Archive for the ‘Confessions from…um…some other guy’ Category

iMonk Classic: Confession

January 23, 2010

Here’s a great piece from Michael Spencer (aka the Internet Monk). Please pray for Michael and his family as he undergoes treatment for cancer.

Update- Michael’s medical insurance will run out in late Feb. Go to his website (see link above) to help out.

Some Christians love to talk about the sins of Obama or gays or the mainstream media, but get really animated when I suggest we need to talk about our own, even if they are listed in the Bible dozens of times.

If the Gospel isn’t grabbing you by the real sins in your real life, just exactly what is the Gospel doing for you? Or you with it?

I don’t like the fact that I can give a really good talk on prayer when I rarely pray.

I don’t like it that I can read Matthew 5:23-24 and, as far as I can recall, never take a single step toward obeying it.

I don’t like that I can sin and then condemn someone else’s sin in almost the same breath.

I don’t like it that I’m convinced people need to understand me, but I take so little time to understand others.

I regret that I’ve spent so much of my life seeking to make myself happy in ways that never led to real happiness at all.

I don’t like it that I’ve accumulated so much stuff I don’t need, and I’m so reluctant to give it away.

It causes me real sorrow that I’ve said “I love you” far to little in my life, especially to the people I love the most.

I don’t like the fact that some of my students think I’m a hero, when I’ve done nothing more than be an unprofitable servant.

I hate the difference between what I know and what I do.

I hate the fact that I can use words like “radical” describing what others should do in following Jesus when I’m the first one to want to play it safe.

I don’t like that part of me that thinks everyone should listen to what I say.

I wish I could see myself as God sees me, both in my sinfulness and in the Gospel of Jesus.

I regret using so little of my life’s time, energy and resources for worship and communion with God.

I despise that part of me that always finds fault, and uses that knowledge to put myself above others.

I am embarrassed by the words I use that come so easily from the tongue but have little root in the heart.

I regret taking so few risks in the cause of living a God-filled life.

I despise the shallowness of my repentance for sin that has caused hurt and pain for others.

I don’t like that part of me that can make up an excuse, even lie, almost endlessly in the cause of avoiding the truth and its consequences.

I don’t like that I can talk of heaven in a sermon or at a funeral, but very little of me wants to go there.

I regret that I have loved my arrogant self far than I’ve loved my self humbled in Christ.

I regret that so much good advice, good teaching and good example was wasted on me.

But I am glad for the endless mercies of the Lord, and the amazing fact that those mercies extend to me, today and every day.

I am glad that Christ my substitute took this sorry life, pathetic obedience and lethargic worship and exchanged it for his perfect righteousness.

I am glad that the Holy Spirit is remaking and raising dead men- even at age 52.

I am glad that one day I will look at all these failures and regrets and they will have been transformed into the very glory of Jesus Christ himself.

I am glad that God has cast the very things I most dislike about myself into the depths of the sea and has removed them as far as the east is from the west.

I am glad that when I return in shame and embarrassment, my Father meets me running, covers me with his gladness and throws me a party in the presence of the naysayers and pharisees.

I am glad that Jesus takes these things I loathe about myself and says “It is finished. Come you good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord. Today you will be with me in paradise.”

I am glad Jesus says “Before I have called you servant, but now I will call you friend.”

I am glad Jesus says “Who condemns you? There is now no condemnation because you are in me and I am in you. If I am for you, who can be against you? Go, and sin no more.”

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There’s silence, and then there’s the way I operate.

June 5, 2009

Henri Nouwen in, “The Way of the Heart”, relates a story told of one of the desert fathers, Diadochus of Photiki.

“When the door of the steambath is continually left open, the heat inside rapidly escapes through it; likewise the soul, in its desire to say many things, dissipates its resemblance to God through the door of speech, even though everything it says may be good. Therefore the intellect, though lacking appropriate ideas, pours out a welter of confused thoughts to anyone it meets, as it no longer has the Holy Spirit to keep its understanding free from fantasy. Ideas of value always shun verbosity, being foreign to confusion and fantasy. Timely silence, then, is precious for it is nothing less than the mother of the wisest thoughts.”

Wow. “… pours out a welter of confused thoughts to anyone it meets.” This guy’s watched me in action.

