All About the Order

•September 11, 2008 • Leave a Comment

2 Timothy 1:6-7  |  That is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

I was meditating on this verse while I was washing the dishes tonight. Kay is gone doing laundry and I turned the radio on, but God told me to “practice what you preach and turn it off.” So I did. And as I was thinking about the verse and going over it in my mind, I found myself praying that God would give me a spirit of self-discipline that I have been seeking so much in the last few days and weeks and months. And I got to thinking about the order they are listed: power, love, and self-discipline.

Now certainly this is not speaking of our own power, because we have no power apart from the power of Christ in us. Which makes me wonder if the reason that it is so hard to get up early in the morning, for instance, is because I have been going about the whole thing backwards. I have been trying to have a spirit of self-discipline, which I thought would lead to a spirit of love as the Word of God transforms me, and then that would give me a great sense of God’s power in my life.

But as I washed the dishes tonight, I realized that I am going about it all backwards. What I need is to beg for God’s power to read and study and memorize and meditate on God’s word. And as I feel him giving me a spirit of [His] power, it will cause in me a spirit of love for Him, that will naturally lead me to spend consistent time with Him – what most people would call self-discipline, or what other translations would call a “sound mind.” 

So my prayer now is that God would give me that same spirit of power, love, and self-discipline. And in that order.

Meditations & Musings

•September 10, 2008 • 1 Comment

Hi there! Just wanted to let you know that I am going to start doing something a little bit different on my blog here. While there still may be a topical thing that I want to spout off about now and then, at least for a while my posts are going to be exegetical [finding the truths in Scripture]. OK, maybe that’s stretching it a little. They’ll at least not be eisegetical [reading truths into Scripture]. Hopefully none will be heretical.

I’m gonna call this Meditations & Musings:

Meditations

Dallas Willard: “If I had to choose between all the disciplines of the spiritual life, I would choose Bible memorization.” I wholeheartedly agree. Never is my mind and heart so full of God as when I am memorizing his word. And in trying to memorize, I repeat it over and over and over again. And it gets ingrained in my mind, and I begin to think about it differently and more clearly than ever before. That’s meditation.

After a summer long hiatus, I am back on track memorizing Scripture, two verses a day, every day. Romans was bogging me down before… it’s a heavy book. So now I am in 2 Timothy. I thought it was a good practical book that is short, so I’ll have the encouragement of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel!

Musings

Muse: To be absorbed in thought. An interesting thing that most people don’t realize about the English language is that if you put the letter ‘a’ in front of word, it negates the word. (i.e. a theist is someone who believes in God, therefore an atheist is someone who does not believe in God).

I want you to muse on the fact that an a before the word negates it. Muse means to think deeply.

God has convicted me that much of my existence consists of purposely not thinking deeply – being AMUSED. So this blog is an exercise in getting me to muse. Hopefully it will you as well. And I pray that even if you find it humorous at times, you won’t find it the least bit amusing.

This series probably won’t be very fancy. It probably won’t always be coherent. Probably not as grammatically correct and well spoken as my other posts. It’ll probably be more questions than answers. These posts will be a public record of my musings on the Scriptures I’m meditating on… pure and simple.

2 Timothy here we come!

Children and Chocolate

•July 3, 2008 • 3 Comments

I As followers of Christ, living the Alternative Lifestyle, we must be concerned when people who are created in the image of God with value and worth are used and abused.

 got an email today from Stop the Traffik. Apparently the chocolate industry has missed a BIG deadline, and the Stop the Traffik press release can explain it better than I can anyway. So here it is. Read it and weep (I hope). And then ask yourself whether the extra couple of bucks for that fair-trade candy bar might be worth the clear conscience. 

Luke

 

On July 1st, people all across our town will be going out of their way to buy more chocolate—a chocoholic’s dream, but it will be fairly-traded chocolate. This is the best way and the only way to eat your chocolate slave free.

July 1st is a very important day around the world.

It’s the day when the chocolate industry promised to make sure that no children were being used as slaves on cocoa farms.

It’s the day when we could eat a bar of our favourite chocolate such as a Mars, Kit Kat or Dairy Milk knowing that no child has been used in the harvesting of the cocoa beans that went to make the chocolate we love to eat.

Sadly there will be no celebrations on July 1st.

Industry has failed to keep its original promises.

Today, children as young as 12 are still being used as slaves on cocoa plantations.

