Monday, May 30, 2011

Maturing through our differences

Alright, put your game face on cuz this is gonna get a little heavy. In my mind the thoughts I'm about to share sound so "liberal". Eeek! It kinda scares me to think I came up with them by myself...or did I? I'm not so sure...never can really trust my own heart, sometimes it plays me for a fool. I expect your responses (whether I actually receive them or not) will come from all ends of the spectrum. That is kind of the point of this post.

So, Bobby, what in the world are you talking about? Convictions. Not the criminal kind but the not so distant cousin of opinions. Everybody's got 'em and those who don't need to get some because without them you are anybody's pawn. Our convictions shape who we are, what we do, what we say, and how we think. They reside near the core of our being, somewhere between our soul and spirit, connecting who we are with what we do.

There is no doubt about it: doctrine matters. Yet, we can all look at the same scripture and draw different conclusions. Is that okay? Can we all have different convictions and passions and still get along?  I think so.  Actually I think it is more than okay, it is healthy and necessary, especially in the church.  Disagreement doesn't necessarily lead to disunity. Contrarily, our disagreements when discussed in love and grace strengthen our bond with one another and display the strength of Christ alone to be what unites us.

Christ is enough. The man, the person, the being, the Lord is enough. Our individual ideas and concepts of who Jesus is are not enough. They fall short and are imperfect and skewed. Christ is much bigger than our doctrine of Christ. We display his sufficiency the most when we are united in Him even though we disagree.  We show that we trust in the ever present and soveriegn person and not just our man made conceptions of Him.

It is easy to say we are united in Christ when we have thoroughly "church shopped" and found a confessional statement we agree with and a preacher we can religiously sit under. We can pat ourselves on the back because the structure we have attatched ourselves to makes it seem like we are united in Christ. But all that flies out the window if someone disagrees with the confession or the sermon. It becomes evident that our unity is in Christ as long as you meet certain doctrinal qualifiers. There may be unity, there may be peace, and we may be able to get along very well with each other in that structure but we have also accomplished the systematic shutdown of one of God's ways to bring us to maturity as a body.

I'm all for confessions and doctrines. I'm all for convictions and passion. Like I said, these things define who we are and what we believe and stand for. But what they do not provide is a sufficient basis for unity. That is Christ's place. Therefore one confession should not assume to speak for an entire group of believers. A gathering should not be based on a confessional statement. It should be based on our love for Christ and our love for one another in Christ.

I'm beginning to believe that God wants there to be differences among us. That is why He has purposefully given us different convictions. He wants us to sharpen one another. He wants us to enjoy unity in diversity. He wants us to learn grace. And He wants us to do all this in spite of our differences in order for us to learn to love one another simply because we have Christ in common. Maturity is not defined by our knowledge and understanding of doctrine. It is defined by how well we stand under pressure and still hold fast to our faith when we are shaken.  Christian institutions have made it too easy to avoid our differences and thereby prohibited the growth of Christ's members. Therefore I have come to have the opinion that confessional statements actually hinder our unity and maturity in Christ by making things way too tidy. Of course I've seen both sides of this in action so my opinion is both based in experience and in scripture but as with all things in me it is still a work in progress.

What do you think?  Do confessional statements have any effect on our maturity?  Is it okay for us to have different convictions and passions?   

Friday, May 27, 2011

Simple church is anything but simple

Something I've learned since leaving institutional religion is that organic church life is even more complex than traditional forms. Why? Because everyone is expected to minister to one another and we can't hide behind programs and classes but have to actually get to know each other.

We can't rely on the paid guy to do all the teaching because he doesn't exist. We can't sit idle in our pew and "actively listen" the entire time we're together. First because there is no pew and second is because the crickets would do all the talking. We can't turn a blind eye to the sin we see in others because it hurts the entire body in a very real and intimate way.

Community isn't easy.

On one side we have to let down our guard and share our burdens and deep thoughts with one another. We have to be willing to trust others simply because we trust Christ who dwells within them. We have to be vulnerable. We have to be transparent. We have to be genuine.

On the other side we have to learn to set ourselves aside to listen and care for others. We have to consider ourselves less and learn enough about our family to know how to stir them up to love and good works.  We have to look, listen, and love.

These are not easy things to do. There is a lot of pride that must be put away, trust that must be built, grace that must be given and forgiveness that must be granted. Let's face it, we all have issues and we are not always easy to get along with. I think that overcoming our flesh to be a unified body in Christ is what makes us the church and God must be at work in each of us to bring it about.

As we go through the painful process of loving one another in this way, we grow closer together and staying together gets easier. As conflicts arise it is our desire to resolve them and reconcile. We learn to love each other in good times and bad and our love for one another is the driving force of our bond. But like I said, this is a painful yet rewarding process. Our feelings get hurt, our hands get dirty, and we find ourselves in uncomfortable situations often.

All of this is necessary if we are going to be a family. As the saying goes: "you can't pick your family". I think if we could, we would pick the people who think like us, act like us, and hide their struggles and sins from us as best they can. That way we could feel like we had a lasting relationship but it would only last until someone rocked the boat. Then it would be time to find a new "family" which shouldn't be hard because we haven't left the shallow waters.

I love my church family.  I love that they come to me if and when they have beef.  I love that they know my struggles and needs and can come along side and minister to us.  I love being loved even when I'm not lovable.  In the short time we have been built together, they have learned more about me and cared for me than any other church family I've ever had and I'm looking forward to going deeper.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The necessity of suffering

Suffering is a necessity for a Christian. Don't believe the hype from the ones who offer you your best life now. Their big cheezy grins and loaded Benz parked outside their multi million dollar home on the beach are quite tempting. Yeah it's big and flashy but it's built on sand. One day the stuff is gonna burn and the comfy life we have gained through the pursuit of fleeting pleasures will be shaken. Then what?
Michael Young has written a post on Jesus in the midst of suffering . Reading it will definitely build your faith in the hard times. Here's a piece:
But during these times we must remember (especially me), that this is just another aspect of Christ. Just another stone along the road that leads to Him, is Him, and is by Him. The fulness of God isn’t just happiness and joy and peaceful days. Remember, that Jesus wept, Jesus suffered, Jesus had some hard days while on earth, and when we are going through tough times, that He is too, because He lives inside of us and feels everything that we feel.

Our suffering is a gift from God.  We count it all joy like James tells us because we know that God is making us stronger.  He is changing us into His image and that means we will be strong, steadfast and faithful no matter what comes our way.  He is conforming us more and more into Christ.  Like the trees of Lebanon, like the mountain called Zion, like the house built on the rock we will stand firm.  When all else is shaken, we will not be moved.  When all is put through the fire we will not be consumed.
More suffering means more of Christ.  Embrace Him.  Yearn for Him.  Abide in Him. Walk in Him.  Everything will pass away but we will endure it all for the glory of Christ in us.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Water bottle or waterfall?

