Thursday, April 28, 2011

Will and Kate aren't really that great

There sure is a lot of hooplah about the royal wedding. I don't understand what is so fascinating and great about it. My wife, on the other hand, is enthralled with the potential peasant princess to be. Because of this I'm not going to tell you how stupid it is and how it is a complete waste of time to watch the events, interviews and flashbacks leading up to the grand finale. (see how I slipped that in?) I'm sure I'll hear about that sentence by lunchtime. Love you Jess, you are my princess.

It has spurred on some meditation though. I thought I would share them with you all.  I begin with a question:  what does royal majesty look like?  Is it all about popularity and prestige, glamor and gold, frills and flowers from flocking masses you watch your every move and hang on your every word?  Well, no, not at all.

In fact, the opposite is true.  In Phillipians 2 we see what made Christ worthy of the title King of Kings:

7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

In Psalm 8 we see majesty displayed by a God who displays His greatness through the mouths of babes.

Jesus said the first will be last and the last will be first.  The greatest among us will be a servant to all.

Again, in Deuteronomy 8 we see God declaring what absolute greatness looks like:

17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. 18 He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. 

Wow, that makes the big fuss over Will and Kate seem puny and insignificant, doesn't it?  So what if the prince is getting married, there are hungry orphans, widows and immigrants.  There are many people in our spheres of influence in need.

Greatness is attained through service.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The necessary ingredient when throwing out the cookie cutter

As a follow up to my previous post, I'd like to offer a bit of necessary clarification.

Yes, we ARE to be out making disciples.  No, this discipleship should not result in cookie-cutter clones of ourselves in theology and worldview.  But the way to achieve this is not to shy away from doctrinal conversations, passionate preaching of what we hold as true, and criticism of one another when our walk displays that we're off the narrow way.  Rather, we should be speaking the truth in love to one another with a humility that is rooted in an understanding that: a) we don't know it all, b) God uses the various members of His body to build itself up and c) only the Holy Spirit can reveal divine truths to the hearts of men.

In short, we must keep the gospel central in all things.  God has begun what God will finish.  We are just joining Him in His work, watering and planting as needed and instructed.  He brings the growth.  We get the reward and He gets the glory.  After all, it's all about the fame of His name.  It's not about whether or not we gain respect and admiration from those we help along the way.

Put away the cookie cutter

Make disciples, that's our business.  Not only that but we are sent to make disciples of all people groups.  Yet, we gravitate toward others who are likeminded and when God changes a persons heart we strive to make them just like us.  We want them to dress like we dress, talk like we talk, read what we read, and have the same set of doctrinal beliefs.  Is that discipleship?  Really, I'm asking.  I know a disciple is a student and I get that disciples followed their rabbi around everywhere he went so it would make sense that the students would begin to look like their teacher.  But really, who is the rabbi?  Is it the local pastor, or our flavor of denomination, or perhaps the superstar conference speakers?  Maybe it's John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon, Wesley, Luther or D L Moody.

I must be in somekind of utopian dream to think that the rabbi...the only rabbi is Jesus Christ.  With Christ as our teacher we look different, talk different, and have different emphases because we come from different people groups.  This makes sense to me.  Too simplistic?  Exactly!

Instead of always talking doctrine (which I think is a good thing and love to talk about it) and trying to convince others to believe what we believe lets encourage one another to seek Christ daily.  When I say seek Christ I'm not talking about some intellectual mulling over in your mind of choice doctrines.  I'm talking about enjoying his presence, listening to his voice, asking him questions and sitting at his feet.

I hope that this cookie cutter Christianity is reaching it's end.  I don't want to be a part of a gathering of Calvin clones.  I want to be with believers that are following Christ and are content with where they are and what they know because Christ is.  I want to be in fellowship with brothers that seek him daily, hear his voice, and live through the divine life he gives.  Folks like that don't fit in, they rock the boat, and are disliked for it.  I guess what I want to be a part of are a bunch of outcasts.  Not just another face in the crowd.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The continuing saga of our lives

Many of you know about the difficulties we are going through to care for our daughter, Chloe.  Long story short she is developmentally behind.  Like, very far behind.  We think we have diagnosed the disability but we're still waiting for some concrete answers.  Her medical bills are piling up and everyday we learn of more needs.  God has been very gracious to us through His people and we know He will continue to do so.

I ask for your continued prayers as we go on facing what God has given us to endure.  You can also help relieve the financial burden by giving to Chloe's medical savings account (which now has about $20 in it) via paypal.  Her paypal account is Chloeauner (at) yahoo (dot) com  if you would like to read the more detailed version of our story you can find that at my wifey's blog.

