Saturday, May 15, 2010
Friday, May 14, 2010
Who It's Really About
Barbara Mertz has a complaint about Egypt’s Pharaoh Ramses II. In her book Temples, Tombs, and Hieroglyphs, archaeologist Mertz writes, “One gets so tired of Ramses; his face, his figure, and/or his name are plastered over half the wall surfaces still standing in Egypt—at least it seems that way.” Insatiably thirsty for glory, Ramses reveled in Egyptian religion, which taught that the pharaoh was divine.I could not help but reflect on the instance of so many in Christian circles about their...church...doctrine...music ministry...youth ministry...missions..."green" focus....
Contrast Ramses’ desire for glory with the attitude of Paul and Barnabas. On one of their missionary journeys, they faced a situation during which they refused to accept vainglory. When a crowd in the idolatrous city of Lystra saw them heal a crippled man, the people exclaimed, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” (Acts 14:11). They immediately prepared animals to sacrifice in honor of Paul and Barnabas. But the two quickly objected, saying, “We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God” (v.15).
Someone once told me that my blogs would have many more readers if I just engaged in some self-promotion. Churches do it endlessly - especially the "successful" ones. But it is made clear here that we are not interested in self promotion, but Christ promotion.
It is true that we are vessels of His Spirit, but somehow we almost always make it about the vessel and not the contents. Because we think biblically, we think of those vessels as made of clay, but somehow we need to learn to think of them as made of glass - transparent - we are jars. Transparency is the key.
So there may be a place for promotion, but only after we have learned how to be transparent. Maybe we should start with our prayers. - do you pray for success or transparency? Maybe if we start with the latter, things will get better.
Friday Humor - Classic!
Thursday, May 13, 2010
"Manna’s OK, but I long for milk and honey"
To me personally, it confirmed doubts and fears that had been growing for years about the inherent insecurity of serving in non-denominational churches. There is no safety net. No structures to provide support, counsel, and guidance. No mentors on the “apostolic” level beyond the local church to help. I learned the hard way that what I had feared was true: the pastor in a non-denominational evangelical church—succeed or fail—is on his own. I had “failed” in the light of some unwritten standard so, vocationally, I was out in the cold with few options.I also really liked this bit:
Pastoral issues were not my only concerns. For years, I’d had a growing dissatisfaction with evangelicalism’s lack of tradition, historical perspective, reverence and order in worship. I resisted its programmed approach to spiritual growth, its bourgeois commitments that blatantly disregard the NT emphasis on sacrificial service and inclusion of the poor and disenfranchised, its “temple” mentality that has little sense of serving Christ in daily life and instead revolves around what happens in the institution and its programs.It is the kind of heartfelt, personal description of issues that impacts both the mind and the heart. Which is also what gives this blog post its power.
Evangelicalism’s lack of theological thoughtfulness and depth had bothered me increasingly over the years. I cringed at the moralism of its sermons, its “me and Jesus” approach to the spiritual life, the celebrity status of its pastors, the crass and unabashed commercialism of its media industries. The endless dissemination of Protestant groups, each claiming its own “biblical” way with no more authority than an open Bible and the assertion that the Spirit is leading strained all credulity that this was God at work.
You see, God wishes to change our mind and our hearts and our very souls. But so often we offer so little. The summary phrase in the title is so apt. We wander in the wilderness, satisfied with the manna God provides, but He has promised us a land of milk and honey, if only we believed in the promise.
It makes me wonder. Do you think that during the Israelites time in the wilderness, they had a lot of individuals who thought they had a better way and wandered off into the desert to try for themselves? We certainly are treated to no such tales.
I don't think they did - see I think they understood the value of community far more than we do. It is what makes us uniquely American. Our challenge is different than theirs. Ours to work out how to be a part of an imperfect community.
Are you trying - or are you wandering off into the wilderness?