It has taken me a bit of time to figure out how to write HTML code good enough to link to blogs from my mobile.  I think I've got it down, so here's a bit of a test with something I wanted to share.

Shane has written a thought provoking post on his blog: Shane's Posterious. In it he compares institutional religion to bottled water. Here's a snip:

"Religion is what happens when mankind tries to bottle that which is free and free-flowing. Each of these bottles is then labled and sold to the masses to consume.... Each bottle contains just enough water to satisfy the thirst of those who drink it, but it always leaves them thirsty for more. "
This provides a very good picture of the difference between abiding in Christ and going to some building or person to be refilled.

Shane writes some good stuff and his posts are generally very short yet penetrating. You should jump over and check him out.

Have you heard any other good analogies like this you would like to share?

Craving for community

We all crave meaningful community.  We want to have deeply connected relationships with one another.  We are not satisfied with shallow and empty acquaintance.  We want to be a part of something, to belong to someone, to be cared for and to have someone to care for.  We were made to have relationships.
Many who have left the institutional systems of the church have done so for this reason.  We were tired of the Sunday morning "how are you" that never got much deeper than "see you next week".  We discerned that the busyness of church life distracted us from what really mattered.  So, we set out determined to focus on building relationships with other believers where our love for one another was the bond that held us together, not confessions and covenental statements.
Still, our zeal for finding community is met with frustration when we realize that relationships take a lot of time and effort.  There is also a lot of pain involved.  When the distractions of programs and religious practice are out of the way we begin to see the beauty and the beast in each other.  So we get to work building each other up.  We begin to discern what is of Christ and what is not and we praise the Christ in you and rebuke the man of flesh.  It's not easy and not fun but it is well worth the discomfort.
This experience was unattainable within the confines of institutional religion (for me anyways).  Looking back it seems there was always a book, a program or a teaching that got in the way of really connecting with one another.  Yes we knew what a few people thought about such and such a doctrine or such and such a bible passage but we had no idea who's marriage was struggling or family was in turmoil.
If you are a part of a community of believers that have found a way to overcome this obstacle and build meaningful relationships with each other within a religious institution, I'm very happy for you.  I welcome you to share your experience here.  If you have set out to gather with others in a more simple fashion seeking this kind of community let me encourage you.  Relationships take time and they can't be forced.  Let Christ dwell in you richly and together you will be built up with others according to His timing.  He will build His church.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

It's complete before it's begun

Just in case you missed my bio or my wifey's endless praise of how I'm the best plumber in the world, I'm letting you know now; that's how I make a living and keep food on the table.  I'm not one of the big crack in the back hockey chasers with the filthy boots, though.  I'm a new construction kinda guy.  I get my kicks through problem solving and mathematics throughout the day.  Sometimes it's hard, most times it's quite enjoyable.

Something I read from T. Austin Sparks the other day at lunch reminded me of my job.  He said "the vessel is in the potter and then the potter is in the clay".  Immediately the light bulb went on.  If you don't get it yet, hang in there with me,  Imma break it down fo' ya.

When I walk on to a job I usually have a set of drawings that show the dimensions of rooms and locations of the fixtures I am to plumb for.  Very rarely do my drawings show the locations of the pipework to be installed.  It is my job to be able to picture the pipe systems in place from point A to points B through Z before the first piece is installed.  That way I can do everything right the first time without a lot of two steps forward, three steps back.

Piece by piece the picture in my head becomes a reality.  Taylor made to convey water from one point to another.  Since geometry plays a key role in my methods of installation, the pipework always looks plumb, orderly, and neat.  People notice that.  Some folks have told me that they knew I did the plumbing installation because of how neat it all looked.  I had left my mark behind.

I think that is what Sparks was talking about.  We are Gods vessel and He is the potter who forms us from the clay.  He knows exactly what he wants to form and piece by piece He puts us together until His mental image has become a reality.  As the job progresses and especially once it is complete, He has left His mark.  People notice and say "God has done a work in these people".

The vessel is in the potter and then the potter is in the vessel.
Our names were written in the lamb's book of life before the foundation of the world and the end goal is:  Christ in you, the hope of glory.  We can rejoice that we were complete in the mind of God before He ever bagan to work in us.  In His mind we are complete in Christ and one day we will see ourselves the same way He does.  Perfect, righteous, holy and one with Him.

Monday, May 23, 2011

I'm no marksman

Most blogs, tweets, status updates and the like, I shoot from the hip.  Sometimes that shot comes from a pistol and hits it's intended target.  Other times it comes like a shotgun and has a wide spread with a lot of collateral damage.  You'd think that shooting from the hip with a shotgun would cut off my hand and cast it off where it belongs but no, I'm stuck with it and the consequences of it's trigger happy index finger.

Let me be straight with you, I like to be as transparent as I possibly can.  I don't much hide my feelings unless I first recognize those feelings to be sinful.  What you see is what you get.  The way I see it, I can't learn from mistakes I don't make.  Don't get me wrong, I don't set out to purposefully make mistakes.  I do set out to make something and sometimes that something is a mistake.  I read today that you can't get to the fruit unless you go out on a limb, I think there's some truth to that.

So why am I writing all this and wearing my heart on my sleeve?  Well, I'm glad you asked and if you didn't or don't care, feel free to find better use of your time.  Here's the deal-e-oh.  My thoughts made public offend people.  No big shocker there, right?  Here is what may surprise you:  I LIKE THAT.  I don't want to be the contentious know-it-all that the Bible says we should avoid.  I'm not deliberately being contentious or quarrelsome with anyone.  I'm just being honest.  You disagree with the things I say?  GREAT!  Let's talk about it and see how we can sharpen and build one another up.

Doesn't that sound like fun?

Well it's not.  It hurts, it's abrasive, it's hard, and it's not very enjoyable while were breaking off one another's rough edges.  But it is necessary if we are going to be who we are together in Christ as different members of the same body.  The rewards greatly outweigh the pain.  

I have no desire to be a shiny plastic person with a mask who dances on eggshells.  That's not my kind of party.

So, since I desire to have dialogue with those who disagree with me, why don't you participate in the conversation?  If my words shook you up, let me know.  I'm not the arrogant horses rear that your friends say I am.  Those of you who know me and have taken the time to talk with me should know better than to be offended by what I say and that I love a good conversation over a group of yes-men.

I just don't get it, it's like my blog or tweet goes out and all of the sudden it redefines who I am in the eyes of the beholder.
Wow, just, wow.  I'm out of bullets now, I'll be back later.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Westboro Baptist in Savannah: nothing unifies like a common enemy

Today was the day we've been waiting for. No, I'm not talking about Christ's return and I'm not writing this from the heavenlies of heavenlies. Today was the day Westboro came to Savannah.

