Wednesday, December 27, 2006

I don't like the new Blogger

I don't like the new Blogger layout. They do not list previous titles on the side like they used to(except for this month). Therefore, readers don't get a listing of previous titles that might catch their eye. So here are the titles and links to everything from 2006.

Monday, December 18, 2006

I do note vote in favor of election....

There was a time in my Christianity when I was right. I was Charasmantic... Full Gospel... how much more right could you be than that?

Then life happens.

At this point you can do one of three things:
  • Hunker down and refuse to hear anything but the thoughts within your own group (you may listen to other arguments, but you know from the beginning you are right. So you, at most, only tolerate the deluded around you).
  • Abandon your faith. Having found a chink in your armor, you throw away everything in a resentful rage.
  • Eat some humble pie. Discover you are not half as smart as you think you are and learn to hold ideas with open hands.

Having grown up being right, I learned little about other people's ideas of God. So, in my latter years, I am having to play catch-up.

I have discovered that my thoughts this past decade line-up with a lot of things within something called "The Emergent Church" movement. Since I visit the blogs of a lot of these folks, I also come into contact with the blogs of many of their detractors. It seems (and here I say "seems" with heavy emphasis) that a lot of folks who cling to Calvanism take issue with the Emergent Church.

I always knew Calvanists were into predestination/election (the idea that God chose who would go to Heaven and who would go to Hell before anyone did anything), but I never really gave it much thought. However, I got into a discussion with a gentleman on his blog recently and it clarified for me how troubled I am with that idea. I commented on a post where he was stating his belief in predestination. I will post my comment and our brief conversation, then comment some more.


Andrew 7:56 PM
I could never put full stock in to election... This post confirmed that opinion. I grant that there is scripture that could lead one to that conclusion, but only if you ignore a heckalot of other scripture. I am not sure how it will pan out, but I am pretty confident God was not saying... "and you will be saved, and you too, but not you, hmmm how bout' you, you, and you, mmm not you, and not that one either..." If true, we are ruled by a psycho!

SB 9:01 PM
I'd like to see you defend that biblicaly. God elects people alright. It's all over the bible.

Andrew 10:28 PM
Is there a single scripture I could produce that you would not refute? You obviously believe wholeheartedly in election. The most you and I could do is play biblical ping-pong for the observers and each side would go away with the same view they previously held. Been in those conversations before?

Let me rather ask a question. Though my description of the thought line of a God of election above was absurd, is your view much different? Is that how you see God?

I have committed about 10 books of scripture to memory. I say this not as a boast, but to make a point. One of the unforeseen outcomes is that I started to see scripture by themes rather than statements. For example… I could remove all the scripture where God states that he loves man, yet, when I read the rest of scripture I would still come to that conclusion…. God loves us.

I don’t get that when it comes to election. Remove those verses and there would be nothing about the rest of scripture that would point in that direction. So for me, it leaves it suspect. There is scripture to defend and refute election. There is scripture to defend and refute grace vs. works. Pre, post, mid-trib? Whom shall I believe? The theologian who argues his point better? The one who produces the longest list of verses?

I honestly don’t have a big opinion about election. It is one of those scriptural oddities that seems to run contrary to other scripture ... yet there it is. To me, it is what happens when the eternal is explained in temporal language… it doesn’t quite fit. It can’t. In the same way a three dimensional being could never accurately describe himself in words to a world of two dimensions. I honestly think when people asked Jesus, “What is the Kingdom of God like?”, he had to think for a second. He must have thought, how do I put this, when they have absolutely NO frame of reference? Well, guys… ya see….. it's kind of like….. a mustard seed….

What concerns me is why people so doggedly want to defend election? Why? What is the motivation? To have a point of argument? To be more right than someone else? If one wants to lean toward election, I can’t totally dismiss them because it is a scriptural point… but why can there be no allowance for another view?

God chose the metaphor of a Father. He thought that was one of the best ways to describe himself to us. To buy into election, as people tend to interpret it, I would need to be comfortable with a God who is pro-choice – one who can toss his child in the trash can on a whim.

SB 9:47 PM
God would never toss his child....for someone to be his child he has to recieve Christ. The one's who get "tossed" aren't his kids. Other than that, I'd just say to you to use scripture as your standard, not make up your own ideas...


It bothers me when people respond, but don't really address my points. To me, it shows they don't know how to listen; they only know how to monologue. Being right requires monologue, not dialogue. To the absolutist, dialogue is tantamount to compromise.

