Friday, January 23, 2009

Who Do You See?

"When did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and come to you?" (Matt. 25:37)

The reality is we see Christ every day. The omnipotent, self-existent, eternal Creator of all took on our human flesh with all of its fallen limitations and needs. God entered the death imprisoned world as a hungry, thirsty, naked, homeless infant. Like all of us He needed food, drink, clothing and shelter even as an adult, even as God.

The homeless are an icon of the fallen nature of our true humanity and the dependence we have on others for even our basic human needs. The homeless in reality are a mirror for our own wandering, our own hunger and thirst for something beyond ourselves, our own prisons, our own shame and nakedness that makes us hide behind our masks and avoid love and communion. We avoid eye contact with the person holding the sign because his face is our mirror, if we look into it we might be convicted of who we really are: lonely, afraid, beaten, compassionless, merciless, unforgiving, judgmental, angry, respecter of persons, proud, stingy and ungrateful.

But the homeless person IS the sign. He is the sign of the Kingdom come upon you and he will be with us always because we always need to be pointed toward the Kingdom. Will you turn away. Will you obey the sign and walk the path toward it?

(Thanks to Allan Boyd for the image from his blog on ministry to the marginalized and hopeless: The Living End please check it out.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

There is no God?

This is a video about finding out what an anthill looks like beneath the surface. The structure is astounding, but the line in the video that is more astounding is almost an aside: The complexity of the structure looks like it was designed by an architect, a single mind, but it is the product of the "collective mind" of the ant colony. I don't know if that was meant to be more amazing or less than a "single mind". Either way, the implication is being able to design something so complex is just an "instinct" that has somehow evolved and is somehow communicated among billions of insects across what is relative to their size, miles of distance between them, with brains the size of 6 point font "period" that die quickly and are replaced... It seems to beg the question: What did the first and only ant that evolved do and did it come with all of this "instinct" built in somehow...if not, how did it survive until the specie "ant" evolved further and got its "ant act" down? Beats me, but I'm sure someone has it figured out.

One person sees random chemicals and another sees God. Go figure. Enjoy.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

And When You Have Turned...

I just returned from doing a Bible study at a homeless shelter/rehab facility for men. One of the men asked last week about the passage in Luke 22:38 where the disciples say, "We have two swords" and Jesus replies, "It is enough." Why did Jesus say two swords is enough? This is the synopsis of the talk and discussion (without the schizophrenic guy's comments....)

We looked at the passage in its greater context. It is the Last Supper. The disciple's response to Jesus' statement that one of them will betray Him is to argue about who is the greatest among themselves. Jesus, having washed their feet and served them the Supper says, "The greatest is the servant of all, as I have been to you" and tells of His Passion. Peter says he will go to prison and even die for Him. Jesus tells Peter, "Satan has asked to thresh you like wheat, and you will deny me, but when you have turned, strengthen your brothers."

This is us. Jesus humbly serves, we don't notice it and instead of comparing ourselves to Him we compare ourselves to our brethren and think we're greater than the next guy because WE'D never do what HE did. Jesus tells us we'll betray Him in a heartbeat (like Peter) or even after long deliberation (like Judas), and we are grandiose and "think more highly of ourselves than we ought" (Rom. 12:6). Jesus invites us to His passion and we believe we'll actually participate, even to the death. But when the spiritual life looks a little painful or demands a commitment, we cut and run.... long before death or even discomfort. Satan demands a shot at us all and God will permit it for our sakes and our humbling spiritual growth is for ourselves, it is always for making us a servant.

A couple days ago I worked at a bazillion dollar house and one of the artifacts they had was an antique wheat thresher that looks like this. It is a large board with hundreds of flint blades embedded in it that is dragged over the top of the wheat to separate the chaff from the wheat grains.

This is what Jesus was telling Peter: You will be threshed. It will hurt. A lot. It is the only way to break through the outer husk and expose the grain that will become bread for the hungry. When your chaff is removed, through your repentance you will be able to minister to your brethren. It is a spiritual warfare, take up a sword. Peter says, we have two. He doesn't get it yet.

Two swords among eleven apostles. Jesus knows there is a garrison of Roman soldiers coming with Judas to take Him away. Two swords are enough? For what?

