Sunday, June 30, 2013

Kingdom Building: Little Things and Missional Living

Zombieland's "Rule 32"
The Little Things
Eat. Work.  Sleep. Family. Friends. Repeat. For most of us, life is unrelentingly repetitive. 
With this repetition, life can become mundane. Boring, even. We long for those exciting moments that shape our lives: graduations, wedding days, the birth of a child. Life, however, is not made of big moments. Life is made of little things. 

Relationships and friendships alike do not consist of huge, exhilarating moments. Though for lovers or newly weds, every moment can be an exhilaration. Instead, they are built by moments of constant companionship. Hanging out, meals, and devoting time to each other are small things. Yet, these are the building blocks of our friendships and romances. They are the pieces that form the relationship whole.  In our lives, then, the little things actually become the big things. They are the  significant things. 

The little things of our lives found in the daily grind of life should not be diminished. Slowing down and soaking in our existence can bring rewarding perspective. The company of a friend, the conversation with a family member or the kiss of a lover are little things. The taste of chile rellenos smothered in red chile, or a steaming, hot cup of New Mexico Pinon Coffee are little things. The warmth of the sun, the refreshing cool of a river or amazement at stunning scenery are little things.  And yet, it is in these little things we find great enjoyment. 

The Bible acknowledges and encourages this life enjoyment. Our work and play, our love and laughter, our friendships and romances are gifts given by God for our enjoyment.

"I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live;also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil-this is God's gift to man."~Ecclesiastes 3:12-13
This was the conclusion from the Solomon's unparalleled wisdom. One theme of his greatest work, Ecclesiastes, is this very truth. The little things in life bring rewarding enjoyment from the generous hand of God.

Missional Living
Christians have been commissioned by the King, Jesus to build His Kingdom:
"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."~Matthew 28:18-20. 
The great mission in Christ's Kingdom, this Great Commission, is for Christians to make disciples. That's why we send missionaries to the far ends of the earth.  That's why we devote so much money and time and prayer to Bible translation and Gospel giving in foreign lands. It's why Christians, since Stephen's stoning , have been beaten and butchered; maligned and martyred.

This Kingdom building, disciple making work, should not be limited to those who are sent. Every Christian has been commissioned to make disciples.Christian mission is not an event for others. Christian mission is the commissioned  lifestyle of every believer. We should be living a missional life. All of life must be lived as mission.  We do not need to go to Europe to practice to do our mission. We build disciples at work. We build disciples on our streets. We build disciples in our homes, around our tables. How then, does a missional life work with a small things focused life? We practice our mission, disciple making, in the mundane, small things of our lives. Tim Chester and Steve Timmis have written some helpful words in this arena:

"Many of our approaches to evangelism still assume a Christendom mentality. We expect people to come when we ring the church bell or put on a good service, but the majority of the population are disconnected from the church. Changing what we do in church will not reach them. We need to meet them in the context of everyday life." (Everyday Church: Gospel Communities on Mission, p. 10).
"We need non-full-time leaders who can model whole-life, gospel-centered, missional-living. It means thinking of our workplaces, homes, and neighborhoods as the location of mission. We need to plan and pray for gospel relationships. This means creating church cultures in which we see normal, celebrating day-to-day gospel living in the secular world and discussions of how we can use our daily routines for the gospel." (Total Church: A Radical Reshaping around Gospel and Community, p. 37).
Sadie's Combination Plate
This Gospel intentionality is the key to making the small things huge, Kingdom building stones. Discipleship is not limited to sharing God's Word with each other. Discipleship is not a six week program with your pastor. Discipleship is the investment of your life in the life of another. Missional living sees the small things of life as the significant things of disciple making. Drinking coffee together is discipleship. Texting each other is discipleship. Watching a movie together is discipleship. Sharing a warm meal is discipleship. Simply devoting time to another person is discipleship. The small things of life are tools for building the eternal Kingdom of God. It was our Lord Jesus, after all, who spent three years of time with His chosen twelve disciples. They ate together, and worshiped together,  and laughed together. They lived life together as community. 

Building the Kingdom of God through making disciples is our mission. Like life, it's not made of the spectacular. Disciples are made through life sharing. Disciples are made in the little things of life. What, then, are we to do? How do we fulfill our commission?  Give and live the Gospel.  Enjoy your life and share its little gifts with another, making the mundane magnificent. In doing so, the King will conquer and build His Kingdom.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Gratitude for My Father

 A Picture of Dad

While Mom may have given me a taste for the great music of the 80's, R.E.O. Speedwagon and Journey shining above the others, it was Dad who exposed me to another music love of mine: country. It was not uncommon to hear George Strait, Tim McGraw and Brooks & Dunn in Dad's pickup. There is no doubt that my love for George Strait began early. I'm still not sure how Garth Brooks entered my life. 