Part of me wanted to respond back, but I am trying not to fall into the trap of needing to be right. Anyone who knows me knows I luuuv to be right, so it is something God is chipping away at. But if one needs a scriptural reference for my belief I will give one... well, two... and we could go on.

First, God is no respecter of persons. When I get to something in scripture I don't understand, I cling to the character of God. Does predestination sync with how God presents himself?

He desires all men to be saved. God would have to be a complete bi-polar or schizophrenic if he both desired a person's salvation, offered a way of salvation, but then put that person outside salvation's reach.

Again, if the concept of election/predestination mattered at all Jesus would have taught it, Paul would have taught it, Peter would have taught it..... not cryptically mention it, TAUGHT it.

I know scripture mentions it, I don't deny it. It is the conclusion of Calvinists I find unsupportable. If their view is accurate, then I will pass on Heaven. Their view makes God into as big a jerk as any I have met on this planet; as big a jerk as me....

.... and I need to worship someone greater than myself.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Apocalypto - move along folks, there is nothing to see here.

Violence doesn’t bother me, so my objection to this film doesn’t stem from that (though that is the core of many critical reviews I read). I am bothered that Gibson portrays it as being meaningful, when it bordered on pointless. Beyond that, Apocalypto was a used storyline.

I went in knowing a smattering of pre-Columbian history, so I was looking forward to a bit of insight into Mayan culture. Instead, very little is displayed of Mayan culture – except the human sacrifice part… we stayed there for a bit. In fact, we were treated to the view of a head bouncing down the stairs of the pyramid, from the head’s perspective (there’s a new ride idea for Universal Studios).

Used storyline? Yep. This movie was Rambo/Predator B.C. Our hero is pursued into his jungle by 7 Mayans, whom he proceeds to pick off one by one. It was such a used premise, it almost started to seem like a “Scary Movie” parody. At one point, the hero catches his main enemy in a pig trap… three spikes through the torso. He walks up to look at him in his eye. I found myself clutching my popcorn. “Say it! Say it,” I cried. I just so wanted him to snarl and say in a perfect Arnold accent - “Stick around!”

I wouldn’t want to spoil the ending, but I couldn’t cause you know where it will end by the first hour. Gibson obviously wanted one of those M. Night Shyamalan endings. It looked like one, but it didn’t feel like it. There was such a big build up to it; the natives looking stunned, out at the ocean. The moment kept hanging til I think half the audience was thinking “Just show the damn Europeans!” When the moment came, it was so cliché I was more in danger of barfing at that moment then when the heads were bouncing.

To me, this movie failed the way Lucas’s last three Star Wars movies failed. Lucas became absorbed in neato special effects, and forgot to infuse the movies with story. Gibson is falling into the same trap with graphic gore. The violence in Braveheart had a point, and it sat amidst a good story.

Apocalypto doesn’t offer anything that Predator and Rambo didn’t; and those two were more fun to watch.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Thanks to the bands of my youth

My friend Brook wrote on this topic recently in his blog, so pop over there and give his a read. We were in sync that day, he just wrote his first. :) He gave some of the same critiques I would, so I am just gonna share my thank you's.

I was appreciating my Ipod's ability to stitch live tracks together while I was working out the other day. I was listening to Fireworks Live, the first album I ever owned. Later in my workout, I clicked over to Petra's Captured in Time and Space and rolled to the Praise session. Ahhh the good old days!

As I listened, I was thinking about how much my faith and theology was shaped by so many of those bands. I will probably miss some (I'll add later) and this thank you will probably never be seen by any of the bands, but some of you reading may share many of these thoughts and memories.

Daniel Amos - What can I say? You were my first love. You were the first one to put in my head that maybe Christianity did not have to be lived the way I was taught. Even prior to my conversion, you were already stirring rebellious thoughts. Thanks!

Keith Green - You left us too soon. You showed me what it was to throw off everything and follow Christ. The sheep and the goats still reminds me about how petty perhaps all of our doctrines truly are.

Randy Stonehill - "You are the light" on Equator was probably one of the first songs that really drew me into worship. Sunday morning choruses never did much for me, but when I listened to that song I worshiped.

Steve Taylor - You always felt like the older brother who would give me good advice. I felt that so long as Steve wouldn't have cause to write a funny song about what I am doing, I must be ok.

Undercover - "Branded" affects me to this day. Hard to pick out which song affected me most. There was a verse in Darkest Hour which was the single strand my Christianity hung on for a long time. In many ways, it still does. When I lay me down to sleep/Is there a soul for you to keep?/I fall down to my knees/and all I know is Jesus Please!