Thank you for all your prayers and support.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A comparison of ministry

God has been opening up doors for ministry all over the place. It's amazing how He begins to work in and through us when we wholeheartedly (or at least with more of our heart) seek His will. I've always been somewhat confused about this dynamic. I've had many instruct me to ask God what His will is for my life and He will reveal it to me. That has never before been very true for me and I never understood why.

Now I'm beginning to realize that the key to effective ministry is the destruction of the flesh. What do I mean by that? Just this: before I submitted myself to God, no matter what the cost, I kept myself busy doing ministry. I could see God at work in that but there was still this sense of longing for something greater. Something deep within told me that what I was doing was good but it wasn't the best. It was my plan, not God's plan.

Recent history has brought me through a time of detachment from those ministries. I haven't been as busy doing things because I thought they were good things to do. Also in this time, Christ has been revealed to me more fully as effective and mighty through total selflessness. In light of that I could see my own efforts of ministry as having the form of service but in my heart being about me feeling good about myself. At the end of the day I still wasn't satisfied. My goal of self satisfaction was too low and yet still unreachable because I was going about it the wrong way. I was trying to do it myself and make something happen. I'm reminded of a quote that has been swimming in my head recently from T. Austin-Sparks. He said "all this clamoring for ministry is nothing more than works of the flesh".

My mind turns now to the opposite picture. Those who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God and as sons of God we can expect to be disciplined. Yet the word discipline doesn't carry the real force of our heavenly Father's dealings with us. "Child rearing" is much closer to the language used. This child rearing is how He puts off our old selves that are driven by fleshly pursuits and puts within us spiritual desires. By fleshly pursuits I'm not talking exclusively of law breaking sins, included in those pursuits are all those things which we do by our own strength. It is sad just how deceived we can be in thinking we are doing things by the Lord's command yet go on doing those things without his preparation and consent.

So we see that those who have been disciplined are being raised up as children. We are having our flesh put through the wringer. He is showing us the depths of our self reliance. Many good things like Bible reading, prayer, fellowship with other believers, and service to others are revealed to be nothing more than us doing what we percieve to be good things over evil things. As such, we're still taking fruit off the wrong tree. Whereas the other tree, the tree of life, feeds and nourishes us with Christ. Christ was always about doing the will of the Father and He did nothing outside of that will. He stayed in constant step with what the Father wanted him to do. He was obedient unto death and He learned that obedience through suffering.

There is something practical there for us. We will know the Father's will and be able to walk in sure obedience as we are brought to the end of ourselves. It is only through the divine life imparted to us by steadfast faith in Christ that we can join with Him as He carries out His ministry through us. Then like Paul we can say that Chist's suffering is being completed in us.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Poetic musings on arguing differences

The trouble with convictions is that they tend to change
and then you gravitate away from those who stay the same.

"The Bible says, so I believe" is how we all begin
Yet difference given prominence displays the sin within.

Why do you boast in what you've been given?  the bold apostle asks
But we forget his grace and then proceed with a list of tasks.

We run about with arguments that have been mixed with leaven
But how can we expect to convince with words when the power comes only from heaven?

Oh boastful man with scripture in hand, you think you are so wise.
You strain out a gnat and swallow a camel with a log sticking out of your eye.

Lord, pull out that log and throw it in the fire that burns away our flesh
and help us to know that you're in control so we can be at rest.

So when you find a priceless truth you want the world to see
The most effective way to share is down upon your knees.

Have faith in God, He'll do the work, He's faithful, just, and true
He'll train up every child of his the way He's training you.

He will invite us in to join, to plant, to water, to grow
But if you speak before listening, His will you'll never know.

So close your books and seek his face and stay there till you see
The perfect servant crucified:  now prophet, priest, and King.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Rethinking marriage: making decisions together

[Okay, deep breath, here we go.] In my first post in this series I said that I've been doing some thinking about the roles of men and women in marriage. I plan to break this up into a series of posts to layout where I both agree and disagree with what I understand to be complimentarianism.

In the last post I dealt with the actual roles of the husband and wife. If you haven't read that, go there first. That post lays the groundwork for what I am writing today. In this post I'm dealing with how those roles are applied concerning authority in marriage.

As we saw in the previous post, the husband is head of the wife and the wife is to submit to the husband. Does that mean that he is the boss and she must do whatever he says? Does that mean that he makes all the decisions and she must go along with him even if she disagrees? Many who are complimentarians think so but I think not.

Here's why. When talking about authority between men and women many are quick to point out passages like Ephesians 5 about roles, 1 Tim 2:11-15 about teaching and 1 Cor 11 about head coverings but seldom bring 1 Cor 7 into the equation. Lets look at that passage.

