Friday, December 29, 2006

I walk the line...or do I?

Somewhere there’s a line between grace and conforming, but I find that line…hazy. I’m not always sure where it is…to say the least. I mean, surely God’s grace is greater than mine, yet I often find myself wanting to offer grace to people that the church around me often just isn’t willing to offer it to.

I have this basic belief that God’s grace is a God sized grace. That, if my grace is this big, then God’s grace must be what…a bazillion times bigger? And, if this is the case, then what in the world does that mean? How big are we talking and exactly what does it cover? I mean, in today’s modern church, we no longer hold that verse over people’s heads that says that, were you to get a divorce and remarry, that you would be committing adultery. But is that right? Is that grace? Or are we conforming? And, if it is grace, and not sin, then what else does grace cover like that? What else can we get covered under grace? And, furthermore, many churches are willing to look at a lot of verses, like the one suggesting that woman should remain totally silent in church, and admit that we’ve read that verse wrong or that it was written to a very specific group of people or even that it was written under the cultural guidelines of a society that no longer relates to ours. So they let it go. But, if we’re willing to offer grace in certain areas, and willing to overlook verses in others, where does it end? Where does grace end?

There’s no doubt that our grace pails in comparison to God’s. And there’s no doubt that we can’t comprehend God’s grace. But, if this is true, then where does the grace end and the conformation begin? Surely it’s further along then we think. ???

Your thoughts?

Thursday, December 28, 2006

it's 5:00 a.m. in london...

According a survey I just took on myspace, I am only 15% emo. Thank God!

After only a week in Egypt, my schedule is all jacked up. It’s 5:00 a.m. and I’m wide awake. At 8:00 p.m. last night, all I wanted to do was sleep. I fought to stay awake until 10:00 p.m. and then I was out. Could this be the beginning of me finally being on farm time? I would love to be on farm time. I believe in that whole “the early bird” thing, I’ve just never been able to do it. I’ve always been a late night guy. This has come in handy, here in England, as I often have to stay up ‘till 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. to watch NFL games. Still, I’ve always wanted to be one of those people who got up early. They’re seen as more spiritual than the rest of us, and I’ve always wanted to be more spiritual than the rest of you. Hopefully I’m finally on my way. Bring on the early morning prayer breakfasts!

It’s dreary here in London. After a week of sun, we came home to London’s signature grey skies…oh, and it’s five mile walk from the terminal to the baggage claim. What is up with that? Haven’t they ever heard of a tram? I think that technology arrives around the same time as air conditioning. So I guess we’ve still got a few years.

In the last three days, James Brown and Gerald Ford have died. I’m sure if I thought about it long enough, I could match it up to some sort of an apocalyptic sign. The Godfather of soul and the guy who got us out of Vietnam, both dying within three days of each other. Actually, I’ll have to leave that one to Rick Ponder who seems to have cornered the market on Biblical numbers.

Bugs Bunny still holds up! It’s on right now and it still holds up!

When you get up at 5:00 a.m. you’re either very deep, or not deep at all. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

reflections on Christmas

Looking out my hotel window, and across the Red Sea, I can see both Israel and Jordan. Israel is on the left and Jordan is on the right. The Red Sea isn’t red at all but is a crystal clear blue which contrasts off the mountains of Israel and Jordan that reflect red in the evening sun.

All around my hotel are Bedouins who camp on the desert floor, often without shelter and usually accompanied by a camel. A friend recently attended a business conference where one of the speakers suggested that the percentage of poor in the world has not changed, but only the percentage of them that have access to the outside world and, therefore, understand other’s standard of living compared to their own. Still, reality isn’t pretty and, once you leave the safety of the hotel and resort, you’re quickly reminded that the world isn’t one big beach. I’m also reminded, as I look over into Israel tonight, that a Messiah was born, just over there, to pay for our sins and to teach us how to live with each other.

