Random Thoughts for the Week Ahead

1. If Jesus were easy to understand, he would not be worthy of our worship.

2. I want inexplicable peace and I want understanding of all suffering. This is at total odds with how it all works according Paul.

3. Television is a killer. Not just because of the immorality but because of its insipid messages that steal wonder, ignore beauty, and trade in envy.

4. If you read the stories of Jesus, you will see the answers he gave were never what was expected by the questioner/requester. They were always unexpected and often challenging. But in our day and age, we have so “formulized” discipleship, if we don’t get the answer/response we want, then we assume it cannot be right. The formulas have trained us in predictable expectations.

5. I have had more meaningful conversations with my kids this summer about Jesus and his work, than maybe in all the years previous. Sometimes it felt urgent. Sometimes I felt desperate. But mostly I didn’t feel alone. They were worked out by Someone else while almost always spontaneous for our part.

6. I don’t want to be more uptight than Jesus.

7. Discipleship in the American church looks little like the discipleship in the NT. American discipleship is marked by American business principles: efficiency, ease of use, PR, marketing, celebrity, supply/demand, and utility over beauty. Whereas the NT looks nothing like American business.

8. I am 46 years old and still only now feel as if I am grabbing hold of some understanding that was out of reach for a long time.

9. Rest for the weary.

10. The good news and the bad news, both make me wanna go home.

Random Thoughts for the Weekend

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1. It is hard for me to get over the King saying the poor in spirit have a reason to be happy, because the kingdom – His kingdom – is theirs. Blessed are those who struggle with depression. Blessed are those who have been unimaginably hurt in this world. Blessed are the lonely. Blessed are the failures. Blessed are the exhausted. Why? There is a King and a Kingdom and they are more glorious than our dreams.

2. I woke up very early yesterday morning thinking about the movie, First Reformed. It’s a movie I did not like and would never recommend. However, the picture did do one thing well. The juxtaposition of the corporate megachurch and the small historic traditional church was something worth thinking about. The seeming power of the large and seeming impotence of the meager.

3. I’ve been going back and listening to some of the Christian music I listened to when I was younger. Some is still great (Chagall Guevara!). Some of it is terrible. Some dated. But thankfully I never listened to Truth.

4. We’ve been watching Lord of the Rings as a family and my boys are fighting over who is going to be Legolas for Halloween which is the only thing we’ll let them fight about.

5. I have found if I wait five minutes after I read something on social media, by then I have no desire to comment or respond.

6. Watching my kids grow up is all at once painful and beautiful. It really is a complex mix of emotion, realization, and desire. This should be a lesson. It makes sense that God, Who is even more complex, can love and be disappointed with His creation and have multiple desires on various levels. And all for our good.

7. It is a struggle to enjoy the sausage after so many years of watching it get made.

8. I finished the final book of The Wingfeather Saga and now I’m miserable.

9. It’s not so much that I dread going back to school. I dread my kids going back to school. And the homework.

10. We’ve never had much money. But we have been gifted something unique. Ninety percent of what we enjoy, we can enjoy together. Baseball. Food. Not having cable. The woods. Documentaries. Jazz. Our house. Being home. And the hope of home.

Random Thoughts for the Weekend

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1. Isn’t it something when Jesus says, “I am making all things new?” He could have said any number of meaningful statements. But this one statement really does open up the world. For if this is a vision of the Kingdom, we know from the beginning that the Kingdom is now among us. And if that is true, then in a real way, he is already making all things new through his redemptive work in the hearts of his people. But also through their work in their various vocations. All things new. Not just the spiritual stuff.

2. In fifth grade I discovered the power of the poets. But it was a lonely discovery. And has been for the most part a lonely treasure. I haven’t minded too much. Earlier this week I heard “To All the Poets” by Andrew Peterson for the first time. That loneliness and the treasure of poetry I could never put into words. Glad he did.

3. Every loss is a sermon.

4. A good book ends only in the most shallow sense. The good ones continue to stretch out beyond the back cover to the end of our days.

5. I have a heart that looks for loopholes.

6. It is very easy to fall into the trap of thinking a news story is the story. When we stop to think about it, we know that’s not true. For Christians, this should always be at the front of our minds. Not because of “fake news” but because we know God is always doing more than we can see in our kids, in ourselves and everywhere else.

7. Not sleeping well reminds me of my bone to soul-deep desire for the rest that is coming.

8. Again, we all need space where we are not marketed anything. No one is trying to sell us anything. Nothing. The church needs to be that space.

