Wednesday, January 29, 2014

One

Wholeness. Integrity. Unity. Oneness.
There is a common thread in scripture of oneness. God is one. The church should be unified. A follower of Christ is called to a life of integrity. Christ died to make what is broken, whole; what is divided, unified.

An important note, unity does not mean uniformity. We can be one in Christ without being the exact same person. God has created each of us as unique members, parts of the whole, who only by working together can accomplish his mission.

Lately, I have been hearing a lot of Christians talking about a particular struggle we face, prioritizing our time. On the one hand, there is individual reflection and prayer, alone time with God. On the other hand, there is developing and strengthening relationships with other members of our Christ centered communities. And on the other other hand, there is reaching out into the hurting world, being salt and light and bringing the good news to those who need to hear it. We are running out of hands. There is a solution: integrate these rhythms of life. There are times to focus more closely on each, but often as not we could do a devotion with a friend, or spend time with Christian friends as well as non-Christian friends. Christ has broken down the walls even between these different aspects of loving and serving him. We can't allow ourselves to be caught up in this lie where we have to compartmentalize our lives as Christ followers.

Practically this means we need to be mindful of opportunities. Sometimes our sabbath rest can be spent engaging our neighbors who we want to get to know. Sometimes bringing shalom into the world can be done side by side with people from our churches and people who are just interested in social justice. We must allow the gospel to soak into every aspect of our lives, acknowledging that it is so much bigger than we often give it credit for, and so much better. Knowing these things, we can love God and love each other and love our neighbors better. And our city will know that we are Christians by our love.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Fight Night


Here is some new spoken word. 

I start fights online late at night
Because I think that I’m right
But if I’m fighting with the wrong heart
I’m not in the right
So I’m writing songs
It’s my way of righting wrongs
Spreading light into the dark night
Only Christ can be our white knight
In shining armor
And I mean to alarm Her

Because the Church is the Bride
In a bona fide mess
A damsel in distress
Look for a blessing
But we do most the cursing
It's disturbing and
Here is the worst thing
Jesus isn’t our first thing
When did we stop thirsting?

Now we’re second guessing
So where is the blessing?
Why are we stressing?
Are we dressed in a white dress
Pure as snow, welcomed as a guest
Into the eternal heavenly rest?
Or just a hypocritical critic, a pest?
The body is malnourished
We’re starving to death

Skin and dry bones
We need to be fed
Only the bread of life
Can resurrect the dead
Grow up into Christ the head
We choose uniformity over unity
This divisiveness is lunacy
And it’s brutally clear to me
Jesus is saying “just draw near to me”

He didn’t say “go into culture and take over”
He said “go into the world and be my witnesses”
He didn’t say “legislate a morality makeover”
He said “go and make disciples”
If you are putting your hope in DC
Instead of helping the guy on the street
Loving the gal that you meet
Maybe you’re just shuffling your feet
Going through the motions
Evoking the  right emotions
But you’re empty and you’re broken

Maybe we should focus more on reconciliation
Have less debates and more conversations
Get off the internet and go into all nations
And I don’t mean to take a vacation
Have you read the great commission?
It reads like the orders for a rescue mission

I know it seems like a strange thing
But if we’re gonna change things
We gotta love our neighbors,
And loving our neighbors
Is gonna mean loving some strangers
It may come with some dangers
But God loves everyone
Regardless of backgrounds and behaviors
Suburban teenagers and gang bangers
Can receive the same savior
Jesus Christ was born in the manger
Threats came at him his whole life
Till it ended as he died on the cross
It’s good if you wanna count the cost
But are you gonna tell HIM about danger?

He started the Church movement with some orders
He said “Go and make disciples”
Don’t worry about borders
I don’t know if it matters where you go
But one thing I do know
He didn’t say “stay in your comfort zone and make disciples”
So we gotta get going
Follow the Holy Spirit
Like the wind that is blowing
Because our river of life is flowing
The Glory of God is our light
It should be showing showing?
If the Church is alive
She should be growing

So get your heart right
And fight, fight, fight
With all your might
Day and night
For what’s right

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Temptation, Sin, and Death (Allegories)


"But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.  Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers." 
-James 1:14-16



These verses are the inspiration for two stories I wrote about sin and how it affects our lives.



