Friday, March 30, 2012

An Interview with Christian Smith on “The Bible Made Impossible”

Read the complete interview with Christian Smith on “The Bible Made Impossible.”

Have you read this book?  If so, what did you think?

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments or post a link to a review post.

Asking Why? When Things Are Better Than Good

Turmoil, anguish, conflict, uncertainty, confusion.  These are words that describe how my mind has been operating lately.  There is so much going on and it is happening so fast.  I have no control, no way of making sense of it all.  I believe that is a good thing.  I’m learning to trust in the grace of God by not having to make sure everything is right.  If He is at work in it, I know it is all right.  My interference would probably just make a mess of things.  Somehow, knowing that causes all of the above emotions to transform into an inexpressible joy.

This whole ordeal with Chloe’s fundraiser is astonishing.  I can see God’s hand at work in ways that completely blows my mind.  It doesn’t seem real to me.  Its like a dream.  Yet even as I watch this miracle unfold before my very eyes the unsettling thoughts and questions still plague me.  Where is the line between covetousness and provision for my family?  There are so many others that are facing much tougher trials and difficulties, why aren’t they receiving the miracle?  Why me and my family?  Surely it is not because of our efforts.  This whole thing is so much bigger than us.  It seems so unfair.

I had more peace about Chloe’s disability when I came to the point of accepting that it was all my fault.  But now, with the riches of God’s grace and kindness being poured out upon us, I feel so unworthy.  Something inside me wants to return to the time when I was content with having little because I don’t know if I can handle being content with much.  I’ve never had much therefore I’m comfortable with that.  But I know that to whom much is given much is expected and I don’t know if I’m ready.  Abba thinks I am and I know I should trust Him but it’s not Him I’m worried about, it is me.

If I were the only player in the game I would just as soon push all my chips into the pot and fold but I have a daughter who needs me to keep my poker face on.  She needs me to stop thinking about myself and think about her and her needs.  God as obviously overlooked my inadequacies in order to bless her.  She needs me to see myself through His eyes and let grace be grace.  But that is the thing about grace…to the natural mind it is unbelievable.  We just have to take it for what it is.  I mean really, if I can believe that God would give His only Son for me, why is it so hard to believe he would give all these blessings to my daughter?  Because I know how unworthy I am, that’s why.  And that reveals how much I really don’t understand the grace of God yet.  There is much about the riches of His grace that we have yet to receive.

Oh the breadth and the depth of His unsearchable riches toward us in Christ.  How far His ways are past finding out.  How overwhelmingly blessed we are to be vessels of God’s mercy.  Sometimes it is simply too much.

Put yourself in my shoes, how would you feel?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Paternal Provision for Palooza

The love of God is truly amazing.  As of late He has been showering me and my family with blessings enough to make our head spin.  If you follow me on twitter or are connected with me on Facebook you have probably noticed the build up for an upcoming event we are planning to help meet our daughter’s needs.  We decided to call it Chloe-Palooza.  The purpose of Chloe-Palooza is to fill in the financial gaps we are faced with as a result of Chloe’s disability.  Even with the generous offers that have been placed in our lap there is still a long road ahead before we can make any tangible progress.  Not to mention the month to month struggle we have making ends meet due to the salary cap I have been put in bondage to.  The whole thing is quite disheartening and overwhelming but God is using this time to reveal Himself in extraordinary ways.

Not only have family and friends stepped up to the plate and provided for immediate needs at just the right time with money for a house payment here, a utility payment there or, “oh, your checking account has been in the negative for nearly a month?  Well that is funny because we felt like God wanted us to give you this $500 check.”  We do not have very affluent friends and family so we know that whatever we receive is probably a great sacrifice for them.  The whole ordeal is quite remarkable like a modern day miracle.  One day my wife and I are sitting together discussing how we might have to walk out on our mortgage and let the bank take the house while we pack our family into one of those rent by the week long stay motels just to be able to eat and the next thing we know those needs are met and we can breathe again.  It has been a thrill ride of emotions to say the least.

