Monday, January 31, 2011

Community and Church Discipline

Church discipline is a subject that is seen in many different ways by different people and different churches. We are given general guidance in Matthew 18 and in Paul's letters to the Corinthian church. Over the centuries, it has been misused by those in authority and been ignored by others.

While I have always believed that the concept of church discipline is Biblical, the way that concept is carried out has always been a bit fuzzy. In some churches, a person can be subject to discipline for things like not attending every time the doors are open, or going to movies. Some churches don't hold their members accountable at all. Other churches carry out discipline only to see those folks go across town to another church. There have even been cases where those who have been disciplined have sued the church.

In the last year or so, I have gained an appreciation for what church discipline was in the early church, and for what it can be today. In the institutional church, things are structured in a way that prevents people from really getting to know one another and forming a real community. Even the small group is usually conducted in a way that keeps folks from knowing and being known. This not only allows folks to put on a good front and hide what's going on, it also prevents people from being able to speak into the lives of others because that close relationship isn't there.

In a simple church, such as St. Thomas, one of the most important things is community, a sense of family. The gatherings are for the purpose of building one another up, and transparency is not only encouraged but worked for. The goal is to be open and honest with each other, and allow others to speak into our lives. It can be a messy process, but it is also vital to spiritual formation. In the time we have been meeting together, I have grown in my relationship with the Father, and closer to my brothers and sisters. They have become my family along with my physical family. If I ever did something that would cause me to be removed from the fellowship of this grace filled group, it would break my heart. I can see how Paul's instruction to remove the sinner from fellowship could be so devastating and how it would cause the person to repent.

Maybe church discipline would be effective if more congregations really were communities of faith and not just organizations.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Weekend Wanderings

It's been an interesting week. It seems that the Middle East and parts of Africa are about ready to explode. It remains to be seen how all this is going to shake out, and hopefully the U.S. government will come down on the right side of freedom in that region. My own week was a bit frustrating. I'm learning that I can't fix the kids that I work with, that the only thing I can do is love them and leave the rest in God's hands. That's hard for me to do, because I want to see results. I guess that's where trust comes in. :)

So anyway, here are the links for the week:

We don't agree, but....
The song we were made to sing.
Resisting your own little world.
Our intimate God.
When it doesn't make sense.

Chaplain Mike says, "All are welcome."
Someone has way too much time on their hands.
Ronnie McBrayer on monkeys, church, and cold showers.
Here are some beautiful and sad pictures (HT: Scot McKnight).
Scot McKnight starts a series titled, "Is God Ever Surprised?" Part 1.

Caricatures.
How to avoid conviction Part 1.
Health care in Sweden.
Jesus pronounces God's blessings.
The New Testament is plural.

Tim Hill learned something from the Beatles.
Alan Knox's dogs don't know who they are.
Jonathan Brink on big love.
Alan Knox on gathering and dispersal.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Gluttony

One night a couple of years ago we went to Ci-Ci's for dinner and I realized that one of America's biggest sins is gluttony. In the traditional sense of overeating yes (I admit I was rather stuffed when we left), but also in the larger sense of over consuming and wasting. As we were eating, Jan pointed out the amount of crusts and entire pieces of pizza that were left on plates. People go into a place like Ci-Ci's and see the tremendous amount of food displayed before them. So they load up their plate and begin to eat. Since this is an all-you-can-eat buffet, they go back for a second plate. Then, if they don't go back for a third plate of regular pizza, they have a few pieces of dessert pizza. The problem is many of those people find that they can't eat all they have taken. So they leave it. They leave it to be thrown away and wasted.

Then I thought about our culture. Gas prices keep going up, and how many really change their driving habits. There are many examples of wastefulness in our society. Most of you could come up with a few.

My question is: What does this say about our culture? More importantly, what does this say about those of us who claim to belong to Jesus? Are we doing what we can to conserve and not waste the things God has given us? These things include gas, food, natural resources, time, talents, relationships. Christians should be the best environmentalists. Not in a worship Mother Earth, man is a virus type of way, but in a way that recognizes that this world was created by God for us to wisely and compassionately use for the Kingdom. God didn't give man the right to abuse creation. We are stewards and are to take care of the gift we have.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Weekend Wanderings

Last week saw normal weather make another appearance here in the sunny South. It was nice to be able to spend some time outside. This weekend has been a busy one, with a ball game on Friday, and two games yesterday. Today we celebrated Josh's 28th birthday. I don't know how he can be that old.