Here are the words of one child after being rescued from a farm. “I will tell you how I lost my arm. I tried to escape, but I could not. They caught me and tied me to a papaya tree and they beat me and broke my arm. I used to dream horrible dreams that they were beating me and about many other things: the hard work, my family … I still have these dreams today”.

Although the majority of farmers would not treat children in this way, there are some who do, and there are an estimated 12,000 children trafficked onto cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast into a life of slavery.

In our community, thousands of people are buying chocolate without knowing that these children are suffering for our sweet tooth to make fat profits for an industry that hasn’t delivered on its promises.In 2001 they said they would certify that farms were slave free. Now they are saying that they are gathering data on some of the areas where cocoa is harvested.

This is not what they promised.

This is not good enough after 7 years of waiting for the freedom, safety and protection of these children.

We have to choose which chocolate bar to buy, at little cost to us when our chocolate is costing some children their lives.

STOP THE TRAFFIK

The New Friars by Scott Bessenecker

•May 27, 2008 • 2 Comments

Appetizer

The very first statement Jesus ever voiced about his concern for the poor, oppressed, marginalized people was when he cried out as one of them – eyes shut tight, mouth wide open, wailing, kicking, shaking and dripping with blood and amniotic fluid … when God voted with his birth, he voted for the poor.

This book studies past orders of Christ-followers that ministered to the world’s poor, and chronicles a movement of young Christ-followers today doing the same thing. The book starts with a couple of introductory chapters, in which it gives the definitive characteristics for the “new friars”. They are: incarnational, devotional, communal, missional, and marginal. The rest of the book goes in depth of each of those aspects.

Meat

When I was in Mozambique, I played with a group of kids about an hour a day or so… they more happy and more satisfied in their ratty, sometimes almost non-existant clothes than any children I have seen in America in a long time. I found myself not wanting to help them get out of their poverty as much as wanting to join them in it, because they were so satisfied.

Bessenecker was dealing with this same issue at one point in his ministry, and he shares a dream that he had. It’s too lengthy to quote here, so I’ll just summarize it: He dreamed that he was in a garbage city, and the dung truck pulled in with a very full load. As he walked by, he noticed to his horror that his three children were on top of the truck, covered in feces, playing happily. And, at that moment, he felt God speaking to him, “”As their father, are you satisfied? Even if they are satisfied, are you satisfied?” [pp. 48]

Often it seems that people who are passionate about serving the poor can seem to neglect actually getting around to sharing the Good News to them. It is easy to get so busy doing God’s work that you forget about God Himself. Bessenecker does a good job of avoiding this in the sections about devotion and mission. Here are a couple of choice morsels:

As wonderful as it is to bring the Kingdom of God to the hollow places on earth, even this is rubbish in comparison to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus. Intimacy with Christ must be first. Without it, mission is empty and self-serving. [pp. 99]

Jesus is the only worthy obsession; all other obsessions must be beaten into submission. [pp. 170-171]

Even though I have heard the term a lot, I had never sat down and thought about the meaning of incarnational ministry. But think about this:

To undertake an incarnational approach to ministry is to be sent as Jesus was sent – to empty yourself of all that alienates you from a people and to become to a significant degree as they are. [pp. 62]

Since Jesus is the perfect example of what we should look like, then is this the kind of ministry he calls us to? As the Scripture Bessenecker quotes there says, “Jesus said, ‘As the Father sent me, so I send you.” I think this is the meatiest part of the book, one that I am going to take a little while to digest. But we’ll get to that after while.

Bones

There weren’t a lot of bones in this book. I thought that the authors writing style was a little monotonous at times, but that’s a writing style thing, not a real issue. He did a fairly good job of balancing sharing the gospel with caring for the poor. Obviously he tends to one side, but the one side is what the book is about, so it makes sense.

The only other thing I would say is that when I first picked up the book at the library I was expecting more how-to. It was actually very little how-to; it mostly chronicled what is already going on.

Digestion

I am not sure what the digestion of this book will look like for me. With getting married in a couple of months, I am not able to move into a slum in Bangkok right now. But I was thinking about the closest thing with consistently have in America: trailer parks. God has been bring trailer parks to my mind over and over again lately. Me and Kay are going to live in a trailer (but not a park) after we get married. I wonder if God may not be preparing us for an incarnational ministry in trailer parks. My dad found the statistics somewhere that show that around 95% of people who live in trailer parks will not leave to attend an outside church. It’s just in the dreaming stage right now, but what would it look life if we were to bring the church to them in their trailer park? The outline of this book will be one I refer back to when we begin such a ministry – are we incarnational, devotional, communal, missional, and marginal?

