Saturday, May 26 2012
It is 4:00 AM Sunday and I am on a treadmill, it must be Hong Kong. At least that is what my watch, map, and mind tell me. The body, that is a different matter- I felt great sweating out the Kung Pao Chicken and some of that other stuff with no name we have eaten in the last few days. Last night on the train back to our hotel we found ourselves among thousands going to a rock concert, someone named Jackie Chan, not the 58 year old actor, but a 51 year old singer who is apparently very hot. We acted like we knew what was going on and all of those younger than us, which meant everyone, were properly giggling as we walked along with them. These are some of the perks when you travel around the world and learn about the vast numbers of people who live very different lives than Jane and me. I have that mission accomplished feel right now, eight messages in three days at the Asian Consultation on Discipleship in Malaysia. Pastors and leaders, men and women from Singapore, KL, The Philippines, Viet Nam, Yeman, Pakistan, Sir Lanka, et al. It was an honor to serve them. May I never tire of those joyous and thankful faces of the delegates that spurred me on. The problems that pastors around the world have are similar, the economies are different but not the challenges. How many times I heard, " I am so busy it is hard to find time to make disciples." I will keep going until I can't go anymore- May God raise up many younger ones who will carry the gospel forward.
Monday, May 14 2012
Today Megan Kelly of Fox News called five Oral Roberts University students killed in a tragic plane crash fundamentalists. I have no idea what Ms. kelly's religious views are, she may of not written the actual words she read from the teleprompter. Regardless, read them she did and it revealed the lack of theological sophistication of the secular press. I graduated from ORU in 1969, and it wasn't even fundamentalist then. Fundamentalist is not used by the press as a description of the five basic fundamentals of conservative theology that separated them from liberal theology. It was used in ignorance to smear the University and describe the young people as not so bright knuckle dragging enthusiasts traveling to a bible camp. The word is used to categorize, it unfairly makes the public think that these were not well-educated thoughtful students. It is not only inaccurate, it attaches all the stereotypical images of right wing prejudice, and naivete toward a progressive world view that anyone really educated would have. It is too bad that Megan did not catch herself, but possibly she didn't understand what she had done. What would be the right label to use of these young people? How about "five graduates of Oral Roberts University were tragically killed in a plane crash in southern Kansas yesterday." And then after some description of the details, " Oral Roberts University is a private Christian University located in Tulsa, Oklahoma."
Thursday, May 10 2012
Have you noticed that the United States is becoming more like Western Europe? It seems that many would like for us to have eight weeks of vacation, and job security even if we don't work. Parisians in their twenties are marching in the streets to protest the retirement age being raised from sixty to sixty-two. In Greece mobs trash public buildings because the government has run out of money and the welfare state must be trimmed. Western Europe in particular suffers from what Martin Seligman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania calls, " learned helplessness." In social-democratic Spain nearly half of adults under 35 live with their parents. As Arthur Brooks wrote in the Wall Street Journal, they are "Unable to earn their success, Spaniards fight to keep unearned government benefits." The history of the United States is that of a meritocracy, of earned success. Right now the U.S. Government is spending 36% of GDP, about the same as Spain. The Congressional Budget Office says it will be 50% by 2038. It also tells us that 70% of Americans take more out of the tax system than they put in. What concerns me is that we are fast becoming a nation that is teaching "learned helplessness." This is poison in the water, it will create a greater welfare state, the economy will suffer, people will become less motivated to work and achieve. Do we really want to create a new generation that doesn't understand the rewards and punishments of behavior and how it is connected to merit? Scripture teaches us very clearly, " What a person sows, they will also reap." Galatians 6:7. God says that this is reality, and it is the kind of world we live in. Last summer my wife and I sat in the Tuileries gradens on a beautiful August evening, Paris was lit up in all its glory. I looked to the right and there was the Musee du Louvre, to the left and I could see all the way down the Avenue Des Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe. I was caught up in the beauty of one of the world's most magnificent cities, but I held a Big Mac in my hand just to remind me of where I was from.
