Wednesday, December 31, 2008
At the beginning of 2008, I believed that God was calling me to help with the planting of a new church. That has not come to pass. A number of circumstances came up which put that on hold indefinitely. God has also kept me in the current church, even though it is dying or dead. For some odd reason, there still seems to be a ministry for me there. I have no idea what 2009 will bring.
My duties as an educational assistant have changed. Instead of working in a single self-contained class, I now travel to a number of classes within the building. It makes the day go a bit faster and I get to work with a variety of students. I'm still coaching basketball, but this year it seems there is more teaching needed as far as skills go.
Our daughter, Jennie, has flown the coop and made her way to the left coast, where she is trying to leave her mark on the film industry. I'm looking forward to seeing how God works in and through her. Josh, our son, is halfway through his architecture studies, and is still enjoying it.
My beautiful wife, Jan, continues to minister in a Christian school, although this year her duties have increased. We are grateful that her parents are in town so we can see them and help them as they need it.
God continues to teach me, and strip ideas and beliefs from me that I don't need. I'm finding that I am being increasingly, as imonk so succinctly put it, "reduced to Jesus." I'm seeking to follow more closely the Rabbi presented in the Gospels, rather than than the one created by modern Christendom. I'm finding that the pursuit is a lifetime thing rather than a one-time "turning everything over to God". Actually, spending a lifetime trying to follow Jesus so closely that I am covered in the dust from his feet is not a bad way to live. There are days when I sense his presence right there with me, and there are days when I wonder where he is.
As I enter 2009 I journey down a back road that is shaded by trees that have grown over the road and made the path very dark. It's not scary. It's more like an adventure, like exploring a path that you know leads somewhere. The question is where? I don't have an answer. Only God does, and he hasn't chosen to let me know. So, I journey on, step by step, walking by faith and not by sight.
Maybe in 2009, the branches will part and a bit more of the path will be revealed.
Happy New Year everyone! May you have a blessed year.
Friday, December 26, 2008
Here are the links from Christmas week, 2008:
Lindsey goes through a rite of passage. Mike Hollingsworth goes caroling in bars, and TSK writes about another famous Christmas Eve. Nakedpastor writes about a famous painting, while Jeff McQ tells us about his favorite, and un-favorite Christmas songs.
Scot McKnight is baffled. Josh wishes us a challenging merry Xmas. This is a great story. (HT: A Former Leader).
Only five days left in 2008. I pray that all of you have a very blessed new year.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
A time we spend with friends and family
It's a time for us to worship
We worship a baby
Who was born in a stable
But do we worship the King?
The child who came was born a King
Do we just see a baby?
Who do we worship?
During the time we spend with family
In this season of Christmas
Who do we see in the stable?
It was strange there in the stable
Not the usual place for the birth of a King
But there was the baby
His mother welcomed him to the family
We call this Christmas
Who do we worship?
There is only one worthy of worship
He lay in a stable
Surrounded by his family
We too often forget the King
And focus on the baby
It is wondrous that he was a baby
Born in a humble stable
So we celebrate at Christmas
Who do we worship?
Or an infant in a human family?
Yes, part of a human family
Born a baby
In a stable
He is more. He is King
He is worthy of worship
As we celebrate Christmas, surrounded by family
Remember that we worship much more than a baby
Born in a stable. We worship the King!
To me, that sums up the message of Christmas. A baby changes everything. The world that this baby was born into was under the control of an oppressive empire. The people of God were in bondage and waiting for a redeemer to come and free them. Then along comes this baby, born into a working class family and placed in a feeding trough. What many of the folks at that time didn't realize was that the Redeemer had come. The One who would free them from bondage had arrived on the scene. Everything was about to change.
When Jesus began his public ministry and people began to follow him, most still didn't realize the extent of the changes that were coming. They didn't know that even their expectations had to change. They didn't see that the bondage they were under was spiritual and not just political. They didn't see that the Kingdom that was in their midst was a kingdom founded on love and grace, not on power.
Everything has changed. Because this baby was born in Bethlehem, because God took on humanity, we can now be saved from the oppression of sin. We can now enter the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom of love. Everything has changed because this Kingdom does not operate like the kingdoms of this world. This Kingdom turns things upside down, or maybe it's the kingdoms of the world that are upside down. Everything has changed because this Kingdom is concerned, not with serving self, but with serving others.
Everything has changed because this King will not die and allow another to take the throne. He has conquered death, and so His subjects will reign with Him forever in the new heavens and earth.
It's true. A baby changes everything.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Traffic steadily building
Black Friday is going to save us all
Buy, buy, buy
Can't afford it? No matter
Take a year to pay the bill
It's your patriotic duty
Spend, spend, spend
What are we thinking?
We're missing something here
Do we have a clue?
Do we know what Christmas means?
The prophets knew
They predicted it
The angels knew
They sang about it
The shepherds and the wise men knew
They came and worshipped
He tried to have this rival killed
Christmas is a celebration because
The King has come
Yet we enthrone our own comfort
Worshipping the golden calf of Wall Street
We lust after power
Political, economic, social
We have forgotten something
We have forgotten this
The King has come
All the kingdoms on earth are His
The King has come
We are His
The King has come
Let us celebrate Him!
Friday, December 19, 2008
Todd Hiestand realizes the significance of Christmas. Alan Hirsch writes about Watership Down, and TSK thinks the Magi had mullets.
Brother Maynard reviews Dunn & Crowder and The Voice. I learned some things from The Inigo Montoya Guide to 27 Commonly Misused Words (HT: Brother Maynard). Here are some Spectacular Christmas Lights From Around the World (HT: Amy).
Women's Minstry Christmas Tea. Here's a good cartoon from Nakedpastor. Don't plan to be ignorant.
Are you "Christianized"? Brant Hansen has another blog post from Jesus. Grace takes the middle ground. Franklin is glad God won't go away, while John Armstrong has a five part series on the resignation of Richard Cizik from the NAE. Part one is here.
