Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Who is Your Pastor?

Alan Knox points to a post over at More Than Cake, titled, Paparazzi Pastors Leading a Celebrity Church. There is an increasing trend among Christians today to follow what can best be described as "celebrity pastors," whether those people be in a local church, another city in the same state, on the other side of the country, or halfway around the world. In the post there are listed a number of ways how these folks gain such a following.

It is dangerous when we try to "follow" someone who we don't know, someone who is not a part of our daily lives. We know nothing about how they are living out what they are preaching, or if they even are living it out at all. The only thing we see is a carefully choreographed performance designed to make the speaker look good. Such performances can be inspiring, but there is very little instruction as to how it shakes out in the day-to-day. There are certainly no examples of how to follow Christ. Those must come from seeing each other in action.

As Alan states, "If you do not know someone – or are not growing to know someone – and if you never see them in a context other than speaking in front of a group of people, then that person is not shepherding (pastoring) you, regardless of what title the person may take for himself or be given by others."

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Who Do You Love?

I heard a couple of things recently that made me think. I know that can be dangerous, and it sometimes gets me in trouble, but I thought anyway. The first was a statement by an individual that he wasn't indebted to anyone. The second was a Facebook post to the effect that if you want a world where true love is possible, you must allow each person to freely choose who to love. While I can understand the sentiment behind both statements, I believe that they are anti-thetical to the way a follower of Jesus should see things.

The statement about not being in debt to anyone is directly contradicted by Paul's admonition in Romans 13:8 to owe nothing to anyone except love. Alan Knox has a good post on this here. As those who are loved by the Father and indwelt by his Spirit, we do have one debt. We owe love to our fellow believers, our brothers and sisters.

In Alan's post, he states that, "I can’t choose who to love." That leads me to the second statement. As followers of the one who gave his life for us, we have only one choice, to love. Anything else is disobedience to our Master. In John 15, Jesus tells us that his command is to love each other as he has loved us. Since our Savior's love led him to lay down his life for us, we are to do the same for our brothers and sisters. Doesn't sound like freely choosing who to love, does it? Jesus also states that the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor. He then goes on to state that our neighbor is anyone who we come in contact with. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus takes the whole idea of love to the extreme when he tells us to even love our enemies! Sounds to me like he leaves us with no choice. In John 13:35, Jesus says that the world will know that we belong to him because of our love.

There is entirely too much pain and suffering in this world, much of it caused by a lack of love. Unfortunately, this is also true among those who claim to follow the King who founded his kingdom on sacrificial love. Those who are not followers of Jesus know that we are supposed to be different. Many of them also know that the main thing that is supposed to distinguish us is love. Is it any wonder they look at the church and feel that we have nothing to offer them?

Brothers and sisters, we have a debt. It is to love. We have no choice. We are to love everyone who crosses our path. Anything else is blatant disobedience to our Lord and Master.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Weekend Wanderings

It's been quite the roller coaster this week here in the sunny South. Sunday brought us cold temps and rain. By Thursday, it was in the 70s and sunny. This morning, it's 35 on our back porch. It's been up and down for me as well. After a restful long weekend, I spent two days at home with some kind of nasty stomach virus or something. Yesterday, I went back to work, and now it's the weekend again. Enough about me. I know why you're really here.

Here are the links of the week:

Let go of your baggage.
Mark Galli on Lent (HT: iMonk).
Ben Sternke on the cost of non-discipleship (HT: Scot McKnight).
Aspiring to be a nobody.

How God views your local church.
Feast.
Eric Carpenter writes about what he's for. I am for that as well.
Brant kills things.

Bobby Auner's exodus from church camp.
Arthur Sido on the attraction of cultural Christianity.
Patience and progress.
Circle or cross?

Interesting idea for Lent.
Come and die.
Follow your fears.
Does this seem familiar?

Fr. Richard Rohr on Lent.
Membership is no substitute.
Resurrection spirituality.
This is very encouraging to me.
Holy ignorance.

Have a restful weekend!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

World Vision Wednesday

There has been a new twist in the ethnic violence in South Sudan. Up till now, women and children have been spared from attack. The situation has deteriorated, as children are now being targeted. Read more about this tragedy here.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Trust

This is something that I'm constantly having to be reminded of:

"Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are, quite naturally, impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages, we are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet, it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability . . . and that it may take a very long time."

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
The Making of a Mind: Letters from a Soldier-Priest.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Weekend Wanderings

No new news here from the sunny South, so we'll get right to the links:

Eric on the Ten Commandments.
Life as an avatar.
Rush of love.
A parable.
Smoke and mirrors.

Resilience.The business of religion.
The end of football?
Free to be ourselves.
They don't know you.