Jerusalem- I met you guys at my first Ichthus back in 84. I loved how you guys loved people. I taped your show and in the foolishness of youth, I lost it. I would give anything to have the rendition of "Loves you more" that you did that day.

Mylon Lefevere - I loved to hear you preach. That was half the fun of going to your concerts. The way you could talk about Jesus was no less than amazing. I wore a tape out rewinding "Crack the Sky" to listen to again and again.

Rez Band - Glen was another one you loved to hear preach. The man lives his faith. I still listen to "The Struggle" with some awe.

The Imperials - Yes, my tastes are eclectic. The Russ Taff albums were amazing.

Sweet Comfort Band - "Perfect Timing" was the definitive album that year.

White Heart - "Over Me" was my anthem for years. I still hum it everytime I am walking in the rain.

Stryper - Some darn fun, big hair, christianized metal. I still jam to this stuff! Nuthin gets me air guitarin faster.

I realize as I write this, that if I continue this list, I enter into bands that were with me during a different stage of my Christianity. So I am going to stop here with the bands of my innocence. Though some of these (like Undercover) stayed with and affected me over time, these are the bands who helped me through my teen years - back when Christianity was just about accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Saviour, being righteous, and enjoying youth group activities.

Those of you who knew me at the time, let me know who I am missing. Share some Ichthus memories.... (Matt applying generous amounts of baby oil one sunny day comes to mind).

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

I think I am a Universalist...

Coming out of the closet seems to be very chic'. Gays started it, but now everyone is doing it. It seems more and more people are taking a look inside, poking around the dark places, trying to find out who is really in there.

For me, when I poke around, I find a very unorthodox theologian. It makes me nervous to see that staring back at me, but it sure explains a lot.

I suppose this unorthodoxy started only a few years after my conversion. I was 18 and working/schooling at a ministry down in Texas. Some friends and I went to hear a preacher who was known for his hard/no compromise message. He was a talanted speaker, and he had the audience mesmerized. He just didn't seem happy. In fact, I was quite sure he was angry. He went on and on about luke-warm christians and counterfiet conversions.

Then suddenly, he got happy. He started to talk about judgement day. He described in detail the suffering that would be waiting in Hell for those who mocked God and his children. I am not sure, but I think he started salivating at this point. He couldn't wait for sinners to get their portion of this.

I left that night perplexed. I believed in eternal damnation, but I never hoped it on anyone. Is God angry? Does he get as excited as this preacher did about sending people to Hell?

After this, I started to notice how much time my brothers in Christ spent on who was going to Hell. They often said they were burdened over the souls "pouring into the Pit". They would say, "It breaks my heart that my neighbor is going to Hell", but then through conversation I would realize that they did not even like that neighbor. Was it really breaking their heart?

It seemed Hell was just one more item to show others that, "My God is better than your God, my faith is better than your faith".

I started to question Hell. In a previous post, I pasted a letter that I had written years ago to a number of my friends in which I shared my wrestlings.

In addition to the items I put in that letter, becoming a Father has really made me question Hell. What could Kathryn or Jacob do? What could they possibly do that would make me inflict such violence on them?

Brian McLaren's son said, "Dad... either Christianity is true and almost everyone I love is going to burn in Hell forever, or it's not true and life is meaningless."

This is the set of options Christianity presents the world with, but is that the God of Hope?

McLaren says that he struggles with being a pacifist. He says that, more accurately, he is a pacifist sympathiser.

I think that is how I feel about Universalism. I cannot, theologically, completely commit to it - but I sure want to. This quote from Bart Campolo summarizes how I feel lately..

"If indeed faith is being sure of what we hope for, then truly I am a man of faith, for I absolutely know what I hope to be true: That God is completely good, entirely loving, and perfectly forgiving, that God is doing all that He can to overcome evil (which is evidently a long and difficult task), and that God will utterly triumph in the end, despite any and all indications to the contrary.

This is my first article of faith. I required no Bible to determine it, and—honestly—I will either interpret away or ignore altogether any Bible verse that suggests otherwise.

This first article of faith was the starting point of my journey back to Jesus, and it remains the foundation of my faith. I came to trust the Bible again, of course, but only because it so clearly bears witness to the God of love I had already chosen to believe in. I especially follow the teachings of Jesus because those teachings—and his life, death, and resurrection—seem to me the best expression of the ultimate truth of God, which we Christians call grace. Indeed, these days I trust Jesus even when I don’t understand him, because I have become so convinced that He knows what He is talking about, that He is who he is talking about, and that He alone fully grasps that which I can only hope is true.