Persecution

•February 13, 2008 • 1 Comment

American Christians have it easy.

When we read Scriptures about persecution, or Jesus saying “In this world you will have trouble”, we think of someone making fun of us because we’re wearing a “Christian” T-shirt. I have come to realize that most Christian T-shirts deserve to be made fun of, partially because of the fact that they are usually either rip-offs of other people’s design work or they are RIDICULOUS clichés like “Jesus is my homeboy”. But I digress.

Anyway, I want to pull my hair out when I hear this kind of talk about “persecution”. I think Foxe’s Book of Martyrs should be required reading.

If you don’t, you should get the Voice of the Martyrs magazine. You can sign up to get it (for free) at persecution.com. I would suggest you not read it right before or right after eating, though. It’s definitely PG-13 or R rated. But it will wake you up, and make you realize that you have it easy. Maybe too easy. Christianity thrives under persecution and doesn’t do that well in freedom.

I’ll end this post with a news bite that I read this morning in my email from VOM. Would you be willing to sacrifice like this for the sake of the Gospel?

The Voice of the Martyrs has learned that an elderly, bedridden woman burned in an attack on January 7, has since died. According to VOM sources in Bangladesh, attackers may have not realized that the bedridden elderly woman was in the house sleeping when they set the house on fire. She awoke when the fire started, but since she was not able walk, she could not escape. Eventually, someone from the area heard her cries for help and pulled her out of the fire. The motive behind the attack was to burn the house which was used as a house church. Ask God to comfort the family of this elderly lady. Pray the house church which met in this home will continue despite this horrible incident.

Simplicity.

•February 4, 2008 • 4 Comments
Don’t you love it when God has been speaking to you in ways that you can’t even explain in words, and then you decide you need to blog about it?

God has been speaking to me a lot about how The Alternative Lifestyle should look in my life, and one of the things he has used to do so is the book Freedom of Simplicity by Richard J. Foster. I had never read anything by Foster before last week, although I had heard good things about his book Celebration of Discipline. This has been one of the most life-impacting books I have ever read. You need to read it – it’s a message that is desperately needed for the Western Christian in the 21 century.

The message of the book is that God calls his followers to live simple lives, ones that are singularly focused on Him and His glory. There are a million ways for us to be simple, and it easy for us to be legalistic with it because it is the most outward of the spiritual disciplines. So understand that I am not pointing fingers in anything that I am going to say – I am just going to share with you how God is speaking to me about living a simple life.

Over the past few months I have been wondering how much we really need to survive. The consumerism that surrounds me has made me increasingly sick, especially within Christian circles. Those who claim to be living The Alternative Lifestyle can’t wait to buy the latest fashions, drive nice reliable cars, go to the nicest schools, and spend massive amounts of time and resources being entertained. Does that sound like an alternative lifestyle to you?

A couple of months ago I attended the celebration of a mission team that had gotten back from Kenya, Africa, a place that has been in the news a lot lately. During the sharing, one of the team members told us that it costs roughly $1 per month to feed an orphan through Christ’s Hope International. One dollar to give them the bare necessities of life for another month. One dollar to make sure that they are cared for. One dollar to make sure that they have the opportunity to know Christ. I came away from the meeting brokenhearted about my indifference , and the indifference of our culture. Case in point, the amount of money we spent on pizza, dessert, and soda for one meal at that meeting could have fed 10 kids for a year. Absurd.

Here’s the deal… go to www.globalrichlist.com, find out where you are on the list, and then read the rest of this. If you are living a normal Western life, I would venture to say that you are in the top ten percent of the wealthiest people in the world. Do you think that God gave us such incredible wealth so that we can spend it on the latest fashions, or the latest movie, or the latest fill-in-the-blank? Do we really think that’s what He meant by an abundant life? Do you really think that he will say “Well done, good and faithful servant” to us when there are thousands of children starving to death every day around the world, and while an estimated 6,877 people groups are unreached? That’s people GROUPS, not people. Whole groups, whole nations who have no access to the Good News, who have no Bible in their own language. Meanwhile, we continue to live our extravagant lives. You should check out a great blog I found, Daniel and Amanda’s Weblog and read the “why we share our wealth” series, especially Part 4.

