Sunday, September 27, 2009
Just read a review of Lord, Save Us from Your Followers. I saw a screening of the movie a couple weeks ago. The review addresses one of the thoughts I had after seeing the movie... the idea of churches in America sort of going back and forth in terms of trends, emphasis, etc. The word "pendulum" came to mind.
Several years ago I heard Ken Davis tell this very funny, yet poignant story about the Law of the Pendulum. Below is an excerpt from his book - How to Speak to Youth ... and Keep Them Awake at the Same Time - and tells that story in his own words.
In college I was asked to prepare a lesson to teach my speech class. We were to be graded on our creativity and ability to drive home a point in a memorable way. The title of my talk was, “The Law of the Pendulum.” I spent 20 minutes carefully teaching the physical principle that governs a swinging pendulum. The law of the pendulum is: A pendulum can never return to a point higher than the point from which it was released. Because of friction and gravity, when the pendulum returns, it will fall short of its original release point. Each time it swings it makes less and less of an arc, until finally it is at rest. This point of rest is called the state of equilibrium, where all forces acting on the pendulum are equal.
I attached a 3-foot string to a child’s toy top and secured it to the top of the blackboard with a thumbtack. I pulled the top to one side and made a mark on the blackboard where I let it go. Each time it swung back I made a new mark. It took less than a minute for the top to complete its swinging and come to rest. When I finished the demonstration, the markings on the blackboard proved my thesis.
I then asked how many people in the room BELIEVED the law of the pendulum was true. All of my classmates raised their hands, so did the teacher. He started to walk to the front of the room thinking the class was over. In reality it had just begun. Hanging from the steel ceiling beams in the middle of the room was a large, crude but functional pendulum (250 pounds of metal weights tied to four strands of 500-pound test parachute cord.).
I invited the instructor to climb up on a table and sit in a chair with the back of his head against a cement wall. Then I brought the 250 pounds of metal up to his nose. Holding the huge pendulum just a fraction of an inch from his face, I once again explained the law of the pendulum he had applauded only moments before, “If the law of the pendulum is true, then when I release this mass of metal, it will swing across the room and return short of the release point. Your nose will be in no danger.”
After that final restatement of this law, I looked him in the eye and asked, “Sir, do you believe this law is true?”
There was a long pause. Huge beads of sweat formed on his upper lip and then weakly he nodded and whispered, “Yes.”
I released the pendulum. It made a swishing sound as it arced across the room. At the far end of its swing, it paused momentarily and started back. I never saw a man move so fast in my life. He literally dived from the table. Deftly stepping around the still-swinging pendulum, I asked the class, “Does he believe in the law of the pendulum?”
The students unanimously answered, “NO!”
Davis' point is this: don't listen to what people say about their faith, watch what they do. My thought, as related to Lord, Save Us from Your Followers and trends in the Church, is that the Church shouldn't mimic the pendulum, i.e., it's primary emphases shouldn't swing from one side to another in reaction to cultural trends and generational preferences. Rather, just as the pendulum is in perfect equilibrium while in its static state (resting still in the middle), the Church will find perfect biblical balance while while resting on the perfectly balanced truth of Christ... grace AND truth. We tend to go back and forth. Grace. No, no, no. Truth. No, no, no. Grace. No, no, no...
John 1:14 says, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The perfectly balanced message of the Church? Grace and Truth. One without the other is an incomplete, inaccurate picture of Christ. One without the other leads us and others astray. One without the other can never truly transform a life.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
For about a week now, an old hymn has been on repeat mode in my mind. If you've spent any time in church world, you know it well--'Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus. It's the first verse that really grabbed me, though. Especially this line: Just to take Him [Jesus] at His Word.
I wonder how different life might look if were I to just take Jesus at His word. I'm not talking about a red-letter approach to the Word, as though Matthew, Mark, Luke and John had the cornered the market of Jesus' words. I'm talking about the whole Book, cover to cover. I'm talking about Christ the Word... who was in the beginning, was with God, was God. (John 1:1) I'm talking about the promise that Christ upholds all things by the word of His power. (Heb 1:3) And I'm talking about Peter's response to Jesus in John 6 following the departure of many disciples: Lord, we're not going anywhere. Besides, where else can we go? You have the words of eternal life. (John 6:68)
Jesus is the Word. He's in control, always has been. He's the Rock that compels us to take the next step when the journey is unbearable. Moses wrote over and over and over again that God was with Joseph, even in some awful circumstances. He was with Joshua wherever Joshua went, and He told him to be strong, courageous, unafraid, encouraged. He told Thomas to touch His hands and side. Thomas' response? My Lord and my God! The Word was proven true yet again. And then there's Peter... again. Get out of the boat a come to me, Jesus said. Everything was fine until Peter was overcome by fear and began to sink, but even in Peter's failure Jesus was right there to offer a helping hand.
I’m not trying to say that we have to, ought to or even should trust Jesus. I'm just throwing out the idea that He can be trusted. Big difference. Neither am I saying that fear and doubt aren't or shouldn't be part of our journey. They are and will continue to be. The question is what will we do with them. Joseph, Joshua, Thomas and Peter remind me that, regardless of circumstance, Jesus can be taken at His word. And man do I need the reminder.
I’m also definitely not insinuating that if we will just take Jesus at His word everything is going to be fine and dandy. That would be a ridiculous insult. Life is simply too messy for that. And if you're anything like me, there's probably enough life in your rearview mirror to know that as simple as the Gospel is there are no simplistic formulas for dealing with the complexities of this broken world. So take Jesus at His word? Yes. But there's no guarantee that the storms will cease to rage. Only the promise that Christ will be with you. He can be taken at His word. He is faithful to it even when we are not.
Back to Louisa Stead. It came as no surprise to me that she had a story. In 1875, life changed forever when she watched her husband drown off Long Island. He was rescuing a young boy who himself was drowning. Still, from that devastating event, she was able to give us this conceptually simple, practically complex, experientially validated and eternally satisfying truth - we can take Jesus at His word.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Bill Rieser: God, Love and Basketball - CBN.com Video by CBN - MySpace Video
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Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
- more likely than not, if you are reading this, you currently have or at some point have had some sort of intense, ongoing relational struggle that is at times gut-wrenchingly difficult
- more likely than not, this struggle involves someone close to you, perhaps a relative, spouse, good friend, etc.; if it wasn't someone close, things probably would never have gotten so strained
- there is something about the raw expression of one's feelings that allows us to pass from stormy waters to the peaceful waters we all want in our relationships;
- speaking the truth in love does not equal a wishy-washy dance routine around the issues at hand; hey, there is an intensity to these situations because the relationships are meaningful, and there is an intensity to our emotions because the wounds are sometimes deep
- that said, let it out; speak honorably, but speak nonetheless; you'll never feel so miserable as when you skate right on by what needs to be addressed; and when issues aren't addressed there is zero hope for resolution
- forgiveness... I've heard it said that anyone who knows Jesus' forgiveness in their own life can't not forgive others and while I understand and believe that in my theological I also understand that it's nothing short of miraculous when forgiveness is extended from one to another because it is absolutely contrary to our nature to do so
- also on forgiveness... I am reminded of a quote from Khaled Hosseini's Kite Runner. I have to thank our friend Al for this one. He passed it along to me a couple years ago. The context in the book is when the main character looks at a picture of his father, and realized there is no longer a sting to it. He says, “I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded, not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night.” Something rings right about that statement. All I know is a week ago I would have never anticipated the relational breakthrough that was about to take place. Perhaps all the pain packed it's bags and was graced away by the great Forgiver.