A Nice New Feature of iOS 8

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You can change keyboards! I’m using SwiftKey, which is the smartest swipe keyboard for iOS. And it works pretty well, especially when you get used to the predictive aspects of it.

In fact, I’m typing with it now. Trying to type blog posts on my iPhone has always been a huge hassle, but SwiftKey makes it easier, at least for most things. Long words are harder; I have to pick them out letter by letter (which is how I typed everything until about half an hour ago.)

So there you go.

Chapel Sermon Thoughts

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Today in DCC Chapel, Abel Lopez is preaching about singleness of heart: “Obey with enthusiasm, as though serving the Lord and not people.”

Rich Mullins quoted Kierkegaard re the beatitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart.” Mullins says, “To be pure in heart is to love just one thing.” ONE THING.

This connects with the great commandment: “Love the Lord your God with everything you’ve got: heart, soul, mind, strength.” Loving God is supposed to be the wire, the framework, that gives shape to all our affections & desires & loyalties & fears.

Is there ANY one thing that I love, above everything? I don’t know that there is; I spread my affections & attention thin. I love my wife & kids & school & church, and I love my Lord & his Word.

But too often, the one thing I love, that my world revolves around, is myself & my own comfort & whims.

Prayer

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Lord, the week lies ahead of me.  All that I will do, I dedicate to you.

There are students and professors that I can serve.  People who are upset or stressed or overwhelmed, whose hostility and frustration levels are off the charts.  Lord, use me to bring them calm and help them refocus on the opportunities and tasks you have for them.

Be present with me.  Speak through me.


A new week begins.

I have the good fortune of being in a job where I mostly control my schedule.  I have deadlines, etc., but only a handful that I have no control over, and I can shape the timing of how I meet most of those.

The way I generally set up my calendar is that I have big meetings on Thursdays and Fridays.  That gives me whole weeks to push toward and prepare for my big meetings, my big deadlines.

The way I think of it: I like having Mondays to get my head together, to plan and think about the week.  And I like having my weekends to unpack and think through what happened with the big meetings on Fridays.

So: a new week begins.  One of my direct reports has a big deadline today, and I’m deeply involved in getting that proposal ready.  But mostly, today is about big projects that DON’T have immanent deadlines.  Today is about planning and getting ready for Tuesday – Thursday, which tend to be heavy on the interaction.

Moderate Islam? Toward a Litmus Test

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Since the terror attacks in New York & Washington on September 11, 2001, we have been told repeatedly that Islam is a religion of peace. We have been told that the terrorists who attacked us on that day, and those of the same ilk who have attacked US & Western interests & allies since that time, are not representatives of true Islam, but participants in a perverse, twisted version of that great religion.

I want to believe this, I truly do.  But I’m starting to have doubts.

A historical analogy: In the mid 20th century, there were Southern whites who hated what the Ku Klux Klan did.  They hated the lynchings and bloodshed. But did they want to see segregation end, or equal rights for all races?  Did they want this outcome badly enough to act upon it, to take risks in furthering its cause?

They did not. This is the group that Martin Luther King Jr. takes to task in his Letter from Birmingham Jail. They opposed to the methods of violent segregationists, but passively accepted the segregationists’ goals.  Moderation equalled acquiescence.

I fear that the moderate Muslims we have been told to picture, waiting around the world to support the forces of pluralism and liberal democracy from the West, are in the end the same group that Dr. King took to task in Letter.

I fear that these moderate Muslims oppose ISIS and Al Qaeda, not because they disagree with the goals of a worldwide caliphate or support religious pluralism and the right of the individual to religious self determination, but because they don’t like the means the militant groups employ.  

Televised beheadings & suicide bombings are repugnant to them, to be sure. But so is a cafe advertising bacon on its sandwiches, or newspapers visually portraying Mohammed, or speech that insults Islam, or daughters that shame their families by dressing Western, or family members who leave Islam and convert to another religion. To quote Paul Harvey: “It is NOT one world.”

Maybe I’m wrong. I’d love to be wrong.

Can Islam be part of a pluralistic society, where the ideal is for all religions to be protected or not protected equally?

I think it can. 

Assuming it’s people want it to. 

I just fear that they don’t. Not enough of them, anyway. Please convince me otherwise. 

——

This past week, the great Jonah Goldberg wrote something like this: “Isn’t it time we quit trying to convince Muslims that the majority of them are moderate, and let the majority of Muslims convince us of how moderate they are?”

To that end, I offer the following set up affirmations. Perhaps these (or a similar set of affirmations) could serve as a litmus test for determining whether a Muslim is truly moderate.