Growing up dad has always been there. When I was kid, he worked some crazy hours. The days when the oilfield never slept called for them. Yet, Dad was always there. He was at my games. He would spend time with me. He would take me fishing. He took me hunting. He practiced baseball with me. As a Denver Bronco fan he allowed me to bleed silver and blue. He even braved Texas Stadium wearing his Bronco colors in a sea of blue and white Dallas Cowboy fans. All of these were small things. Small things taken for granted. But life is made of small things. His presence in my life provided a necessary stability. Never did I wonder if Dad was going to be around. I knew he loved us and that he would be there for us.

One of the most important things Dad has worked to instill in me is the importance of being a man. A man puts his family before himself. He works hard to provide for them. He devotes his time to them. He treats his wife like a queen. He didn't just tell me these things. He lived them out. As his family, he sacrificially placed our needs and wants before his own. He placed us in a private school because he wanted us to be well educated. He saved his money and took us on vacation.  It wasn't until our mid teens that he got something significant for himself: a big screen t.v. and a motorcycle. He expressed his affection to my mom and treated her with high dignity. He played the role of instructor to me. Throughout my teen years, especially, he wanted to teach me what he knew. Mechanics, plumbing, carpentry, landscaping, construction--he really is a jack of all trades. As a teenager, however,I was more interested in sleeping in than learning. I regret that. Fortunately, I still have some time to learn from him. 

Spiritually, Dad's influence has been great. During my snobbish and judgmental seasons, he provided the necessary perspective I needed. He didn't grow up in a Christian home, go to Christian school and spend every Sunday morning inside the church walls.  He lived a life before he was saved. The life of the unregenerate is one that I do not know experimentally because I have always been in a Christian environment. As such, my tendency was to look on those not like me with a haughty attitude. Dad's burden was to have compassion for them. I shouldn't look down my nose at them. My heart should break for them. With this attitude, my dad reflects  Jesus.

Divine Fatherhood 
God takes upon Himself the description of father. This human relationship of fatherhood is worthy of divinity. Human fatherhood is a reflection of the nature of God. He says that He is a father of the fatherless (Ps. 68:5). His fatherhood extends to Christians as well. In Galatians 4:4-7, Paul said about God:
"But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God."
Christians have the immense privilege of being children of God. He is the Father, the One that Christians can have a close relationship with. Paul said that Christians can cry out to God as Abba. Abba is the Aramaic word for father and it was the same designation that Christ used to God the Father in His agony in the garden:
"And he said, 'Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will'.” ~Mark 14:26
Amazingly, Christians share in the same intimate relationship of the Trinity that Christ the Son shared with God the Father. Like Christ, the Son we can call God our Abba. The incredible intimacy is not something that should be overlooked or understated. As believers, God is our Abba. 

God the Father is in His very nature good (Ps. 25:8). He desires to give His children their best. In concluding a parable, Jesus makes this observation about God the Father:
"If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!" ~Matthew 7:11
If humans, who are totally depraved seek their own children's good, how much more does our perfect Father seek our well being? Our own experiences with our fathers, in part, shape our view of God as Father. I am fortunate in that I have never seen God as vindictive or wrathful because I saw a reflection of divine fatherhood so clearly in  my own father. He seeks my ultimate good. I have always known his desire was for my good. Because of my own father, I better see God the perfect Father. 


 Father's Day comes once a year. Today, I've been musing a little on how much I appreciate my own father.  I love my dad. With every passing year, my appreciation for him grows. He is the kind of man I yearn to be. He works hard. He takes care of his family. He loves his God. He is the picture of what a man should be.  He has shown me God as Father. He is my hero.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Thoughts on Star Trek: Into Darkness

Nervous Trekkie
I own much of the epic saga, including the forgotten animated series. I still haven't purchased Voyager. Some day, I'll own it all, but this isn't the United Federation of Planets. We still have to use currency to function. In comparison to others I'm a modest Trekkie. Yes, I own an Original Series Communicator, a Next Generation era Combadge, Vulcan ears (thanks Chet, for both of those), and a very tight Original Series command gold uniform. I once gave a girl I liked a Tribble for Valentine's Day. I know, romantic. But for a Trekkie, what could make for a better gift to a girl than a cute, cuddly Tribble?