Unfortunately for me, God may be very different than I hope, in which case I may be in big trouble come Judgment Day. Perhaps, as many believe, the truth is that God created and predestined some people for salvation and others for damnation, according to His will. Perhaps such caprice only seems unloving to us because we don’t understand. Perhaps, as many believe, everyone who dies without confessing Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior goes to Hell to suffer forever. Most important of all, perhaps God’s sovereignty is such that although He could indeed prevent little girls from being raped, He is no less just or merciful when He doesn’t, and both those children and we who love them should uncritically give Him our thanks and praise in any case.

My response is simple: I refuse to believe any of that. For me to do otherwise would be to despair.
Some might say I would be wise to swallow my misgivings about such stuff, remain orthodox, and thereby secure my place with God in eternity. But that is precisely my point: If those things are true, God can give my place in Heaven to someone else, and go ahead and send me to Hell. For better or worse, I am simply not interested in any God but a completely good, entirely loving, and perfectly forgiving One who is powerful enough to utterly triumph over evil. Such a God may not exist, but I will die seeking Him, and I will pledge my allegiance to no other possibility, because, quite frankly, anything less is not enough to give me hope, to keep me alive, to be worth the trouble of believing."


When will Utah repent?

Utah's latest headlines focus on Mr. Warren Jeffs, president and prophet of the FLDS church. The locals are going to have to be patient while I provide some background for the rest of the 5.99 billion people on the planet who have no idea what is happening in Utah.

To understand Warren, you have to go back to Joseph Smith, the founder of all Mormon groups. Here is the Reader's Digest version.

In the early 1800s, Joseph Smith received visions and wrote, plagiarized, or translated (depending on who you ask) an account of Jews coming to America in the BC and their history up until and shortly after the time of Christ. This is called The Book of Mormon.

The book of Mormon reads much like the Bible and is similar to the core doctrines of Christianity. People started to follow Joseph and a movement was born.

Joseph added teachings, outside of the Bible and the book of Mormon, which came off a bit strange to some. Some groups left (or were forced to leave), but still believed the Book of Mormon to be true even though they felt Joseph Smith had strayed. Polygamy, plurality of gods, jealousy of Mormon prosperity, and Joseph's unilateral power caused all kinds of civil problems. Joseph was assassinated and the core group splintered.

Different groups settled in Missouri, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, etc... almost all of these groups abandoned polygamy (some deny it ever happened during the time of Smith) and the teaching of plurality of gods, and settled into a more traditional Christianity that included the book of Mormon.

Meanwhile, a group of Mormons followed Brigham Young (called Brighamites) out West. The migration West was severe and difficult, which built a unique sense of purpose to this splinter. The Brighamites officially took on the name - The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. This name is actually shared with a number of other groups who have no affiliation with the Utah church.

The Utah LDS church practiced polygamy unabashed. The most unique teachings of Joseph Smith were clung to, and the territory grew. Utah grew to statehood size, but the rest of country was nervous about giving statehood to a mini-theocracy awash in polygamy.

Prior to gaining statehood for Utah, the LDS church officially denounced polygamy. This caused a number of LDS church members to break away from the Utah LDS church, feeling that they gave up "the principle (polygamy)" due to political pressure. The Utah church said politics had nothing to do with it.

One of the largest polygamist splinter groups is the FLDS church, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Warren Jeffs is the president of this group presently. He is the stereotype of every religious leader who leads a group of nearly unquestioning followers. To be on his badside is to put you out of the graces of god... so the thousands in his church pretty much do whatever he says, even to reassigning of wives to different families and forcing underage girls to marry old men. Warren Jeffs wives number in the forties. There are all kinds of predictions as to what will happen to the FLDS church now that Jeffs will be spending a good long while in prison.

I think the hardest thing for the Salt Lake LDS group to come to terms with is how to juggle the polygamy question. They want to condemn the FLDS group while maintaining the legitimacy of the practice when their founders partook in it. In fact, in theory, they still support it. They believe God the Father is a polygamist with multiple wives (this point is contested, see comments below) who would like to see his children participating in this, just not right now. So it is a complicated dance on a tightrope to distance yourself from the practicers and practice of polygamy while not disavowing it. Tricky.

Unfortunately, America goes to the Middle East to liberate women and children of oppressive regimes, but we allow tens of thousands to remain captive and oppressed within our own land. Check out the trailer for the movie Banking on Heaven to get a glimpse of what life is like for people in these communities. Entire cities exist, where polygamists reign and women and children are seen as chattel.

