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261 (the random name generated by the machine)

Today I feel like I have absolutely nothing to add to the conversation of the world. I am living in a distracted state of mind and I feel like there is not much useful getting done. How often do you feel this way? I know there are many days in which I sit down in my office and I just don’t know which pile to begin working on.

There are many piles on my desk currently, with the current worship series we’re doing piling up and the next series on Christian Theology also piling up. I just feel like things just move too quickly at times. Now I personally have a natural response to this kind of situation, and it’s probably not like it should be.

When I get overwhelmed my natural response is to find something else to waste time on, but my job does not give me that luxury. There are things that I have to get done, and also things that I have to move on to when those things get finished. But one of the things that helps me to push through and deal with these kinds of days is the longer term perspective.

God has given us the long view to help us to forget the troubles or lack of focus for the day. So if you have a difficult day of focus, just remember God has given us a long term perspective of working for His kingdom. Now try to push through.

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Another Timely Message

So I think this may become a trend on my blog, and it will be the timely nature of God. Even through something static and man made, God will speak if we merely take time to hear it.

This morning I was doing a bit of catching up, and part of that was Psalm 143. I have a confession to make before I go any further, I’m a Psalms addict.  I know my favorite is supposed to be somewhere between Matthew and John, but I cannot help myself.

I love the Psalms because of the beauty of the language, and there is incredible power in the different types of Psalms. From praise to lament to calling out to God in absolute desperation I feel that the Psalms give us a picture of the lives of the writers and how they interacted with God.

So this morning I read, “Let me hear of your steadfast love in the morning, for in you I put my trust. Teach me the way I should go, for to you I life up my soul.” Psalm 143:8 NRSV.  This verse was really something I needed to hear, after some stress and stupidity I needed to be reminded of God’s steadfast love.

I also needed to be reminded as I am daily or more often of God’s steadfast love. I love how timely scripture is. No matter where you are reading or what you are reading God can order our chaos. I see the chaos in our world, and it is a constant reminder of how God ordered the tehom. The nothingness, also often called chaos, and brought forth the order of creation.

When we see these words we need to be reminded that God’s action did not end at the creation of the world. He is constantly recreating and sustaining the world, a constant reordering of the cosmos. Let us all sear for the way we should go with God, and even if we do not know exactly where we are headed, that we lift our souls to the one who gives us chaos and order.

 

Timely Messages

This morning I sat down in my office, just a little stressed about the upcoming schedules and things going on around me. So I dove into my life journal for the morning, and this is the timely word that was sent to me. “I will make an everlasting covenant with them, never to draw back from doing to them; and I will put the fear of me in their hearts, so that they may no turn from me.” Jeremiah 32:40

I told the students that have begun on the journey of Life Journals with me that it would amaze them how timely the words they would be reading would be. Even if the reading plan we’re following is static and designed to get the readers to read a good portion of the bible in a year. Sometimes the words that God will give are exactly what you need to hear.

I wrote recently about living into the pregnant pause, and maybe God is not silent, but saying “wait.” But one thing we cannot do is quit listening, or quit talking to God about the things that are bothering us. And I found renewed conversation with God through pouring myself into devotion, discipline, and reading of God’s word. It is so hard sometimes to regain the feeling of closeness or even the feelings of moving towards something greater.

There have been times in my life where I have felt extreme closeness with God, like nothing could break the stride of my walk. But there are other times in life where I feel that I am so off track, headed in a direction I was not meant for, and those times are incredibly discouraging to the spirit.

Then you get these words from Jeremiah. The things in Israel are bad, not just unpleasant, but downright bad. The Chaldeans and Babylonians are bearing down on the city of Jerusalem, destruction is imminent. But God tells Jeremiah that eventually the people will receive their land, and in even greater measure again soon. So this is when we get the word about the everlasting covenant for good.

