Friday, July 31, 2009

TGIF

This has been kind of a slow week for me. Yesterday, I spent about 5 hours helping Jan move everything that belongs to her out of the classroom where she's been teaching. It was hard for her to pack up all the stuff that accumulates over a period of years that was such a major part of our lives. We're both looking forward to the next thing the Father has for us on our journey.

As usual, here are the links:

Alan Knox has a couple of good posts up, here and here. iMonk writes about caricatures. Spirit vs structure. Jonathan gets honest with himself. Don Miller on stories. Sometimes the questions are tough. Crazy things dogs have eaten. Scot McKnight reviews a book about forgiveness. John Armstrong on Judge Sotomayor.

Jeff McQ claims he hasn't backslidden. Short but sweet from fr'nklin. Karen Swank writes on value, beauty, and worth. Are there non-negotiable beliefs for Christians?

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

What Kind of Questions?

Last week fr'nklin posted this quote: "Apologetics is answering the questions raised by our lives." This is a brilliant statement, and a much better way of looking at apologetics than I had ever heard before.

As we talked about this, we wondered about the kinds of questions currently being asked about the church. Questions like, "Why does the church hate gays?" How about, "Why can't people in the church get along?" Maybe you've heard, "Why is the church always asking for money?" Then there's, "Why do churches need those big buildings?" When these questions are asked, the answers that are given usually have little to do with the teachings of Jesus.

What if people began to ask, "Why do those people share their things with others?" What if, instead of asking why we're against certain people, folks asked why we showed love to everyone, even those who were hostile to us. When the religious leaders in Jerusalem were questioning the disciples, they wondered about the fact that they were unschooled, but then took note of the fact that those men had been with Jesus. Imagine the questions this raised in those leaders' minds.

When those around us see our lives, what kinds of questions do they ask? Do they take note that we have been with this religious group or that church, or do they see that we have been with Jesus?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

World Vision Wednesday

In the country of Niger, students normally register for school by the age of seven. If they are not registered by then, they may not be able to get into school. The older they get, the less chance they have of going to school.

World Vision is changing that in one village. You can read more here.

Friday, July 24, 2009

TGIF

This has been quite the week. Jan and I went to the beach for a couple of days, after learning that Jan is going to have to look for another job. We had a wonderful time, and it was good to get away from everything and everybody for awhile. After we came back, we officially left the congregation we have worshiped with for the past 14 years. Josh came home last night from his two month sojourn in California. On top of all that, yesterday's post was number 200. Wooo hooot!

Anyway, here are the links of the week:

The real question is, what is Jesus doing? Ben MacKinnon reflects on faith. The God of the OT vs the God of the NT. Here is a good post on theme parks and wilderness. Alan Knox puts the ekklesia in context. Kingdom vs church. Just beyond the 100th time. iMonk riffs on post-evangelicalism.

Good post from Jeff McQ. Should a Christian use acupuncture? Scot McKnight continues his series titled, "Beginning with God," with part 8. Mark Roberts begins a series on the Christian life (HT: Scot McKnight).

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Road Winds a Little More

A few years ago (at least it seems like just a few years), The Hollies sang a song which began, "The road is long, with many a winding turn." That pretty much sums up my journey, and the road is winding a bit more now. The bends have become sharper and the road ahead is a little harder to see. Things have changed in our lives the last couple of weeks.

The school where Jan and I taught (me for ten years, and Jan for fourteen) has closed. The enrollment had dwindled to the point where the school could no longer afford to operate. It's sad to see a place you've poured your life into, a place your children graduated from, close its doors. It's also sad to watch as people try to lay blame. As in many Christian organizations, unfortunately, there are a number of people who have been hurt. I don't want to get caught up in the blame game, because it does the Kingdom no good at all. Regardless of the reasons, the fact remains that those who worked at the school, including Jan, are now looking for work. So, that's one bend in the road.

The other thing that has happened is that we have left the congregation we have been a part of for the last fourteen years. Over the past months, we have come to the realization that God is leading us in a different direction than the one in which that group is going. What that is going to mean for the future, we don't know. We do know that the Father is leading us, so there is not a concern in that area. We have been part of a house church that meets on Sunday nights for about half a year, and a friend and I are seriously thinking about beginning a fellowship on Sunday mornings. We'll see where God leads.

So, the road sometimes seems long, and there are many winding turns. But, as another line in the song says, "We'll get there."

Friday, July 17, 2009

TGIF

We spent the biggest part of this week cleaning out the garage. It's kind of fun finding out you have things that you forgot you had.

Without further ado, here are the links:

Brian Onken writes about Jesus' timing. Jesse Medina reviews The Hole in Our Gospel. N.T. Wright on the question of gay clergy. What is your reaction to this? Imperfect spirituality. Alan Knox writes about koinonia. By the rivers of Babylon. Stories behind 10 T.V. theme songs and the world's smallest microwave (HT: Brother Maynard).

