The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)
I often view my life the same way I remember playing Super Mario Brothers as a kid. To explain for those who didn’t come of age with video games, I spent hours of my youth jumping on turtles and eating mushrooms and strange plants (disturbing habits, if you think about it), trying to save a princess. Inevitably I would die, an ill-timed jump or flying goomba doing my little red plumber in. However, there was a sort of “grace mechanic” built into the game. As long as I had an extra life I could try again, hopefully learning from my mistakes. These extra lives were utterly essential, but they were also a finite resource. A player only had so many. Sure, I could buy more by collecting coins or finding rare green ‘shrooms (again, disturbing), but this almost never kept up with the attrition. Eventually I’d screw up for the last time and it would be all over.
We tend, in our hearts, to disbelieve the inexhaustible nature of God’s grace. Like the disciples, we count the number of times we must forgive our neighbor, hoping that one day we might bring down the hammer, and we assume God does the same with us. We are creatures of finite patience and limited mercy, and we view our Creator as being just like us. We keep glancing up, expecting to see a counter telling us how many chances we have left before God, like my Nintendo, tells us we’ve screwed up one time too many and it’s “Game Over”. Continue reading
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:34-30)
This passage has often been misused by some in Christianity, and equally often ignored by others. As I read Brian McLaren’s new book, and as I’ve been blogging through it, I couldn’t help but think back to this text and similar sayings in the gospels.
See, despite my some-times harsh take on Brian’s arguments, I share many of his frustrations. We Christians really have lost sight of a great many biblical priorities. We don’t care about justice, about the poor and downtrodden, about oppression and brokenness. It doesn’t bother us that the world God crafted as very good has been shattered by human evil. Too often we do side with power rather than love; too often we do ignore wickedness because we buy into a narrative (although I would hesitate to call it Greco-Roman) that tells us God cares only about souls. We have a long history of ignoring unjust wars and death camps and racism, singing our hope that earth is a place we’re only passing through. We need a Christianity that can address these issues – not because the world should define our priorities, but because God should, and he is grieved by every one of these things. Continue reading
(Note: This is a devotional I gave this morning for the staff of the church where I work; thought I’d post it here too.)
5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. (1Co 3:5-9 ESV)
I grew up in the rural midwest, emphasis on the rural. You could literally go out my back door, walk a block and be in a cornfield. So while I wasn’t a “farm kid” per se, I spent a lot of time around farmers. Now, there are many reasons for this, but farmers on the whole tend to be religious. It’s often just cultural, but as folk wisdom has it, “there ain’t no atheist farmers.” And the reason for this is simple – farmers always have a strong sense of just what they can and can’t do. They understand that the universe is a big, uncontrollable thing on which they are dependent for their livelihood. They can plant and fertilize and spray and irrigate, but if the rain doesn’t come, or too much rain comes, or the price of grain is bad, or disease hits their crops, or any number of other things happen, it won’t matter. There’s a lot about their work that is out of their hands. As this passage kicked around in my head this week, I couldn’t help thinking about farmers, and not just because of the immediate agricultural metaphor. There’s something profoundly instructive about their attitude that we need to learn from. Continue reading