The comes a mere three chapters after some of my favorite words in the Bible. “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” Jeremiah 29:11. I often return to those words for inspiration, even when I do not feel like I am on the right track, I know God knows where I am going, and He knows what He is doing.

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

A Systematic Nature

Recently it seems like I have been writing a lot about the attempt at living a devotional life. Posts about living life in a way that becomes a devotion to God. And about living our lives as prayers and hearing the pregnant pause that we often live in. This week I am going to write living our lives in a systematic kind of way.

Now any of my seminary friends may have gone into full brain lock-down at seeing anything with a title of Systematic, but please do not worry. Moltmann will not be quoted, neither will Church Dogmatics by Karl Barth. But the idea of how to do Systematic Theology is near and dear to this post. The idea being that you start with the most basic building blocks, and then moving towards greater things.

When I took Systematic Theology in seminary it was honestly one of the most difficult things I have ever done. The thick and dry tomes of Theology are just not really my thing, although reading and at least minimally understanding these books was an incredible stretching experience.

Maybe what I’m getting at in this post is that maybe we need to live our lives in a way that is recognizable to the methodology of Systematic Theology. We need to begin in a place where we live the life of a Christian in small things, and that we can move forward from those places.

We have begun our new small group schedule here at the church and we are using Life Journals (put out by http://www.lifejournal.cc) and this morning my verse from this morning was this. “I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord; and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart” Jeremiah 24:7.

Maybe the most basic place we can begin from is our hearts, maybe we can start by at least attempting to put our hearts in the right place. Placing our hearts in the right place will if not immediately, then eventually mean that the rest of us will follow suit. So let us try living systematically and putting our hearts in the place where it can be used by God.

 

God Speaking

This morning I was really looking back on the last year of my life and how much has truly changed. How much my boys have grown, since my youngest was a newborn when we came to Macon. Also I think about the periods of my life where I have been waiting on direction from God, where to go and how to do things, it is no different with my planning here at Mulberry praying for God’s direction.

But there is something that formed itself in my mind while (this will make my Seminary professors proud) I was attempting to be a reflective practitioner. It’s that maybe we often misinterpret the perceived silence of God in our lives. I don’t know where I came across it the first time, so for whatever uncredited source thank you, maybe God is not silent but saying, “wait.”

I can freely admit that I do not like to wait, it is really not in my gifts that God has given me. I grew up in the American culture of immediate satisfaction, we want what we want NOW! But sometimes God wants us to remember that we have to tune our antennas so that we hear him.  We have to turn the dial of our hearts away from the world around us to truly focus on what God is saying.

But the question that always pops up for me when I try this is, why is it so hard? Why does my heart not naturally want to center on the signal that God is sending out.  How do we truly know that are tuned to the right station and not just being pulled in what seems like the right direction?

In “The Screwtape Letters” the demons talk about the fact that their greatest weapon is not interrupting our times with God, but distracting us with things that will keep us so busy that we will forget about focusing on God. It’s strange but sometimes in my life I see this influence, and it’s not things that are blatantly against God, but things I can convince myself are for good.

Then when I come to this conclusion I see the hands that are slowly pushing me away because God is telling me to wait. God is giving us the word Wait, but all we hear is silence. We don’t feel the pregnant pause that is often present in our lives. I use the phrase pregnant for a purpose, because we often in the process of something new, something that is being recreated. God is not only the Creator, but the Master Recreator as God does on a daily basis.

So maybe the silence we hear is not truly silence, but the pregnant pause that is coming to be. The Bible speaks of the labor pains that are bringing what is coming to be. Maybe we need to hear, “Wait” when our hearts feel silence. Even if we are truly experiencing silence, maybe we need to keep telling ourselves to wait on the Master of Recreation.

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

The Hunger Games

I am a reader. I love to read books, and for some reason I don’t like thick Theological volumes. I do however love a good book with a lot of suspense, or a one of those crazy thriller books (see Dan Brown or Gregg Loomis). So recently my wife’s book club read The Hunger Games, and with all of the talk from my youth I became interested.

