Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christ's Sacrifice

It is good to relax with family. Historically, I have really gone into relax mode doing practically nothing, even getting upset when Tanya asks me to do something for her. That is not what Christ's sacrifice has called me to. This season I am going to go out of my way to help get things done. I am going to help with the cooking, cleaning, keeping up with kids, etc. Whatever needs to get done I am going to work at it as if working for Christ. Let's all remember that we still follow Jesus during the holidays. This is our calling...this is what we need to do.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Thank You, Jesus

Lord, please guide us in your presence as we travel. Let us constantly have you in our minds as we exchange gifts with friends and family. You are the reason that we feel compelled to give. Without your gift, we would not be able to truly live. Without your gift, we would not have hope for eternal life. Without your gift, we would not be empowered with the Holy Spirit to give ourselves.

Thank you, Jesus, for your faithfulness.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Kairos in Luke

Spending some time going through Luke, I noticed a greek word at the beginning of the book: kairos. It is usually translated "time," meaning a specific time period rather than just a general reference to time (aka "appointed time," "proper time," "favorable time," "this season"). ["Chronos" is the word for a general reference to time.] Kairos carries with it the notion of a moment or period that is especially appropriate ("this is the special time that is not like other times"). Ultimately, I love the connotation of our word "season" in expressing this word kairos.

So, I noticed this word in Luke 1:20. This word lead me to explore the other uses in the book of Luke. With there being thirteen uses of this word in Luke (1:20; 4:13; 8:13-2; 12:42, 56; 13:1; 18:30; 19:44; 20:10; 21:8, 24, 36), I would like to briefly mention half of those as the most meaningful ones for Luke's purposes (1:20; 4:13; 12:56; 19:44; 21:24, 36). I will expand on and apply this in later posts.

Luke 1:20 introduces us to the notion of a special "season" on the horizon in the words of Gabriel. He announces to Zachariah that he will not be able to speak because he did not believe Gabriel's words, that will be fulfilled in their season. The right time will come when these words will come true. The reader is left wondering what season is about to come. The story of John, especially in light of Jesus continues. Even when this "season" emerges a few verses later in 1:57-66, we see the newness of the season where "the hand of the Lord" is at work. Zechariah's prophesy (1:67-79) shows what kind of season we see beginning in John.

As the story of Jesus emerges, specifically with his spirit-filled journey into the desert (4:1-13), the reader is wondering what is about to happen, is this another season. Jesus is baptized by John (3:21), the Spirit comes down on Jesus (3:22), a voice from heaven announces Jesus' sonship, and we learn that Jesus' ministry is beginning (3:23). Satan, it seems, is thinking about the timing of everything. I imagine him wondering is this the season? Through the temptations Satan does what he can to disrupt the season of God's salvation (remember Zechariah's song in 1:69). After the failed attempt, we see Satan leaving to wait for a better season. Satan's season, he might reason, will come about at another time...just not now.

Jesus' ministry continues. God continues to work out his season first prophesied through Zechariah. In chapter twelve we find Jesus speaking more about the season in which the people find themselves. Don't be like the Pharisee's (12:3ff.), fear what the world fears (12:4ff.), or worry about your life (12:22ff). Instead, be ready like the faithful servant (12:35-48). The season is upon you. Once we come to 12:54, the reader is forced to consider the season Jesus offers. We know how to discern the appearance of the earth and sky (aka "the natural seasons we've experienced from birth"). But, in 12:56 Jesus questions whether we are able to discern this season of which he speaks.

This question continues as Jesus' kingdom proclamation continues. It is still present, but in a much more focused, tearful way, as he enters Jerusalem for the last time (19:41-44). The people don't know what can bring them peace. Jerusalem and all those people "among you" (ev soi) will fall. The reason is that you did not know the season you are in, the season that God visits you.

As Jesus' earthly ministry nears the end, he pointedly speaks of the season. Some will say "I am" and "The season is near!" (21:8) but don't follow them. He unpacks what will be happening at the end of the ages. Then, perhaps, the most interesting statement Jesus makes (that I initially don't see much written about): Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the season of the Gentiles is fulfilled (21:24). I really don't know exactly what this entails. Maybe Luke has adopted Paul's ideology from Romans 11:25. Luke's "gospel to the Gentiles" may really expose his intentions in this comment, but I haven't spent enough time researching this.

The final comment about the season is a fitting end. Jesus encourages his disciples to "Keep yourself awake all season long" (21:36). The season of God's presence is here. You need to be alert and ready to recognize and discern this wherever you find yourself, no matter the season.

This is a long endeavor that deserves more attention. I hope to expand these initial observations and hopefully engage Luke's emphasis on the coming of the kingdom of God. This certainly is linked to the season of Jesus' life on earth. Application of this discussion to our lives is also necessary. I look forward to your comments and conversations about the season.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Birth Certificate

Yesterday I went to the Courthouse to get Tyler's birth certificate. We finally needed it to get his Passport. I can't believe that it cost $22 to get a certified copy of his birth certificate! What if I didn't have the money to buy a loaf of bread? But, if I needed to show someone that my son was actually born like I said he was, I would have to pay $22! This is crazy.

I don't know what to think about this, but certainly there is something about "the system" that can be said. The lady there pulled out a sheet of paper (pretty spiffy little piece of paper, I must admit), put it in the copy machine, copied it, crimped it, and collected my money for that considerable amount of time that she put into making this copy for me.

Is justice a part of the discussion? Does justice demand that we spend all this money on making a copy? If the poor cannot afford to prove they were born, is justice maintained? I'm not sure, but surely something can be said here.