Personally, I don't see any benefit from counter-protesting a group that thrives on attention. I do hope that the WBC group will hear and respond to the gospel and the only possible way they can hear that gospel is if someone preaches it to them and "demonstrates" the love of Christ, but frankly I didn't have any meaninful interaction with them. They were on one side of the road at every location and we were always on the other with twenty or so officers between us.

There was still much room for the kingdom to advance because there were very few professing believers on our side of the barricades. Most of the counter-protesters were either flaming rainbow worshippers or the friends and family of fallen soldiers. Overall it was a very peaceful demonstration that brought many unbelievers to one location in order to speak against the hateful and graceless God of WBC. I'm down with that.

I didn't want to carry any signs. My wife made a couple signs to hold up. The first containing the message that she wanted everyone to know from the beginning of our planning: "beware of false prophets who come to you in sheeps clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves." the second was the message I said I would put on a poster if I were inclined to carry a sign: "Christ redeemed us from the law by becoming a curse for us." I thanked her but I still didn't carry it.

While everyone shouted and waved their signs around, I interacted with the multiple groups and individuals present. It was a really cool experience. I have never had an opportunity like this to have so many unbelievers, especially homosexuals, engage in a conversation about religion and faith. I am very glad I went downtown and equally glad that Westboro provided such an opportunity.

I was WOWed by some of the responses I got when I asked the folks there if WBC had any effect on their views of who God is. It was nice to know that WBC didn't have the devastating effects on the fame of God's name I thought they did.  I enjoyed listening to the different worldviews represented there.  One girl had several flyers made up that said we make gods in our own image.  She was there to promote gay rights but I found myself wholeheartedly agreeing with her message about idols.

Over the course of a couple hours I engaged in several conversations about where I agreed and disagreed with Westboro.  Yes, I think some of what they say is true, but it's only half true. I had many perfect opportunities to tell people about how God does hate everyone who lives in sin but demonstrated His love for those same people by sending Jesus to die for us.  Christ took God's hate for us and His wrath toward us upon Himself and brought us into a right relationship with our heavenly Daddy.  He took the sin and gave us perfection.  He took the hate and gave us love. Every conversation was different because everyone shared different things.  I did the best I could to share the gospel in a way that would speak directly to them yet remain faithful to God's Word.  No one broke down and repented of their sins or asked to be baptized in the fountain at Johnson Square, although that would have been really awesome.  

One of the highlights was when one of my friends (way to go Sara!) persuaded many of the Pride group to sing "Jesus Loves The Little Children".  They sang so loud with so many voices that you couldn't hear WBC for a short time.  What made it so special is that we made many efforts to contact the church sites that were being protested along with numerous other children of God and asked them to join with us to sing praises to God as a unified body and share the love of Christ.  I could almost hear the church in Savannah singing "Amazing Grace" in my daydreams.  Regretfully, we were turned down and even lectured for telling others that they should participate.  Hearing the crowd of unbelievers sing praise to God was like hearing the rocks cry out.  God is sovereign and faithful.  He answers prayer, even when all hope seems lost.

I want to thank all of you that were praying for us through this time.  Even if you live here and didn't feel called to come downtown with us, I'm thankful that you were with us in spirit and gave our words and actions power through your active, prayerful participation.  Our efforts are useless without the other members of Christ's body playing their role.  I believe seeds were planted in the hearts of an unreached, yet local people group.  To the believers that were indifferent and decided you had better, more godly things to do in your living room or pew this morning I say SHAME ON YOU!!!

For my readers that do not live in Savannah:  If Westboro comes to your town, remember this:  you may not have any way to show them the love of Christ but there will be a great opportunity for many unbelievers there to see that same love.  Jesus hates, yet loves people both sides of the barricade and He died to show them.  The very least we can do is give up our comfortable Sunday morning to follow Him there.  That may mean going physically, organizing, or fervently praying.  Just do what God gives you the grace to do and don't ignore it or act on your own strength.  God will lead and provide you as you seek His will.

This is getting long and I don't have the ability to break up the blocks of text with pictures or anything so I'm signing off now.  I'll be happy to answer any questions you may have.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Part 6: "P" is for plural

In the introduction to this series I said that I want to write about how my views and my love for the doctrines of grace (aka Calvinism) have been built upon by my new understanding of God's eternal purpose.

In the sixth and final post I want to talk about perserverence of the saints (it puts the "P" in TULIP) and how God's eternal purpose gives this doctrine some shape in Christ.

Also known as "once saved always saved" this doctrine is built upon the scriptures that assure us that God is the author and finisher of our faith who is faithful to complete the work He has started in us and no one can pluck us from his hand. To be honest this one has given me a bit of a run like the big "L" considering the Hebrews passages that seem to speak otherwise and the references to being blotted out of the book of life. But enough of my double-minded madness.

As I understand it (and of course I think I'm right) we are not saved for the sake of being saved so that we can be thankful for God's mercy and grace for all eternity and bow before His throne. Not that that would be a bad thing, in fact IF that were all there was to God's purpose in redemption that would be awesome and worthy of worship. But I don't think that is the end of what God had in mind before He bagan His great creative work. I think there is something much more marvelous than that in store for God's elect.

We are going to perservere because we have been saved to fulfill a purpose. Redemption is not an end in and of itself it's a means to a goal.  That goal is to bring all things into Christ.  Everything not in Christ will be shaken off and burned up.  That is the process every believer must go through.  Less of me, more of Christ.  He must increase, we must decrease.

If you look at the only four chapters of the Bible that are without sin (the first two and the last two) you will get a glimpse of God's eternal purpose.  Here's a hint:  there is a body made in His image, a bride, a family, and a dwelling place for God.  Too much of our theology begins in Genesis chapter three with the fall and goes forward from there but our God aint playing catch up.  

We were created for a purpose.  Notice I said "we" not "you".  The purpose of God cannot be brought about with individual precious stones until those precious stones have been built together.  That is the promise of our perserverence, namely to be built together into a holy habitation for our God.

I pray we all have this as our experience.  Christ will build his church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  Perserverence is not only about you and me, it's about us.  We need each other because only the plural will perservere.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Part 5: "I" is for infatuated

This is part 5 of the series I am doing on Calvinism and God's eternal purpose.  I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I am writing it.

In the introduction to this series I said that I want to write about how my views and my love for the doctrines of grace (aka Calvinism) have been built upon by my new understanding of God's eternal purpose.

In this post I want to talk about irresistible grace (it puts the "I" in TULIP) and how God's eternal purpose gives this doctrine some shape in Christ.