Mangerology from John Frye. Scot McKnight on conversion. imonk writes about Baptist additions to doctrine, and the Biblical command to holy joy. HOMEpdx could use some help. John Fonville writes on spiritual terrorism.
Dan Edelen has a good post on the parable of the two sons, and Josh wonders if there is a connection between hell and torture.
That's it for this week. I hope each of you has a very Merry Christmas celebrating the birth of the King.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
1. Egg nog or hot chocolate? Egg nog on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, hot chocolate the rest of the time.
2. Does "Santa" wrap presents or just put them under the tree? Our presents are wrapped. We enjoy the process of unwrapping. Of course, sometimes the wrapping consists of gift bags.
3. Colored lights or white? I enjoy seeing a lot of colorful light displays, but I also like the white lights. White lights seem more peaceful to me.
4. Do you hang mistletoe? Nope. No particular reason.
5. When do you put your decorations up? We used to put everything up a week after Thanksgiving. Now we get them up whenever we can find the time.
6. What is your favorite holiday dish (including dessert)? I really enjoy all the cookies that are so prevalent this time of year. I like the fudge too.
7. Favorite holiday memory as a child? There is no one memory that stands out. I remember Christmas as a time of joy and love. My family was close and Christmas was always a good time.
8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? I don't know. We always emphasized the birth of Jesus Christ. Santa was just something added on.
9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? We each open one gift.
10. Do you place a nativity set anywhere in your home? We have a number of nativity sets and we place them around the house.
11. Snow. Love or or hate it? I like snow for Christmas or at other times during the winter, as long as it doesn't stay around too long. We used to live in Cincinnati and grew tired of the snow. Now we live in the South and would like to see a little more.
12. Can you ice skate? Nope. Bad ankles.
13. Do you remember your favorite gift? I've received so many wonderful gifts through the years, and no single gift stands out above the rest.
14. What is the most important thing about the holidays for you? The birth of Jesus, and being with family.
15. Do you mail out Christmas cards/newsletters? We send out cards every year, and insert a letter letting folks know what has happened in our family udring the year.
16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Reading the Christmas story on Christmas Eve, and having a big dinner with the family on Christmas Day.
17. What tops your Christmas tree? An angel.
18. Do you prefer giving or receiving? Giving. I love seeing other people open their gifts.
19. What is your favorite Christmas song? "Silent Night". I know a lot of people don't like it, and I understand the reasons why. To me the song speaks of the holiness of the birth of the Savior and King.
20. Candy canes. Yum or yuck? I love candy canes.
21. What do you want for Christmas? My two front teeth, or a hippopotamus. :) Really, I'm not picky. Just spending time with my family and friends is enough.
22. Do you attend a Christmas party? Usually a couple every year.
23. Do you dress up for Christmas Eve or wear pajamas? We go to a Christmas Eve service every year, so we dress up a little.
24. Do you own a Santa hat? No.
25. Who do you normally spend Christmas with? My family.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
I know it should be, but when I look at my own life and the lives of those around me, I have to wonder. Is our life wrapped up in Jesus? Is the totality of our existence really all about him?
This time of year we hear a lot about Jesus, how he came to be born as a human, how he came to save us from our sins. Is there more? Is the Christmas story only one of God coming to earth, being born in a stable, and dying on the cross so we can go to heaven? I think there's more, but we have a tendency to pick and choose the parts of the story that make us feel good.
Some like the story of the little baby lying in the straw, with the shepherds and animals gathered round. They like the idea of peace on earth and good will to others. Add the ingredients of the American cultural Christmas and you have the makings of a nice holiday that makes most people feel rather good about themselves.
Some go a little further and emphasize the story of this little baby growing up and then dying to save us from our sins.They like the idea of avoiding Hell and going to Heaven. Couple that with a certain prayer to say and a set of propositions to assent to and those who have done that and are "in" can feel superior to those that are "out".
It's easy to forget about the three years that Jesus spent walking this earth teaching his disciples about his kingdom. It's far too convenient to focus on the beginning chapters in the Gospels and ignore that this child was born to be King, that he was the Messiah promised throughout the Old Testament, that he is Lord over all creation. It's also easy to concentrate on the final chapters of the Gospels and ignore that Jesus taught about the present reality of his kingdom as well as the future fulfilment.
Both extremes forget that, as Lord and King, Jesus calls us to move beyond the baby in the straw. He calls us to not be too preoccupied with the future. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords calls us to follow him.
A disciple follows his rabbi, his master, with the goal of becoming like him and being able to go make other disciples that will also become like the rabbi. An ancient Jewish saying stated that disciples should be covered in the dust from the feet of their rabbi.
Getting back to the idea of being wrapped up in Jesus; that is how our lives should be lived. To be wrapped up in Jesus means that we seek to live every moment in his presence, and seek to do every action with the same attitude that our Master has. We should strive to follow our Rabbi so closely that the dust from his feet covers us, so that when people see us in our day-to-day they see Jesus. It is not as easy as worshipping a baby in a manger. It is harder than agreeing to a set of beliefs or saying a certain prayer. It will cause us to lose our life. But, Jesus said that those who lose their life for his sake will find real life in him.
The world, and the church, needs people whose existence is wrapped up in the One who is setting all things right and who is coming again to finally bring his kingdom once and for all.
Friday, December 5, 2008
It's been unseasonably cold here in the sunny South. I think someone went north and brought the cold weather back with them. What has been warm is the blogosphere. Here's a taste of what's out there:
Dan Edelen writes about "persecution." John Fonville has a good post on the nature of the Gospel.
Here's a good poem from Jamie Finch. Julian Newman has some thoughts about partisan prayers, while Ben Girdler prays with eyes wide open.
Todd Hiestand has some good advice for leaders. Tony Jones is blogging from the Great Emergence National Event in Memphis. I hope he doesn't get BBQ all over the keyboard. imonk may have touched a nerve with this post. Check out the comments.
