Saturday, December 23, 2006

Computer Sabbath

Two things happened when I was in the eighth grade that greatly affected the rest of my life to this point:
1. My last sibling (my brother) left home for college.
2. My parents got me a personal computer for Christmas.

Another tidbit that would be pertinent to the point of this post would be that I was always the guy in school who had a lot of acquaintance friendships, but few, if any, good and lasting "let's go out this weekend" friendships.

So finding myself an only child, with few friends from school, and a nice computer in my room, I began to spend decent amounts of time on the computer...

...and I haven't stopped since. Twelve years (almost half of my life) later, I spend several hours a day most days on the computer. Lots of the time, I am quite productive. Lots of the time, I am very unproductive.

The computer has led me to some glorious things - I am quite adept with a number of computer programs that greatly add to my life and my ministry and with a wealth of information, history, pictures, music, and even surface friendships at the push of my fingertips, I have been a better person because of the computer.

But the computer has also led me to some vices - from a hard-gripping addiction to pornography, to a lesser-hurtful but worthy-of-notice addiction to games, to some fruitless and needless web browsing, I have been a worse person because of the computer.

So I am beginning some personal sabbaths from the computer. I will try it out beginning tomorrow evening, sundown on Christmas Eve, through sundown on New Year's Eve. Although a few of these days will be "vacation" days and it will be easy to stay away from the computer, being with family, I will return to a regularly-scheduled program later in the week, so it will be difficult to fill the four-eight hours I usually spend in front of a computer screen. It will also be difficult (though not really) to complete normal tasks that I now rely on the computer for (sermon preparation, worship folder making, and other tasks that I regularly complete in the church week).

I don't expect everyone to understand what I'm doing. But as I replace this time in my life - just for a week - with even more of what I want to do (reading, prayer, family, visiting people in my NSCC community), I hope that I am a better person.

I'll catch ya on the flip side.

Merry Christmas and may you and I both find Christ even more in the New Year.

F&TC,
- J

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Eat, Drink, & Be Merry...

...for tomorrow we live.

I have a distaste for Blockbuster. I'm not a big fan of over-paying for something I don't get to reap the benefits of for more than an hour or two (hence my usual avoidance of movie theaters as well). Although, come to think of it, I'm hypocritical here, because I apparently have no problem eating out at restaurants...Anyway, I'd always walked right past the Red Box DVD rental machine at Stop 'n Shop. But last week I stopped just to see what it was all about and discovered that you can rent DVDs there for $1 a day. I figured this was a fee we could put up with.

So to try it out, Meghan and I rented Click, with Adam Sandler, on advice from Mike Lyle (thanks, Mike). Mike said he had cried when watching it. The combination of Adam Sandler and Mike Lyle in tears was enough to intrigue us.

It's not a great movie. I'd love to use it as an illustration some time, but there's needless sexual humor that many might not be able to stomach. There's also some pretty funny stuff you'd expect from Adam Sandler. You'll not see many awards for this one. But it did indeed make me emotional at the end, and it left me pondering things I've been considering recently.

The movie picks apart what I believe is a major deteriorating factor of our American society. The premise of the movie ends up being "family first, work second." But I want to carry it a bit further.

Once upon a time, I was a rather intense Dave Matthews Band fan. I went to my first concert a few weeks after I got my driver's license when I was 16. I was bobbing to "Too Much" and "Ants Marching" well before DMB took off in popularity like they did in my high school and college years. I actually abandoned listening to them on a spiritual conviction binge my freshman year of college (an action that was helpful at the time, but has since been rescinded).

Anyway, yesterday as Meghan and I were driving to our latest ultrasound appointment (by the way, the fluid levels are better), DMB's song "Tripping Billies" came on the radio. I remember when my friend Spen and I first starting listening to DMB, the week after Crash (probably still in my top three "most listened albums" and top ten "best albums") came out, he asked me what I thought about the song. I didn't really know. I mean, I knew what it meant, but I didn't really care. I just liked the way the song sounded.

The premise of the song is: "eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die". The general American societal response to this is: "work hard then be merry," with the usual result that life is full of work and little merry-making. The general evangelical Christian response to this premise is: work hard for time is of the devil and Jesus might be coming back soon.

(As yet another side note, sometimes those perceivably anti-Xian bumper stickers like this one are well worth seeing because they challenge me to consider my faith in light of whatever they're mocking. Unfortunately or better yet, perhaps fortunately, the creator of the bumper stickers often has a good point. Another one that I've seen around Hingham is "Born okay the first time".)

