Thursday, August 28, 2008

a different take on "I do"

My friend and PBC attendee, Lena Lewis, gave me a copy of Gary Thomas' Sacred Marriage several months ago and I put it in my reading queue [which is a dozen books long]. I'm sorry I waited so long. Expect me to come back to reviewing it several more time. But, Thomas' main thesis is that God designed marriage, not for my happiness, but for my holiness. The reason I commit to love, sacrifice, be selfless or remain pure, (i.e.) is because it reflects my ongoing transformation by God and a commitment to Him. I have been greatly challenged and blessed by the point of view of this book and highly recommend it to anyone wanting to add value to their marriage relationship.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

what moves me

Several weeks ago, we introduced a new song in our worship service and since then, I cannot get it out of my head. I thank God for leaders who write such God-centered anthems to His glory. I found Angels Cry available for you to listen to at GateWay Worship. Find Angels Cry by Jonathan Stockstill and click "listen." The words are beautiful:

I saw the Lord
High and lifted up
And His glory filled the earth
His face shone like the sun

He was light to everyone
And the glory that fell on me
Was the glory that set me free

Angels cry "Holy is the Lord"
Seated on the praises of His people

Nations cry "Glory to the Lamb"
The Savior of the world
He is exalted!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

living by dying

Yesterday, I received the tragic news of a brother's death. Though I never met him personally, Justin Mager was one of the founding fathers of the Oklahoma State University Kappa Chapter of Beta Upsilon Chi. Justin graduated in 2008 and immediately embarked on a trip to India with Student Mobilization. Sunday evening, Justin was returning from leading a discipleship class, investing in the lives of others, when his motorcycle was hit head on by a car that crossed the center of the street. Justin was killed instantly and his friend, John Miller, was critically injured. Our fraternity has been praying fervently for John and the families of these young men.

When I read this story, I wondered how I, as a parent, would feel receiving the news that my child has been killed 8000 miles away. It's a grief I pray I never have to bear. On the other hand, it's a suffering that I long for in my walk with Christ. Justin died doing something eternal--a better decision than living doing something that doesn't matter. He "filled up in his flesh" what was "still lacking in regards to Christ's affliction" [Colossians 1:24]. That is, he bore the bloodshed of Jesus so that his suffering might complete and compliment the suffering testimony of Jesus. In giving his life so that others might live, Justin proved that Christ is better than life and worth death.

Perhaps this is why the martyrs throughout history have considered it a privilege to die for their faith. Because, their wounds are simply mouthpieces of the all-surpassing worth of God for whom they gladly pour out all of their life.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

a franciscan prayer

At the Willow Creek Leadership Summit last week, pastor Craig Groeschel mentioned a Franciscan benediction that I found quite compelling:

May God bless you with discomfort
At easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships
So that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
so that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless you with tears
To shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war,
So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and
To turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness
To believe that you can make a difference in the world,
So that you can do what others claim cannot be done
To bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.


Saturday, August 9, 2008

good pride

I sat mesmerized watching the opening ceremonies for the 2008 Beijing Olympics last night. What a spectacular display of artistry, technology and beauty. Every element of the program, from the giant floor level LED screen to the synchronized drummers to the elegant dancers to the parade of ethnic children to the giant globe rising from the middle to the runner skipping along the scrim to light the torch. Amazing.

What we witnessed was Chinese pride, rightly on display. The Chinese people finally had opportunity to showcase their people and their country's rich heritage. And, in working hard on the production, they served us well. I think that's the measure of appropriate pride. Pride is a deadly sin when it is self-serving. But, when pride pushes a person (or a nation) to a level of excellence that results in a blessing to everyone, it no longer is a vice, but a virtue.

When I am rightly proud of my church, I serve within it and advance it's mission. I invite my neighbors to be a part of it. My pride benefits others.

When I'm proud of my job, I demonstrate it by working hard, guarding against the kind of unethical dangers that could compromise my company. I arrive on time and stay until the job is done. My pride pours over into my performance on behalf of others.

When I'm proud of my country, I protect its resources, don't throw trash from my car window, vote in elections and pray for my leaders. Again, my pride selflessly serves others.

There is a pride that goes before destruction [Proverbs 16:18]. But, the Chinese pride that opened the Olympic games is worth modeling in our own personal lives.

To see more incredible Opening Ceremony pictures, click here.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

word power

And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe. --1 Thessalonians 2:13

Texas summer heat takes its toll on automobile batteries. Last week, Tiffany turned the key in our SUV and got nothing. No power, no movement. More important is the source that charges our spiritual life: The Word of God. Over and again, the writers of Scripture affirm that God's revelation is more than information; It's momentum and motivation. In Hebrews 4:12, the writer describes God's Word as "living and active," sharp, piercing and surgical. It works its way in and through us. Philippians 2:16 calls it "the word of life." Without it, we die.

Given the power of the Word of God to fuel life, there are several disciplines to help us "accurately handle the word of truth"

1. Understand how the Scriptures were inspired [2 Timothy 3:16 and 2 Peter 1:20-21]
2. Articulate a coherent view of inerrancy
3. Know how to study the Bible with a view to application [Acts 17:11 and 2 Timothy 2:15]
4. Memorize the Word to be prepared for ministry [Joshua 1:8 and Psalm 1:1-3]
5. Intentionally and strategically teach the Word to others [2 Timothy 2:2]
6. Prioritize reading the Bible over any other religious literature

Friday, August 1, 2008

coalescence of worship

I was captivated by the following words from Ravi Zacharias. To access this original article, go to his ministry website here.

One of the great longings of the human heart is to worship; yet, within that very disposition there are tugs in many directions that contradict the essence of worship. This fragmentation is felt in every life. But there is a further complication. The idea of worship itself is not monolithic or uniform when you get a glimpse of the different kinds of worship in which people engage.

The thirst for worship or for the sacred across cultures and across time is ineradicable among the educated and the uneducated, the young and the old. During my days as a student at college in New Delhi, I well remember students seated around me with colored ash smeared on their foreheads, having visited the temple on their way to school. All over the world, churches, temples, mosques, and tabernacles abound. Sacred books still line the shelves of seekers after truth—the Gita, the Koran, the Bible. Religious ceremonies are performed and prayers are invoked in life’s most significant moments. Even a casual look at the record of human history reveals a fervent pursuit of spiritual things.

Jesus was very much aware of this bent within the human spirit. That is why He said worship should be done in truth, as well as in spirit. Without truth there is no limit to the superstition, deception, and sadly, even violence that can come in the name of religion. You see, worship alone cannot justify itself; it needs the constraints of truth, and that truth is the person and character of God. As an individual makes a commitment to God, not only is his or her life unified for God’s glory, but the impetus of truth is given for all other pursuits and relationships.

In other words, worship must not only be formal, it must also be substantive. You see, we humans are not a collection of isolated and unrelated senses just seeking expression. We are fashioned to bind these expressions by the character and reverence of God.

So much goes on in the name of religion today that must make us question whose character is being revealed in the process.

Worship that is true and spiritual binds all the diverse aspirations and propensities creating a tapestry of beauty and a life that is in harmony with the goodness and the holiness of God. So next time you pause to worship or even to observe it, ask the question: Is this what Jesus Christ meant when He said we are to worship God in spirit and in Truth?