Scot McKnight thinks we should all use fountain pens. John Frye starts his own movement. Grace wonders if we're making disciples or converts. Are we bored?
Naked Pastor has an idea for churches.
In all the hustle and bustle of the coming weeks, don't forget those who have nothing to give.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Who would be the rulers in today's world? Who would be the proud? Who are the rich? Who are the humble and the hungry?
What in our consumer driven culture could the song speak to? What would Mary have to say to the Church?
What does it mean today that the King has come and is coming again? What would happen if those of us who say we follow this King lived as if we really did?
Just some questions rolling around in my head.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Twenty-four years ago, on a cold December morning - the only kind of December morning in Cincinnati - a baby girl joined our family. We named her Jennifer. Little did we know what we were in for.
We welcomed an individual who was happy most of the time, who sang herself to sleep at night, who awoke with a smile. We also learned what it was like to deal with a very strong will. We prayed that that strong will would be used for good and not evil. :)
As the years passed and we learned more about this girl, and she learned more about us, we grew to love her more and more each day. Although there were moments of conflict, we were thankful for the joy that she brought to us. I think we learned to squeeze a little more fun out of life ourselves.
This little girl grew into a teenager, and the relationship deepened and matured. We knew that the time was coming quickly when she would make her mark on the world. Through high school and college, she matured and began to seek out her path.
Now this little girl is a lovely young woman. She is full of questions, as all young adults are. Some of them I can answer. Some, only God can answer. I firmly believe that her Father will draw her close and let her know how much he loves her.
Jennie, I can't begin to tell you how much Mom and I love you. You are a true blessing from the Father. We are proud of you.
Friday, November 28, 2008
There's a lot of good stuff out there. Here's a sample:
Pam the Cleaning Lady.
Good article from John Ortberg. (HT: Scot McKnight)
Jeff McQ on messed up people.
Jonathan Brink is abandoning conservatism.
Len at Next Reformation is hearing rumors.
Brother Maynard has a new God.
Cool church architecture. (HT: Brother Maynard)
Have you seen the Hitler video with the different subtitles? The emerging church version is here.
This is just so wrong. (HT: Jared Wilson)
Karen Swank says, "Today, I will love."
I hope your weekend is wonderful and that the Father blesses you.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
I am thankful for many things. God has blessed me with a wonderful wife who puts up with my foibles and all the changes in thinking I have been going through. Jan's love is a major blessing. The Father has allowed me to be Dad to two fantastic children, Josh and Jennie, who have grown into adults who love Jesus and who will be used by God for his kingdom. My sister Debbie, and her family are a blessing and I am thankful for their love. Jan's mom and dad have always treated me as a son and their love and support is huge, and her sisters and their families are a blessing as well.
I am thankful to have grown up in a family where there was unconditional love, and where an example of simple, true faith was evident. My mom and dad are the major factor behind who I am today.
I am grateful to the Father for adopting me as his child and showing me that his love and grace are bigger than anything I have done or will do. God has worked in me the past four years and has brought me out of a performance based mindset into a relationship of love, a relationship that sees God as Abba, not as someone who is always looking for how many times I screw up, and waiting for me to "get right with him" before he blesses me.
I am thankful for the (thousands?), (hundreds?), (tens?), ones of readers who are a little bit interested in my babblings.
There are so many things that I am thankful for. To list them all would take too long and tax your patience beyond reason.
What are you thankful for?
Friday, November 21, 2008
Today was one of those days when TGIF is really meaningful. The kids at school were a little antsy. Maybe it has something to do with the break coming up.
Here are my suggestions for some good weekend reading:
Interview with Jim Palmer.
it's amazing what you can buy these days.
Interesting things going on in Greenville, SC.
The ball has been dropped.
Pam muses about just us love.
imonk writes about the unresolved tensions of evangelicalism. Part 1 is here.
Breaking news from Chicago.
A coffee analogy from a non-coffee drinker.
A great idea for Christmas.
Irony from robbymac.
Church architecture. (HT: Brother Maynard)
Jared Wilson on numerolatry and the church.
A new network that sounds very interesting.
I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving next week.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Check out http://www.adventconspiracy.org/
Friday, November 14, 2008
Here's some of the good stuff:
A pastor abandons his church. (HT: A Former Leader)
Is the end at hand?
Josh ponders the finite.
Could the culture war be ending? (HT: Scot McKnight)
Tyler Dawn has something to say to drive-by commenters. (HT: Jeff McQ)
The Missional Transition Into Chaos.
I get the feeling that Robbymac doesn't like rules-based religion.
Challenging post from Jared Wilson.
Enjoy your weekend.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Most of you know that I am in the midst of trying to figure out what it is that God wants me to do concerning "church", and the timing of that decision. I'm kind of in what imonk calls the "evangelical wilderness". I've been trying for a couple of years to influence the congregation I worship with in a direction that is far different from church as they've always known it.
I started reading The Present Future by Reggie McNeal, and God is using it to break my heart and show me the ways I have actually hindered the Kingdom in an attempt to help. I grew up in very conservative churches where the feeling was that as the culture drifted farther and farther from God, the job of the church was to hunker down in the bunker and lob hand grenades of "truth" at the wicked ones who were outside. As my thinking changed I began to think that church was to be a place that was so dynamic, professional, and slickly packaged that it would attract folks to come into the church and be saved. That was my mindset as I began to try and influence change in the church.
Over the past few months, God has been shaping my thinking and showing me that his heart is toward the poor, the downcast, the oppressed. The Father has shown me that his grace is far bigger than I can realize and that attempts on my part to limit grace are not only doomed to failure, but are actually sin. He has shown me that my job is to do two things: go and be. I am to go, not only about my daily life, but intentionally where those away from God are. I am to be an ambassador of the King, a person who shows others the beauty of Jesus and the magnificence of the Kingdom.
Reggie McNeal writes about the mission of the church and how so much of what churches do are more for the comfort of the membership than for the Kingdom. I totally agree that the missio dei, the mission of God, is our calling as followers of Jesus Christ. What has muddled me, and twisted me up in a knot, is that I don't know what to do next.
