Monday, July 27, 2009

I'm Bankrupt Without Love

I was reading today from 1 Corinthians in The Message and the all too familiar words jumped out at me with new vigor. Tonight is the last Theology class that I am teaching, it's been a great time to revisit my own theology in different ways but the dialogue and discussion with the class has been invaluable to me. I have been convicted about my own emphasis of ecumenism, while at the same time rejoicing in the unity of the body of Christ, the church, as expressed most fully in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All too often we become distracted with theology, life, ministry, kids, family, career, _________ (you fill in the blank) that we forget that the sum of the whole is found in love. The love the Father has lavished on us and in turn the love that we show to all of humanity as we struggle together to make sense of this fallen world that still groans to be restored...the Christian hope is that there will come a day when all of creation will fully be redeemed as the new heaven and the new earth make their appearing, until then let us walk in humble love with one another in Christ and in loving service to the world around us.

1 Corinthians 13 (The Message)

The Way of Love
1 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don't love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. 2If I speak God's Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, "Jump," and it jumps, but I don't love, I'm nothing. 3-7If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
Love doesn't strut,
Doesn't have a swelled head,
Doesn't force itself on others,
Isn't always "me first,"
Doesn't fly off the handle,
Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn't revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

8-10Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.

11When I was an infant at my mother's breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.

12We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

13But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Random Thoughts

I started reading the new book by N.T. Wright entitled Justification, one word...gripping! Which makes me a theological nerd to a)get excited about such a book when I found it in the mailbox and 2)to actually be enjoying as I read it. Wright is a world-class scholar, with the heart and pen of a pastor.

We attempted to meet up with some students at Tybee yesterday, but they were ready to leave by the time we got there, so we headed to 18th street, our favorite section of Tybee because of the tidal pools that the girls love to swim and play in. As we arrived and finally put our stuff down we heard someone call us, Hester Maginnis. Hester is married to David, my youth minister my senior year of high school, I also served as an intern under David, and Cyd and I were in seminary with him (although our time only overlapped by a year). It was great to catch up with her and see her girls (David stayed in Helena, AL to work). A rainstorm drove us off the beach, so we called Mamanon before picking up Sonic to take to her house. I don't think one part of the day worked out like I would have planned, but it was a great day nonetheless!

Last thing, do you have a favorite t-shirt? I have two that I love to wear, partly because they are so old and worn that the softness of the cotton is amazing. The first, my long sleeve Phat Head Apparel t-shirt. I had a teacher in high school create this company and make t-shirts, hats, etc. to sell to all of his students. A great fitting t-shirt, not to mention the comfort factor, even though it has holes and stains. My second favorite, even though it's one of Cyd's least favorite is my first Bob Marley t-shirt. There is a Jimmy Buffett line that says, "I'm gonna put on my Bob Marley tape and practice what I preach." I always say, "I'm gonna put on my Bob Marley t-shirt..." The front has 3 images of Bob Marley jumbled together with an image of a lion, so that they all look like one and the same. On the back is printed Bob Marley. I remember when I first got the t-shirt in high school and how much I wore it through high school and college. Now it's just one of those wear around the house t-shirts but man is it comfortable.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Final Thoughts about Charleston

A couple of days have passed since the High School Mission Team that went to Charleston returned. I have continued to pray through and think about what kind of impact the trip had on our students and the residents of North Charleston. The week was filled with ministry to young and old alike. We did a block party the first evening that has already spread some seeds for ministry. The young woman, Sarah, who owns a Jump Castle business was really excited to know that a group from Georgia was coming to Charleston to do ministry. God had already been working in her heart to give her a desire to use her business to go in and help minister to people living in multi-housing communities like Horizon Village. She and I talked for 30 minutes on the phone about the possibilities and what a ministry like that might look like. She also talked to Charleston Outreach, the organization that was helping us about the future of ministry for Sarah’s jump castle business. I look forward to hearing reports from Charleston Outreach.