The Heart of Missional

August 26, 2008

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. – 2 Cor 5:14-20

Over the last two or three years years our church has had more than it’s usual share of broken relationships. Personnel issues, musical styles, lack of communication, and the normal stupidity that accompany the petty consumer mentality so prominent in the evangelical wing of the Body, have all contributed their part to a number of folks being at odds with each other.

I’ve come to a conclusion about this.

The problem isn’t the broken relationships. 

Broken relationships are par for the course living in a world where everyone is the little lord of his own two foot square realm. That’s just the way it is, has been, and will be until Glory.  And (I shouldn’t have to say this, but…) of course we should do our best to live at peace with one another. That’s part of being a grown-up.

The problem is what happens after feelings are hurt and relationships broken. Or more truthfully, what doesn’t happen.

The real problem is that we aren’t willing to reconcile.

A large segment of christianity in the West has taken “being missional” as almost a mantra. And maybe I’ve just missed it, but I’ve yet to hear one of the proponents of missional talk about reconciliation as the center point of the ministry of the church. I hear “re-thinking the gospel”, “story”, “relevant”, and “post-modern”. But I don’t hear “If you’re at the altar and remember that a Brother has something against you, leave your offering there, first go and be reconciled to him.”, or “Why not rather be wronged, why not rather be cheated, than to act this way in front of unbelievers?” 

The ministry we have been given, the mission of God, in and through us, is a ministry of reconciliation.

We are ambassadors of reconciliation. We are called to show people that they can be reconciled to God. One of, if not the primary way we show that to a watching world (and make no mistake about it, they are watching) is by being reconciled to each other.

Why don’t we do it? Just a couple of reasons that come to mind. One, because it requires us to actually do something instead of just talk about it. And two, because what it requires us to do is practice the three most difficult virtues in Gospel living; self-sacrificing love, forgiveness, and true humility, toward those we feel inclined to treat like enemies. 

Is it hard to do? Yep.

Is it time consuming? Almost always.

Are things always better right away? Nope

Does it always work? Unfortunately, no.

What if I don’t want to? Tough.

Can I even do this? Not without Jesus. Not without knowing how much he loves me. Because it is the love of Christ that compels me to live this out.

I know this sounds like Christianity 101, and it is. 

But here’s the deal. If I don’t do this hard work of the kingdom, no one, and I mean no one, will believe that they can be reconciled to God. If I can’t even be reconciled to the guy next to me in the pew over some stupid, silly squabble over how many time a chorus is repeated, no one should believe it.

Much Ado

August 10, 2008

I’m an introvert, so doing something in public that might call attention to myself causes me a to experience fairly high level of anxiety. 

Well, I went to the grocery store last week and saw a police cruiser in the parking lot with the officer sitting in the driver’s seat. I thought , “I ought to go tell him, ‘Thanks for doing what you do.’” But the little anxiety shot that comes with the thought of talking with “strangers” was enough to stop me. Besides, I was thinking thankful thoughts. Isn’t that enough?

I thought about why I didn’t say something for a while and scolded myself for letting this stupid personality quirk stop me from doing what I know is the right and good thing. And when I had scolded myself enough to make the guilt go away, I forgot about it.

Until this week.

Same grocery store, almost same parking place, maybe the same officer and cruiser.

I have the same thought, same anxiety, almost same reaction. Except this time I say to myself, before I walk past him, “Well, he looks busy. If he’s still here when I come out it means I’m supposed to say this to him, if he’s gone then….” 

I no sooner walk in and grab a cart when his partner walks right in front of me not ten feet away. But there’s people around and I freeze up. 

I walk on for about thirty seconds and decide I’ve got to do this. So I turn around go in the direction he was headed to find him. I find him, only he’s talking with a couple of people. Abort! Abort! 

I turn around.

Five minutes later, the first officer, the one that was in his cruiser, comes in and walks right past me.

This is getting ridiculous. 

I’ve got my groceries and I’m headed to the car. He’s back in the cruiser. I go up to him, say, “I just wanted to thank you for what you do.” He says, “You’re welcome.”.

I go on to the car.

No big deal. 

What a small thing. How hard I sometimes make small things.

Revival?