Needless to say this is one of those books that devoured my life while I devoured it. It took something like three and a half days, and it really has gotten me to thinking.  The games themselves in the book are really a kind of character study on the human condition. The books are so interesting, they have literally caught me from the beginning, and I can be a very fickle reader.

But how do The Hunger Games square with the ideas of faith, and I know that the book is set in a fictional world after a world altering rebellion and consequent brutal oppression. I am focusing a bit more on the games themselves than the extra information that we are given throughout the book. How does our ideas of people humiliating themselves for our entertainment sound to our culture today. I think that The Hunger Games depicts what many of us would characterize as barbarism, and I think you would be correct.

The games put 24 young people against each other in a fight to death scenario in an arena full of hidden dangers and nightmarish creatures. I look at the ideas of the games and I cannot help but think about the way we are enculturated into an idea of the American dream. I know I have fallen prey to the American dream many, many times. But how are we taught that we are to get what we think we “ought” to have no matter the expense to others. How is our cultural viewpoint that of me getting mine no matter what?

I think Christ draws a drastic distinction between The Hunger Games where only one person is able to prevail (I won’t spoil the book if you haven’t read it) and changes the language.  Instead of only one can survive, Jesus calls to live a life where there is plenty for all. We may not have a huge house or two brand new cars, but we will live in plenty. I talked a little bit about the Kingdom of God during Youth on Sunday night, and it is something that is really difficult to explain in a coherent way for teenagers. But I think the gist is this, we can all have enough, although we may not have all we want.

If we look at our world and try to step outside of our own hunger games and strive to make sure that there is plenty for all, maybe we can finally escape this perpetual rebellion we all live with.

 

Bearing Fruit

Last week I wrote a post on the quote from Arthur Weasley on “The Truth Will Out” and how we are to live in to what we repeatedly do, the whole idea of “perfect practice makes perfect.” But how do we know we are moving towards something, how do we truly know we are getting better? Jesus often speaks in parables and many of his parables are agricultural in nature. Jesus also speaks about bearing fruit and the fruits of the spirit.

Bearing fruit comes in many ways, and we may not always be able to see exactly what we are moving towards. Some species of fruit trees take years to produce fruit, some plants only take months, while others literally produce fruit in weeks. All of this diversity in how fruit is produced is something that has always confused me, why are thing not consistent across all of the different plants. Why do some fruit grow on trees, others on bushes, while still others in single small plants.

The older I get the more I see this diversity as an admonition to see the similarities between the plant and human world. Some people catch incredible fire and zeal incredibly quickly, while others take the slow, steady, and silent approach to their faith. And indeed doing quietly is an admirable quality for a person to possess. But when we begin to bear the fruits of the spirit, or to produce yet other fruit in our faith, how do we know?

Maybe we often place to heavy an emphasis on measurable increase, but I think we have to know things in that deepest place within our hearts. Our hearts are the true measure of our faith, and the more we live in to our faith the more we will share our heart with others. This can be an incredibly difficult thing to do, and so many people move from sharing faith to pushing people in ways that are not truly nurturing.

When we begin to bear fruit one of the best affirmations we can receive is for those who are around us the most to notice the difference.  Do not think that this process will necessarily be easy though, believe me when I say this may be a painful process.  Just like growing up is sometimes painful, pushing ourselves towards something new will always be hard.  Especially if there is the memory of what came before still present.  We often have to overcome previous versions, or at least the memories of our previous versions, before we can truly move to something new.

I think we often underestimate how difficult it is for us as fallen human beings to truly live in the way Christ calls us to. This process of fake it until we make it holds true for bearing fruit. Just like orchards of trees that are not producing fruit bud, flower, and then grow, just like the orchards that do produce fruit. We must do our best to go through the budding, flowering, and growing process with grace and smile to face our next challenge.