Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Limping Along

I was reading something some time ago, and there was one sentence in particular that jumped out at me and really stuck with me. Paraphrasing, it said "revival will never come to our lives until our Christian walk becomes Jacob's limp" That has kept coming back to my mind over and over lately. I've spent time looking at that and what that really means. The more I read the account of Jacob wrestling with the angel, the more I realized I didn't know the story.

First, it's worth noting that the entire event never happens until Jacob is alone. Before he can encounter God, he is stripped of the stuff that surrounds him.
Second, the order of events is explains what happens better than I do. The angel does the whole touch the hip thing, then insists that Jacob let him go. So even though he was beaten, Jacob was still holding on. I don't know that he was even wrestling with the angel anymore as much as just holding on to him. His goal was no longer to overpower the angel because it was a useless endeavor at this point.
Third, the new name was not his blessing. The angel tells him he will be called Israel rather than Jacob. Then it says that he blessed him. We never know what the blessing is. From our point of view, the actual blessing is kind of irrelevant. The name is just a reflection of who he has become.

In our church, our pastor has been delivering a series of sermons that center on becoming a contagious Christian. He has mentioned on several occasions that you can only be contagious with something that you are already infected with. I think that's what Jacob's limp is about. When we struggle against God and finally come to the breaking point and realize that we are ultimately powerless against him, that his will is the only one that can be accomplished, then we can let go of the struggle and receive the blessing that is in store. I don't intend struggle to mean that we are at war with God, but until we engage Him we can never truly understand that we must approach on his terms. Yes, he accepts me as I am, but the blessing comes from his hand and at his discretion. This superficial Christian life that I've been living accomplishes almost nothing. I keep God at arms length, afraid to struggle and stopping short of what he has in store. I fear the limp, but my I'm not contagious until I limp away.

Friday, October 5, 2007


Are we followers of God? Do we even want to be? I was looking at the life of Elijah and some things struck me about how willing I am to follow God.
I don't know that I necessarily have a lot of Jonah moments when God says one thing and I willfully do the complete opposite. But I have a lot of moments when I don't do the opposite but I could do better. I tell myself that it isn't defiance, after all I didn't do what I wanted. I end up like the little boy in class who was told repeatedly to sit down. After being threatened with punishment, he sits down but adds "I'm still standing on the inside". I wonder what God has in store for me and when I'm honest the answer is not too much. Not because God is unable or doesn't love me, but because I'm a petulant child who just wants my way.
Look at Elijah by comparison. James 5 points out the Elijah was just a guy like the rest of us. He didn't have some kind of head start. What he had was obedience. He shows up on the scene, makes his way to Ahab and announces it won't rain until he says so. That's his prophetic debut. Clearly, great things are in store for him. He faces down a tyrant and comes away unscathed. This guy is on his way to prophet stardom. What does God tell him to do with his newfound celebrity? Go hide in the wilderness. After that, go live with a widow and her kid. How often does God do that - send us in the opposite direction of where we thought we were headed? In hindsight, we see that God had greater things in store for Elijah than he could imagine, but God had to prepare him. The key is that Elijah obeyed with no promise of a bright future. God's instructions to Elijah made no sense from our standpoint. But if we can't obey at the beginning, we won't make it to the end.
Are we willing to follow God no matter where it takes us? Will we follow even if the path leads to obscurity? It's easy to obey when we believe there is something better at the end. Oddly enough, God does make that promise, but it's not necessarily what I'm looking for. If I'll obey, God comes closer to me. For some reason, my life crowds out the value of that transaction. As if that somehow isn't the best deal going. What could be more valuable than that? It seems so easy, but here I stand on Mt. Carmel faltering between choices.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