May 31, 2008
Update: I just about finished this and realized that I wasn’t writing in the first person. BIG mistake. If you read this, realize that it applies to me first. Then anyone else that wants to join up, feel free. 

“It is my considered opinion that under the present circumstances we do not want revival at all. A widespread revival of the kind of Christianity we know today in America might prove to be a moral tragedy from which we would not recover in a hundred years.”- A.W. Tozer

Don’t tell me about Lakeland. Don’t tell me about emotional “worship experiences”. Don’t tell me about spiritual gifts. Don’t tell me about programs, projects, and long term strategies. Don’t tell me about good preaching or sound theology. Don’t tell me about looking at the “fruit” of a church’s (or a preacher’s) ministry if you mean numbers in attendance, or even converts (remembering the parable of the sower). God may be at work in all these.

Then again, he may not be.

The fruit we should be looking for is found in the letter to the Galatians.

We’re called to discern the spirits. Well?

Do you see evidence of this, “… enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy,…” in yourself, or the people in your congregation? Remember, this comes next, “I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Are your people, are you, more loving? Is this your aim, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Phil. 2)

Are you increasingly more joyful? Does the joy set before you cause you to endure the cross and its shame? Is that joy your strength? Do newcomers to your group notice a deep seated joy that transcends circumstances?

What about peace? Are you a peacemaker? Are you known as an ambassador of reconciliation? Or does your proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom mostly convey strife and division? The Gospel will always have an unpopular, prophetic edge to those who smell death instead of life, but which direction are you headed as a people?

Patience? Are you content? When people interrupt your plans how do you react? Is the desire for your vision of ministry frustrated by the very people you are shepherding? How do you react to those weaker brothers?

Kindness?… anyone?… anyone?… kindness?” (read in your best Ben Stein voice) How do you measure yourself and your folks when you read this from Henry Drummond?

“‘The greatest thing,’ says someone, ‘a man can do for his Heavenly Father is to be kind to some of His other children.’ I wonder why it is that we are not all kinder than we are? How much the world needs it. How easily it is done. How instantaneously it acts. How infallibly it is remembered.” (The Greatest Thing In The World)

What about goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control?

(*crickets*?)

What about the first things that history tells us happened in almost all, if not all, real revivals. Prayer, and Godly sorrow leading to repentance?

Ruthlessly look at your own heart, see if you are at least moving the right direction, then I’m pretty sure you’ll know what real revival would look like.

Life to the full

May 16, 2008

“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10 (ESV)

The spiritual life is not a disembodied life. We are not redeemed souls trapped in damnable material bodies.

The bodily resurrection of Jesus (and our own in the future) should be enough proof of that to quiet any objection.

We are whole.

Too often I’ve viewed the body as an enemy to be battled and overcome. “For all that is in the world— the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.” “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”

But my body is also the temple of the Holy Spirit. I’m to love God with heart, mind soul and strength. And how exactly am I to love my neighbor if not in concrete, material action?

I know this is not news to most of you, but It seems to infect a lot of what I see and hear. Don’t we seem to separate the intellectual from the material? I know I do. I tend to keep my theology as academic, and idea oriented as possible. The blogosphere is a perfect place for this tendency. I was reading the comments at another blog and came on this,”It’s nothing personal at all. I was just interacting with ideas.” I know what the guy meant, but it stunned me when I read it because it was a summary of a lot of my life with God. “Nothing too personal, please. I was just interacting with ideas.”

If spirituality includes mind, soul, heart and body, here are some new questions I’ll be asking folks I meet with.

Are you; getting enough sleep, exercising, eating well?

Do you have a sabbath time of rest and recreation?

Do you actually do stuff with (and for) family, friends, neighbors?

I, as much as I don’t want to, will be asking myself these same questions.

No Shortcuts

May 7, 2008

 I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit lately. There just aren’t any shortcuts in the spiritual  life.

I know, I’ve tried to find them. I want quick growth and maturity. 

——-

I was thinking about Bradford Pears and Silver Maples this morning and how easily they split in winds that don’t bother other trees. These are the two main landscape trees we plant around here when we want a house to look “established” and “settled”. In other words, like it wasn’t built yesterday. Mature looking trees add a feeling of stability to a neighborhood. 

