Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fighting for Redemption

Recently, Andrea and I watched "The Fighter." I will just cut to the chase and tell you that it was an excellent movie. However, I am required by Christian Law to give you a disclaimer because it is an "R-rated" movie with swearing and bras and such.Watch at your own risk.

That was a lot of links. Sorry.

Spoiler Alert! Do not read if you don't want to find out that he breaks his neck and then his trainer lets him die . . .wait, wrong movie. Oh yeah, he beats Ivan Drago and brings honor and glory to the good ol' US of A. No, seriously, I am about to give away the end of the movie. 

What I liked best about this movie was that the core of the story was restoration. The whole movie I found myself disgusted by Mickey's family, particularly his mother and brother. They didn't care about him. They were just trying to make themselves happy and using him to do it. It became clear that they were a terrible influence on him and needed to go. I wanted them to get what was coming to them

But Mickey didn't. He didn't want to let them go. Even when every sane voice in his life told him to he wouldn't.

And that made all the difference. (now watch how I change tense)

He refuses to give up on his family. He chooses to see the best in them. He chooses to hope. He will not turn them away. And because of his love for these people who have treated him like crap, they experience redemption.

That is grace! That is what I hope all of us will choose. That is what I hope we will extend to others. And that is what I think God does for us.

All of us.

Even if we don't know it.

What he really wants is to restore us to what we were created to be. And when I am tempted to desire above all else that someone gets what is coming to them, I need to remember that.

Dare I say it . . . God's great redemptive love wins?

What about you? How hard is it to stubbornly hope for people? For yourself? What makes it difficult? Have you seen "The fighter?" Seriously, how good was that movie?!

Monday, March 28, 2011

While You Are Waiting for Something Else

As the title of this blog would suggest, I am currently waiting for something else to finish. I would like to keep working on my study of the whole Bible but I am trying to get this one thing done first. Unfortunately it is being a bit cranky at the moment (and involves printers, excell sheets, and merge fields. Gross)

So to help me pass the time and to help you pass the time, I would like to share an important announcement entitled "The Truth About Bears."

Fun and educational! Hooray!

Sorry about the awkward spacing. I don't know much about HTML.

Friday, March 25, 2011

3 Top 5's

Ok, in honor of this being somewhere around my 55th post, I have decided to share a few favorites with y'all. I guess these things are all the rage with the bloggy kids these days. So for your reading and viewing pleasure, I give you:

The Top 5 Most Viewed Posts of ALL TIME! (on this site)*

1) If This is All There Is
2) Just Answer the Question!
3) Moralistic Therapeutic Deism
4) 100 Miles
5) What We Might REALLY Be Saying

*That involve writing. Video posts are not included.

And now I would like to list:

My Top 5 Favorite Posts (from oldest to newest)

1) Amen
2) The Word Became Flesh
3) Die Little Jesus
4) The Lost Older Son . . . and Part 2 (cheating? Maybe. But it's MY blog and I can do what I want!)
5) Housecleaning

And now I would like to share a few blogs that I enjoy checking out.

Jesus Needs New PR. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Christian culture.
Stuff Christians Like. Laughing at yourself is a gift from God.
Redeeming Domesticity. Reclaiming the joy of the home.
Jesus Creed. I don't know how Scot McKight has time to read all those books
PostSecret. My weekly reminder that humanity is beautiful and broken.

Ok. That ought to keep you busy for a while. Peace!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Grace for Cain

So for the last week or so I have been working on my new project: The Whole Dang Thing. It is a crazy attempt to read through the whole Bible via manuscript study. Well, I have managed thus far to get all the way to Genesis 4!

4 down, 1185 to go! So if I did one per day I would be done in just over 5 years. Dang.

So last night I read through the story of Cain and Abel, though it is really a story about Cain. Abel doesn't really do anything except offer a sheep and get killed.

But I was struck by the contrast between Cain and God.

At every turn and at every place Cain does something stupid or terrible, God is right there trying to help him. After rejecting Cain's offering, God seems to think that Cain should have known better. And then he gives him instructions on how to avoid a life with an unfortunate trajectory.

