Monthly Archives: October 2013

A Hungarian Commemoration day – October 23

This is a guest post and is one man’s “take” (author will remain anonymous, used with permission) but I thought it useful and thought provoking…

Today, October 23, is a Hungarian national holiday. It is the 57th anniversary of their uprising against the Russians in 1956, which was the first forceful opposition to the Soviet Union’s domination of Eastern Europe after World War II. After a couple of startling weeks of freedom from oppression, it was crushed by the Red Army. Hungarians do not celebrate, they COMMEMORATE the students, workers, and ordinary people who fought against Russian tanks with homemade or confiscated weapons. From a population of 10 million people, a couple thousand were killed. Tens of thousands were wounded. Hundreds were afterwards executed or deported to Siberia. Two hundred thousand more escaped to the West.

Unfortunately, all these years after the Revolution, and over 20 years since the change from one-party rule to democracy, talented and motivated Hungarians still want to leave the country. The political, social, and economic systems still have debilitating problems, many of them self-inflicted.

How will this change? Political power will not do it; the political elites are insulated from the public. Financial power will not do it; the common people do not command enough of the money, and this is a relatively poor nation. Social power will not do it; the cultural fabric is not strong enough; Hungarians do not know how to be good neighbors to each other. The only power remaining is the power of God in the churches, but most of the churches are unfruitful. They need revival as much as their country needs reform. But first the churches must get off their own agenda, turn from their self-centered ways, and think beyond their walls (God-style!).

+ Please pray that believers will examine themselves, realize their persistent sins, and turn away from self-centeredness, inconsequential living, and lack of faith. Please pray that passages like 2 Chronicles 7:14 and Daniel 9:4-19 will lead to repentance (change!) and awakening (hope!) instead of regret and despair (the normal Hungarian result).

+ Please pray that believers and churches in Hungary will LIVE IN JESUS and start to MAKE A DIFFERENCE in the lives of their neighbors and neighborhoods —instead of being disregarded as people who have trouble distinguishing real life from fairy tales.

+ Please pray that we followers of Jesus do our own confession, repentance, and growth in God. Please pray that God the Holy Spirit will enable us to be confident witnesses of the power of God among us: Emmanuel, Jesus the Messiah.

Now, you may not agree with all that this writer said, but I think that his observations are worthy of consideration, and perhaps comment…

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seedlings

a couple of weeks ago, I posted some thoughts about planting seeds HERE… I did NOT dig up the seeds to check on their progress…

today: a progress report on the spinach seedlings…

IMG_20131018_093842_052

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shrinking the cross

I was excited to start “Gospel Centered Life”* with another friend on Tuesday. I always look forward to the journey through those 9 lessons because, even after going through it 30+ times, I am always drawn back to God.

At the beginning, we consider the concept of “shrinking the cross.” I had a new insight on that concept this morning… but I need to give a bit of background first.

The basis of these 9 conversations is the fact that we need to have a “growing awareness of our sinfulness” and a “growing awareness of God’s holiness.” If this is the case, the cross is growing in our awareness and therefore the importance of Jesus’ work gets larger and larger as time goes by…

cross chart

If our awareness of these two is not growing, we may have plateaued… then we “shrink the cross.” The cross is not looming larger in our lives, it is smaller or stagnant (which, it seems to me, if not growing, is shrinking)…

Shrinking the cross

This morning, I was praying and thinking about what it means to “shrink the cross” (as I see that I have been doing of late) and this is what occurred to me:

When my awareness of God has shrunk and my awareness of my sinfulness has shrunk, the cross is not as large as it was… maybe what is really going on is that as I have drifted way from God, I have tried to climb up on the cross and become the Savior.

Who are we trying to save anyway?

*This is an incredible 9 week journey published by World Harvest Mission LEARN MORE

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effort

I talk about rest a lot. The point I am often trying to make is that followers of Jesus need to rest in Him. We need to dwell in Him. Abide in Him, climbing into God’s lap is where it happens.

Today, in a great conversation with a brother in which we talked about a lot of cool stuff, two things came up. Those two things are prayer and effort.

Jesus often went away to pray, to invest time with His Heavenly Father.

If we do this, we will find His strength and wisdom, His mind to go out and do His will.

Which brings me to the word effort.

During this conversation we began talking about Dallas Willard’s book The Great Omission. I grabbed my copy and read something like this: Effort is not the problem, earning is. See, to serve God takes effort. But to exert effort to try to earn favor (whether God’s or human’s favor – to me they are both very problematic) is going down a dead end.

The wise sequence is to trust and rest in God, get His will, wisdom and power, and then our effort can bring God glory. Otherwise, we tend to bring glory to ourselves, an unhealthy and unhelpful enterprise.

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shutdown and identity

There is a pretty thought provoking article in the Washington Post. I got to it when I saw this Tweet: “When your identity is tied up in your career, something like the shutdown can make you rethink a few things” READ Post article here and then ask yourself, what is MY identity based on? can I lose that basis? If so then where am I?