To start, I want to give some shape to this doctrine for all of those who cringe at Calvinism because they refuse to be a robot. They'll say things like "God does not violate our will, we can resist Him if we want to". To that I say I agree 100 percent. The way I understand it, God does not change our will. God the Holy Spirit changes our heart by taking out the old heart of stone and giving us a heart of flesh. With this new heart comes new desires and a new will. That is not to say that we will not be tempted and have sinful desires any longer, but gradually our desire for sin will be outweighed by our desire for Christ. Just as God gave us over to the sin we desired with the old heart He gives us what we desire with the new one. To someone with a new heart God's grace is irresistible. Christ's atoning sacrifice is irresistible. Without a new heart a person can and will resist God and His grace. Like Jesus said to Nicodemus "unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God". In the reformed view this is called regeneration where the new heart and faith in Christ come simultaneously.

All you reformed brothers can feel free to correct me if I've misrepresented something. For the non-Calvinistic believers I hope you can rest easy knowing that I don't think you are a robot but you ARE a new creation.

So what is so irresistible about God's grace? The answer to that question ties us right back into God's eternal purpose. I think Frank Viola in his book From Eternity To Here did a fantasic job of displaying Jesus as the hopeless romantic that he is as he chases after his bride. That is the angle I will take with this post. Feel free to build on this in the comments about how it applies to the body, family and house of God.

Here is my answer to the question what is so irresistible?


Yep, that's it and that's enough.

To a woman who is chased after, loved, forgiven, provided for, honored, cherished and held by a man who is completely and totally devoted to her good, that man is irresistible. To the church that man is Christ. To Christ, the church is his bride.

Jesus Christ IS the grace of God. God's grace is not some arbitrary, mystical and shapeless idea. God's grace has form and has a body. I'll say it again, Jesus Christ is the grace of God. He came to get his girl and He got her by giving himself up and sacrificing himself.

We are that bride. We are the apple of his eye, the desire of his heart, the object of his affection, the bearer of his name. He came to convince us of his love by shedding His blood and bringing us to his Father. Resistance is futile because eventually his love wins our hearts over to him. When his bride falls into his arms she is free to receive all of Him, to hear his sweet words in her ear and trust in her man totally and completely. In his arms we are safe because Jesus is the master of the universe.

Jesus is without a doubt the most passionate, giving man that has ever walked the earth. Not only that but he is sensitive, powerful, rich, generous, ambitious, successful, and strong. He is the King and he offers his bride the kingdom. What woman can resist a man like that?

Who can resist grace like that?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Calvinism and God's eternal purpose: "L" is for liberty

This is part 4 of a series of posts on the doctrines of grace through the lens of God's eternal purpose in Christ.

n the introduction to this series I said that I want to write about how my views and my love for the doctrines of grace (aka Calvinism) have been built upon by my new understanding of God's eternal purpose.

In this fourth post I want to talk about limited atonement (it puts the "L" in TULIP) and how God's eternal purpose gives this doctrine some shape in Christ.

Now before I continue I have a bit of a confession to make. As I have studied and struggled over these doctrines, this is the one I had the hardest time nailing down scripturally. Because of that I have settled to have a bit of a deformed "TULIP" in my flowerbed that looks more like "TU/LIP".

Yeah, you're confused now, I get it, don't worry I think I am too :)

My TULIP is deformed because I think that the atonement is both unlimited and limited. It is unlimited in the sense that Christ's death is good enough to pay for ALL of the sins of ALL of the people everywhere. But (and that is a big butt if you know what I mean) it is only "effectual" for ALL of the sins of SOME of the people, i.e. those who have faith in His blood to cover their sins. For these precious few who are in Christ and will come to Christ through our testimony, the work has been done on our behalf. It is finished. It cannot be taken away from or added on to. A result of the atonement and redemption of His elect is that Christ's kingdom is expressed on the earth. The benefits of the presence and power of Christ are shared by believer and unbeliever alike in many ways.

That's as far into that deformity as I want to go in this post. If there is any interest, I may write another post on that subject.

Moving on...

Christ's atonement put an end to the rights and claims that Satan and death had on us due to sin. Like I said before, that is a done deal, finished and completed by Christ alone. Bulls, goats and even our own lives don't cut it. We accept Christ's work on our behalf or we offer God a used menstrual rag as our ticket through the pearly gates. Those are the only two choices we have.

So how does the atonement help our understanding of the eternal purpose? There are a lot of ways but I'll name one that comes to mind just to get the ball rolling. Since Christ died for us and we died with Him, we have now been made a new creation in Him. Christ lives in and through us to expand His kingdom in our hearts and the hearts of others. We are no longer bound with sin as our master, we are free and liberated to live for and in Christ.

In the book of the Revelation we are given a glimpse of the Bride that is a city, adorned with precious stones, with streets of transparent gold. It is the dwelling place of God who's light is the glory of God and the Lamb is it's lamp.

Because of the atonement we are that bride. We are that city. We are the dwelling place of God.  Because sin has been done away with we can now be in the presence of our thrice Holy God.  This glimpse of what is to come shows us as much more than thankful and perpetually repentant sinners. We can move on in to maturity as we are moved deeper into Christ who is all in all. We enter in by the blood, our thirst is satisfied by the blood because the life, in this case Christ's life, is in the blood.

How would you say the atonement applies to the body and family facets of God's eternal purpose?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Calvinism and God's eternal purpose: U is for unity

In the introduction to this series I said that I want to write about how my views and my love for the doctrines of grace (aka Calvinism) have been built upon by my new understanding of God's eternal purpose.

I know I'm not the only "reformed" person who has had a change of mind regarding what the church should look like. We love what the reformers taught about salvation but think they fell short in reforming church practice. If that describes you: this series is written with you in mind. Feel free to help me build on these ideas because they are a work in progress.

In this third post I want to talk about unconditional election (it puts the "U" in TULIP) and how God's eternal purpose gives this doctrine some shape in Christ.

There is no doctrine that screams "to the glory of God alone" like this one. At it's most basic level unconditional election recognizes man's complete and total depravity making us unable to come to faith in Christ without the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit on our hearts. It is cause for praise to the grace of God and confidence of our place in Christ. He has begun this work in us and chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world therefore we will be with Him forever because He is faithful to complete what He started.

An understanding of God's eternal purpose transforms this doctrine from something individualistic - "I have been chosen" into something corporate - "we have been chosen in Christ". This becomes clearly evident as we acknowledge that most of the instances in Paul's epistles where he uses the term "you", he is speaking to a church. In other words he is lumping many believers into one and speaking to them as a single body. Rarely is Paul speaking to only one person when he says "you" and I cannot think of any instance where he is speaking to one person in regards to election.

I think that is an important distinction to make. Surely there is an individual nature to God's election. After all, there are "names" written in the book of life, right? Yet all those names are lumped together in one book. It is the body of Christ represented in that book that was elect before the foundation of the world.

