Illuminate

Bloged in advent, worship by rod Sunday November 30, 2003

When asked what was the greatest commandment in the law, Jesus gave this reply, “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments”.
Does that not mean that the single most important thing for us to learn from scripture is how to love Him, and from learning that, how to love our neighbor? These two commands are presented as the answer to the question as to the single most important command. Not only does one not truly exist without the other, each is required to grow in other. “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness”.
So how do we learn to love our neighbor? Jesus did by loving us as His Father loved Him. He has commanded us to love one another as He has loved us. “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” And how much does Jesus love us? Jesus told us, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” Paul tells us in Romans, “ Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man, someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
This Christmas season, may we allow ourselves to feel so deeply the love that Jesus demonstrates toward us that we can do nothing but worship Him and respond with love. May His overwhelming love for us cause us to love those he loves. May we find ourselves in the Light.

it is beyond all knowledge

Bloged in advent, worship by rod Saturday November 29, 2003

Peace. For the times in which we live, we most often use the term to express our desire for a world that is free from conflict and war. Pray for peace in the Middle East. Miss America campaigns for world peace. We often use the word to express our desire for quiet, for rest and relaxation, a lifestyle without stress or conflict. Some call confession and repentance the act of making our peace with God.
In Luke 2:14, the Angels are announcing the birth of Jesus which will bring glory to God and peace to men. Did Jesus’ birth bring peace to men? Christmas was costly. Following Jesus cost eleven of twelve disciples their lives. It cost John the Baptist his head. While the Jews weren’t at war, it can hardly be said that they weren’t in conflict with the Roman government. Jesus, Himself said in John 16:33, “I have said all these things to you so that in me you may have peace. In the world, you have trouble: but take heart! I have overcome the world”. The peace He brought, then, had nothing to do with freedom from troubles and worries.
So, the Angels must have been referring to God’s offer of peace with Himself. It is only through this peace with God that men can even approach peace in any other form. We can certainly not have inner peace without peace with God. We were created for friendship with God, so being apart from Him is abnormal. Peace and contentment then are only attainable through peace with God. We can truly trust Him that all things work together for good for those who love Him. We are assured that we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength; that is to say, we can be content regardless of the situation in which we find ourselves. We can have rest in the peace of Christ when all around is turmoil. Paul says, “Have no cares; but in everything with prayer and praise put your requests before God. And the peace of God, which is deeper than all knowledge, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
In this advent season, may we accept God’s offer of peace with Himself. May we rest in the knowledge that He is in control and have “the peace that passes understanding”.

…and a prayer

Bloged in advent, worship by rod Friday November 28, 2003

The world into which Jesus came was one filled with obstacles, oppression and lost hope. The government was Godless; cosmopolitan society had come with a foreign government. With it came cosmopolitan religion, which demanded tolerance of behavior and practices, and beliefs that were contrary and offensive. Some religious leaders had become corrupt and power-hungry; others simply misunderstood the God they worshiped. Though they had the promise of One who would come and deliver them, their hope in that promise didn’t look beyond their immediate physical needs. Believers were looking for One Who would come and overthrow the government, who would restore them to their former glory. They were looking for One who would come and change their environment.
The world into which Jesus will come is much the same. Our government seems to constantly re-interpret and change laws that limit our religious freedom. Our society is growing more tolerant of immorality and less tolerant of Christianity. Religious leaders fall like flies to temptation, corruption, and pride. National disasters dash our hopes and fuel the skeptic’s resolve. We grasp for hope while inside we question. Many feel abandoned. We are looking for a God that will protect us physically from the outside world.
God’s protection of us is so much bigger than the temporal. His control goes far beyond our immediate environment. Jesus came to earth to change people, to restore people, to save people. His kingdom is not of this world. He came to prepare us for it, not to prepare it, here, for us. We are able to endure our situation now because Jesus came the first time. We have hope because Jesus will come again.
This advent season, may we find our hope in the second coming of Christ. May we resolve to give others that hope. For the non-believer this event is one of doom. May we see the immoral, offensive, oppressive, blasphemous world as what it really is, the harvest field. May we walk into it with the love and hope in Christ, the evidence of things unseen.

