Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Radical Disciple - Stott

I just finished a book titled "The Radical Disciple" by John Stott.  I had seen this on multiple reading lists of individuals I respect so I picked it up.  I needed a fresh look at discipleship and Stott provided one.

I have not made it a practice of summarizing books on my blog in the past but I am going to write up a few thoughts here.  My goal is to capture some of the key thoughts that impacted me. 

Stott shares that "the purpose of this book is to consider eight characteristics of Christian discipleship that are often neglected and yet deserve to be taken seriously."

Let's take a look at the first characteristic...

Characteristic #1 - Nonconformity
Followers of Christ are called to be different.  They are called to engage the world through love and service but not at the expense of losing their identity as followers of Jesus.  Stott shares that Christians are called to engagement without compromise where "escapism and conformism are thus both forbidden" (p. 17)

He lists 4 trends that need to be addressed (pluralism, materialism, relativism, narcissism) and he summarizes the responses as, "Over against the challenge of pluralism, we are to be a community of truth, standing up for the uniqueness of Jesus Christ.  Over against the challenge of materialism, we are to be a community of simplicity and pilgrimage.  Over against the challenge of relativism, we are to be a community of obedience.  Over against the challenge of narcissism, we are to be a community of love." (pp. 26-27)

I was challenged by all 4 but I was mostly struck by the challenge of materialism. 

  • Do I truly aim for simplicity in my life? 
  • At the same time, do I view my life as a journey (pilgrimage)? 
  • If I did, then what would change about my daily moment-by-moment decisions?

How can I follow Jesus more closely in this area of my life?

For me, reading this book led me to that last question over and over...

I will write more on the other chapters over time.

Proper Confidence - Convictions

This video challenged me to change my blog description.  The description used to have something along the lines of "these are my thoughts and they are not in final form (whatever that is?)"  

I do have thoughts.  I do have convictions.  I seek to have humble convictions that are based on a proper confidence in God and my life story's intersection with God's story.

I share on this blog (when I get to it) my very real "thoughts as I go".  I do not want to hide behind a false humility that purports to know nothing because nobody can know anything.  I know that my thoughts will always be open to reshaping but I would be remiss to not share confidently in the moment "as I go."

Those are my thoughts...

Check out the video below to see what caught my attention last night...

Typography from Ronnie Bruce on Vimeo.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Like the ocean waves...

The ocean has always been a place where I am reminded of God's love for me.  For as long as I can remember, I recall thinking while standing in the ocean waters that God's love is like the ocean waves - always coming at me, surrounding me, refreshing me, renewing me, restoring me.

A song that has been out there for awhile finally caught my attention.  I do not know why it is that some songs catch my attention and others do not.  I also do not know why some songs catch my attention and not others and vice versa.  Music always eludes concrete definitions.  In many ways, my relationship with a song is like a relationship with a friend or person.  I may meet someone or talk with someone but there comes a time when the relationship transitions from a random name to a known person.  I experience songs like this...

The song that transitioned from "something on Pandora" to a friend is "Your Love Is A Song" by Switchfoot.  I'm sure that this song is old for everyone else but for me it is fresh and it stirs my soul.

Here are the lyrics:
I hear you breathing in

Another day begins
The stars are falling out
My dreams are fading now, fading out

I've been keeping my eyes wide open
I've been keeping my eyes wide open

Your love is a symphony
All around me, running through me
Your love is a melody
Underneath me, running to me

Oh, your love is a song

The dawn is fire bright
Against the city lights
The clouds are glowing now
The moon is blacking out, is blacking out

So I've been keeping my mind wide open
I've been keeping my mind wide open, yeah

Your love is a symphony
All around me, running to me
Your love is a melody
Underneath me, and into me

Oh, your love is a song
Your love is a song
Oh, your love is a song
Your love is strong

With my eyes wide open
I've got my eyes wide open
I've been keeping my hopes unbroken
Yeah, yeah

As I have been listening to this song, God has brought the Bible passage 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 to my mind.  This is the "famous love passage" that is often read at weddings.  The lyric "I've been keeping my hopes unbroken" triggered this connection. 

I reread 1 Corinthians 13 this morning but I substituted "God" for "love" in the passage based on the 1 John 4:8 description of "God is love."

Here is 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 with that exchange:

God is patient, God is kind. God does not envy, God does not boast, God is not proud.  
God is not rude, God is not self-seeking, God is not easily angered, God keeps no record of wrongs.
God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 
God always protects, God always trusts, God always hopes, God always perseveres. 
God never fails.

God's love is song...  Your love is a symphony, all around me, running to me, your love is a melody underneath me, and into me...

How do you experience God as love that comes to you like the ocean waves?

How do you experience God's love like a symphony, a beautiful masterpiece of music around you, coming to you, underneath you, moving you?

My soul is moved by this song...

My soul is transformed by Jesus who shows us and relates to us as the God of 1 Corinthians 13 (and the entire Bible's love song) who is love...

Go ahead, reread 1 Corinthians 13 and listen to "Love is a Song" and turn it up!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

More than dishes...

College provided a wealth of memories and experiences.  I remember sharing an apartment with 3 friends during my final 2 years at UVA.  For the most part, we shared duties around the apartment and pulled our own weight.  From time to time, the dishes would pile up in the sink and it became painfully apparent that somone had to step up and clean them. 

