Friday, December 26, 2008

How Would Christ View the U.S.?

This might make several of you mad, but stay with me here. Here is a news story about a speech delivered by Iranian President Ahmadinejad. He delivered this message on Christmas Day. Speaking of the United States, he says:

"If Christ was on Earth today undoubtedly he would stand with the people in opposition to bullying, ill-tempered and expansionist powers."

He continued:

"If Christ was on Earth today undoubtedly he would hoist the banner of justice and love for humanity to oppose warmongers, occupiers, terrorists and bullies the world over. If Christ was on Earth today undoubtedly he would fight against the tyrannical policies of prevailing global economic and political systems, as He did in His lifetime."

My question is does Ahmadinejad have a point? Many Americans dismiss his words because he is attacking the United States. Many empires (and yes, we are an empire) have crumbled because they went against God. Are we one of those empires?

I want to know if you think Ahmadinejad has a point. Has American gone too far? Are they on the verge of going to far? Is Ahmadinejad completely wrong? What would Christ say about role in international affairs?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Random Thoughts

I don't really have a lot to say. I'm just bored.

Check this out. Apparently "Snowzilla" was breaking the law. It's a 16 foot snowman in Alaska.

And I also found this really cool blog. It's about South Africa. I have never been there, but I've always been interested in Africa. I remember in the 6th grade I did a 45 minute presentation on Africa. It was suppose to only be like 6 minutes or so. If you do nothing else, at least check out the pictures.

And here is an interesting story about President Bush writing letters to every single fallen soldier during his tenure in office. Until now, the press did not know about it. Regardless of what you think of the man or the wars, this is an honorable act by him.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Prayer Request

I have a prayer request. My wife's grandmother, who lives here in town, is having knee surgery on Monday. I'm not exactly sure what the surgery is for, but I know it isn't your typical knee surgery, and there could be complications. She is on medication to keep her blood from clotting. Obviously, she will have to go off of those medications before the surgery. I think today is her first day off. Since she can't move because of the bum leg, the chance of clotting is even greater. Chances of complications are so great that the other grandchildren were in town this week to visit just in case things did go bad. Also, her husband is in the early-to-middle stages of dementia and has not been told yet of the impending surgery for obvious reasons. She is also raising two kids, a 14 year old boy and a 10(?) year old girl. Needless to say, they aren't exactly angels. Rumor has it that the father of the kids is coming into town on Sunday. He is not popular with the family and has been professionally diagnosed as bipolar. He seems to cause lots of problems. This woman has made some poor life choices that have made this whole process pretty difficult, and the burden will fall on all of us to take care of her, her husband, and those kids. I would be kidding myself if I said this was going to be a your run of the mill knee surgery and recovery (I haven't even told you the half of it). Pray first that she makes it through the surgery. Then please pray for a stress free week of recovery for her and the rest of us.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Here's Your Sign?

If you've been reading this blog (which I'm sure millions of you have been), you know that I'm kinda in transition. I'm trying to figure out where to go from here. I'm trying to figure out what to do with my life. This morning I was reading in Matthew and ran across verse 39 of chapter 12. It reads, "But Jesus replied, 'Only an evil, faithless generation would ask for a miraculous sign; but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah.'"

At this particular time Jesus was talking about how many of the Pharisees wanted Jesus to prove he was from God. While I will admit I am taking a bit of liberty with the verse, I think it applies to many of us even if we belief He is from God. How often do we pray for direction and then ask for a sign? How often to we ask God for a sign that what we are doing is right?

I'm not saying that God isn't in the sign business. I believe that I could walk into my bedroom 5 minutes from now and there, plastered on the wall, could be a huge sign saying "Michael, do X. Love, God" It could happen! But ya know, when I read this verse I was reminded that faith is so important. God doesn't create faith with signs. That is evidence. We have faith because we need no evidence. Faith is action on our part in the absence of evidence. God may not tell me "Michael do X". He might not tell me anything, but I might very well do X, or Y, or Z, or whatever. As long as I have faith that God will direct my path, I don't need signs. If I have faith that God knows what is best for me, even if I step out in faith and do the wrong thing, God will bring me back to exactly where he wants me.

So often when people are making big decision, I hear them say, "I don't want to make the wrong decision. I want to do what God wants me to do." Right before I committed to come get my Ph.D. I said those very words. A very wise friend said, "Michael, no matter what decision you make, even if you make the wrong one, God is big enough to fix it." She had faith in God's plan for me while I was stuck looking for signs. I am so thankful for her and her wisdom. I need to remember to approach life like that. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying go willy nilly, do whatever you want to and God will fix it. I'm saying that God doesn't sit around with a remote control directing our every movements through some sort of signal to us. I think a lot of times, He wants to see what we can do with our faith, so He puts us on autopilot.

So, that's just a little note to myself about how I need to have faith in God. Don't wait. Go. Do. Step out onto the water.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Another Semester Down

I just finished another semester. This was probably the toughest, most depressing of them all. My fellow classmates agree with me on that observation by the way. This one was hard because we are nearing the end of our course work, the classes offered this semester were, ummm, dreadfully uninteresting to any of us, and most of us took classes taught by new professors. Needless to say, we are all burnt out and ready to jump ship.

I would love to get out of here, or at least move to part-time, but I just don't know if it will happen. I keep hoping I'll get a call one day and someone will offer me a decent paying job that appeals to me. I'm not holding my breath.