A moderate Muslim should affirm that:

1. The intentional, direct killing of non-combatants is categorically unjustifiable & unacceptable.

2. The use of human shields to “protect” (or propagandize, post-retaliation) weapons, mortar sites, launch sites, ammo dumps, etc., is categorically unjustifiable & unacceptable.

3. National & local governments should be pluralistic, not favoring or protecting any one religious group over another. 

4. Laws cannot penalize, by imprisonment or confiscation, or the threat thereof, any religious group for its existence or for differing from the majority. 

5. Individuals have the inalienable right to choose their own religion, including converting away from the religion of their family & upbringing, without fear of legal repercussions. Government will use its power to protect this right.

Chess

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I started playing chess when I was in 1st grade. For years, it was one of the things my dad & I did together.

I’m a fairly intelligent person, but I’ve never been a good chess player. I enjoy the game, and I’ve tried to improve over the years–books, puzzles emailed to me, etc. But I don’t improve. My tendency when I’m thinking deeply is to develop tunnel vision and focus single-mindedly on what I’m doing. That’s good when I’m working on a theology paper or accreditation report. It’s not so good when I need analyze a complicated set of circumstances, like on a chessboard.

It’s really a broad intellectual habit. I’m great at tunnel vision, deep focus. I’m not nearly so good at seeing all the factors & possible outcomes of a given situation, thinking ahead.

A couple of weeks ago, I bought an iPhone app that trains the user in chess tactics. Maybe it will help me learn to see circumstances & possibilities. Maybe I’ll get better at planning ahead.

Prayer

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Caffeine & Ryan Adams aren’t enough this morning.

I need some clarity; I feel like I’m reading & writing through a fog.

God, brush away the cobwebs.  Send your breeze, your pneuma, like a dry-line through my mind, moving out the clouds and haze and bringing in cool, dry, clear, fresh air.

By your Spirit, let me see and say what is accurate, true, and needed.

Prayer

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Some days are so crazy that I don’t have time to take a breath & pray until they’re half-gone.

That’s a lie, actually. I have time in the morning before I start my day. I just choose to fill it with other things. The Ticket, Twitter, ESPN, answering emails–all are more important to me than talking with you, reflecting on your presence.

And then when the day begins, the things that cry out for my attention are so insistent …

I read something on Twitter this morning: something like,

“I don’t have time” doesn’t describe your schedule, it describes your priorities.

Forgive me for not submitting my priorities to you, so that I always have time before the busyness.

Getting My Head Right With Ball

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The guys on the Ticket (DFW’s premier sports radio station) used to have an expression for a player who wasn’t ready for game time situations that developed: “That guy needs to get his head right with ball.”

God, I’m bringing your word, your message, to your people this morning. Help me get my head right with ball.

I know you gave me this message. I know you love your people. I know you want to speak this message to them of your goodness and grace, the ferocity of your love. So USE ME. Speak through me. Speak through me. Speak through me.

Give me confidence to go off script. Give me confidence in your voice in what I’ve written. Give me confidence in the chapel setting, the musicians, the testimony.

Let me empty myself, so you can fill my words.

Let me empty myself, so you can fill me.

Let me empty myself of myself.

Empty me of myself.

Empty me of myself.

Empty me of all but  you.

You.


 

Luke 18.9-14  “Hi, I’m Perry, and I’m a bad Christian.”

Are you a good Christian or a bad Christian? Hi, my name is Perry, and I’m a bad Christian.

Story Jesus tells in Gospel of Luke: (Luke 18.9-14 on the slide; don’t read, paraphrase)

Two men went to pray in Temple, a Pharisee and a tax collector.

  • Pharisee: professionally religious.
    • Very holy: fasted & prayed twice a week, tithed a straight 10% of all his income. Everybody knew: the Pharisees were the super-religious. Everybody thought these guys were closest to God.
  • Tax collector: member of the dregs of society, a reject.
    • Jews hated tax collectors, because tax collectors helped the Romans oppress. Jews said that they were traitors, collaborated with idol-worshipping gentiles.
    • Plus, tax collectors were always cheating people, collecting more taxes than Rome demanded, because that’s how the tax collectors made themselves rich.
  • The Pharisee stands on Temple steps, middle of crowds streaming in, and prays:
    • “God, thank you for making me so special! Thank you for making me so righteous & holy!
    • Look at all the great stuff I do for you! Look at how devoted!”
  • Looks at the tax collector:
    • “Thank you for not making me a sinful wretched person like that tax collector.”
  • Tax collector doesn’t even approach the Temple; crouches, face down, pours out his heart: “God, have mercy on me, for I am a sinner.”

