John 13]

So you know what? By the time you refer to someone as a ‘retard’ you’ve lost. It doesn’t matter if the point you are trying to make is valid, it doesn’t matter if the argument you are fighting against is completely ridiculous. The moment you get personal and attacking and rude, you are missing what Jesus called us to. And so take some wisdom from Mr Warren and shut up [show up if you are able, but at least begin by shutting up]

We are to be known by the Love we have for one another. That does not mean that there won’t be times when we question peoples actions [both privately, which I would say is definitely the place to err, but also on occasion publicly] or that we will always agree. It doesn’t mean that a stance we take may disappoint or upset someone else or that we won’t make other people uncomfortable at times [Jesus spent a lot of time making people uncomfortable]. But we are called to Love. And when the church fights the church, then the enemy sits back [or goes elsewhere to stir things up] and smiles because… job done.

We have to do better.

I am reminded of one of my most recent favourite songs that gets stuck in my head by the character Andy Dwyer and his band Mouse Rat, from Parks and Rec which is called ‘The Pit’ and part of it goes like this:

Sometimes life gonna get you down

And sometimes you gotta take a look around

Thinking about love, but you’re standing in the pit

The rest of the song is pretty much ‘I fell into the pit, you fell into the pit, we all fell into the pit.’ [We’re not talking rock scientistry here, people]

But maybe he’s right. Maybe we can’t get to the Love part that our responses are meant to be about because we are standing in a pit.

Of judgement. Self-righteousness. The need to be right. The need to appear to be right. Self-centered theology. [it certainly doesn’t appear Christ-centered?]

All of this brings me back to the tornado…

Was it God huffing and puffing and blowing all those houses down? Because of all the bad things that someone did somewhere and we didn’t repent from?

That doesn’t sound a lot like my God. [altho, to be honest, when I read the bible there are some stories in there that I can’t fully wrap my mind around asthey don’t all always sound like my God either]

But whether it was or wasn’t caused by God because of some reason, surely the main question we need to be asking is how do we respond.

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

a little p.s. of sorts

Which brings me to Ricky Gervais, another guy I’m not a fan of… as he tends to push the line and then cross over it and jump all over the stuff on the other side that many people would deem sacred or sensitive or painful… but the comedian — famously an atheist — retweeted an MTV News message that read: “Beyonce, Rihanns & Katy Perry send prayers to #Oklahoma #PrayForOklahoma,” captioning it, “I feel like an idiot now… I only sent money.” which he later followed up with the twitter hashtag #ActuallyDoSomethingForOklahoma.” [You can read the full article here]

On Wednesday he tweeted, “Praying for something but not doing anything to make it happen has the same effect as writing to Santa & not letting mummy read the letter.”

Ricky Gervais taking a dig, but he has a point and his diatribe sounds suspiciously like what the writer of James wrote,

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God.Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

[James 2]

So pray, yes, for sure, it’s an incredible thing we are called to do. But also go. And maybe shut up along the way. Join hands with someone heading in the same direction and seek unity and interdependence, rather than disunity, infighting and…

and… like clockwork I receive a tweet from Don Miller which directs me to a blog post which talks about John Piper pulling the offending tweets. What? Yes, there were two. And suddenly the story takes on a whole new twist… It is important that if you got this far you go and read that blog over here.

Which would be another blog on the importance of verifying news you hear before commenting on it and more importantly calling together the torch-bearing angry mob to run them out of town…

Let’s try remember the ‘Good News’ aspect of the message we are trying to share with the world.

[to read next Thursday’s When You’re Weary, click here]

[to read last Thursday’s The Bible according to Me, and maybe You, click here]