Related Tags: Illuminated Scripture
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
In one form or another, they are champions of "organic church." The term is fluid, but it contains at least three ingredients: Frustration with the-church-as-we-know-it, a focus on people (vs. programs) and mission (vs. institutional maintenance), and a vision to transform the world.Matt Milliner @ Evangel quotes Jason Byassee on young ministers attitudes towards institutions:
That the organic church movement will crash, I have no doubt. Every renewal movement in church history has either derailed immediately or produced temporary renewal at the expense of long-term unintended consequences.
Another sign of hope is the posture of these young ministers toward institutions. Many of my former seminary classmates left the ministry after they tried to fix things at warp speed. They tried to make the whole church pacifist. Or inerrantist. Or as inclusive as they are in their enlightened, tolerant state. All in a year or two. They wrote some articles, served a church or two, went to some conferences, and it just didn’t work. So they became Latin-Mass Catholics, for whom Pope Benedict XVI is a dangerous liberal with too compromising a posture vis-à-vis the modern world. Or they became bicycling, farmers-market shopping crusaders against carbon-based fuels. Now they look at people like us and are puzzled: “Why are you still messing around with church and those same old pitiful problems?” In their impatience they fail to see that God chooses to save corporately, through institutions… God saves by Israel and the church after all – it should be no surprise to anyone who’s even glanced at the Bible or church history that institutions are often corrupt. And as the young ministers often showed me, institutions are the most beautiful thing there is.Whay is it Ecclesiastes 1:13-15 comes to mind? (...all is vanity...)
Any Christian taking seriously their faith understands both the frustration with and attraction to institutions and institutionalization. This I know - the problem is not institutions, but people. Most of the Christian institutions I know have a lot that should make them work well, but corruption is inevitable because we are inevitably corrupt.
So, the first order of business is to do our best to allow the Holy Spirit to remove our own corruption - and that must remain priority one for our lives. Next we want to do what we can to enable that in those immediately around us. The institution needs to be a bit down our list of priorities because only if they are properly ordered can we expect the institutions to even begin to get it right.
What are your priorities?
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
And at the peak of this unprecedented prosperity, David had committed such heinous sin. Why? How could he have resisted so many temptations in dangerous, difficult days and then yield at the height of success?The other post is from iMonk in his continuing personal struggle between Roman Catholicism, thus joining his wife, and his own Baptist Protestantism:
Almost as soon as the question formed in his mind he knew the answer. Pride. Monstrous, self-obsessed pride.
Honored by his God, a hero to his people, a terror to his enemies, surrounded by fawning assistants and overflowing affluence, the poisonous weed of self-worship had grown insidiously in David’s heart. The lowly shepherd that God had plucked by sheer grace from Bethlehem’s hills to serve as king had been eclipsed in his own mind by David the Great, the savior of Israel—a man whose exalted status entitled him to special privileges.
We are “Happy Enough” Protestants. A strange title, I know, but an important one. We are happy enough as Protestants to remain Protestants, and we are happy to be protestant. We seek to practice a kind of Protestantism that is not characterized by unrest, anxiety and anger in relations with Catholicism. Our goal, in simple terms, is to be happy to be Protestant because we are happy in Christ and the Gospel that we find in Protestantism, even with all its flaws.Extensive quotation, I know, but do you see the connection? David's success bred price which lead to sin. The Catholic church's success bred pride which led to Reformation. Protestantisms success has led to pride which leads us to a flawed church and many back to a Roman church that has expressed repentance for much. The church mirrors our own pattern of sin and pride.
We are not seeking to evangelize Roman Catholics or to sell our churches as superior. We regret the rhetoric that commodifies church and Christian experience to “mine is better than yours.” We seek, instead, to embody what Paul so often talked about in his letters: Joy in Christ in the midst of a historically imperfect church.
We regret that for many of our Protestant brothers and sisters, it has not been possible to be Protestant and be faithful to Christ or happy in the church. We may have found this difficult and discouraging at times, but we have not found it impossible. We believe our Protestant experience can be filled with Christ, the legacy of the whole church and the distinctives of both evangelicalism and catholicism.