In addition to that new prospect of ministry I cannot get over the way I saw God working in the lives of our students, not just with the mission work but with each other. Many of them were stretched to love each other in new ways despite being tired, individual sin, and the stress of focusing on ministering as a unified group. They saw firsthand the gospel at work not necessarily in the lives at Horizon Village but in their own lives and in each others. Any time you have a small group that goes on a trip you have the potential for tempers to rise and for tension to be thick but it is during these unloveable moments in our lives that we truly embody the gospel of grace, as we love others “even while they are yet sinners” just as Christ does. Watching them as a group huddled in a hotel room serve one another communion was overwhelming. To me that was a perfect picture of how the body of Christ, the church, should be at all times, humble, servant minded, having the “mind of Christ dwell richly in you.” I simply cannot shake the fact that this may be the greatest lesson our group learned last week. Thanks for all your prayers and encouragement

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Charleston Update 7

A great free day in Charleston. We ate at Jim 'N Nick's Barbecue, hands down the best BBQ I have ever eaten, cheese biscuits were amazing! Walked around downtown with the triplets, found a great cup of coffee at City Coffee. A group went to the movies while we got Parker's blood rechecked as follow up from yesterday. Most of them had a good experience at the theater. We spent some time resting at the hotel before heading to Folly Beach to walk around on the beach, it was incredibly windy. Then we headed to Stone Cold Creamery for some ice cream, then back to the hotel for signs. All in all a great day and a great end to a fantastic week!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Charleston Update 6

Yesterday stretched us more than any other day I think. As we were finishing getting ready for our last night of backyard Bible club tensions got a little high among our group, so we spent last night at the hotel relaxing. We had a wonderful time of worship together as a group in one of the rooms that brought our focus back to the forgiveness and redemption offered to us in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

After about an hour we broke up and then nearly everyone ended up back together downstairs for an intense and LOUD game of signs. Today is our last full day in the city so we have the chance to seem of it in the daylight and to get one more really good meal from Jim 'N Nick's Barbecue.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Charleston Update 5

Only one word can describe this week...AMAZING! We have seen God move in so many ways among our group and in the residents of Horizon Village. Today we are going to be doing some prayer walking as we spend some time in downtown Charleston before we conclude our backyard Bible club tonight. Join with us in praying that God will use tonight to plant seeds and possibly even harvest some that have already been planted. We know that God is willing and able to accomplish more than we can even imagine!

Our group has meshed better than I ever dreamed possible! Anytime you take a smaller group off like this you have the potential for personality conflicts to spring up everywhere, but we haven't had that. I think that's been one of the coolest things for me to witness this week, unity of our group through our shared faith in Jesus Christ.

Anslee Hagan was able to join us yesterday, so we are thrilled that she was able to get over her cold enough to come minister the last part of the week!

Bruce Cockburn has a song that the Vigilantes of Love did a cover version of some years back that goes something like this, "Suns up, uhh, looks okay, the world survives into another day, got me thinking about eternity." That's my prayer this morning as we conclude our last day of mission work here in the "Holy City."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Charleston Update 4

The other group that is here ministering witnessed a shoot out at the multi-housing site they were working at yesterday. The incident occurred about 200 yards away from them and they had to have a police escort out. Keep praying for both groups as we have two more days of backyard Bible club.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Charleston Update 3

This morning we were able to go and sing with and for some of the residents of one of the senior citizen complexes at Horizon Village. We meet some really wonderful people. The weather was cloudy with a gentle breeze that made it a very pleasant experience since we were outside in a gazebo. We also prayed with the residents specifically and shared communion together. We have already had some amazing experiences and manifestations of the Holy Spirit this week, but the absolute best part of my week so far was getting to share in worship through the elements of communion.

Baptism and the Lord's Supper are two things that all Christians believe in and practice. Often times in seminaries and among Christians of different traditions the differences of theological understanding with these two sacraments divide us...for me I can find no better common ground than the body of Christ broken for us and the blood of Christ poured out for us. These two elements encompass so much of the Christian message and unite believers together like nothing else can. It was truly a humbling experience for me to get to partake of communion in a setting with people I know and love so well and people I had just met an hour before. Such a great time. We leave in a few minutes for our Backyard Bible Club...

