Thursday, April 30, 2009

Beware of potholes!

I've been enjoying my bike rides into work.  I feel stronger and more environmentally conscious.

Yesterday, I wasn't paying enough attention to the road and I hit a pothole.  The kind where the asphalt has broken off and caved into the ground about 6 inches.

My skinny road bike tires didn't have a chance.  I blew them both out.

I was at the half-way point in my ride so I walked the rest of the way.  The trek took me about 1 hour and 10 mins.  It normally takes me 35.

I don't carry a cell phone but I like to be prepared for these sorts of mishaps.  So, I have a small pump mounted to my bike frame.  The pump, however, is useless without an extra tube.  

Next time I'll be including extra tubes with my pump.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Family breakdown

Last night I spent my evening at our Walkerton coffeehouse.

We discussed relativism and the lines that are often blurred between right and wrong.

My group talked a lot about the differences between boundaries (or the lack thereof) set by parents today and those that were set by our parents, back in the day.

Then I came home a caught a piece of the CBC news: Sunday night.  I happened to see an interview with journalist and author Victor Malarek.  He has spent years following the illegal sex trade and much of what he was saying last night stems from a breakdown of the family.

He shot straight about the need for parents to talk to their boys about treating girls with respect and dignity.  He also talked about the link between prostitution (sex for money) and power.

I wondered how many of us Jesus followers are talking to our kids about sexuality and healthy boundaries between boys and girls & men and women?  If we're not, then we'd better start because the media (internet, video games, movies...) is sending a strong, self-serving message about sex and power.

For a great book on the relationship between money, sex and power, see Richard Foster's book, The Challenge of the Disciplined life: Christian reflections on money, sex and power.

You can see the CBC interview by clicking here.  (Warning, some parts are uncomfortable)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Saturday - Feedback time

Our week long meditation and study in blogland concluded yesterday.

Thanks to everyone who participated by posting comments.

Thanks also, to those who followed the conversation and participated in the readings but didn't feel comfortable sharing comments.

I've been blessed by all of you.

I'd love to hear any concluding thoughts you have about the experience:  Was it helpful?  Are there changes you'd make to the process?  Should I plan on using this medium in the future to keep the sermon alive throughout the week?

I welcome any and all comments.  

P.S.  To those of you who have posted throughout the week, don't be surprised if some of your comments show up on the big screen tomorrow morning.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday - Matt. 5:27-32

Today's verses are packed with ideas and commands that are highly applicable to people in our culture.  I've heard that divorce rates are no different in the Christian community than they are in society at large.

Additionally, sexuality is the hottest commodity on today's market.  The message is everywhere: old or young, if you're not expressing yourself sexually, you're not human.

There is so much that could be said, and needs to be said, about today's text.  But I think I'll save my thoughts for a sermon.  Or a sermon series on what God thinks about marriage & sexuality.  Matt. 5:27-32 would be a great text to exegete.

This morning I decided to go another route.  I decided to employ an ancient practice of meditation called Lectio Divina (spiritual reading).  Richard Foster says, "Distinct from other ways of approaching the Bible, the ancient Christian practice of lectio divina is the primary mode of reading the Bible for transformation."  Foster, Life with God, 62.

Lectio Divina involves four elements or movements: lectio (reading with a listening spirit), meditatio (reflecting on what we are 'hearing'), oratio (praying in response to this hearing), and contemplatio (contemplating what we will carry forward into our lives).  There is much more that could be said about this practice but I'll leave that for another day.

As I read the text through a few times, the words "throw it away" stood out.  It was interesting because in the first part of the text Jesus calls us to throw away our eyes or hands if they cause us to sin.  But in v. 31-32 he confronts the common practice of his time that wives could simply be "thrown away".  Our selfish tendencies long for what we don't have (as with seeing others with lustful intent or going one step further to claim them with our right hand).

Jesus knows that sin, especially sins of lust and covetousness, can spread.  And to keep a contaminated part from spreading and contaminating the whole, it must be cut off.

I remember visiting an elderly gentleman and his wife in my first pastorate.  He spent his days in a wheelchair because his legs had been amputated.  They had been infected.  And that infection was spreading.  He lost his legs to save his life.  

I wonder how many of us should be taking sin, especially sexual sin, a little more seriously than we do.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Thursday - Matt. 5:21-26

I have been thoroughly enjoying my times of study and meditation this week.  Thanks for all the great comments/questions you've been posting.  Keep them coming.  We only have one day left.  

