Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Christianity That Is Not Politically Correct

Over and over I hear lately about how people are down with Christianity yet they are not okay with the "Great Commission" found in Matthew 28: 16-20. It is there that Jesus empowers His disciples to share all that they'd learned about Him over the three years that they spent with Him. We too are given that call when we accept Him to be Lord and Savior because in John 14:6 Jesus tells us that He is "the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through [Him]." We hear it from Jesus' own mouth. Either you believe that He is the only way to God, or you don't believe in His word.

C.S. Lewis puts it like this in Mere Christianity:

"A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."

Amen. Let us cease and desist with this garbage of sitting around thinking that Jesus was a nice guy, that we can't tell anyone differently, and that anyone can get to God by any variety of methods. Why are we so paralyzingly terrified of telling people that we believe differently? I ask this question to myself as well.

Now, I will say that I do not agree with the way people try to force Christ on people. An example of the wrong way to go about it all is the guy who would come to the UNCG campus with signs condemning all to Hell and preaching fire and brimstone. I think that Jesus is more than capable of using our sweet spirited, loving advances to woo people to Himself without us beating people over the head causing them to flee the scene. What if Jesus' people were so unforgettably kind and genuine that the world was left wondering? What if we ever so gently and yet completely honestly directed people to Jesus? But this, Friends, is another blog for another day.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Preaching to yourself

Lately I've been thinking about the concept of wanting. Usually I am afraid to want or to believe for something. A couple Sundays ago Ann and I want to church with Amanda and Sambo. While we were there the church prayed for the healing of a man. Though I wanted him to be healed, I was so skeptical that he would be healed. It's like I've conditioned myself not to hope or to want because if I do hope or want there is no guarantee that God will give us the desires of our heart. The Bible says that He will (Psalm 37:4) but my cynicism interprets that as "If you want God and God alone then he'll give you Himself alone." Meaning that there's no room for wanting anything else. But that can't be right because He wants us to want things, He wants us to ASK Him for things. Again my cynical self says He just wants us to ask so He can tell us no. That broken theology causes me to come up barren. It leaves me wanting. So here is what I know based on God's Word:

My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. -Philippians 4:19

Matthew 7:7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you

James 4:2 You lust, and have not: you kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: you fight and war, yet you have not, because you do not ask.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. -Romans 8:28

So let's reevaluate, and let me preach to myself:

God loves me. He has a plan for my life because He has called me to be His own. He wants me to ask for things. He made me to hope for things and to want things. It is not a bad thing. Reversely, He will not give me everything that I want when I want it because He sees the whole picture. We will continue to have different ideas about how my life should go, but He is God and I am not. This doesn't make it any easier, but I don't want to become bitter while I want on Him.

Dear God,

Please cause my heart to love you and to know your love. Please help me not to grow bitter while I wait for you to move. You are not subject to my whims and wishes. You are God. Please help me remember that you have infinite knowledge and infinite love for me so you would never withhold anything good thing (that I need) from me. Help me to believe that. Thank you that you let me wrestle and that you know my limitations.

Currently listening to: Airplanes (at least I confessed it!)

You have stolen my heart

At church we've been talking about how Jesus interacted with people. We've discussed the popular mantra, "What would Jesus do" and how we can't determine that because Jesus was motivated by a wild and unpredictable love. Jesus could see people's hearts and know their thoughts and since we can't it's hard for us to act like Jesus did. Of course, we can model our behavior after Him. Part of me is hesitant to model my behavior after exactly how Jesus was because I can't see people's hearts. Jesus said that we would do greater things that even He would [John 14:12], so instead of trying to replicate His actions, why don't we just heed His Spirit and live out our own Spirit prompted lives?

Sunday we read from John 13 and this morning as I was reflecting on it the first 5 verses stood out to me. Here they are:

1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.
2 And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, 4 rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. 5 After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.

