Month: November 2007

Friday Photo

I have always been intrigued by creeks, streams and rivers. Just below Love Lake in one of the wilderness areas just outside of Creede, Co reveals this view of a “Rocky Mountain Stream.” The first Sunday in Advent nears and for me it is as refreshing as this stream.

Be a Kinder …

Recently Scot McKnight posted a letter from a reader and asked how others might respond by doing so in the comment thread. For a variety of reasons I moved beyond the debates over Calvinism, Reformed Theology and who is “Truly Reformed.” It is not that I do not think we Southern Baptists have not been influenced by the Doctrines of Grace, it is simply that many inter-nicene squabbles do very little for the sake of the Gospel. This is especially so when it spills over into a wider culture who is not asking the question, “Are you TR?” (TR is blogospheric shorthand for Truly Reformed. It is generally a pejorative reference to those unwilling to have conversation outside the sphere of Reformed Theology. I guess it may be used from time to time in derision as if to say, “You are not Truly Reformed therefore we need not listen to you.”)

I cannot recall the referrer, to some this is rude in the world of blog, but I happened on to a post by Abraham Piper. He wrote a response to the letter McKnight posted. Abraham did a fine job of drawing out some stellar points for anyone bent on the kind of immovable certainty with regard to his or her theological position when engaging another person. Here is a section of the post with a minor edit, or major depending on your perspective:

In my marriage, it doesn’t matter whether I’m thankful if I don’t seem like it. And in the church, it doesn’t matter whether we have the fruits of the Spirit if no one can tell.

It won’t be easy to change the pejorative stereotype that clings to _______, but we can start by admitting that it is accurate far too often. Then we can make sure we are manifestly not self-righteous, condescending, arrogant, unfriendly, or argumentative. Also, you can count on us to buy dinner or coffee sometimes.

Paying attention to those who disagree with us and taking them seriously, even if we’re pretty sure we’ll still disagree, is part of what it means to be in the body of Christ. It’s humbling; it sanctifies. It will make us better husbands and wives. It will make us better Christians, and maybe even better ________.

The entire piece is worth a read. Kinder Christians to one another may move us to being Kinder Christians toward others. Now that would be a “setting to rights” worth shouting “Good News” over!

The Turn of a Preposition – Hope for Relationships

I enjoy teaching. One of the best times of my week comes in sharing some time with a group of adults thinking about follow Jesus as we engage the Scriptures in a small group. Generally these settings call for an “expert” to “dispense” truth. Long ago I considered that model passe. The reason? Learning comes best when everyone engages. My role then is to facilitate a conversation around the subject of following Jesus. Nearly every week those who gather end up putting together one really deep, challenging “lesson.”

Recently we have been loosely following some devotional thoughts derived from Dallas Willard & Jan Johnson’s, Renovation of the Heart in Daily Practice. This devotional book grew out of Willard’s book, Renovation of the Heart. Our learning journey has taken us to consider how a community would look that practiced the expressions of genuine love the Apostle Paul describes in Romans 12. Working through this list resulted in a statement made by one from our group.

A personal story conveyed a matter with which we all wrestle. Generally we talk “to” people. We do things “toward” people. We leave those relational opportunities unchanged by the encounter because it has a “detached” feel to it. What really makes the difference is when we alter our “to” to “with.” Talking with people means we not only talk but we listen. Ministering with means connection beyond a “crop dusting” approach often prevalent in quick hitting “evangelistic” tactics. I realize this agrarian metaphor may not readily connect, but we in Oklahoma understand “affecting crops” from a distance.

Another chimed in suggesting a change in prepositions makes experiences less certain and can be quite messy. Beautiful observations that had us all considering how we may press to make the kind of community Paul described a reality not only in our “class,” but also in our church and community at large.

All of this with the turn of a preposition.

As we look toward Advent it is a healthy reminder that Jesus would be called Immanuel, “God with us.”

My New Friend Jim Palmer to be Interviewed

jimpalmer.jpgLance Ford will interview my new friend Jim Palmer tomorrow evening at Shapevine online. The videocast is free. The interview begins at 8:00 p.m. (EST) I read Jim’s Divine Nobodies on the plane home from Soularize and am currently reading his new book, Wide Open Spaces. It would be worth your time.

Follow-up on Sad

I quickly posted a link to Leonard Pitts Jr.’s recent piece. Thinking through the implications of human cruelty related to the sad story of Megan I considered how impossible it is to determine the limits for another. In other words, I suspected some may be a bit self-righteous and think the words were written to Megan to be harsh but not “that harsh.”

The story illustrates the necessity to hold our words captive in deference to another. Or, practice what my mother often told we boys, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” I am reading my new friend Jim Palmer’s second book, Wide Open Spaces. My intention was to “blog review” review his book later this week after I had finished reading the book. But, something caught my attention as the Pitts’ article intersected Jim’s book in my mind.

Jim challenges us to think of others as made in the image of God. He suggests this helps us past off-putting appearances and opens us up to encounter another human being with the love of Jesus. One particular illustration follows,

To the guy ahead of me in line, the cashier may have been nothing more than a disheveled, overweight, ill-tempered woman who Tivo’s General Hospital and has questionable taste in eye shadow. To me, I looked past her frayed appearance and harsh demeanor and saw that she was never going to be any more perfect than she already was. She was created in the image of God, who is prefect love and absolute goodness; whatever imperfections she displayed had been forgiven in Christ and she was now the apple of God’s eye. So as I stood before her at the register, that’s the person I related to, not the disheveled and ill-tempered one. (p.16-17)

The shift in the relationship came in Jim’s framing of the “other” person. Looking past appearance and considering the long days cashier’s spend on their feet abiding incessantly demanding people who tire even the best of us, Jim saw her as a person made in the image of God. Engaging relationships from this vantage point lessens the demand for meeting another in order to extract something from the “other” and instead find common ground. We all can be disheveled and ill-tempered.

We cannot then determine the threshold for another when it comes to levels of cruelty nor should we even attempt them. Instead, we must consider others made in the image of God whether “awkward 13 year olds experiencing adolescence” or “disheveled, ill-tempered cashiers.” We may turn “sad” on its head if we can engage “others” as fellow human beings made in the image of God.