[BTW-I'm normally not so political or government-system-interested, but $22 just bothered me a little bit. Oh well. The complexity of being me.]

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Small Groups

Our congregation is beginning the actual process of meeting in smaller groups of people throughout the town on Sunday evenings. I absolutely love that we are moving in this direction. It reflects a way of thinking that is similar to that of the early Christians. It also helps us move outside of the church walls.

As I talk to more and more people in our congregation about this move our elders have made (alongside of the ministry staff), I find that many people are somewhat enthusiastic. Obviously, questions and concerns arise, but this happens with any transition. Most of the time, I believe, these concerns will be assuaged as the groups begin meeting. There is nothing like actually experiencing small groups to know what they are like. There seems to be a general attitude that is eagerly anticipating the change; perhaps God will make himself known to us more through small groups.

This is an exciting time in Huntsville. God is moving us closer to meeting people's needs in a way we don't currently offer. I pray that he continues to guide us in His wisdom and His discernment. Many decisions are being made now that will determine our direction for a little while anyway.

You, Lord, are the only one we seek to please. We need you to guide our leaders' hearts as they make these decisions. Help us to bring glory to your name, not our own. It is for the sake of your name that we move toward meeting in smaller groups. May people look at this and say...God is truly among them.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Prayer Sign Reflection

The first semester of re-adjusting my schedule has finished. In a previous post I mentioned that I would sit on campus with a sign telling people that I will prayer for them. Even though I mentioned a few things early on, this semester has been one story after another. Students, workers, deans, professors, Christians, Hindus, irreligious, atheists all coming to ask for prayers or because they were curious. I couldn't possibly tell you all the stories, but I could tell you all the names of the people who have showed up. I decided to count the conversations rather than the "converts," whatever that means. I never would have imagined the responses.

It was normal for someone to come up to me saying, "I've seen you here for a while, but I never came up until now." Sometimes a student would dive right in to questions about God that have been bothering them, problems they've been having, or prayers for campus they want to offer. Other times it would take five encounters or so over the course of two months before they would really ask me what they wanted to ask me.

One guy's first words to me as he was smoking a cigarette were, "Do you think people can change?" After coming around just to say hey for a month or so he was obviously bothered, or rather curious, about my approach. He said, "I've come by here five times or so and you have never once asked me about my religion, my faith, or even church...why?" I explained that I am just here to be available to students in whatever way they need. I told him that half the time I'm trying to figure out what the person talking to me actually needs. It seemed like he wasn't interested in talking about his religious, his faith, or church, so I just went with it. He told me he has never heard of a minister like that. The rest of our conversations have been oriented toward God in one way or another. He just knows that there is a guy on campus interested in being available to those who come by. I loved that conversation!!!

Having thought about what happens on campus through my sitting there every day, I have come to some tentative conclusions I would like to share. I believe that people, specifically students but also others, are looking for a way to reach out to God. They don't feel like they can come to our established facilities because they are not looking for something that involves a huge commitment. But they want to connect to God nonetheless.

When they just see the sign, I believe God makes himself known to them. Let me put that another way. If they are really looking (when they really see the sign), they see this as a place they go and can talk to God (God makes himself known to them here). Think of it this way: only after Moses goes over to see this curious sight of a bush that doesn't burn up does God call him (Exodus 3:3-4).

People have come to ask me questions that I know they are really asking God. Do you think God will hate me because of this decision I think I need to make? What will God think of me? Is it wrong to think that certain people are going to hell? Where does God want me to go after graduation? How is God working on campus?

This semester I have put myself out there and asked God to use me when he needs me. I'm available. He works in many different ways, but he needed to reveal himself to an average of about 5 people a day in various ways. I'm glad that I could be there in those moments.

The focus of this whole semester needs to remain on God's efforts toward our campus rather than on anything I was moved to do. God wants his reign to advance so people will see him in his glory. God is doing some good things that I am glad to be only a part.

I plan on doing this again next semester, but I'm not sure how long God will call me to this. I guess we will see. I'm open to questions, comments, challenges, and the like about how this sign stuff went this semester.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

LST Training

Our Let's Start Talking training continued last night. I am excited about our team. We are getting to know each more and more and have so many different types of personalities. It is going to be cool to be a part of a student team...the dynamic is definitely different, but a good different.

I am hoping that I communicate (not just verbally) that there is not a team leader, namely myself. We are all sharing the leadership. The challenge is to make sure this mindset gets reinforced as we continue the training; we all contribute much to the team.

This year, I am really interested to see how we work out the details with Kayla and Tyler. I pray that they are able to play an important role, but we all need to learn what that role is going to be. For myself and Tanya, we need to give Kayla more opportunities to do things with the group. May God be glorified in all our training.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Christmas Party

Last night our annual Kats for Christ Christmas Party went off without a hitch. It was actually quite surprising! We were working on it all day long. Cleaning, getting supplies together, cooking, cooking some more, running again to get supplies, and all the little details that had to get done. Oh yeah...we also put up all our Christmas decorations yesterday too!! I cant' believe how much stuff we got done yesterday.

This was the first time that I cooked 40 chicken breasts all at once. I was rather proud of that! They all fit on the KFC BBQ pit at once too. I had forgotten a light to see the chicken, so by the end it was hard to see if the chicken was completely done or not. It all worked out fine and we praise God for the fun we had last night.

I wonder how much energy we are going to put into walking with the Lord today. Are we going to think about all the details? How are we going to decorate our lives with Christ today? What supplies do we need to gather? Ask for God's Spirit to guide you closer to him today.