Jesus is spending time with His closest friends and he knows that the steps for him to be killed have been taken. He has the ultimate outpouring of love. The guest speaker at church said that as Jesus was pressed His response was one of love and joy and peace. I really was struck by that today. Jesus knows that He's from God and that He is going to God. Instead of power tripping, he decides that He will instead turn and serve the very people who He's going to die for, the very people who are going to run from His side in just a few hours. He doesn't sit there and worry. He doesn't try to find a way out. He doesn't give one more sermon for good measure (although He does speak to them later). He doesn't try to convince them that He is all powerful or miraculous. He takes off his garments, and serves them to prove to them that He loves them utterly.

I have been praying since Sunday that God would help me to love him with my heart, not just intellectually. Last night, in the middle of the night I found myself washing the dishes and struggling with God. I was listening to Dashboard Confessional and the song "Stolen" came on. Over and over lead singer Chris Carrabba sings "you have stolen my heart" and I just felt like God was singing that over me. He was singing it over His disciples then, and He sings it over each of us today.

Monday, June 21, 2010

What is Truth?

Thursday and Friday I had the pleasure of attending a Guilford County Schools seminar on Paideia. Paideia is a way of teaching critical thinking through analyzation and discussion of a text. We began by practicing this with a text by a man named John Stuart Mill called "On Liberty of Thought and Discussion."

As I listened to the conversation, on authority and truth based on the text. The conversation seemed to determine that there was no truth. I asked my fellow teachers where they thought our authority came from if there was no truth? When I am in a conversation with people that I really don't agree with but don't feel as though I can speak my mind, I attempt to display my thoughts by asking questions so they can possibly figure out their own fallacies of thought. In my mind authority is based on the truth that there are those that are older and more qualified than us. It's based on the truth that God places some people over others. If there is no truth dictating authority than anyone can choose to not accept authority or not. Any kid in my class can decide that my authority isn't that which he wants to accept if there is no truth dictating who is in charge. My colleagues didn't see it that way. At all.

We began to further discuss the idea of truth and everyone seemed to reach a conclusion that we base our truth on personal experience, it is changeable, and that people have been wondering what truth was for years. I believe that there is truth and we can know it. If truth is based on personal experience than it is not truth. If truth can change than it is not truth. Truth is fact, constant. One of my colleagues brought up the example of Pilot asking Jesus the famous question, "What is truth?" He mentioned that Jesus never answered, as if to suggest that Jesus didn't know the answer either! In that moment I realized that when Pilot asked that question, he was staring Truth in the face because Jesus is the way, the Truth and the life. That's probably why Jesus didn't answer him, because if Pilot couldn't recognize Truth when it was standing there, what could He have said to show him?

currently watching: Golden Girls

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Why I Became a Teacher

I am in charge of light bulbs,
of fireflies, and small stars

I direct whispers,
half wishes and shy smiles

to ignite wild fires.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

We just had the most refreshing storm ever. I opened all my windows and let it blow through my house while I watched out my my porthole that is right above the sink. Somehow washing dishes wasn't so monotonous. Lately I've been reading "The Summer of the Great Grandmother" by Madeleine L'Engle. She is one of my literary heroes. I think that she is so candid and delightful.

This is something that she had to say that stood out to me:

"At best I am far from a perfect wife, or mother, or daughter. I do all kinds of things which aren't sensitive or understanding. I neglect all kinds of things which I ought to do. But Connie made me realize that one reason I don't feel guilty is that I no longer feel I have to be perfect. I am not in charge or the universe, whereas a humanist has to be, and when something goes wrong [others] like most convinced humanists I've known, [become] enclosed with self-blame because [they] can't cope with the situation, and this inability presents her with a picture of herself which is not the all-competent, in-control-of-everything person [they want] to be.

It is a trap we all fall into on occasion, but it is particularly open to the intelligent atheist. There is no God and if there is, he's not arranging things very well; therefore, I must be in charge. If I don't succeed, I'm not perfect, I carry the weight of the whole universe on my shoulders. And so the false guilt which follows the refusal to admit any failure is inevitable."