We are “Happy Enough Protestants” because we believe that God, in his providence, called us to this part of his one, holy, catholic and apostolic body/church. We accept, even celebrate, his providence in allowing us to hear the Gospel clearly and simply in Protestantism, to be taught in its churches and schools, allowed to serve in its ministries, sit at the feel of its scholars and pastors, be inspired by its mission’s legacy, learn from its saints, be challenged by its openness to the Spirit and renewed by its ability to return, again and again, to the Bible for authority, nurture and truth.
We recognize the checkered, broken past of Protestantism, but we are happy in much of what we find in that past. We believe that though they were sinners, Luther, Calvin, Arminius, Wesley, Whitefield, Cramner, the Puritans, Spurgeon, Asbury, Ryle, The Baptists, Edwards and many other Protestant lights were called and gifted of God for the building up of his church and the equipping of his saints. We believe that within the Protestant tradition, God continues to call, equip, build, empower and demonstrate the presence of the Kingdom through his people.
We are “happy enough” to not despise ourselves or torture ourselves over what is missing in our tradition. We will, in a joyous spirit, work for restoration and the strengthening of the church. We pray that the work of the Spirit will unite all churches with the riches of Christ, but we believe those riches are accessible to us all by grace through faith and in the humble reception of the word of God.
We are “happy enough” to rejoice in the many statements of gracious inclusion and respect that have been offered in the ecumenical spirit, most particularly by the Roman Catholic church in Vatican II. But we are also “happy enough” to say we view the reformation as those who have benefited from it, and feel the responsibility to treasure and protect what was good and continually necessary in it. We believe that a tragic necessity need not remove all joy and mutual affection, nor abrogate the presence of all that is of value. We are determined in generosity and charity, to not allow all that the Reformation recovered to vanish in debates about authority and antiquity. God has sovereignly and graciously been at work in Protestantism, as well as in all Christian traditions.
Which is why, in the end, it is so important that the church call us to repentance, so that each of us individually, may call it to the same.
Does you church routinely examine its own expressions of pride?
Monday, May 10, 2010
Setting Our Sights
Mr. Barnes encouraged me to set my sights on something even greater. He envisioned me clearing 6-2, maybe even 6-4. Perhaps I could medal in the league championships. But something happened in me once I cleared six feet. I had fulfilled my great expectations. Or, you might say, I had fulfilled my less-than-great expectations. Something in me believed that I could go no higher. And so, as you can imagine, I went no higher. No amount of training or encouragement could get me over anything beyond six feet. My mind set the limit I would never exceed.There is a serious lesson these for evangelicalism. we set our sights on salvation when it is something far greater that God has in mind for us. He does not wish us to be merely saved, but remade. Our goal is not to get into heaven, but to restore creation to that which He made it to be.
As I think back on my lackluster high jumping career, I have often considered how my expectations both urged me on and then limited me. Somehow, I knew deep inside that I could get to six feet. And, somehow, I also knew deep inside that I simply couldn’t go any higher. I wonder what would have happened if I had allowed myself to dream big. Of course I’ll never know, because now I think it’s a feat worthy of a medal if I can jump up into my bed.
I wonder where in my life today I’m limiting myself by my less-than-great expectations. What are my “six-foot-barriers” now?
More - our Lord is far more than merely our coach. His is not a suggestion that we are free to ignore. When we fail to meet His undeniably higher-than-our-own expectations we are unaligned with His will.
There is something else to think about too - When we do endeavor to "dream big" we need to do it on His terms. Note that Mark's coach did not set goals for him that had to do with achieving heights, not winning medals. Too often when we seek think big, we set goals that are more like winning medals that achieving performance. We wan the nicest sanctuary or the biggest attendance, but those, like medals, are things that depend on the particular competition and factors out of our control. What we should focus on is who we are and how close we are coming to being who God intended us to be.