Lighthouse Encounters of a Third Kind

lighthouse 2I wish I could say that it is not often my pastor can throw one at me that catches me fully off-guard, but that would be basking in what I’ve not to offer.

I would wrongly think that my love for the Word will leave few mysteries to be revealed, so…

Of most recent, he’s taken that well-known letter by Paul, the one written to those believers of yesteryear living in a place called Thessalonica. There, Paul makes a most moving statement, “To this end we always pray for you… (2nd; 1:11)”

It would be sufficient to linger on the term, ‘always,’ yet the Apostle has linked his ongoing prayer life to something specific. To what end? What is Paul declaring that from a certain end he is always praying for these people (Some of your translations may render the words ‘to this end,’ ‘therefore’)?

Well, I could muster you something up from the contents of my usual prayer life, like, “I am (always) praying that God will bless you, and heal you, and meet your physical needs,” but this is radically different from what Paul is praying for these people.

Paul’s ceaseless prayer life here is spent thanking God for the work He is doing in the lives of these fellow believers. It is through what and how this work is taking place though that has escaped much of my personal interceding to present.

You’ll need bounce back up a few verses to get the gist of all that Paul is referring to, for in verses three and four he infers to us that he isn’t so much concerning his prayer-life with the physical well-being of these fellow servants of Christ, but instead, that they are “Growing in faith, in their love for one another, and their ability to persevere through great persecution.”

This is not of course to insinuate that there is something wrong with our praying for healing, or that needs are met, but to recognize that prayers like the ones I’ve spent my life offering are really an inferior surface-level means of intervening Jesus’ desire for your and my life. He wants so much more for all of us than the mere things this world has to offer.

Tonight we got a little icing for the cake… not a whole lot, for my pastor added only ten words (by the ESV anyway) to meditate on for the next several days, “…that our God may make you worthy of his calling.”

Turning to the congregation, we were asked to offer suggestions as to what Paul referred to with his using the word “calling (our salvation).” “…that our God may make us worthy of our salvation.”

Without excessive elaboration (and of course ensuring we note it is God’s work, not ours… we’ll not be being worthy by our own efforts), I’m sure you can re-quote many of our responses, “Sin has been defeated,” “We have been changed, a new creation in Christ,” “We have been redeemed, rescued, and restored,” and “We are the children of God” lends something to the effect.

Paul’s prayers are centrally focused on believers living with a primary intent, that the lives we live will resemble the reality we have in Christ.

I am persuaded to hope my future prayers look a whole lot different than they have in the past. I will continue to pray for healing and blessings (why would I not?), but these will be accommodated with more significant requests of my Father, “That each of you will grow in faith, your love for one another, and that, through every trial and persecution you endure, its end result will reveal your ability to persevere in the strength and power of Jesus Christ, so that his name will be elevated above every name on earth as it is in heaven.

“You can come and play now.”

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Picking and Choosing My Poison

Your opinions are heretical and opposed to the Holy Scriptures,” his interrogator admonished, “So you must dismiss them and never speak of them again!” Galileo was then placed under house arrest where he spent the remainder of his life for his belief that the earth was moving around the sun, and not motionless at the center of the universe.

It was the year 1633 when the Church summoned the early astronomer to examine his theory of heliocentrism, and to judge it blasphemous against the formal teachings of the church.

Today, no one questions Galileo’s belief, for we know he was correct.

I am no scientist, and while the best I can offer astronomy is my casual bare-eyed gazes upward on a clear night, stories like these make me aware of the need for caution when dismissing those who are inclined to have a rather different view of cosmology in the creations than the one I’ve held to most my life.

WCGIWThe church in the days of Galileo now looks pretty ridiculous in the eyes of us living centuries later, although it may be wrongly judgmental to feel that way, for they were merely defending the perceived truths of the day. Still, it gives us an opportunity to not fall prey to the same errors they did, and to prepare ourselves to communicate with those of different opinions instead of writing them off as beyond the pale.

Maybe, as one author (Adam Hamilton) suggests, we can see faith and science as two different ways of understanding our existence. Could it be that we can simultaneously look to science (God’s revelation of Himself through His creation) to explain ‘what‘ and ‘how,’ while looking to faith (God’s revelation of Himself through Jesus, the Word) to tell us ‘why‘ and ‘for what purpose?’

The poison, in an age of sensitive extra-biblical persuasion, may not be lending an ear to its message so much, but the refusal to explore it over a cup of tea.

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Why a Story?

My coworker met me upon my arrival at the ranch with a dilemma, “Slick Willie has a light on in the dash.” I inquired, “What is the light telling you?” He responded, “I have no clue. It’s just a funky picture with a light behind it and I have no idea what it is a picture of.”

