Monday, August 03, 2015

 

Preaching Into Diversity

Richard Mouw:
I have been hearing a lot in Christian circles in recent years about the need to support people in their diverse “vocations.” That is a healthy emphasis—as long as that diversity includes serious attention to the vocations of people sitting in wheelchairs in retirement communities and a teenage boy who is trying to summon up the courage to ask a girl on a date.
Amen

Saturday, August 01, 2015

 

Comic Art

Iconic Covers

This one changed everything.




Friday, July 31, 2015

 

Perfpheral Vision

Preston Yancey:
I tend to see God most when I don’t try to look directly at God. If I overthink an activity as being spiritual, I miss the ways in which God was already at work in it. But if I go about it with a kind of open expectation that because the Holy Spirit dwells within me God will be present, I find God surprising me with the ways God saturates a space, a practice, a habit as ordinary as planning a week’s meals.
God is not a blunt instrument. He is subtle and gentle and pervasive, not overwhelming and bombastic.

God will not change the world through big things, but little. He is not all that interested in movements, governments and philosophies of same. He is far more interested in the individuals governing and how they do it. And it's not the big decisions they make but rather the grace with which they make them. Good people, God's people can amke those things work regardless of the particular system.

Sure God cares if you are an engineer or an artist, but He cares far more that you a good, godly engineer, or that you are a good, godly artist. It is not what we do, but how we do it.

Good does not invade, He creeps in from the periphery until He colors and shapes everything. That which is conquered rebels, that which is transformed embraces the transformation. God wants to transform us.


 

Friday Humor


Thursday, July 30, 2015

 

Yes, It Is!

Peter Chin @ CT:
What could have the church shared with her instead? Well, they could have told her the words of the Apostle Paul, and how he says in 1 Corinthians 7 that if possible, it is better for someone to remain unmarried and be completely focused on the things of God. They could have shared the words of Jesus in Mark 12, that in heaven, there won't be the same concept of "marriage" as we know now because we will share that type of relationship with Christ, and with all Believers. They could have told her about Acts 2, and the joyful community of the early church through which one entered not through marriage but baptism, a family of faith. They could have shared the words of Revelation, and how virgins and unmarried people are given a high place of honor. They could have shared the stories of monks and nuns and ascetics, all godly people who devoted their lives to both total community and total celibacy.

Or they could have shared more soberly and honestly about marriage, and how even though marriage is good, it is not perfect. In addition to sharing about the wonders of marriage, they could have included a description of its inherent difficulties, that there are depths of pain and anger and hardship that are reserved only for married couples. Instead of hiding the difficulties of marriage behind the curtains of euphemism and propriety, they could have been honest and open, and in so doing, revealed to single people that marriage is not at all a haven from sin, hurt, loss, loneliness, or pain, not in the least.

Or they could have simply said, "You know, it's totally okay to be single."
I agree with this very much, but to it would add one other thing. Churches need to help singles "grow up." I don't know how else to put it. Marriage brings some levels of maturity that are very difficult to obtain otherwise - at least in our current society. Marriage pulls one out of oneself in ways it is hard to imagine when single. The church can supply the necessary conditions to produce that maturity, but it often fails to do so.

I think that is the point that Chin is trying to make here. Rather than urge the single person to get married to "grow up," the church ought provide a sufficient community to allow the single person many of the same benefits. Not a "singles group" for crying out loud - they're awful. No, I'm talking about genuine community with ALL believers.

Think about it.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

 

Worth Thinking About

Jeff Dunn:
Graduation gave way to marriage, then children. We found ourselves moving several times between Ohio and Oklahoma, with a one-year exile to Orlando. Each move brought a new church home, always staying in evangelicalism. (Including six years in a Methodist church—but it was a charismatic Methodist church …) And with each stop I felt farther and farther from the God whom I loved. I was no longer experiencing discipleship. I was being pampered and coddled. Instead of being shown how to love one another, even when it is hard to do so, I was told just how special I was to God. Instead of communion being the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world, it was about how partaking would bring me healing and strength and blessing. I was told that if I believed the right beliefs (which seemed to be a moving target), Jesus would come into my heart and be my personal savior, with the emphasis on personal. Leaders of these churches planned and worked to meet my “felt needs.” Evangelical books I was given to read were just self-help platitudes with scriptures dropped in here and there. Worship songs talked about how good it feels to be loved by God rather than the rich theology of those dusty old hymns. There was very little theology, as a matter of fact, very little need to train my mind to think of God. After all, God thinks good thoughts of me all day, and that is all that matters.