"Why are you angry, and why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at your door; its desire is for you, but you must master it."

I expect God to tell him that is he does not to well that he will NOT be accepted. But that isn't what God says. God seems to be saying that if he doesn't do well, sin will begin taking over. Cain will become more and more mastered by it.

And he is. He doesn't listen. He kills his brother.

Even then, God doesn't seem to be angry with him. He asks questions and acts shocked, maybe horrified. But not angry. He then tells Cain that the thing he loves to do (tilling the ground) won't work anymore since the ground has cursed him. As a result, Cain will be a nomad.

This doesn't seem like a punishment. This seems like a statement of natural consequences. But Cain interprets it differently.

"My punishment is greater than I can bear! Today you have driven me away from the soil, and I shall be hidden from your face; I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth"

When did God say he would be hidden from his face? Why does Cain think that?

Is it possible that when God lets the natural consequences of our actions happen, we think he is totally rejecting us? We jump to the worst when God might actually be trying to help us.

Cain's problem had something to do with tilling the ground and his offering to God. Perhaps God is trying to break him of that kind of idolatry. Perhaps the time of wandering Cain will be in will be a purification. He will see more clearly who this God is and what he is about.

But Cain doesn't listen. He doesn't wander. He leaves God and settles somewhere else. He marries. He has a family. He builds a city. This doesn't sound like "fugitive and wanderer."

Is Cain addicted to settling? When you till the ground you have to stay there for a long time. When you build a city, you are committing to being in one place and are helping others commit to one place.

And I think it is totally possible that God was trying to break him of it and heal him.

Do I do the same thing? Do I get so tied to a way or a program or a style or a place or a system that I will violently defend it if it is threatened? Might there be things in my life that seem like unbearable punishments but are actually God's grace on me?

Gad has Cain's back through this whole thing. I think that might mean he has mine. And I think that might mean he has yours. And he wants the best for us even if we don't know how to receive it.

Seriously, come with me on this journey through the whole dang thing. It is going to be a blast.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Always Up To Something More

Here is a link to another sermon I preached last weekend. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

100 Miles

Actually, it is a bit more than that. But "100 Miles" just has a better ring to it than "132 Miles."

That is roughly the total amount of miles I have run since I began training for the St. Louis Half Marathon. I will be flying to St. Louis in two weeks and running that sucker on April 10. My lovely girlfriend, Andrea (who is quite a talented writer and just started a new blog which you may enjoy reading), and I will be joining a few more of her St. Louis posse to tackle the beast.

If you have followed my blog for long you may remember a post I wrote over a year ago about wanting to start exercising. I did start running last year but couldn't pull the trigger on a big running project. After "seeing" Andrea run one in Nebraska and reading Donald Miller's "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" I decided it was time to commit to doing something crazy.

A moment of slight panic began to set in when I was nearing the end of the registration process. There is this point where you hit the final button. It is the point of no return. No backing down.

In reality, all that happens is they take your money.

But it FEELS like you just enlisted in the army or something.

I hit the button and was registered. I had my "inciting incident." It was time to start training. And this was the part where I started learning things. Hooray!

When you commit to something, it re-orders your priorities. I found a 12-week training program that seemed reasonable and decided to use it. Three short or medium runs a week and a long run on the weekend. I realized pretty quick that running was going to be the first thing I did those days or it would likely not happen at all. This meant getting up earlier. That 45 minutes I spend running takes 45 minutes away from something else. Waking up earlier is the only way to not lose the time.

Also, it rains in Oregon. Not sure if you knew that but the rumors are true.

I am not a fan of rain. Name one thing you can do in the rain better than you can on a sunny day. There is only one: stomping in puddles. So not worth it.

But if I am going to do this thing, I have to learn how to run in whatever weather gets thrown at me. I remember a 4-miler where it was pouring. I was soaked about a half-mile in. But it didn't matter. I was training.

I have also been noticing that I never want to go running. Every time I would rather stay in and read the news. But my commitment pushes me out the door. And every time I run, I am glad I did it. I have probably had more moments where I felt a sense of accomplishment in the last 2 months than I have in a long time.

