Saturday, January 30, 2010
Rick Leonardi/Terry Austin
Mark Bagley/Butch Guice
Friday, January 29, 2010
Jesus and The Law
But then she said something that sliced through my resistance.Said Dan:
“The Ten Commandments,” she told the other woman, “don’t apply to we Christians. We don’t need God’s Law!”
I still don’t know whether I was right in choosing to be polite rather than walking over to that windbag—forgive me, Jesus, but that’s what she was—and telling her, “Please be quiet, or you’re going to make that poor friend of yours as confused as you are!”
Where did she get the idea that the Ten Commandments had been rescinded because of Jesus? She certainly couldn’t have gotten it from Jesus.
One of the phenomena I continue to watch within some Evangelical and charismatic circles is an extreme dependence on the Old Testament, almost to the detriment of the New. I see people routinely going back to the OT to craft esoteric theologies made pointless by the death and resurrection of Christ. And I watch people fall into a weird, mystical legalism that seems superspiritual but in the end is nothing more than a negation of the work of Christ.Seemingly they arrive in very different places too - Dan is all about freedom and Mark all about the right place of the Law in our lives. But if you dig deep enough you find both address the same problem - "Isms."
Mark addresses what I would call "gracism" - that is to say that God's grace is so overwhelming that it makes no demands on us, causes no response, like an indulgent parent, once we are in God's grace, if we wreck the car, a new one appears. Dan, on the flip side, address the old tired and true "legalism." Efforts to earn our way into God's grace rather than understand the grace for what it truly is.
Both "isms" are symptoms of the same problem - a lack of humility. Humility counterbalances gracism because in humility we truly understand the extraordinary level of God's grace and cannot help but seek to be worthy of it. Humility counterbalances legalism because it knows that ultimately we fail to be so worthy and must rely upon the grace alone. In other words, isms result from a reliance on our own understanding instead of a fear of the Lord.
Both men, from very different perspectives, identify the same problem. Think about it.
- Follow your dream! Unless it's the one where you're at work in your underwear during a fire drill.
- Always take time to stop and smell the roses. Sooner or later, you'll inhale a bee.>p? Do not walk behind me, for I may not lead. Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow. Do not walk beside me, either. Just leave me alone.
- If you don't like my driving, don't call anyone. Just take another road. That's why the highway department made so many of them.>p?If a motorist cuts you off, just turn the other cheek. Nothing gets the message across like a good mooning.
- When I'm feeling down, I like to whistle. It makes the neighbor's dog run to the end of his chain and gag himself.
- It's always darkest before the dawn. So if you're going to steal the neighbors's newspaper, that's the time to do it.
- A handy telephone tip: Keep a small chalkboard near the phone. That way, when a salesman calls, you can hold the receiver up to it and run your fingernails across it until he hangs up.
- Into every life some rain must fall. Usually when your car windows are down.
- Just remember: You gotta break some eggs to make a real mess on the neighbors's car.
- It's a small world. So you gotta use your elbows a lot.
- Keep your nose to the grindstone and your shoulder to the wheel. It's a lot cheaper than plastic surgery.
- This land is your land. This land is my land. So stay on your land.
- Love is like a roller coaster: When it's good you don't want to get off and when it isn't, you can't wait to throw up.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
The Value of Denominations
There are a lot of reasons why I cling to my PC(USA) denomination, and why if I did leave it, I would go to another denomination, but put as succinctly as possible, it's because a denomination is the only institution I have found that can actually be the whole church. If you think about it, they are as old as the church itself, consider the so-called "Council in Jerusalem" recorded in Acts.
And why was that council called? For purposes of accountability. That's the first reason I believe in denominations. I have seen way too may congregations, even mega-congregations, go wrong. There is a need for a corrective force that is "outside." Only denominations can provide that. One of the reasons these questions are being asked in Baptists circles is because their convention has largely punted on that role. My own PC(USA) is increasingly doing the same thing. We might actually think more of denominations if they did what they were supposed to.
But more importantly, congregations, regardless of size, tend to only take on part of the total ministry that God intends for the church. They tend to "specialize." Evangelical churches in general tend to specialize in, unsurprisingly, evangelism. And while necessary, that's not church, that's para-church. There is something a bit wrong when something that chooses to call itself a church is acting more like Young Life than anything else.
Narrow definitions and limited experiences do not stretch us into the people that Jesus came to make us into. Even though we are all called at different points to different specialties (gifts, ministries, vocations - insert your word here) in the church, God has also called us to be first His in ALL aspects of life. We need to experience others who are specialists in aspects that we have, but may not concentrate on. We need their perspective, and we need to learn form them. For example, I will never agree to ordain practicing homosexuals in the PC(USA) - but I have learned much about how to appropriately express Christ's love to people struggling with a deep, personality-defining sin from those that would. And further, such insight informed me greatly about my deep, personality-defining problems.