Thanks to all who prayed for me this semester. Unfortunately, the job is not yet done. I need a solid dissertation topic by next semester (probably early March or so) to continue to receiving funding from the university. Honestly, at this moment, I would take almost anything as long as it gets me a degree. That, or I'll just hope Jesus comes back in the next 3 months.

Also, please be praying for what I do next. Even though I am probably 2 years from graduation, some of the jobs I want may take a good year to get through the application process. When and where do I apply? What about my wife's job? What about the fact that we are not the richest people in America and moving or time without both of our incomes would be devastating? There are lots of questions to be answered. I just pray that I rely on God and not my own hopes and dreams.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What if . . .

Do you ever think about history and wonder "what if . . ."? I do. I'm a huge fan of history, and it is interesting to see how seemingly minuscule events changed the course of history. What would have happened if the South won the War of Northern Aggression (the Civil War for you Yankees)? What would have happened if Hitler had died while fighting in World War One? What would have happened if Kennedy hadn't have been shot? What would have happened if Steve Bartman hadn't attended Game 6 of the NLCS? What would have happened if I woke up 1 hour earlier today?

The answer to all these question is "I don't know". Today I read the first four chapters of Matthew. Very briefly, they cover Jesus' ancestry, his birth, flight to Egypt, return to Nazareth, his baptism, and his temptation by the Devil. While reading these four chapters it got me thinking "what if?"

What if Joseph had broken his engagement with Mary when he found out she was pregnant? What if Joseph didn't listen to the angels and didn't flee to Egypt or go to Nazareth? What if the wise men returned to Herod and gave away Jesus' position? What if John the Baptist had refused to baptize Jesus because he felt unworthy to do so?

Now, I have no doubt that God's plan would have worked out in the end regardless of what the above people did or did not do. What I find interesting is how these men each had a role in history. It got me thinking that each one of us has a role in God's story. When Joseph and/or the wise men sat around thinking about life, I can only imagine them being proud that they followed God's direction because it was an intricate part of keeping our savior safe.

We too have a role in this story. I hope one day when I am old, I can sit back and think "Wow. My role in God's story was to . . . and I did it for Him." My only problem now is to figure out what is that role. : (

So, what is your role in the story? How do you know?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Jesus Saves Souls, Lubbock Style!

If you don't know by now, I live in Lubbock, Texas. It's a growing city of a little more than 200,000 people. It isn't huge by any stretch, but for a small town Texas boy like myself, it seems like a bustling metropolis. Lubbock is one of the few places in the country that has been left nearly untouched by the financial crisis. Houses are being built, help wanted signs are everywhere, and people are moving here from all over the nation.

At a time when most people are scared for their lives because of the pressing financial situation, there is at least one man who has put his life in God's hands. That man, Johnny Landrum, lives right here in Lubbock. You see, Johnny sold all of his possessions and made a sign that says "Jesus Saves Souls". He takes that sign and stands on a busy street corner every day, all day. He says he did this because God told him too. Admittedly, when I hear stories like this, I am kind of skeptical. I always think "this person is crazy". However, I think Johnny is legit.

You can read the article here. You can watch the news clip at that site as well. Now, I don't know much about Mr. Landrum. I don't know a lot about his theology or how he got to this point. What I do know is that this man is really energizing a lot of people around town. I pass his street corner at least once a day; usually several times. My wife teaches at the Christian High School whose corner he stands on. Needless to say, we see a lot of him and he is rarely alone. It's really cool to see him out there rain or shine, cold or warm, morning or night, etc. When he first started, he was there all by himself. Now, he almost always has someone standing by him or a local motorist stopped to give him some aid.

Anyways, I don't know what will come of his actions, but I find it quite a story.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Galatians, Peter, and Contemporary Legalism

I started reading Galatians today. I completed the first two chapters this morning. I like how bold Paul was. He said that his purpose wasn't to please men, not even church leaders. His goal was to serve God. He was also very bold in his public denunciation of Peter who believed people were saved by faith, yet acted as though people were saved if they obeyed the law. Paul said, "We Jewish Christians know that we become right with God, not by doing what the law commands, but by faith in Jesus Christ" (2:16).

I have no dispute with Paul's words. I'm sure this verse is used quite often when preaching against the idea that we are saved by works. My thought was about current legalism. What are the current legalistic restrictions we put on people in order to deem them worthy of eternal life with God? No, it isn't A.D. 49, and we don't care much for Jewish law anymore, but we Christians do have a more contemporary legalistic tradition.

For example, my mother-in-law doesn't like how I dress when I go to church. Even though I think dress doesn't matter, I sometimes get confused when people show up in flip flops and athletic shorts to Sunday service. That is me being hypocritical.

Another contemporary law that I believe we focus on (especially us Baptists) is drinking. The Bible doesn't say don't drink. It says don't be led astray by alcohol or liquor. Why do we automatically assume that someone who has an occasional beer or glass of wine is a faux Christian?

As silly as it sounds, some even accuse those who are politically liberal as not being Christian. While I'm the most conservative (NOT Republican, NOT neoconservative) person you will ever meet (or read), I really don't think God is registered with either political party.

Those are just some thoughts I had this morning. Have I missed the point in any of these examples? If so, please let me know. Are there other legalistic traditions that we Christians need to step away from? If so, what?