When we wish somebody a Merry Christmas, I wonder what we’re wishing them? The British wish people a Happy Christmas because to wish somebody a Merry one would be to wish them one with much drunkenness. Either way, I wonder what the meaning is behind the phrase? Goodness? Happiness? Joy? Do we do it militantly sometimes? Sort of a “you’ll be wished a Merry Christmas and you’ll like it!” approach to the season? Maybe, when we wish somebody a Merry or Happy Christmas, it should be a reminder to us of how Jesus instructed us to treat others. To love them. To forgive them. To serve them. To give them the shirt off our very back if they need it. Christmas is the day we celebrate the birth of Christ, the one who came, not only to forgive us of our sins, but who also came to teach us how to live down here on earth. He summed up the entire Old Testament by telling us to love God and love others and most of the time, when he talked of sin, he was talking about how we treat each other, loved ones and enemies alike. The story of Jesus is a fascinating one, an inspiring one, and one that even others outside our faith look at with respect. But sometimes we as Christians lose sight of the story and the message of Jesus’ life.

Tonight we had a Christmas dinner here at the hotel. All around us were Muslim staff serving us in Santa hats and wishing us a Merry Christmas. It made me wonder what they thought of our holiday. The Muslims know about Jesus. They consider him to be a great prophet with a wonderful message. They especially respect his message concerning the poor. But when it comes to Christmas, they understand it as a holiday about Santa, and hats, and lavish spending. I wonder if we as Christians understand it that way as well. And while it was nice to be wished a merry Christmas here in Egypt, so far away from home, it also grieved my heart just a little bit to look around and see that, somewhere along the way, we kind of lost the plot. Christians and non-Christians alike.

And so tonight, with the lights of Israel off in the distance, I send out a Merry Christmas and a hope that I will remember the plot.

Then he said, "Do you understand what I have done to you? You address me as 'Teacher' and 'Master,' and rightly so. That is what I am. So if I, the Master and Teacher, washed your feet, you must now wash each other's feet. I've laid down a pattern for you. What I've done, you do. I'm only pointing out the obvious. A servant is not ranked above his master; an employee doesn't give orders to the employer. If you understand what I'm telling you, act like it—and live a blessed life. Matthew 13:12-17

Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

also known as ghetto fabulous

It seems that all I have lately are random thoughts, but here are some more.

I picked up a devotional this morning put out by Relevant Publishing. It’s a decent little devotional and I immediately turned to a devotion on cynicism. Call me dense, but I had never thought of cynicism as a sin. But, after reading this devotion, and giving it some thought, I guess it is. Hhhhmmm…well that sucks. One more thing.

As cynical as I can sometimes be, I’m always happy when New Years resolution time rolls around. For some reason I love the idea of a clean slate and a fresh start and am never one of those people rolling their eyes when I see others grasping for that fresh start every year. With that in mind, I began thinking this weekend about what this year’s resolutions might be. I also began to think that maybe I didn’t need to wait another month before I started working on those resolutions.

One of our bursary students visited a “Jewish synagogue” this past weekend. I put that in quotations simply because, evidently this particular synagogue wasn’t real concerned about which god you worshipped, just that you worship one. Evidently the entire service was also in Hebrew as well. But here’s the kicker. After the service, a woman from the synagogue walked up to our student and informed her that she really shouldn’t be wearing jeans in the synagogue. ??? Seriously? You can worship any god that you want to in the synagogue, but don’t wear jeans? Wow. Talk about some jacked up priorities. Do I even need to point out the correlation between this synagogue and some Christian churches, as extreme as this example might be?

Phil Laeger, a friend of mine, has just posted his new EP that can be downloaded for free. You can check it out at here It’s worth the download. Especially check out Pride in E which sounds like a mix between Rich Mullins and vintage Michael W. Smith.

Jamie and I are going to Egypt for Christmas. We’ve been putting money away each month in anticipation of those last minute vacation deals that you always see. Well, one came up and we happened to have the money, so we’re off. We’ll be there from the 18th through the 25th. And, before any of you ask to see our pyramid pictures, we’re probably not going, so don’t ask. We’re going to relax, not to be vacation Nazis and, since we’ll be on the other side of the country with a one year old, seeing the pyramids doesn’t seem like much of a priority. We will be near the Mt. Sinai mountain range and the mountain that most scholars agree on as the Biblical location of Mt. Sinai, so we may make that trip. We’ll also be on the border of Israel and Jordon so we may sneak across and see Petra. But mostly we’ll just not be answering the phone for a week. And I can’t wait.

Merry Christmas Chick Yuel.