gimme gimme

Bloged in advent, worship by rod Thursday November 27, 2003


I’m thankful. How long will I be? Even today I experienced myriad things to be thankful for. Tomorrow officially begins the Christmas season all across Commerstadt. 
Every year, December brings with it dread for me. I am the ultimate scrooge. These past couple years, I’ve resolved to make it different. You know the routine, in the quiet beginning of the month, you desire deeply to celebrate Jesus’ birth. You’re pensive, reflective, contemplative. Then Christmas takes over.
Will gets it. When asked what he wants for Christmas, he couldn’t think of anything. In fact, all he came up with was time. He wanted time to hang as a family, play games, make cookies. How wonderful not to want when you don’t want. How wonderful to have an accurate understanding of what you do need. 
We do have needs. If we didn’t, there would be no Christmas in the first place. Somehow, we’ve begun to ignore our needs and want for other stuff. We want what we don’t need. We don’t want to need what we do need. We don’t want to be dependent on anyone. Stuff is fine. We practically brag about our dependence on stuff, but we sure won’t admit to being dependent on another being. Perhaps even when we’re content with those we’ve been given, it’s only in the perspective that they are an extra, icing on the cake. 
We depend on stuff and appreciate people. At Christmas, we depend on stuff and appreciate Jesus. This Christmas, I want to desire desperately the advent of the deliverer the way Israel did during centuries of silence. I want to recognize Him when He quietly sits down beside me and breathes peace. I want to expect and hope, to contemplate the mystery. I want to be prepared to recognize Him. Not to be fooled by counterfeits. Not to be satisfied with less than what I’ve been given. I want to celebrate in a spirit of quiet thanksgiving, to hope with the essence of things unseen, feel peace that passes understanding, know love that is deeper, wider, longer, and higher than we could fathom, experience joy unspeakable and full of glory. Quiet my life, whisper my name. Amen, come Lord Jesus.

The Purloined Communiqué

Bloged in apprenticeship, church, culture by rod Wednesday November 26, 2003

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I’ve visited this before on these cyber pages, but here I am again, pecking the same open fields. Those who are given something to say or share, if only temporal and momentary, are robbed of the opportunity by the listener’s inability to listen. God has given us a legitimate vehicle for communication and contemplation – it has been stolen by consumer and entertainment mentality. The motivation is assumed for someone who is in front of other people playing or singing. “I listen to be entertained, this person speaks or plays to be listened to, therefore, this is entertainment.”
Talking about using music as a vehicle to anything, even art, is tricky for many performers because the ego often gets in the way of message. Sadly, I observe a culture that has been duped by the messenger. These are people who are drawn to speak, sing or play and so go about looking for something to speak, sing, or play about. The messenger sells himself, the audience buys him and quickly tires of the message, if they hear it at all. That is why our culture buys authors’ names instead of book content. We attend concerts to “see” performers and entertainers. The music industry markets singers rather than music. What they have to say, if anything, is often irrelevant.

That culture is changing. Younger people are suspicious of these people and decide quickly whether they are authentic and whether they’ve got something to say. These people do respond to people who have something to say and so speak, sing, or play. They may sense that it is “painful” for the person to get up and do it. But that doesn’t undermine the importance of the message. My students respond to someone for whom the message is more important than they are. And here is a nasty thing to say – I know people who actually teach and lecture abroad on effective speaking and communication, but whose methods obscure their message even at home. The students do not respond. They feel that the speaking or preaching “performance” was more important than the content, therefore they do not listen to it. “How to communicate effectively” should be changed to “How to speak effectively when you’re not communicating”, or “how to make people enjoy hearing you even when they have no idea what you said.”

Warning: If YOU are your message, hush. You’re intercepting the real stuff.