That was such a thing that I needed to read. I tend to be a little bit of a control freak. I like to feel like I'm in control because then I know things will happen the way I like. Of course, this doesn't work well for real life because there is so little that we have any say over. L'Engle reminds us that because God is in control of our lives, it takes the pressure off. What a comforting thing to hear. I love to make things about me, but God is in control of my life and he will do with it what he will in spite of my need to try to make things happen, or not happen as the case may be.

Currently listening to: Gregory Alan Isakov, That Moon Song

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Just another reason I'm excited about small group.

So I go to church, not because of any legalistic or moralistic reasons, but because I am a hungry sheep who needs to be fed; and for the same reason that I wear a wedding ring: a public witness of a private commitment. - Madeleine L'Engle

I read that yesterday and it really resounded with me. So often we're paralyzed with terror to admit that we are weak. I am such a messed up person and the beauty of that is that it's no secret. Reason? Because so is everyone else, and God who is the only perfect being knows it too. That is so freeing. So let's meet as the body of Christ, bringing our messes and our weaknesses together because when we are vulnerable all together, God is able to show up too in a way that he can't when we reject his corporate body.

In my small group, we discuss the sermons as a way of growing together and we never seem to reach conclusions for the life we questions we have. I'm okay with that. The wrestling together makes it okay for me to not have an answer.

May the Church spur one another on to passionate, radical living instead of the partially interested, half there response that seems to be the norm.

Blessed with a Burden?

It seems that God gives his people burdens. He weighs their hearts down for the things that weigh his down. In Freedom Writers, Erin Gruwell's father tells her that she is "blessed with a burden." While the burdens God has given us often feel less than blessed, these are opportunities for us understand just a glimpse of how he feels for his hurting world. I graduated in May and then for what seemed like ages, I applied and interviewed for teaching jobs. At the end of September I was offered a part time teaching position here in Greensboro. I was hesitant at first to accept it, but I was excited that someone at last shared confidence with me in my desire to be a teacher.

And here we are: eight months and 118 children later. Over and over, God's call to me has been to keep my hands open. As I've prayed to love them well, he has reminded me that they are not mine to keep. I was responsible for them for this small time, and now I am passing the baton. I can't say all that I've been taught, all the ways I've been stretched and challenged. I am so blessed to have had this year. A lot of people can't say that when they wake up in the morning they are thirsty for more. While I can't say that every day was enjoyable and perfect, I find myself still wanting more and missing my kids already. Here they are. Maybe you'll understand why:

First period, minus Kanika.

Second period

Sixth period, missing about 5 people.

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Fifth period, missing about 500 people...

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Fourth period minus Tyreik, Madison and Nigel

PS. It is hilarious how small I look.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

My first day of final exams

I will tell Wednesday's story with the help of visual aids. Only about 8 kids came to class today to take the 5th period 10th grade final. The reason for that was most kids were exempt and a few took it for extra credit. After the kids finished taking the test, we had to entertain ourselves for approximately three hours. While this is a long time to be trapped somewhere, I had a lot of fun with the kids. I wasn't responsible for teaching them anything, so we just hung out. P. asked me to race him in in sudoku. It took me about an hour longer than it took him, so while he was waiting for me to finish, he played himself in Scrabble. The kind of amazing thing about that was that he used every letter in the bag. I was pretty impressed. He photo-documented his work:

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Another way the kids entertained themselves was to write me notes/draw me pictures on the board. Mr. Willoughby popped into my head briefly because he never let the kids use the markers because they press too hard and use up all the ink. But I let them because it's okay for them to use the markers. Really. One note that I noticed after the kids had left was this one:

Funny, but I will take that compliment. My fifth period, for all the irritation they caused me, really was precious. I learned a lot from them.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010