Tuesday, May 31, 2005

One Commandment

In recent years there has been much attention paid to the Ten Commandments because of all the media hype around public displays of these tenets of the Jewish and Christian faiths. My study of Scripture has led me to the conclusion that there is but one remaining commandment.


After Moses assembled all of Israel and read to them the Ten Commandments[1], he instructed them to love God with all their heart, soul and strength[2]. Jesus quotes Moses when he is asked about the Greatest Commandment[3]. Paul reaffirms Jesus’ command in his letter to the Romans when he concludes, “Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law”[4].

God was not satisfied to have the ritual obedience of the Hebrew nation. His goal was to circumcise their hearts, so that they could love him and have life[5]. He even sent prophets to serve as his mouthpiece to tell them:

For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings (Hosea 6:6, KJV).

The Living Bible translation says:

I don’t want your sacrifices—I want your love; I don’t want your offerings—I want you to know me.

In the new testament we are reminded time and again by the Apostle John that God requires love, plain and simple[6]. It is the one commandment that fulfills all others.

How am I going to obey this commandment today?

[1]Deuteronomy 5
[2]Deuteronomy 6:5
[3]Matthew 22:34, Mark 12:28
[4]Romans 13:10
[5]Deuteronomy 30:6]
[6]John 13:34, 15:12; 1 John 4:21

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Can I Be Trusted?

During my morning walk, I prayed and offered myself to the Lord as a “right sacrifice.” I fully placed my trust in him. I know that he hears me and accepts my offering[1].

The psalmist encourages me to “Trust in the LORD with all [my] heart and lean not on [my] own understanding”[2]. So I told the Lord that I trust him as the head of my household and Father to my family. But the question remains, “Can I be trusted?”

I’ve betrayed my family’s trust before. Lacking humility, I became self-obsessed to the dangerous point of nearly taking my own life. To my wife that must have seemed like the ultimate betrayal yet she places her trust in me still.

Can I be trusted?

In times of hardship, I’ve often wanted to throw in the towel or look for the easiest way possible. Sometimes that meant disowning my problems and shirking responsibility. I’ve learned that the easiest way out is often the most costly and detrimental.

Still, in this time of uncertainty about my job, I find myself wondering if I can be trusted. Lord, help me to be trustworthy like you. Keep my feet and my faith firmly planted in you. Let my roots run deep so that I never again get swept away by the tide of selfishness. Keep me humble…always serving.

[1] Psalms 4:3,5
[2] Proverbs 3:5

Tuesday, May 24, 2005


Whenever I hear the word trust now, I think of Greg Focker and his breech of “the circle of trust” in the movie Meet the Parents. If you think about it, we have a similar circle of trust with God...and thankfully he’s not like Jack Byrnes, the distrustful, undercover-CIA-agent father-in-law, either.

Sadly, I am a lot like Focker. Even though I know my Father can be trusted, I don’t always remain in “the circle” or in my case the safe confines of His promises.

That whole trust issue is playing out right now in my own life. God is telling me not to worry about the future even though my salary is only guaranteed for one more month. He’s telling me that He has my family’s best interest at heart and in hand.

Will I remain in the circle by trusting Him completely? Or will I make some boneheaded, Focker-like move and fock things up royally? To be continued…

Friday, May 20, 2005

The One-Tenth Tax

Yesterday over lunch, I was discussing the issue of tithing with some friends. These questions were asked, “Will you rob God?” and “Why does God demand your tithe?”

The only places where tithes are mentioned in the New Testament are in Matthew 23 and Luke 11. There, the text seems to suggest that Jesus was less interested in the tithe than what he calls “the more important matters of…justice, mercy and faithfulness.”

So why do Christians get hung up on this issue of giving one-tenth of their income to the church?

The first biblical reference to this practice is found in Genesis 14:20. Abraham gives one-tenth of his possessions to Melchizedek, a priest later mentioned in the book of Hebrews as a shadow and type of the Messiah. Answers.com gives a good explanation of why Abraham would have willingly given this “tax” to the king of Salem:

The tithe, the Babylonian one-tenth tax, was simply part and parcel of the cultural baggage Abraham brought with him from Mesopotamia. He was without any doubt at all completely familiar with the concept of giving up ten-percent of whatever goods as tax.