Todd Agnew is wearing a shirt with a bunch of questions on it on the front of his new (INCREDIBLE) album Better Questions. The top question is, “Did Jesus really mean everything he said?” That’s a darn good question, especially regarding this living simple thing. Did Jesus really mean it when He said that it was hard for a rich man to enter heaven? If so, then why do we cling so hard to our riches? Did He really mean that the rich young ruler should sell all his possessions and give them to the poor, and then come follow Him? Did He really mean that if we have two coats we should give to the one who has none? Did He really mean that the widow gave more than the rich people because they were giving out of their abundance, but she was giving all she had for the Kingdom and trusting God to provide for her? Did He really mean that we shouldn’t worry about what we are going to eat or what we will wear tomorrow, but instead seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be given to us?

I need your prayers. God has really convicted me and broken my heart about this, and when God speaks you come to a “crisis of belief that requires faith and action” [Experiencing God] Just one (big) example: my textbooks for college cost me $50 last semester. I paid $2400 for the 4 courses. Keep in mind that I am going to school online, so I am getting my education almost solely from the books anyway. So the question then becomes: what am I paying for? The knowledge? No. That’s in the books. Man’s approval of my knowledge? Yes, that’s right, I am paying roughly $30,000 over the course of my education to get a piece of paper that says, “Yep, you know all that stuff.” so that other people will look at it and think, “Wow, he has a bachelor’s degree in Biblical studies.”

I am not being legalistic and saying that going to college is wrong for everyone. I’m just talking about my life. But think of this: based on the aforementioned stats from those in Kenya, I could feed 625 kids for 4 years with that money. 625! Think of the last time you were at an event with 600 people present. It’s a bunch.

Now you may be saying, “I’m glad you care about the world, but you need an education. It’s important.” Remember, I would be getting the education, I just wouldn’t be getting the diploma. Here are the questions in my mind: Is my diploma worth 625 orphans starving to death? Is that piece of paper worth even one precious life? If I say yes, then am I really “pro-life”? Is my higher education worth those orphans getting no education at all? Is it bitterly ironic that by getting my diploma in Biblical studies those 625 orphans will never hear what the Bible says?

As you can probably tell, I am deeply struggling with this. I would appreciate your prayers and your insights and your advice. But when you give advice, keep a little African orphan boy in mind. (A specific one I met in Mozambique… I’ll post his picture later) Hear his cries of hunger and thirst, his cries of loneliness, his cries of desperation, his cries of death… his cries in Hell?

Then multiply those cries by 625.

The sound is deafening.

Why I Celebrate Christmas

•December 23, 2007 • 2 Comments

I have recently been exposed to people who either refuse to participate in Christmas, or do so marginally, because they believe that because of its roots it is a pagan holiday that should not be celebrated by Christians. I want to tackle this subject for a minute today, because I think that it’s also a good argument to celebrate it. 

As part of the Alternative Lifestyle, we try to engage our culture in order to transform it with the Good News, and Christmas is a perfect example! It is true that Christmas was originally a pagan holiday, but when people who had celebrated that holiday their whole lives became followers of Christ, they used the holiday to celebrate the birth of Christ. They impacted their culture, and they are still impacting ours – they changed the world. If you ask 99% of the people in America what Christmas is about, they will say that it is a celebration of the birth of Christ, and we have those Christians to thank for it. It may have been a pagan holiday at one time, but there is no question, at least in my mind, as to whether or not it is still one today. We are celebrating the Son-God this season, not the sun-god.

So if you are going to use that argument against Christmas, you must be consistent. You must also not celebrate Easter, because it also has its roots in pagan culture. And you must completely reject anything that could remotely be considered a Halloween alternative. Even if everyone starts singing about Jesus rather than witches and demons and such, more people come to church than any other time of the year, and there is tremendous potential of sharing the Gospel, you still should reject it because, after all, it had it’s roots in a bad holiday, and apparently the change of focus means absolutely nothing if it is celebrated on the same day as Halloween was.

But there is a deeper principle here – the matter of the heart. While it may be true that Christmas was originally a pagan winter festival, Christmas today is, for me, a very worshipful time of year, the most worshipful holiday. It is the only time of year that I can be at work and hear that Christ was “born that man no more may die” and “come let us adore Him.” It is when I get most overwhelmed with the wonder of it all, that God would send His only son to be born, live, die, and live again – for ME!

So those who choose not to celebrate Christmas have every right to do so, but I think that the logic is flawed. And they are missing out on what has been described as “the most wonderful time of the year!”And that’s why on this blog we are celebrating Christmas – a day we choose to celebrate the fact that Christ came to earth.Merry Christmas Eve Eve! ;-)

 
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