Tuesday, February 19, 2013

[Link] Lincoln and Speed

by John Fischer

It’s a conversation that allegedly took place between Abraham Lincoln and his life long friend, Joshua Speed. Speed, upon finding Lincoln reading the Bible, laid a hand on his shoulder and remarked, “I am glad to see you profitably engaged.”

“I am profitably engaged,” was the affirming reply.

“Well, if you have recovered from your skepticism, I am sorry to say that I have not.”

“You are wrong, Speed,” said Lincoln, looking up from the pages of his Bible. “Take all of this book upon reason that you can, and the balance on faith, and you will die a happier and better man.”

This story resonates with me for numerous reasons.

1) It’s Abraham Lincoln, an obviously smart and great man who gave God respect, believed the Bible, and relied on Christ for strength to lead America through one of it’s most trying times.

2) It’s a great statement on the cooperation of reason and faith. Christianity is not unreasonable. It does not require blind or stupid faith. It requires a reasonable faith. That would be, as Lincoln described it, a faith that travels along with reason until reason can go no further, at which point faith goes the rest of the way alone. That says that faith is not antagonistic to reason, it’s just that reason alone isn’t enough.

3) Joshua Speed, who is said to have been one of Lincoln’s best friends, did not share Lincoln’s belief. They even disagreed over the slavery issue, yet they remained close throughout Lincoln’s life and presidency. This is a good example for us, because we tend to gravitate, especially with best friends, to people who support the same belief systems we hold. We might have acquaintances that are not believers, but rarely best friends. I’d be curious as to whether Mr. Speed ever came to faith. It’s hard to imagine a long, close friendship with a man like Lincoln that wouldn’t have deeply impacted Joshua Speed about the reality of all that Lincoln believed.

At any rate, it’s a great example of the kind of friendships I believe we as Christians need to cultivate — relationships of mutual respect with those who are different from us. It’s hard to deny the powerful witness of a life of faith over the long haul.

For original link, click here: http://catchjohnfischer.wordpress.com/2013/02/19/lincoln-and-speed/

Monday, February 11, 2013

Creative Corner #9 -- Eternal

words by Brett Allen and Sean Taylor
music by Brett Allen
Recorded by 22FIVE on the CD Paint a Picture

Get out your watercolors
And paint a picture
To show the world
That You're eternal

Sing out a melody
Whistle in the windsong
Sing it through the trees
To say that You're eternal

May You be glorified
Jesus, You are the Lord of our Lives
May You be glorified
Jesus, You are the Lord of our Lives
May You be glorified
Jesus, You are the Lord of our Lives

Bring out the words of power
Make the rocks start shouting
Give us willing ears
To learn that You're eternal

>> Listen online <<
(a new window will open) 



In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. -- John 1:1-5 (KJV)

God is such a big God, with all those "omni" words that describe him (like omniscient, omnipresent, etc.) that he doesn't really need our help to make the world realize he's there. The universe itself is enough to get the point across to those with ears to hear and eyes to see. (That's a theological concept called "natural revelation, for those keeping score at home.)

Even a quick look through his "tool kit" will show that he's got so many ways to draw attention to himself. Scripture not only tell us about the physical creation that he pronounced good, but also points to his power to touch both the lives of people in groups (as with Israel and the covenant he made with his chosen people) and individuals (his sheep know his name, we are told).

As believers, we tend to get bogged down in arguing about God and trying to dissect all the knowledge we can about him and so often fail to just enjoy his presence and love him and -- even more important -- be loved by him. We get wrapped up in the "what we're doing" and "what we know" parts of faith and completely sidestep the basis of that faith -- the very knowable, very experiential, very close and very real person of God.

Our job is simply to acknowledge him, worship him and bring glory to him through our lives. Personally, I rather do the shouting myself and not even give the rocks an opportunity.

Friday, February 8, 2013

More Important Matters

by John Fischer

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices - mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law - justice, mercy and faithfulness." (Matthew 23:23)

How we love to control what we can control and let go by what we can't. How well I understand this. This is the diversion of religion, and when Christianity becomes just a religion, we get all taken up with things like going to church, reading our Bibles and praying while missing the bigger issues of the heart - things that color all that we do and say. Jesus mentions three of those things here: justice, mercy and faith.

The first one, justice, is sorely missing in conservative Christianity today and has been for some time. I admittedly know little about it and I have been around Christian ministry all my life.

Years ago, in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the church let the world take up the banner of justice and we haven't done much about it since. Yet Jesus mentions it as one of three important things for us not to miss. How many sermons besides those of Martin Luther King, Jr., admonished us as followers of Christ to treat everyone adequately, fairly, and with full appreciation - and that's just one aspect of justice. There are many more.

I think we get confused over this sometimes because justice is often paired with its social counterpart to create social justice - something that has more to do with the laws of the land than with individual responsibility. That may be obliquely related to what Jesus was talking about here, but I think He meant something more attached to the heart, and how each one of us thinks about and treats other people.

We are going to look more into this in the coming days, but I must say that I am not as far along on this journey as many of you probably are, so bear with me. I have much to learn.

How can any follower of Jesus bypass what He has so clearly marked out as being an important matter? So please, teach me about justice. Write to me with some illustrations of what you have experienced as acts of justice or lack of it. Let's do this together. Marti believes that justice is going to play a big role in the next spiritual revolution and I, for one, don't want to miss it this time.

From Fischtank.com

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

[Link] Sterile Christianity

“A Christian should be in the world, but not of the world.”

How many times have you heard, or maybe even said something like this?

This is a mantra of Christianity, the functional approach that many Christians apply to life. It expresses the intent to be fully immersed and engaged in worldly affairs without being compromised by its stink and corrosive effects.

This quasi-biblical command is based passages like John 17, Romans 12, and 1 Corinthians 5. It’s solid theology.

Unfortunately, the problem is in the execution.

Many Christians really struggle with what it means to live in this world while not being tainted or stained by it. I’ve struggled with it myself for much of my faith life (more about that, later).

Wrongly executing the “In/not Of” ideal often results in an effort to self-quarantine from the world and its effects. People who do this reason that until they die and are in heaven, they are “in” the world. Until then, the best, noblest thing they can do is pursue the life of the ascetic, shunning any engagement with the world (inasmuch as possible).

Author John Fischer calls this “the three monkey approach,” a lifestyle defined by “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.” These people feel like the only way to be “untainted” is to be segregated from the world. Unfortunately, this is an Eastern philosophy hearkening back to Confucius, not a Christian philosophy issued by Jesus.

Consequently, an entire sub-culture of Christianity has emerged that, while technically “in the world,” it has little or nothing to actually do with the world. I call these people Sterile Christians. Well, not to their face, because that would be rude. Sterile Christians practice Sterile Christianity.

In this series of blog posts, I intend to bust the myth of Sterile Christianity and offer the better way taught, exemplified, and enabled through Jesus.


Well worth checking out this series from Bryan.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Epiphany Day

I believe I came to a sort of epiphany today. I think if I'm completely honest with myself, I've been far too content to know about Christ and to try to emulate him instead of putting my focus on wanting to know him and be known by him. And I do believe that needs to change.