I have heard the testimonies of women who have escaped from these oppressive communities and have struggled to rebuild their shattered selves. Boys are rejected within homes because they are a threat to older males who seek to acquire more wives. Prophets assign wives to men based on loyalty or reassign their wives as a punishment. Girls are forced into marriages, even young teenagers. As an example, a 19 year old girl was forced to marry Warren Jeff's father, who was 83.

I believe that the sin of Polygamy has never been truly repented of in Utah. Utah looks the other way, weakly justifies it, and quietly props it up; instead of calling it out and rejecting it as the sick and depraved sin that it is. Therefore, polygamy has remained a thorn in the Southwest to this day.

I see Utah as a land of beauty with a gaping wound. This wound will continue to fester until the day it's people become of one heart and reject this sin for time and eternity.

This article actually has sat unpublished for months; I wrote it when Jeff's was first arrested. I was concerned about possibly offending some with this article. However, while reading more news stories lately about Jeff's, I felt compelled to post this. What he has done and what he stands for is no small part of Utah. The circumstance of his community does not sit in a bubble; it has connection and history in the establishment of Utah.

Part of the reason I decided to post was a conversation I had with some friends visiting from Michigan recently. I started talking about Jeffs. They were stunned and one said to me, "You mean polygamy really does happen here?"

The truth is, most of the country has no idea the practice of polygamy goes on here nor how rampet it is. To me, this shows how effective Utah has been in quieting this indiscretion. When the faithful tell the stories of Joseph Smith, polygamy is carefully stepped around. But if there is a need to edit polygamy out of the movies about Smith, if the Utah LDS church does not want polygamy connected with them when Warren Jeffs is in the news, then isn't polygamy something that should be called what it is (sin) and not merely ignored?

I do not write this article to offend; I am not sure that it would cause offense. But if it does, I would be interested to know which part was offensive.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

To expand on my previous blog...

This comment is not about Ted Haggard per Se', but about the responses I have heard from the Christian community. The most common one I hear is "This is a good reminder that we should not be placing our hopes or faith in any person, but in God".

I don't disagree with that, but what I am not hearing is the suggestion that perhaps we should be saying that a little louder before the fall rather than sighing about it after.

We want celebrities and heroes to worship. The same drive that pushes people to read People magazine exists within the people of God. We have the same drives, but I think God expects us to resist rather than go with the flow.

Ministries love to have a celebrity figure. Do you believe some of the national ministries would fare as well as they do financially if they did not have that core personality at the head? Many of these ministries structure their entire foundation on getting people to put their hope and faith in that person.... oh, and on God too, of course.

The simple truth is, it would not benefit most ministries to downplay their core personalities (even if that were to mean elevating Christ). Western Capitalism and Darwinism have permeated our ministries. Encouraging people to follow a personality increases the ministry wealth and power base. Ministries rise and fall based on how well they are marketed. John the Baptist said, "He must increase, and I must decrease." I believe the unsaid maxim in many ministries has become, "He will increase as I increase!"

I think we need to go back to the scriptures. Paul repeatedly warned against this kind of behavior. He even got a little sarcastic about it and chastised the Corinthian church for getting all excited about those "Super-Apostles". He admonished them "God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord." He later in the letter told them not to elevate him either and concluded "So then, no more boasting about men!"

One last reason I think we build up men goes back to the Old Testament. God wanted to talk to the Israelites, but they wanted Moses to go talk in their place. It is in our history to want someone else to take the lead, the responsibility, the risk. God so wants us. He wants us to want him. But we always want to settle for a simulacrum or proxy.

We can have so much more! Hebrews 10 says "Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith".

God wants you! You can go directly before him! No prophet, pastor, priest... or celebrity... required!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Christianity and Homosexuality

If you haven't been watching the news lately, one of the prominent members of the Christian Right has had to step down from his ministry. I didn't know much about Ted Haggard, which shows how little I know about the world of the Christian Right nowadays.

The most blaring issue that faces him at the moment is that, while opposing gay marriage on the one hand, he was soliciting gay sex with the other.

Maybe this should be a call for the Christian Right to get off the gay issue... Is this really what Christ wants his church to be about? Our biggest rep is that we are anti-gay?

I remember the first time I realized that the Christian Right had the wrong motivation on the issue of gays.

Bill Clinton was either running for office or had just become president. I was watching Chuck Colson address a group of pastors on C-Span. He was speaking to a group of about two thousand. Colson was talking about the amazing success they were having in prison ministry and about the number of changed lives that he had personally seen. The crowd nodded and listened politely. Colson was very into what he was talking about, but his audience did not seem to share his enthusiasm. At the close of his speech, he made a few political comments. At the time, gays in the military were a big anchor around Bill Clinton's neck, and Mr. Colson made reference that gays had no place in the military.