The R-word.
Good question from Keith Giles.
Ronnie McBrayer on Barbie.
Charles Redfern on the "New Evangelicals" and politics.
The end of church?

The Story and daily life.
Good post by Jeff Dunn.
Arthur Sido on conformity.
Alan Knox on what we owe.
iMonk classic on grace.

I hope you have a blessed week!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Weekend Wanderings

Winter has made a bit of an appearance here in the sunny South, at least what passes for winter around here. No snow, but the temperatures have dropped below normal the past few days. Basketball season is over. My JV team finished with a win, but the varsity missed out on post-season play. Next year.

Here are some of the good links from this past week:

Arthur Sido on being the church.
What is your church gathering dependent on?
The church as Noah's Ark.
God is a verb.
Misfits of the church.

Shrinking the gap.
An empire built on love.
Are you looking for a pastoral job?
Zack Hunt on abandoning evangelicalism. Part 1 is here.
John Armstrong on hope.

Sinners in the hands of the prodigal's father.
Ronnie McBrayer on the "will" of God.
Have you ever felt like this?
A good post from Jon Acuff.
Coffee!

Tim Chester on hospitality and the Gospel.
Andrew Jones on the American church.
Excessive evangelicalism.
Alan Knox on eating and drinking.
This is good. And important.

Have a wonderful week.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Which Jesus?

A few years ago Todd Agnew wrote a son in which he asked the question, "Which Jesus do you follow?" It's a good question.

In the first century, some folks followed Jesus because they thought he was the one who was going to overthrow the Romans and restore the glory of Israel. Today, some follow a Jesus who is either going to bring America back to God (with their help, of course), or one who will bring social justice and equality to America. In the first century, some followed Jesus because they saw in him a good teacher. Today, there are many who follow a Jesus who said good things, and who left us a good moral example to follow.

When Jesus was here on earth, there were some who followed him because he rattled the cages of the religious elite. Today, there are those who follow a Jesus who is anti-anything except a free-lance expression of faith. When Jesus walked in physical form, there were many (perhaps the largest number) who followed him because he fed them, he healed them, he took care of them. It seems like the many folks who follow Jesus today follow a Jesus who will give them whatever they want, as long as they have enough faith to say it and then claim it. Some of those blatantly tell others that God wants them to be wealthy, healthy, good looking, successful, etc., and all they have to do is speak it into existence. Others will start out with the teaching that Jesus has accomplished it all and we live by God's grace and not our own efforts. That is a good teaching, by the way. We are saved, and we do live by God's grace and Jesus' finished work. But then these teacher go on to say that because of Jesus finished work, we can now claim anything we want. It may be a successful business, a nice car or house, younger looking features, good health, lots of money, or just a life without any problems. They teach that we can speak these things into existence, and that if there is anything that goes goofy in life, it has to be the work of satan along with a lack of faith.

Now, I will be the first to say that God does bless people with wealth, health, etc. There have certainly been many wealthy and successful followers of Christ through the centuries. If you take a careful look at Jesus' call to follow him though, you'll find that he deliberately makes it difficult for those who are with him for what they can get. In fact, many of them leave him when they realize he's not what they thought. Some of them turned against him and called for his death. Jesus call to follow him is an invitation to lose our life, to die. As C.S. Lewis said, God doesn't want to simply move in and renovate the house. He wants to tear the house down and rebuild it. Jesus said that those who would find their life must lose it. He also said that the greatest love was to lay down our lives for our friends, as he did for us.

Following Jesus means dying. Dying to our old way of thinking and living. Dying to the things of this world. Dying to our own desires and wishes. The Psalmist says that if we delight in the Lord, he will give us the desires of our heart. I believe that means if we delight in God, he will give us more of what we delight in - himself. When you think about it, God is all we need. Anything else is just dessert.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

World Vision Wednesday

From World Vision concerning child protection:

For almost a year, World Vision has advocated for the passage of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVRPA), inviting our supporters to join us in advocating for this bill. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) — the cornerstone of U.S. policies to fight modern-day slavery — expired on September 30, 2011, because Congress did not vote to reauthorize the law in time. As a result, U.S. efforts to combat trafficking are essentially on hold until the law is reauthorized.

Here is an update from our child protection policy advisor, Jesse Eaves.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Out of the Cave, Into the...

Some of you have read my recent post about finding myself in a cave. I'm now out of the cave, although still not far from the entrance. I now find myself in the middle of a thicket, sort of like a stand of rhododendron or mountain laurel, so thick that you cannot see out of it. It is still somewhat dark, and the direction I should take is unclear. I see many paths out, but don't know yet which one to take.