[...]

My first love had turned into a plodding existence, saying and doing all the right things so as to fit in with all of the others who passed through the Total Perspective Vortex and came out smiling smugly that they were they center of all things. I had become Mary and Joseph, walking three days back to their hometown before they discovered Jesus wasn’t with them. He was about his Father’s business, while I was about my own.

I longed for, yearned for, a return to my first love. I sought programs and activities and services to get me there. I got up earlier and prayed more and read more and did more. I fasted and confessed and … and then I just gave up. That is when God met me. About six years ago the Lord began emptying me of myself. He began to strip away the nice Christian wallpaper I had put over my real self. He helped me to see that I really am just a tiny dot on a tiny dot in the vastness of things, and that was freeing to me. For with myself so small, I could once again begin to see just how big and wonderful and awe-full God truly is. Now I find silence to be louder and sweeter than Christian noise, and I find it much more peaceful to have simple dreams than big dreams.

So I have come to the 40 year mark of my journey of faith with barely any faith left. The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years before they finally assembled before Joshua at the edge of the Jordan, ready to enter the land promised to them. I’m sure it took those last several years to get everyone fed up enough and tired enough and hungry enough to leave the familiar wilderness for the unknown. And once they crossed over, things were not easy for them. There was much building and fighting and learning and praying and believing to be done. The last several years of my life have been years of upheaval and tumult and pain and hunger and a longing for Jesus as he knows himself to be, not as I think he is in my own Total Perspective Vortex. I will not be the center of things when I cross the river. And I am now prepared to cross over.

I am at the river’s edge. But for me, the river is not marked Jordan.

It is the Tiber.
Read The Whole Thing.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

 

How Do You Pray?

Jeff Brumley @ Baptist News Global:
A new poll has revealed something religious leaders have known for years: Americans are pretty self-centered when they pray.

And even when not praying for themselves, they are praying for family, friends and favorite teams — which, pastors say, often amounts to the same thing.
The article goes on to interview Baptist preachers that give some pretty old and hackneyed "solutions" to this problem. But the problem isn't prayer, it is much deeper.

We live in a world that is about fulfilling felt needs. The church, rather than teaching that there is more to life than the satisfaction of felt needs has catered to the trend in order to "remain relevant" and "succeed." This trend in prayer is just one symptom of the bigger issue. When church is reduced to salvation, what else do you expect?

The church has ceased to move people towards maturity. The "solutions" cited in this article are things I discussed in the 1970's in classes for new Christians. They do not move one towards maturity, they simple get one started.

But then to teach more we have to know more and have put it to use. Hmmmm...


Monday, July 27, 2015

 

Do Guns Kill People or Do People Kill People?

Christian Platt argues in a piece entitled "Is the Internet Killing Christianity?" that the egalitarian nature of the internet is doing a way with the gatekeeping functions of institutions, specifically the church. And further, he argues that this is what God intended all along:
But Jesus has been calling us to such radical abandonment of the “gatekeeper” model of religion from the very beginning of Christianity.
Here I think Platt takes the Reformation idea of all men as priests and pushes it a bit too far. Indeed we do not need intermediaries between ourselves and God, but we desperately need leaders.

It should be obvious to anyone paying attention that there is probably more bad information on the internet than good. We all know people that have spouted information from the internet without any real understanding of the context in which the information is/was offered, or of the ramifications of that information. In other words they don't know what they know.

I would look at this from a slightly different angle. The internet could very well help the church focus on being what God intended it to be. The church is not a purveyor of information, it is a purveyor of wisdom and a developer of character. These things cannot be acquired solely by reading or watching a video - they require experience and a human touch. This view does not remove the gatekeeper function so much as it changes the basis on which the gate is opened and closed.

The key question is will the institutions be able to see and adapt to this reorientation? Platt thinks not, he seems to think institutions will be eliminated altogether. I disagree. I think some religious institutions will adapt and many will fail, but there will always be institutions. As the church organized and replaced the Jewish authority, as the protestant churches replaced, in some areas, the Catholic church, so new institutions will arise in the death of the current ones.

Gate keeping is a necessary function to virtually any human endeavor. The problem is not gate keeping, it is whether it is well done or not.


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