In the last week Chloe-Palooza has taken shape in ways that have far exceeded our expectations.  We’ve prayed and trusted God to take care of Chloe’s needs but we didn’t want to just sit on our hands.  So we (and when I say we I mean especially my wife) have acted on that faithful prayer.  God began by having several local musical artists agree to perform (or minister as some like to call it) at the event.  There is even a nationally recognized country artist coming in from Nashville to sing.  Our city has offered us to use the recreation center to host the event free of charge.  Someone has designed a logo for the event, another has offered to design and print fliers to distribute and yet another will pay to have t-shirts made.  Someone else is having one of those cool little squares you can scan with your smart phone created that will take you straight to the event flier when you scan it.  As far as the goal of the fundraiser is concerned (a home that isn’t falling apart, making our family sick and is adequate to meet Chloe’s needs for equipment and mobility), a general contractor has offered his services free of charge and has already begun lining up sub-contractors to donate their time as well, a local lumber company has offered to donate the building materials, and of course Jessica’s aunt had already offered us a lot right around the corner from our present home to build on.  There have been groups that have promised to pay for advertising costs on local radio stations, the local news stations want to do promo spots to get the word out and familiarize the community with our family and another person has offered to establish a non-profit for Chloe’s Voice.

I’m sure I’m missing something.  It’s all happening so fast.

Like I said, God has been blessing us in miraculous ways and it’s not because we deserve it but because we need it and we believe He will provide just as He promised.  His love astounds and overwhelms me.  When I remember that this loving, compassionate God lives within me and every other believer I rejoice at the potential for His love and life to alleviate so much suffering as we work together as a body.  I cannot imagine facing all this without Him and I cry for the ones who are trying to face life on their own.  With a heavenly Father like ours willing to take care of His children it is time we all left our lives of wallowing in the mire, squandering our inheritance on fleeting pleasures and came home and let Him throw a banquet in our honor.  Like the prodiagal son we won’t even have time to say “I’m sorry” before He runs to meet us and squeezes us so tight He takes our breath away.

How has our Daddy been blessing you?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Coming Revival?

If revival comes to the United States again, what will it look like and how will it differ from the past two revivals of the 20th century?
This is an interesting question asked by Frank Viola at Beyond Evangelical in his post called thoughts on the coming revival..  Of course all the responses will be purely speculative but surely we can base our assumptions on how we define the cultural trends today and project that into how a revival might look.

My perspective is one of a person born in the year 1980.  That makes me one of the kids born on the cusp between two recognized generations.  My older peers make up what has become known as generation X and my younger peers make up the door busters generation Y, also known as the millennial generation. Millennials are those who were born between that years 1980 and 2000. It is this generation that I believe will be the group largely affected and involved in any upcoming revival.  Right now we range between the ages of 12 and 32 but many of those in their 30s also share our thoughts and ways.

Millennials are a peculiar bunch.  We have several things in common that are held by the majority of our age group but it is impossible to pin us down.  We are way too diverse for that.  For instance, most millennials have a deep love for relationships, especially familial relationships.  We love our family and we stay in contact with our siblings and parents.  We also use multiple outlets of communication.  Millennials can easily be spotted in the local coffee shop sitting in front of a laptop that is open to Facebook, Twitter, Skype, and Google+ while listening to iTunes or Pandora and keeping an eye on our smart phone which is placed next to the laptop.  We are a generation that thinks staying in touch is very important.  Also, millennials are typically a very ambitious bunch.  Over half are in the workforce today and a large percentage have been educated beyond high school.  All these characteristics unify the mindset shared by many within the generation.  “We can and we will change the world”.  Just look at the influence of this voting group as they played a role in the election of Barak Obama.  There is no doubt in my mind that he got a lot of votes by promising change, the mantra of the millennial generation.  The millennial generation is a collective voice to be reckoned with.

Even amidst many commonalities, millennials are a very diverse group.  Some of the things that defined prior generations are sewn into a coat of many colors within this age group.  Racially we are incredibly diverse as the melting pot of American society has brought families of different ethnicities together to form an indefinable mixture of folks.  Race is not an issue with this generation.  Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream is coming true.  Add to that the age old foundation of unity found in religion.  For a millennial, diversity of religious views is a non issue as long as it doesn’t hurt relationships.  Three out of four millennials say they are spiritual but not religious and only 13 percent considered spirituality to be important.  Basically, most people in this age group have a mix and match mentality about spiritual matters and take what they like from every view they hear to form their own spiritual views.  These views typically maintain a constant state of  change as we meet and interact with others.  That is a drastic shift from the previous generations in both areas of ethnicity and religious views which largely shaped and defined the popular mindset of those generations.