There is the path that would take me back into the church world I left a few years ago. Next to it is the path that would take me to the land of the mega-church. Here I could find a place to hide and lick my wounds. One path seems to go in circles, and looks as if it would leave me no better off. Yet another way out continues in the search for community. That is the path that interests me the most, and the way that I have learned most about in the last couple of days.

You see, I have learned something about community, and about myself. I think I'm beginning to learn why I spent time in the dark cave. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am a pretty laid back individual, but that when I am passionate about something, I tend to go all out. As I learned more and more about the God's desire for his children to live as brothers and sisters because of Christ, I became more and more passionate with living in community. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community.” As I look back on the past year, and my desire to have and fight for community, I realize I inadvertently pushed it too hard and may have been part of the cause of its destruction. I know that my heart was good, but I think I may have wanted community so badly that I didn't see the problems that it was causing. Even though I tried to sacrificially love those around me, I think that I didn't leave room for God to work, thinking that as long as we spent enough time together, growth and maturity would automatically happen.

I now realize that community is something that has to happen naturally, as God's people learn to love one another. It is something that cannot be forced, and the Holy Spirit must be the one to form it rather than humans whose motives can be tainted by our own needs. I also realize that a particular form of community may not last as long as I think, and that I need to be willing to let it go when it is time. For those of you reading this who have been on the receiving end of my misguided efforts, I am sorry. I put the ideal of community ahead of my brothers and sisters. I was wrong.

As to what is next in this journey along the back roads, only God knows. I know that Jan and I still desire to share our lives with some fellow Christ-followers. I also know that it may not take any form that we expect. It may be in a regular gathering. It may take place in just getting together with one or two who share our desire. What I also know is that I want it to be something that happens as Christ's Spirit moves, not when I think it should happen.

I'm learning to trust my Father. As I leave the thicket, I want to be hear my Shepherd's voice and follow him wherever he leads, whenever he leads, and to whatever he leads. I would appreciate your prayers.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Weekend Wanderings

It has been nice and sunny this week here in the sunny South. Until today. Today it was chilly and rainy. It figures that on the weekend the weather would turn. As some wise person once said, "Like a kidney stone, this too shall pass."

Here is the good stuff:

Name tags.
Ask Mr. Moralism!
A caution from Alan Knox.
I don't know. This just doesn't seem right.
Interesting news about yawning (HT: Scot McKnight).

Compulsory community.
The Kingdom of God is like...
Pretty People.
This Christian nation.
Save Jesus a seat.

Arthur Sido on idolatry.
Teaching and authority.
The purpose of prayer.
The blessings of boredom.
More on teaching.

May Abba's love fill you to overflowing this week!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Suffering

If you know any human being, you know someone who has suffered. Suffering is one thing we all have in common, to one degree or another. Through most of human history, suffering has been the norm. For the follower of Jesus, suffering is what our Lord told us would happen to us (John 16:33).

In the West, particularly in America, we seem to have bought the notion that suffering is something that happens to those who are "sinners," or to those Christians who just don't have enough faith. We don't like suffering (I am included in that number). It hurts. It's hard. It doesn't fit our image of the "blessed life." It lasts too long. I have heard this attitude described as wanting the crown without the cross. Take a look at the kind of preaching you will find in a lot of churches and organizations. There are steps to become a better (fill in the blank), principles to be happy, keys to finding your best life.

You don't hear many sermons on Romans 5:3; 8:17-18; 2 Corinthians 1:5; Philippians 3:10; 1 Peter 2:19, and other passages that speak of our suffering as followers of Jesus, and how that suffering allows us the privilege of entering into the sufferings of Christ. We simply don't take seriously the many times our Lord tells us that following him is going to cost us something. It's not really anything big, just our life!

Some of us wouldn't mind suffering so much if it didn't take so doggone long. I think the word longsuffering is appropriate. Suffering seems to last and last, so we look for a quick fix, and when one can't be found, we complain to God that it's too hard and is going on too long. We live in an instant gratification culture, where you can get it quick and get it your way. What we forget is the simple fact that if we seriously follow Jesus, we give up the microwave, Burger King life. What we do get, we get in God's timing and in his way. We don't really like that. I know I don't. It gets in the way and messes up our plans for a nice tidy life. It reminds us that Someone else is in control, not us.

Suffering is a fact of life, even for those who claim that their faith puts them above and beyond it. Wouldn't it be better to suffer for the King and his Kingdom, knowing he can and will redeem it and that it can't even begin to compare with the glory that awaits us? I think I'll take that deal. God help me.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

World Vision Wednesday

As the 2012 primary elections continue and the general election draws closer, one of the issues to think about is where the different candidates stand on global poverty. This is an issue that involves a number of others that are being hotly debated. To find out more check this out.

Weekend Wanderings

It's heating up a bit here in the sunny South. The last couple of days we've been going around our county and the county directly so...