Wednesday, January 23, 2008

exiles in the city

i attended a men's Bible study last nite - a friend of mine - his dad, a pastor, was leading it.
the scripture reference was Jeremiah 29. of course vs. 11 is commonly known by many... it is probably frequently underlined and highlighted...

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

we looked at more than that commonly quoted verse... we looked at the context... my dad used to say 'a text taken out of context is a preftext.' (or something like that...) so with that - i discovered so much more than that oft recited verse.

if you look at Jeremiah 29:4-14 you will see the bigger picture.

God's people - they had been exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon... on foreign soil... amongst foreign people. what does God ask them to do?
Build houses.
Plant gardens.
Have sons & daughters.
Increase in number.

that stuff there - that is the easy stuff. but then in verse 7 - God commands something more...
Seek peace.
Seek prosperity for the city.
Pray for the city to prosper - for if it prospers, you too will prosper.

keep in mind that the people of God had been defeated by Babylon... so they were captives. and yet God asks that they pray for their captors... and pray for them to prosper.

one might conclude they were instructed to 'infiltrate' the enemy and win 'em over to Jesus!' I don't see it quite that way... there is no infiltrating... just living... among people. side by side. not us vs. them. just us.

how does this relate to my city or your city... or our state or nation or even the world?

i think God is saying to all Christians - GET OUT OF THE BUBBLE. we're so good at holing ourselves up in our own subculture 'protected' from the evils of the world. but the bubble doesn't protect us - it prevents us.

Rich Mullins - the late singer/songwriter and ragamuffin theologian once said this:
"Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche in the world where you can live with your perfect little wife and your perfect little children and your beautiful little house where you have no gays or minority groups near you. Christianity is about learning to love as Jesus loved and Jesus loved the poor... and Jesus loved the broken." [July 19, 1997]

how is it that the church seclude itself from the rest of society? we are called... better yet - instructed to be a part of the culture. when the culture prospers - our mission prospers. that makes sense if you think about it.

so the challenge then - that was laid before us last nite was to pray for our cities... our communities. to be out in the community... living.

so back to the key verse that we all know and love.
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

how 'bout that. we have a hope and a future... but our 'prosperity' comes when we pray for the city. and our prosperity isn't driving Lexus' and having memberships at the country club... i'm not talking 'bout the prosperity gospel here. that's bogus... he will make us strong and we will flourish - because we will be fulfilling his will.

vs. 12 and beyond serve as a nice closer:
"When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I'll listen. "When you come looking for me, you'll find me. "Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I'll make sure you won't be disappointed." [from the Message]

we call on Him. He listens. we look. we find. and we won't be disappointed!

i have to be honest - this whole passage - about being out there amongst the non-believers and the poor and those who oppress... that kind of living has been giving me a kick in the butt lately. i am striving to be more missional in the way that i live and in the way that i lead the youth group. i pray that we would not be so self-centered... even if out of ignorance.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

writers strike

so were almost 3 months in to this Writers Strike... most of the TV shows we love to watch are nearing the end of new programs... some shows have been shelved until further notice (i.e. 24). others, like Lost are set to premiere soon (but it may be a limited run of new shows - as of right now - only 8 of the originally planned 16 episodes of Lost are 'in the can' or complete).

the strike might just mess up TV viewing for a long time. maybe more people will just turn their TV's off. heck - i actually read my first novel that wasn't required reading. maybe more people will do that as well.

the latest news seems to say that this strike could affect TV shows next season as well.

greedy Hollywood TV execs seem to think that the viewing public will watch anything they put on the air... here's hoping that doesn't ring true. although i did notice myself watching Celebrity Apprentice last week... shame on me.

so here's a challenge for us all; turn off network tv... don't watch it... read a book. watch a dvd... spend time with your family... go to WalMart and buy prepaid phone cards... whatever.

cuz this strike seems like it'll be around for a long while.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Power Outage

with 50 mile per hour winds comes the occasional falling tree.
with the occasional falling tree comes a downed power line.

that was the case last evening, two doors down.
the tree fell and was laying on the wires. it then began to catch fire.
about ten minutes and two loud 'pop's and a flashing white light the fire extinguished itself - but electricity for the three blocks of which our house is centrally located was out.

most people probably slept through it all or at least - returned to sleep in the usual dark.
not me. i couldn't sleep. maybe it was the howling wind. maybe it was my four year old sons constant elbows and knees poking me after he had crawled in bed with us. or maybe it was the flashing, whirling lights atop the fire truck parked outside our house.
regardless, i got little rest.

so in the dark, with the flicker of a candle providing some comfort and light i spent a lot of time praying. what else was there to do? what better time than that which was present.

i began to compare my oft spiritual power outages to the situation outside the creaking walls of our house. i began to think about the teens whom i shepherd and how many of them are wandering around in the dark - with little or no desire for spiritual electricity or fire. and those other teens who have been stirring up that fire - with hopes that it would spread to their peers.

i thought about how much we rely on power... on electricity... on light. and yet for so many - when it comes to their faith - they don't seem to think it necessary to 'flip the switch on'. to them, simply having the switch is enough. but what good is that?

so many are resisting the light - like cockroaches scurrying about in the night... when the light comes on - they seek darkness as their shelter. and yet we know that the darkness is deceiving many.

oh how i want the power to come on. for the light bulb light up. for Christ to shine so that more people would be drawn to Him. and now my struggle ahead of me appears to be finding a new, relevant way to present the light to those God has given me to lead. but i also know i don't have to reinvent the wheel. i have to trust the Spirit. this journey that we are on - it is ever changing. the people we encounter along the path... they... they seem to resist - because society dictates what our priorities should be. or maybe because mainline christianity has become a breeder for complacency and comfort. or maybe because of a number of 'something elses'. at this point - i don't know anything anymore. i feel like Solomon... 'Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.'

i wait patiently for God to guide me to do what he wants me to do in order to reach those wayward sheep in darkness. maybe that is the answer... rescue the lost - one by one.