Humilty and Community

I taught last week on John 8:12-30. It is this amazing story of Jesus showing up at the second Passover of his ministry and having an old school showdown with the religious establishment. Jesus explodes on the scene and throws out a seemingly bravado laden statement of, “I am the light of the world.” To a Jew this would have brought up massive connotations that we today might miss here are a few of them.

1. Jesus is telling that he is responsible for life and creation (Gen. 1:3)

2. The light which Jesus says he is, is equated with God’s instruction and path to a righteous life (Ps. 19:8)

3. The light is God’s very identity and his holiness (1 John 1:5, Rev. 22:5).

Needless to say the Pharisees are not pleased about the statement even though the Messiah they have been longing for stands right before them, why? Well pride. Pride distorts our ability to see and often creates massive barriers between us and what we most deeply desire. The Pharisees would have claimed that the one thing they desired more than anything else was their Messianic deliverer. But when he came and stood right before them, the responded in rage and hostility because of their pride.

This is where humility comes in, John tells us later in his letter 1 John, that pride is part of our darkness and when we refuse to leave it and come into the light we are deceived. What is the prescription? Well it is to repent and come into the light, often this does not happen because we love our darkness or unwilling to be humbled and brought into the light.

All this to say that with the current infatuation with community, and missional community I have wondered why there is so little of it actually going on. I would submit it is because at the core of me and many of you is a deep rooted pride issue. So much so that the church has become steeped in an implicit culture of pride. We are afraid that others might find out our deepest darkness and depravity, so we have learned how to manage in the Christian culture. Just getting by with conversations that confirm each other is doing “good” and then moving on to penetrating topics such as the weather. I do not say all of this to be flippant but to point out that pride is the dam of community and intimacy, even though it is at the deepest level what we desire most.

So humility is the conduit of deep community and will require all those who thirst for it to come into the light, let go of hidden sin, and be humbled. This process is painful and one I know way to little about to admonish others on, but I do know that with grace there is hope for light filled, life giving, humility based intimate community. If we are to drink and quench this desire for community that our individualistic culture ironically seems so hungry for, we will have to seek humility. This means putting aside some of our rights, agendas and even feelings. Often our communities are so weak and frail that one tiff or conflict will leave all participants withdrawing and refusing to play anymore. We have become the neighborhood of kids who takes our ball and go home when something does not go our way. How sad.

Is this how it has to be?

So maybe the challenge for all of us is to find that which gives us pride or a sense of identity other than Jesus and repent (For a good demonstration in this see Matt’s Confessions series). I think I will go do that right now.

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Ladies and Gentlemen Demetri Martin

Since the death of Mitch Hedberg there has been a gaping chasm in the comedy world. Well Demetri Martin has done a nice job filling it. Enjoy.

The Beijing Olympics: Legitimizing the Illegitimate

There is an episode of the West Wing that deals with North Korea, and talks to disarm nuclear bombs. This is juxtaposed to a North Korean music prodigy who tells President Bartlett he wants to defect by pretending to sign a copy of his CD. The show centers around how fickle North Korea is, and if they let this man defect, they could lose all progress in nuclear talk. At the end President Bartlett encourages this man to do what is best for both countries. He declines to defect. The next day the President is informed that trade talks were suspended due to North Korea being offended at the size of the flags for Security Council countries.

What am I getting at: attempting to play to the bully or crazy country and give them what they want (or prevent justice to appease them) doesn’t help them assimilate, it only legitimizes an illegitimate regime.

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That is what we have done in giving China the next summer Olympics.

China’s human rights, and oppressive regime have been very well known by the IOC, and well, everyone for that matter. Granted there are great steps China has made to allow for forms of religious freedom. But let’s not kid ourselves here, China also allowed for various forms of private property to be held for the first time in early 2004. Anyone who assumes that China’s human rights advancements have been produced by anything other than fiscal greed and hegemonic aspirations needs to read Hobbes’ Leviathan. China is turning capitalistic, but it has nothing to do with the value of human life, it has to do with the value of the Chinese Yuan.

