Saturday, May 01, 2010
Friday, April 30, 2010
Outlining The End
The ways of destroying the church are many and colorful. Raw factionalism will do it. Rank heresy will do it. Taking your eyes off the cross and letting other, more peripheral matters dominate the agenda will do it-admittedly more slowly than frank heresy, but just as effectively over the long haul. Building the church with superficial ‘conversions’ and wonderful programs that rarely bring people into a deepening knowledge of the living God will do it. Entertaining people to death but never fostering the beauty of holiness or the centrality of self-crucifying love will build an assembling of religious people, but it will destroy the church of the living God. Gossip, prayerlessness, bitterness, sustained biblical illiteracy, self-promotion, materialism-all of these things, and many more, can destroy a church. And to do so is dangerous: ‘If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple (1 Cor. 3:17).” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.I read that - several times - and was saying "Amen - AMEN - AMEN!!!!!!" in my mind, and then it struck me - Can those things really destroy the church? I mean, here we are some 2000 years after Jesus walked the earth - all of those things have happened in "the church" countless times and yet somehow, the church is still here. We are fractured and split, we engage in endless debate about "the truth," we call each other heretics all the time - but here we are.
Those things have destroyed congregations, even denominations, but have they destroyed the church? - of course not! But it should also be remembered that congregations and denominations that have fallen into those things have been redeemed. God saves us from ourselves over and over and over again.
There is, frankly, nothing more humiliating than grace. Damnation allows us to slink defiantly into our godforsaken eternity. But grace, well, grace makes us eventually look our need for it square in the eye. I am wondering if there is not just a bit of defiance in proclaiming what can end that which God has preserved for millenia? Proclaiming what is wrong, what is sin, this we are called to do - but proclaiming the end of something, declaring its death - particularly when it is something that God wishes desperately to save? I wonder if that is not substituting our judgment for His?
Funny how sin begats so much sin, even in the name of that which is holy.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Open from 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., weekdays, the Riverside program costs $5 an hour for a “jam-packed” day that includes discussion and reminiscing, chair exercises, sports games — a recent session had seniors playing tabletop bowling — lunch, snacks, bingo and other activities.Since I am sort of living this right now, albeit by long distance, I am compelled to comment.
The focus is on “empowerment,” allowing attendees to engage in supervised activities and tasks that will help them achieve success.
“What we find is they come out of their shells,” Zarb noted. He said sometimes caregivers may strengthen a loved one's feeling of helplessness by constantly diverting their attention and discouraging their participation in simple tasks.
This is an area of ministry that churches should, even MUST, get involved in. The adult day care thing may or may not be the way to go because there are lots of options out there on how to cope with old infirmed parents, and its good to have choices. What is really necessary, and should accompany such an adult day care center, or any other approach, is ministry to the caregivers. e all know its emotionally tough - but note closely the comments about empowerment for the "patient."
Too often we seek to manage our elderly, particularly those with health issues, rather than help them. It is true - there are limits to their capabilities, but they will find happiness from using those capabilities to their fullest.
Most churches work very hard to help people parent, but this is such a neglected area in comparison, and yet the challenges are not at all dissimilar. The only difference seems to be our attitude - children represent potential, and the elder seems to be taking steps to death.
But have you ever considered that we are all on the inevitable road to death from the moment of our birth? For the elderly, they are indeed farther along the road, but it is the same journey, and are they not entitled to the same dignity and worth as anyone else on that journey? Is it not our job to help them find it, as it is with everyone else we encounter in our own journey?
WE need to figure out how to call people to accountability on their attitudes towards the elderly,, and particularity those we are charged with caring for. Too often we view that caregiving as chore, or burden, or adjunct. It's not - it is a charge of God as is any other caregiving situation, child, spouse, whatever. This are not people to be managed.
They are to be loved, even if it hurts becasue of who they used to be. We meet them where they are.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
"Embrace Our Brokenness"
The complexity resides right here: Faith is discontentment with what I am, and satisfaction with all God is for me in Jesus. The reason that description works so well for me is that it tells us the mark of saving faith is not just resting passively in the promises of the Gospel (though that is exactly what justification does), but this ongoing war with the reality of my condition. Unless I am reading Romans 8 wrongly, my fight is never finished, because my sinful, messed-up human experience isn’t finished until death and resurrection. That fight- acceptance and battle- is the normal life of the believer. I fight. Jesus will finish the work. I will groan, and do battle, climb the mountain of Holiness with wounds and brokenness and holy battle scars, but I will climb it, since Christ is in me. The Gospel assures victory, but to say I stand in a present victory as I “kill” sin is a serious wrong turn.That is powerful imagery. Michael goes on to explain why this matters so much:
Now, let’s come to something very important here. This constant emphasis on the “victorious life” or “good Christian life” is absolutely the anti-Christ when it comes to the Gospel. If I am _________________ (fill in the blank with victorious life terminology) then I am oriented to be grateful for what Jesus did THEN, but I’m needing him less and less in the NOW. I want to make sure he meets me at the gate on the way into heaven, but right now, I’m signing autographs. I’m a good Christian. This imagining of the Christian journey will kill us.I am not sure I can improve on this much - ought to leave it alone - but a phrase pops into my mind - "The Good News in kinda bad news." The Gospel means we cannot look away from our sin - that's what the unsaved do - rather we have to look it in the face - that's bad news. We cannot hide from ourselves anymore. In manyw ays, what Jesus does is hold our chins, point our face at ourselves and screams "LOOK!" The good news is not that what we gaze upon is somehow fixed, but rather that He is standing there with us - that's all - what once was more than we could handle on our own - is still more than we can handle on our own - we just have help, barely.