The Glory of God, His grace, mercy and love are too large to be contained in anything other than the largest possible institution. We fail here everyday, but we cannot abandon the effort.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
This is a particular way of being acquainted with a piece of literature, one wherein you can “own” or contain it as a whole. We no longer need to memorize to have quick access to things, but memorization helps us get to know the rhythm, the cadence, the fabric of a piece in a way that mere rereading or quick reference doesn’t allow. It may also be worthwhile simply because we so rarely push ourselves to exercise our minds in this way any longer.I think she is right here. Memorization is a dying art. I once worked pretty hard to memorize scripture and still retain a good deal of it, but new memorization is not something I practice much anymore. Like the young people I tried to teach scripture memorization to a few years ago, the response was "why?" There are literally dozens of Bibles hanging around the house. My computer contains software with multiple translations and dozens, if not hundreds, of helps. My PDA/phone can find any word, anywhere in scripture faster than I can type in the word. So why bother with memorizing it?
Secondly, it’s undeniable that what we know already structures what we are capable of learning.
Because of that second point she makes, "...what we know already structures what we are capable of learning." What does it mean to be a transformed Christian? How is a "Christian" carpenter different than a non-Christian one? May I submit that scripture memory is one of the most significant ways.
A transformed Christian ideally lives in constant communion with the Lord. While I believe in the charismatic gifts, I do not enjoy them. I long to hear the voice of the Lord whisper in my ear. And when scripture pops to mind unbidden, I do. More than anything else, memorized scripture not only shapes what else I can learn, it also shapes my very perception of what is around me.
On the top of a mountain in Colorado there is a cross. I have been there a dozen times or more. On the cross it says, "Be still and know that I am God." (PS 46:10) I cannot look upon the glories of God's creation without that verse entering my mind.
It should be that way with every experience.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Each day, my email inbox fills with messages of conspiracy, worries of persecution, legal rights abridgments, last days mania, and so on. What troubles me most is that I don’t ever get these messages from unbelievers but only from the Body of Christ.I have to agree with his assessment there, even push it a bit deeper. Yes, we fear H1N1 and we fear persecution, and all that other stuff, but the are the leading edge of a deeper fear - we fear failure.
If I were a visitor from another planet come to investigate the blue planet Earth, my assessment of American Christians would be that they are the most frightened people on the planet and that large chunks of their day are spent worrying about one threat after another.
What about the fear that if we preach the whole gospel people will not come to church? What about the fear that prevents us from talking to our neighbor, obviously in need? What about the fears that get in the way of God doing His will in us and the world?
Fear is the easiest motivator for us to manipulate. Particularly in America we live in a world where our basic needs are cared for - without genuine worry about our next meal or shelter. And yet, we are primed, by our sinful nature, for struggle, and so we create it. And far be it from the church to avoid that trend. "If fear will keep them in the pews and puttin' in the plate, then far be it from me to teach them victory."
In his post, Dan has a long citation of scripture about how Christ removes our fear. They are great - why aren't they preached? I have a theory - a congregation of people truly fearless in faith would be darn hard to manage. They'd all be going off half-cocked to pursue some ministry that might or might not fit in "our vision." Lord help us all if one of them came along and taught a Sunday School class and proved to be a better preacher than, well, the preacher. Why, it would be chaos.
But then again, maybe it should be? After there is no chaos from God's perspective, only ours.
Monday, January 25, 2010
Legality v Love
Necessary disclaimer - I am not a Baptist, don't understand Baptist stuff - any comment I make here is not aimed at Baptists specifically, but it is aimed at any of my Christian Brethren, regardless of brand name, that would find this even an issue.
If the people that entered this discussion could see it from my perspective, I am not at all sure they would be happy. It looks so much like the Pharisees picking on Jesus for healing on the Sabbath that it's not even funny.
The bottom line is this - I have no idea what it is God will do in eternity with people that lack sufficient mental capability to engage in a meaningful confession of Jesus as Lord and Savior. I know the issue is incredibly complex. Forget the infant or person born of diminished capacity as we discuss here - what of my mother, once a faithful follower, but now completely incapable? Is she to be denied access to what the church has to offer becasue she can no longer function at a higher level. I hope not, because now she needs it more than ever.
See, that's the thing - I don't know what God will do in eternity, but I sure know that people like this need the church right now. And somehow, to deny them that is not an act anywhere reminiscent of God whose love was so deep that He incarnated, allowed His own crucifixion and was resurrected - an incarnated Lord that hung around with publicans and prostitutes.
The gospel is about grace - there is no grace here.
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Brief afterthought: I can easily see these words coming back to haunt me in a discussion of allowing homosexual ordination in my church - something I actively oppose. This discussion involves lack of capacity -- not sin. Even if one buys that homosexual orientation is a fundamental part of some persons make-up, they have a choice in practice, just as I as a heterosexual have a choice to practice my heterosexuality within certain constraints.