Common Life

the bestI know that it might surprise a few of you who know me to find out that I am an introvert. This doesn’t mean that I’m asocial or don’t like people. In fact, I love to spend time with friends and family. What it does mean is that I do most of my processing in my head and find rest in quiet alone (or mostly alone) times. That being said, however, I am coming to recognize the value of being in community with others. By that, I don’t simply mean being around other people. What I mean is sharing our lives, experiences, and even hard times with others.

As a society, true community is a necessity that we have learned to go without. We have created a culture of isolation where we fence off ourselves more and more in our homes around media and our devices. It seems like very few people know their neighbors and share very little of our lives with those outside of our families. And in some ways media and social media have increased our isolation by creating the appearance of being connected with people while having very little connection with others. Continue reading

The Greatest of These…

I’ve taken a few weeks to write about the two “theological virtues” of faith and hope, but now I want to take some time to focus on love.  If you were ask Jesus or the New Testament authors what the most important characteristic of a disciple is, I’m pretty confident that love would be the answer:

IMG_0599“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” Matthew 5:43-44

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

“…whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” Romans 13:9-10

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:7-8

Continue reading

More than Wishful Thinking

Photo Credit: pol sifter via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: pol sifter via Compfight cc

Hope is a powerful word. When you hear stories of people who made it through terrible trials, you often hear them say that they had hope or that they tried to not lose hope. It’s one of the words that helped propel President Obama to win his election. It’s also a very important word in the pages of scripture. It is a word that is supposed to describe God’s people, but what is it?

Much like faith, we use the word hope frequently and to some extent have missed the deeper meaning of the word. Especially in the case of hope, we often tend to water down the word so that when we see it in scripture it doesn’t have the power that it ought to have. If you’re like me most of the time, most of the time that you hear the word hope it’s wishful thinking, something that you would like to come to pass but it may not happen. Hope in scripture has a different meaning. It’s not wishful thinking. It’s confidence. Continue reading

Why I’m worrying less about my Bible Reading Plan

Photo Credit: Brett Jordan via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Brett Jordan via Compfight cc

At the beginning of the year, I joined with a group of people from Westbrook in a Bible reading plan. We are following a plan that if done right would take us through the Bible in one year. It’s a fantastic plan and a fantastic goal. The problem, however, is that I’m not going to make it. I’m very behind in my reading and will now finish sometime in January.

Instead of panicking about being behind in my reading plan, I’m choosing not to worry about it any more. When I was only a few days behind I was able to pick up the slack over the course of a few days and catch up. Then I began doing worse and worse and now I’ve basically given up on catching up. Continue reading

How would Jesus use His Money?

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Photo Credit: tehusagent via Compfight cc

Of all the stories that Jesus told, the Parable of the Shrewd Manager in Luke 16 is probably the most difficult one to understand. Most of the others are somewhat straight forward. This one, however, is tough because Jesus seems to be siding with the bad guy. He picks the guy who does wrong and is dismissed by his employer. The point of the story, however, isn’t that the manager was bad, it was how he used his master’s money to make sure he still had friends after he was let go. Jesus says that the lesson in the story is to, “Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your earthly possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.” [1] Continue reading

A Culture in Need of Forgiveness

I believe that as a culture we’ve entered into dangerous territory. If you don’t believe just watch the news. Whenever something bad is done by someone, see how people react. Most of the time now, the reaction is the same. People want swift justice and without forgiveness. What we have seen in South Carolina is exception to the rule. The victims chose to forgive Dylann Roof. Their actions, however, are rare. Typically see the opposite reaction.

Photo Credit: ivoras via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: ivoras via Compfight cc

A little while ago, the news broke that a college fraternity was caught on a video singing a song with racist lyrics. This was discovered because video showed up on the internet. Whatever station I was watching was interviewing students on campus. They asked an African American student a very important question and his answer showed that we have crossed a line.

The reporter asked him if he would forgive the students involved if they asked. His answer was, “No.” Continue reading

Remembering that the Bible is full of real people

noahIn the past couple of months I watched Noah and Exodus: Gods and Kings. Now I know that both of these movies came with controversy and the Exodus movie received poor reviews, but I think that there is something that both movies can bring to the table. While neither of these movies entirely lines up with the narratives found in Genesis and Exodus, they reminded me that Noah and Moses were real people with real struggles and real frustrations. Noah showcases his drunkness at the end of the movie and Exodus: Gods and Kings shows a Moses who struggles to accept his past and wrestles with God’s decision to kill the first born of Egypt. Continue reading

Speaking the Truth about God

I’ve been on a journey this year through a chronological Bible reading plan. The plan takes you through Genesis and then into Job. There are a lot of things about the book of Job that are very striking, but this time through Job what really struck me was his “friends” and how easy it is to be just like them.

1024px-William_Blake_Job's_Tormentors_c1785-90_this_state_1800-25_British_Museum_LondonJob is inexplicably stuck with disaster and disease. From the human point of view, there seems to be no rhyme or reason for all this devastation after having lived such a good life. Job begins to lament and question why God would do such a thing to him and his friends are ready with an answer that goes like this, “Obviously, Job, you have done something wrong and you have earned punishment from God. Everyone knows that God punishes people for their sin.” Continue reading

Won’t you be my neighbor…

A life on mission begins with connecting. It starts by developing relationships with the people in our everyday lives. It starts by loving our neighbor. Tim Harlow writes in Life on Mission, “Your mission is to your Jerusalem. The people right around you. THE PEOPLE WHO YOU KNOW! So our mission starts with relationship. It has to start with relationship.”1

So let’s ask the question that was asked of Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Continue reading

The Importance of Being Connected

 Photo Credit: rorowe8 via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: rorowe8 via Compfight cc

Legos by themselves are good for one thing and one thing only: causing massive amounts of pain when you step on one barefoot. As we heard last weekend at Westbrook (listen to the Sermon), Legos are made to be connected and by themselves they can’t fulfill their purpose. This is a great example for the Christian life, because we need to be connected to the body to really function.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12 that the body is not made up of one part, but many and further emphasizes the need for a variety of gifts to do all the work of the body of Christ. We do not all have the same gift, but need each other to function. In terms of spiritual formation, we also need each other to grow and mature. Paul in various places writes that we should love one another, honor one another, live in harmony with one another, instruct one another, encourage one another, serve one another, be kind and compassionate to one another, forgive one another, teach and admonish one another, and spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Continue reading