I know that what I write may be read by members of the current church (my post Autopsy caused a mini storm), but I have to be open here. I honestly don't see the church moving beyond the "we need to focus on teaching our people and if the rest of the world ever catches on, they'll come here " mentality to a missional one. Because of this, I think my time there is quickly drawing to a close.
The question is, when and how? The pastor is a godly man who I have gotten to know and love over the past couple of years, and I have tried to be supportive of him and his family. He has tried to bring about needed change in the church, but has been met with opposition all along. My heart goes out to him, and that is what makes the decision to leave such a hard one.
I believe now that God is calling me to go down another road on my journey. Where that road will lead, I don't know. Last Sunday night Jan and I joined with a group for worship and Bible study. Whether that will grow into something the Father wants us to be a part of remains to be seen. There are good people in that group, so even if God widens our circle of friends, it will be good.
Stay tuned to this channel. I'm sure adventures await.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
When you cross paths with a veteran today, thank them for their service.
Friday, November 7, 2008
I started basketball practice this week. As always, I'm looking forward to the season.
Here's the good stuff:
Many of the posts are on the recent political happenings. Bob Hyatt weighs in here, Dan Edelen gives us his opinion here, and Rich Wagner throws in his thoughts here.
Continuing a theme, Josh gives us his thoughts. imonk knows why some find the culture wars so appealing, and Jeff McQ writes about change. Jonathan Brink has written a letter to the next President.
Worshiping the Golden Calf? (HT: Michael Spencer)
Brother Maynard reviews Scot McKnight's Blue Parakeet.
I hope your weekend is enjoyable.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
We pray for President-elect Obama. We pray that you would bless him and protect him. We ask that you would enable him to govern with justice, mercy, and humility. Let him know that he is in such a high position because of your grace, and that he is your servant. We pray for his family as they face the pressures of a life far different from what they have known.
We pray for your people. This election season has been more divisive than any other and your Church needs healing and reconciliation. Remind us that, no matter how we view politics, we all serve the True King. Help us to keep our allegiance where it belongs, and to represent the Kingdom of God as ambassadors who tell and show others the beauty of that Kingdom. Instead of being known for our cultural and political views, let us be known for the love that we show others.
Each day, in all we do, let your name be lifted up and hallowed. Let your Kingdom come in our actions and attitudes. Let us do your will on this earth as it is done in heaven. Meet our daily needs, and keep us grateful.
Help us to forgive others because of the great forgiveness you have given us. Keep us from all temptation, and deliver us from evil. The Kingdom, all honor, and all glory belongs to you.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all polls,
and if I have a faith that can move political mountains, but have not love,
I am nothing.
If I give all I possess to the national committee
and surrender my time to run a phone bank, but have not love,
I gain nothing.
Love is patient with those of the other party.
It is not jealous of opponent's fund raising,
it does not boast of its candidate, it is not proud.
It does not rudely argue political points, it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered when others disagree, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in negative campaigns
but rejoices in the truth.
It always protects the reputation of Christ, always trusts God is in control,
always hopes for the best, always perseveres in living as a disciple of Jesus.
Love never fails. But where there are campaign promises,
they will be broken;
where there are silver tongued orators,
they will be stilled;
where there is knowledge of how to govern,
it will pass away.
For we have partial knowledge and we govern with that knowledge,
but when the True King comes, imperfect government will disappear.
When I was a partisan, I talked like a partisan,
I thought like a partisan,I reasoned like a partisan.
When I recognized who the True King is,
I put partisan ways behind me.
Now we see but a poor reflection;
then we shall see face to face.
Now I know in part;
then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain:
faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is love.
Friday, October 31, 2008
Here's a sampling:
Amy has a good post on our relationship with God.
Good thoughts on the election here.
Dan Kimball has a good question about defining marriage.
Jared Wilson makes like Luther. The first part is here.
Alan Hirsch on planting the Gospel.
TSK gives his Reformation Day post.
Brokenness and community.
nakedpastor on suffering.
Another case of the church copying the culture. (HT: Jonathan Brink)
Jeff McQ is checking his hearing.
Great and timely post from John Armstrong.
Bill Kinnon on keeping it simple.
Barb has some thoughts for church leaders.
Have a great weekend. Watch out for razor blades in apples. (sorry, that was a flashback from when my kids were going out for candy.)
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
I started thinking that maybe a big reason for the impotence of today's Church is the belief, or at least the appearance, that we are "fixed". Think about it. What does a veterinarian do to a male dog to keep it from siring puppies? He "fixes" it. Maybe churches are not multiplying because the people inside are "fixed". Maybe in our attempt to appear as if we have it all together, to "keep a good testimony", we have neutered the Gospel.
We are all broken. We are all in desperate need of God's grace in our day-to-day. None of us has it all together. As Switchfoot sings:
"We are a beautiful letdown,
The church of the dropouts
The losers, the sinners, the failures and the fools..."
Monday, October 27, 2008
What I see out there instead is Christians attacking other Christians on the radio, on blogs, or in books in the name of "defending truth", as if truth needed to be defended. So many of these attacks do not even address the "truth" involved, but instead are directed at the individuals who do not toe the particular party line. I have heard and read things about people that would make you think they are the second coming of Judas or some other, even more evil person.
When those outside of the faith look at the church and see the fighting that goes on over things that are not essential to following Jesus, is it any wonder that they shake their heads and determine not to have anything to do with us? Sure, there are some things which are core to faith in Christ. But there are so many others that can be left up to each individual's conscience and guidance from the Holy Spirit. (For a good article on this, check out: http://dankimball.typepad.com - "what to use for a metaphor of 'core' and 'non-core' beliefs")
While we follow the Truth, and we do have a true and accurate record of God's dealings with humans throughout history, none of us has all of the truth that God has. In fact, I believe that when we stand before God, he will tell us that there were certain things that nobody got right, that he had something totally different in mind.