In our discussion yesterday, the word “firstfruits” was used in place of tithes, since most Christians believe a tenth of your salary should come off the top, not from what’s left over. This idea of a firstfruits offering is mentioned throughout the Old Testament, but Deuteronomy 18:4 calls it a provision for the Levites, or Jewish priests. Proverbs 3:9 says, “Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops.”

From these passages, I gather that the “one-tenth tax” is applicable to everything from money to crops, or possessions. Is that requirement, or demand, applicable to those under the new covenant? Hasn’t Messiah Jesus fulfilled all requirements under the old covenant?

What I’m learning is that all of God’s commands, including tithing, are more about helping us and less about helping God. God doesn’t need our help. He certainly doesn’t need our finances or possessions. Both Old and New Testaments talk about his need for our love.

Deuteronomy 30:6
The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.

Matthew 22:37-38
Jesus replied: “'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment.”

Consequently, both testaments promise life to those who follow this “golden rule.” So the questions I’m left with are this…

Does God need one-tenth or the whole me?

Has he circumcised my heart or not?
, and

Will the tithe help him do that?

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Blood Is Thicker Than Water

A recent critique of the "emerging church" claims that "there is no sense of gospel wonder"[1]. The phrase itself made me chuckle. It sounds like Christianeze from some bygone era, like maybe the tent revivals of early 20th century America.

After a good chuckle, I thought more soberly about this statement and what it is really saying. Do I not hold Scripture in high enough esteem? Does it no longer arouse wonder?

I will readily admit that I do not speak for the whole of the emerging church. I am but one voice calling out from within the ooze (see 5/4/05 post for more on this). From my limited vantagepoint, it seems the good news does still arouse awe and admiration in many emerging Christians. I know that it does for me.

The problem comes when we hold the gospel over its divine messenger. If we embrace Jesus, the Good Shepherd, we in fact embrace his good news, not the other way around. It seems like so many Christians hold fast to the Word of God, yet they pay little attention to the Word Incarnate. (Note: I don’t like speaking in those terms because they sound so churchy, but I think they help to underscore the real issue here).

Scripture teaches that the Word is like water and we should wash ourselves in it[2]. Scripture also teaches that the blood of Jesus cleanses our consciences from useless rituals and gives us life[3]. If ever I were required to choose, I’d take the blood every time because "blood is thicker than water."

That’s not to imply that I discount the usefulness of water. It doesn’t mean that I read only the red letters in my Bible and discard the rest. But I do try to read the rest of Scripture—the Word—in light of my understanding about Jesus—the Word Incarnate. After all, it is him that I worship and not some shadow or type…meaning literally the type on the printed page.

In my limited understanding, the whole of Scripture points to Jesus. So as followers of him, we should keep his message central and remember that it is indeed good news…for the world, not just a select few. Isnt’ that wonderful?

[1] Thomas, Geoff, "The Emerging Church" at banneroftruth.com (For a good response to this critique, see Bob Hyatt’s blog at http://evergreenlife.org/2005/05/critique.html)
[2] Ephesians 5:26
[3] Hebrews 9:14; Leviticus 17:11; John 6:54

Monday, May 16, 2005

Spiritual Fix Sunday

Too much life going on to post to my blog, lately.

I'll share briefly my first experience in a traditional church setting since Easter. I played drums at a local Pentacostal church on Sunday as a favor to a good friend of mine. It was interesting. Since I come out of that tradition myself, I totally get the formulaic approach to "moving in the Spirit."

I have to say that I honestly checked out mentally for half of the service, when I wasn't on stage. I listened to much of the pastor's sermon, but only really heard a small portion of it. The one think he said that I was able to relate to was something about relationship. The rest of it was standard fare about how "the devil may knock me down, but he won't keep me down" and how Jesus is gonna make a way, etc., etc.

This experience helped me to see how far I've strayed from the me-centric thinking of the modern church. It confirmed that there's really nothing in the formulaic approach to church that appeals to me anymore. I guess I just don't see the need in returning for a weekly "holy ghost" fix that doesn't really make a significant impact on my life or in my environment.

Did I really benefit from the hours I sat in a church building yesterday? Could I have spent that time more productively?

And what of that church building itself? On the one day it is most useful to anyone, it sat largely empty through two "worship services." Could that property not be used for a higher purpose than to provide a cavernous, air-conditioned place to worship for a handful of people?