So, you are at the club in your little town called Life, and you’re sitting at a table. It’s well lit, your friends and family are with you, supporting you. Temptation comes up to you. She says, “Hey, I love this song. Wanna dance?”. And you know her reputation, what she’s like. You look her over, her dress is skimpy, but not the most immodest thing ever. You think to yourself, “I can handle just one dance.” She leans in closer, “I won’t make you do anything you don’t want to.”

So you take Temptation by the hand, and lead her to the dance floor. Just as you get there, the song ends, and a slower one comes on. The lights dim way down. You still think you can handle it. You hold her close, and move to the music. She whispers in your ear, “You are so great. I know we’ve had our differences, but I am glad we can finally be friends.”
The song ends. You tell her, “I am gonna stay for one more song.” And one turns into 2, 2 into 3, and soon the club closes, and you all have to leave.

Your friends and family are gone. As you and Temptation leave, she invites you to her place. You are having fun, and you are strong. So you say, “Of course, I’d love to. But I should warn you, we are just going to talk. If you try anything, I’m out of there.”
She says, “Don’t worry, you’ll be safe. I have really changed.”

Soon, you are in her apartment watching a movie on the couch. You are talking and snuggling, but it’s just to stay warm. She massages your sore muscles and strokes your ego. She tells you everything you want to hear.

All of the sudden you wake up, and you are filled with regret. Because it is morning, and you know what you’ve done. Later you find out she is pregnant. The child’s name is Sin. So you feel responsible. You have to take care of this baby, provide for and nurture Sin. You raise Sin as something you love, but also as a secret because you are ashamed. Well, Sin grows up and eventually, she also has a child. It’s name is Death.

Now you have to take care of all three of them. They are draining you of everything good. Your time, your energy, your love. Your family and friends can tell something is wrong, but they can’t help you. The only way to survive, is to put them out.



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You are a new Christian. Jesus has just moved into your heart. You give him the best  furniture, and all these lamps. It is bright and clean, except for one little place. It is your doghouse, in the back corner. You have a pet sin. You feed it and take care of it, but you keep it in the darkness of the doghouse. You tell Jesus the house is His, but that He can have it all as long as the pet can stay. So you instruct the sin to stay in the doghouse, and mostly he does, but sometimes he comes out and he poops on the carpet. And Jesus sees all this and says, “What is this doing here?”
And you tell Him, “Nothing, I will chain him up in there. He won’t do this again.” Jesus wants you to kick the sin out of your heart and close the door. But you feel confident that you can keep it bound up in the dark. Jesus has the majority of your heart in the light. Shouldn’t that be enough. You’ve had this pet for so long, it would be unthinkable to put him out. So you chain him up in the doghouse. And he stays there, maybe for a day, maybe a month, or a year. But eventually he breaks out and comes into the living room and poops on the carpet. There is only one way to deal with your pet sin. Destroy the doghouse, illuminate that darkness in your heart with Jesus’ light and throw the sin out of your heart and lock the door.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Living on the lifeboat: part 2

This is the conclusion to a 2 part series I started a while back. If you missed part 1, here it is:
http://marvelusgod.blogspot.com/2012/07/living-on-lifeboat-part-1.html

“The fear of the Lord leads to life:
   Then one rests content, untouched by trouble.” Proverbs 19:21

How incredible that we must fear God to find life. But when we fear God, there is nothing left to fear: not man, not sin, and not death. When we see the glory of God, we do not die; we finally live.


No matter what we get, it does not take us long to become complacent and entitled. I had a new phone, and for 2 days I took incredible care of it. I knew where it was. But it became part of my unconscious self. As though it was intrinsic to living, even though I did not have it most of my life. And soon thereafter I felt it was obsolete. It needed to be upgraded. I couldn't live without the new one.
This our generation. Consumers trained to accept nothing less than instant gratification and temporary pleasures. Nothing is built to last, it can all be replaced. Toys, tools and our relationships too. Like a morning mist or a flash in the pan, it all goes away.