CSLewis said not to base our happiness on something we can lose. Forget happiness, let’s not base our identity on what the heck we DO (that includes ESPECIALLY means us pastor types) and can lose!

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the line of scrimmage

Imagine a football* game in the biggest stadium you can imagine. Got it? Okay, now imagine there are ten players on the field. No quarterback, no back field, no defensive secondary, there’s not even a ball to be seen on the field. What you see is a picture of our U.S. political “leaders.”

They are just running into each other on the line of scrimmage, all suffering from multiple concussions, not knowing where to go next. They just run head on into each other.

God help the USA.

(*American football for my non USA readers)

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whose fault, this shutdown?

WARNING: THIS IS A POLITICS POST

Blaming is a popular human sport. Usually, we blame others, anyone but me and my crowd. The shutdown: whose fault is it? I’m tempted to say it’s really no one group at fault, but is instead the result of a clash of ideas. A clash of ideas which has its roots in that which makes us American. Independence.

When I compare our culture to others, I am always struck by this word. Independence. Our most important founding document? Arguably, the Declaration of …Independence (it’s text is here… it takes about 10 minutes to read, if you never have, you should).

When I stopped and read the Declaration of Independence just now, I thought of where we came from and what we were declaring ourselves free of: British tyranny.  As I read it, I realized, being an independent sort, that I resonated with it and that, as I read it, I felt shadows of that long gone tyrant, that British King upon our current situation. I felt a tyranny.

Indeed, in the 237 years since, this nation and its government has grown to such a great size and power and complexity that I shudder to think of what exactly the founders would think. Other minds who are competent to discuss those thinkers of the past will have to weigh in on that (and I doubt that there will be an agreement among them either).

We are indeed under a new tyrant. I do not know her name, but she is certainly not called Wisdom. This new tyrant without name is one whose core attributes are divisiveness, self-aggrandizement and of re-election, and perhaps if not re-election, of obstruction. Some of the members of this tyranny are the members of Congress. But are they at fault? One man’s answer is “No, we elected them.” So are we at fault?

I say “No” again. I say no because our choices are so poor. Look at your last congressional election. Who were your choices? Were you able to choose well because of the way your candidates thought? I couldn’t. Did they, do they… think at all or just follow their party leader? Are they allowed to think? Isn’t it the job of the party whip to keep them from thinking and just vote a certain way?

It would appear that in the current Congress the only people doing any real thinking are the ones who are the obstructionists. Those who may well bring a level of destruction on Mr. Lincoln’s party that will take many years to recover from. Their apparent leader is is not even a member of their own house, he is an eschewed member of the Senate. He seems to be the only one standing on his principles and therefore he is being followed (misguided path that it may be). Certainly the honorable Speaker of the House is not leading, he is only interested in keeping the Speaker’s gavel.

So, again, this unnamed Tyranny which, again, has as its most common attributes divisiveness, self-aggrandizement and of re-election. But, not just re-election, that is not common to them all. Some of them have as their third attribute obstructionism. But we don’t elect the whole House, we only elect our member. Look at that choice for a moment please.

Look please at your own congressional district. Did you get to choose between thinkers? Look at the way your state legislature has drawn the district. What are the chances that your district was drawn to make it either more red or more blue? Almost certainly, it was. Whoever had the power at the time, in your state legislature, whether red or blue, it was they who held the marker on the state map to make it more likely that their team would win in the next even numbered year. And there dear reader, there is yet another problem, the tyranny of the two party system.

Look at my own dear Commonwealth of Virginia (which I love dearly), look at our current Governor’s race. What choices we have. God help us. And look at the scandal in the life of the current holder of said high office. Our choice for the GOP nominee was not made by ballot boxes, our choice was made in a convention, under which I would suggest the Tyranny of the few decided for the voiceless many.

What of the President? He is making Obamacare the linchpin of it all. Perhaps like all the huge programs of the past (Social Security, Medicare, et al), he should put it on the table enough to have some needed reforms made to the reform. Is he allowing it to be his own tyranny?

Enough.

The new tyranny is here, and she has been named, but she is not new, she is as old as history and she is Self. The statesman who sacrificed self on behalf of the people is long dead and buried. Today, we have politicians, who worship the idol of the Self in all its attributes:  divisiveness, self-aggrandizement, re-election and obstruction. The people are not their problem.

That’s why the government is shut down.

Washington, Richmond and your state capital are filled with politicians who are primarily interested in Self rather than serving. Perhaps you will say, it is a flaw in what our system has become. I say it is a problem of the heart. And hearts are only changed from the inside out. That is our hope, the One who served ultimately through His death and resurrection and is willing to change our hearts from the idol of Self to becoming a servant. Utopian? Maybe? Hopeful? Definitely, because of He who eschewed Self and died as a servant.

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