January 2010


I keep small paper from my counselor as a reminder to keep a realistic outlook on life.
I am posting it in hope that it might be freeing to some of you.

I am Responsible for:
* how I treat myself
* how I treat others

I am Not Responsible for:

* how others treat me
* how others treat others
* how others treat themselves

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Gideon was threshing wheat in the winepress, hiding from the Midianites. The angel of God appeared to him and said, “God is with you, O mighty warrior!” Judges 6:11-12

I read this passage the other day, and found it both comical and inspiring.

This guy was hiding out. He was doing his work in a location where his enemies could not find him. He was afraid. He was cautious. If we were in his shoes (sandals), we would be too. The odds were against him. The future looked lonely and hopeless.

Gideon was not a hero.

But God saw a different reality.

God had not checked out. God was with Gideon.

God did not see a frightened man in hiding. God saw Gideon as a mighty warrior.

Where are you at in your life?

How do you view yourself?

Perhaps God sees a different reality.

Maybe God sees a different you.

Martin Luther King Jr. saw the pictures of the world in the scriptures.

Martin Luther King Jr. saw a world around him that did not line up with the pictures in the scriptures.

He did not resign himself to the presupposition, “That is just the way the world is.”

Like prophets before him, Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream, a vision, an imagination of a world that looked more like the picture of the world in the scriptures.

He spoke that vision.

He worked for the vision, in ways that were consistent with the vision.

May you and I have the grace and strength to dream, speak and work toward a biblical imagination of this world.

Recently, on the way to the car …

Jackson (age 6): Dad, I want to be a prophet of God when I grow up.

Jim (age 36): Oh yeah? What would you like about being a prophet of God?

Jackson: I would like to travel around and give people messages from God, like – “Be nice to each other.”

Jim: That is great Jackson. That sounds important, and you would be good at that.  You know that first thing that you will need to do is know God, and listen to God, so that you know what God has to say.

Jackson: Yeah, but dad, it is hard to listen to God. Sometimes it is just silent.

Jim: You are right. Sometimes is it hard to know what God is saying. That is why we spend a lot of time talking to God and listening to God, so that we get to know God better. It is also why we read what God has said in the Bible. That helps us know what kinds of things God says. Does that make sense?

Jackson: Yeah dad.

Jim: And Jackson, knowing God is the most important thing, even if you are not a prophet.

Jackson: That is right dad!

The way that we frame things in life makes a world of difference, doesn’t it?

I do not like waking up in the middle of the night.

When my neighbor comes home at 2:30am after bar hoping and wakes me up by slamming doors and shouting – It is the worst offense to me, they are horrible people, my day is ruined.

When my 4-year-old daughter comes into my room and wakes me up with hugs and kisses – It is really cute, she is precious, I love those moments.

Framing makes a difference.

Paul was a leader in the early Jesus Movement. He helped start a number of Jesus communities, and continued to guide them through letters. These letters often addressed serious problems in the young churches. We are fortunate to still have many of these letters to gain wisdom from today.

One of the common pieces that we find in these letters is a greeting of “Grace and Peace.”
Anywhere that Paul sent a letter he framed it with, “Grace and Peace to you from God our Father and Jesus our King.”
Whatever the audience – “Grace and Peace.”
Whatever the relationship – “Grace and Peace.”
Whatever the problem needed addressed – “Grace and Peace.”
Whatever the conversation – “Grace and Peace.”

For Paul, the way of looking at conversations, relationships, and even life itself is through the framing of Grace and Peace. Paul believes Grace and Peace define the way of God in Jesus.

Can you image the difference that framing life in Grace and Peace could make?

Let us begin following Paul’s example and frame our conversations with Grace and Peace.

Yesterday, I read a blog post about the increased conflict over the proper role of social justice within the Evangelical movement. So-called “Younger Evangelicals” (among others) are placing a high emphasis upon justice issues. There are some evangelical leaders who fear that this is, or will lead to, theological liberalism.

Here is a question in the post and my response.

“Are you feeling the tremors in your church of a conflict over the scope of the gospel and the proper role of social justice? And where are you turning for informed theological reflection on this subject?”

For me it has honestly been studying the scriptures.  My study of the scriptures in has been from an evangelical (Historical/ Cultural/ Grammatical) approach to the biblical text.

From this approach, I see that social justice and  mercy for the poor and oppressed are major themes of what God calls His people to in the scriptures.

With that understanding, I can not claim to be a “Bible believing Christian” without making the biblical call to social justice a priority in my life. Social Justice is a priority for me because it is a priority for God, as faithfully revealed in the scriptures. I would be forsaking the scriptures, and the God of the Scriptures, if I did not prioritize care for the poor.

When I decide to follow that call of God to work for justice – I am being a disciple of Jesus.

When I am actually being a disciple of Jesus – I am in a much better position to follow Jesus’ call for me to make other disciples of Jesus. Jesus defined that as: bringing people into faith in Jesus & teaching them to obey all of his commands – including care for the poor.

The scriptures do not force us to choose evangelism OR justice. In fact, I do not think that the Scriptures allow us to choose only one of those two (Do we have to choose sexual morality OR evangelism?!).

God made people pretty complex. We can do more than one thing at a time!

(A lot more on this latter!)

My family has a membership at an amazing fitness center  in metro Milwaukee. The Princeton Club has an outstanding facility, leading-edge equipment, exciting programs, great staff, and admirable leadership. The entire family fits the description of raving Princeton Club fans.

They could get a Sunday Shout Out post just for being such a fantastic club, but they are at the beginning of new campaign that deserves the full attention of the post, and your participation or replication. The Princeton Club has begun a campaign called the Million Pound Challenge.

Here is the Situation:

People need food and exercise to be healthy.

Some people do not have enough food.

Some people have too much food and/ or not enough exercise.

Here is a Solution:

People pledge a number of pounds that they want to loose, or a number of hours that they want to exercise, over the next five months.

The Princeton Club will donate 10 pounds of food to a local food pantry for every pound lost, or hour exercised, in that time.

Brilliant!!!

I just love this idea. It meets some very real needs in the area, hunger and obesity. It also helps broaden the focus of personal fitness beyond self, which I suspect will make it more  fulfilling.

Please join me in shedding a few pounds and getting some food to those in need. My personal goal is losing 10 pounds by the end of May, which the Princeton Club will turn into 100 pounds of food for a local food pantry!!!

If you live in Madison or Milwaukee, sign up here.

If you live elsewhere, do it on your own or start a similar campaign!

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