"We Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers"

I've been thinking about my feeling that I'm called to be a professor at a seminary someday. I dont have a clue what I want to teach at this point, but I think practical theology would be a good idea. I wonder if such a thing exists...

I'm reminded of what Soren Kierkegaard says as quoted in Shane Claiborne's book. I think I will get this printed and framed in my office if I ever make into a seminary.

"The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any word in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world? Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church's prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Oh, priceless scholarship, what would we do without you? Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament."

The hero-disciple dilemma

Why do we make some people into heroes whose act could never possibly be followed up, and if it was we would just consider it a shadow of the original?

I think of Mother Teresa. There are boatloads of people in Calcutta doing the same thing she did. She seems to have successfully made disciples. So what I dont get, is why we only remember he name?

To be honest I dont know much of what goes in Calcutta in the ministry she was doing, but I wonder about the branches. Did she branch out and open other houses all over Calcutta? If she did, was she actually successful at raising up another person who had the same unique love, care, patience, and relationship withthe Lord?

Or why does Hybels have a mega church? Why does anyone have a mega church? Even if they're the most dynamic speaker in history, why aren't they raising up others to be like them, to learn from them and then be better? I understand the arguemnt that the people in America don't really want community, and so they go to these mega churches where they can get lost in the crowd.

Is that what our churches are supposed to look like? Why aren't they raising up disciples? And if they are, why are they still famous?
And why wont we let them be something other than a hero before they fall into massive overwhelming sin? We wont let them get back to a normal life, and its our fault.
I want us to consider who we choose to be our heroes. Martin Luther is one of mine, and I love that his wife brewed him beer. He seemed to have it together, but he also sure seemed to have a breakdown regarding the Jews later in life (a lesser known fact)...

If we learn to make disciples instead of heroes, the church will probably have a lot easier time remembering THE hero in Jesus.

Life worth living

I read something a couple of months ago which said something along the lines of,
"We Christians have been living a myth, that without heaven our Christian lives are worth living. But the truth is, a life following after simple satisfaction sin is more satisfying in the here and now than a life of pietism, or avoidance of sins."

Now I don't know what my problem was when I read this, but for some sick reason I agreed with it. Thinking, "A life of listless sin really would be more satisfying."

But I then read something else just yesterday which asks "If there were no heaven and no hell, would you still follow Jesus?" And I find my answer being an overwhelming yes. I remember what life was like back when I sinned. It was filled with temporary satisfaction. Things that I often find myself desiring to return to.

But the thing I'm shocked that I forget is just how empty those things are. There is meaning to life. There is value in life. Life is not entirely about sex, or drugs, or "sins" or music or whatever. It may include some of those (read sex, and music....), but in the realm that pleases the Lord.
The longer I follow God, the more I am convinced that I have real satisfaction and VERY few of my friends do. Several of which are Christian but dont yet understand the freedom they have in the Lord, the joy they can experience because of what He did. And there is not one of my non-Christian friends that is not chasing after something that I know very personally will not satisfy.

It's sad, but there is absolutely no life outside of Christ. There is no life worth living outside of Him. If He created us, of course he knows how we can best live. And there is a place for sex, for joy, for alcohol even, but outside of his plan for these things they become twisted, and unsatisfying.

Thankfully people out there eventually do admit that they cannot find anything that satisfies in life. Some of those do eventually turn to Jesus. And some of those do eventually find a life that satisfies. I just wish I was better at articulating what an amazing joy it is to find satisfaction in all I do. If we knew how to express that life with Jesus is not a life of sin management but a life of overwhelming joy in knowing and loving and serving your maker, maybe people would understand that its something truly to be desired....