Since none of us is perfect, and none of us has all of the truth hidden away in our tiny little minds, why not concentrate on what our Savior told us is the most important thing? Love God with every fiber of our being, and then love everyone else as we love ourselves.
Think about the impact that would have.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Barb has some thoughts on discipleship and kids.
Camille Lewis wonders if a Preachers' Park might be a good idea.
Molly reviews Coffeehouse Theology.
Dan Edelen writes about two Christianities.
Pam wonders about greatness.
The Internet Monk Annual Halloween Rant.
Ringo just doesn't want to be bothered anymore. (HT: Scot McKnight)
John Armstrong says, "It's the debt, stupid!
What would 700 billion dollars buy? (HT: Brother Maynard)
Have a great week!
Monday, October 20, 2008
The speaker was talking about growing up in the church and his question of why we go to church. He had never received an adequate answer, so he began to search out reasons to go to church. His sermon was based on that research.
He presented a number of verses where Israel was reminded of the time that God met with them when they were "in assembly" at Sinai. He also showed where God met with the nation in a special way when they were "in assembly" at the Tabernacle or the Temple. My thought was that, since Christ is risen from the grave, we have the presence of God within us at all times and don't need to go to a special place to "meet" him.
He then moved to the New Testament, where he talked about how the Greek word "ecclesia", which is translated "church" in the English Bible, is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word for "assembly". He then continued to state that in the New Testament God worked in a special way through the assembly or church.
Fair enough. Where I found myself in the sharpest disagreement (and where my thinking has changed the most), is in the idea of what church is. I was taught that, while there was a "Universal Church" made up of all believers, the focus was on the local church and its programs. We were even taught to be somewhat wary of para-church organizations because they might siphon resources away from the local church. Discipleship essentially consisted of getting new converts involved in the life of the local church.
I no longer see "the church" as an organization that meets in a particular place at a particular time, and has a constitution, by-laws, etc. I believe that all followers of Jesus the Christ are the church. Now, I really don't have a whole lot against those who, as the church, decide to gather together in a particular place and time, with a constitution and by-laws. my problem is with the concept of "going to church", of thinking of the things we do and the structures we have put in place as church.
When we see going to a place on a Sunday morning and listening to a sermon, lecture, talk, whatever, as church; we have missed the idea of what church is. The church is the body of Christ. We are the ones who are to carry out the mission of God in this world. We are the ones who are to be making disciples of Jesus. We are the ones who are to be proclaiming that there is a King and a Kingdom, that Jesus Christ is reigning now and will come again to set all things right, and that he calls people repent and follow him. We can and should be doing those things independently of any organizational program or structure. We are not called to make church members, but disciples.
Now, before you accuse me of saying that we should all go out and do our own thing, let me state that I believe that Scripture teaches us that we are to assemble together as the church. But, the church is what is assembling together, not the place where we go. And, the church can assemble together in a variety of places at different times, whether in an auditorium on a Sunday, a home on a Saturday evening, a coffee shop through the week, or a pub. I don't believe that what most of us knew as "church" growing up is the only expression of the body of Christ assembling together.
I do believe that some things are essential for an assembly: the Word, fellowship, prayer, and the Lord's Supper. Beyond that it can be left up to the leading of the Holy Spirit. I also believe that the assembly is to be something that teaches us to follow Jesus in our day-to-day lives and that teaches and encourages us to go out and make disciples.
We miss the boat when we think of church as something we "go to" rather than something we are. Maybe this is why many churches are not growing, and many of the ones that are are drawing in those from other churches who are already Christians.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
One of Polly's daughters spoke of her mom's life followed by two granddaughters who spoke of her influence on the lives of all the grandchildren. After this, the marker was unveiled, and a great granddaughter played "Taps" on a trumpet. We then went into the church social hall for a reception. It was a wonderful time seeing cousins I hadn't seen in far too many years, and reconnecting with a bit of my own heritage. I even spent a little time with an aunt on my dad's side. The visit made me realize how easy it is to lose touch with family and how necessary it is to try and keep in contact.
From Asheville we traveled to Columbia to watch my nephew play soccer. It was good to see my sister and her family after a couple of weeks without being with them.
It was a good reminder of the things that are really important: family, faith, and a love for the country in which God has placed you. So many other things in life are affected by how we live out those three things.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Here are some of the the links of the week:
Tony Jones thinks we are in the waning days.
Todd Hiestand list 7 of the most important jobs in the world.
Good stuff from Jared Wilson.
Next Reformation has a good post on Post-Christendom.
Jonathan Brink reviews The Great Emergence: Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here.
Jeff McQ's contribution to Blog Action Day 2008.
Check out this freakin' amazing library. (HT: Brant Hansen)
imonk has the inside scoop on new Bibles coming out soon.
Enjoy your weekend.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
On Friday, I was in Clarks Summit, PA for my 30th college reunion. I know, I don't look that old.:) It was good to see a couple of classmates, but the highlight of the weekend was being there for the retirement celebration of the school's former athletic director and basketball coach. Along with seeing him, I was able to spend time with my former soccer coach and my old track coach. These three men have had more influence on my life than anyone except my own father. They taught me how to see athletics, and all of life as a way to glorify God. This had a huge impact on the way I have approached coaching and teaching. I just hope that I have had a similar impact on some of the kids I've had the privilege of working with through the years. That afternoon, I walked across the soccer field; and since it was homecoming weekend I remembered back to when I was a senior and walked across that same field with my mom and dad. That brought a few tears.
Saturday, I drove to Baltimore and spent the night with some friends from The Ooze. We went duckpin bowling and had a blast! We were in an old building that had lanes on two floors. It's the oldest continuously operating duckpin alley in the U.S. I hadn't been duckpin bowling since I was a kid, so I had a lot of fun. Sunday, we attended Cedar Ridge Community Church. That's the church that Brian McLaren founded. It was a good service. Later that day, I drove to Springfield, VA and spent the night with a nephew and his wife. It was good seeing them again.