As a lover of Star Trek, I was very nervous when J.J. Abram's Trek resurrection hit the big screen in 2009. I was afraid he would butcher it. He didn't. The movie didn't disappoint, but elements of it annoyed me. Star Trek has never been about mindless action. If you want that, grab a lightsaber and head on over to a galaxy far, far away. Star Trek has always been about characters, about story, and about what it means to be human. Abrams' Trek upped the action to draw a new crowd of Trek fans and kept enough of the DNA of Trek to keep us purists happy. It was a success.

With Star Trek: Into Darkness, I was once again very nervous. I finally watched it today and below are some thoughts I had about the movie:

*********SPOILERS BELOW*********

The Bad

When the picture leaked revealing Klingons in Into Darkness, I was ecstatic.  Next to the Romulans, the Klingon Empire was the greatest enemy of the Federation. Kirk absolutely hated them (see ST III: The Search for Spock, ST VI: The Undiscovered Country). With Into Darkness taking place in time of the Original Series, I thought the Klingons would play a huge role in the movie. Though they are essential to the plot of the movie, they didn't get much screen time. J.J. Abrams, you got me excited to see Klingons and you let me down. To you, I say "Hab SoSlI' Quch!"

Spock/Uhura Love
This annoyed me the most about 2009's Star Trek. Into Darkness, continued this annoyance  There is just something wrong about Spock and Uhura being a couple. I can't accept it. Kirk scandalously kissing Uhura in a mirror universe is great. He is Kirk, more power to him. But Spock locking lips with Uhura, that is just wrong. Which brings me to Uhura. I love the Original Series' Uhura. She is sassy and classy. She actually manned her station. Nichelle Nichols was and WILL ALWAYS BE Uhura. Zoe Saldana's Uhura is so annoying! She is worse than Wesley Crusher and even worse than Lwaxana Troi! I could  not handle seeing her on the screen. This Uhura, the ship's communication officer, thinks she is some sort of warrior. I was hoping a Bat'leth would swipe off her head ending my pain. No such grace came. Even in one of the movie's most climactic scenes, the showdown between Spock and Khan, Uhura shows up, with a phaser. Why!? In the next chapter of Star Trek, I hope Uhura goes on a landing party and has an unsuccessful showdown with a Gorn. She is already wearing the right color.

The Good

Carol Marcus
With the exception of the Spock/Uhura love mess, and with the above noted Uhura annoyance altogether, this new set of actors really seem to be settling into their roles. And those are some big go-go boots to fill. Chris Pine does a great job with Kirk. He is charming, he is reckless, and he is a womanizer. For our good captain, human or Orion or cat creature, it doesn't matter. He is an equal species user. He will never be William Shatner, but he does an acceptable job. Zachary Quinto makes for an excellent Spock. Again, like Kirk, however, Leonard Nimoy will always be the Vulcan legend. Sulu, Chekov and Scotty have all done well in their portrayals of their respective characters. Carol Marcus was perfect. This new, improved, beautiful and British (wolf howl) Carol Marcus is a favorite of mine from the new film. My heart will always be with T'Pol, but this Marcus is just excellent.Benedict Cumberbatch did well as Kirk's greatest nemesis: Khan. He was fierce and merciless. Hopefully, Into Darkness was not that last time we have seen Khan.  The most impressive character portrayal was Karl Urban's Leonard "Bones" McCoy. Of all of the actors, I believe that Urban has absolutely mastered McCoy. It was fun to see Bones on the big screen.  
The Story
Star Trek movies have always mirrored the times they were released in. The prime example of this would be Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. The Federation's tense relationship with a crumbling Klingon Empire was relevant to the closing days of the Cold War Era. In this way, Into Darkness continues this Trek legacy. Our present day is indeed dark. The threat of terrorism is real. Into Darkness picks up on these themes. The rebirth of Khan was predictable but not entirely a bad thing. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is still the greatest Star Trek movie ever made, but Into Darkness makes for an acceptable tribute to it. It's a companion to The Wrath of Khan, not a replacement.

 Though I wanted to see more Klingons, and even though Uhura made me want to punch a Ferengi, Star Trek Into Darkness was still a good movie.  Carol Marcus was stunning. Carol Marcus was stunning. Carol Marcus was stunning. Carol Marcus was stunning. Carol Marcus was stunning. Carol Marcus was stunning.

Did I mention Carol Marcus? She was stunning. In all seriousness, it was a good movie. The story was captivating. The special effects were incredible. "Bones" was flawless. Spock had an incredible showdown with Khan.  Kirk grew as both captain and as a man. What I loved the most about Into Darkness, however, was the excitement I saw in the eyes of my ten year old cousin, Isaiah. At the end of the movie, he was craving for more Star Trek. Star Trek and Star Trek: Into Darkness has brought Star Trek back to relevance. It has introduced the next generation to the Final Frontier. That is something I can be excited about.