Anyway, as we listened to the song yesterday, I was reminded of a statement I heard Jon Middendorf make several weeks ago - "[The Church needs] to count less and party more." He was speaking in terms of measuring church "success". I've looked a bit at scripture since then, and though Paul appears to think we should be working hard, Jesus takes a more relaxed role in the Kingdom. He often took the time to slow down. His first sign in John was to create a better celebratory atmosphere at the opportunity of a wedding. The last thing he did with his followers was sit down to a meal. And he has us re-member His Body in the act of a meal. I mean, he could of had us re-member remember the cross with the use of hammer and nails or the carrying of a cross. But he didn't. He chose the intaking of bread and wine.

Meghan, Brayden, and I spend a lot of time together. I admit that often I feel guilty that I'm not doing enough for the church or that I am missing out on something I should be doing at the office. But truly, I love the fact that we spend a lot of time together. We love to eat. Meghan loves to cook and I love to eat her cooking. Brayden loves to lay on my stomach facing the ceiling and throwing a ball up and down over and over again. After Brayden goes to bed, I love sitting in the same room as Meghan while she reads and I browse the Internet.

This past Sunday evening the a bunch of us from North Street went out Christmas caroling around the immediate neighborhood. After we sang together for almost two hours, we gathered back at our house for food and warm drinks. It was a lot of fun and I think the Kingdom is better for it.

I don't know, I guess I just wonder how much of the administrative tasks of life truly add to the Kingdom instead of taking away from the essence of the Kingdom. Life in the Kingdom is an incredible thing - we know that we get to live because of Christ. I think that's reason for celebration.

The concept of "eat, drink, & be merry" is indeed in scripture (see Luke 12:13-48, but take care to read the whole passage). Jesus tells a story about a rich guy who has a ton of crops, and not sure what to do with them, decides to store them up and milk their benefits for the rest of his life. So he tears down his barns and builds bigger ones to store more for a longer period of time. But God tells him that his life is over as of that day, so what good was his storage? Christ's conclusion: so it is with those who store up treasures on earth rather than being "rich toward God." And then there's a "therefore." Jesus tells the disciples that they shouldn't worry so much about what to wear or what to eat, "For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing." So don't strive for the things of the earth, but strive for the Kingdom...and even then, the things of the earth will be there for you.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Cash Cab

One modern trait still embedded in my confused head is a love for game shows. I can't help it, I love 'em. When we moved to Hingham and got cable for the first time, I was slightly disappointed that we didn't get the Game Show Network. Since then, Comcast has added it. Woo-hoo.

But right now, the only one I really get to watch with any regularity is Cash Cab. It's actually on the Discovery Channel. (Speaking of the DC...if I ever had to stay home for a whole day and was forced to watch just one channel the whole time, I don't think I'd pick ESPN because it can quickly get boring and repetitious. I'd definitely choose Discovery. Or maybe the History Channel.)

Anyway, Cash Cab is one of those things that when I first saw it, I asked myself, "Why didn't I think of that?" It's got to be one of the most low-budget shows on television. It consists of a New York City cab and a driver-host (who's really stand-up comedian Ben Bailey). Unknowing customers enter his cab, tell him their destination, and then find out they're on a trivia game show. Ben drives them to their destination, asking general knowledge trivia questions all along the way for increasing amounts of money. If they get three wrong, he kicks them out of the cab on the spot.

I just found a clip of it on YouTube. This one's a bit unusual because the contestant is pretty funny. (There are a lot of other clips on YouTube.) But you'll get the idea.



Brayden likes it too and when he sees it he says, "cass cab."

Don't really know why I blogged on this...

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

ETA: 94 Days

So we went for another ultrasound yesterday (Grandma Scott and Great-Great Auntie Helen Bradley got to come with us, but stayed in the waiting room). What I haven't reported here on the blog yet is that one of the babies ("Baby B" for now) has more amniotic fluid in her sac than "Baby A". We've known this for three ultrasounds now. One of the beneficial things of having twins is that you get to have ultrasounds every month. But since this extra fluid situation has arisen, we've gone every two weeks. That's pretty cool.

Our hope has been that the fluid would even out between the two babies. It hasn't happened. In fact there was even just a little bit more for "Baby B" than there was last month. One "good" thing about the situation is that with extra fluid, it makes seeing the baby during an ultrasound very easy and clear. You can probably notice the difference between the two pictures.