Ex Obscuritate in Lucem

Bloged in apprenticeship, community by rod Tuesday November 25, 2003


Gwillie the woodpecker becomes a sparrow, Cisco the marmot, the ecclesia encourager. I am the Wild Turkey, that forager of open fields; the rooster upon low branches. I’ve the vision of an eagle with the intellect of a housefly. From a distance, with my tail all fanned, I can be quite impressive, some say. But when you look me in the eye, it ain’t a pretty sight. My range is cyclic, I always return to peck at the same fields over and over, carefully working my way to the next, easily spooked.
I’d become the owl sitting confidently with my shoulders hunched up. Same keen vision, with the ability to see in front and behind with equal ease. Brow furrowed with wisdom to match my years, I’d speak only questions and learn trust from the lack of answers.
I’d become the Labrador, harnessed for any who would grasp the handle. Walking forward in confidence of instinct for having been trained at the feet of the master guide dog trainer. Trained and trusted to lead through the dark and dangerous into the light.
Spirit, morph me too. Make me a shape shifter. Mold me. Show me how to be a part of the Austin Phenomenon. I beg.

The Most Important Reindeer

Bloged in family, parenting by rod Sunday November 23, 2003


Will had a dream last night that he told me about this morning before he even got out of bed. When I woke him up to get ready for church he opened his eyes and said, “Dad, I just dreamed that you were a reindeer.” I said that’s really weird Will, now hop up and get dressed. “And dad, you were the biggest, toughest reindeer. They were bringing other reindeer for you to teach them to fly. They brought Rudolf and I was proud that they asked you to teach the most important reindeer how to fly.” I must have been tough, now hop up, ok”?
Now, had I not been so inflated by being the “biggest, toughest reindeer”, I probably would have been immediately challenged by the reminder of my huge responsibility that Will had just given me. All day I thought more and more deeply about this awesome task of teaching the most important reindeer to fly, especially since I, in fact, am not the biggest, toughest reindeer.
Then, this afternoon I referred to the dream and Will said, “Oh yeah, dad, instead of Rudolf having his light on the end of his nose, it was right in the middle of his forehead.” Instantly, I knew that this was more than me just making cute application from my son’s dream description. Even more than an intentional reminder from God through Will. This dream was for him too. This was a God-produced thing. This had bearing on both our futures and our now together.
Tonight when I tucked him into bed I told him that I thought I’d interpreted his dream. I asked him if he knew what that meant. Yes, he said, and he asked me what my interpretation was. I told him that I thought he dreamed that I was the biggest, toughest reindeer because he was glad that I was his dad. He agreed. Then I asked him if he knew who the most important reindeer was.
“No,” he said.
“YOU, Willby, I have the awesome task of teaching YOU to fly.”
“Dad, is the flying a metaphor? Dad, do you think that this dream came from God?”
“There is no doubt in my mind that this dream came from God.”
“Do you think it means that I will lead a large group of people?”
“It could mean that you will lead a small group of people, like eight. Or even one.”
“Do you think it might mean that I will be a teacher?”
“Or a missionary, or…”
“But Dad, what about the nose way up in the middle of his forehead?”
“In your dream, you thought he was the most important reindeer even though his nose was in the wrong place. Maybe his light was even easier to see because it was placed there. Anyway, you’re always worrying about your faults and imperfections, beating yourself up all the time. Can you see what this says about you?”

I wish everyone could have seen Will’s face as he contemplated having been the recipient of direct encouragement from God. Consider the possibility that the things that bother you the most about yourself could be intentional tools designed by God for His purposes. Will went there tonight. How much easier it is to face challenges and disappointments when they are not about you. There is a purpose. There is purpose. We serve an intentional God. Blessed are those whose ears are open to hear Him whisper His intentions. Or give us clues. Or spark the imagination of a child to wonder what it is that God will have him do. Be. Become. I’m blown away.
Meanwhile, I’ve got to teach the most important reindeer to fly. Can you imagine? How is this possible? Such heavy bones. So many tethers. Head winds. Fatigue. Comforts on the ground. Tangling antlers. And that goofy light in the middle of the forehead. How are these overcome to lead on, shine the light, and deliver the gift to all who need it? How do I stay one step ahead of his lessons?
Pray for me. I’ve got a precious protégé. A fragile disciple. The most important reindeer.

