One worth following

What kind of man can simply walk into the life of another and so profoundly make an impression, he would drop all and follow?  What kind of man can change the heart of another through simple statements with life-altering consequences?

Each time I read through the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, I am amazed at the simplicity yet life-changing call on His followers.  John 1 records Jesus’ call on Andrew, Peter and Nathanael.  How could such men so easily follow a Rabbi they knew so little of? How could He evoke such emotion that Nathanael calls Him the Son of God and King of Israel?  While the Jewish people were certainly looking for Messiah, they weren’t looking for Jesus.  A man of usual appearance from a county town in Galilee, Jesus didn’t have a Rabbinical pedigree.  Yet, he had been amazing the teachers of the law since He was a teenager.

Jesus was, is and will always be an enigma.  His very name can polarize close friends.  Even voiced in vain, it carries such power and emotion.  Jesus befriended those without hope.  He called those who were humble, arrogant, weak and strong.  Jesus’ inner circle listed a zealot, tax collector, orthodox Jews, possible Essenes and many more.  This motley crew lacked any formal eduction or unifying political bent.  From their various walks of life, they discovered One worth following.  Their own religious leaders would go to great lengths to challenge their Rabbi, calling to question every claim.  Jesus’ answers would soon stun crowds and send the scribes away angry, scratching their heads in disbelief.  He would speak with such authority.  Jesus was not what anyone expected, but somehow He was exactly what everyone needed.  He still is.

John 1:11 states, “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.  But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”  I would contend Jesus is the One worth following because He came.  God coming to earth for the restoration of humanity reveals His character and heart unlike anything else.  So many believe in a distant deity while worshipping their own lives.  So many Christians disconnect life from faith and compartmentalize Jesus, fitting Him into the appropriate box of their lives.  In the simple act of coming, Jesus spoke countless words of compassion, love and grace.  He was and is and will always be Holy.  Yet, He humbled Himself, knowing the pain and rejection He would endure.  He came knowing the relentless questioning He would face.  He came knowing those closest to Him would deny Him at the point of His greatest need.  He came knowing He would be born in a feeding trough in some distant cave in a remote town called Bethlehem.  He came knowing He would be misunderstood His entire life.

He still came.  He still came and He gave the right to those who believed in His name to become children of God.  As I sit and write these words at my computer, I am dumbfounded that He came.  I am awed that He called people to follow.  I am astounded that He gave them a choice – that He gave me a choice.  Those early disciples encountered a man they could not help but follow.  Their words and actions speak volumes about the God who became a man and made a way for humanity to be reconciled to their Creator.  Today, I hope I can follow with the same wreckless abandon those early men displayed.  Oh that we would be so captivated with the call of our God, our Creator, that we would leave the cares of this world and follow well.  Of all that will distract my mind and heart today, there is only One worth following.

Preface

Were you guys waiting for me to post something?  Please, just kindly let me know next time.  I had no idea…

Preface

I believe the authors lay out the foundation for their work beginning in the preface and introduction.  On the very first page of the preface, a straw man is built on the lives of the Pharisees and Sadducees.  Despite the extreme oversimplification of his argument surrounding Jesus’ chief opponents, his tie to contemporary Christianity is the greater issue.  He lumps everything into one neat little package (his contemporary Christianity) so that he can propose the enlightened answer.  He takes the complex church world and lumps everyone together proclaiming biblical superiority over his concept of contemporary Christianity.

He goes on to make a statement on the second page proclaiming that, “I believe the first-century church was the church in its purest form, before it was tainted or corrupted.  Wow, this is intriguing.  Isn’t half of the New Testament written to combat problems, both doctrinally and practically, in the church?  Most of Paul’s writings are in response to the corruption and sin involved in the church.  How long does it take in the book of acts before we start to see issues rising in this non-tainted, non-corrupt church – the beginning of Acts 5.  So, it took 2 chapters following Pentecost for issues to begin to arise.  Then, Chapter 6 brings on deacons (a response to another major issue of partiality) and so on and so on…