We're not too concerned yet. This is not an uncommon occurance. It's even more common for pregnancies with twins. Our biggest concern is pre-term labor. The babies are 2 lbs, 10 oz and 2 lbs, 9 oz (which is great). But Meghan is bigger than she would normally be at six+ months and she's only going to get bigger (which I truly don't understand). There are indeed other concerns, but both we and our doctor are ruling them out for now, either because of obvious development that's occurred or because of small percentage possibility.

Regardless, this is a whole lot of fun. Brayden is practicing saying his sisters' names (though he has no clue what this all means). Right now he says "Booklin" and "Benna" (Brooklyn and Brenna). We've taught him to point out "where the babies are," so don't be offended when he comes up to you and points at any slight bulge on your body and says "Baby! Baby!".

Meghan and I are coming around to the realization that life is going to be very, very different. Our community is very understanding, and offers to help out all the time.

We thank God for the opportunity and faithfully rest on his strength, encouragement, and oversight.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Upside Down Kingdom

Today was Christ the King Sunday. The few of us who were in town to worship at North Street looked together at Christ and his Kingdom. I wrote a short reading that someone asked me for, so I'm posting it here.

UPSIDE DOWN KINGDOM


Christ is King:
His transportation is not a white horse, but an ass.
His crown is not of gold, but of thorns.
His scepter is not of solid metal, but of wood.
His throne is not adorned with jewels, but with nails.
His glorification came not from his victory in battle, but through his death on a tree.
His queen is not the most beautiful or the best political alliance...
...rather, his bride is a whore who has time and again cheated on him, whimsically wandering off following whatever new and good-looking beau and all he might have to offer.
Yet, rather than kill his bride, his unfaithful queen, he continually seeks after her.

We indeed are his bride, and
As citizens in the Kingdom of God:
Our allegiance is not to a nation, but to a kingdom.
Our place is not found in a hierarchy, but in equality.
Our victory comes not through battle, but through surrender.

Someday I might add more or revise this. For now, here it is.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Jordan Christine Scott

Jordan made a grand and quick entrance into the world today to the delight of her parents, Jeff & Joy, and her brother, Joshua. Jordan was 7 pounds, 4 ounces and 1'9". She's pretty darn beautiful.

I've spent an hour or so reflecting on her short life. What a beautiful thing.

I confess that I don't understand a lot about life. I've had several friends recently who've either lost a baby prior to birth or just can't even get pregnant. And here Meghan and I are with a wonderful 19-month old boy and two girls on the way. I can quite surely tell you that I am no more righteous than my friends. I don't understand the distribution of joy via children at this point. But blessed be the name of the Lord.

Here's a video I made for Jordan's arrival. Some might find the choice of music interesting for a baby video. I think the words of the song are quite poignant in light of what you're watching.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

A Month Later...


We had our second ultrasound yesterday. Looks like Brayden will most likely be Mommy & Daddy's only little boy. The twins are girls. Anatomically, everything looks great. The doctor seemed pleasantly surprised at all she could see so early.

In other news, we have names for them, provided by their cousin, Joshua. One will be "Naby" and the other will be "Boboopa" (or something like that). Thankfully, Josh did a much better job of picking his in-utero sister's name ("Jordan Christine").

Meghan is rapidly getting bigger. It's incredible and hard to believe that we still have 5+ months to go. She eats like you might expect and it's a nightly occurence for me to wake up a couple of times in the middle of the night to the sound of crunching chips, Cheez-Its, or saltine crackers. Wish I had an excuse.

One of our first immediate concerns over having twins was our vehicle situation. Knowing that we had two cars (with no payments), it was not in our plans to have to get something else (bigger) that could hold three car seats (Brayden will still be in a car seat). Less than a week after we found out about the twins, some very thoughtful friends offered to trade their minivan for one of our cars straight up. Long story short, we now have a minivan with no payments. And it's very nice...as minivans go. Just kidding - we're very thankful.

Thanks to all for encouraging words and sharing in our excitement.

F&TC,
- J, M, B, & 2 girls

Monday, August 14, 2006

It Takes Two















Many of you have heard by now, but it's tough to get the word out to everyone. Hopefully this will help. Meghan is pregnant and we just found out she's pregnant with twins. Your prayers are appreciated. ;-)

F&TC,
- J

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Disclaimers

The written understandings expressed on this website and blog are solely those of Jeremy D. Scott and are not necessarily (though perhaps hopefully!) representative of the International Church of the Nazarene, North Street Community Chapel, or any individual or organization other than Jeremy D. Scott. If you happen to quote this website/blog, be sure that it's quoted to "Jeremy D. Scott," and not as necessarily representative of the aforementioned groups.

