Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Laying Aside

Dear Journal,

Therefore, lay aside

How often it is that the things we cling to as a means of survival, are actually pulling us beneath the waves.

"Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings"
Laying aside all “badness,” that is, all depravity, all malignity, (the one, the root. The other, the fruit.)

Yeah, I get that there’s no life there. And we have more of both than we’d like to admit.

But the rest? These really hit close to home.

And all pretentions, all comparisons… (guile, hypocrisies, envies, evil speakings)
All omissions from the truth, pretending you aren’t what you are.
All additions to the truth, pretending you are what you aren’t.
All "envies”, as though you should be what someone else is.
All slanders, as though someone else should be what you are…

In short, any living for, or looking to, anybody except Him, is a snare.
"As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious."

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Why Can’t They Think Like Me? [Maybe it isn’t an Ordination Crisis after all…]

My thoughts are divided between Africa, Africa, Africa, and my blog series on First Peter. Probably in that order. Hence the silence. But here I am. Halfway through an evangelistic effort in a dusty corner of beautiful Zimbabwe, and deeply moved.

In the west we sometimes think these people, (this continent?) primitive. Backward. Opressive. Old fashioned. I mean, mud huts? Really?

If only they were more like us… You know, valued the things we value. Paid more heed to women’s rights. Were a bit more theologically progressive. A bit more advanced. More contemporary. If only...

Come on, you’ve thought it too.

Hear me, because I’m only going to say this once.

I actually don’t think we have a point. Um... at all.

When our dying church in the west so much as shows up for anything outside of the church service;
when we sing like this over new souls saved;
when we come to church early and stay all day, eating nothing till the sun is done and gone;
when the deaconesses on duty can be recognized within seconds of stepping into the tent, not just by their presence, but the glory of their joy at serving;
when the elders take their role so seriously they are stopping what seems like constantly to join hands and pray, again;
when we have shared with enough neighbors that pratically every third hotel employee, taxi driver, and business man on downtown main street is one of us...
In short, when our lukewarm western church is operating with half of the fire common in the primitive corners of the world,
then we might have a point; a voice.

Until then, perhaps we should be examining our own hearts.

A recent report (which you’ve probably seen, so I won’t send them any more traffic) observed that the parts of the world most resistant to contemporary renderings of doctrine, and hermeneutics with a bit more cultural gloss are also the parts of the world where women are most generally repressed.
I don’t claim to be an expert on the worldwide realities of womens’ opportunites. And while I may have some personal (and professional) questions about our ability to even gather accurate statistics on the subject, this essay isn’t about spreading any such doubts.

I do, however, think that the above mentioned line of reasoning overlooks a very key fact. Namely, that the selfsame regions of the world are the only regions where both the quality, and the quantity of church membership shows explosive growth. While in all of the more progressive and “culturally sensitive” regions, church growth is slow, or in extreme cases, moving in the negative...
Is it possible that in our (western) quest for relevance and contemporary competency, we have actually lost something that would make us great in the world?

I do not mean to make light of the tragedy of failing to cherish either the lives, or the gifts of the women in our midst. It is strange fire that inspires a man to rise by crushing others underfoot— especially when that “other” (or “others”) is the only one (ones) capable of complimenting and completing His own work and service. It happens far, far too often. And truly, some cultures seem to blatantly sweep the issues under the rug. That it happens is not only unfortunately true, but also a testimony to the selfishness and pride of a race on course to destroy itself.

But I can honestly say, that while I certainly find myself in a “backwards corner” of the world, my evangelistic site cradled in a little villiage in the backcountry (with 400+ members in attendance, along with the visitors) shows no signs of such. Men and women serve together, and though their roles are distinct, they work with a harmony I’m not sure I’ve ever seen in the States. For what it’s worth...

But all that aside. I return to my former question.

Is it possible that in our (western) quest for relevance and contemporary competency, we have actually lost something that would make us great in the world?

Maybe the “backward” have as much to teach, as to learn...

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Because Love Lasts

Dear Journal,
Sweep past all the prepositions, and you’re left with this:
Since, then, you have purified yourselves through obedience, unto brotherly love,
Because love lasts.
Because [only] love lasts.

This morning, a clean but sparsely furnished room on the third floor overlooking a bustling street in Harare. (Bustling even at 0100, 0200, and 0300 in the morning. Yeah. Don’t ask me how I know.)
Yesterday, Most of the day in the clouds in an Emirates A340. Sleeping. (Yeah… Again, don’t ask.)

The day before that, an all-day, all-zones pass to the world’s longest metro in my pocket, a brother with big ideas at my side, and miles on foot through unutterable opulence, at 100 degrees.
And this moment?
And all along the silky-smooth metro track suspended above the endless construction zone that is a playground for the uberwealthy? And past 7 star hotel, and out to the end of the palm, and beside blue glass reaching up towards heaven, and surrounded by the mist of a fountain synchronized with song? (Perhaps the only cool spot outdoors in all of the emirates?)
This thought:
It’s all going to go. All of it. Either a hundred dessert summers will take their toll, and the luster will fade, or, (and much more likely) the world will wrap up before the building is even finished...
Only. Love. Lasts.
"Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.” 1 Peter 1:22-25

Saturday, May 9, 2015


Dear Journal:
Is it possible to hope and tremble at once?
Or maybe they’re actually inseparable. Maybe hope is what brave souls do [anyway] when they feel the trembling. They lift their faces, and smile even in dark so deep a hand can’t be seen 6 inches from the face.
And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear:
Or: If you claim God as your Father, then let your time on earth be marked by a constant trembling...
Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:
Trembling that you might "live up to" your purchase price. That you might honor the sacrifice. Because it wasn’t paid in silver or gold…
It was paid in blood. God’s. Own. Flesh and blood.
Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.
Who was ordained before the foundation of the world, but manifested now, for you. To secure your faith, and inform your hope.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

By Which We Obtain…

Dear Journal:
Hope keeps coming up. This magnificent obsession. This marvel searched out by generations of prophets, never fully understood. This mark that sets the winners apart from the losers. The rich from the poor, the bond from the free. This means by which we obtain the impossible. Indeed, itself our very grip on that impossible. Hope.
"Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;..."
Ready your mind for work. Dig in your toes, and set for the gunshot. When it goes off, leap. Surge. Fly. And stay the course. And whatever you do, keep hoping. Even if you’re 10 yards from the finish, and appear to be in last place. (I watched an Olympic speed skating race like that once. Yeah. The guy in the back won.)
“...As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy"
Not simply dabbling (once again) in the ignorant lusts of yesterday. Or the guy in the next lane. Or the distraction at the starting line. Only preoccupied with Him. Hanging on to Him.
So that as He is, (read: glorious and strong, swift, certain, and obiously triumphant) So might I be. That’s what it says to me.
He is, therefore, I can be.

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