So, I'm officially back in the saddle. Sorry for the long absence. I don't have an actual good reason (unless you consider being a lazy slacker a good reason).
I was sitting in a church service and the text that used was from 1 Samuel 30. In it, David and his men are plundered by the Amelekites. What really jumped out at me was who did the plundering. If you go back to 1 Samuel 15, Saul was given the job of wiping out the Amelekites. Long story short, he doesn't do it. So all of David's trouble in this situation comes about because somebody else dropped the ball. The thing that really troubled me was this - how many people have suffered because I didn't see my task through. Now I feel pretty confident that there hasn't been a city burned to the ground because of my being spiritually lax, but the principle applies. I was really convicted by the weight of my decisions. Not that I'm important or crucial and people are watching to see what I do, but like it or not the life I live and the choices I make carry consequences outside of my own personal space. There is no concept of "this is my business, if only affects me" That was one of the reasons I started doing this in the first place...not to make sure people heard me but to make me accountable for what I do. I became lazy. Thank you to those of you who kept after me to post again. If I'm not posting, it's because I'm not studying like I should or I'm not disciplining myself to reflect on what I'm studying and how to apply it.
That was the thing about the Amelekites. Saul wasn't willing to see it through to the end and other people pay the price. If you read 1 Sam. 15, Samuel comes on the scene too. He's a different sort of guy altogether. When he discovers what Saul has done, he doesn't rebuke him and go about his business. He finds Agag, the Amelekite king, and kills him. He is completely willing to do what is necessary to see God's assignment done. I know for me, sometimes a spiritual victory is short-lived because my commitment to it was short-lived. When David faces Goliath, he could have felt pretty good about the outcome. Goliath is on the ground with a rock in his head. Rather than celebrate this victory, he's not finished. For David, the battle is not over until Goliath's head is separated from his body. There will be no round 2, no rematch. Just victory and a corpse. The same goes for Joshua. After God makes the sun stand still during a battle with the Amorites, Joshua finds the five kings leading the enemy hiding in a cave. Now these guys lost the battle, ran away and their army is destroyed. They are no longer a concern, right? Not in Joshua's book. He takes them out, has his commanders put their feet on the kings' necks and kills them. It's not a coincidence that David, Joshua and Samuel were such effective leaders and Saul was such a disappointment. The unwillingness to accept anything other than total victory over the enemy set them apart. I'm not saying Christians never face setbacks, but I am saying I create a lot of my own by not being committed to making sure the job is finished. How many Agags do I keep around for convenience of because of a lack of commitment. How many kings are hiding in caves because I didn't root them out. How many stunned giants get back up because I didn't finish the job when God provided my deliverance. And how many people are affected by what I've left undone.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Free at Last

Sorry for the extended hiatus. Baseball has ended so I get a large portion of my life back now. Let me reset with a survey question. What do you think is the most difficult aspect of Christianity? I hear a variety of them but I was curious what you guys thought about it.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Spiritual Switzerland

So here is a question. And I ask this without knowing for sure how I feel about it.
Is there such a thing as spiritual neutrality? I have essentially said publicly that no there isn't. I am pretty much on record as taking the position that everything we say and do either draws us toward God or pushes us away from Him. But I am wondering if this is a valid position. Is this an oversimplification or does this reflect the reality? Are we really going to say that going to a Lookouts game has spiritual weight? I understand my conduct there carries weight, but just going to the game? Any thoughts on this? I have one but I'll save it until I hear from you.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Bill of Rights

I was talking with a friend recently and the subject was along these lines. If you don't follow sports much, bear with me and I will make some sort of attempt at a relevant point eventually. John Amaechi, a former NBA player, announces in his autobiography that he is gay. In a related matter, Tim Hardaway, in an inteview that turned into an ESPN story , tells everybody that he hates gay people. (Ipromise that a point is on the way). Now the whole world is up in arms because Hardaway should be killed or beaten with clubs or some such thing. But this all takes a turn when people start to defend him. Here's my problem - the rationale used to defend Hardaway is many cases is essentially this -"nobody should be upset with him because he's just exercising his right to free speech". Now you could replace Hardaway with the Dixie Chicks or 100 other people and the argument is the same. I can't stand that argument because it's dumb on many levels. That's not how the 1st amendment works. It's freedom of speech, not freedom from repercussions, but far too many people don't understand that distinction and misuse what is rightfully theirs. This isn't an isolated incident. As a citizen it is your responsibility to be aware of your rights and how far they extend, a responsibility many people take lightly or completely ignore. What I'm wrestling with now is what does all this mean for me as a Christian? I have another citizenship, but what are the rights that accompany a citizen of heaven? To put it more bluntly, what can I count on God for? I don't mean that in a mean-spirited or sacreligious manner. I know I can count on my government to allow me to buy a gun, not go in my house without probable cause, allow me to vote, keep France from invading the country, etc. What are the guarantees of Christianity? Maybe instead of what can I count on God for I should say what can I expect from God? I know my earthly Bill of Rights, but what does my spiritual bill of rights look like? Or does God resist any effort to be defined like that? I wonder what you think.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

By the Numbers

I was reading George Barna's latest book (which I recommend highly) and he was citing statistics that characterize the American church today. Check this out...