© 2003 rod lewis

Equivalent Intrinsic Value 2.0

Bloged in apprenticeship by rod Saturday November 22, 2003


What about Jonah? Jonah spends his life in the Lord’s service and then is asked to go take a message to folks he despises. He will no doubt become scum just from being near those people. Jonah is offended at even being asked. So you know the story, we’ve heard countless sermons, disobedience, change of heart, God’s work completed. But Jonah’s heart is not changed. The story ends with him wasting away, unhappy at God’s gift to others. It’s almost as if he finally agreed to go to Nineveh because it was a last chance to prove to God that he was right in the first place. “I’ll just go on over there, tell what God told me to, and smirk as they go on with their bad selves”. God will see that it was useless, and in my heart, I’ll say, “I told you so”. That’s not what happened. Jonah delivers the message, Nineveh repents and is saved. Jonah is devastated. One of my favorite lines from any movie in recent years comes from the Veggie Tales Jonah. After repenting, the giant zucchini (originally Mr. Nezzer) says to Jonah, (I paraphrase) “Gee Jonah, thanks for telling us, we didn’t realize we were doing anything wrong”. Rather than rejoicing at returning the lost to fold, Jonah sits by himself grieving that God actually kept His promise. How could God forgive such wretched ones? Perhaps Jonah is upset because he has always been so faithful and these are given the same love and compassion as he is. Perhaps Jonah is upset because he feels his value is diminished because theirs is raised. Or worse, he finds that God valued them enough to seek them out in order to bring them back. Even before they repented!
The Pharisees despised the lesser ones. The brother burned with jealousy at the return of his wayward brother. The workers who were recruited late in the day received the same pay as those who had worked all day. The shepherd leaves the flock to rescue one that is lost. Jonah himself having received unfathomable grace, mourned at the grace given as the fruit of his begrudging obedience.
Seems to me that with all these messages and accounts, God is concerned with the heart of the faithful as much as the wanderings of the wayward. The faithful get angry with the outsiders. God feels compassion, pain, and pity. “You have been with me and everything I have is yours, but here is your brother who was lost and now is found.”
I’m not saying that sin increases our value in God’s eyes. As one commentary puts it, God’s emotions are tweaked and the intrinsic value is modified because loss and recovery come into play. He loves the faithful so much that He wants them to celebrate with Him at the recovery of the others. We’re invited to the party.
A ministering heart will begin to feel the pity that God feels – will see the lost and not the behavior. We’ll do what it takes to reach them and party when they’re found. A ministering heart will go headlong into the black hole of church planting with the fire of God and the Truth in hand, welcoming all who are thirsty.