The next temptation, the next sin

It can be frustrating to conquer a sin. Or even to have some level of victory. Because, it seems to me, as soon as the devil sees us succeeding at conquering one sin, he throws another at us. What stinks about it is when you begin to gain victory over a sin which you know is sinful but is still kind of fun, and then you head into being tempted to something that is no fun at all. Imagine going from gambling to fear. Gambling - if overindulged - can definitely become sinful, but at least its fun. You find yourself finally have victory over gambling and then the devil throws fear at you.

Whats fun about fear? It stinks, its sinful, and it's absolutely no fun.

I guess this doesn't take into account that I may have always faced all of these things, and just never been aware of the fear until I dealt with the gambling. etc...

Nevertheless, in my constant struggles to overcome sins that I have, I'm always slightly concerned with which sin I will be faced with next, and will it be as comfortable as the last?

A great crowd of witnesses

And when my friend decided to accept the Lord as his savior. I asked him if he believed. "Yes!" he proclaimed. "I could not and would not believe it if just one person had told me. But people from Italy, the Philippines, America, England, and China" have all told me. How could I not believe?!"

I feel honored to be surrounded by such a crowd of witnesses. And to be in the right place at the right time to yield fruit already ripe.

Hope in a hopeless world

Today I was raving to a friend about a wonderful experience I had today. A friend who turned to the Lord. And the hope it gave me. There is a shocking amount of sadness in this world, and when I encounter hope in a hopeless world it overwhelms and excites me.

My friend then shared about his recent experience in a poor neighborhood at a tea house charging a mere twenty cents for a cup of tea. Outside of the neighborhood a five star hotel was just built and now there is an upper class shopping market going up in between the two. As my friend joked with the owner of the tea house about his new competition in the five star hotel, he couldn't help but wonder how long until the neighborhood is torn down completely and replaced with upper class housing.

There is a shocking amount of hope. And an even more shocking amount of hopelessness in this world.

I'm reminded of something I've read lately where someone asks "Why is there so much pain in the world?" And the response is, "you tell me?"
Simply implying the hopelessness of the world is on our shoulders.

What do you think?

Useless gifts...

I feel like I have all these gifts thats I've wasted. For example, I understood computers really early on. I loved working with them and I learned some of the basics of programming in high school. Fearful that I would work with computers the rest of my life and not with people, I gave up programming before college.

But my head still works that way. And occasionally I still switch into a mode where I'm dying to go back to it. But right now I just don't have the time. I'm attending a part time student at two universities on top of work and a baby on the way. Time is not something I'm oozing.

I feel bad letting them go to waste. But what can you do?

to be honest... when the iphone came out, I hoped that was my calling. To develop for the iphone... Ah. idle fancy.

Wealthy Christians in poor countries

One of the biggest issues for the believer who lives overseas is money. If you live in a wealthy country it's not all that big of a deal, but if you come from the western world and you leave the western world. Chances are that you've moved from a place with money to place without.

The dilemma you find yourself in is where will you live? (OPTION A) If you live a poorer part of town you may feel better about inviting over your local friends because your house will not be intimidating to them. However, you may quickly find it unbearable to live in a setting where everything breaks, the plumbing doesn't work well, the power is out regularly and your spouse wants to kill you (if your kids are old enough they may want you dead as well). Your capacity for longevity in that field may be directly reduced by your choice to live in less than comfortable circumstances... Yet many people take this route (in my opinion few of them make it in the long run).

The other (OPTION B) is you could buy or rent a nice house which would still cost a fraction of what it would cost you back home, you'll be saving money and your family will be comfortable. The issue will then arise in inviting your local friends over. Are they intimidated by your money? Are you able to bless them with your things? Or are you raising all kinds of questions that cant be answered and will only make your friends less comfortable with you?

The truth is, the vast majority of the people overseas simply choose to not come to a conclusion on this issue. It's just too hard.

I would argue that if the Lord calls you to the poor, or even the poorer, and you feel you (and your family) have the calling clear enough on their lives to take that step, then move into (A). Stay there and thrive.