Two swords are enough to teach the disciples what they needed to know. None of them were as great as they thought and argued about. Peter, the one who would die with Christ, had one of the swords, and he bravely cuts off the ear of a servant boy, not a Roman soldier, and he runs away... he didn't go to prison, he didn't die. The other sword? It probably never got drawn. Peter then denies his Friend. Two swords were enough to make the point Jesus needed to make: You are weak, you are deluded, you don't get it. My kingdom is not of this world, it does not come by power, nor by might, but by My Spirit as Zachariah said.

The men in recovery (as do we all) have two swords always at their disposal. We think of them as our "formidable weapons". God knows we have a false self assessment and are overconfident in our defenses. The men in recovery (as we all are) are normally in a state of delusion. " We would NEVER...... We will ALWAYS be..........We are the greatest", even if we say we are the least. We go to the Garden with Christ with all of our delusions of greatness and martyrdom for His sake, that we will never betray Him. We have two swords. And we take a stab at the least difficult opponent then chicken out.

The two swords are I'm spiritually strong enough.... "I can drink one beer at the party", "I can have one phone call with that old girlfriend", "I can go back to the old neighborhood and hang with the homies for one hour", "I can watch the game at the old bar and just have an iced tea"...or any number of "normal sins". We have a sword, yes, but in the end it is inadequate to defend against the forces of the enemy. But it is enough to humble us, to show us our true self, to bring us to Christ and cast ourselves at His feet seeking forgiveness. And we learn it is not by our power, nor by our might, but by God's Spirit that we enter the Kingdom.

And this is our threshing, the removal of our delusions. It can happen no other way. God can tell us the truth abut who we really are, but most of us have to experience the truth. The removal of chaff is hard. It is painful. It is brutal. But only through the process is wheat revealed and bread can be made.

And when we turn from our self delusion and pride and boasting and turn and humble ourselves before God and lay aside our "swords" and take up the Cross, we can then strengthen the brethren.

It is humbling to be in the presence of 20 men who are being threshed, who are facing their denial and failure, who stink of the pig pen but are on the road home to the Father. May they find His embrace, His robe, His ring, His Fatted Calf and their place in His house once again.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Steve The Builder Begins

My first solo podcast is now available at Ancient Faith Radio

Avid followers of my blog will recognize some of the themes and subjects of several of the initial podcasts, but they've been expanded, sanitized and fleshed out for general consumption.

Bill and I will continue doing Our Life in Christ as we can hammer out time out of our mutual kid/life/work/church schedules, but this is a bit of a hobby for in between.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Newly Illumined

Yesterday the family of people at St. John the Evangelist OCA Mission welcomed five new people into its midst. Welcome Alexis, Veronica, Mary, Photini and Irene!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Chuck Norris Facts

OK, I admit it.... I LOVE these!

When the boogey man goes to sleep at night, he checks under his bed for Chuck Norris.

Chuck Norris doesn't read books, he stares them down until they give him the information he wants.

Chuck Norris has counted to infinity.... twice.

Chuck Norris also knows the last digit of PI.

Chuck Norris can lead a horse to water... AND make it drink.

Chuck Norris doesn't wear a watch, HE decides what time it is.

Only Chuck Norris can slam a revolving door.

Chuck Norris can cook Minute Rice in ten seconds.

Chuck Norris doesn't get frostbite. Chuck Norris bites frost.

When Chuck Norris falls in water, Chuck Norris doesn't get wet, water gets Chuck Norris.

Superman wears Chuck Norris pajamas.

Chuck Norris CAN believe its not butter.

Chuck Norris can divide by zero.

When Walker Texas Ranger aired in France they surrendered to him just to be on the safe side.

Nobody doesn't like Sara Lee. Except Chuck Norris.

It takes Chuck Norris 20 minutes to watch 60 Minutes.

There is no CTRL key on Chuck Norris' computer. Chuck Norris is always in control.

Chuck Norris CAN judge a book by its cover.

There are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Chuck Norris lives in Oklahoma.

If you don't at first succeed, you're not Chuck Norris.

I've added this for the benefit of those who have lived in the darkness of a Chuckless existence. Prepare for illumination.