1 Cor 7:3-5 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

Now there are those that believe that this passage deals only with what happens in the bedroom. I don't think so. If this is Paul's instruction regarding authority over one another during physical intimacy then the implications of this verse are astounding in my opinion. After all, the physical union between a man and woman is the fleshing out of them coming together spiritually. Physical intimacy is the apex of our togetherness. It is the consummation of the sworn union of a husband and wife. It is of the highest importance in a relationship.

If we should only separate physically from one another when we are in agreement why should wives be expected to follow orders or give their husbands a blank check to make decisions? Are those decisions more important than their sexual relationship and therefore above the necessity for agreement? The answer is an emphatic NO!

It is very true to say that any man who makes decisions without coming to some agreement with his spouse is in serious error. To do so drives in the lane of disunity between partners and casts off a very important member of the decision making body. The result is either a disgruntled and violated wife or a silenced voice from a woman who must shut herself down in order to be obedient.

The words of Derek Webb come to mind:

Like style made by slaves.
Like bribes to throw the race.
Like women who know their place.

Like security for Libery you gotta admit it,
it was never quite worth what you gave up to get it. 

So what say you, can we walk in our God given roles as husband and wife and still strive to come to agreements in decision making without violating those roles? Should we? Is it important to consider 1 Cor 7 in decision making?  What are more pro's and con's of both sides?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Reconstructing my views on marriage: headship and submission

Here we go again. Bobby's breaking bonds with the reformed traditions. Well, in a way yes (at least as I've understood it), in another no. In the next couple of posts I will share how my marriage has been strengthened and put in danger by the teachings of complementarianism. In this post I'll talk about the roles men and women have as husband and wife. In the next I'll share how authority and decision making lines up under these roles. My guess is that most evryone will agree with this post but the next will be a bit controversial.

I've been thinking alot about what I have been taught about the roles of men and women in the home and family. What I have learned from my involvement in Sunday School, seminars and sermons is known as complimentarianism. Now, I'm not going to define that for you simply because I'm not trying to spell out some kind of doctrine or dogma. Google it and surely you will get numerous explinations for it's meaning. What I want to do in this post is elaborate on what I embrace in this tradition and what I must reject.

What I embrace is the different roles that a man and a woman have in a marriage. A man must lead his household and a woman must submit to his leadership. Many folks gasp at such a statement because we have our own preconceptions about what that means, but what does that really look like? Paul gives us a beautiful picture in Ephesians 5:22-33 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

So clearly we see wives submitting to loving husbands. That is the key to this whole deal: LOVING husbands who act out of a love like Christ has for his bride. A self-abasing, self-sacrificing, relentless, passionate, pursuit of a bride who is flawless in his eyes simply because he says so. This is what a wife is to submit to. Not an authoritative decision maker but a lover who will stop at nothing to have his prize. Rather than running away or contending against his vision of her by pointing out her flaws to him, she is to submit to his view of her and reciprocate his love for her back to him.  She is to say "yes" to his loving advance and fall into his tender arms and trust him with all of herself because he has given himself up and is devoted to her good.

This is the picture I have of submission and headship.  It is beautiful don't you think?  Even so, that is just a scratch on the surface of this profound mystery.  How would you describe headship and submission in marriage?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Keeping the law on your doorposts

Occasionally I work in the section of town near the local synagogue.  This area is predominately Jewish.  It is very interesting to see all the various ways that they strive to keep the law, even today.

This morning I was at one such house changing a water heater.  On every door frame was a little box like the one pictured.  There were books about the Torah everywhere and pictures of family on every wall.

The little boxes were there to remind them of the covenant God made with Israel through Moses.  I was constantly reminded of the new covenant in Christ's blood.  I thought about the Passover with the blood covering the doorway.  While the Jews who live here are contantly reminded that they must keep the law I was constantly reminded that Christ already has and our life is hidden in Him.

Deut 6:4-9 "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

May the saints be in constant awareness of our present indwelling of the risen Christ.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The biggest problems facing Simple Church.

I do a lot of reading of folks involved in the simple church movement. As I travel along the path leads between institutionalism and isolationism I'm noticing some pitfalls on both sides of the road. In this post I want to deal with two of them.

On the institutionalism side there are several dangers I have noticed. First and foremost is the danger of using the New Testament as a blueprint to construct a "biblical" church. This is the same thing that institutions do. We see principles and patterns in the scripture and we use them like a set of codes to build our gathering around. Then we fight, argue and divide from others who interpret the code differently than we do. The NT is not a code book up for interpretation. It is a historical record of the life of Christ both leading up to and following his death and resurrection. The epistles were written to those who were feeding off this life in Christ and were intended to bring them back to Christ as their central focus. If we are to use the NT as a codebook it has but one code and that is Christ. Jesus is the beginning, middle, and end of the rules, principles and patterns. He is all that comes into and all that proceeds from the Church. He is not a list of commands or prohibitions. He is a person. He is living and He lives in and through his bride.