Can you see the promise of such a wonderful group of people?  Here you have a generation that is flooding our schools, colleges and workplaces and they are on a mission to change the world.  Their top priorities are their relationships with their families and friends.  Although only 1 in 20 people of this generation would claim to be orthodox evangelical Christians, at the same time a large number of professing believers who gladly make that claim are themselves leaving the edifices of organized religion and working toward a more relationship focused faith.  This is why I think that very soon the Church will begin to have more of an impact on the millennial generation.  As they see the gospel of our Lord Jesus not only preached but lived out in a familial fashion they will recognize that Jesus is the only source for true and lasting change.  This will fall right in line with the importance of fulfilling God’s eternal purpose and advancing His kingdom as opposed to the previously popular focus of saving individual souls.

The millennial generation is ripe for the harvest.  Not because they want a get out of hell free card but because they want to change the world for the better.  As we millennials grow and learn from the world around us it becomes more evident that the practices and attempts of making lasting change have either failed or succeeded with undesirable effects.  Once this generation learns about God’s plan and desire for creating all that there is I believe the news will spread like wild fire.  With such deep convictions of the importance of relationships and the desire to make the world a better place, the believers from the millennial generation will be the raw building materials for God’s dwelling place on earth and give Him a physical body to display Himself to the world.  The millennial revival will be the like an amplified “Jesus only” movement with modern technology offering connectivity that has never before been possible.  When Jesus begins changing the hearts of this generation we will likely turn the world upside down and God’s eternal purpose in Christ will become more of a reality in time.  There could be a revolution in the church hand in hand with a revival of many coming into Christ.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sinner Saved by Grace?

I formerly used that phrase often, then one day I realized that my use of the term "sinner" for myself was nothing more than self pity which is the same as pride. It says "look at me, I'm just like you". What we need to learn to do is point others to Christ and not to ourselves. That is impossible to do while referring to ourselves as we formerly were. I think of the words of Paul where he said " we no longer recognize Christ according to the flesh and so we no longer recognize one another that way either" (my off the cuff translation).

Nicole at Modern Reject got me thinking about this subject today when I read her post Are You a Saint or a Sinner?  Here is how her post begins:

We’ve all heard Christians say it and we’ve most likely said it ourselves: “I’m just a sinner saved by grace.”
We tell unbelievers that we are sinners just like them, only difference is, we’ve met Jesus, accepted His gift of salvation, and been saved.
And let me just say, this is completely false.
That’s right. We are lying when we speak these words. We are not sinners. We are something quite different…
You see, somewhere along the way Christians got the idea in their minds that they need to refer to themselves as “sinners” and not saints. Yet, the Bible, more specifically, the New Testament, does not refer to followers of Christ as sinners in the present tense.
(She has much more to say and there is some good dialogue in the comments so be sure to give it a look see and share your thoughts there.)

I recently read an article that made the argument that a Christian can no longer sin at all. In the article several points were made from different angles to prove this.  A couple of the points came to mind as I read Nicole's post.  The most notable is the argument that since sin is a violation of God's law which we are no longer under, then "sin" for a believer is different than sin outside of Christ. We can disobey and misbehave but we cannot violate the law since it no longer has jurisdiction over us. This is from a purely legal standpoint.  In terms of the progressing timeline of our faith, the old man was sold to sin under the law, the new man is free from the letter of the law but under the law of the Spirit. Interesting thoughts in my opinion even if it amounts to nothing more than mincing words to distinguish between the transgression of the believer and unbeliever.

How do you think the popularity of calling ourselves "sinners" even after we are in Christs affects our faith?  Do you think we should we discontinue using the term entirely for believers?

Monday, March 5, 2012

What if the resurrection is a hoax?

That is the question Jeremy asks on his blog Till He Comes.

In the post he talks about the bones that have been discovered that are supposedly the bones of Jesus. He pokes holes in the theory but then asks this very challenging question.

Here is my response:

It wouldn't change much in what I believe and do because as it is I believe something that I did not see, I cannot prove, and still have doubts about from time to time. Even so I have experienced the power of the resurrected Christ in my life and if he is not raised from the dead then what is that? My over active imagination? If so, then I'm content with that in the same way I am content with my occasional doubts.

If they could somehow prove that those were the bones of The man who claimed to be the son of God it wouldn't change much for me because it would still take a certain amount of faith in the legitimacy of the "proof" to nullify our hopes for eternal life in Christ.

Here is the link to his post, sorry it isn't neat and clean but I'm on my mobi.

What if it was a hoax? How would it change what you believe and do?