The Pondering Pastor

These "Ponderings" originally appeared as articles in our church newsletter or bulletin or just as the musings of one bald pastor. I place them here to encourage you, my fellow blogite and maybe to help us all in our pondering.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Smog Alert!

I CAN STILL RECALL THE SMOG ALERTS of my childhood. It seemed as though there were at least 3-4 days each fall when a smog alert would be issued and thus school activities curtailed. I remember having our football practices cancelled, and our games postponed because the air was that toxic. UGH! I can even remember driving through Los Angeles in the middle of the afternoon with the car headlights on because the smog was hampering visibility. Double UGH! Breath in and your chest hurt. Fortunately, believe it or not, things are better. Not perfect, but better.

I can remember driving up to Big Bear Lake and breathing in that clean, crisp mountain air. I think we actually breathed double time, trying to get as much in us as possible and hoping to maybe clean out all the pollution that had filled the lining of lungs. Driving back down Rim-of-the-World highway was like dropping into a vat of gray soup. We would try to hold in that clean air, but you can only hold your breath for so long, and back in would rush that lethal concoction of particulate matter. UGH, again.

We all breathe, all the time. The alternative is not very good for you. But not only do we breathe in the air around us, but we also breathe the air of our culture. Our culture produces its own smog. I call it Selfish Materialistic Obsessive Greed. And like the smog of Southern California, it cannot be counteracted by a couple hours of “breathing clean.” To clean out the 168 hours of “breathing” we do in a week, it is going to take more than just an hour of clean breathing to undue the damage. It’s going to take the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, the reading of God’s Word, prayer, and His empowering in our lives. It’s putting on our spiritual oxygen mask and breathing deep and long. Holding your breath in this world just won’t cut it, you’ve got to breathe the Spirit.

So, take a deep breath and let the cleansing begin.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Exodus or Exile?

ISRAEL KNEW BOTH exodus and exile. They knew what it was to wander toward the Promised Land, and they knew what it was to be removed from it. The journey to the promise was prolonged because of disobedience to the LORD, and their removal from the land hundreds of years later was also because of an increasing disobedience. Though both have links to disobedience, each was to be experienced differently.

The exodus from Egypt, and it’s subsequent wilderness wanderings, was meant to purify the Children of Israel and to prepare them for the coming occupation of a new homeland. Through the time of the exodus the nation learned to follow and to obey. They learned to rid themselves of the false god’s and false philosophies of Egypt and the peoples they encountered along the journey.

In the exile they learned how to dwell in a foreign land and culture while at the same time learning how to remain faithful to the one true God. In Babylon, God told them to, “Seek the peace of the city where I have sent you into exile…for in its peace you will discover your peace.” (Jeremiah 29:7)

Centuries later Jesus would tell His followers to be salt and light, and in the process to do good so that God would be glorified. (Matthew 5:13-16) He wanted His followers to know that they were not experiencing an exodus leading to a Promised Land, but rather a people of a different kingdom living in exile. (1 Peter 2:9-12) It would be their responsibility to live well in that place of exile. To live well, not just for their benefit, but for the benefit of the people of that land. As I have stated elsewhere, “to be counter-cultural for the common good.” (Andy Crouch).

Welcome to exile.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Chasing Culture

A DAY LATE AND A DOLLAR SHORT¸ so the saying goes. The church in America seems to live by that phrase. We want to be in the world, but not of the world, and yet we seek to do most everything the world does only later, and sadly, often not as well. We always seem to be chasing culture.

This truth was once again brought before me through an email advertisement we received at the office. It was for “Tales of Glory” figurine sets. New toys depicting such biblical greats as Samson, Moses, Jonah, David, and of course Jesus Himself. Each of these figurines sport a comedic face and some come with “accessories.” There are also P31 doll (that’s Proverbs 31 for the uninitiated). And for the littlest consumer in the family there is the “Jesus Loves Me Bear.”

Now, some would ask me, “Pastor wouldn’t you rather have your son playing with a plastic version of Daniel in the Lion’s Den, than with a Pokemon video game?” My answer? “No, not really.” We have had more positive interaction and discussion regarding the comings and goings of the Pokemon set, than we have over a plastic replica of a biblical character. The truth is I would rather he be reading the accounts of the great women and men of the Bible, and seeking ways to live out the truth found in their lives, than having a toy, which most likely would find itself left on the shelf or thrown in the back reaches of his closet.

You may think that I am becoming a bitter, cynical, petty pastor, but truth is I hope I am becoming just the opposite. Rather than promoting the chasing of culture, and moving the church to be what we can’t, and most likely shouldn’t, I hope I am calling us to be what Andy Crouch, (one the editorial staff for Christianity Today) challenges the church to be: Counter-cultural for the common good.

The Word of God continually calls the children of God to be different than the cultures in which they find themselves. Yet, at the same time we are called not to divorce ourselves from that culture, but we are called to be salt and light. We are commanded to go forth to spread the good news, which includes proclaiming peace and freedom and healing and release. Rather than seeking to be like in order to draw like, we are called to be different, noting that in some spiritual aspect opposites do in fact attract.

So, I guess my responsibility is not to sit on the floor and play with Jordan and a toy that is some poor caricature of Daniel, but it is to seek ways to encourage him to live the life of a Daniel in the culture in which God has placed him. All for the common good.