Otherwise you're probably stuck with (B) for the sake of your family, your spouse etc... In an ever globalizing world, this is less difficult because the locals -- often no matter how poor they may be -- are acutely aware that because of where you come from you'll likely have money.

Apart from these views there is one other thing, often left unconsidered. Possessions, money, a big house, doesn't have to own you. I'll admit that I was 22 years old before I met someone who could live this appropriately.

The man was a very successful lawyer and lived in (what in my opinion) was a mansion. He invited me in and as I looked around he said "I know! Can you believe how the Lord has blessed us?" He showed me the back yard, his private pool, and then took me upstairs to show me his theater room. He had a massive projector showing Major League Baseball on one wall and six or seven leather lazy boy recliners stacked on risers throughout the room. It was spectacular. And he was blessed. And he knew it. And he wanted to share it. I never felt more comfortable in a wealthy home.

No matter where we are, what we do, there are those around us who are poorer, and those who are wealthier. Often the house you move out of to downsize, will be moved into by someone who is them-self downsizing.

If we remember who gives us the gifts, and we are willing to give them back. Then we can live where we feel called and how we want. We can bless our wives with good gifts, and our children with running water and regular baths and heat... But don't forget the locals...

Dirty smelly poor people

I've just started to read "The Irresistible Revolution" by Shane Claiborne. I'm not far into it, but it doesn't take long to tell that this is one of those books thats stretches you in ways you're uncomfortable with (good but uncomfortable). It challenges you to get out amongst the nitty gritty. To hold their hands and love them.

Thats hard.

I figure that getting used to working with the poor, the alcoholic, and the smelly, is kind of like getting used to cold water. At first its pretty uncomfortable. Easing in slowly will eventually get you submerged, but its a painful process. And weather you jump in head first all at once, or move along slowly. At some point you have to be in over your head and moving around pretty hard if you ever want to get used to the way it feels and find yourself comfortable.

Also once you're in, if you sit around for a while... you'll get cold and uncomfortable again.

I've been easing myself in slowly... its not been easy. I've been in the water before, but gotten out... but I'm pleased that since I've gotten back in (and I'm still in only up to my knees), I've been active in that little bit and the water is starting to feel warmer and warmer and its almost comfortable again.

I shake the guy's hand in my neighborhood who was hired to go through our trash cans and sort what he finds. But he's a sweet guy, and when he takes his hand out of the trash can to say hello and shake my hand, I've got to step up.

My mentally handicapped friend who sits on the steps a couple of blocks from my house and tries to pinch me when he holds my hands, is pretty gross. His hands are dirty, he drools and screams when he sees me. But the Lord loves these guys like he does me. And as I get dirtier and dirtier I'm getting used to the mud.
When you're running to get out of the rain, you eventually slow down, accept that you're soaked, and then you're able to enjoy the downpour. Thats what this feels like.

I'm reminded of James 2, how we can show favoritism to the rich over the poor. Also our faith needs to be matched with works. Typically when I think of works, I think of social service, but it also means prayer. Keep your works up with your faith. Otherwise you become the guy on the shore who has forgotten how to swim. And when God throws you in the deep end, its hard to get used the water when you've forgotten how to swim.

May God give us the grace to dive in and be willing to get wet.

Broken hearted over a friend I barely know

I think I've mentioned before about a guy near my home is isn't quite all there mentally. It's really quite hard for me to process. I see the guy and my heart just goes out to him but I don't know what to do. Finally I began to stop and to talk to him. Try to hold his hands and say a prayer for him for healing or for the Lord to reveal Himself to him. The hard thing I deal with is that as much as I want to see this guy healed, I MUCH more want to know that he'll have a chance, a hope for eternal life. How can he know if he cant understand?

So today I went back to visit. It was a rough day, but the Lord seemed to want to use it for good, and we were able to prayer for him. To love on him for a bit, and then even to go back and meet his family. Pray for them and love on them.