In addition, I (Jeremy) reserve the right to change my opinion, thinking, and understandings as I continue to be exposed to more and more of the face of God and this incredible world. This is why the website is entitled "Still Learning"...because I am indeed still learning and I believe that anyone still breathing oxygen is too, despite the inability of many to recognize this fact and despite the fact that so many try so hard not to..

I encourage interaction with what I'm writing. I prefer suggestion and dialogue in place of rigid reprehension.

"What's with the middle initial?  Are you really that full of yourself?",  you may ask.  I started using my middle initial back in college.  It's a combination of a number of things:
  • I was working on the college yearbook my sophomore year, as the Copy Editor.  My editor and good friend Cara Paulsen (now Edwards) insisted on everyone's name including their middle initial.  
  • About the same time, I was entering into student leadership.  In my interaction with students and faculty from across the country, some would often confuse me with another Jeremy Scott who went to another Nazarene institution.  To confuse matters further, this Jeremy Scott also has a brother named Jeff...like me.
  • As for the URL/webaddress, I would have chosen to have it minus the middle initial, but the fashion designer beat me to it.
In all things:
"...this is my prayer, that our love would flourish more and more all the time by what we know and how well we know it so that we can be able to discern what is worthy, bringing purity before God until the day of Christ, filled with a fruit of righteousness that comes by Christ for the glory and praise of God."
- Philippians 1:9-11 (JDSV)

Friday, February 03, 2006

The Prophetic Bono

I'm just going to cut and paste it and try not to commentate on it as to not ruin what he said. Just read it:

Bono's Speech/Sermon to the Presidential Prayer Breakfast on February 1st, 2006:


If you're wondering what I'm doing here, at a prayer breakfast, well, so am I. I'm certainly not here as a man of the cloth, unless that cloth is leather. It's certainly not because I'm a rock star. Which leaves one possible explanation: I'm here because I've got a messianic complex.

Yes, it's true. And for anyone who knows me, it's hardly a revelation.

Well, I'm the first to admit that there's something unnatural...something unseemly...about rock stars mounting the pulpit and preaching at presidents, and then disappearing to their villas in the south of France. Talk about a fish out of water. It was weird enough when Jesse Helms showed up at a U2 concert...but this is really weird, isn't it?

You know, one of the things I love about this country is its separation of church and state. Although I have to say: in inviting me here, both church and state have been separated from something else completely: their mind.

Mr. President, are you sure about this?

It's very humbling and I will try to keep my homily brief. But be warned - I'm Irish.

I'd like to talk about the laws of man, here in this city where those laws are written. And I'd like to talk about higher laws. It would be great to assume that the one serves the other; that the laws of man serve these higher laws...but of course, they don't always. And I presume that, in a sense, is why you're here.

I presume the reason for this gathering is that all of us here - Muslims, Jews, Christians - all are searching our souls for how to better serve our family, our community, our nation, our God.

I know I am. Searching, I mean. And that, I suppose, is what led me here, too.

Yes, it's odd, having a rock star here - but maybe it's odder for me than for you. You see, I avoided religious people most of my life. Maybe it had something to do with having a father who was Protestant and a mother who was Catholic in a country where the line between the two was, quite literally, a battle line. Where the line between church and state was...well, a little blurry, and hard to see.

I remember how my mother would bring us to chapel on Sundays... and my father used to wait outside. One of the things that I picked up from my father and my mother was the sense that religion often gets in the way of God.

For me, at least, it got in the way. Seeing what religious people, in the name of God, did to my native land...and in this country, seeing God's second-hand car salesmen on the cable TV channels, offering indulgences for cash...in fact, all over the world, seeing the self-righteousness roll down like a mighty stream from certain corners of the religious establishment...

I must confess, I changed the channel. I wanted my MTV.

Even though I was a believer.

Perhaps because I was a believer.

I was cynical...not about God, but about God's politics. (There you are, Jim.)

Then, in 1997, a couple of eccentric, septuagenarian British Christians went and ruined my shtick - my reproachfulness. They did it by describing the millennium, the year 2000, as a Jubilee year, as an opportunity to cancel the chronic debts of the world's poorest people. They had the audacity to renew the Lord's call - and were joined by Pope John Paul II, who, from an Irish half-Catholic's point of view, may have had a more direct line to the Almighty.

'Jubilee' - why 'Jubilee'?

What was this year of Jubilee, this year of our Lord's favor?