Tuesday, May 08 2012
I wait a lot. There are a number of reasons for my sitting in my car or on a bench or grassy knoll outside of stores that don't interest me. The first reason is Jane, I've been waiting on her for forty-four years. There is a reason I wait for her, I love being with her, even if I am not interested in the event. Then there is the fact that I show up ten minutes early to almost everything, fair warning if you invite us over. Being early is a habit, it could be based in fear, anxiety, or my loving nature that doesn't want to offend, you choose. Most people I meet with are five- ten minutes late. They think this is entirely normal and not rude, in fact, they think they are not late unless it is fifteen minutes. Just test this out, if they are ten minutes late, no apology, it takes at least fifteen to create any sense of offence. This year I decided to take a positive step to change my demeanor while I am waiting, instead of blurting out when they do apologize, "I'm old, I don't have that much time left, furthermore, I don't want sorry, I want repentance." I have decided to read Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace while I wait. That is a very large tome of 1276 pages, so I have the kindle edition. I have read 7% and its only May- I am still in the opening scence.
Friday, May 04 2012
Example Is Not Enough
There are a number of ways to explain the need for people to live in an accountable community. The human being naturally seeks convenience and the path of least resistance. That is why a covenant is necessary to increase the possibility that men and women will grow in relationship to Christ.
Pachomius was one of the first of the desert fathers to create a community. Several younger monks approached Pachomius to ask for instruction in the monastic way. Pachomius invited them to live with him so that he could teach them by example. So he duly did all the chores, prayed profoundly and served the needs of the new brothers. He thought that the new brothers would learn from his example and adopt his lifestyle. They were only too happy to let him do all the work, they even despised him for his timid ways and a lack of discipline. Pachomius realized that something had to change, so he gave them a clearly stated description of the way of life that he expected them to lead.
The covenant instructions went into the details of everyday life and it had a profound impact on the young men. By the time of Pachomius’ death, monastic life had established itself throughout Egypt, and was multiplied many times over.
The lesson is that a good example is not enough to change people’s attitudes and habits, or create in them what some call habitudes. Everyday church attendance is not enough to grow us. We can be moved and inspired by good example, but unless we intentionally choose to live a life of discipleship in community with accountability, it will not happen.
Thursday, May 03 2012
I am not sure anyone will read this blog, but it makes me feel useful to write it. At my core,I am a called minister of Christ to make disciples. I do evangelism, I share my faith, I preach and teach, but for those activities to take place I need encounters with people or to be invited by someone. The one thing I can do on my own is write. No one can stop me, I can say anything I want within my own rules of conduct and propriety. This urge to write stirred within only after becoming a Christian in 1967, prior to that, writing was a chore. When I stopped cheating in school I learned that I enjoyed reading and writing, in fact, I loved words. I would spend long hours studying the scriptures and taking copious notes, all on my own. I was frustrated by having to break out of my study sessions in order to attend class or to do conventional homework.
This independent streak of wanting to study on my own continued through four years of seminary.
I made a conscious decision then to become a pastoral writer rather than pursue formal doctoral studies. For me it was a good decision because I started writing articles and books. I must confess that the pastoral life was both a laboratory for my thoughts and a means for me to write. What gave me the most satisfaction as a pastor was finishing a book or writing a good sermon or even a Church newsletter. When I retired from the pastoral life ten years ago, a great deal of my identity was stripped away. I no longer had a staff, an institution to run, or a congregation for me to watch.
As I have gotten older I have found that less is more. I now write not because I must publish to validate myself, seventeen books have done that. I write because I need to, because I don't feel like I have accomplished anything in a day if I don't write. I could deliver two sermons, counsel several people in a day, but if I did not read and write, it is a missed opportunity. Writing is a calling, most people can't make a living at it, in fact, most don't get paid at all or get published. Daily I get positive feedback from around the world and that is encouraging. But what makes my days are not the awards, the money, or the invitations, it is writing and writing alone.