They grow quick, give lots of shade, and, in the case of Bradford Pears, are showy in the spring and fall. 

They are also shallow rooted, brittle and, again in the case of the Bradford Pear, structurally weak. 

Contrast that with most slow growing hardwoods and, long term, it’s no contest. 

——-

I would like to be established, settled, stable and mature. I would also like to look that way quickly. 

I’m pretty sure I can’t have both.

So I’m going to submit to the slow growth methods of prayer, scripture and real community, counting on the Spirit to make me deep rooted in Christ, and producing fruit in season. 

Kenya

January 9, 2008

Bill Kinnon at Acheivable Ends has written about the political meltdown in Kenya. Good stuff, go read it. Here’s a bit of it.

I have not been doing a lot of blogging of late as I’ve struggled to understand the lack of response in much of the Christian blogosphere to the crisis in Kenya. It would seem more important to argue over a particular blogger’s new book, who has a better understanding of the Sovereignty of God or the elevation of the latest denomination president – than it would to ask for and offer prayers for weaker brothers and sisters who are in danger of experiencing another Rwanda. God help us all.

I was in Nairobi in 2000, so this is more personal for me than many of the international crisis stories that get drowned out by what Designer’s boots Brittney was wearing on the way to the hospital… this time.

I’ve been in Kibera. It sits in a valley in Nairobi. From the roads above it looks like the valley is carpeted with corregated metal. As you drive in (at least the way we went) you have to pass through the neighborhood where the various Ambassadors of the world have their compounds. High walled fortresses, palatial mansions, new Mercedes everywhere. Then you make the next turn and the smell of burning garbage hits you, and you see kids playing in the trash that covers any open ground that doesn’t have a hut built on it. There’s not a lot of hope there, and it seems to me that it wouldn’t take much to make a riot happen.

I was actually somewhat surprised to see the military in the slums. The government doesn’t (or didn’t at the time) officially acknowledge that the slum exists.  The residents of Kibera are squatters. But since it would cost too much to deal with the 700, 000 poeple who live there “illegally”, the government just acts like the place doesn’t exist. No police, no services of any kind, electricity is siphoned off the surrounding areas, no water,  open trenches running down the dirt streets serve as sewers.

You would think that having seen it first hand, and having been impacted by the experience as I was, that I’d be more mindful and prayerful. I would have thought so too. Shame on me.

Please pray for Kenya. Please pray for me too.

Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.

First Things First

January 8, 2008

TDK Guy In ChairWe are information junkies.

No, let me correct that. We are “News” junkies. 

Witness all the 24 hour news channels- CNN, HNN, Fox News, Fox Business News, MSNBC, BloombergTV, CNBC, C-Span, C-Span2, C-Span3, ESPNews.

Add to that, at a minimum, 4 hours a day of network newscasts (x3), and it comes to around 276 hours of “news” coverage per DAY! And that’s just television news proper. News radio, newspapers, news magazines, the interweb, books about news…. ad nauseum, and just plain nausea. 

Google News says in their banner, “Search and browse 4,500 news sources updated continuously.”

Go on, I dare you, browse 4,500 news sources. See if your eyes and ears don’t start bleeding.

Now that I think about it, maybe we aren’t so much “News” junkies as we are “new” junkies. We are all about whatever is new. If it happened more than a week ago, forget it, literally. Or if it’s more than a year old,  go get the new model.

We’re just as bad in the church. We’re always after something new. Contemporary worship, the latest in audio/visual technology, NPP, post-modernism, always looking for the next trend, this new book, that new teaching.

From the pulpit and the publisher, everyone’s looking for new insight. But the problem is almost no one is trying to live out the stuff we already know.

Here’s a conversation* I had with God the other day-

“Lord, what is your will for me? What should I do?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, should I be on this committee, or that one. Should I teach on this, or that? And while I’m thinking about it, what should I really be doing with my life?”

“Why don’t you start with what I’ve already told you?”

“Like what?”

“How about, ‘Love your wife as I have loved the church’ and, ‘Love one another as I have loved you’? Why don’t you take a little while and work on those before you ask for something else?”

“Um…Yeah, thanks. But what about all this missional thinking, this cultural contextualization?”

“What about it? Don’t you think really loving like I do is missional and relevant in a kind of counter-cultural way?”

