Getting Ready for Cuba

16_Ne_03_01_RGI’ll be traveling to Cuba next week with a group from the University Church of Christ in Abilene. UCC is helping sponsor the national youth conference in Cuba this year, and we’ve got 8 of us going to participate in the event.

The general theme is “Let’s Build Together,” based on the book of Nehemiah.

I got to choose my topics, so I chose three building themes, even though only one of them comes directly from Nehemiah:

  • We Are Doing A Great Work (Nehemiah 6) — I’ll use the stories of how the opposition (external and internal) tried to stymie Nehemiah’s work and how he remained focused. We’ll talk about handling criticism and focusing on building the Kingdom of God.
  • Doing The Task God Has Assigned To Us (1 Corinthians 3:5-15) — This one isn’t related to Nehemiah, but it does talk about how the church is built by different people doing different tasks in different ways. We’ll talk about jealousy, rivalries, and staying focused on the task.
  • Some Wept While Others Shouted With Joy (Ezra 3:10-13) — This is the story of the ex-exiles relaying the foundation of the temple. The older generation wept, while the younger generation shouted for joy. We’ll talk about how one generation has built something, while another generation is wanting to build. One focused on what is and was; the other focuses on what can be. Both perspectives are needed in the church.

It’s not too late. Do you have any suggestions?

Illustration courtesy of Sweet Publishing

Links to Go (July 15, 2014)

Gospel Advocate: “That Liberalism Among Us”

Real liberalism is a denial of the existence of God or the denial of the inspiration of the authority of the Bible.
Near the end, Baxter writes,

To label anybody with whom we differ in our brotherhood as “a liberal” hinders the fight against real liberalism. By being patently untrue, it actually pushes the thoughtful, faithful Christian toward the position of real liberals and hurts the cause of sound Christian doctrine and practice.

Amen. For far too long, we’ve tolerated the abuse of language in an effort to marginalize our opponents through slander — as though the ends might justify the means. And yet, ultimately, it’s the slanderer whose cause is most hurt.

Sophia Jenkins – Missionary Kid Reflections on the USA Refugee Crisis of Undocumented Children

On the news I see plenty of discussion centered on border control, more agents, more guns, and very little discussion on protection of the most innocent and vulnerable. My father reminded me of some African stories. President Kagame and Museveni when they guarded borders would let children cross and protected them from men with guns. Many of the children who are coming to the US have been victims of rape, abuse, their lives have been threatened. Yet in response the most common public response is to say, “Return to your country.” I question this line of deportation thought that encourages children to go back to their abusers; the drug lords and gangs that control their homes.

What You May as Well Forget

  • Forget what might have been
  • Forget the entitlement
  • Forget the focus on someday

What Would Your State Look Like If It Was Made Of Legos? 50 Clever Scenes Give Us A Picture

Ever wondered what your state would look like as Legos? Well, Imgur user jaydubbya answered that burning question, sharing hilarious Lego scenes from all 50 states.

The Parable of the Elder Brother

42_Lk_15_09_RGI talked about the Prodigal Son yesterday. I reminded people that the most famous part of the story, where the father receives the son who is coming back from a wasteful life, is not the point of the story. It’s important and very similar to the point of the preceding parables. But the parable of the prodigal son is really the parable of the elder brother. If we don’t take a long, hard look at him, we won’t hear what Jesus is trying to tell us.

Look how Luke 15 begins:

“Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
Then Jesus told them this parable:” (Luke 15:1–3)

And Jesus proceeds to tell three famous parables: the lost sheep, the lost coin, the prodigal son. They were told to address the criticism which the Jewish leaders were aiming at Jesus: he fellowships sinners. He welcomes them. He eats with them.

So the heart of the parable about the two sons is here:

“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ “ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” (Luke 15:25–32)

I understand the older son. I do. His brother had disrespected their father. Many of us can handle an insult but become indignant when a family member is attacked. His brother had taken a third of the family property and wasted it (which is what “prodigal” means; you knew that, right?). Now the brother returns and receives a party the likes of which the faithful brother had never had.

I think the irony is intensified by the sentence: “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field.” He was working, faithfully, while his irresponsible brother was receiving a magnificent party! I understand his outrage.

But Jesus is making the point that he mentioned before: “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” (Luke 15:7)

It’s not easy to have that heavenly attitude. I reminded our group yesterday that, as we look for new members, we want “elder brothers” in our church. They are dependable. They are hard working. And they still have their money!

Younger brothers have baggage. They don’t have a good track record. And their money is gone.

Yet Jesus says that’s exactly who God hopes to see come and join our community. The lost sheep. The lost coin. The wasteful, recovering younger brother.

Illustration courtesy of Sweet Publishing

Compadres Blog Tour Update

A Facebook group that I’m part of, called Compadres, is having a blog tour. The general theme is The Glory of The Son and each of us will pick a story, event or teaching of Jesus that reflects His glory. Here are the posts so far.
June 3: Jeremy Schopper: Leaving the Noise Behind
June 5: Danny Holman: Jesus Challenge
June 10: Carl Jenkins: Give A Man A Fish
June 17: Jonathan Dobbs: Why Me, God?
June 19: Scott Elliott:The Beauty of the Gospel
June 24: Chris Hodges: The Glory of the Son
June 26: David Smith: then they can see my glory, which you gave me
July 1: Jeremy Hoover: Matthew and Mission
July 3: Allen Carr: The Glory in the Welcome
July 10: Daniel Burns: Not So With You

And it was there on the cross that Jesus THE SON was in his GLORY. It was there on the cross that Jesus took the greatest servant/slave role– a role that only he could take.
And in this flip flopped, turned upside down world the Jesus calls us to live, we must constantly look at the way the world defines things and remember four words.
“Not so with you.”

Volveremos, volveremos…

So Argentina is back in the World Cup finals. Against Germany again, just like in 1986 (the last time they won) and 1990. It’s hard to explain to someone who isn’t from a World-Cup-obsessed country what the World Cup truly means. As the popularity of soccer grows in the United States, the distance between our culture and those of soccer nations is seen all the more. Even people who are knowledgeable about soccer in the United States don’t seem to understand what international soccer is about. We certainly find it hard to grasp the depth of passion that the sport evokes. So let me offer some suggestions:

  • Don’t try and change the game. There’s a part of you that wants to whine about the flopping that is an integral part of international soccer. Suppress that part. You want to find a way to replace penalty kicks, hoping for a more equitable solution to tie games. Get over it. You have a thousand ideas as to how to make the game more attractive to an American audience. Accept the fact that international soccer as is is the most popular sport in the world; it doesn’t need American ingenuity to remake it.
  • Try to imagine a country united behind one team. We live in a fragmented country, with dozens of styles of music, hundreds of television channels, vast regional differences in food and speech. We’re also fragmented when it comes to sports. Football is king, yet NASCAR, baseball, tennis, golf… any of a number of sports can take first place in the hearts of individual Americans. In Argentina, for example, they are proud of winning the gold medal in basketball and producing world class golfers, tennis players, swimmers, etc. Rugby is very popular. But soccer defines them.
  • Sit back and enjoy the finals on Sunday! And feel free to root for Argentina.