To sustain and form Christian community, we must focus not on the community, but on the Gospel Word.. Human activity cannot create life which endures; we can never attain community by working for it. It is not something we can "do" but rather something we must "be"  something we receive through Christ's gift of grace. Only the Word of God can create an enduring community of life and love.

What if you ate only one meal a week but still went about your daily work? You would eventually grow weak and wither and die. The Church does this by allowing themselves to believe 2 hours on Sunday morning is enough spiritual nourishment to energize their week. This is foolish, un-biblical and ultimately a futile effort.


I am quite sure God wants some Christians to be Republican. And some to be Democrats. But not because he wants them to place their hope in politics. Rather he wants his people to be "all things to all people so that by all means some might be saved". To Republicans we can be Republicans. To Democrats we can be Democrats. As fellow Christians the only identity we should look for in each other is "Christ, and him crucified."

Theology is more romance than science. We do not study God just to know about him. The Bible is no mere textbook. We study him like a husband learns the minutia about his wife that wouldn't interest anyone but him. The Bible is a love letter, stories that God recorded throughout time to reflect his larger Story of grace. When we focus on the boiled down, bullet point Bible- not to say systematic theology has no merit- we miss out on the beautiful poetry, the artistry and love of the Story God is trying to tell us. The Gospel is not an intellectual proposition; it is an invitation to a very real relationship with a very real God.
We just run the danger of losing the essence of Scripture when we boil it down. If it can be effectively shared as bullet points or formulae, why did God take so much time with so many people to share His heart of love through stories, poetry, letters, dreams, songs, and other media? But it is at the very least both/and not either/or. I think theology is a great tool, as long as we do not become too busy studying God to love Him.

If we look and sound like the world, how can we offer an alternative? We are just more of the same. We can't remove ourselves from culture, but we can't compromise scripture for culture. We can't take over culture, and we can't ignore culture, but we can go into culture with all the tools we've got to bring light right into the dark world.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

On Grace and Tolerance

"When love is a theory, it's safe, it's free of risk. But love in the brain changes nothing... love is too beautiful a concept to keep locked up behind a forehead like a prisoner." -Bob Goff

“When the Truth is demoted to an opinion and grace is replaced by tolerance, society will call fools all who cling to such antiquated traditions as universal truth and morality. But there are those who will stand firm on the Truth, and cling to a hope that none can see. They will choose to embrace a cross which offends, to face mockery and ruined reputations. It is incredible how sure they must be of their Truth to suffer so much for it.” -Anonymous

Jesus did not preach or practice tolerance, but he preached and practiced something even more difficult and liberating: grace! You will inevitably be amazed when you experience his grace; any grace you experience which does not amaze you is a false grace. A God who has no tolerance for sin offers unending grace to sinners. So to be like Christ, we should not tolerate sin but offer grace to fellow sinners.

One of the most immoral things we can do is declare cultural war on immorality. Morality is not a banner under which we gather an army; rather, it is the result of a relationship with Christ. We should spend our efforts introducing Christ to those in culture, not condemning all culture in the name of Christ.

A person who holds homosexuality and abortion above all other sins then calls himself a "conservative Christian" is in reality a theological liberal; because they have taken a few sins and declared war on them but leave most others sins such as gluttony, divorce and drunkenness untouched. That is the worst sort of hypocrisy; it is the plank in our own eyes.

I understand that to some, this is a human rights issue.; if a human right is what a person is born deserving, the only human right is hell. All things beyond that are the grace of God. And as we have been shown mercy and been given favor by such a patient God, should we not show as many graces to as many of our fellow humans as we can. If we choose to condemn one another, we choose to condemn ourselves, for by the measure with which we judge, we will be judged by God. We should not quarrel any more over the rights of man, but humbly offer to all the divine graces we so undeservedly received.