Here's a bit of the good stuff:

Dan Edelen is talking sense.
Donald Miller wonders how wise is honesty.

Pam Hogeweide has written a poem.
Jeff Dunn writes about surrendering to His teeth.
Interesting story (HT: iMonk).

John Armstrong wants Sarah Palin to stop.
This ad was not accepted for the Superbowl. That's a good thing.
Ronnie McBrayer says we should walk in the light.

Jonathan Brink on exceptions.
Scot McKnight asks, Will you?"

Alan Knox has a good series on edification. The introduction is here.
This is pretty cool.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

World Vision Wednesday

On January 9, Southern Sudan help a referendum on breaking away from the northern section and becoming an independent nation. While there is a great deal of potential good that can come from independence, there is also a chance that armed conflict could increase as a result of the vote. There are also many challenges that a new nation would have to face. For more, read this.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Weekend Wanderings

This has been an interesting week. It snowed here in the sunny South ( about 4-5 inches), and we were off school for three days. On Thursday we had a 3 hour delay, and Friday was a teacher work day. It was nice being off, but we will have to make up the days, so some of the regular holidays will be spent in class. Oh well.

Here is the good stuff:

Kansas Bob quotes Martin Luther King, Jr.
Fun stuff from the Merry Monk.
This might make you a bit uncomfortable.


Alan Knox asks good questions about the local church in Scripture.
Don't try this at home. Or anywhere else.
Scot McKnight on Christian art.
Jeff Dunn rants.

Chaplain Mike has a series titled, "Why Jesus?" Part 1 is here.
I don't know. This seems like just more of the same old same old (HT: iMonk).
David Fitch on leadership.
J.R. Daniel Kirk on deacons (HT: Scot McKnight).

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

World Vision Wednesday

It's been a year since a major earthquake devastated an already struggling Haiti. A lot has been accomplished, but there is still a tremendous amount of work to be done. World Vision is on of the agencies that have been working in Haiti since the earthquake struck. For an update on their efforts go here.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Giving Up and Gaining

In A Renegade's Guide to God, David Foster tells a story of a wealthy man who built a large art collection with his son. The son goes off to war and is killed. Later a soldier shows up at the man's door with a portrait that he had painted of the man's son, saying that the son had saved his life. The portrait is given an honored place in the man's art collection.

The wealthy man dies and his entire estate is put up for auction. The first item is the portrait of the son. The crowd is waiting for the "good stuff" i.e. the Picassos, Rembrandts, and other great works. No one bids on the portrait. Finally a man bids ten dollars. It is the one who painted it and ten dollars is all he has to give. Because no one else bids he is the highest bidder. The auctioneer then says that the auction is closed. There was a clause in the will that states that the son's portrait was to be the only thing auctioned and that whoever bought the picture would get the entire estate. So the soldier, who gave everything he had to get the son's picture, also got everything else.

That's what being a Christian is all about. You give up everything you have to "get the Son", and you get everything else that the Father has. It's all about a relationship with Jesus. It's not about a bunch of rules, how you dress, what kind of Bible you carry, how you vote, what kind of music you listen to, whether you smoke or drink, or any other external things. It's about whether you realize that you can not save yourself and that Jesus Christ loves you and has died for you so you don't have to die. It's about having a relationship of love with the Creator. It's about following Jesus and letting his Spirit guide you and form you into his image.

Jesus said he came to give us a life that is abundant and full. That's the way Christians should be. Are we?



Monday, January 10, 2011

A Good Book

I just finished reading Play Their Hearts Out by George Dohrmann. The book chronicles the experiences of AAU basketball players. The author was given unrestricted access to a team that began as a group of middle school players and documents the ups and downs of the young men as they go through the years, until their high school careers are finished.

Dohrmann writes about the good, the bad, and the ugly in the system of grassroots basketball. He tells of the influence of the shoe companies, the coaches who care about developing players, the coaches who use the players for their own ends, and the college programs who use the grassroots coaches to steer players their way. He pulls no punches when it comes to telling the story, while also being fair to those involved.

