Thursday, November 12, 2009
Paul's discourse of the Spirit quickly led into Paul's rebuke of our Corinthian brothers and sisters being divided. It is a good text. As Matt pointed out, "Paul points out spiritual maturity too. Not with knowledge about God, but how well they discern God and His Spirit." Our dialogue of the text was not long, but it was fruitful for me. Especially considering that I have had a full day and it is still solid in my mind.
I am thankful for Matt's text this morning. We were able to experience the Word together, which is always good. Moreover, Matt redemptively used technology, which can often be very unredeeming.
I have a friend who works at a restaurant and he started receiving verses through texts. He actually thought it was my wife who was sending them to him (he wasn't sure because the number was not saved in his phone). One day a verse spoke greatly to him and he decided to call (who he thought would be my wife) to thank the person for the texts. He was embarassed and surprised when he found out it was a girl he worked with. I know this story because he has told it to me several times. It surely meant something to him.
There is no new concept that I am arriving at in this blog. People have used texting for some time to share truth. With blogging, facebook, twitter, and other social networking sites, sharing the good news through technological mediums is nothing new. Mostly, I just wanted to remark that I am thankful that Matt and I did not have to wait until 6pm when he got off work, or wake up at 5am to meet before he went to work to share in a reading of the Text (I would not replace those meetings with texts though, there is nothing like face to face communication).
On the other hand, I think about the fact that Matt texted me the passage (I am unsure if it was a mass text), and that positioned me in a place where I was more likely to read the passage and respond. It was a less vague way of putting information out; less vague than say like twitter or facebook. I say this because Matt talked to me, not the general public, but he addressed me initiating me to read a passage I would not have read to day, dialogue I would not have had today, and (I Hope) understanding I would not have gained today, when he read the passage and thought, "McCauley would enjoy this". Leading him to text me personally (as far as I know and believe because a convo we had yesterday concerning the themes from 1 cor 2-3).
I might have responded if I saw him say something on facebook or twitter for "everyone" to see (everyone in his friends list), but I doubt it. Usually, I begin to reply to people but then think myself out of it (for a number of reasons, all which are steeped in some form of pride). However, since I received the text, personally, I felt the need and desire to read and respond (for several reasons). All this is to say, I am glad to have woken up to the text my friend sent me.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Most recently, Isaiah 40-44 is revealing to me the reality of my heart. No matter what I preach, or teach, or am strongly convicted of, I find myself in a whirlwind of me. God nor others play the key role of my thought. I am enjoying the benefits of the gospel, but ignoring the responsibility.
Religion has been made many things. It is works over grace. It is empty and vain. I am finding that religion is when I make it all about me. "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this", says James, "to visit the fatherless and widow in their afflictions, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." So if my religion is just to remain unspotted, I have gone half way, but the fullness of the gospel calls me to the fullness of religion. The call is to meet others in their afflictions as well.
I believe whole heartedly that James is speaking of actual fatherless, and actual widows. However, tonight I am seeing another layer to his teaching. When we consider that God is spoken of as father and groom, then James is also talking about the spiritually fatherless and the spiritually widowed. Those who cannot cry out "Abba, Father" are the ones who need the visitation of those of us who do. Those cannot call themselves "the bride of Christ" are the ones who need the visitation of those of us who do.
For those have never cried "Abba, Father" through Christ you can. For those who are widowed now because of the transgression that separates you from the bridegroom, through Christ you can become the bride. All that is required is a steadfast belief in the righteous works of Christ. In Him God fulfilled a covenant once given to a nation and now offered to the whole world. The covenant speaks of God reclaiming His position of Father and Groom. There is great benefit in that. The great responsibility is to carry on the renewed, restored relationship and testifying of it to those others who are fatherless and widows.
Lord, help me that I do not practice religion, but I hold fast to the pure religion and undefiled.
Monday, August 31, 2009
More than ever it is apparent that the propaganda of society is driven by fear. Our faith is driven by hope; hope given to us by God. As our culture lunges forward grasping because of fear, God provides hopeful assurance through promise.
Genesis tells the story of a promise. The promise is land, son, and blessing.
The promise is God’s resolve because there are problems.
These promises are passed down through the generations.
The stories of promises fulfilled are passed along as well.
God revealed Himself to man providing hope through promise.
God’s people shared this hope, these promises.
I would venture to say that there were other people delivering other stories while these stories were being given.
People realized that they would not be here forever.
People realized that there were times when it rained, and the rain helped the harvest.
People realized that there were times when there was no rain, and the drought killed the harvest.
People realized that people would lie to them in their business dealings.
People realized that good land did was not obtained without a cost (goods, services, fighting, lives).
People realized that life was uncertain (what I have today could be gone tomorrow; I could be gone tomorrow).
People realized that children propagated their life (if I die with no children I am dead).
People realized that no one was going to give to them. More so, if they weren’t careful they would be taken from (they had to watch their own, protect themselves, look out for number one.
From these revelations mankind’s stories reigned, these were stories of grasping. I have to grasp for land. I have to grasp for children. I have to grasp for getting.
God provided hope to people who were living in fear.
God gave a promise to people who were grasping.
Promise is God’s hopeful resolve in a culture of fearful grasping.
What story do you tell?
Do you live by hope?
Do you survive to thwart off your fears?
There are these mothers found in the story of Genesis, who almost were not mothers.