As I studied the text, here's what I learned today:

I sat down with my Bible and an excellent book called Kingdom Ethics by Glen Stassen and David Gushee.  In the book, the authors break this text down into three parts: Traditional Righteousness (Matt. 5:21), Vicious Cycle (Matt. 5:22), and Transforming Initiative (Matt. 5:23-26).  

1.  Traditional Righteousness (v. 21)
Every good Jewish person knew that "do not murder" was one of the 10 commandments (Ex. 20:13).  That was the traditional benchmark for righteous living.

2.  Vicious Cycle (v. 22)
Jesus then addresses the inner attitude that leads to murder.  Anger.  Notice that he doesn't say, "don't be angry".  He simply explains the implications of unresolved anger.  Notice as well that he shows a progression when things are left unsettled between rivals.  It starts with 'judgement' between brothers (those who follow Jesus).  Then it may lead to the Sanhedrin (that's the Jewish court where disputes were settled).  The Sanhedrin is a step up from a grudge between two people and indicates the the anger has lead to an outright offense.  Finally, Jesus goes beyond the Jewish court to say that unresolved anger can, ultimately, lead someone to hell.  

As an aside: this progression from anger to murder can also be seen the O.T. in Deut. 19:11. 

3.  Transforming Initiative (v. 23-26)
This is the climax of the teaching.  In this last section, Jesus shows the way out of the downward spiral of anger.  He calls the offended party to take the reconciliatory initiative if the other party is unwilling.  This example was most beautifully illustrated by Jesus himself when He died on the cross for the very people who had offended him.

Okay, I know there are many, many examples of extremely complex situations where reconciliation might not be possible.  Just remember, this text is primarily about anger and settling disputes.  

I've said enough.  Now it's your turn.      

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Wednesday - Matt. 5:17-20

I decided to spend some time studying today's text:

Here's what I learned:

1. Jesus begins by addressing the role of "the Law" and "the Prophets". These are 2 parts of the Old Testament. The Law, also known as Torah, is the first 5 books of the Hebrew Scriptures (O.T.). The Prophets are the latter books of the O.T. There are the books called "the Former Prophets" (Joshua-2 Kings), followed by "the Major Prophets" (Isaiah-Daniel), and finally there were "the 12 Minor Prophets" (Hosea-Malachi). Taken all together they were understood to be the whole O.T. (including the Writings - Ezra-Songs of Solomon).

Jesus is upholding the value of the O.T. by saying he has come to fulfill it, not abolish it.

2. Jesus thinks it's worth practicing the O.T. commands (v. 19).

I was brought up in the church. And growing up I learned a lot more about the New Testament than I did about the Old. The first 2/3 of the Bible were often treated as irrelevant, unnecessary and impossibly hard to understand. The more I've studied, the more I realized that the Old Testament is essential for understanding Jesus, Covenant and the Kingdom of God.

Dallas Willard says this about God's O.T. law,

"The law of God marks the movements of God's kingdom, of his own actions and of how that kingdom works. When we keep the law, we step into his ways and drink in his power. Jesus shows us those ways even more fully and leads us into them." Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 142.

3. Jesus demands right living that leads to right actions, not right actions leading to right living (v. 20). The Scribes and Pharisees knew the Hebrew Scriptures and spent their lives interpreting them so they would be righteous. Their intentions started out good but they got lost in hypocrisy (that's the same root word in classical Greek for 'actor'). In Matt. 23:3 Jesus tells us that the Pharisees don't practice what they preach. They talk the talk but don't walk the walk.

Again. Dallas Willard writes,

"And here also lies the fundamental mistake of the scribe and the Pharisee. They focus on the actions that the law requires and make elaborate specifications of exactly what they actions are and of the manner in which they are to be done. They also generate immense social pressure to force conformity of action to the law as they interpret it... But the inner dimension of their personality... are left to remain contrary to what God has required." Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 143.

God established the Law to lead people to one Truth--Jesus (Gal. 3:23-24). When we follow Jesus wholeheartedly we automatically fulfill the Law.

In fact, in Matt. 7:12 Jesus sums up the Law and the Prophets in one phrase. Check it out and let me know if you think Jesus is simplifying it too much.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tuesday - Matt. 5:13-16

I'm trying to memorize today's text.

After my kids get on their bus I'll be mounting my bike and peddling to work.

It's about a 10km trek.

My plan is to chew on the passage while I ride.

I'll tell you how it went later this morning.