100_1270Rather than doing what we mechanics are often tempted to do (start replacing the most expensive parts first), I went to my library and pulled the service manual for the tractor with a light on, found the warning lights section in the table of contents, turned to the page, and shared with my coworker that the brake fluid was low.

I have heard the Bible described as being the believer’s service manual, as in the acronym, Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth, but I tend to side with Adam Hamilton, “It is neither basic nor simply instructions.”

Instead, God chose to give us His Word in the form of a story, and while I often wish for a more instructive type of manual, one that is maybe a little more definitive in say, how to properly conduct baptism, or how to understand the Trinity, this is the means by which He has revealed Himself to us.

Why? Why a story? Why not a brief but concise service manual with specifications and a troubleshooting guide for life as a disciple? I think there is something significant in a story, especially this one, but for now, I’ll turn off the mike (pun intended? of course).

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Can’t Not Stand It Anymore

Or something like that. Anyway, I had resolved to resist making this place a bragging grounds for authors, especially for the one who is writing right now… oh well. I can resist no longer. The itch is unscratched and is screaming, “Post me! Post me!”

We have loved the privilege of being parents, but I don’t think anyone can be prepared for the joy of being GRANDPARENTS! Here, introduced to you, is the most beautiful, most amazing bundle of joy anyone could set eyes on, our GRANDDAUGHTER!

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And yes, here I am loving every minute of it!

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What Became of the Story?

The church’s hold on the Jewish sense of the scriptural story was hard to maintain. N.T. Wright

SAG NT WrightAt quick glance, this author’s remark probably means little to you, so much, you may be tempted to hit the back button about now, but hold on a wee graceful moment; please.

In an effort to make the purpose of these words personal, allow me the privilege of a couple questions.

“When is the last time you read the Bible, as every book is meant to be read, from cover to cover?” “Have you ever read it in its entirety?” “When you share the gospel, how much of the Old Story do you tell?”

These questions aren’t meant to be convicting or accusatory, merely revealing. In his book, Scripture and the Authority of God, N.T. Wright suggests that much of mainstream Christianity has adopted a notion of scriptural authority that detaches the Bible from its narrative context. The result?

Authority is now isolated from both the gift and the goal of the Kingdom.

The suggestion is that the lack of a completed story, including beginning, middle, and climax, has led to a gradual misunderstanding of biblical authority, deducing the Bible to (1) a mere ‘court of appeal,’ and (2) a ‘lectio divina,’ an effort to disconnect texts from their context and natural meaning, favoring “the practice in which individual readers hear God speaking to them personally, nourishing their own spirituality and devotion.”

In a nutshell (and a very small one I might add; for this is a read many ought partake of, as this small review hardly does justice), the completed story and its authority move us to realize God’s supreme intent and purpose; all that He is doing in and for His creation. “The ‘authority of scripture’ is most truly put into operation as the church goes to work (mission) in the world on behalf of the gospel, the good news that in Jesus Christ the living God has defeated the powers of evil and begun the work of new creation… (remaining) confident that Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not.”

The significance of keeping scripture intact is massaged out in the author’s description of ‘acts’ (as in a play, but not to be confused with dispensations) that create chapters in the story. We live and work in the fifth act that was inaugurated at Pentecost, preceded by (1) Act 1: Genesis 1-2; (2) Act 2: Genesis 3 – 11; (3) Act 3: Genesis 12 through the coming of the Messiah; (4) Act 4 (The Climax): The life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.

We who are characters in the fifth act, says Wright, “must be totally committed to telling the story of Jesus both as the climax of Israel’s story and as the foundation of our own.”

From a personal note I can confess to experiencing a less than interested effort in the mission of God (which is the mission the church is called in to) by reading the complete story bit-pieced, labeling it ‘studies for maturing in the faith.’ Personalizing a text may not be the worst thing in the world, but if it distracts from my responsibility as a citizen of the Kingdom, then I need to reconsider if I am misappropriating the Bible’s authority.

If the Bible will be authoritative, which is only shorthand for the authority of God, according to Wright, then its story, which tells us of how God is renewing His creation through His Son, then, I think to where the author is leading us, we seek to learn to once again tell the story in full.

If you care to see how predominant was this method of sharing the gospel for the first Christians, examine how the authors of the New Testament were consistently presenting the good news by beginning with Israel’s story and concluding with Jesus as its climactic apex. It seems hardly fair then to jump straight from a fall in a garden to a crucifixion on a hill, for that story is incomplete, at best reminiscent of “Once upon a time, they lived happily ever after.” Yes, but what about the story in between?

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