Their bodies had grown past the physical stage of conception.
These women were promised children. They could not conceive children. These children were gifts.
We have records of these mothers because their stories were shared from generation to generation.
They were claims that in a culture of grasping, God provides a promise.
The gospel writer Luke tells of a woman who is old. Explicitly, she is too old to conceive children. She has never had a child. She really wanted a child, but she has given up hope. One day her husband is greeted by a messenger, who announces he is from God.
I bet you know where I am going.
The messenger has a promise to deliver to this man, Zacharias.
He says, “Your wife is going to have a baby.”
Zacharias did not believe the messenger. Zacharias had lost hope. Zacharias forgot all about promise. Zacharias had resigned to grasping.
Nine months later…
Zacharias’ wife, Elizabeth, gave birth to a son, John.
The story of hope continues with fulfilled promises.
It is really something when a lady who is too old to conceive has a baby.
Luke continues to tell us about another lady, well, she is more of an adolescent girl.
She is at the prime time for conception.
But she has never been with a man (in the Biblical sense).
She is visited by a messenger of God.
She is promised a child.
Oh great she thinks, “my fiance will be happy to know that when we get married, and we consummate our marriage, we will be able to have a child.”
The messenger corrects her, “No, Mary, not after you get married. Not after you have had intercourse. Before all of that, God is going to allow you to conceive.”
Mary’s reaction is uncanny. She does not have any questions. She does not have any doubts. She simply is in awe that this is going to happen to her.
Mary believes the messenger, and worships God because she knows all too well that He has promised and fulfilled and promised and fulfilled and promised and fulfilled. Mary believes those stories over the stories others are telling.
Stories driven by fear
Stories of grasping
Nine months later…
Mary gives birth to a son. Her son’s name is Jesus.
The other day some buddies of mine showed up to HUT Mobile Home Park with 3000lbs of food. They opened up the back doors and said, “take some, it’s free”.
The people at the mobile home park stood looking at each other in disbelief.
They sheepishly waited for the first brave soul to approach the truck and to get their food.
They were looking for the sign-up sheet.
They were holding off for the sales pitch.
They were waiting for the catch.
They remarked aloud, “is this really for free?”
These people were used to grasping.
Yesterday they were introduced to promise.
I have a friend for years she lived her life in fear, all the while grasping.
She was afraid that she would not be loved.
She was unsure of herself.
She devised a plan.
If she let go of her inhibitions and opened her body to guys, she would be loved.
She was grasping and grasping and grasping.
One day a guy did not want her body for himself.
The guy told her of a story about a man, who was born to a virgin because of a promise.
He told her the story of Jesus. This guy introduced this girl to hope, to promise.
So now I have a friend named Allisa and she lives to tell people of this hope she came to realize through the promise of Jesus.
I have more stories like this. They are great stories. They continue to give me hope. They continue to remind me of promise.
However, I know that there are more stories of people who are grasping.
They tell me, “Jesus could not have been born of a virgin” they are grasping to be right.
There are others who tell me things like, “I am really a good person”. They usually proceed to tell me, “why, just the other day I found a wallet in the parking lot of Sam’s. It was full of cash, and I found the owner and gave it back”, stories like these, these moral tales are pretty inspiring. These stories are not rooted in promise; these are stories of grasping, grasping to be accepted as right.
There have been others, who are not in disbelief grasping to be right, nor are they in mis-belief grasping to be accepted as right. I know of people who are in utter belief of God. They believe that Jesus is God. However, they tell me things like this, “God would not forgive me for the things that I have done”. They are beyond grasping. They are in resignation (we'll talk more about this week).
In Genesis we find stories of promises given, promises fulfilled. These stories continue and are shared and recounted and new stories are added. The greatest story of a promise given and fulfilled is through the story of Jesus.
Jesus provides a concept of hope in fearful days. In days when the taxes were high, and food was scarce. In days when jobs were unsecure; In days when the government was promising peace and security and “the answer”, but people were not realizing this audacious peace and security; people were not getting answers. Jesus’ hope was rooted in the God of promise; God who knew that we would be grasping until the day we died if there was no resolve; God whose promise provided a path to nourishment, propitiation, and blessing.
Jesus’ call was for people to simply realize they were grasping. Upon their realization of the fear they were consumed with, their acts of grasping, Jesus called them to believing. “Believe”, he said, “that God’s promises are sure.” “Believe”, he continued, “that you can move out of fear and into hope alone.” “Believe”, he concluded, “that God’s promises are realized through me.”
Again, what story do you tell?
Do you live by hope?
Do you survive to thwart off your fears?
Do you find yourself grasping?
There is a promise. Believe!
I delivered this message on Sunday August 30, 2009. The concepts of fear, hope, promise, and grasping were clearly outlined in talks given by Walter Brueggemann at the First Presbyterian Church of Knoxville. His talks put form to this message.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Primarily, I love hearing these stories because there is a power in the art of telling a good story. As well, I love hearing great stories told because I am a horrible story teller, and I am amazed to listen to such clear, thought provoking, impacting memories shared. The power and sheer awe I have for the art of story telling would only be surpassed by my profound love of music, by a slight margin.
There is little more that I could tell you as a plug for these podcasts. I would encourage you for entertainment, for knowledge, for inspiration to have This American Life and The Moth Podcast to find their way to your mp3 collection/device.