I'd always read the scriptures, even the obscure stuff. There it was in Leviticus (25:35)...

'If your brother becomes poor,' the scriptures say, 'and cannot maintain himself...you shall maintain him.... You shall not lend him your money at interest, not give him your food for profit.'

It is such an important idea, Jubilee, that Jesus begins his ministry with this. Jesus is a young man, he's met with the rabbis, impressed everyone, people are talking. The elders say, he's a clever guy, this Jesus, but he hasn't done much...yet. He hasn't spoken in public before...

When he does, is first words are from Isaiah: 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,' he says, 'because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.' And Jesus proclaims the year of the Lord's favour, the year of Jubilee (Luke 4:18).

What he was really talking about was an era of grace - and we're still in it.

So fast-forward 2,000 years. That same thought, grace, was made incarnate - in a movement of all kinds of people. It wasn't a bless-me club... it wasn't a holy huddle. These religious guys were willing to get out in the streets, get their boots dirty, wave the placards, follow their convictions with actions...making it really hard for people like me to keep their distance. It was amazing. I almost started to like these church people.

But then my cynicism got another helping hand.

It was what Colin Powell, a five-star general, called the greatest W.M.D. of them all: a tiny little virus called AIDS. And the religious community, in large part, missed it. The ones that didn't miss it could only see it as divine retribution for bad behaviour. Even on children...even [though the] fastest growing group of HIV infections were married, faithful women.

Aha, there they go again! I thought to myself judgmentalism is back!

But in truth, I was wrong again. The church was slow but the church got busy on this the leprosy of our age.

Love was on the move.

Mercy was on the move.

God was on the move.

Moving people of all kinds to work with others they had never met, never would have cared to meet...conservative church groups hanging out with spokesmen for the gay community, all singing off the same hymn sheet on AIDS...soccer moms and quarterbacks...hip-hop stars and country stars. This is what happens when God gets on the move: crazy stuff happens!

Popes were seen wearing sunglasses!

Jesse Helms was seen with a ghetto blaster!

Crazy stuff. Evidence of the spirit.

It was breathtaking. Literally. It stopped the world in its tracks.

When churches started demonstrating on debt, governments listened - and acted. When churches starting organising, petitioning, and even - that most unholy of acts today, God forbid, lobbying...on AIDS and global health, governments listened - and acted.

I'm here today in all humility to say: you changed minds; you changed policy; you changed the world.

Look, whatever thoughts you have about God, who He is or if He exists, most will agree that if there is a God, He has a special place for the poor. In fact, the poor are where God lives.

Check Judaism. Check Islam. Check pretty much anyone.

I mean, God may well be with us in our mansions on the hill. I hope so. He may well be with us as in all manner of controversial stuff. Maybe, maybe not. But the one thing we can all agree, all faiths and ideologies, is that God is with the vulnerable and poor.

God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them. "If you remove the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, and if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom with become like midday and the Lord will continually guide you and satisfy your desire in scorched places."

It's not a coincidence that in the scriptures, poverty is mentioned more than 2,100 times. It's not an accident. That's a lot of air time, 2,100 mentions. (You know, the only time Christ is judgmental is on the subject of the poor.) 'As you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me' (Matthew 25:40). As I say, good news to the poor.

Here's some good news for the president. After 9/11 we were told America would have no time for the world's poor. America would be taken up with its own problems of safety. And it's true these are dangerous times, but America has not drawn the blinds and double-locked the doors.

In fact, you have doubled aid to Africa. You have tripled funding for global health. Mr. President, your emergency plan for AIDS relief and support for the Global Fund - you and Congress - have put 700,000 people onto life-saving anti-retroviral drugs and provided 8 million bed nets to protect children from malaria.

Outstanding human achievements. Counterintuitive. Historic. Be very, very proud.

But here's the bad news. From charity to justice, the good news is yet to come. There is much more to do. There's a gigantic chasm between the scale of the emergency and the scale of the response.

And finally, it's not about charity after all, is it? It's about justice.

Let me repeat that: It's not about charity, it's about justice.

And that's too bad.

Because you're good at charity. Americans, like the Irish, are good at it. We like to give, and we give a lot, even those who can't afford it.

But justice is a higher standard. Africa makes a fool of our idea of justice; it makes a farce of our idea of equality. It mocks our pieties, it doubts our concern, it questions our commitment.

Sixty-five hundred Africans are still dying every day of a preventable, treatable disease, for lack of drugs we can buy at any drug store. This is not about charity, this is about justice and equality.