Monday, July 13, 2009

Charleston Update 2

Another good day! We did encounter some rain this afternoon which kept us from being able to do recreation at Horizon Village. We didn't have quite as many kids as yesterday, but we still had around 30. Tomorrow will be a full day. We are planning on going to sing, pray with, and have the Lord's Supper with the senior citizens at Horizon Village in the morning. In the afternoon, we will head back to do more backyard Bible Club stuff. Pray that God will use us to meet needs in both areas. My heart is broken over the need for compassion and humanness that we encountered throughout the day. God is doing something big this week in and through our group.

Being in Charleston makes me really miss Cyd. We honeymooned in Charleston, so the city holds a special place in our hearts. It was cool to see the our students as they experienced a small taste of what this great city has to offer.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Charleston Team Update 1

We have had a great first day! We arrived safely around 3PM with adequate air conditioning in all three vehicles! Quickly checked in, had orientation from Charleston Outreach folks, and headed to Horizon Village were we will be doing ministry all week. We did a block party of sorts. We hadn't out water bottles with scripture verses printed on them. We also had a jump castle inflatable for the kids to go crazy on and bounce off the sugar high from the semi-frozen Popsicles we had for them. Lots of face and arm painting. We were overwhelmed with the number of kids that came out...close to 50. Tomorrow should be a great day! Keep praying for us!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Fresh from the Garden

Last night we had a feast of Italian food. The best part was that 7 of the ingredients came out of our garden. Cyd made bruschetta, caprese salad, a tossed salad, and pizza. She used tomatoes, parsley, oregano, basil, cucumbers, bell peppers, and lettuce from our garden. It was an amazing meal! It's a very satisfying thing to eat something you grew from seeds, but I don't think I would survive if I only ate what I grow.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Summer Pictures

Here are a few pictures from the spring and summer of the girls at VBS, Guntersville, Clark Hill, South Carolina Aquarium and everything in between.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Theological Musings

Although reading theology can be a challenge for me, I must confess that sometimes academic theologians are just too brilliant for my finite brain, I still try to plow my way through theology books from time to time to stretch my understanding of the movement of God in our world. I recently finished A Black Theology of Liberation by James H. Cone that was an influential book within academic theology in last 40 years. Much of Cone's discussion of theology is so tied to the plight of African-Americans in the 1960s that I feel it is irrelevant today, although he would argue that that is because I see things from the perspective of white theology which is lumped with the oppression of other groups particularly African-Americans. Still it was an interesting read. Cone's work and others like him is rooted in an attempt to contextualized the changeless message of the gospel, which is what missionaries to foreign countries do. I do not agree with much of Cone's final analysis, but there was one statement that really stuck out to me. "It is the function of theology to analyze the changeless gospel in such a way that it can be related to changing situations" (202). The message of the cross hasn't changed in 2,000 years, but the methods for communicating the gospel certainly have. I might add in light of the discussions going on within the Southern Baptist Convention recently that the methods for supporting, funding, and promoting the work of communicating the gospel sometimes need to be changed too. The cross and the savior have NOT changed but the culture in which we find ourselves in America, Africa, Asia, etc. is not the same as it was 100 years ago or even 5 years ago. If the universal church is going to continue to make an impact for the sake of the Kingdom, then we must realize that the context of doing ministry and proclaiming the gospel has shifted. We cannot continue to do things the way we have always done them and think that we are being faithful to the Great Commission. Perhaps James Cone could see that in ways that many Christians cannot...

Their is a growing debate within Evangelicalism about Paul's teaching of Justification. The two key players are N.T. Wright and John Piper. I am awaiting my copy of N.T. Wright's book on the subject, so hopefully I will be able to share some insights from it later this summer. If you aren't familiar with the debate you can go to Christianity Today's website and see several articles about it. The little bit of reading I have done on the subject leads me to believe that the biggest difference is the starting point for Piper of viewing the death of Christ. Piper is an evangelical who clings unashamedly to the Penal Substitutionary view of the atonement. There is nothing wrong with that view, it is definitely a biblical view, but a surface reading of scripture presents other models or ways that the New Testament writers understood and spoke about the death of Christ. I'm not sure that Wright takes any one position himself. For Piper, everything we understand about the Gospel is rooted in the penal substitutionary death of Christ. I for one cannot deny that that is a view of the New Testament and certainly of the 16th century Reformers, but to speak of Christ's death in only those terms I cannot do and still consider myself being faithful to the complete witness of the New Testament.