So What?

I am writing this after running 5 miles. I feel great. It was tiring but it honestly doesn't feel like a big deal. Last weekend I ran 8 miles.

I NEVER thought I would be able to run 8 miles without stopping. But I did. And this weekend I will run nine.

There is a change happening. It is small. Day by day and week by week. The first time I ran 4 miles by myself it kicked my butt. I felt like this: I just ran five like it was nothing.

Commitment changes you. You aren't sure what it will do to you but you dive in anyway. And little by little you begin to transform. I can run farther. I am probably in the best shape I have been in since college. Andrea hugs me and notices that it is a little easier to wrap her arms around the midsection.

That feels good.

13.1 miles still feels terrifying. But I am committed. Every little step I have taken in this journey has mattered. When I got off track, I just jumped back on. And in less than three weeks I am going to do something I have never done before.

So this begs the question: What else am I capable of?

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Whole Dang Thing

Hello Everyone.

I just wanted to let you know that I have begun a rather ambitious new project and you are welcome to join in.

I started a new blog and the site is http://thewholedangthing.wordpress.com

It basically boils down to this: I love Bible Study. It is probably the clearest way I experience and hear the voice of God. So I have decided to discipline myself and spend a little time each day doing Manuscript Study.

But the ambitious part is that I am going to try to do the whole Bible.

Yep. I have no idea how far I am going to make it but I am going to try. And the more people who come along with me the better.

So if you want in, feel free to read the blog and leave a comment.

I will continue to write in this one about other stuff that strikes me as interesting.

Ok. That is all. Peace!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Trees for the Forest

I am a big picture person.

I want to know how things fit into a larger whole. What is the context? How does this connect with that? That kind of stuff.

So naturally, I love studying the Bible. What a story! How that many different authors in that many different times and places wove all that together is mind bottling. I think people would be much better off getting the big picture of Scripture and seeing how the pieces come together to make the whole.

But there is also such beauty in the individual books. I have been going through the Gospel of Mark with my staff team this year and that guy knows how to tell a story! The themes and repeated phrases and juxtapositions make it so much fun to dig into.

I get to lead a fairly large section of it next week at our retreat and I am a little overwhelmed. There are so many dots to connect. There are so many threads to tie together. There are so many metaphors to invent to explain what I am trying to do. (That last one was a joke.)

I am excited to try it and to help people see and grasp the big picture, but I notice myself doing something. I notice myself missing the beauty of the individual trees in this vast forest.

I am more concerned with how the healing of the Legion man connects to the calming of the storm than the fact that Jesus just absolutely changed that man's life forever.

I am more concerned with the relationship between the Syrophoenician Woman and the feeding of the four thousand than I am by the fact that Jesus walked a hundred miles out of his way just to (seemingly at random) heal her daughter.

I am more concerned with the juxtaposition of the little children coming to Jesus and the Rich Young Ruler than I am with the fact that Jesus loved that guy and wanted him to follow him and he said "no." Sad!

The trees here are beautiful on their own. I don't want to miss them because it will make the forest itself that much more beautiful.

So may we find the beauty in both.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Something to Say . . .

I love the idea of blogging. The internet is full of normal people who are sharing their lives (sort of) and thoughts and ideas with anyone curious enough to want to know.

I would love to get in on this. I would love to join in the conversation. I would love to write more on this thing.

And yes, I would love to have higher traffic and unique visitors per month.

But the one thing that seems to get me stuck is that in order to have a blog that does those things, you need to have something to say. And not just anything. You need to have something to say that you think millions of random people ought to hear.

I have never been one to shy away from saying what I think, but that usually happens in the context of face to face interactions. I am much more comfortable with that than I am with shouting into the void of cyberspace.

So perhaps it is ok to save my best thoughts and interactions with real flesh and blood people. They will never up my blog stats to any kind of impressive number but maybe that is a good thing.

So I will probably just continue this blog the way it has been and not worry about who reads it and who doesn't. I have enough real people who read my life right now thank you very much!