Because there's no way we can look at what's happening in Africa and, if we're honest, conclude that deep down, we really accept that Africans are equal to us. Anywhere else in the world, we wouldn't accept it. Look at what happened in South East Asia with the tsunami. 150,000 lives lost to that misnomer of all misnomers, "mother nature." In Africa, 150,000 lives are lost every month. A tsunami every month. And it's a completely avoidable catastrophe.

It's annoying but justice and equality are mates. Aren't they? Justice always wants to hang out with equality. And equality is a real pain.

You know, think of those Jewish sheep-herders going to meet the Pharaoh, mud on their shoes, and the Pharaoh says, "Equal?" A preposterous idea: rich and poor are equal? And they say, "Yeah, 'equal,' that's what it says here in this book. We're all made in the image of God."

And eventually the Pharaoh says, "OK, I can accept that. I can accept the Jews - but not the blacks."

"Not the women. Not the gays. Not the Irish. No way, man."

So on we go with our journey of equality.

On we go in the pursuit of justice.

We hear that call in the ONE Campaign, a growing movement of more than 2 million Americans...Left and Right together... united in the belief that where you live should no longer determine whether you live.

We hear that call even more powerfully today, as we mourn the loss of Coretta Scott King - mother of a movement for equality, one that changed the world but is only just getting started. These issues are as alive as they ever were; they just change shape and cross the seas.

Preventing the poorest of the poor from selling their products while we sing the virtues of the free market...that's a justice issue. Holding children to ransom for the debts of their grandparents...that's a justice issue. Withholding life-saving medicines out of deference to the Office of Patents...that's a justice issue.

And while the law is what we say it is, God is not silent on the subject.

That's why I say there's the law of the land�. And then there is a higher standard. There's the law of the land, and we can hire experts to write them so they benefit us, so the laws say it's OK to protect our agriculture but it's not OK for African farmers to do the same, to earn a living?

As the laws of man are written, that's what they say.

God will not accept that.

Mine won't, at least. Will yours?

[ pause]

I close this morning on...very...thin...ice.

This is a dangerous idea I've put on the table: my God vs. your God, their God vs. our God...vs. no God. It is very easy, in these times, to see religion as a force for division rather than unity.

And this is a town - Washington - that knows something of division.

But the reason I am here, and the reason I keep coming back to Washington, is because this is a town that is proving it can come together on behalf of what the scriptures call the least of these.

This is not a Republican idea. It is not a Democratic idea. It is not even, with all due respect, an American idea. Nor it is unique to any one faith.

'Do to others as you would have them do to you' (Luke 6:30). Jesus says that.

'Righteousness is this: that one should...give away wealth out of love for him to the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and the beggars and for the emancipation of the captives.' The Koran says that (2.177).

Thus sayeth the Lord: 'Bring the homeless poor into the house, when you see the naked, cover him, then your light will break out like the dawn and your recovery will speedily spring fourth, then your Lord will be your rear guard.' The Jewish scripture says that. Isaiah 58 again.

That is a powerful incentive: 'The Lord will watch your back.' Sounds like a good deal to me, right now.

A number of years ago, I met a wise man who changed my life. In countless ways, large and small, I was always seeking the Lord's blessing. I was saying, you know, I have a new song, look after it�. I have a family, please look after them�. I have this crazy idea...

And this wise man said: stop.

He said, stop asking God to bless what you're doing.

Get involved in what God is doing - because it's already blessed.

Well, God, as I said, is with the poor. That, I believe, is what God is doing.

And that is what he's calling us to do.

I was amazed when I first got to this country and I learned how much some churchgoers tithe. Up to 10% of the family budget. Well, how does that compare with the federal budget, the budget for the entire American family? How much of that goes to the poorest people in the world? Less than 1%.

Mr. President, Congress, people of faith, people of America:

I want to suggest to you today that you see the flow of effective foreign assistance as tithing.... Which, to be truly meaningful, will mean an additional 1% of the federal budget tithed to the poor.

What is 1%?

1% is not merely a number on a balance sheet.

1% is the girl in Africa who gets to go to school, thanks to you. 1% is the AIDS patient who gets her medicine, thanks to you. 1% is the African entrepreneur who can start a small family business thanks to you. 1% is not redecorating presidential palaces or money flowing down a rat hole. This 1% is digging waterholes to provide clean water.

1% is a new partnership with Africa, not paternalism toward Africa, where increased assistance flows toward improved governance and initiatives with proven track records and away from boondoggles and white elephants of every description.