The Spirit of God certainly doesn't need a building, a formula or a bunch of programs in which to move. He needs authentic people. He needs the Church. If we aren't about the Father's business outside of Sunday-go-t0-meetin' time, then what earthly good are we? If the Spirit isn't moving in our daily lives, then why do we expect some supernatural movement on Sunday? The Spirit doesn't want to move on a bunch of spiritual junkies. He wants authentic people who are about doing the Word daily, and not just hearing it on Sunday.

That's all for now...thanks for listening.

Friday, May 06, 2005

A Father's Prayer for Consistency

Moses, ancient emancipator of enslaved Jews, had a vision. His vision was of a burning bush that spoke with a voice he could understand. That voice identified itself as the God of Moses’ people. When pressed for a name, God said, "I am that I am."

Later Moses declares, "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one" [1]. To this day, the Jews hold the Shema as the central prayer of their faith. In the opening statement based on Moses’ declaration above, Jews are affirming their belief in the one, eternal, unchanging, all-powerful God [2].

This morning as I prayed over my family, I asked God to help me be a better father to my two daughters. I prayed, "Lord, help me to be consistent with my discipline." The moment I said that—yes I pray out loud to an unseen God—I immediately added, "Help me be consistent with my love, too." Then, I pondered the whole concept and realized that I just need to be consistent—period—so I asked God to make me more consistent in my life.

I thought about how I’ve always heard that consistency is the rule in discipline. I am reminded about it every week on television, whether its Dr. Phil or the Super Nanny. But my daughters need me to be consistent in everything. They just need quality daddy time, so I need to be consistently reliable.

That’s what I love about God and about the Jewish affirmation of him in the Shema. Although I do not wear the label "Jew," I do consider myself "the seed of Abraham" and an heir by means of adoption. I see the Shema as affirming God’s consistency. If he is "I am," with no one of higher authority to correct or change him, then I know he can be relied on to stay the same day-to-day.

Because of Jesus’ teachings, I know that "I am" is also "Father." I believe that he is approachable and always available to me. That’s why I pray. Its how I communicate with him. I believe he hears me, and he answers. He’s consistent that way; reliable.

For me, the Shema says that God is eternally reliable. I want to be that way, also. I want to be a consistent person in life, accessible to my daughters and always willing to listen. Thank you for hearing my prayer, Father. Amen.

[1] Deuteronomy 4:6
[2] Dickson, Athol, "The Gospel According to Moses," Brazos Press, 2003, p. 33.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Emerging Ooze

Here are the first stanzas of a poem I found online by George Lewis Avery:

Once upon a time ...
there was a primordial ooze
emerging from a bit of frozen earth
where the sun heated the rock
in an age when all things sentient
lingered in the great oblivion of sleep

- an eon passed
and from that ooze
was borne a cognizant thought
what rose to the surface
of that stagnant pond
as a bubble does
and within its dome
was sealed
the recipe for transcendence[1]

Lots of good imagery here for what’s being labeled the “emerging church.” Are you emerging from “a bit of frozen earth?” Are you awakening to feel the sun on your face?

Because this evolving church defies definition, I will not attempt to wall it in. All I know is that I feel I am emerging from the frozen tundra of traditional, Western Christianity with its systemized theologies, evangelism and outreach programs and other synthetic wrappings.

As much as I dislike labels, there’s really no other way to describe this evolution of faith, this coming out of the ooze. It’s an emergence from what seemed to work in ages past to something a bit more relevant for today. The poem quoted above does capture the spirit of this metamorphosis as well as words are really able.

Unless you’re a sprinter, most journeys start slowly. I walk more than I jog and I rarely ever run full out. And so the spiritual journey that I find myself on is more of an ooze, inching along ever so slowly in thick, nutrient-rich globules like the primordial substance of all life.

If you feel that this imagery speaks for your journey, please post a comment. If it raises more questions than it answers, then good. Feel free to post a question, too. I’m all about connecting with others who are also inching along the path toward Life.

[1] From “The Primordial Ooze” at http://www.averyhillarts.com/ooze.html

Monday, May 02, 2005

Cultivating Spirituality

I plan to post more on this topic later. For now, check out what Ronaldo says about "Reaching People" in his blog from down under...