If you're a basketball fan, a casual observer, or if you're concerned with how young people are sometimes treated by adults, you might be interested in this book

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Weekend Wanderings

My schedule has been a lot more busy the last couple of months. It's the middle of basketball season, and we have a game every Friday. I had been pushing to post TGIF every Friday, and up until a couple of weeks ago, I was successful. Of course, that sometimes meant finishing the post just before midnight on Friday. That was getting to be a bit much, so I decided to replace TGIF with Weekend Wanderings. It may appear on a Friday, it may show up on a Saturday, it may even surface on Sunday. Sometime during the weekend, I will share links to some of the best blog posts I have read through the week.

Without further ado, here are the very first Weekend Wanderings links:

Dan Edelen asks if anyone still cares.
Al wonders about the ideal.
Donald Miller is in the garden.
Chaplain Mike on bad theology.


Lisa Dye has great expectations.
Jake Belder quotes Jaroslav Pelikan. Short, but so profound.
Scot McKnight has a series titled, "Converting our Imaginations." Part 1 is here.
Scot also has a series titled, "Fully Alive." Part 1.
Bill Kinnon wants more disciples.


It's supposed to snow here in the sunny South on Monday. We'll see. Have a great day gathering with the church tomorrow.

Friday, January 7, 2011

TGIF... Sort of

TGIF has not died, it's just been resting the last couple of weeks. Tomorrow, TGIF will show up under a different name. Until then...

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

World Vision Wednesday

Today, more than 24,000 children under the age of 5 will die from preventable diseases. There are already simple, low-cost ways to stop these killers. To learn more, visit here.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Reflections on the New Year

I haven't blogged in almost two weeks. Due to traveling and other Christmas activities, my time on the computer was not as regular as it usually is. I just got caught up in my blog reading yesterday. I have had some time to reflect on the year that has past, and also to look ahead to the new one.

I've heard it said that the only constant in life is change. That has certainly been true in the past year. My job responsibilities changed, and I'm now working on a more individual basis with a few students. I enjoy it more than what I was doing, and I feel like I'm actually helping them. Jan left her job at the assisted living facility, and is teaching part time and cooking for a retreat center part time. Our church has not grown this year, in fact it has actually shrunk. That's a good thing though. We made the decision to try and be open to each other and learn to live life with each other. It's been an interesting experience, and I think we've grown closer as a community and have experienced a measure of healing and freedom. It will be interesting to see what the Father will do in us in 2011. God has been teaching me how to go through my day-to-day being aware of his presence, and focus on listening and doing what he tells me to do. I am learning, although there are times when what I think is the voice of God is just my addled brain talking.

I'm looking forward to this year. I'm sure it will bring changes, some positive, some not so much. I don't make resolutions, mainly because I never keep them. :) I do have certain things I want to see happen. You can call them goals if you want. I want to live in awareness of God's presence more each day and hear his voice. I want the courage to take risks when the Spirit directs me. I want to love God and others with abandon, not worrying about what people may think. I want to be a blessing to my faith community, and to others that I come in contact with. I want to be a better husband, loving Jan more as Christ loved the Church. I want to be a better father to my adult children, letting them see Jesus.

I know the road ahead will take some turns. There will be some bumps, and there will be times when I will mess up. The one thing I know for certain is that my relationship with my Father doesn't hinge on how many resolutions I make and keep, on how well I perform certain spiritual duties, or on anything that I do. Abba loves me, and there is nothing I can do that will change that in any way. I can be the prodigal, the elder brother, or something in between, and God still loves me with a reckless, graceful love. That is why I look forward to the year ahead.

You may make resolutions at the start of a new year, or you may not. You may set goals, and plan how to reach those goals. That's fine. Just remember that some goals will be met, but others will not be realized. Some resolutions will be shelved until next year. Remember also, that your Father loves you and will continue to love you the same no matter whether you keep all your resolutions or not. You are free, free to make resolutions and then break them, free to set goals and then not meet them.
Jesus came to give us a full, abundant life. So, live. Be free. Abba loves you.

A New Morning

It was quite definitely early morning now, not late night. "I'm so cold," said Lucy. "So am I," said Susan. "Le...