The IN HIM as in "chosen IN HIM" makes all the difference in the world to how we regard election. We were not chosen for who we were before Christ came in to us. That would make our election conditional upon something we have or have done. We were chosen for who we are in Christ.

In Christ we are a holy nation and a royal priesthood. In Him we become the temple of the Living God. In Him we become His body. In Him we become sons and daughters of God. In Him we become His bride, bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. We become Christ in corporate bodily form. This is what election is all about. Election is about being in Christ.

As I see it, our election is unconditional in regards to who we are in and of ourselves. Our election IS conditional upon one thing: that we are in Christ. We weren't "chosen" only to display God's mercy on us and bring praise to his glorious grace. That is part of it and a very big part, but it is only part. We were chosen to fulfill something that was missing in God's desire for creation. We were chosen to be a part of the new man in Christ. The man we were all created to be but failed.

Calvinist's won't get to heaven and be chanting nah nee nah nee boo boo, God chose me and He didn't choose you.

No, Christ through His blood has made us (Calvin or no Calvin) to be a kingdom and priests to Him and we shall reign on the earth. That's right, we are one with the King of Kings, we are in Christ, one big elected governing body. When we arrive we will all sing with one voice "praise to the Lamb that was slain" because it's all about Jesus, even election.

Please let me know if what I've said helps you understand election more or the eternal purpose more.

How can this change the way we talk about or preach about election?

Between Two Worlds: at the perfect time

Since I'm doing a series on Calvinism and God's eternal purpose I thought this post from Justin Taylor couldn't have come at a better time.  Since I appreciate the work He put into it and it is fitting for where I am in the series, I copied it in it's entirety.  Justin has a very active blog and usually has very informative and encouraging posts.  You should check him out at Between Two Worlds. You can find the link in my blogroll to the right.

The following is not meant to be exhaustive—one could also profitably include field, olive tree, flock, vine—but the following are verses that deal with the main New Testament metaphors for the church: body, marriage, family, and buildings.

The church is made up of many different members that comprise the one body of Christ.

"For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another." (Rom. 12:4-5)

"We who are many are one body" (1 Cor. 10:17).

"Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ" (1 Cor. 12:12).

"You are the body of Christ and individually members of it" (1 Cor. 12:27).

"Equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ" (Eph. 4:12).

"Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior" (Eph. 5:23).

"We are members of [Christ's] body" (Eph. 5:30).

"In my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church" (Col. 1:24).

The church is the bride of Christ.
"Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb" (Rev. 21:9).

"The marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; It was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure" (Rev. 19:7-8).

"For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ" (2 Cor. 11:12).

"'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" (Eph. 5:31-32).

The church is the family of God.

"I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty" (2 Cor. 6:18).

"Stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother'" (Matt. 12:49-50).

"So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God" (Eph. 2:19).

"As we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith" (Gal. 6:10).

"Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity" (1 Tim. 5:1).

The church is God's house.

"Christ is faithful over God's house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope" (Heb. 3:6).

"I am writing these things to you so that . . . you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:14-15).

"It is time for judgment to begin at the household of God" (1 Pet. 4:17).

The church is the temple of God, built with living stones, with Christ as the foundation and cornerstone, and the Holy Spirit indwelling it.

"For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 3:11).

"The household of God [is] built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit" (Eph. 2:19-22).

"'Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.' . . . 'The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone'" (1 Pet. 2:6-7 [Isa. 28:16; Ps. 118:22).

"You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 2:5).

"Do you not know that you [plural] are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple" (1 Cor. 3:16-17).

"Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own" (1 Cor. 6:19).

Monday, May 16, 2011

Calvinism and God's eternal purpose: "T" is for treasure

In the introduction to this series I said that I want to write about how my views and my love for the doctrines of grace (aka Calvinism) have been built upon by my new understanding of God's eternal purpose.

In this second post I want to talk about total depravity (it puts the "T" in TULIP) and how God's eternal purpose gives this doctrine some shape in Christ.

Recently I was thinking about God's majesty as it's displayed in Psalm 8. David's question came to mind "who is man that you are mindful of him?" I automatically think of how small and insignificant we are compared to the Creator of the universe when I'm reminded of this verse. This was no exception, only this time I was moved deeper into this meditation.

I thought about our depravity and the utter worthlessness of ourselves outside of Christ. Good for nothing but to be thrown into the fire heap out back with yesterday's dirty diapers. We are utterly unable and unwilling to love God and live for Him. Now usually I would be searching my heart for sin or feeling very sorry for being such a worthless wretch and thanking God for his electing grace just like any good little calvinist should. This time was different.

My mind moved to the answer to David's question. "What?" you say "there is an answer?" Yes, there is and that answer is Christ. Why is God minful of man? Because we were made in his image to be like Him. We were made to be in Christ. He made us to be a visible body to manifest himself with, to be a bride and wife made into one with the Son, a house suitable for Him to dwell in, and a family He can call his own and love for all eternity. In other words, He made us to fulfill His eternal purpose.

So why all the talk about depravity? Because we were made to be like Christ but, we sinned. Rather than take from the tree of life freely we wanted to do things our own way according to our knowledge of good and evil. Rather than accept God's provision for our life in the garden we have to work it out ourselves by the sweat on our brow. Rather than the painless work of God in a mother to bring more children into the Kingdom she must suffer great pain. That was and is our choice. We want to do it ourselves, we love to sin. This is the sum of our depravity and there is nothing we can do about it anymore than we can change the color of our skin. We have to understand that there is absolutely nothing we can do by our own strength to get back on track. The choice between good and evil is what got us into this sinful mess in the first place.

God did not intend for it to be difficult and painful forever. He did not intend to let man go on about our own way without calling us back to His way. He has always had his purpose in perspective and a plan through which to bring us back to His original intent for humanity. That intent is and always has been complete dependance and trust in Him so that we freely receive His love and we return to Him love, praise, worship and adoration. We join into the love and fellowship of the Three-in-one and become one with them.

In Christ the bonds of the curse of sin are broken. We are now a new creation in Christ. No longer are we to think of ourselves as worthless and depraved so much as we are in Christ. No longer are we to regard ourselves according to our sinful flesh. That man is dead, he died two millenia ago with Christ. Now we walk in the spirit, that is, in Christ. As we abide in Christ, our flesh is crucified over and over again as the Holy Spirit transforms us by renewing our mind.

David's question in Psalm 8 has always made me praise the glorious grace of God. Now I see that his amazing grace is much more than just saving a wretch like me but it also brings me into the image of His Son that I meet the desires of His eternal purpose in creation. We weren't saved just to be saved. We weren't saved just to praise Him for saving us. We've been saved in spite of our depravity to fulfill God's original desire and plan for humanity: to be a visible body to manifest himself with, to be a bride and wife made into one with the Son, a house suitable for Him to dwell in, and a family He can call his own and share His love with for all eternity.

