Saturday, August 24, 2013

"Somebody had to be a Christian"

My travel or journey through Scripture has led me to I & II Timothy and now into Titus over the past few months. Titus began just today and has been coupled with me reading a favorite book of mine by the late Mike Yaconelli, Messy Spirituality. I think this is my 8th time through the book. Its never a coincidence how God leads me in my studies. It’s never coincidental how His Word and whom or whatever I’m reading flows together. Titus is stuck on Crete, left by Paul to organize the Converts and dispel all the religious mess that the circumcised are causing. The religious messing up the Truth…..never happens now does it? Yaconelli recalled a story of Dr. John Mackie that I had heard my father tell before. Mackie, who was the president of the Church of Scotland in post World War II, is on a trip with two other ministers to check on and encourage missionaries in the Balkan Peninsula. His two traveling companions were, “from a rather severe and pietistic denomination” as Yaconelli retells. The three travel to a small Greek village to encourage an Orthodox priest. Overwhelmed with excitement the priest offered the men a rare and expensive wine. The two companions of Mackie refused, but he took the glass, smelled the wine like a trained connoisseur, drank it and praised its taste. He even asked for another glass when he finished the first. When the visit was over and the men were on their way, the two clergymen asked Dr. Mackie in disgust, “do you mean to tell us that the you are the President of the Church of Scotland and an officer of the World Council of Churches and you drink?” Dr. Mackie allowed his Scottish temper to rise to the top as he had enough religion from these two and said, “no I don’t, but somebody had to be a Christian!” Yaconelli writes, “Religious people love to hide behind religion. They love the rules of religion more than they love Jesus. With practice, Condemners let rules become more important than spiritual life.” Paul writes in Titus 1:15, “To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact both their minds and consciences are corrupted.” I refuse to be a finger pointer. I dislike people that do. Its not our job or place to cast judgment on anyone, God’s got that handled and be it far from me that I should judge someone else, least they judge me. I do however want to be an equipper and bring to light the Truth in its simplicity, for myself mostly, but for others as well. The TRUTH in this scenario is that I must simply try to live out in my faith. Jesus most certainly did not play religion very well. Seems as though Dr. Mackie took a few swings himself at the standards of the Standard. I pray, I hope, I guess I ask that God never allows my religion to get in the way of my faith, of the Truth that lives in and through me. I wonder how my pious self has turned some away or completely led others to begin a religious processional to death. “Lord, help them see the Truth and not the religious mumbo jumbo I or anyone else has played out before them.”

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Hope Defined

I find myself back in a PEACEFUL Kenya today, PRAISE GOD! We thank you all for your prayers and support. The Kenyan people have spoken and spoken peacefully for their next President. We are now called to pray for his leadership and new government that will soon be put into place. I'm now jumping into a study I'm preparing for this summer as we anticipate our University students from the US & Kenya. These young men and women will rub shoulders with each other and discipleship training here in Nairobi with the Stickney family and friends that share the common goal of equipping the next generation to reach the world with Christ. The study I will be leading will be on 1st & 2nd Timothy, so we might find that my blogging takes a slant in that direction. Your feedback in welcomed as it will make me look and sound much smarter come July! Here is my first take on the beginning of Paul's first letter to Timothy. Paul begins his greeting with a reminder and statement that is easily and quickly read over because its just him greeting or beginning the letter that is packed full of rich stuff. But the cornerstone of life is right there before us, “Christ Jesus is our hope” (NIV). Paul says, “I’m writing this to you Timothy”, because Jesus is my hope. My Hope. Timothy is stationed in a place dealing with the craziness of life and people that think they know more about anything and everything than he does. Sound familiar? Ever been in the situation? I have, its stressful. You feel inadequate, over-whelmed, like everything you say comes out wrong or is turned around to hurt you or be used against you. You wonder, “why, why me God”. Remove Timothy's immediate situation and just apply life. We all know how life can just seem like a losing battle, defeat after defeat, slip after slip, or high followed by a low. Doctors say this, bank needs that, boss feels this way, husband, wife, significant other feels and sees the situation in direct opposition to you. I could go on, but we get the point, I hope. It’s hard. Paul is about to unload a plethora of goodness on Timothy and consequently us and begins the entire seminar with, “hi, I’m Paul and Christ Jesus is my hope, He’s your hope.” Jew, Gentile, Sinner, or Saint your hope lies in Christ Jesus. Don’t forget that! Don’t start reading looking for God’s Word for you and miss the entire reality of life; our HOPE is in CHRIST JESUS alone. Is your HOPE in Christ Jesus today? This week?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

God's Not an American

I remember a scene from U2’s Rattle and Hum movie where the band set-up in downtown San Francisco, I believe, and played a live concert in the middle of the workday. During the clip, Bono spray paints a bridge and then yells over the crowd, “Rock’in Roll stops the traffic”. Why would I remember such a random scene you ask? Well a friend told me a couple of day ago that two male lions shut down traffic just outside his neighborhood here in Nairobi. It didn’t make the paper here, but it hit Facebook by storm a few days later. You can see from the pictures that these two young male lions had nothing but time on their hands and no real need to get a move on so that the everyone could get to work on time. Can you imagine flying in the office door late, rushing into that meeting you’re suppose to be at and saying, “sorry, there were lions blocking the road this morning. Traffic was backed up for miles.” All in a days work here in Kenya. Crazy to think that in less than a day I could be back sitting in road construction traffic on 635 in Dallas. Our world is pretty small. Last week I got to attend a Bible study that Kerry has been going to for a while. It falls on a Thursday night, the night I usually meet a bunch of guys to play basketball, but my knee has been the size of mango and killing me, so bball was not an option. She asked me to come along, so I did. The study is led by a priest from Manchester who is 60 and attended by couples from Italy, Germany, Poland, Britain, Scotland, Ireland, Canada, the United States, Kenya and hosted by a couple from India. Protestants and Catholics, young and old, kids in their 30’s and kids in 3rd grade. It really is a glimpse into what “brothers and sisters in Christ” should really look like. The Manchester Priest is amazing in how he leads the group and it was a treat to be in his company. We were studying from the book of Saint Luke, remember he’s a Catholic priest, in the 8th chapter. After teaching through it he asked about verse 18, “Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him.”. It was absolutely amazing to hear people as they answered with their culture and faith journey all speaking into their answers. It opened my eyes to how small my world really is in my thinking and processing of scripture. How do we listen, or as not to offend you, how do I listen? I listen with such a small perspective. It is not completely my fault since my culture, my education, my upbringing, my church background, my patriotism is a big part of who I am. I wasn’t born a German or Indian, can’t explain why, but God brought me into the world as an American. But, I need to be aware that as I listen, I listen with a bias towards my past, my culture, my journey. Meaning my listening needs to be with an open heart and mind, because God is not an American citizen. More next week on verse 18.