To be Biblically conservative, one must generally be a socially and economically liberal person. Jesus came as a liberator, a freer of people, not to conserve the religious, political, economic status quo. And all who find hope in Washington instead of Christ may well have missed the Gospel's main point.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Searching For Eden

I had a dream. I was riding a motorcycle down the highway, in search of Eden, my one true love.
I came to a roadside diner, and I knew I was hungry. I sat down at the counter between some folks and the waitress, Judy, turned to me and asked, “What’ll you have, hun?”
“Coffee, and...”
I turned to my left and asked the lady next to me, “What do you recommend?”
She smiled sweetly, “Oh, try the apple pie.”
I turned to my right and asked the man there, “How about you?”
He looked at me and said, “What I like is expensive.”
“I guess I’ll have the pie.”
“A la mode? Need another? asked Judy.
I nodded as she put out a cup of joe and a fork on a napkin.
I sat waiting for my pie, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the guy next to me. It felt like he had something to say. “So what is this thing that costs so much?”  I asked.
“It is not expensive the way you think. I would pay for yours, but you would never be able to leave here; you’d want it for the rest of your life.” he told me.
The lady to my left tapped me on the shoulder, “Pay him no mind. He is old and confused. Just enjoy your pie.”
Judy placed the pie on the counter, and poured me more coffee.
I took the fork, cut a chunk off, and took my first bite.
It was an intense feeling. The lady next to me stood and took me by the hand. She walked me to the front of the diner, and we stood in the doorway. She said, “This is what I have to offer you.” She stretched her hand out before me, and I could see everything. “The world is yours. I will give you a great education, a job, a wife and kids, a nice house, a beautiful car. All the comforts of life can be yours. Just finish your pie. Liberty and prosperity await you.”
The man approached me, and he pointed to the things she had offered me.
“I have another offer for you. It may sound odd, but it truly is more satisfying. You will have to be willing to give up the education, the job, the family, the car and the house. All you have to do is follow me wherever I go, and I will give you so much more than you could even imagine. Don’t finish the pie. Eat my flesh and drink my blood, taste and see that I am good.”
I stood at the doorway, each had a hand on one of my shoulders. She pulled me toward the pie, and I followed, but I looked back and saw the man reaching out toward me. The passion in his eyes spoke to me, “I love you, and yet you walk away from me. You are headed toward a poisoned apple, a rotten fruit. Just reach out for me and you will be safe. I can take you to Eden.
I stopped dead in my tracks.
“How do you know about Eden? How can you know about my one true love? Eden is the joy and peace and love that I dream of; she is the comfort I seek. I would give anything to find myself in Eden’s embrace.” I demanded he tell me.
“I am Eden, child. I told you I am everything you’ve ever wanted. Don’t you see? Only I can satisfy you. I am who you seek.”
I wrested my hand from the woman’s grip, and even as I ran from her she showed her true form, a rotting corpse, seething with hatred. The things she promised me rusted and the whole world fell to pieces around us. All that was left was the man and I, and I knew I had found Eden.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Fleeing From Nineveh


For over a year and a half now, I have been deeply convicted that I needed to obtain a passport in order to obey God’s will. It is hard to say, “Here am I, God. Send me” when you can’t travel outside of your own country. I put it off and put it off; procrastinating and rationalizing, I avoided the whole thing. My secret fear was that if I got my passport God would then automatically call me to an uncomfortable place like he called Jonah to Nineveh.
My simple ironic response to this fear was to disobey God “just a little bit” to avoid “really” running from Him. I didn’t want to head all the way to Tarshish, but I also didn’t want to go to my Nineveh. As I prayed and sought wise counsel, I began to voice this fear. And God showed me it was sinful, irrational and small. God is so much bigger, and His plans are so much better.
Because God is great and I don’t have to be in control, and because He is good and my satisfaction and comfort are in Him, I decided to relinquish my fears at the cross and trust Jesus to guide me through my life. This was my act of faith and repentance, today I went to the passport office and applied. I have been a Christian for the majority of my life, but I still need grace everyday. There is no way to avoid “big sins” by committing “little sins”, but when we let the Holy Spirit fill us and lead us, we can change. The Gospel will not ever stop shaping who I am.
How can God change you today?