The author makes a profound leap to state that polity and normative practices are prescribed in Scripture to fit his desired practice.  Yet, no place in Scripture prescribes the setup of the church and it rarely comments on its early practice.  Could the Text also remain silent on purpose?  He goes on to describe the great answer to the degradation of Christianity – the organic church.  “An organic church is simply a church that is born out of spiritual life instead of constructed by human institutions and held together by religious programs.”  Two things I would simply comment on this simple church.  Something becomes a program when it is repeated for a specific purpose.  It becomes a human instituted program when something is repeated for a specific purpose by humans.  Humans make up the church.  We are the body of Christ.  So, I guess an organic church doesn’t tell people where they are meeting or when, because they don’t know.  It would then become a program.  I guess it just happens as someone has a spiritual moment.  I know what the author means but the problem is not that it is a program or that it is religious.  Deconstructionism to its core leads to spiritual chaos.  Even the choosing of deacons was a religious institution.  I will touch later or his non-hierarchical structure.  Frankly, it is not found anywhere in Scripture, Old or New Testament.

I don’t want to appear sarcastic or argumentative because I really want to look at honest eyes at this book.  I think I will learn from it and I will try to pick out positive aspects to highlight as well.  But his preface, the foundation of the book, is shaky at best.  I think everyone would agree that churches all across America have problems.  I like that he wants the church to return to Scripture but his solutions are largely based on his opinions and assertions he has drawn from the text.

So, let it begin, again…

PC

Alright, here we go.  I am excited to jump into the conversation that many of you who will read this have already begun, the evaluation of the book, PC.  I want to set a couple of ground rules I think will be appropraite to keep our discussion within good bounds.  Let’s not refer to the title of the book but only PC.  Those who want to add to the discussion are more than welcome but I don’t want to disparage any author.  I will create another category called PC on the blog and categorize each entry in that Category.  Let’s create a separate entry for each Chapter and see where we go.

The other guideline I think we should employ encourages us to critically think about the book from a biblical standpoint.  The authors, as well as you and I, come to varying conclusions regarding varying issues.  All of us walk into the discussion with our own prolegomena, or pressuppositions.  Our experience, upbringing, and decisions have shaped the way we view things.  So, insted of getting caught in the trap of what works for me – let’s evaluate the book on what Scripture states and what it doesn’t state.  Our opinions are certainly appropraite if we come under the same umbrella – submitting oursleves to the truth of Scripture.

Well, I hope that makes sense.  I will soon post some thoughts on Pre-chapter 1.  Thanks guys, I look forward to a lively and constructive dialogue.

Perspective

I have a confession to make, I was previously addicted to talk radio. For some reason, the rants, rambling and occasional logic intrigued my mind. Throughout the recent presidential election, opinions were not reserved regarding political persuasion or support. The rhetoric became increasingly hostile from both sides on various media fronts. I found myself instantly turning the radio on each time my car resounded its faithful starting sequence. Never mind the fact that God has been dealing with me regarding filling my mind with stuff constantly and my apparent fear of silence.

Finally, God punched through my “concern” for political events and I stopped listening – to the chatter. Over the past couple of months, the verbal lashing has only increased. Political polarity pushes the nation to increased emotional involvement and outright hatred. Sadly, believers get caught in this rhetoric as well. Don’t misunderstand, I have opinions and convictions but we, the church, must recognize the danger of all-out personal involvement. It is easy to forget the mission that is irrespective of politics or government. I needed a change of perspective.

The book of Daniel is an intriguing and powerful story of God expertly weaving his people to influence in an ungodly nation. In the middle of the book, Daniel confronts the King of Babylon, the most powerful nation on the planet. King Nebuchadnezzar declared this statement, “At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, and the king answered and said, ‘Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?”’“ (Daniel 4:29-30) After this statement fell from his lips, God spoke and moved! Nebby was driven from the palace and lived like an animal ”until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whomever he pleases.“ (4:32)

The most powerful man in the most powerful nation in existence found himself eating grass like a cow because he chose to take God’s glory for his own. God probably doesn’t regard our hearts any different if we find ourselves blanketed by a label of Republican, Democrat or Independent. The desire of His heart is that His name be made known and glorified throughout the nations. Through prosperous times, uncertain times, bailout spending and tax cuts, God is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to whomever He chooses! While I find great joy and responsibility in casting my vote, I find much greater pleasure and peace in knowing that after the last vote is cast, God places the leader. While I can’t make sense of that entire process in my mind, I find my soul at rest knowing that the greatest mission of making God famous persists regardless of world events and circumstances.