I was flabbergasted by what I saw next. All two thousand men stood up simultaneously and began to applaud and cheer. This issue got the crowd fired up. I knew then that I would probably never understand or share the views of most folks I share my religion with. The Lord of Glory changing the life of a prisoner gets tepid responses while any issue with gay attached to it brings out the saints and their checkbooks in record numbers.

The Christian Right's overall reaction to the gay community brings to light what I have suspected for a long time. We don't want homosexuals to come to Christ for their benefit, we want them to come to Christ for ours. Our lives would be so much more pleasant if gays came to Christ. Then we wouldn't be bothered by gays! In fact, we don't really care if they come to Christ at all. We just want them to stop acting gay!

I know taking this view will probably get me a rep of being soft on sin... but I really don't think I care anymore. All we see again and again are that those who squawk loudest about the sins of others end up laying a big egg themselves.

I always get little, pithy, forwarded emails that circulate among Christians decrying the state of America. These usually tie our ungodliness with gays and liberals. It ends with some comment that if you are a true Christian and an American, you will forward this email. I have yet to see any of those emails talk about the fact that America's problems are driven by churches caught up in personal wealth building, with divorce rates as high as the community at large, and that our houses of worship tend to be houses of gossip and back-biting. Anybody seen those emails yet?

We are not known by our love. Ask the man on the street for a description of a Christian and you will hear: judgmental, harsh, prideful, hypocrite. I think Jesus wanted a response more like: Well, I am not sure I believe in God, and I am not sure about Jesus; but I have to admit - those Christians sure do love and serve people in kindness.

I think some of this will come about when we quit hero-worshipping the leaders of our churches. One of the most telling things about Haggard was a picture I saw inside his church. One of the walls had a 15 Ft framed photo of his face along with one of his quotes. Who authorized this? Does his congregation really find this self- aggrandizement acceptable?

It is of no benefit to Christian leaders when their community puts them on such a pedestal. Men who preach the Word are meant to be servants, not idols. We magnify their falls when we allow them to be put in such high towers.

Monday, October 30, 2006

God is not enough for me....

That is one eye catcher of a title, eh? But do I mean it? I think so. In fact, I think Jesus would concur.

I have been a Christian for 23 years. I have heard numerous sermons and teachings where the challenge is put forth -“Is God enough for you?”

In the past I tried to accept that challenge; digging deep inside to cut away anything that hindered so I could run the race set before me. I fought to become an untouchable tower where God was my rock… just me and Him against the universe. I remember, particularly in my twenties, working to make sure nothing had a hold on me, regardless of what anyone else thought of me; I could stand tall because I needed nothing and nobody but God.

Seasons change. Theology changes. I haven’t worked this all out yet, but I am thinking that "is God enough?" is not the question put to us in the New Testament. In fact, I am beginning to think the New Testament teaches the direct opposite.

Before I get into the NT, let’s go back to the beginning in the OT. In Genesis 2:18 God states that it is not good for man to be alone. What is he talking about? Was HE not there? How can God, for whom we are made, not be enough? C.S. Lewis said that God is the fuel by which we were meant to run. How could the company of God not be enough?

I think God was completely aware and comfortable with his other-ness. He looked at himself and said, “I AM”. He looked at man and said, “He is not”. God knew man needed someone else. Deep inside we KNOW that.

On a simpler level, I am aware that I cannot meet all the needs of my wife. The fact that I am male prohibits this. I am-in this sense- other. She needs female friends that can feel what she feels and know what she knows in ways that are closed to me.

Now let’s swing back to the New Testament. Someone asked Jesus, “What is the greatest commandment?” In other words, what is the core? What is the single thing I need to be doing? What piece can I not miss? Jesus was not able to answer this question. He was not able to break it down to one thing. He said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' Jesus either could not, or would not, separate loving God from loving your neighbor.

I believe there is a two fold reason for God giving us each other. The first is, like I said, because God knew that we need others of our own kind to relate to. I think we can relate to God better because we have each other.

The second reason is to put a stopper to our potentially endless narcissism. We tend to be rather “I” focused. Can you imagine how insufferable we would be if there really were no one else?

In the West, we are individualists and this individualism has permeated our theology. We have accepted Jesus as our PERSONAL savior. God is our heavenly grandfather and we love loving him. He gives us stuff and makes our lives happy and will give us heaven one day. We have made the God of the universe all about us.