On Monday, I went and saw the new building that had replaced my old high school. I didn't like the building, but their football stadium and track stadium are very nice. Then I went and visited my parent's grave. There were more tears, as there will always be at certain times. I drove home and got in at 10:00 PM, tired and feeling blessed that I was able to make this trip.
Monday, October 6, 2008
The show is on the CW Network. I have no idea if it's any good, but hey. Jennie's on TV.
Friday, October 3, 2008
And to think I wasted five years of my life. (HT: Bob Hyatt)
Josh looks back.
Scot McKnight nails it.
Kingdom Grace reviews Coffee House Theology.
Brant Hansen knows how to redeem a violent video game.
Jeff McQ has a good series on re-thinking worship. Part 1 is here.
This is long, but very good.
Brother Maynard has a good post on the "demise" of emerging, emergent, etc.
This is cool. (HT: Brother Maynard)
Alan Hirsch wonders about fundamentalism.
Wow. Just, wow.
Tim Hill has a four part series on spiritual formation. Part 1.
Tomorrow we celebrate my wife's birthday. Hope you have a good weekend.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
I don't believe that's what the Psalmist intended when he wrote, "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?" It is true that there is nowhere we can go that takes us out of God's presence. It is true that God knows our every thought and deed. But I believe that David wrote these words in Psalm 139 as praise to the God who was always with him and would always take care of him, not as a complaint that God was always watching so David couldn't get away with anything. I am not saying that God is not watching or that we can get away with anything, I just don't believe that's the thrust of this Psalm.
God is not sitting "up" in heaven taking a picture of us so he can hold it against us - "Look what you did". Jesus redeemed us, every bit of us, including the times we screw up. Anyway, does anyone really doubt that God already knows when we sin? Does he need to "watch"?
Now if the message on the sign meant that God was taking my picture just as any proud father enjoys taking pictures of his children, because he loves and enjoys them; well, I can live with that.
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
After two years, the pain and sorrow is not as fresh or strong as it was. I am continuing to heal, although there are still times when I find myself with a catch in my throat and a tear in my eye. When a holiday comes, especially Mother's Day or Father's Day, I stop and think about how much I miss them. Whenever I read or hear something about the loss of a family member, I feel my own loss. When I read about being reunited with loved ones in God's presence, I long for that day.
When Josh, along with a little bit of help from me, laid a new kitchen floor, I thought of how my dad was probably watching while we were working; wishing we could hear his words of advice. I think he is pleased.
Losing the ones who brought you into this world, who began the process of teaching you to make your way, and who were a major influence on your journey of faith is hard. It does leave a hole that is not filled. Maybe that is so we don't get too attached to life in the here and now, but look for the time when the King will make all things right.
Monday, September 29, 2008
The problem with the audience is that it was mostly made up of people going to or from someplace. With the exception of the students who were standing around laughing and taking pictures with their cell phones, or the people waiting for their cars to be washed, his "audience" was on the move. He kept on preaching into a microphone that was connected to a large speaker on the back of a truck. Because we were going into the drug store to get a birthday card, I couldn't make out much of what the preacher was saying, although I could make out "sin", "hell", "God", and "Savior".
On Sunday the street preacher probably told his congregation that he spent a good part of the day "proclaiming the Gospel". I wondered what his definition of the Gospel is. Having grown up in churches where this type of thing would not be that uncommon, I think his definition would probably end in "go to heaven when you die", or something similar.
This is probably a simple exercise for most of you out there, but I am wondering: How would you define "the Gospel"? Is it simply believe in Jesus and go to heaven when you die? Or is there more?
Friday, September 26, 2008
Enjoy these links:
Want to be in a parade? Go here.
Check this out. It's hilarious. (HT: Bob Hyatt)
Good thoughts from Josh.
imonk writes about the Christian counter-culture, and the current economic crisis.
Brant Hansen knows how to neutralize Al-Qaeda.
Order vs. chaos.
Jared Wilson reinterprets "The Little Red Hen"
The good thing about the gas shortage in the Southeast is that it gives me a chance to say, "I remember when..." (referring to the problems in the 70s).
Enjoy your weekend.
Friday, September 19, 2008
There's some good thoughts floating around in cyberspace. Here's a sampling:
When celebrities get involved in politics.
imonk reveals the "real" prosperity gospel.
I may use this when I travel next month. (HT: Scot McKnight)
John Armstrong talks politics.
Brant Hansen has good posts here and here.
Jeff McQ reflects on the journey.
"I won't sin"
Brother Maynard wonders who Jesus would torture.
The most awesomest muppets. (HT: Brother Maynard)
I'll have to give in and mow the yard tomorrow. At least the gas prices are about 40 cents cheaper than they were last weekend. Have a good one.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
I read and hear a lot from people who "love Jesus". I wonder about this, because then I read and hear things that don't match up with loving Jesus. Jesus said, "If you love me, keep my commands." Some of the things I see from those who claim to love Jesus are, to be quite frank, violations of His commands.
I'm not just talking about those whose life seems to be characterized by drunkenness, immorality, profanity, and a general who gives a f*** attitude. I see it in those who are judgemental, who are self righteous, who are racist, who ignore the poor and oppressed, who think that just because they go to the right church, use the right version of the Bible, and know all the right words, have it made.
Jesus called us to follow Him, to be His disciples. A disciple is one who will do anything to be like his master. The ancient Jews had a saying, "Follow a rabbi, drink in his words, and be covered with the dust of his feet." That meant to follow him so closely that the dust he kicked up would cover them. That's what it means to follow Jesus. To be so close that we are covered with his dust. The early believers were first called "Christians" as a derogatory term because the culture was calling them "little Christs".
Maybe the reason the culture rejects "Christianity" is because they look at the "little Christs" and think, "If these people are really like Jesus, I don't want anything to do with them or him." Can we blame them?