Christ in you, the hope of glory. There is nothing at all worthless about that. In fact our value is based on the unsearchable riches that are ours in Christ Jesus not on who we once were outside of Him. He has changed us from totally unable and depraved into the treasure of His inheritance.

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound, INDEED!!

Shout out to my peeps

Before I continue with my series I want to take some time to recognize you, my readers. Lately I've noticed the pageviews on my blog going north. I don't know who is among those new readers and how many have been subjected to my musings for some time but I want you to know, I appreciate you all for stopping by and being interested and especially for your responses and interaction. Thank you.

Since I have reason to believe there are several new readers, I thought I would let you all know a little more about why I started this blog. I began to write for a few of the following reasons:

1. To share our journey of faith as we follow our convictions in order to encourage, build up and maybe challenge others.

2. To capture some of the mediations that flow through my mind everyday so I have something to look back on and so you have somewhere to come back to if my writing has had any impact on you.

3. To get feedback on what I write so that I have some accountability against bad ideas and can have my good ideas built on by others.

4. I love to write and I'm hoping to build my writing skills through this medium. Maybe I'll do something greater than blog with my thoughts and writing one day.

That's a basic sum of why I started. I have been blogging now for about 8 months and it's been fun. I love the interaction I get here in the comments and the spill-over conversation on other blogs. Special thanks to Alan, Arthur, and Eric for linking to my posts and bringing your readers into Neverland. I would also like to thank Tim, Lisa, Jon and Shane for leaving comments. If I didn't mention you and you're sharing or responding to my blog on your own it's because I'm unaware of it, not because I don't appreciate it. Please let me know so I can give you a shout out as well.

I've also noticed that a lot of folks are beginning to come here from twitter and interact over there as well so if you're not on twitter, you're missing out. There are many great bloggers that provide short bursts of uplifting, challenging, and provocative material crammed into 140 characters or less on a daily basis. It's also a nice place to cut loose and have some fun.

I can't have a post like this without mentioning my faithful readers from Facebook. I get more traffic from facebook than from anywhere else. I don't know who you are because most of you don't comment or get involved but I love you just the same. Thanks for hanging in there with me.

If you like or dislike a post here, please let me know. A simple statement like "good thoughts" or "you're an idiot" would suffice. Comments are what bloggers write for and for many of us it is our only compensation for writing. Please don't leave the table without leaving a tip. Short comments let us know we're appreciated, thoughtful comments are even better and are what bloggers blog for.

If you read my blog regularly and have a blog of your own, please leave a comment and share your blog address with everyone. I'm sure many of my readers would hop on over and check out what your up to. There are a lot of great blogs out there and the best way I know to help you get your name out there is to invite you to plug it here.

Don't be shy, jump in, the water's fine.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Calvinism and God's eternal purpose: introduction

I love reformed doctrine. Call me a Calvinist or whatever you like, it doesn't phase me. I love it. I hate that it divides when we put doctrine above Christ, but that's a topic for another post. I also love the things I have been learning about God's eternal purpose. In the next few posts, I will be sharing both what I love about the 5 solas and the 5 points and how my understanding has been changing. So, you can expect at least five posts in this series, but there may be more. I'm just gonna let it flow how it flows.

Whether you understand Calvinism or you have any idea what I'm talking about when I say "God's eternal purpose" I think you'll like this series. I'm certainly going to enjoy writing it. I know some of my readers are Calvinistic but avoid using that as a title or description, I appreciate that. I hope that my use of the term doesn't promote any division. I'm only using it for ease of writing.

 It'll be wise for me to define what I mean by some of these terms but I'm trying to avoid writing a systematic theology series. I really want to start with the "five's" and move from there. Of course, if I don't define them in some way, I'll be shooting myself in the foot from the gate. I promise to do my best, but hey I'm just a laymen ;)  Anyway, stay tuned, this reformedlostboy is gonna spill his guts and give you a peek at the meditations that make my day so glorious!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The motel that lies in the shadow of death

Yesterday's journey of following Christ took me somewhere I didn't expect.  I expected to meet some new folks, teach on John 3, and answer some questions with hopes of sharing the love of Christ with them.  I imagined they would share surface level type needs that the body of Christ could meet together like clothing or food, maybe a little help paying for their room once in a while.

What happened couldn't have been further from the picture in my mind.  I came face to face with death.  Not that my life was in danger, but death as in the utter helplessness and all consuming power of sin.  I've read books and articles, seen news stories about life in poverty.  It was like some distant, faraway land.  Last night it became very real to me.

Prostitution, crack cocaine, drunkenness, homosexuality, and theft are just some of the sins I discovered lurking in this dark place.  And that, from just one man!  ONE MAN!  It was all so surreal last night and today it is beginning to sink in.  The amount of suffering that has come upon him is nearly too unbearable to look upon, let alone be under the weight of it all.  I felt completely helpless as he and I took turns talking, I would read scripture and tell him of the hope in Christ, he would cry and share small bits of what was on his heart, take another drink, and tell me to read or talk some more.

This job is way too big for me.  Witnessing the slow, painful destruction of one man has brought me to my knees.  In some ways I can feel his pain and I cannot bear it.  Intercession is in order.

In all this, Christ's incarnation has taken on a whole new dimension.  He left his throne in heaven and came down to earth to save us from the devastating effects of our sin.  The sin of the whole world.  That is unfathomable to me at this point.  Unspeakable amounts of suffering from the world over.  Yet he endured the cross, despising the shame, for the joy that was set before him.

Joy set before me, that would be really good right now because the valley of the shadow of death revealed much more to me than I bargained for.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Anabaptists and sermon centered worship

This is an excerpt from an Old blog post from my friend Alan Knox. It is quoted from an Anabaptist pamphlet and shows how, during the times of the reformation, participatory gatherings were not only considered better than clergy led/sermon centered gatherings, by some, but that the mainline protestant reformers were no different than their catholic counterparts in this regard.

And thus, as already mentioned, they [primarily Lutherans and Zwinglians] deny that we possess the evangelical order nor would they permit us to exercise it (if we did attend their preaching), but teach and presume that we also, as those who err, should remain silent in their preaching regardless of what we would have to speak to edification whether or not their preacher defaults from the truth, one must be silent, even though according to 1 Cor. 14 the listeners must judge the preacher's doctrine. All judgment and everything, yes everyone in his conscience, is bound to the preacher and to his teaching, whether it be good or evil (to accept the same in conscience to believe and to do), and not the teaching of Christ and of his Holy Spirit. (12)
Later, the writers say that requiring everyone but the preacher to remain silent "annuls, transgresses and resists… yes, forbids and then also frustrates and impedes the rivers of living water."
I think this is an interesting piece of history. I've heard several times from brothers who said to me "you say you've discovered some new truth that everyone else missed. That makes you no different than a Mormon or Jehovah's Witness". Well for all you who say and think that, this goes to show otherwise. Turns out it's not new, just that most of the historical record has been burned along with the faithful brothers who wrote these truths by the hands of reformers and catholics alike.
I guess the saying is true: he who wins, writes the history.
I'd like to look into the history of the Anabaptists more. Any recommendations?

