“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Friday, June 26, 2015

"...all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes."

"...all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes."
That is the way the book of Judges ends. When we are instructed by God to do something, we can choose to do or not do that thing. Clearly we are all tempted and make mistakes. Paul talks about this in Romans 7. But as both the book of Judges and Ezekiel illustrate, when we turn our backs on God, there are consequences not just for individuals but for nations. I worry about this. How God works these repercussions is difficult to say. 

I have often wondered about Abraham Lincoln's statements about the blood shed during the Civil war. In his second inaugural address he stated,
The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."
The point of this is that Lincoln saw a connection between the practices of a nation and what it experienced from the hand of God, as a result of those practices. Slavery was a terrible evil. Why? Because it went totally against God first of all, and also because of the horrors it permitted against people.It is perhaps THE great sin of our nation that continues to have an impact on us. It also seems that, as hard as we try to shed the results of that disobedience to, that sin against God we cannot. Perhaps we have never truly repented in part because we do not see it as a sin against God? Clearly, the path our leaders have us on of moving away from God is not the path of repentance.

Our nation's decisions in the present will impact the sins our nation will struggle with in the future.


Monday, June 08, 2015

Complete in Christ

Joni and Friends recently hosted an amazing conference called the Global Access Conference. Several friends stayed with us before and after the conference having traveled to SoCal from Australia. One was Rev. Phil Linden. I first heard Phil speak very briefly in Melbourne summer of 2014 and thought that he was a pastor who truly gets it when it comes to disability.

I learned many things from Phil, and I hesitate to quote him as I don't want to get him wrong! But one thing he talked about was how wrong our starting point in relating to others who have some form of impairment can be. Often we will try to relate to people saying "we all are disabled." We are disabled by sin, which I would agree truly is our biggest problem. But for me to just say we are all disabled, seems to minimize the experience of those whose lives are difficult because of their impairment. I have dear friends with intellectual disabilities whose understanding of the things around them is quite limited. They have very regulated lives with limited choices. They may experience a variety of medical problems and are lonely in their societal imposed social isolation. For me, someone with very different life experience to glibly say, "We are all disabled" is arguably offensive and not the correct starting point.

What Phil shared with me is that a better starting point is to say, "We are all complete in Christ." Our relationship with Christ is our starting point. So my starting point with my friend with intellectual disabilities is that "you are complete in Christ" just as "I am complete in Christ." Yes, our lives are very different, our experiences are very different, however, the thing that we bring to the table is that through Christ, we find each other is complete.

On a practical level, we need to work out what comes next in our relationship. But our point of developing next steps is based upon us fleshing out our completeness in Christ rather than our wallowing in some attempt at establishing some joint level of incompleteness. I enjoy interacting with friends to see the nuances in who God has made them. I enjoy trying to understand who God is by interacting with the incredible variety of His human creation. If you believe life has purpose, then you will rejoice in variability and ask the "Why?" question in a very different way.

Completeness also changes my orientation towards another. Yes people will often need some form of assistance. But my approach is not to simply condescend to them in my efforts to do good. My approach is to understand the mystery (because of the way I have been socialized within and outside of the church) of their completeness. It can sound trite to hear people like Henri Nouwen talk about learning more from his friend Adam, a man with profound intellectual and physical disabilities, as if he is just being nice. But I think Nouwen got the notion of completeness in his relationship with Adam. He and Adam were not both disabled, they were both complete which puts us on a path of growth in understanding who God is through relating to those whom He has created.


Thursday, June 04, 2015

Come to be served

Matthew 21
The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.

What would Sunday morning worship look like if we truly took this verse to heart? We have learned, have been taught to see worship as we being served as we sit and listen to someone speak to us. We have even come to think of singing to the Lord, giving him praise, as a sacrifice on our part (as in the song we bring a sacrifice of praise). So when I stand up to serve God by singing a song, that is a sacrifice on my part. The bar for service is set so low for my service that if I sing a song, I am giving a sacrifice. Overall, worship is so undemanding that I literally come to be served by worship. Music must be the type I like, the volume I like, the instruments I like and on and on. Preaching must be what I like. My worship service must be silent because I can't worship if there is noise. Because of some folk's social skills, there are people I don't want at the worship service because they detract from the worship experience that I want. Philippians 2:4-8 basically says that "sin makes us stupid" and this type of attitude is stupid. But unfortunately I have been trained by my leaders this way.

It is interesting that I was in a performance style worship service recently, and literally NO ONE in the room was singing. Their voices really didn't matter either it seemed, because of the loudness of the presentation from the stage. This is NOT a complaint about the loudness of the music from the stage, per se, it is about how the loudness of the music from the stage contributes to people becoming lazy worshipers. The worship leaders were undaunted by the lack of participation. They seemed even unaware of the lack of participation. Congregational participation didn't seem to matter.

But what if service, during worship, were valued in us as it was for Jesus? What if we "Have this mind in you that was in Christ Jesus" where we "consider others as better than yourselves"? What if the parts that seemed weaker were indispensable? Some other people we do consider as better than ourselves. But some others we are confident we are better than. The absence of those people is reflected in our worship and in the way we do worship.