Friday, October 31, 2008

TGIF

Happy Reformation Day! Or, if you would prefer, Happy Halloween! I'm excited because basketball practice begins next week. There was quite a bit of good stuff out there in the blogosphere this week.

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

Fixed?

On Tuesday, October 28, John Fischer wrote about "falling into grace" here. In this article he wrote about churches full of Christians who attempt to give the appearance of being fixed rather than broken and needy. He then went on to speak of the burden this puts on those who act as if they are fixed, yet know deep down how broken they really are.

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,
Painfully uncool,
The church of the dropouts
The losers, the sinners, the failures and the fools..."

Monday, October 27, 2008

Love

The more I hear and the more I see around me, the more I am convinced that the church in America has failed to keep the two commandments that Jesus said were the greatest, the two "rules" on which everything else hangs. Those two greatest commandments are love God with everything we have and love others as we love ourselves. Jesus later said that the love we have for others is the one thing that will prove we are his disciples.

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

TGIF

Due to some technical difficulties, Friday is on Sunday this time around. Here's some of the best:

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

Go To Church?

One of the interesting things about my trip to my alma mater for homecoming was a chance to sit in chapel for a Bible conference session. It gave me a chance to reflect on some of the changes that have happened in my thinking since I graduated lo, these many years ago.

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

Reconnecting

Yesterday, Jan and I traveled to Asheville to attend a ceremony remembering the life of my second cousin. Even though she was a cousin, my sister and I knew her as Aunt Polly. Polly was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and the ceremony was to place a marker on her tombstone designating her membership. The ceremony was a fine example of a simple patriotism that remembers and honors the sacrifices of those who have preceded us. First, we recited the pledge of allegiance, followed by the American's Creed. Then, a member of the DAR sang the National Anthem.

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

TGIF

After a week off, TGIF is back. It's a good thing I enjoy reading, because I had to catch up on a lot of it after I got back home.

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

Gone For Awhile

I'm sorry there was no TGIF on Friday. I was out of town for a few days and had very limited computer access.

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

Check This Out

My daughter Jennie is going to be on TV! She has been working as an extra on the show, "Privileged". This Tuesday night at 9:00 PM will be the first of many episodes in which she appears. She's mostly in the background in this one, wearing a blue green/turquoise/purple dress.

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

TGIF

Today, I reach a milestone. So, in honor of my 100th post I give you the links of the week:

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)

Jefty economics.

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

God's Camera

Yesterday, I saw a sign in front of a church that read, "Smile, you're on God's camera". I wondered what was meant by that. Growing up, I always was given the impression that God was up in heaven watching what we were doing and grading us on our actions. This would determine whether God was pleased with us or not. I was always told that I couldn't hide anything from God in an attempt to keep me doing things I shouldn't. This worked, some of the time. Most of the time I didn't even stop to think that God was watching, so my "little hands" weren't careful what they did; my "little eyes" weren't careful what they saw; and my "little feet" certainly weren't careful where they went.

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.

Weekend Wanderings

Weekend Wanderings will be away for the next two weekends. We're heading out to the Left Coast to meet our new grandchild, who is expect...