America gives less than 1% now. We're asking for an extra 1% to change the world. to transform millions of lives - but not just that and I say this to the military men now - to transform the way that they see us.

1% is national security, enlightened economic self-interest, and a better, safer world rolled into one. Sounds to me that in this town of deals and compromises, 1% is the best bargain around.

These goals - clean water for all; school for every child; medicine for the afflicted, an end to extreme and senseless poverty - these are not just any goals; they are the Millennium Development goals, which this country supports. And they are more than that. They are the Beatitudes for a globalised world.

Now, I'm very lucky. I don't have to sit on any budget committees. And I certainly don't have to sit where you do, Mr. President. I don't have to make the tough choices.

But I can tell you this:

To give 1% more is right. It's smart. And it's blessed.

There is a continent - Africa - being consumed by flames.

I truly believe that when the history books are written, our age will be remembered for three things: the war on terror, the digital revolution, and what we did - or did not to - to put the fire out in Africa.

History, like God, is watching what we do.

Thank you. Thank you, America, and God bless you all.



Are we listening? Because God just spoke.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Strong, the Tempted, & the Weak

Living in Kansas City, Kansas for two and half years, I often drove through a lot of run-down neighborhoods. I've worked with some depressed people pulled down by experiences with drugs, abuse, neglect, death, poverty, and other unspeakable things. It amazes me how much disaster can abound in the "greatest country in the world." So many people in the US are either blind or blatantly ignorant (and I confess I've been and am one of them).

In conjunction with this I've also been challenged by the problems of addiction. Most often, when one hears or reads "addiction," thoughts immediately run to drugs and alcohol. But the challenge of addiction goes way beyond substance abuse. Addiction runs through things such as television, pornography, the internet, gambling, and what I believe is possibly the worst addiction in the US: food.

It's easy for someone who deals day-in and day-out with people who struggle with addiction or hopeless people to get down on the world, feel hopeless, and perhaps even give up. But as I drove to class today through the neighborhoods I often drive through that don't look like your typical suburban Brady-Bunch neighborhoods, a song that often encourages me impacted me again. I turned it up real loud, opened the sunroof, and sang...loudly and without apology. I didn't care that the people waiting at the bus stop heard or noticed as I sat next to them in the car at a red light. Perhaps I wanted them to hear me.

I have often typed out lyrics to a song and sent them to people thinking that their reading of them might give them the same feeling that the words elicited in me. But you really have to hear the song coupled with words to get full message. (As I've said here before, I believe that music is the most powerful artistic expression of human emotion and will be for a long, long time, if not forever.) Of course, you may not see the hopelessness and pain that I've experienced in others recently. But I've found that my exposure to these has given me a greater appreciation of the hope of Christ. That's what this song is about.

If you can, download it (legally, of course) and listen to it. When you're down and you need some hope, try listening to this song. (Click here if you want to download it.)

The Strong, the Tempted, & the Weak

in union with the Lamb
from condemnation free
the saints from everlasting were
and shall forever be
in covenant of old
the sons of God they were
the feeblest lamb in Jesus' fold
was blessed in Jesus there

it's bonds shall never break
though earth's old columns bow
the strong, the tempted, & the weak
are one in Jesus now
when storms or tempests rise
or sins your peace assail
your hope in Jesus never dies
'tis cast within the veil

here let the weary rest
who love the Savior's name
though with no sweet enjoyments blessed
this covenant stands the same

(and can I add: ... "ah-woo-hoo-hoooo")

F&TC,
- J

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Book Report: Velvet Elvis, Rob Bell

I haven't been posting recently. No big reason why other than I've been pretty busy. But I've been reading a book recently that has greatly affirmed me as well as challenged me.

It may be hard to categorize this book. I'll list a few categories: theology, non-fiction, apologetics. It may even be seen as a collection of sermons. It certainly is empassioned, well thought out, well-researched, and easily read. I hesitate to use the word "theology" when speaking of the book because I don't want people who think they "can't read theology books" to skip by this book. Anyone can read this book. (And I think many should.)

It's published by Zondervan and here is their website on the book. If you would like to read an excerpt, click here. This excerpt is actually the beginning of the book. Bell often returns to this image of the trampoline.

I'm not sure how to review the book. I usually avoid proof-texting these days (pulling a single statement out of a book and using it to make a point) because it can lead people astray out of context. But I will here. The statements I've selected will at least give a taste of Bell's writing style and heart.