An argument broke out one evening about the dishes and accusations flew across the room from one person to the other.  In the midst of the discussion, one of my roommates calmly said, "None of these dishes are mine.  I always clean my dishes or put them in the dish washer."


He silenced us with his bold claim.  He silenced us because we knew it was true.  He was a servant-minded person who lived with integrity and we knew his claim of innocence was accurate.

This morning, I continued my reading in the Old Testament book of Job.  Job in chapter 31 shares a defense of his life.  He is responding to his critics (supposed friends) who are convinced that Job's devastating misfortunes (read chapters 1-2) are a result of his sin and rebellion against God.

Job shares his defense and it is a noble defense.

He can claim everything that he claims because like my friend (obviously moreso because this is MORE THAN DISHES), Job was a man of integrity who loved God and served other people.

For me, I am a defensive man who hides my mistakes.  If I could only begin to claim what Job claim then I could share that God has restored and reshaped me into a godly man who loves God and serves others with no strings attached.

Here is a list of what Job claimed in chapter 31:
  • v.1 - not looking lustfully at a girl
  • v. 5 - not walking in falsehood
  • v. 9 - not enticed by a woman or not lurking at a neighbor's door with that intention
  • v. 13 - not denying justice to his servants
  • v. 16 - not denying the desires of the poor or the widow
  • v. 19 - not avoiding giving clothes to those who without garments
  • v. 21 - not ignoring the fatherless (especially with his influence in the court system)
  • v. 24 - not putting his trust in gold
  • v. 26 - not worshiping the sun or moon
  • v. 29 - not rejoicing over his enemies' misfortunes
  • v. 32 - not denying a traveler hospitality in his place
  • v. 33 - not concealing sin as others do...

That list, as a friend has said so well in the recent past, tools with my soul...

How about you?

Can you claim a list like this?

Note: I do not believe that the goal of the Christian life is to boast on outward actions but I do believe that the inward change of the heart by God should lead to the outward working of these patterns (by God's grace).

This list involves more than dishes...

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

A Child's (Fresh) Perspective

Last week, my oldest daughter (7 yrs old) Cambria asked me if I would read her a Bible story at night before going to bed.  I quickly jumped at the opportunity and asked her what she would like for me to read.  She responded immediately with "John."

I don't know why she picked the John's Gospel but I agreed to read it.  She said, "Start from the beginning."

I initially hesitated because I thought, "How will Cambria comprehend some of the complex ideas that John shares and some of the mysterious sayings of Jesus in the Gospel of John?"

The next thought was a better one.  I thought, "Cambria will help me see this book in a new light."

I have been reading approximately one chapter per night to Cambria before going to bed.  I have tried to limit my commentary because my goal has been to let God (through the narrative and content) speak for himself.  I have let her ask questions along the way such as "Who are the Pharisees?" but I have intentionally kept my mouth shut when I feel the need to explain a word or concept.

The experience has been a delightful one for both of us.  Cambria is making observations and asking questions that I would easily overlook. 

Here are some examples:

  • What did Jesus call his mommy?  Did he call her "Mommy" or "Mom"?   (in response to Jesus saying in John 2:4, "Dear woman, why do you involve me?") 

  • "Huh?  (laughing) That's silly, how can a person be born a second time?" (She said this right after I read Jesus words to Nicodemus in John 3:3, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdome of God unless he is born again."  I then read Nicodemus' response that was pretty much the same as hers, "How can a man be born when he is old... surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!" )

  • "Why would anyone love darkness? It is scary when it is dark.  That doesn't seem smart to love the dark." (in response to Jesus' words in John 3:19, "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.")

  • "Shhhh...  (giggling as she speaks) She doesn't know it is Jesus" (in response to reading John 4 and the Samaritan woman's conversation with Jesus at Jacob's well.)

I have thoroughly enjoyed (and been challenged) by Cambria's questions and first interactions with these accounts from John's Gospel.  I'm looking forward to more questions and observations as we continue...

If you would like a new perspective on anything, then watch children... they will give it to you (whether you want it or not!).

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Living together in unity

This morning, I read Psalm 133 as part of my morning Bible readings.  The first verse jumped out at me - "How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!"

I remember reading this verse years ago at a house in Charlottesville, VA at UVA.  A group of guys lived in the house and they had this verse in a visible place for all to read.  I have always read that verse through the lens of the college experience of "brothers" living together in unity.  In that context, the brothers were roommates in a college rental house.

Years later (this morning to be exact), this verse means something else to me.  David wrote the Psalm and the translation I have refers to brothers.  If I apply the verse to a marriage and family context, then I am challenged to consider what this means for my marriage and family.

What does it look like for a marriage and family to "live together in unity"? 

On the surface, that seems like a question with obvious answers.  The reality, however, is that achieving unity with a diverse set of individuals (different genders, different generations, different temperments, different likes/dislikes, etc) can be very challenging. 

Did you notice the word "different" in that list?

So what does living together in unity mean for a family?  Does it simply mean that everyone agrees on everything?  Does everyone have to think the same on every subject and decision?  Does it mean that the everyone is working together and serving on another?

The answer to the questions, "What does it look like for a family live together in unity?" and "How can this be accomplished on a daily basis?" are important.

David claims that it is "good and pleasant" when this is the case. 

I know that I would like to taste and experience having a "good and pleasant" home, wouldn't you?

If you are reading this (and I don't expect many to read this since I haven't blogged much in ages), then please feel free to leave a comment (here or on Facebook) regarding how you work toward "living together in unity" in your marriage and families.