Dirty laundry and making disciples

It all started at the Redbox a few days ago.  I was looking for a movie that my blue eyed beauty asked me to bring home to her as she was I'll at home and resting in bed.  A young lady approached me and asked for a couple dollars to buy food.  When I realized the movie I was seeking wasn't there (apparently mormon written vampire movies are VERY popular) I asked the girl if she would like to accompany me to the grocery store around the corner.  That way I could hear a little more of her story and know more precisely how to help and pray for her.  At first she said yes, then changed her mind because her boyfriend was waiting and he was the jealous type.  "No biggie" I said, "I'll be right back".

I came out of the grocery store, drove back over to the long-stay motel where they were lodging and parked my car by the curb.  Her boyfriend stayed behind as she approached my car so I called him over to help us get the bags of groceries. His face had a look of curiosity and concern but as he took the bags in hand his face lit up with thankfulness.  He invited me up to the room but I declined because I needed to get home and care for my wife who was waiting in bed at home, very ill. I thought it was a missed opportunity to share the gospel in word along with the deed.

The next day I was at the laundry mat and depleting Mt. Funk in one quick swoop.  As I was finishing up, the same lady came walking by.  She thanked me for the groceries and shared with me how she has been asking all day for help to pay for their room for one more night.  They were getting put out and the boyfriends paycheck from work tomorrow would come a day too late.

Julio (the boyfriend) escorted me to the office where we got them accomodations for the night.  Again, he invited me up to his room.  This time I couldn't pass it up.  I rushed back to the machines, pulled out the remainder of my 7 loads (now Mt. Fresh) and headed to room 206.

Julio and I had a nice conversation.  He's used to having what he needs and working hard to get it.  This was just a bad week.  He'd been out of work for a week and to top it off someone stole $900 from beneath his mattress.  He shared how he had lost hope asking people for money and help because he was denied so many times.  He couldn't take anymore heartless rejection.  So his girlfriend was out doing all the asking, and he was glad she did.  "We've asked lots of people for help and only came up with some change, we see you only two times and you not only help but meet all our needs."

We talked for about 30 minutes about who Jesus was and is.  We spoke about the two different kingdoms that he was now realizing existed.  "I'm gonna pay you back" he says. "No, I would rather if you took that money and gave it to someone else in need.  I'm only one person here working to build Jesus' kingdom.  If you do the same there will be two and those you help can do the same and then one and two will become many.  You see?"  "Yeah, that's good" he replied.

I've had the opportunity to serve several people that have been staying in this same motel.  I have been thinking about renting a room there occasionally to get to know the regulars there better.  Now I don't have to.  Julio has invited me in to have a Bible study there with him and his neighbors today at 7:00.

Many times we make discipleship out to be more than it is.  We tend to overlook the everyday opportunities God gives us and then schedule and plan times to disciple others.  The goal is to learn more about the needs in the community and how we can meet them, share the gospel and be making disciples who make disciples.  I'm really excited and I hope you will be praying with me that God continues to do marvelous things as He builds His Church!  If you live in the area and would like to join me in this, please contact me.  My contact info is in the sidebar.

Coming up:  my conversation with our 7 year old son about Julio, catholic church, and Jesus alive and at work today while he ans I folded Mt. Fresh together.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Counting down the days

He puts another X on his calender.  Everyday another day closer to the wedding.  Finally, he will get his bride and make her his wife.  All of his work has paid off.  He's chased after the girl of his dreams and now she is within his grasp.  He will finally have his prize and the day can't come soon enough.

He thinks back on days gone by.  He remembers how he chased after her even though she wouldn't give him the time of day.  At first she didn't think she wanted or needed him but as he continued to go after her she began to believe she didn't deserve him.  Still, he pressed on, in his eyes she was perfect and that is all that mattered to him.  Eventually, his undying love for her won out and she fell into his arms.  Overwhelmed by his passionate pursuit of her she fell in love with him.  He recalled the days when that all they did was spend time together and share life.  It was like they couldn't get enough of one another.

It seems so distant today.  As the wedding day approaches he hardly sees his bride or talks with his bride.  She is always out preparing for the big day.  Dresses, caterers, designers, organizers, seating, entertainment, meals, invitations, venue ... all these things have taken his bride away from him.  She is out being busy getting ready for the big day as he sits and longs for her to just be with him.  

If only she would just come to him and stay by his side.  Her father promised to take care of all the details, if she would let him.  Then she would be free to be by his side all the time.  There is nothing he wants more than to be with her right now but she is just too busy.  It's as if she cares more about the glamour of the ceremony and what everyone will think than she does about him.  She says it's all for him but he could care less about all the fuss.  He just wants his girl.

The love and passion was there at one time in history.  Today it seems a distant memory.  Surely, after the wedding she will return to his side, when all is said and done.  So he marks off the days till then, longing for her company today but still content to wait for her to return, just as he waited in the beginning.  "It's gonna be sweet" he tells himself.  He can almost taste her sweetness now.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Re-learning the same lessons

Disagreement and disunity, they go together like peas and carrots. Lately I've been learning a lot about how to separate them. I gotta say, it's like prying the bottle out of a drunkards hand. Seems like I never learn my lesson.

"Sorry kid, better luck next year repeating first grade."

That's how it feels sometimes, doesn't it? Can somebody give me an "amen" ...or maybe it's just me that's so hardheaded.

I've been down this road before.  Last time it was doctrine, you know the one's:  the infamous five points.  I was like Saul, at the feet of the most prominent teachers, diligent in study, dotting every i and crossing every t.  When I got up from my study I went out to hunt down and ravage anyone and everyone who disagreed.  With my sword in hand I ravaged God's people.  Somebody should have locked me up but instead I got pats on the back and gained the respect of my peers.  Somehow, being offensive was a sign of maturity and a badge of honor.  

"I pledge allegiance, to the doctrine, of the Calvinist tribe in America.  And the lines of division, drawn in the sand make us one nation, under God, indivisible with those who know "all" doesn't mean "all".

I still love these doctrines.  I cherish them.  Christ's finished work on my behalf when I hated Him gives me hope in knowing it's not up to me, He's done it all in spite of me and will continue to be faithful.  The doctrines aren't the problem.  I am the problem.  I wanted so much for others to taste and see how good they were so I shot the potatoes at them with a cannon and slapped them across the face with filet minion.  Only to finish off by sticking their face in the pie and pointing out how foolish they looked with pie on their face.

