Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Rough Cloth and Ashes: Lent 2015

Lent.  In years past when areas of my life felt more significantly unstructured, I've often looked forward to the Lenten season as an opportunity to get something right, to show that - if only for these forty days - I can take control of my life and move it in the right direction.

But, if I can be honest, this year it just seems exhausting.  As I contemplated a lenten sacrifice, there didn't seem to be anything I could give up that would help me move closer to God.  The things I considered actually all felt like it would only pull me closer into myself, to prove I could control my stomach, my desires, my money.  Maybe my heart just isn't into this year, I don't know.

Then, as God often does, He came subtly screaming at me through the words of Daniel 9:3-4 (NCV):

Then I turned to the Lord God and prayed and asked him for help. To show my sadness, I fasted, put on rough cloth, and sat in ashes. I prayed to the Lord my God and told him about all of our sins. I said, “Lord, you are a great God who causes fear and wonder. You keep your agreement of love with all who love you and obey your commands."
This seems to me the whole point of a time like Lent.  We turn to God and ask Him to help us because we are clearly not able to do it ourselves.  We show the sadness of our situation and cry out to Him, confessing to Him our sins.

So while I mourn the darkness of myself, I also rejoice in brightness of my God.  And I just don't feel like I have give up sweets, soda, fast food, or Facebook to do that this year.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Everyday Christian: Chapter 1

In the weekly Bible study I attend we've begun reading "Everyday Christian: Living Like Christ Seven Days a Week" by Dr Edwin Robinson.  It is a part of the Dialog Series which is specifically intended to initiate conversation in small groups.  Without turning this post into a book report, I'd like to spend the next seven weeks developing the material we cover in our gatherings.

Chapter 1: Being Christian at Home.
"Household codes like those included in Paul's and Peter's letters were common in other religious literature of the first century.  Instructions for family life as part of the social expectations were not unusual at all."

Ephesians 5:21-6:9
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. 
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” 
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. 
Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free. 
And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.

I can almost picture the scene as this letter was read to the church at Ephesus.  As this section begins to discuss submitting to one another, the men of the room are elbowing each other, suddenly certain this particular wisdom was specifically ordained for their families.  But as it should be, the instructions take a turn and suddenly the men were being instructed to love their wives in a way they had never been taught before - to which the women of the room started nodding and giving their husbands the look.  You know what look.  You may have given your husband that same look a time or two.  Then suddenly husband and wife, forgetting their opposing viewpoints, were excited to hear their children being addressed.  Yep, that's right kids, he said honor us.  Had they learned nothing?  Their children could only honor them if they too were treated appropriately.  And so it went: Husbands, Wives.  Children, Parents.  Slaves, Masters.

The truth is we are always looking for someone else to start the behavioral cycle.  I rationalize that I will submit to my husband when he begins to love me the way he should.  But the difficult and wonderful fact of the matter is we can't control what anyone else does, nor are we responsible for their actions. And thank God for that!

Wives - what would it look like if you treated your husband like the head of your home?  If you regarded him above all?  If you respected him for what he's done and what he's yet to do?

Husbands - what would it look like if you loved your wife with a pure and blameless love?  If you were willing to lay down your life (or your newspaper, or your sports broadcast) for her?  If you treated her as if she were holy and blameless?

Lord, help me to be the person You have called me to be. Especially at home. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

A Life Remembered

To his students he was "Dr. Bullock."  To his friends he was "Chuck."  To me he was always just "Pastor."  It's strange to think I hadn't seen him in more years than I actually knew him, but so it goes it with people who touch your life: the lessons you learn from them are not quickly forgotten. If ever. A few things I learned from my pastor, the Cowboys- and Coke-loving pastor who always had a good story and a smile, Reverened Charles E. Bullock:

On Scripture:
When you read a passage and see the word "therefore" you always have to go back and see what the word is there for. 

On Faith:
The main thing is that the main thing remain the main thing. 

On Marriage:
Every night before you go to bed, tell your spouse, "Honey, I love you and I've been faithful to you today."

On Time:
When you say you don't have enough time, you're telling God He made a mistake in His creation. 

On Theology:
The most profound theology of all time lies in these lyrics, "Jesus loves me / This I know know / For the Bible tells me so."