  • 8 out of 10 believers do not feel they have entered the presence of God or experienced a genuine connection with him in their last worship service. 5 out of 10 extend that period to the past year.
  • 1 out of every 6 believers have a relationship that provides spiritual accountability
  • Fewer than 1 out of 10 believers give 10% of their income. (so a tithe of church members tithe)
  • At any given time, a majority of believers do not have a specific person in mind for whose salvation they are praying.
  • The typical churched believer will die without leading one person to a saving knowledge of Jesus.
  • When asked how they want to be known, fewer than 1 in 10 believers mentions a description that reflects their relationship with God.

Let me sum up. There are 77 million people in this country that identify themselves as born again Christians. Of those 77 million, about 10-20% actually put it into practice on a regular basis. Why is the church becoming so irrelevant?

Please don't think that I'm saying "Why can't church people be more like me?" because nothing could be further from the truth. I think we could probably do better with fewer people like me, but that's probably a whole other post. I think I trend toward the majority. When you read this next part, you'll probably think "Aha! That's his problem" In light of what I've heard over the last couple of days, you'll think this next sentence is ridiculous so just read it quickly and move on. As I was watching The Sopranos, something was said that really speaks to this issue. Don't think I'm advocating watching Tony Soprano for spiritual guidance, I'm pretty sure it was one time deal. The gist is this...the wife is talking to the priest and she's confessing. She stops in mid-confession and tells the priest it's all a sham and her life is a lie. Then she starts over and her confession begins with "I've forsaken what is right for what is easy" Is it really just that simple and we try to couch it in spiritual terms? It's just easier to go through the motions than to be an actual disciple of Jesus. And we live in a society that is more than willing to grease the skids and let us slide along, not challenging our appearance of spirituality as long as we mind our business. I'm not blaming society for the way I am, I just saying that it's not in anybody's interest to make sure I'm genuine. So we go through our rituals and say and do all the right things and wonder what's happened. Would Jesus be affiliated with the Christians if he were on the scene today? Would we look like him at all? Or would Jesus look around and quote Isaiah 29:13 to us too? I'm pretty sure he would to me more often then I'd like to admit.
Prov 14:12, 16:25

Thursday, February 1, 2007


I had planned on doing something else in this space today, but this troubled me and I can't let it go...
What role does spiritual gifting play in a Christian's life? And more importantly, what role should it play? I'm not saying I'm opposed to spiritual gifts, so please bear with me on this. I think we might, especially in the Pentecostal tradition, place too much emphasis on them. I'm getting ready to start baseball tryouts and a bunch of kids aren't going to make the team. It's just logistics. I have 40+ kids trying out and I can't realistically carry more than 16. Somebody has to not make it. This is based in large part to their physical gifts. There are kids who are less gifted that will make the team because of work ethic (either they have a great one or a more talented kid has a poor one). When it's over, it's a combination of gifting and talent that carries the day. I think we have a tendency to view our Christian lives through the same lens. We accomplish things because that is our area of gifting or we commit ourselves to some thing and work at it. In the choir there are people blessed with a wonderful singing voice and others who try really hard and various mixtures of those two extremes.
I don't necessarily think that's the way it's supposed to work. We play up spiritual gifts so much that many people won't do anything that isn't their "gift" or won't venture into anything at all because they are unsure of their "gift". Now, I know going in that there are also people that simply use those two cases to disguise their inactivity in church terms. I'm just wondering if maybe spiritual gifts is a more advanced concept than we consider. We find a new convert and immediately start talking up how to identify their gifts. Shouldn't that come much later? It feels like it's being treated more like trying out for a team. More dangerously, it's a built in excuse. We keep relying on the Holy Spirit to do everything. If any part of the Trinity is initiating whatever needs to be done and we are the tools to accomplish this work, what responsibilities do we have? Any thoughts?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Reason

I was reading something and it referenced something I'd never heard of. It's a Quaker tradition called a Clearness Committee. The rationale is that if you are faced with a decision, are seeking direction in your life, etc. you convene this "committee". The goal of this group is not to make your decision, force your hand or any other type of thing. It is a group of people whose opinions and perspective carry weight with you. They meet to hear each other out, the idea being that through the process you gain clarity in the matter.
I'm facing no specific issue, but you've been invited because I feel that you are a group of people that I trust to give thought to questions and speak the truth. This is my first blog, so it will be pretty cumbersome at first. Hopefully it gets better the more we do this. Or it gets worse and then you can make fun of me whenever you see me (assuming this doesn't already happen)