Friday, June 24, 2011

What NT Wright would say on his deathbed

Kurt Willems of the Pangea blog  shared these timeless thoughts on looking at Jesus from theologian NT Wright:

What things would you say about Jesus to those you know if you had only one week to live? Look forward to your comments!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Are you weary? Are you heavy-hearted?

Do you know the song referenced in the title?

"Are you weary, are you heavy-hearted, tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus..."

Last night, I lit a candle, and my husband and I sat on the couch and we got very quiet. This was not a romantic moment, but a holy one. We were waiting to tell it to Jesus . . . or more specifically, to pray to our heavenly Father in Jesus' name.

"Tell it to Jesus, He is a friend that's well known."

I thanked God for his rich blessings to us. I prayed the Lord's prayer, my heart lifted up, praying that God's will would be done on earth as it is in our neighborhood as it is in heaven.

"You've no other such a friend or brother. Tell it to Jesus alone."

We prayed for family members.
And the lonely.
And for the work of our heart and hands.
And for the dream of a child to fill our empty arms.
And that no matter what comes, our will would align with the will of the One who loves us most.

It is true that our prayers usher in peace and a contentment that flies in the face of the ads that bombard us on a daily basis. But to tell the truth, they do more than that. They tenderize our hearts, and point our gaze away from our problems and our hangups, and remind us that Someone, the God of the Universe, in fact, wants us to love others as he loves us.

And so telling it to Jesus inevitably means that our selfish edges are gradually sanded away, and we take an elderly couple out for ice cream, we invite a family we hardly know over for dinner, we provide a ride for some orphans, we lead a Bible study with the poor and broken, and we generally go about with a growing heart to do simple acts of kindness in the name of Jesus. The power of prayer is not just in knowing God responds to our pleas, but in knowing that the very act of praying can change us.

Tell it to Jesus.

Do you speak easily and freely with Jesus? What have you discovered about prayer--and how has it changed you?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Biblical truth in layers: digging deeper

You're six (with pigtails or dimples--take your pick), and you listen to a storybook version of the Genesis Creation story, and the birth of Jesus, and the miracle of a man born blind receiving sight, and you get it.

You get it as in, "God's big, he made the world, he was born in a smelly place, and he can do anything!" That's as much as you get, and that's enough, for now. But then you grow up, and you begin to put away childish things and ideas, and the Bible begins to be an awfully big book filled with mystery and prompting lots of questions.

In the process of digging deeper, some of us seem to lose our faith. Others of us find a deep well from which to draw from, and grow more comfortable with paradoxes and mysteries. We understand that we may understand a certain passage to mean one thing, but once we drill down to investigate the Greek or Hebrew, or we put it into context with the rest of Scripture, our views change somewhat.

God never changes (and neither does his Word),  but sometimes our views or understanding on God change

We're human, after all. And as humans, we are in a discovery process to mine the truth about God, who is Other than us. Greater than us. More loving than us. Perfect and sovereign.

This whole process is happening to me right now as I study the Hebrew word ezer, the word God used when creating Eve in Genesis 2. It also happens to be a strong word used 16x in the Old Testament for God! Describing how he is a strong helper to his people, how he comes through for them when they are in desperate need. And there's a boat-load of significance in God's word choice here...he could have used a Hebrew word for servant or one of the words for wife, but he chose EZER. And so in sharing through the written word what God intends for his daughters by the use of the word ezer, I have likely spent at least 100 hours studying and consulting experts, since I myself have not studied Hebrew. I'm not kidding you. Deep waters.

What I am discovering, in an supreme effort to stay true to Scripture, and to be faithful to the usage of the word in this particular context, is different than what I thought I was going to write about when I signed up for the project. It's even a shade of meaning that's different from what I shared in a sermon about this subject last month.

And that, ultimately, is OK. We are all learning as we go, digging deeper, searching for the ultimate meaning of what God is saying Scripture, and as NT Wright recently said in the May/June issue of Bible study Magazine, anyone's translation is "a 65% best guess." The point is, we are doing the best we can.  We are uncovering "Big T truth in layers," and I believe even the search pleases our heavenly Father.

How about you? What have you learned about God's Truth as an adult that surprised or confused you? What makes you want to dig deeper into Scripture?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Bringing Back Margin

Why is it that the most common response to "How are you?" is "Busy!" We've overscheduled our days and nights until our Blackberries become Crackberries and our lives resemble a kind of slavery--slavery to our overcrowded lives. And in all of this, most of us feel good about our busyness. Spiritual, even. Until we consider the example of Jesus himself.

"But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed." (NIV, Luke 5:16) He prayed. Easily one of the most seemingly inefficient, unproductive things a person could do. And also the one thing that "availeth much." We see Jesus wandering away to mountaintops to pray over and over again. It was his prayer life that fueled his ministry life. The two were inseparable.

For me, a life with margin has not come easy. As a Type A, it took physical and emotional limitations to slow me down to live within my limits. Even then, I didn't always cultivate the spiritual practices that lead to life and the blessing of God. I'm still discovering what it means to rest--but I can tell you this--I love to sit with my Savior.

Meanwhile, our world accelerates at breakneck speed. Technology outpaces our ability to learn it; we overload our children with activities, imposing profound stress on 10-year-olds, and many work more than they ever have, to earn more, so they can own more. Which enslaves us to our things.

Can you imagine Jesus doing any of this? Can you imagine him approving of it?

Margin author Richard Swenson describes our current state of affairs:
"We must have some room to breathe. We need freedom to think and 
permission to heal. Our relationships are being starved to death by velocity. No one has the time to listen, let alone love. Our children lay wounded on the ground, run over by our high-speed good intentions. Is God now pro-exhaustion? Doesn't He lead people beside the still waters anymore? Who plundered those wide-open spaces of the past, and how can we get them back?"
-Margin: Restoring, Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives by Richard Swenson, MD

The message of this book is "Do less." The hope of the book is that by evaluating our patterns we can live the abundant life Jesus called us to by saying no to many things so we can say yes to a few--the most important ones.

If you read one book this year, I'd recommend this one. It is possible to live our lives according to the Spirit of Christ. The advancement of the Kingdom of God depends on it.

Your turn. Do you struggle with margin? What does margin restore to our lives? What does it mean for God's Kingdom?