Fog blur Blog

Bloged in life by rod Friday November 21, 2003


Well, I don’t know if this is going to turn into the continuation of Tuesday’s post or not. That continuation has been taking place in my head and being jotted in various places in my clié all week. I did vow, though, after jotting things down that way, to start afresh when I actually organize it. The whole week as been a blur fog blog. I’m really tempted to just list everything I had to do this week to really make the point. I’m always saying that there are those whose perceptions of stress and busyness are so different from mine that they really have no idea. I’ve heard a co-worker say she was coming in late in the morning because she wasn’t going to get home that night until 9:30p. So how do you successfully solicit sympathy from someone like that? You may as well say that in order to get food and drink when you were in prison, you had to run the 100m in less than 6 seconds. It’s not in the frame of reference. Oh well, to get your sympathy, I’ll just shorten my list, and trust you to understand that ain’t the half of it, ok?
My boss is out with pneumonia for two weeks. I’ve been covering his music appreciation class. Though I had to rearrange my private teaching schedule, I agreed because I thought it was just for one class. It turns into two weeks. Now I’m two weeks behind with several private students, and cannot find any time at all to plug them back into my schedule. I am really enjoying teaching his class, I just wish I hadn’t lost lessons that have to be made up. Meanwhile, I had several extra worship times to plan, prepare, pray and practice for. Two days this week I was at work for over 14 hours. Tuesday, I lectured for, literally, 5 hours plus my private students. I have not been to bed before 2:00a since last Sunday. I teach at 8:00a, by the way. Yesterday morning as I was leaving the house A told me W had a project due today and she wouldn’t be home from school til 9:00p. It involved video and editing. I said no problem, I get home by 5:30 on Thursdays and I have all evening with the kids. Then in the midst of the extraordinarily busy day, I find out I’ve got a meeting on campus from 4 –7. So I call my Thursday afternoon child care professional (thanks, Bing!) and she brings them to school for supper. We do his project after my meeting and I make it to bed at 3:15a.
I slept in this morning and missed the first two prayer day sessions.
I’m tired and old. I need a break. I’m going to take one. I’ve nearly convinced myself to take a college road trip Tuesday evening. You may have heard that the we’re experiencing a series of the largest solar flares ever recorded. I’m rapidly approaching 40 and have never seen the Aurora Borealis. I think in lieu of going into insurmountable debt buying a red sports car, I’ll drive as far north as possible next week and takes my chances with the magnetic field, the weather, and my old Ford truck. I’m figuring 20 hours can put me far enough north of Toronto to see something. So I’m going to sign off now, research weather, magnetic, and solar wind forcasts, and go to bed feeling relieved for whining to you about my week. It was actually a very good week in terms of lessons learned, encouragement received, and resolve gained. But if I had just told you that, you’d have no idea what it takes for me to learn a lesson. Gee whiz, (practicing for turning 40) I’m slow.
So, Matthew 18 is still running ‘round my brain. I’ll share it with you some more tomorrow. Good night Aurora Borealis.

Equivalent Intrinsic Value

Bloged in apprenticeship, community by rod Tuesday November 18, 2003


I’ve been reading a book called “the smell of sin”, by Don Everts which opens with a story about a man in church who hears a sawing sound and turns around to find his fellow parishioner sawing off his foot. Jesus said if your hand or foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you. It’s better to go though life with one hand than be cast with two into the fire. While I hear folks argue about whether that is literal or whether it merely expresses the seriousness of the sin that is being caused by the offending limb, I’ve rarely heard it discussed according to the context in which we find it. Yes, there are stumbling block in this world, but woe to the man through whom the stumbling blocks come.
See that you do not despise these little ones. Jesus came to save those who were lost. The healthy don’t need a physician. But for some reason, those who have lived upstanding lives develop an unrighteous attitude toward those defiled by sin. Especially sin that we have set apart as particularly heinous. Yes, we do that. We overlook gossip, idolatry, selfishness, neglect, and focus in on, march for, petition the president, write letters to the newspaper, other sins that appear to us as blacker, more evil, further outside our context of understanding.
Sure, we hate the same things God hates but that doesn’t make our motivation righteous. Our hatred so often extends to the sinner. We say “love the sinner, hate the sin”, but somehow that has become so cliché, that we don’t really know what it means anymore. Somehow, we convince ourselves that we can love the sinner by expressing disgust, hatred, and intolerance. Then when that expression has brought them ‘round, we can express love.
We’ve even made a cliché out of the idea of letting God love that person through us. Sure, we have to love them with the same love that Christ loves us, that is where we gain the knowledge and ability. But Jesus has asked US to love THEM. Are we just to be conduit, channeling Jesus’ love to others? I don’t think so. Conduit remains unchanged. Others don’t recognize Jesus love THOUGH us, they recognize Jesus’ love IN us. You’ll hear them say, “that person loves me with the love of Jesus”. I don’t think we’ll hear, “Jesus loves me through that person”.
Jesus’ love in us, causes us to hurt for the lost condition of another. It causes us to want, like Him, to leave the ninety-nine and go hunting for the one. Upon finding the one, we will throw him across our shoulders and bring him rejoicing into the fold.
There is no doubt in my mind that the parable of the prodigal son has as its focus, the son who stayed home and burned with jealousy over the joy of the father upon receiving his lost son back. There are too many other passages, two mentioned here, that focus on the same thing. If we are truly about our Father’s business, then we will hurt for the lost, and receive the same joy He does when the are returned. The value of all is the same, but there is an emotional extra that is put into play that deals with loss and recovery.
(to be continued)

©2003 rod lewis

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