I try to explain that there is a God. That we believe in Him. That he is powerful. Magnificent and capable. That he desires to see those He loves be healed. I try to explain that the Lord created us to be perfect, but our imperfections are out own doing. That the Lord desires for us to be a part of redeeming these things. We prayed for him briefly and then shared with them how to pray. I asked if they would be willing to talk with the Lord every day about this young man. To pray for healing.

They said they would.
God showed up in a real way and it sure is fun when he does...

Tea Drunk

So the other day I go into a tea house to buy some tea and a couple tea cups. But lately I've been mentioning the problems I've been having with my health. The issue seems to be that every time I drink tea I get a little dizzy or maybe foggy (its hard to describe) and it seems to mess with my digestive system too. It makes me uncomfortable enough to affect my everyday life. I find myself not wanting to go across town to eat because I dont want to be far from home when I start to feel like I might pass out.

Anyhow, so I'm at this tea house and I'm explaing to the lady making our tea that I think I might be allergic to tea. She asks me what my syptoms are and after I explain she laughs at me. "You're not allergic," she says, "You're Tea Drunk (醉茶)." And then she goes on to explain how this a relatively common problem. She doesn't know anyone who has it but she's heard of it. Oh, and tea drunk is worse than alcohol drunk apparently.
So whats the fix? Eat while I drink tea, and drink less.

That sucks.

Tea has become THE reason I can study. Study the language. Study for seminary. 1pm to 3pm is the most productive time of the day for me thanks to tea.
So I'm tea drunk. And apparently destined to be for a while.

Bummer.

Not My People, adopted

"I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’;" - Hosea 2:23

I wonder what we would do if this read "I will say to the Gentiles, 'you are my children';"? Would we respond differently if it was spelled out for us?
How often do we realize just how big of a deal it is that before Jesus we were just "Not My People." We we're the child of an unfaithful wife. Now because of who the Lord is, because of His overwhelming love for us, we're his children.

And he knew this all along. His plan was to die for us even back when our forefathers were living lives of unfaithfulness.

The morons of the early church.

Its a tough thing to try to follow up an article that is poorly written, poorly photographed, and basically unrelated to the rest of my blog but yet drives more than twice the traffic to my site as all my other posts combined.
But after the humbling, I figured I'd do my best to give it a try.

Lately I've been chewing on what the early church looked like in discipleship and evangelism.
First of all, was the early church something which we should even hope to envy? I don't know that it was. Sure Christianity exploded in to the world in a huge way, but is that because we as people or as the church did anything right? I'm not convinced it is. Any more than just circumstances of the time. The Far East is turning to the Lord in droves these days, and not because we're suddenly much better at evangelism, or doing something different, it seems to be that we're just finally offering a way to the one true God and people are thrilled at the opportunity.

In the same way, in the early it church, it was rough for someone other than a Jew to serve YHWH, there was a process but it wasn't easy, and you would always be a "gentile" instead of one of God's chosen people.
Suddenly the Lord offers a way for everyone to know Him instead of just the people born into the right families. I imagine people are thrilled. It's the same thing here, religion has been illegal, and while it still is in theory, people are still excited to finally hear the truth. Probably any religion (I'm sad to say). People are thrilled to grasp on to anything they can. We're not doing anything right, the situation is just ripe. Ripe as can be.

Anyhow. We definitely have to take advantage of the situation while we can. But we're still the bumbling morons making all kinds of mistakes in evangelism, yet we're seeing people come to the Lord in huge numbers. In the early church there were no books on evangelism, the clearest gospel message literature was Pauline, and how many people got that easily? They were bumbling idiots as much as us. But the Lord used them. The time was ripe.

All this is to say, we seem to look at the early church and analyze it and try to mimic it, but I'm not sure we should. I'm not sure they were doing anything particularly right. They were still just a whole bunch of unhealthy people trying to lead other unhealthy people. the Lord just had grace on them. I pray he would continue to have grace on us.