It is past time for those who claim to love and follow Jesus to be serious about what that means. It means that we are willing to do whatever it takes to be like Him. It means reading the account of His life and teachings in the Gospels and the teaching about how to flesh this life out in the rest of the New Testament. It means being willing to give up my dreams and passions in return for God's dreams and passions for me. When Jesus walked on water, Peter was willing to get out of the boat and risk drowning to be like his Rabbi. How willing are we?
There is a revolution growing in the body of Christ. A new Reformation. God is doing some great things. Join us.
Monday, September 15, 2008
What struck me about that picture was how, in the midst of all the hoopla of a political convention, real life happens. Sometimes we get so wrapped in the things we are doing that we forget that life is going on all around us. We tend to get tunnel vision and think that the "big thing" that we are doing is the most important thing on earth. This is true whether we are involved in politics, making money, or even doing "church" work.
It has been said that at the end of our lives, no one will say, "I wish I'd spent more time at the office." I think that is so true. Most of us will look back over our lives and wish we'd developed relationships with those around us, even with those in our own families.
I wonder if we will stand before Jesus and hope he will be impressed with the churches we have built, the doctrinal debates we have won, the systematic theologies we have constructed; only to hear him say, "Yes, but how many of your neighbors did you really get to know? How many times did you give to me by relating to and serving one of the least of these? Did you help your family grow in their faith? You missed a lot of the abundant life that I came to give you because you were consumed with all the "great" things you thought you were doing for me."
Let us never forget to live.
Friday, September 12, 2008
Here's a great story.
Tim Hill has an interesting take on the election.
Alan Hirsch answers an important question.
Are you a faith blogger?
Brother Maynard takes on the church leadership culture.
Len at NextReformation talks about "church".
This has good potential. (HT: Jonathan Brink)
This is amazing!
Michael Spencer is a reductionist?
This just isn't right. (HT: Scot McKnight)
Internetmonk does an interview with Julie Neidlinger about leaving church.
Good post on textual criticism. (HT: Conservative Reformed Mafia)
Paglia on Palin. (HT: Bob Hyatt)
Camille Lewis takes a look back.
It looks like God is going to be making some changes around these parts. We'll see what happens.
Have a great weekend!
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
If you don't live in the Charlotte area you can find out if the tour will be in your area by going to this site.
Monday, September 8, 2008
Twenty or thirty years ago, the subject had opportunities to broaden horizons and take actions to ensure long term flexibility and health. Like many others, the subject preferred to continue making the same lifestyle choices that were good during the early years, but that had outlived their usefulness. The subject not only refused to make needed changes, but began to speak out against those who did change and refused to work with them in the community. I believe this is the point when the subject began to die.
As the years went by, the subject became further entrenched in the old ways, even as life and vitality continued to wane. Friends and family members began to leave and find others to spend time with. The subject began to shrink and muscles began to atrophy. A form of dementia set in and the subject began to withdraw and close out the rest of the world, only opening the door to the occasional visitor. Visitors were few and far between, and those who did come quickly realized that the subject's ways of believing and acting were not for them.
The old caretaker retired, and a new one arrived with dreams of revitalizing the subject. What the new caretaker and the subject's few remaining friends didn't realize was that the subject was already too far gone. Due to a lack of action, the muscles had deteriorated to the point where some of them had actually disappeared. This caused some of the internal organs to also lose function and die.
The subject was placed on life support in an attempt to keep certain functions working. These functions were seen as essential to the caretaker and those still gathered around the subject. What they didn't realize was that the way these functions were performed, even some of the functions themselves, were actually contributing to the subject's demise.
During the last few years life continued to drain out of the subject. Even the children, whom the subject professed to love, stopped coming around. Many of the ones who worked so hard to revitalize the subject have gone elsewhere.
The subject was declared dead on Sunday, September 8, 2008 at 11:00 AM. Artificial life support will probably continue, but any real life is gone.
Friday, September 5, 2008
I have a lot of stuff rattling around my head, but nothing to put in writing yet. So, I'll just give you some of what others far wiser than me have written:
A Time To Laugh thinks back to the good old days(?)
Molly drops the F-bomb.
Rachel has finally picked a side in the political debate.
Bob Hyatt is feeling a bit of a chill.
Jesus Creed asks a good question about elders.
Kamp Krusty ranks ministries.
Jeff McQ has some good pics from Gustav, and asks about the kids.
Brother Maynard list ten movies to make us think.
How the entering college freshman class is thinking. It makes me feel old. (HT: Brother Maynard)
Good shopping site. (HT: Tall Skinny Kiwi)
Emergent Village has a blogologue going on between Bill Easum and Tony Jones. It begins here.
Friday, August 29, 2008
And now, what you all have been waiting for. The links of the week:
Philip at The Thinklings writes a letter.
Randy Smith has some good thoughts on "old people". (HT: Jared Wilson)
Tall Skinny Kiwi has a good post on blogging.
This is heartbreaking. (HT: Brother Maynard)
Is your church like this?
Anthony Smith is going to vote.
If Jesus had a blog.
Michael Spencer has some good questions.
imonk thinks we should take Frank Viola seriously.
More "me too" from the Christian subculture. (HT: Richard Wagner)
Camille asks what's left and right.
Barb has some questions for leavers.
Enjoy the long weekend and please pray for the son of a former co-worker of mine who broke his neck in a diving accident. The doctors repaired the break but still don't know if there will be permanent paralysis.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
I've heard all the talk about the KJV being a best seller because it is the only translation that is God's inspired and preserved word. I don't think that's the reason at all.
I believe that the fact that the KJV is still a best seller has more to do with the way most people see the Bible these days than in anything special about the language that is used. The Bible is seen by many Christians as a depository of "timeless truths" that can be pulled out and used whenever they are needed. Some see it as a rule book for life or a sort of owner's manual that they can go to and find rules and procedures for the things they do. Others search out promises and use them as something akin to magic words to try to get God to do what they want. Still others read Scripture out of a sense of duty, because someone told them that to be a good Christian they have to read the Bible every day.