God help me, I'm doing the same things now with how I see the church differently.  What's worse?  I honestly enjoy poking fun at the traditional system.  Then, I'm ashamed of myself.  Somehow, some way, someone's got to break the cycle.  There has to be a way to disagree without dividing and without having to be silent just because others MAY find your words offensive.  I guess it's a fine line, I just hope it doesn't have to be drawn in the sand too.

So, I'm relearning  the same lessons.  That means I didn't learn the first time.  I can't move on to the next level until I get it right.  Now I see that maturity doesn't come in getting my doctrine right, it comes in making difficult relationships right.  School was never very difficult for me, I was a straight A student.  But this school is different.  In this school my efforts aren't rewarded, they are incorrect.  In this school I have to trust.  Trust for myself and trust for others.  By grace through faith in Christ.  Not by my efforts but by the divine life of Christ moving through me.

The goal is to be built together into a house for God but most times I find I'm just building a wall.

The words of Pink Floyd come to mind:

"Hello, is there anybody in there?
Can anybody hear me?
Is there anyone home? 

All we are is just a...'nother brick in the wall.
HEY!  TEACHER!  Leave those kids alone!"

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Westboro vs. Derek Webb LIVE in Savannah

So the wheels in my mind keep turning and I can't stop thinking about the Westboro group coming to town.  I've been thinking of different things I'd like to see happen and other things I don't want to happen.  Then it struck me; why not invite Derek Webb to perform his tailor made song for "brother" Fred Phelps himself?  If you haven't heard this song, you should check it out.

Freddie Please by Derek Webb
freddie, please
how could you do this to me
how could you tell me you love me when you hate me
freddie, please
you know i love you honey
but i’ll bleed you dry with money
i’ll talk where i know you can hear
‘cause freddie can’t you see
brother, you’re the one who’s queer
the stone’s been rolled away
and you’re picketing my grave for loving the things you hate
but why do you seek the living among the dead
freddie, please
how could you do this to me
how could you tell them you love me when you hate me
freddie, please

I'm sure Derek is way too busy to come to a small town like Savannah and perform in the street for free just to show how the WBC folks how ridiculous their teaching is.  Oh well, it was a nice daydream.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Westboro Baptist is coming to Savannah

So, I just got the news that the Westboro Baptist Klan will be in Savannah at the end of this month.  Leave it to Beaver to be mixed emotionally about how to respond.  Should I stay or should I go now.  If I go there will be trouble, if I stay there will be double.

A part of me doesn't want to dignify their presence by showing up.  Another part wants to take a stand against these hypocritical, legalistic wolves who bring shame to the name of Christ.  The blue-eyed one is all gung ho ready to organize and stage a counter protest everywhere they set up shop.  I'm not sure what to do.  I'll start by praying.

How would you respond if Westboro was coming to your town?  If you live in Savannah, what do you plan to do?

Reconstructing Marriage: how it all began.

I've been encouraged to continue this series by a brother who has been working on a similar series recently on patriarchy. Thank you, Arthur for your encouragement and hard work you have put in on your own blog dealing with this subject. I'm blogging from my mobile so inserting links is quite a challenge for someone who can't write code very well. Check out my blogroll to the right and click on The Voice of One Crying Out in Suburbia. That is Arthur's blogspot.

Okay, now on to how my reconstruction began in regards to marriage. Once upon a time, in a land near the sea, there lived a man and his wife, with their two very young boys. All was well in their little world as they looked forward to the arrival of the newest member of their family. Finally they would have the little girl they hoped for. As the time of her arrival grew near, the doctors began to worry about the little package in the womb. She wasn't growing like she should and so it was decided that mom should stay home and be on bed rest for the rest of her pregnancy.

Mom and dad grew closer together during this time. Praying earnestly and fervently for God to give them a happy and healthy baby girl. Dad was called into full time service every day after a hard 8+ hours of labor. He found joy in taking care of his wife and unborn child. She was humbled and appreciative at his consistent display of love.

One sunny Sunday afternoon upon returning from the worship service, dad remarked on how unashamedly the preacher taught on sexual immorality and pornography. Mom was not amused. She was not at all happy that the preacher man had put ideas and thoughts in the ears and minds of her little boys that she felt like they weren't ready for. Dad, on the other hand, being a big lover and advocate for expository sermons, defended the preaching and threw out the trump card: God is sovereign. No need to make a big fuss.

The line was drawn. On one side was mom and the freedom of parents to choose what their children are influenced by. On the other side was dad who said that the only way to compromise would be to take the boys out of the worship service or the family out of the church all together. The walls got bigger and the voices got louder.

Dad became increasingly worried about the health of their marriage. He went to his pastor one night at a small group meeting. He laid it all out for his pastor, seeking counsel. Pastor told him that dad was right and mom was wrong, therefore there could be no compromise. Mom must submit and obey. This is exactly what dad wanted to hear. Now armed with the backing of his biblically defined argument and the support of his elder thereby making him feel like he was on the side of truth and Almighty God, he went back to his wife and stood his ground.

Now, mom was tired of yelling over walls and she was not willing to have her boys subjected to adult content in a teaching setting against her approval. She threw her own trump card: divorce.

Dad was crushed. He felt confused and betrayed. That word had never been spoken between them. Suddenly it occurred to him, things were getting worse and any light at the end of the tunnel was nothing more than a train coming his way. Now was high time for him to seriously consider if he (his elders and his understanding of scripture) had been wrong. He was faced with a decision. Which came first in order of importance: his marriage or obedience to his church authority and the value of expository sermons.

Neither of them have sat in a pew and heard a sermon ever since. Dad put mom first, even if it meant he had to forsake the whole world and everything else he valued in order to have her. They have been living happily ever after since.

So that's my story, the cliffnotes version anyway. I'll come back and share how God has used this experience to lead me through a deconstruction and overhaul of many of the ideals that shaped me.  Stay tuned.  Same bat time, same bat channel.

Complex emotions over the death of Bin Laden

The death of Osama Bin Laden is big news.  It is very likely we will not forget the day we heard this news just as we will not forget the day his masterplan killed thousands on 9-11.

With this news comes mixed emotions for me.  On one hand I cannot rejoice in the death of someone I am almost certain died apart from Christ.  So many verses come to mind like loving our enemies and not rejoicing in the death of the enemy.

There is another part of me that wants to rejoice in the justice that has been dealt.  Surely the governing authorities bear the sword of God in overcoming evildoers.  After all, God is sovereign, right?  He was in control of the events of 9-11 and He is in control of the capture and death of Osama.  

Bin Laden will face real justice at the hands of our holy and just God there is no doubt about that.  As for me, I would have been much happier to rejoice if the news reported that he had embraced God's justice poured out on Jesus Christ rather than on Bin Laden Himself.