Been There, Done That…

Posted: October 20, 2014 in Faith

“Though our iniquities testify against us,
act, O Lord, for your name’s sake;
for our backslidings are many;
we have sinned against you.
(Jeremiah 14:7)

Throughout the Old Testament I see these kinds of cries, and pleas for mercy. Perhaps I am wrong, but the tone of these cries is strikes me as one of not only desperation but uncertainty. I get the sense that the supplicant is not entirely certain if the Death Angel will pass over him or not. This sense of uncertainty has, I think, been carried over into our New Testament communities as well.

We pay lip service to justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, but too often sermons are on various ways to be a better person, or be live a fulfilled life, or… whatever. Take a look at any Christian book store and it seems there’s a “Christian” version of just about everything, including “self-help”.

If we are ever struck by our sinfulness, we cry along with Jeremiah, pleading for God to have mercy on us. Have we forgotten the famous John 3:16 passage which talks about how much God loved the world? Or if the world is too impersonal, how ’bout Romans 5:8 which states, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

I see Jesus standing there saying something to the affect, “Dear children, I got that covered. Already took care of it. Been there, done that, got the scars.”

Why can we not simply bask in the awesomeness of Jesus’ love?

When I do my daily bible reading I like to also hear it read and so listen to MP3 or online audio files of the chapters. This morning as I was reading and listening to the scripture Ming Ming (age 8) came in and asked, “Why do you still read the bible, and why is the computer reading it to you?”

I explained that the Bible is God’s word to us. It is primarily through scripture that God talks to us, so we need to constantly be reading the Bible.

“Imagine if we still lived in the same house, but we never talked again,” I said. “How would that be?”

“The would be horrible!” she exclaimed.

“Well,” I began, “God is all around us. If we stop reading the Bible and praying then we stop talking with God and that would just be weird.”

She seemed to give that some serious thought and to understand it.

I love conversations like these and am so thankful to God for stirring an interest in my daughter’s heart. Both she and her younger brother are starting to ask more questions about faith.

Two Thorns

Posted: October 11, 2014 in Faith, Life
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Upon further reflection I think I may have two “thorns in the flesh.” One is my frequent headaches. The other is my constant anger. It seems to be always bubbling just beneath the surface (and has for as much of my life as I can remember).

“Father, please do not allow me to be controlled by either. When my anger does get the better of me, please give me the courage and humility to beg forgiveness of those whom I wrong.”

To Dream, but Which Dream?

Posted: October 10, 2014 in Church, Faith, Life
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Here are some excerpts from the Switchfoot song “American Dream” which have resonated within me:

When success is equated with excess
When we’re fighting for the Beamer, the Lexus
As the heart and soul breath in the company goals
Where success is equated with excess

I want out of this machine
It doesn’t feel like freedom

This ain’t my American dream
I want to live and die for bigger things
I’m tired of fighting for just me
This ain’t my American dream

As a bi-vocational minister I struggle between working for myself and working to be able to minister. It’s a constant struggle tugging and pulling at my heart and my mind.

The Altar and the Door

Posted: October 4, 2014 in Faith, Life

A set of lyrics which has impacted recently:

Careless, I am reckless
I’m a wrong-way-travelin’-slowly-unraveling shell of a man
Burnt out, I’m so numb now
That the fire’s just an ember way down in the corner of my cold, cold heart Read the rest of this entry »

We Ought To Remember

Posted: July 23, 2014 in Politics

Mounted inside the lower level of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty is a bronze plaque. On this bronze plaque are engraved the words of a poem by Emma Lazarus. The poem is titled “The New Colossus.” It reads as follows:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The character of a nation is both formed and revealed by what it remembers. Some whit renamed the 4th fo July “Blow stuff up but not your fingers Day.” Is that Independence Day has become. Just an excuse to blow stuff up? One the morning of the 4th my oldest child asked me what I felt when I looked upon our nations flag. After a moment’s thought I answered, “Sadness.”

It seems that we, citizens of the United States of America, have lost our past. The last stanza of Emma Lazarus’ poem are very poignant to me. Unless you are full blooded Native American, you are here thanks to the sentiment expressed in The New Colossus. My ancestors left “ancient lands” for a variety of reasons. They all came to the U.S. for one reason: Freedom.  What happened to the attitude of inviting the “tired…poor…huddled masses…[t]he wretched refuse…the homeless” which is expressed in these lines? Instead we now say, “Keep you problems. We might take your wealthy and self-sufficient, your well educated and skillful, if they can prove their worthiness to set foot on our soil.”

I don’t imagine the U.S.’s past as some glorious utopia. Our nations policy toward Asian immigration has always been broken despite the clear benefits such immigrants have provided the U.S. This too we ought to remember. We ought to remember our own pasts and the lives our ancestors sought in this land. And we ought to declare boldly and clearly to all peoples and nations:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

 

Verses from Today’s Reading

Posted: July 22, 2014 in Faith

Below are some verses from my scripture reading today that leapt out at me. They reminded me to trust in God, to dedicate myself to the study and application of His Word. These passages also reminded me of the times in my own life when I was at peace even though circumstances were difficult because I was dwelling in His Word, abiding in Christ.

Isaiah 40:8
The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.

Isaiah 40:14
Whom did he consult,
and who made him understand?
Who taught him the path of justice,
and taught him knowledge,
and showed him the way of understanding?

Isaiah 40:28
Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable. 

Isaiah 40:29-31
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.

Isaiah 41:10
fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. 

Isaiah 42:8
I am the Lord; that is my name;
my glory I give to no other,
nor my praise to carved idols.