"Doctrine is a wonderful servant and a horrible master." (page 025)
I'm pretty sure I've heard statements like this before. But Bell's context in the first chapter is that we use and abuse doctrine these days to the detriment of ourselves and our (God's) message.

"God is bigger than the Christian faith." (page 027)
A statement that may seem profound at first, but I believe is true. Bell asks us to look at the Christian faith as a growing and emerging thing. A question for reflection from me is: Does God grow? Do we play a part in who God is?

"So the invitation to jump is an invitation to follow Jesus with all of our doubts and questions right there with us." (page 028)
This is in relation to the trampoline as an image for the Christian faith. Inviting someone to join this Christian faith is: ...the statement above. One of his points is that to "accept Christ" is not to have it all figured out. To accept Christ is not an act that prerequisites that someone have their life in line and perfect.

"God has spoken and the rest is commentary." (a number of times)
This is one statement with which I still have questions. I believe that what we say is certainly commentary...I'm just not sure that God has finally spoken. He has said...but he has more to say.

Of the Bible (individual verses):
"They aren't isolated statements that float, unattached, out in space." (page 062)
I have felt this way for a long time now. Can we please stop throwing individual phrases from the Bible at people thinking that the act of doing so will dramatically change their lives? I think St. Francis of Assisi said something to the effect of my feelings here. I'll let you Google for it. I'm sure it's his most-quoted phrase.

"Jesus is the arrangement. Jesus is the design. Jesus is the intelligence. For a Christian, Jesus' teachings aren't to be followed because they are a nice way to live a moral life. They are to be followed because they are the best possible insight into how the world really works. They teach us how things are." (page 083)
Let me couple this with the statement above about how God is bigger than the Christian faith. Jesus is God and I also believe is bigger than the Christian faith. Then how can I (or anyone else) think we have Christ completely figured out? I can't. Christ is bigger than me. I am his servant and as a minister of his gospel, I always have to keep an open mind to different ideas of what he has done, what he is doing, and what he will do.

"Christian is a great noun and a poor adjective." (page 084)
WOOHOO!!! Go ROB! Just because someone - you, me, CBD, TBN, Pat Robertson, a denomination, or anyone else - labels something "Christian" does not mean that it is "following Christ." Let's be careful, people. Just the same, just because something is not labelled Christian does not mean that it does not fall in line with Christ. Or, just because an individual claims the title of "Christian" does not mean that they are following Christ in what they say or what they do.

Of missionaries (or other ministers) talking about "taking Jesus" to a certain place:
"I would ask them if people in China and India and Chicago are eating and laughing and enjoying things and generally being held together? Because if they are, then Jesus, in a way that is difficult to fully articulate, is already present there." (page 088)
Just an interesting thought. I'll not make commentary right now.

"The thought of the word church and the word marketing in the same sentence makes me sick." (page 099)
Can we stop paralleling the church (local OR general) with the business world, please?

"I am institutionally challenged." (page 150)
I empathize.

"Heaven is full of forgiven people.
Hell is full of forgiven people.
Heaven is full of people God loves, whom Jesus died for.
Hell is is full of people God loves, whom Jesus died for.
The difference is how we choose to live, which story we choose to live in, which version of reality we trust.
Ours or Gods."
(page 146)
Wow. This resonates with how a character in McLaren's book (A New Kind of Christian), named Neo, talks about heaven and hell. One thing he says is, "We are becoming on thsi side of the door of death the kind of people we will be on the other side."

I read a comment from someone regarding the book who said that the trampoline was a poor image. Here's what he said:
I read Velvet Elvis and am truly saddened to see how far Rob is heading down a slippery path theologically. My concern for his distain for "doctrine" in it's true form, that of the foundation upon which the church of Christ is built, is great. To compare doctrine with the springs of a trampoline? Hello. And then suggest that our understanding of doctrines could be distorted, such as the Virgin Birth of Christ and others he mentions, is frightening. I must have a different Bible. Mine says Christ is the ROCK upon which we build...not a trampoline upon which we jump.

My response to him was this:
Rob would agree with you, I believe...Jesus is the foundational rock upon which the Church is built. But we can't equate doctrine with Christ. I don't believe that Rob ever said the trampoline represents Christ. It represents our faith in Christ. If someone has faith as solid as a rock, I admire him/her greatly. But I honestly confess that my faith is not rock-hard. I'm trying...but I'm not there yet. So I'll continue to try and add springs to my faith to make it sturdier and stronger, allowing me to jump higher and higher.

I could say a lot more, but I'll just say this for now: Read the book.