Josh has a regret. What is an "average church?" A new riff from iMonk. What if winning means losing? How many of these do you drink? (HT: Scot McKnight) Scot McKnight has a series titled, "Never Alone." Part 1 is here. John Armstrong has a series on Christian marriage. Part 1 is here. Jeff McQ on practicology. Grace talks subversion.

I hope your weekend is restful.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

World Vision Wednesday

In the Darfur region of Sudan, fighting has forced millions into temporary camps, threatening food security. World Vision is providing emergency assistance and agricultural training, helping women rebuild their lives.

Read more here.

Monday, July 13, 2009

House of God

Saturday, as we were driving home from Grandfather Mountain, I noticed a sign by the side of the road. The sign read, "Burning Bush House of God - The Place Where God Is."

My first thought was that it seemed a bit arrogant to call your church the house of God. Then I realized that this church was only stating up front what many congregations feel about their church buildings. Parents tell their children to be quiet in God's house, songs are sung about bringing praise into the house of the Lord, and people talk about going to church to meet with God.

The problem with this kind of thinking is that it comes from a faulty view of our relationship with God. It is a view based in the Old Covenant, where there was a Temple that was the centralized place of worship. This building was the place where the people would go to sacrifice, to bring their tithes and offerings. The Temple was the center of the Jewish nation, of their way of life.

Jesus came as the fulfillment of everything the Temple and its sacrifices represented. He fulfilled the Law and turned the entire system of worship upside down. Now, the Spirit of God would dwell within the followers of Jesus. The temple would no longer be a building made with human hands, but would be those who believed on the Messiah, both individually and corporately. There is no longer a "house of God."

We no longer need to go to a particular location to worship God. We don't "go to church," we are the church. While there is nothing wrong with followers of Jesus gathering together in a building, we should never think that we can only worship God at certain times or at certain places. Jesus said that he is in the midst of any group gathered in his name. That gathering can take place in a "church" building, a home, a coffee shop, a park, or a pub. In fact, a location out in the marketplace may be a very effective way of spreading the Gospel to those who do not know God.

Friday, July 10, 2009

TGIF

This week, in Switzerland, Usain Bolt ran 19.59 seconds for 200 meters. That is the fourth-fastest time in history. Bolt holds the current world record at 19.30 seconds. What makes this week's time remarkable is that the race was held in a cold rain, and the runners waited 3 or 4 minutes at the start before the race started. It looked like an easy run for Bolt, who was ahead of his rivals after about 80 meters. We may see that world record go even lower later this summer. You heard it here first.

No world records here, but I do have the links of the week:

There are some interesting Christian album covers over at Jesus or Squirrel? The Church of No People also features Christian music. Do you want to be "fixed"? Molly writes about love that wins. I think Jesse Medina makes a very good point here. What are you willing to lose? Jake Belder on culture and worldview.

iMonk weighs in on Derek Webb. The comments are interesting as well. Ruling or leading? Really cool macro photography (HT: Brother Maynard). Holy is the dish and drain. The upside of inexperience (HT: Scot McKnight). John Armstrong on ideas. Good thoughts from Anthony Smith. Church in the future. Jeff McQ has a good series going. Part 3, with links to parts 1 and 2, is here.

Tomorrow, we're going up to Grandfather Mountain for the Scottish Highland Games. Should be fun. I hope you have a good weekend.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

You Paid $11 Million for What?!

Keith Giles over at "subversive1" turned me on to this story, which unfortunately is a picture of where the church as we know it in America has been going for some time.

11 million dollars for a new building for the church to worship in. 90 thousand dollars each month from the members' offerings goes to pay off the loan. This amount would be higher if not for the gifts of the members. One couple gave 10 thousand dollars.

The trend in American Christianity the past few years has been to build bigger, more elaborate buildings. In a desire to reach more people, churches have been erecting large, comfortable, "worship centers" where folks can go listen to a kicking worship band, maybe sing along, hear the latest news about the church's programs, enjoy an inspiring message from a top-notch professional speaker, listen to a couple more songs, and then go home feeling good about themselves for a few days. All the while, the spiritual life of the average church spreads and becomes more shallow. Somehow, I don't think that's what Jesus had in mind.

I personally have nothing against using technology to advance the Kingdom. I like good "worship" music. I have been challenged by and have changed my thinking because of listening to excellent speakers. What I have a problem with is the attitude that bigger is better, with the idea that we have to put on a show to get folks in the church building, and with the idea that we have to "get people into church" in the first place. Jesus told us to make disciples, not church members. It has been shown that many of these churches do a better job of attracting members from other churches than those outside the church.