Jesus says: “This man (tax collector), rather than the other (the Pharisee), went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Are you a good Christian or a bad Christian?

Some of us here today think of ourselves as good Christians. If you’re one of these people: you build your identity, the way you think of yourself and way you present yourself to the world.

Feel strong call to ministry; passion about serving God. ” ” ” to live holy lives; see how destructive sin can be, trouble it causes, wreckage it leaves.

That’s the good side of being a “good Christian.” And all good things; at DCC, we LOVE people who want to be in ministry. We’re passionate about serving God. We want to see God glorified in the ways our students live, the choices you make.

Maybe you think of yourself as a GOOD Christian.

Or maybe you think of yourself as a BAD Christian. You believe in Jesus, and you want to do what God wants you to do, but DCC is just overwhelming. You look at all the super Christians around you and you think they must be from Mars. You don’t know what to do with all the God stuff; “mandatory Jesus.”

You want to live a good life, but you can’t seem to pull it off.

The people who live down the hall from you will be missionaries in Africa; you just want to be able to stand up to peer pressure and quit drinking with your friends until you black out, …

Or quit giving in to your boyfriend to have sex, …

Or quit thinking about the awful thing that your stepfather or your uncle or your older brother or your neighbor did to you, …

Or quit feeling so guilty and filthy over thing YOU did.

If you’re a bad Christian, I’m here to welcome you. I’m a bad Christian, too. I fight against temptation, and sometimes fail and give in. I’m selfish and petty. I know what it’s like to struggle with lust and greed and anger. I know what it’s like to be deathly ashamed of what you’ve done.

If you’re a bad Christian, I’ve got some good news for you. The good news is that God loves you the way you are, not the way you think you’re supposed to be. God loves you completely, and absolutely, and he doesn’t insist that you fix yourself, that you make yourself worth his love.

And if you’re a good Christian, I’ve got some good news for you, too. The good news is that you don’t have to be a good Christian for God to love you, accept you, or use you.

There’s a dark side to building your identity on being a “good Christian.”

  • Can’t always live up to what we know; still fail. Sometimes ashamed, hide or deny.
  • Easy to notice people around who AREN’T good Christians. They’re NOT headed into ministry. “They’re here for the wrong reasons.” Their lives are messy. Easy to condemn, judge; nice to take attention off our own faults. I understand that.

Did you notice the way Luke begins the story in Luke 18? “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: …”

It’s awfully easy to be that guy, isn’t it? To look at the other person and their behavior, or their attitude, and judge or reject, and take attention off our own failures?

Good news for us all, good Christians and bad: God’s love 4 U is absolute. Perfect, consistent, unchanging.

  • You can spend the rest of your life living the best life possible: be a missionary, give everything you own to the poor, and God won’t love you any more.
  • You can spend the rest of your life struggling to be good and falling on your face, failing over and over, and God won’t love you any less.

His love for you is absolute, perfect, and consistent. And he loves you the way you are, not the way you think you’re supposed to be.

We tend to trivialize love: romance, or feelings, or we overuse it for everything. In the Bible, God’s love isn’t a feeling. It’s his commitment to never let his people go. God’s love is a thunderstorm. God’s love is like an earthquake that always wants what’s right for you. He LOVES you. He knows you and he LOVES you.

Think about an earthquake that loves you, how it tears things up and puts them together again in new ways–but always for your benefit.  That’s how God loves you.  He wants to shake up your world.  He wants to take away from you everything that you think matters, so he can give you back so much more.

He knows all your garbage and all your drama and all your hurts and all your shame and all your dreams and all your rage and all your fears and all the things you never want to admit to anyone, never even want to admit to yourself, …

… he knows all that, and he LOVES you. He loves you fiercely, like a mama bear loves her cubs. And nothing you do, good or bad, is going to change that.


There’s a wideness in God’s mercy I cannot find in my own,

And it keeps a fire burning to melt this heart of stone, 

Keeps me aching with the yearning, keeps me glad to have been caught

In the reckless, raging fury that they call the love of God.

 

Well, I’ve seen no band of angels, but I’ve heard the soldier’s songs,

Love hangs over them like a banner, love within them leads them on

To the battle, on the journey, and it’s never gonna stop,

Ever widening their mercies in the fury of his love.

 

Joy and sorrow are this ocean, in their every ebb and flow;

Now the Lord a door has opened that all Hell could never close.

Here I’m tested and made worthy, tossed about and lifted up,

In the reckless, raging fury that they call the love of God.