We ignore the “second” commandment because – what part of loving others does anything for me? If you have seen the Matrix movies, there is a scene where Smith is changing others into himself. Copies of him are everywhere. His touch overrides the other’s self and causes the other to become Smith. While changing another into a replica of himself he sighs and utters, “Me, me, me!” The ultimate narcissist.

I recently heard a Utah politician run an ad in which he stated that communism was evil. Hmmm. The definition of Communism – Everyone gives according to his ability, everyone takes according to his need. Now let’s look at how the economy worked in the early church – Acts 2 All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.

The way of God is the exact opposite of how we have been brought up. Under capitalism, we are taught to think about our personal accumulations and everything is based on scarcity (not having enough). In the economy of God, everything is based on the group, and we are encouraged to think of abundance (being content with what we have).

I am the worst of this. My back up plans have to have back up plans. I always make sure my a$$ is covered. I can be generous, but only once my needs have been taken care of.

Aside from the great blessing my wife and children are to me (I love them so much), they have also been my greatest teachers. Nothing and no one, as of yet, has been able to pull me out of my narcissism like they have. They have taught me that life is not about me. The more I grow in that simple truth, the better life gets.

It is not good for this man to be alone. My family and fellow men allow me to have relationships with others like me. They allow me to reflect on my Father in heaven in ways that I could not if I were alone. My relationship with my Father is magnified because of my relationships with my brothers. Having a family of humanity causes me to look beyond myself to the needs of others. Only with God and man am I made whole.

Is God enough for me? …… I don’t think so…. I don’t think he ever wanted it that way.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

That's my girl!

I was talking with my friend Brook the other day as I was driving down from the mountains. Amongst our usual discussions of theology and books, we talked about this blog. It seems I never use it for commentary on what I have been up to of late, but rather to editorialize.

So, I am going to comment on something my 8 year old daughter said yesterday that made me very proud as her daddy and mentor.

My wife was reading to her from "The Light and the Glory" for children. It is a Christianized novel telling the story of American history. I noticed as my wife was reading aloud that the authors took broad liberties with God's opinions, feelings, and intents regarding the historical characters. I was trying not to add a negative comment because, tho they were anthropomorphisizing God a lot, the history was worthwhile.

Then Kathryn piped up, "Wait a minute Mom! How do they know what God was thinking? How do they know what God wanted? They can't say that!"

Ahhhhhhhh! That's daddy's girl!

Anyone who knows me knows that I am very concerned about my ability to educate my children about Jesus without indoctrinating them. How do I give Kathryn and Jacob the tools to search out their faith and not simply fall into accepting the faith they were born into?

Kathryn's comment and questioning gave me hope that she will not just nod, but will wrestle. Not just accept, but question. Not just think within accepted parameters, but look over the wall to see who else is playing in the yard.

Monday, July 24, 2006


A friend of mine wrote a book about why he is a Latter Day Saint ("Mormon" for all you folks outside of UT who have no idea what that means). It is a well written presentation of his reasons for converting to the Mormon faith from being an evangelical.

The title, "Why I am a Latter-day Saint", always bounces back to me because every time I read or hear a bit of Mormon theology I can't swallow - I hear my own mental book title, "Why I am not a Latter-day Saint" running through my mind.

I could sit here and list my technical disagreements, but yesterday when listening to the radio, I heard something said that makes all my other objections inconsequential and really gets down to why I feel Mormonism and most isms spend a lot of time missing the point.

I was listening to Bob Lonsberry (whom I enjoy) on the way to church and he was discussing Mormon missionary practices and the text they use. He asked himself the question, "How does a missionary go about reaching someone who has no Christian background? What is the starting point for someone who has no Christian history or experience?" He answered, “You tell the story of the prophet Joseph Smith and the restoration".

There it was, the true crux of my objection.

Bob should have answered, "You tell them about Jesus! Jesus loves them! Jesus can redeem them from their sin! JESUS!"

Bob is not alone in this behavior. Many Christian churches elevate a person or a doctrine above Christ in some format or other. In any case, if the church isn't doing it the individuals often are.

Before you say otherwise, think about it. One of my mentors, Fred Market, used to say "Whatever we think about most, whatever we talk about most, whatever we invest our time in... that is our god." He was explaining at the time how he had allowed Christian ministry to become an idol in his life.

I grew up in charismatic circles and they talked about faith, healings, and material gain a lot. Not so much about Christ. When Christ was talked about, he was usually mentioned as a means to an end... not the end itself.

Mother Teresa said, "The prize with which God rewards our self abandonment is Himself".

It is all about HIM..... HIM.... HIM..... HIM!