“I don’t know…I’d much rather talk in big, general cultural terms about what we should be about as Christians. I mean, you don’t get much of a name doing it your way. Plus it’s really hard,  nearly impossible.”

“Not ‘nearly’ impossible, it is. That’s where I come in.”

I’m going to have to go back and rethink some things in my own life. There are some foundational things I’ve got to put into action better than I’ve been doing. Obviously loving God with all our heart, mind, soul, strength is first for all of us. The second is one like it.

That can be kind of vague though.  What does that look like, in concrete action, for me?

In part, it looks like me loving my family better.

I’m a little overweight at present, and a whole lot out of shape. Maybe the most loving thing I can do right now for my family is take better care of myself.

A wise man once told me, “If you want to show someone that you love them, listen to them.” Maybe a little less “me” time, and a little more time with them would be in order.

I’ve got a lot more to think about in regard to this.

Do me a favor would you? Wait a few weeks and then someone out there ask me how this “first things first” stuff is going.

*No, I didn’t hear a voice. It’s more of a running dialog thing in my head.

“Fellow Losers…” Real Honesty In A Used-Car-Salesman World

December 8, 2007

Two of the bloggers I read have been talking about how real life is not as clear cut as we sometimes would like it to be. As a matter of fact, it’s down right messy, broken and confusing. And if anyone offers you easy answers…well… like C. S. Lewis said, “Let us leave behind all these boys’ philosophies – these over-simple answers.” 

Brant Hansen has come back from a short blogging hiatus with two posts (must reads, in my opinion) about his own stuggles, and it turns out, lots of other folks’ same stuggles. “Fellow losers” comes from his second post.

Dan Edelen posts here about using the words “I don’t know” when trying to answer the question, “What’s God trying to teach you through this circumstance?”

Both really speak, in different ways, about our compulsion to tidy up our messy, unfinished lives so that we look like we’ve got it all together to anyone who happens to be watching. We’ve all done it, most of us have done it so long we don’t even notice it anymore.

The problem is, it’s a lie, and it makes us a lie too. 

For a lot of years I dismissed the “Because you’re all a bunch of hypocrites” standard reason why folks don’t go to church, because I thought they were using it as a smokescreen. Of course we’re all hypocrites, that’s a given. They just didn’t want to deal with God and their own messes.

I still think it is a smokescreen, sometimes. But I also think that there isn’t much that is as unattractive and repulsive as a sales pitch from someone you know is a fraud.  And they know we are frauds.

We tell them, “You need Jesus. Just trust in God and he’ll make your problems disappear. Your marriage will be better, your kids will have straight teeth and straight A’s, and you’ll get that promotion. Oh yeah, remember to tithe and God will pour out the financial blessings, pressed down and shaken together.”

Then they look at our lives and know it’s a lie. The divorce rate among evangelicals is a little above national averages, our kids need braces and tutors too, most of us dislike our jobs as much as they do and tithing usually results only in having 90 % of our income to live on.

I’m not saying God doesn’t help with at least some of those things, sometimes. I’m just saying God isn’t as easy to pin down as we lead folks to believe.  Psalm 77 says, “Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen…” Isaiah 55, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” His ways are past tracing out according to Paul in Romans. But we think the only way people will believe us is if everything has easy answers… and six steps to an easy life. 

I think about the only thing we (us, not Jesus) have to offer this world of brokenness is the truth. The ugly, rough edged, I need prozac, I don’t know the answer, I’m a mess and that’s who God prefers to love, truth.

A little honesty, that’s all. 

Wouldn’t you breathe a little easier if this Sunday your Pastor got up in the pulpit and started his sermon with the words, “Fellow losers…”? I mean, after the shock (and the laughter) wore off, wouldn’t it be nice not to have to carry around the heavy load of pretending everything was fine? If the “all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.” face we put on when get out of the car and walk through the parking lot wasn’t needed, wouldn’t your step be a little lighter?

Do you want to know what is attractive to this world? Having real hope in the midst of the same trials and tribulations everyone on the planet shares. Being honest about what a life trying to follow Jesus looks like. Cavities, warts, confusion, chemical imbalances and all.

When we show that to those who are watching, then they might just listen to what we are saying.