So, here's what I learned as I meditated and cycled:

It's easier to climb hills in a car than on a bike, especially when your loaded down with stuff on your back.  And, in Jesus day, when they wanted to build a city on a hill it was going to take a lot more effort, pain, and hard labour than if they built it in a valley.  

I had to dismount my bike at least 3 times this morning because I couldn't make it up a couple of hills.

Jesus never said it was going to be easy to be the light of the world.  As I walked up those hills I wondered how many people fail to set up camp on the hill because it requires too much effort.  Too much discipline.

But the sacrifice was well worth it when I reached the hill's summit.  Because gravity did all the work on the way down.  

I wonder how often God's people miss being carried by the Spirit after a long, disciplined climb to the summit to build the city?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Monday - Matt. 5:1-12

Welcome to all who have taken up the challenge to study and meditate upon Matt. 5.

I'm looking forward to the journey.

I read through Matt. 5:1-12 a couple of times.  Then I picked up a book by Dallas Willard called, The Divine Conspiracy.  A large part of his book is devoted to the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7).  So, today was a 'study' day rather than a 'meditation' day.

Here's what struck me from the Matt. 5:1-12 passage:

1.  Jesus was speaking to his newly chosen, wet behind the ears, disciples (Matt. 4:18-22).  The didn't yet have any understanding of Jesus' kingdom values.

2.  He was also speaking to a rag tag horde of messed up people.  Gathered before him were the formally ill, those recently freed from demon-possession, people who have been in pain for years, and folks who had been paralyzed (Matt. 4:24).  Not only had those people just been set free but it's a guarantee that many in the crowd showed up to see Jesus that had not yet been healed or set free from being demonized. 

3.  This mob was in Jesus mind and eyes as he spoke the words of in Matt. 5-7.  Most of them were probably dirty, illiterate, unorthodox in their ideology, and irreligious.  They were certainly poor in spirit, mourning, and searching for righteousness.  They had very recently been shown tremendous mercy by Jesus (through healing and casting out demons).  And they were persecuted.  I used to think that the persecution Jesus was speaking about came from people who didn't follow God.  But remember who hated Jesus in his time?  It was the religious elite.  The Pharisees and Sadducees.  They spent their life trying to follow God, religiously. 

That's scary because I tend to spend most of my time on the religious side of the tracks.

4.  So, who would be in that crowd today?  Here's what Dallas Willard says, 
"The flunk-outs and drop-outs ad burned-outs.  The broke and the broken.  The drug heads and the divorced.  The HIV-positive and herpes-ridden.  The brain-damaged, the incurable ill.  The barren and the pregnant too-many-times or at the wrong time. The over-employed, the underemployed, the unemployed.  The unemployable.  The swindled, the shoved aside, the replaced.  The parents with children living on the street, the children with parents not dying in the 'rest' home.  The lonely, the incompetent, the stupid.  The emotionally starved or emotionally dead...  Murders and child-molesters.  The brutal and the bigoted.  Drug lords and pornographers.  War criminals and sadists.  Terrorists.  The perverted and the filthy and the filthy rich..."

Am I telling the people in the above list that the are valuable and loved by God or do I turn a blind eye to them?

Okay, gotta run.  I promised my little guy I'd play cars with him. 

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Formation @ Home - One week exercise

I'm starting a new sermon series tomorrow.  It's entitled Formation @ Home.

As a practical application of the message I'd like to invite you on a one week meditation and study exercise.

Let's read a few verses each day then post our experiences/responses to what we've learned in the passage.

Monday - Matt. 5:1-12
Tuesday - Matt. 5:13-16
Wednesday - Matt. 5:17-20
Thursday - Matt. 5:21-26
Friday - Matt. 5:27-32

I'll go first.  Check back sometime on Monday for my first post then click the 'comments' button to share your insights.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Another vehicle

It's official.

It's Good Friday and our van is dead.  There's no Easter Sunday resurrection in its future.

Instead, I dusted off my old road bike and took it to a shop in Scone.  They specialize two things: selling nature paintings and fixing bicycles.  The place is almost as interesting as the guy who tunes up the two-wheelers.

He's going to shine it up, change the tires, and make some needed adjustments.

It's going to replace the van as my vehicle of choice for the days I commute to work.  

The timing is perfect.  Not only is the weather getting nicer by the day, my work at the college is done for the semester.  Otherwise, I'd have to be on the road at 2:45am just to be on time for my morning class.
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