The danger I see on the other side is division. Since the gathering of the believers looks different and each tribe thinks they are right and the other is wrong there is no unity between them. Each thinks the other is in error. May I be so bold as to say both are in error if unity in Christ is not desired. Brothers, these things are contrary to Christ. Christ breaks down these barriers and brings together. Once together He holds together because nothing, NOTHING is more important than Him. Not systems or opinions or doctrines or practices or any such thing. Christ is all and in all and the more we take our minds off of whether we are right or wrong and turn them to feeding off the vine we will become one with the vine and we will be ambassadors for reconciliation.

I'm certain this is so. It has taken me some time to figure things out a little. I'm still learning and growing. I remember why I left the institutional system, it was because I wanted to be among believers whose desire is to build one another up in Christ. I didn't want the systems to be a replacement for my relationship with Jesus. For me this is precisely what had happened and it was getting deeper. I cared more about right doctrine and attendance than I did about love and justice for God and others. So I had to be free from the structures that I thought were keeping me immature. I'm finding that the same things that kept me from those important matters inside the four walls are outside them as well. Those things are my flesh, my sin, and the enemy.  Let's not be confused, the problem in the institution is the same problem we face if we leave...the problem is us.  More precisely it is the uncrucified part of us that thinks it can do things by our own strength, power and understanding.  We cannot go on that way into deeper relationships with Christ and with one another.

What do you think? Are these the biggest problem facing the Church or do you see something greater?

What is the biggest problem facing the Church?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

In the valley is where the fruit grows

It's like we are being fired at from all sides.  The battle rages on but we take comfort in knowing that the war has already been won.  All the injury and loss is purifying and training us.  For what?  I have no idea, but I know it's big because God doesn't do small things.

I stumbled across this piece today and it fit right into place.

Now note, you who know the conflict, you who know the fury of the oppressor, the bitterness of the animus of the devil, remember that the Lord allows him to go a long way in order that there might be this double issue. Firstly, an entering into the knowledge of the exceeding greatness of God's power – but how exceeding great must be God's power if against the mighty host of Assyria one angel alone is all that is necessary! To discover the exceeding greatness of God's power on the one hand, and on the other hand, through the work of the enemy himself, to drive the roots down. The Lord uses the adversary in his own hatred and bitterness to get our roots in, and to make us impervious to the Devil. He uses the adversary against himself in our trials. Roots downward, fruit upward. I am sure that is what the Lord is doing.
We are passing through deep experiences, the enemy is doing it and the Lord is not preventing him, but we are coming to a fuller knowledge of the power of our God and a deeper rooting beyond all previous shakeableness. And the Lord is seeking to have a people who cannot be shaken, against whom hell with all its demonstration of arrogance and pride, is impotent. "And the remnant... shall again take root downward." That is what the Lord needs.
From: Rooted and Grounded by T. Austin-Sparks

When the Lord is done with us, we will not be shaken or moved.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Still holding on

It was a breezy summer day. The perfect day to visit the local theme park. Yet this predicament was far from perfect. The flashing lights below were almost as blinding as the sun above. "LET GO! LET GO!" came the cries from beneath him. "I can't let go" he told himself.

Dangling over the net that the fireman have stretched out for him he continues to try to find another escape.  The danger is real and he knows it.  Every second bringing him closer to his end.  He watched as many took the jump to safety yet he remains afraid and dependent on his own strength.  He has come so far on his own.  He was so sure he could do it.  Now he sees that all his efforts were vain.

Still, he hangs, unable to let go, unable to trust, unable to follow after those already safe.
As the sun moves across the sky everyone watching him wonders which will come first:  will his life be ended by the coming disaster or will his strength finally fail and he fall into the arms of his rescuers beneath?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Okay, joke's over

Many of you already knew, my post yesterday was a joke.  Just a small part of the fun of April Fool's Day.  I'm not going to be blogging about plumbing.  If you visited yesterday and fell for it, lost interest, and decided to never read my blog again I understand.  I wouldn't want to read a blog about plumbing either.  If you are disappointed and really have plumbing questions, I will be happy to answer them if you email me.  Just click on the "how to contact me privately" page in the right column.

On a more forward note, its looking like I will keep my blog name as it is.  I do resolve to make some changes.  The changes I plan to make are in regards to what I write about.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Official name change

Well I've decided on a name change.  In fact I've decided to change my blog focus all together.  There are plenty of blogs that write about Jesus, doctrine, and the church.  Frankly I'm sick of it so I'm hanging up my hat and I'm gonna start blogging about something I know I excel in. Beginning today my blog will be about plumbing.