What all these reasons have in common is a lack of desire to really let God's revelation of himself and the story of his people get inside them. I know from personal experience that it is easy to read the Bible on a regular basis and not be changed. I've studied Scripture (in Bible college I got A's on both my theology written and oral exams). I learned the inductive, deductive, and any other ductive methods of Bible study. Those things really didn't have much of an impact on my spiritual growth. I knew a lot of information, but it really didn't mean that much.
Peterson tells a story of an adult class at his church that was studying the book of Galatians. His purpose was to remind the people of their freedom in Christ. Peterson noticed that the class was more interested in their coffee and conversation than they were with the Scripture. This frustrated him until he got the idea of taking the Greek words of the original and putting them in modern American English. He writes that very quickly the coffee was forgotten in the excitement of seeing the revelation of God in words that they were familiar with and could understand, words that they used every day. Peterson notes that the New Testament was written in the common Greek of the day - street language.
I think the reason many people buy and read the King James is that it is in a style of English that they don't use in their day-to-day lives, and can therefore be kept separate. It's part of the division between "sacred" and "secular" that many have to keep God from messing with their routine. It's also useful as a sort of "code" that only the "sanctified" can understand. (I've noticed that a large part of some sermons is reading the King James and then translating it into modern English so the congregation can understand).
I believe that the Bible is not a book to be studied the way one would study a textbook or manual. It is not a collection of facts about God or a book of regulations and procedures. It is God's story of himself and his dealings in this world, of how he is building a Kingdom and restoring all things, and of how he will finally bring about that restoration completely. It is a story that invites us to enter in, to join our story with God's story. As we enter into this story we learn, in real ways, how to become like the Savior and King the story points to.
To do this, to enter into God's story and open ourselves to being transformed by it, we must have this story in a language we can understand and relate to. For most people the KJV doesn't fill the bill.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
I grew up hearing messages along that line. If you want God to bless you, you had to make sure that you did things that would keep you on his good side. I remember making sure I had confessed any and all sins that I could think of before I would pray for something really big that I wanted from God. I always "searched my heart" before Communion to make sure I was "right with God" so I wouldn't get sick or die. I lived in a carrot and stick relationship with God. The carrot was his blessing if I lived right, and the stick was missing blessings or being punished if I didn't. Even through my teen years when I got involved in things that I shouldn't have, I still held on to the idea of getting "things squared away with God" before I wanted him to bless me in some way.
One of the biggest things the Father has taught me over the years is that he loves and blesses me because he wants to, because I am his child. I am in God's favor because I am in Christ. I did nothing to earn his favor, and I can do nothing to lessen it either. I sin, but my Abba Father loves me far beyond what I can understand. My performance doesn't cause God to love me more or less. I am accepted as a son by the One who is over all, and therefore I want to do those things that are compatible with my standing. I want to do those things that bring glory to my Father and that advance his Kingdom. I don't do those things because I think that doing them will keep me in God's favor and bring his blessing down.
I am through with a performance based religion that keeps its followers in fear that they might knowingly or unknowingly do something that is going to cause God to take his hand off them. I am through with a religion that acts as if God can be manipulated to give favor by man's actions.
I embrace a grace that loves me no matter what, that has already given me God's favor, and that is forming me into the image of Jesus Christ
Friday, August 22, 2008
Here's the good stuff:
Dan Edelen has some ideas on cleaning up after Lakeland, etc. Part 1 is here.
AnneDroid has changed over the years.
Dan Burrell writes about church names. (HT: Scot McKnight)
Michael Spencer thinks about the cross.
Jeff McQ is dreaming some more.
Jonathan Brink ponders following.
Anthony Smith is running for President. Who knew?
Here's a guide for sending those nasty e-mails.
This is hilarious. (HT: Brother Maynard)
We're being repossessed.
Gospel = lima beans?
Jared Wilson is being subversive.
Tomorrow night Josh and I are going to see the Panthers play the Redskins. Enjoy your weekend.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
First, in these churches the video venues are set up in order for people who live in another area to hear one particular pastor preach. This can create a celebrity status that some of these men will not be able to handle. How many times have we seen leaders of large congregations or "ministries" fall to temptations brought about by being famous and powerful.
The second problem is the lack of opportunity for people to plant churches in areas and be the instrument God uses to have an impact on the community. With the video churches, anyone new coming into an area may have to "compete" with the nationally known preacher who is on the screen down the block.
The first two problems are not insumountable, and in some areas may not even be problems at all, but the third problem I see is one that is far more serious.
The franchising of megachurches and their pastors helps to perpetuate the wrong idea that the "main event" on Sunday morning is church. Too many still believe the old Sunday school song about church and see "church" as a place you go to. This place may be an old, ornate building with a steeple, or it may be a movie theater. It may be a school gymnasium or it may even be a coffee shop or pub. The type of place doesn't matter, they still see church as a place to go on Sunday.
While you are at church you sit and sing a few songs, and then are entertained by the speaker. I have heard it said that the prefered type of entertainment in our churches is the pastor's sermon. You may be inspired. You may be challenged. You may even be moved to action. But looking at the spiritual state of our churches today, how many are being changed into the likeness of Jesus Christ?
In every place the word church appears in Scripture, the idea is that of a group of people, not a building or location. The church is not seen as something you go to, but rather as something you are a part of. To steal Paul's analogy of the church as a body, how well would your physical body function if the arms, legs, etc. only came together once a week to do what you do? I would guess not a whole lot would be accomplished. The parts of your physical body need to be together all the time in order for you to carry out the things you do day-to-day. In the same way, how can we expect the church to carry out the mission of God in advancing his Kingdom if we only get together once, or even three times, a week to sit and hear someone talk. We need to be making disciples of the Rabbi, followers of the true King. The only way this is going to get done is if we get out of the four walls of "church" and realize that we are the church. We need to do what Jesus and the original twelve did, and go to those in need and give them the good news that there is a better way, a way that leads to an abundant, free, eternal life. I fear that a church franchise will do little more than shuffle sheep from church to church.
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