Think about capitalism and the United States. From a Judeo/Christian perspective, it sucks that God’s values have been egregiously married to capitalism (note to my right wing readers: capitalism tends to spit in the face of Jesus saying it is impossible to love both God and Mammon). From a Machiavellian perspective, capitalism would succeed the best when starting from a worldview that devalues the worth of humanity. Like say, China. As a Christian, I am thankful that becuase our capitalism is mixed with Christianity. It is becuase of this that there are processes and programs that still value humanity. One example of this is tax write-offs for charitable donations, or say the Bill of Rights. China’s capitalism does not have these processes and programs. China’s capitalistic movement is best described as such: Capitalism without a conscience.

Now the IOC on behalf of the “free-world” has begun the mainstream effort to assimilate this country; legitimizing the illegitimate.

Why this rant? This morning Justin Taylor pointed me to another attempt by the Chinese government to control religious freedom, not of its citizens, but rather of all Olympic participants. Now I know the argument for this. In preventing Bibles, they are preventing evangelism efforts from Olympic participants. Right, people that train their whole life for one event are going to be preoccupied with evangelizing. Not to say they won’t be evangelizing, but not at a rate that would prove detrimental.

This is ridiculous. Yet it proves that in allowing Beijing to host the summer Olympics, we are legitimizes an illegitimate government. I heard they are thinking of Sudan for the next bid.

matt

Update:

Apparently the writer of that story didn’t do his homework (what a surprise). Here is the official policy: One Bible. This being the case, I still stand behind the post.

UNLV Exhibition Recap

UNLV kicked off the ’07-’08 Basketball Season with an exhibition against Green Valley High School, I mean Washburn, last night. The highlight of the evening was Armon Gilliam seeing his jersey retired, and although the final score was 77-47, the game exposed what should be a rough start to the season for this rebuilding Rebel Basketball team.

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Here are my game notes:

– Joe “Two Mommies” Darger led the team in scoring with 19. Joe is a great scorer, and it is great to see he has developed more of a mid-range game. However, he made it to the free-throw line 8 times, something better teams won’t make the mistake of doing. To sum it up, when Joe Darger leads the team in scoring, we are in trouble.

– Corey “C-Buckets” Bailey was second in scoring. Once again, as happy as I am to see C-Buckets finally have confidence and put some points on the board, this does not bode well for the season. Corey was 5-14, and I have no idea if this is a real line, or if he will put his tail between his legs when facing real competition.

– WINK WAS RUSTY! 3-12 from the field, and 0-5 from THREE. Curtis Terry tried to get guys involved too much and matched his 7 points with 7 assists, making up for Marcus Lawrence who didn’t play becuase of academic reasons. NOTE: these were the 3 players I predicted would set the tone for our season. TONE SET. (note: what you can’t here right now is the sound of me slamming my head into my file drawers repeatedly.)

– A couple positives: We took care of the ball, only 10 turnovers. This is an amazing stat considering all 10 active players played in various lineups. We held up the defensive intensity as well, holding Cimmarron High School, sorry Washburn, to only 9 first-half points. Once again, playing 10 players, and tooling lineups while still holding a team to 9 first-half points is incredible. So unlike the Football Team, the Lon Kruger is once again giving us an incredibly disciplined, hard working, defensive minded team. I love Lon Kruger.

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There are still a bunch of questions. Will Adeife be able to give us consistent minutes? How will Lon tool his line-up when he has to go small and rest the big man? What will we do for scoring if Wink lacks confidence (which he is very much like Shawn Marion in this respect)? What do we do if Lawrence still has academic trouble and Curtis Terry no longer is a scorer because he has to worry about getting other guys involved? Will Marceceo Rutledge and Lamar Roberson give us scorers on the floor, or will they still be developing? These were all the things I worried about before the season, and last night did NOTHING to subside those fears.

Now we have three weeks, and three teams to prepare for a two-game home stand against Louisville and UNR. Here are the 3 teams that will help us prepare:

– Montana State
– Dixie State
– San Diego

I hate rebuilding years.

matt

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24 Season 7

Tony is back … WTF? Tony is a bad guy … WTF?

(head spinning, so confused)

So, now 24 pulls a “LOST” on us a brings back someone from the dead. Or, they go soap opera on us and Tony has a twin brother who was acting in his name.

MY THEORY:

Tony is being blackmailed to do this against his will. Which, usually allows for the plot twist around episode 18-20 when you find out that the guy you thought was the head of the terrorist activity was working for someone else. Now how they explain him not dying, well there’s where suspended belief takes on a whole new level.

The real problem:

They will never be able to top Season 5. It was phenomenal.

