Saturday, May 14, 2005

Keen To The Lie

I receive an email devotional each day, and one recent one included a prayer asking God to, “Make us keen to the lie and hunger for the truth.” I love the phrase, “Keen to the lie.” Not only is a wonderful turn of a phrase, but it also was very thought-provoking to me. What lies do I need to be keen to?

That I am not worthy of God’s love… that my sins are not really as bad as someone else’s… that it is my job to point out another person’s short-comings… that if you are a Christian, life will be pain-free… that I am a second-class person because I am not married…that I have not accomplished much in my lifetime… that a perfect church, with no problems or issues, exists out there somewhere… that I have to say “yes” to any ministry opportunity that comes my way because I have to perform for God in order for him to accept me…

I pray that God will make me keen to all the lies he would want to root out of my mind. No doubt, more will come to me as I pray on this topic and we can continue to expand the list.

Saturday, May 07, 2005


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about community and this blog is an attempt to compare the ideas of two authors. I’m reading Rick Warren’s “Purpose Driven Life” (as is much of the rest of the U.S.) If you’ve read it, you’ll remember that he suggests one of the purposes of our lives is that we were formed for God’s family. This refers not only to Christians being children of God and thus being in God’s family, but also being a part of the family/community of a local church. I would say Warren’s (and others’) definition of community extends beyond the “noun” of the specific group of believers, but also to what happens between those people as they seek to love God, each other, and to serve Him as they grow in understanding of their calling. (Apologies to RW if I’ve oversimplified or misunderstood him.) I realize that this info is probably not meaningful to ones who does not have some form of a relationship to God and Christ.

Warren says that it is not just enough to believe, but we must also belong. “In Christ, we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Rom 12:5). Our relationship with Christ is personal, but not intended to be private. God has given each of us gifts, equipping us to serve in specific roles which we miss if we are not attached to a church. This point is backed up by the whole biblical analogy of the body, its parts, and how they work together and are necessary (Rom. 12).

Warren’s reflections also reminded me of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “Life Together.” (Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor and participant in the resistance movement against Nazism. He also worked within an underground, illegal seminary during WWII.) I believe Bonhoeffer probably is speaking at times about literally living together with other Christians, but it certainly can be applied to the church as well. Bonhoeffer says, “The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer.” Also, “But if there is so much blessing and joy even in a single encounter of brother with brother, how inexhaustible are the riches that open up for those who by God’s will are privileged to live in the daily fellowship of life with other Christians!” Also, “The goal of all Christian community: they meet one another as bringers of the message of salvation. As such, God permits them to meet together and gives them community.”

What led me to think about all of this is the people who claim to be Christians but choose to not fully participate in community. I find these people annoying, disappointing, and prideful. Some feel it is enough to watch a televangelist on Sunday mornings, or they feel a walk in nature is enough to be close to God. I don’t doubt that they have received spiritual gifts. But they are choosing isolation, and they are choosing to hoard the gift God has given to them by not offering it to a community. These folk may argue that they are involved in a broader ministry somehow, and that’s great, but not at the expense of their local community or church.

I also get frustrated with those who bounce from church to church, always experiencing something they don’t like so they move on, looking for perfection. Bonhoeffer treats this in an interesting way.

“The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and try to realize it. But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams. Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves…..Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive….When a person becomes alienated from a Christian community in which he has been placed and begins to raise complaints about it, he had better examine himself first to see whether the trouble is not due to his wish dream that should be shattered by God; and if this be the case, let him thank God for leading him into this predicament.”

As a person, I know I often walk the fine line of being judgmental, and God forgive me if I’ve crossed it here. But I just wish that we could set aside petty differences and pride and come together and serve God, no matter the risk, as He would have us do. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph. 2:10)

Thanks to Rick Warren and Dietrich Bonhoeffer for their insights.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Americana and Contrasts

I had the opportunity to attend a wedding this weekend near Havre de Grace, MD. The trip was an excellent reminder about the rhythms and cycles of life, as well as the eclectic nature of regionalism.

To get to MD from where I live, you must cover a lot of territory through the back roads of PA to get to the main artery heading east. We so enjoyed all the small towns we passed through, the interesting homesteads we saw, and the beauty of the terrain. Along the way, as we proceeded to the eastern seaboard, we passed from the simplicity of dairy farms to the opulence of horse farms; from the faded antique advertisements on the sides of barns to the crisp paint on crown moldings over the doorways of new builds. We left drab, early spring and entered Technicolor full spring.

Instead of seeing a bar on every corner, we encountered a multitude of churches – all denominations with no regard for rural vs. suburban settings. It was great to see them active and experiencing people streaming in for everything from yard sales to revivals to worship. So many had adjoining cemeteries that I could visualize the humorous adage of “hatching, matching and dispatching.” We even learned that the church hosting the wedding, built in the early 1700s, is struggling with the current issue of contemporary vs. traditional worship styles. Apparently history is not necessarily an insulator against the creep of modernity.

At one point on the journey we came upon a large open area surrounded by a fence where there appeared to be large group of cloned people watching some sort of event. We finally realized that it was a group of Amish men watching harness races. It was an interesting picture. It made me think about that sect and wonder how they have been able to maintain their lifestyle in today’s modern, changing world. What a challenge for them.

I came away from the weekend being thankful for creation, diversity and freedom as I witnessed all three in a myriad of ways.