I also have a problem with an 11 million dollar edifice and a 90 thousand dollar a month mortgage. That's almost 1.1 million a year. Even with a fifteen year loan, the church will have paid out over 16 million dollars before the building is paid for. Imagine for a moment what a million dollars a year could do for the needy in the area where the church is located. Imagine the impact 15 million could have. I have heard it said that if the Christians in America would simply give a tenth of their incomes, global poverty could be brought to an end. Whether that is true or not, it is certainly true that the church in America seems to be more concerned with making itself comfortable than in serving the least of these. There are exceptions, but they seem to prove the rule. I know churches that spend almost all of their income on building debt and maintenance, and salaries.

I am becoming more and more convinced that the simple churches, whether they meet in a house, a park, a coffee shop, or a pub are the future of the church. As these small parts of the Body of Christ minister to each other and to the community around them, disciples will be made. As those go and make disciples, the Body will grow. Look at what has happened, and is happening in China, in India, in other parts of the world where small groups of followers of Jesus are bringing hundreds of thousands into the Kingdom. Look what happened in the first two centuries of church history. They turned the world upside down.

I'll bet they did it without building multi-million dollar buildings.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

World Vision Wednesday

As you may know, the G8 Summit is going on in Italy. At the meeting in 2005 the leaders of the world's wealthiest nations made a commitment to fight extreme global poverty and disease. World Vision and the One campaign are asking these nations to keep the promises that were made in 2005.

You can read all about the policy positions and how you can get involved here.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Led Zeppelin in Rock Hill!

Actually, it was a group named ZoSo. They bill themselves as "The Ultimate Led Zeppelin Experience." They looked and sounded an awful lot like the original, so it was a pretty good concert in downtown Rock Hill Friday night. After the concert, Jan and I watched the annual fireworks show. On Saturday, we sat in our front yard and watched our neighborhood parade, then we went to the neighborhood picnic. After a cookout with Jan's dad, we watched a July 4 show on TV, and some fireworks at a church across the street.

On Sunday, we went out for breakfast and then went to the Latta Plantation north of Charlotte. We learned a bit of the history of one part of the Charlotte area. Later, we went and spent the evening with the our small group/house church that we have been a part of the last few months.

All in all, a good weekend.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

29

Tomorrow Jan and I celebrate the 29th anniversary of the day we said, "I do." It's hard to believe it has been 29 years. It's hard to believe Jan has put up with me this long. :)

There are differences of opinion on whether there is "that certain one" that God has for each person. I don't know, but I do know that I can't imagine spending my life with anyone else, or loving anyone else as much as I love Jan. I am extremely grateful to the Father for the gift of such a wonderful wife, lover, and friend.

Friday, July 3, 2009

TGIF

This weekend we celebrate the birth of the United States. Our neighborhood will have a parade tomorrow morning, and since the neighborhood is small the parade will pass by our house two or three times. It's one of those slices of small town Americana. There will be fireworks, cook-outs, and other celebrations. In the midst of our patriotic fervor, however, we who follow Jesus must remember that we are really resident aliens in this country. We follow the King of Kings and we are citizens of a different Kingdom. Even though we can love the country we live in, our first allegiance is to Jesus Christ and our first priority is bringing his kingdom to bear in every part of our day-to-day lives.

Enjoy these links:

Lacey Gustavsen on tennis balls. George Elerick writes about convenient amnesia. Musings on the body of Christ. Dr. Lewis on something she never heard in fundamentalism. Alyson DaCosta on poverty. Todd Hiestand on the suburban mob. Alan Knox has a couple of good posts, here and here. Brother Maynard reveals his secret indentity. How big (or small) is your Gospel?

Words of wisdom from Jeff McQ. iMonk posts a thought on Hebrews 12:1. MercyMe covers "Thriller." 32 reasons why Southern Baptists must change their name (HT: Scot Mcknight).

Have a good weekend. Stay safe and don't burn yourself with fireworks.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

World Vision Wednesday

I had some problems with my computer last night, so here is Wednesday's post on Thursday.

When most people think of World Vision, they think of children in Asia, Africa, or South America. Did you know that the organization also ministers to those in need in the United States? According to Census Bureau estimates, 10 percent of the U.S. population lives below the poverty line. World Vision works in 11 major urban and rural areas to help some of the least of these in our own country. World Vision works with local churches, businesses, and individuals to bring relief to their areas. They do this through 3 programs.

In urban areas, The Storehouse provides school supplies, clothes, toys, household goods, and even building supplies. Emergency response and disaster relief helps those affected by disasters in the U.S. The education and youth development program ministers to high-risk youth by providing mentoring, tutoring, and life skills training.

In rural areas, interested individuals can help by participating in Appalachia service trips, or mission trips to areas in Mississippi or Georgia.

To see how World Vision helps transform an urban area go here.

Weelend Wanderings

The first weekend links post of autumn is here! The weather is beautiful here in the sunny South. It was fifty degrees on our back porch thi...