Saturday, January 29, 2011

How to Respond to Violence

An Egyptian woman teaches all of us how to appropriately respond to violence and aggression.
See more pics from the protests here at the MSNBC Photoblog.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Second Chances

Have you ever written anybody off?  You just decided someone was too high maintenance, or too much trouble to take up any more of your time and energy.  So did Paul with respect to John Mark.

Acts 15:37-39
37 Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38 but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. 39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus,

But as the years went by, something evidently changed Paul's mind because they are together again.  

Philemon 1:23-24
 23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. 24 And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers.

So what happened?  We don't know.  Was the separation justified?  We don't know.  Was Paul too harsh with Mark?  We don't know.  What caused them to reconnect?  We don't know.  But what we can say is that a rift that caused the separation of these two was somehow repaired, and the work of the Kingdom of God moved forward.  May the restoration of oneness that these two experienced be a reminder to those of us in the present day church that people are worth the effort it may take to offer them second chances.

Friday, January 21, 2011

When God Leaves You in a Dry Place

Isaiah 58:11 says...
"And the LORD will continually guide you,
         And satisfy your desire in scorched places,
         And give strength to your bones;
         And you will be like a watered garden,
         And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail."

This verse is part of what I have been reading this week, and one observation here stands out for me.  The promise of strength and refreshing and continual blessing - all those things that God does for us -  is placed in the context of what God does not do.  God does all of this "in the scorched places."  God does not say "I will remove you from the scorched places and then..."  

One of the mistakes I think many Christ-followers make is deciding that long periods of time in scorched places indicates a lack of God's presence and the absence of blessings.  But at least here in Isaiah, the promise of an endless flow of God's presence and life-giving strength is given precisely to those in the driest of all places just when we need it most.

If you are in a scorched place, begin to look for God's grace to show up.  If you are in a scorched place of financial struggles, or a relational disaster, or a place of spiritual dryness and doubt, it just may be that you are in the perfect place to be surprised by God's grace and provision.

So may you rejoice in the dry places knowing that God is already with you.  May you experience the strength and flow of God's Spirit.  And may you even become one who ministers strength and blessings and provision to others who are also dwelling in life's scorched places.   

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Following Right When the Leader is Wrong.

I just heard one of the teachers at my youngest child's pre-school ask the class, "Who wants to be the line leader today?"  They all enthusiastically raised their hands.  Even at age 4, we humans are conditioned to think it is better to lead than follow.  

Yesterday in church, I talked about this whole business of being a follower, because all of us are.  We are all followers.  We are either good ones or bad ones, but following in some capacity is not a choice for any of us really.  So what kind of follower do I want to be?

King David had two followers that exemplify what it means to be either a good follower or a bad one.  When David needed to have Uriah, the Hittite (One of my ancient ancestors.  Get it?  "HItt-ite."  Never mind.) killed to cover up his one night stand with Uriah's wife and the resulting pregnancy, he gave the order to one of his followers - a general named Joab to put Uriah where fighting was heavy and then have the other soldiers back away so Uriah would be killed.  Joab had a choice to make.  He could risk his career and maybe even his life and challenge David, or he could obey and become complicit in murder.  Joab chose to do as instructed.

Another of David's followers viewed his responsibility to the King differently.  Nathan came to David about his actions with Uriah and Bathsheba.  He told David a story about a great injustice a rich man had inflicted upon a poor, innocent man.  David became emotional and swore to have the rich, unjust man killed if Nathan would identify him.  Nathan said to David, "You are the man."  It led David to see his sin for what it was and brought him to a place of great remorse and repentance. 
Most followers go along to get along.  They just avoid the subversion of truth or core values and hope it all blows over.  Others cannot let it go, but are not courageous enough and do not love the person, or group enough to speak up.  They just quietly pick up their ball and go home.  Both of these responses are sin.

Followers have a responsibility to speak up in love when the values that matter most are being subverted.  It does not matter that it's hard.  It does not matter that no one may want to hear it.  If we love the community, organization, family or church we part of, really good followers will speak the truth in love no matter what.  So be a great follower.