Last season they had the pressure of living up to it, so they busted out the nuke. Which made the first four hours compelling. So as far as I’m concerning, Season 6 only lasted 4 hours. That’s how I justify last season.

This season they have the pressure of knowing that last season was so horrible, die hard fans are questioning the show. Added to the pressure of LOST being phenomenal, and Heroes stealing the Monday spotlight.

Now, they make Tony a bad guy, and I am forced to either: hope that it isn’t him (soap opera Tony) and lose faith in the show; hope that he is being blackmailed and lose faith in the show (bringing him back from the dead).

This sucks. I blame Tyrone Willingham. First ruining Notre Dame for Charlie Weiss, and now this. When will he stop?

Confessions: Silence

In typical “Matt” fashion I said I would do
something, and have delayed in following through. I actually wrote a lengthy
“Confessions” blog roughly ten days ago that was lost in this
contraption George W. Bush affectionately refers to as “The
Internets”. That was incredibly depressing, and I could not recapture what
I had written. That threw me off. I would, however, like to give a few excuses
as to why I haven’t been writing lately.

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Excuse #1
: I have been busy.

I have a ton going on right now and when I have free time, more than anything,
I have just wanted to hang out with my wife, or watch T.V. To keep with the
“Confessions” theme I will confess such: T.V. is an escape mechanism
for me. Tim Keller talks about functional idols (those things we seek to save
us other than Jesus) and Mark Driscoll speaks of functional gods (those things
we seek for our joy instead of Jesus). Well T.V. for me is more of a Functional
Scapegoat. When I feel overwhelmed by sin and the weight of responsibility I
run to T.V. instead of Jesus. So while this is an excuse, it does not retain an
ounce of validity.


Excuse #2
: I have been reading more and desiring to talk (blog less)

James 1 says, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick
to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;”
– I will say that I believe James is talking about hearing from God when he
says “be quick to hear”.  Which is
one of the major themes of James, to talk less, listen to God more, and simple
be a Christian as a result. I would, and have wanted to write more about what I
am learning from James, but that would contradict what I am learning in James.
So I’ll obey God and move on.

Excuse #3
: I preached to 160 High School students last week

And when you work full-time, are trying to get a side gig going, and are out of
town for 12 out of 15 days for a stretch, you barely even have time to prepare
for a sermon. Alas, last Sunday I preached a narrative of the story of the Old Testament
regarding the Triune God’s desire to bring His Kingdom into the world as a
basis for understanding the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6 (the text I was given to
preach on). In order to make High School students understand this I talked
about sex, naked hot chicks, and The Hills. I thought it went well.


Funny Note
: When you haven’t preached on stage for over a year, it is funny how
the rust manifests itself. In my case I had a mike that wraps around my ear and
comes close to my mouth (what we used to call “Britney Spears Mikes”
when they first came out). All was fine, but apparently for the last few
minutes I talked with my head tilting to the right a bit. The only explanation
myself and the tech team could come up with: it was most likely and instinct
from talking on the phone more, and preaching with the mike less. So when I was
bringing it back to Jesus and telling people to meet him I looked slightly
retarded. Great!


Jesus Note
: For the first time in my ministry life, I had an audience big
enough, and had confidence in the gospel enough to say the following line:
“Some of you are going to become a Christian today, and take communion for
the first time.”


Uncertain Note
: You can never know when high school students if  they are crying because of you or because they
got a text message half-way through from their best friend telling them they
hooked up with the person’s boyfriend the night before.

So those are my excuses for not blogging much. Over the next few weeks my
priority will be to finish my “Confessions” series. Other than that
you can expect only UNLV and NBA related posts from me.

Blessings,

matt

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Insights from a Starbucks Cup

It’s been a pretty busy week for me as I had some pretty major assignments due.  As I was sitting at Starbucks last night reading on inerrancy, I read the quote on my cup and could not help but laugh, I hope you do to.

“Heaven is totally overrated.  It seems boring.  Clouds, listening to people play the harp.  It should be somewhere you can’t wait to go, like a luxury hotel.  Maybe blue skies and soft music were enough to keep people in line in the 17th century, but Heaven has to step it up a bit.  They’re basically getting by because the only have to be better than Hell.” 

Joel Stein, LA Times

To some extent I think he is right on, if this is what Heaven is like than it is overrated.  If there is no Jesus and perfect intimacy with our Creator than count me out.

To live is Christ to die is gain.

ryan