9. This is going to seem like I’m contradicting my statement above but I’m not trying to sell anything. At least for my own benefit. Bill Mallonee is simply the best songwriter out there these days. He has over 80 albums. Some are fully-produced full band albums and some are just him playing all the instruments with his wife Muriah helping out. Some are just him and a guitar and they sound so rough and so beautiful, like the New Mexico land he lives on. But they are all worth your time. I’ve been listening to him since ’93 and there may be no one who has influenced me more (maybe I should write about this). I just bought two more albums yesterday because he’s selling all the download versions for 50% off. Go here to listen and purchase. I’m telling you this because he lives off this. He’s not rich. He needs the money. And aren’t we all a little tired of singers who don’t?

Feel free to leave recommendations of his albums to others in the comments and ask for recommendations if needed.

10. Listen.

Subjects of the King

Christ the King

I sometimes work on my Sunday school lesson in my dreams.

No, really.

That was the case this morning as I awoke from a deep sleep. We have been in the Psalms this summer. Each week we have looked at one Psalm in which we do a quick overview of the Psalm, looking at the type of Psalm it is and if known, the history and how the Psalm might have been used in Israel. We then answer three questions: What do we need to understand within the Psalm?, Where do we see Jesus?, and When will it be helpful to sing/read/pray this Psalm?

Last week we looked at Psalm 2, which Jack Collins, my professor at Covenant Seminary (’03) labels a “Messianic Psalm.” I awoke still thinking about the implications of my study of that Psalm in anticipation of possibly talking about those implications this coming Sunday.  The goal of the class was to do a different Psalm each week. But that my not happen this week.

Because I am dreaming.

When I awoke from this dream at a few minutes before 6 am, I immediately got up, snuck out of the bedroom to the living room. While the coffee maker hummed with the promise of waking up this frame, I wrote down the following:

– The king was to be the Ideal Israelite representing Israel in righteousness.

– As goes the king, goes Israel.

– His rule and reign was to be the earthly manifestation of the Kingdom of Heaven.

– Since Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah-King, he reigns as that ideal Israelite.

– Whenever the church gathers in the name of Jesus, the gap between heaven and earth is “bridged.”

– The church as the body of Christ is the physical representation of the King on earth.

– Churches and Christian homes are outposts (embassies) of the Kingdom of heaven.

– Christians in America far too often see America the same way they see Israel, when actually the Church is the heir of those promises as they are fulfilled in the Messiah-King.

– The hope that American Christians (conservative and progressive) place in politics and the kingdoms of this world mirror Israel’s rejection of God as their king and the desire for a king like the nations in Samuel 8.

– A Pakistani Christian is more my countryman than any fellow American, no matter how geographically far I am from the former and far from the latter.

The thought version of rough drafts blurred by sleep. More to come, maybe.

 

Random Thoughts for the Weekend

 

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1.  Fear and love are at odds with one another.

2. I don’t think you could write a novel about a well-off pastor and that pastor be the hero of the story. It would at least be hard. And we need to think long and hard why that is the case.

3. My brother has been posting pictures of my parents from when they were young. One was from their wedding day. In another, my dad is wearing his army uniform and my mom is sitting in his lap. Their aliveness in those photos stands in direct opposition to their deaths. And what is more – that alivenes in those photos is nothing compared to their present aliveness.

4. I’ve been reading Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga books this past week. I am on book two and the next two should come in the mail today. I don’t know if it’s the post–Dostoyevsky need for something fun or what, but they are hard to put down. They are serious too. And full of beautiful writing.

5. Poverty of spirit doesn’t get you the Kingdom of Heaven, the Kingdom of Heaven is comfort when you have poverty of spirit.

6. Just when I should be giving my children more freedom, I instinctively want to tighten control.

7. I have a confession to make. This Summer I am teaching through the Psalms and my study and the very act of teaching the Psalms are doing an unexpected thing to me. I am simultaneously wanting to listen to music by Christians and feeling like something very substantive is missing from music by unbelievers. Let me be clear, this is not born out of a principal of what I should listen or can listen to. This is more of what I find helpful these days as I minister to my family, the church, and my students. But it isn’t only that. I find it easy to forget what I am waiting for. What is real. What the reality is behind the things I can see and touch. I feel as if I need songs that help me wait for the returning King, Who will make all things new.

Feel free to make suggestions outside of Peterson and Mullins.

8. Last night Bethany and I were talking with some friends about the travails of the life of ministry. There have been some awful moments and I’ve seen the worst of people on full display. Though I have been tempted to ditch the church, I have not for one simple reason. The King will one day return. And those churches are gatherings of those who also believe this. They are workers who gather at His embassy to remind themselves of who they are in the world and what they await.

9. All the regrets we have as parents will be also healed at the resurrection.

10. One of the reasons I am enjoying the Wingfeather series is they provide what we all tend to lose as we get older. Wonder. This world and even the Biblical world is so familiar we miss the mystery and magic of it all. Kids don’t. My kids still own the wonder of it all. They have yet to trade it away for rationalistic adulthood. And I’m a little jealous of them for that reason.