God made every man and woman in His image, for His glory, and He passionately pursues a relationship with them. May our hearts and minds be filled with dreams and passions worthy of the great King we serve, Jesus. It is always a great time to make Him known. God making an old heart new is change I can believe in.

Changing Your Poohspective

Recently, I heard a family member talking about a conversation they had with a good friend.  After a rough start to the day, their phone conversation left her encouraged and thinking a little differently.  Venting for several minutes, she relayed the challenge of the early morning hours and his response was simple, you can choose to live like Eeyore or you can choose to live like Tigger.

I immediately understood the parallel.  Pooh Bear often finds his way to our television set with great fanfare.  Eeyore, if nothing else, is very predictable.  The storm permanently settles over his world.  Every experience is tainted with the expectation of failure.  His life filter leads him to appreciate little and complain much.  Eeyore is lovable and occasionally surprised by the grace life shows him yet he quickly returns to the color of his coat, blue.

Tigger on the other hand chooses to see life as an adventure and difficulty as challenge.  He embraces each day as one to bounce through and enjoy.  Occasionally, Tigger drifts into momentary despair but quickly resumes his happy-go-lucky existence with renewed vigor.  He teems withe energy and life and has a personality which draws one in.

In a world tinged with difficulty expounded by the current state of our economy, there appears to be reason to despair.  Yet, we have a choice to live life as Tigger or Eeyore.  The difference is a simple word, hope.  I don’t mean the hope recently chanted by presidential candidates.  Hope can’t be relegated to the policies of one man or an administration.  Hope isn’t contained by a government and isn’t found in bailouts.  Really, hope has little to do with our circumstances and everything to do relationships – particularly one relationship.  Romans 15:13 states, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”  Genuine hope in life is found in a relationship with Jesus Christ.  And this hope is not a wish or desire but a reality for those who put their trust in Him.

The question then remains for those who follow Jesus; do we illustrate this hope?  Do you live by hope?  No matter how sharply the 401k falls or deep the recession strikes, God has not relinquished control.  His promises remain and hope never fades, not eve a little.  So, followers of Christ have every reason to live with the right poohspective.  It is not simply blinding oneself to the negative side of life, but choosing to remember the temporary nature and awesome mission of the time allotted to each of us.

So who are you,  Tigger or Eeyore?

Finding Life in Every Stride

Cooler weather in Houston is no small blessing.  The simple pleasure of feeling a cold wind brush across your face and infiltrate an unzipped jacket can be rare this far south.  I love watching a cold front approach with looming thin clouds followed by dry frigid air.  Not too long ago, while running, I watched as the clouds flew past and gave way to a beautiful night.  There are patches of road I run on where street lights remain vacant and the stars shine brilliantly.  It is in those moments, I remember why I run in the first place.

This January, I hope to complete my third Marathon.  I love running.  Well, I used to love running.  I am learning to love again.  Somewhere in the journey, I became distracted.  Any pursuit in life seems to bring with it some level of competition or ambition.  With the ever expanding value of GPS technology, running a certain distance with accuracy became fairly simply.  However, with the emphasis on distance, I also began to notice another statistic, time.  Coupled together like good ice cream and Oreos, they concoct a tempting creation worth aspiring to.  In short, I began to set goals and I wanted to achieve certain results.

Two weeks ago, I had my longest run of this training season thus far, 18 miles.  Due to a set of circumstances largely out of my control, I failed to finish.  That was hard.  I failed to accomplish a goal and ended my run painfully aware of my mortality and fully exhausted.  Far worse, I realized I really hadn’t enjoyed the run.  Slowly, God began to open my heart to realize the bigger story of what He wanted to teach me.  God cares about the end result, but no more than He cares about the process.  In the midst of ambition and a desire for the end result, I stopped enjoying every stride of life.  Learning to see God in the details has proven to be a challenging task.  He is clearly visible but it requires me to stop and smell the proverbial roses.  It seems those evasive roses hold more than a pleasant smell but a deeper mystery of contentment in life.

Over the past two weeks, I have begun taking pleasure again in every step, even the ones that are painful.  In life, as with running, I am learning to enjoy every step, even the ones that are painful.  While the end result is good and goals are important, loving the day-to-day makes the results so much more fulfilling.  I hope I learn this lesson well and model it for my little girls.  Real life is living every stride and letting all of our senses respond to what God is showing us next.