We need our brokenness. We need to admit it and know it is the real, true stuff of our earthly journey in a fallen world. It’s the cross on which Jesus meets us. It is the incarnation he takes up for us. It’s what his hands touch when he holds us. Do you remember this story? It’s often been told, but oh how true it is as a GOSPEL story (not a law story.) It is a Gospel story about Jesus and how I experience him in this “twisted” life.
Screwtape tells Wormwood:
And that is where the troughs come in. You must have often wondered why the Enemy does not make more use of His power to be sensibly present to human souls in any degree He chooses and at any moment. But you now see that the Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of His scheme forbids Him to use. Merely to over-ride a human will (as His felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo. For His ignoble idea is to eat the cake and have it; the creatures are to be one with Him, but yet themselves; merely to cancel them, or assimilate them,will not serve. He is prepared to do a little overriding at the beginning. He will set them off with communications of His presence which, though faint, seem great to them, with emotional sweetness, and easy conquest over temptation. But He never allows this state of affairs to last long. Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs—to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best. We can drag our patients along by continual tempting, because we design them only for the table, and the more their will is interfered with the better. He cannot "tempt" to virtue as we do to vice. He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles. Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger, than when a human, no longer desiring, but intending, to do our Enemy's will , looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.That thought is what makes Spencer's war imagery so good.
Let's go to war.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Fear has a way of keeping our relationships shallow and our friendships surface level. Fear has a way of keeping others at arm's length, even those who appear to be safe.I am now going to say something very strange - the fact that church produces fear of intimacy is good - it means that the church is intimate, so people that fear intimacy fear the church.
In our rush to save the world, the spread the gospel to everyone, to bring all into the church, we forget something:
Eccl 3:1-11Not everyone is supposed to be in church - at least not at this moment. God has to bring some things to fruition in people's lives before they are prepared to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ - certainly before they are prepared to respond to it.
There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven--
A time to give birth, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot what is planted.
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to tear down, and a time to build up.
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
A time to throw stones, and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace, and a time to shun embracing.
A time to search, and a time to give up as lost; a time to keep, and a time to throw away.
A time to tear apart, and a time to sew together; a time to be silent, and a time to speak.
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.
What profit is there to the worker from that in which he toils? I have seen the task which God has given the sons of men with which to occupy themselves.He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.
That is very hard for us to understand because when you have the most wonderful thing - EVER - you naturally think everyone else should enjoy the benefits thereof as well.
But see, the gospel is not a possession we share. It is a force that transforms us into the shape God intends us to be in.
Lately, I am doing some woodworking for relaxation. What many people do not realize is the amount of prep that goes into getting a piece of wood ready to mill into the shape you want it for the piece you are making. Before you can cut a piece of wood into a rectangular shape of some dimension, you have to make sure it is flat and the edges are actual right angles so that your measurements have meaning of any sort. Ofttimes, such prep requires more effort that the actually milling of the pieces.
So it is with us. Sometimes, before God can turn us into His people - He has to prepare us in some way - like bring us to a point where we can even deal with intimacy.
Which means that one of the biggest secrets of being the church is to figure out who is prepared and who is not.
Monday, April 26, 2010
Mark Of The Christian
So we come again to the question: Could the theology of the cross be the litmus test of genuine Christianity in our day? The corrupt and the counterfeit push aside the whole concept of cross bearing in favor of a joy without it. Fake Christianity offers the Christian an imitation of Christ’s glory in heaven, not of his humiliation on earth. The phony and the artificial church turns worship into a spiritual happy hour devoid of repentance, with cheap absolution, with no thought of taking God seriously in either the law or the gospel. And people love it. They still get to be their own god, their own bible, their own source of ultimate truth and salvation.If there is such a thing as "self-defeating wisdom," I think we have here encountered it. The author, Daniel M. Deutschlander, has put his finger on so much that is wrong with the church, but to identify all of it, and then try to come up with a "litmus test" to counter it sort of defies reasons to me. All of the ills he so well defines are the result of other litmus tests. Yes, a missing decent theology of the cross seems to be a common denominator - but litmus test is an idea that should be rejected.
There is no judge but Christ, and when we establish a "litmus test," any such test, we imply that we have a handle on it and are capable of judging. We are not capable of judging and we can have no such handle, for we are NOT God.
This does not mean the church is some sort of "free-for-all." God has given us some pretty clear behavioral standards to enforce, but even that is a step short of judgment about who is and who is not a "real" Christian - it's a simple statement of "to be a part of this, you have to act in this way."
God works in all lives and He does so in the way that is best suited to the individual. God created us to be free creatures, not to be robots that look exactly alike. The sooner we, as His followers, can wrap our heads around that, the sooner we will take a giant step towards being who we were created to be.