Tuesday, September 25, 2012

No More Campaigning

An Inkling
Is anyone besides me sick of the campaign?  I’d love it if the election were today, and we could be delivered from the next six weeks of endless ads and robo-calls.
Actually it’s a bit ironic that we find campaigns so distasteful, since we all learned as wee tykes how to campaign for approval and affection ourselves.  Even more ironic is the similarity of the presidential campaign tactics to our own.  We, too, know how to shade meanings and veil our true sentiments.  We, too, have a poll-tested image that we seek to project.  We, too, validate ourselves by casting others critically in comparison.  And most ironically, if we, too, had millions of dollars to spend on our own campaigns, they would likely match those that disgust us now.
It makes me all the more grateful that the gospel election works just the opposite.  There is only One whose vote counts.  He knows exactly what we’re like.  And still, he has chosen us.
Then why am I still campaigning?  Lord have mercy!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Treasure That Rubs Off

An Inkling
In recent months I’ve seen several people link this video.  It’s hysterical in a wincing sort of way – hysterical in that it’s only a slight twist on some of our popular worship songs, and wincing in that it’s too close to the truth for comfort.

When Paul writes that “we have this treasure in earthen vessels,” he isn’t kidding!  (2 Cor. 4:7)  We can make even worship about ourselves and acts of devotion a mere charade.  “Lord, what were you thinking, putting such treasures in us?!”
Paul glimpses into the depths of that mystery as he continues, “so that it may be clear that this extraordinary power comes from God and does not belong to us.”
Yep, that’s clear.  And our laughter and wincing show that we’re getting a glimpse too.  Thankfully this is a treasure that rubs off.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Blessed Are Those Who Limp

An Inkling
I was listening to a podcast of the opening lecture in a Fuller Seminary Class on Paul’s letters, and heard the Professor ask the students, “How many of you have hated Paul at some point?”  The class broke out laughing.  And though I couldn’t see it, the Professor identified many hands raised.
No surprise there!  It’s true.  Ask the same question about other New Testament writers – Matthew, Luke, Peter, etc – and you might have a hand or two raised.  But it seems that every earnest New Testament reader has a love-hate relationship with Paul.
Why?  Is it his personality coming through?  The topics he takes on?  The pieces he skips over?  The conclusions he reaches?  Yes, all that and more.
But if we believe with the church through the ages that Paul wrote under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, then we don’t want to trim off any of what he wrote.  However hard it is to understand and receive, if it’s God’s truth, it’s good and we need it.  But it does take some wrestling.
In fact, I think that’s a good image for reading the harder portions of scripture.  There are parts of Paul’s letters which put us in Jacob’s spot, wrestling the angel of the Lord in the middle of the night (see Genesis 32).  You may recall that Jacob left that place with both a blessing and a limp.
There are blessings for us in every passage of scripture.  But some come only with a limp.  Is the blessing worth it to you?  Then wrestle on!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

It's All Good!

An Inkling
From time to time I’ll hear someone respond to the query “how are you?” with “It’s all good.”  I don’t think that’s offered as a careful assessment of the universe, just as their own brave intention to look on the bright side.  Good enough.  But we who serve the One who is both great and good can speak the same with a greater depth and joy.
We do so in part by pausing to recognize the simple goodness we experience daily.  For example, just in the last week, I’ve enjoyed these small pleasures:
  • Visiting with my grandson, Jack, about his first week in kindergarten.
  • Diving into a new book on sexual ethics that is so well done that it’s reviving my interest in a topic that had long since become wearisome.
  • Riding bikes with my bride to the High Bridge near Farmville – what a great view!
  • Watching football, my favorite sport.
  • Reviving my morning prayer time with walking – cooler weather helps!
  • And eating dinner out with friends, conversing about things that matter.

These are simply good things, for which it’s easy to give thanks.
Then there are those other things – frustrations, temptations, and worries.  I’ve also had those in the last week, but I’ll spare you the list.  For these, too, I can give God thanks.  Not because they’re good in themselves, or pleasurable, but because he can work good even in such things, such as the goodness of ever greater reliance on him.
Because he is not simply good, but great, he can actually keep his promise in Romans 8:28, to bend all things around to goodness for his own.  Which means…
It’s all good!