In Superman II, Clark and Lois are at Niagara Falls. Clark is startled that Lois is not more impressed with the grandeur of Niagara Falls. She replies, "Once a girl has seen Superman .... Niagara Falls leaves you kind of cold".

But we as a people seem to have a habit of choosing the lesser thing rather than the greater. The Israelites had just been delivered from Egypt, and they made themselves a gold cow to worship. When God revealed himself on Sinai, the Israelites begged Moses to go talk to God in their place.

George MacDonald said, "Man finds it hard to get what he wants, because he does not want the best; God finds it hard to give, because He would give the best, and man will not take it".

There was a Christian Rock artist I used to go see whenever he was in town back in the 80's and early 90's. I used to love the fact that he would preach most of his concert. Regardless of where you were spiritually, he could hit you right between the eyes because he loved to talk about Jesus.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus....

He left music eventually and it had been years since I had heard from him. Then by chance, I found he was going to be preaching at a local church. I couldn't wait. When I listened to him that Sunday my heart sank. He didn't talk about Jesus anymore. He talked about his pet doctrines and poked fun at people who didn't buy into those doctrines.

I love the way CS Lewis presents the supremacy of Christ and his light in The Great Divorce. Next to his light, everything else is mere shadow.

I believe many isms serve as tutors. In fact, I think God often calls people to spend a considerable amount of time in an ism... sometimes a lifetime. But the ism isn't Christ and it is a dreadful mistake to become so bound in it that you miss HIM.

Hebrews 1:1 says, "In the past, God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets, at many times and in various ways. But in these last days, He has spoken to us by his Son!"

He has spoken! He is wonderful! He forgives! He renews! He equips! He is All!

If we bear his name, I think everything else should leave us kind of cold.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Goodbye Santa Claus

I always knew the day would come. Another milestone has passed in my daughter's life.

People debate when to tell their kids about Santa Claus. I knew the time would present itself, and today was the day. This time when she asked, I didn't evade. I told her it was time to see behind the wrappings of the gift her mother and I had given her.

And I do believe it is a gift a parent can give to their child. There are few years when the veil between imagination and reality is so thin. Santa, reindeer, elves.... I think there is a singular opportunity for blissful joy which can rarely be captured outside of a wonderful fairy tale during those early years.

A love for Santa is a love of poetry, music, daydreams. It is warm cocoa and a blazing fire. It is snuggling under the covers to keep warm on a cold morning.

I told Kathryn her mother and I had given those stories to her during those years as a gift for her to enjoy. Now it is a gift we want to give to Jacob as well. Children are so excited to know things and they have a desire to let others know that they know. I encouraged Kathryn to not take that gift from anyone.

I loved watching the thrill on Kathryn's face when she and Jacob spoke to Santa at the North Pole over a webcam this year. I am grateful for the memories of my brother Matt dressing up as Santa for her and giving her a special Christmas Eve.

I believe in Santa Claus. I know someday when Kathryn has little ones beneath her Christmas tree, she will believe in him again too.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

What must I do to be saved?

I have so many thoughts regarding this question that it is difficult for me to pick a place to start. Having grown up in Evangelical circles, I know the correct response to that question - "Accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior".

Over the years however, I started to notice that that concept is rarely used in the Bible. There are a few scriptures here and there throughout the epistles where you could be led to believe that was it, but to maintain that belief I think you need to ignore or trivialize a fair amount of scripture.

I'll start here. John the Baptist said in Luke:
8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.
9 The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire."
10"What should we do then?" the crowd asked.
11 John answered, "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same."
12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized. "Teacher," they asked, "what should we do?"
13"Don't collect any more than you are required to," he told

14 Then some soldiers asked him, "And what should we do?" He replied, "Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely, be content with your pay."

First, John said EVERY tree that did not bear good fruit would be cut down. He did not say that a tree could bear bad fruit just so long as it had made sure to accept Jesus Christ as its personal Lord and Savior.

When the people asked, "What should we do?" he essentially replied, "Be generous, be honest, be content".

Was he lying? Did he forget to add "That is, do all that stuff until Jesus comes. After that, accept him as your personal Lord and Savior and then don't worry about anything beyond that".

I know some folks are reading this and mumbling as they leave the page, "I knew it, he's all works righteousness. Works, works, works, works, works!! We are saved by Grace!"

Try not to think either/or...... stay with me.

History repeats itself. The Jews had become very reliant on their ancestry to show that they had an in with God. So John was quick to squash that idea, telling them that God could raise up from stones children of Abraham.

I think John would say to us today : Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have accepted Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior.' For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up people who have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire."

I think, when it is glanced over quickly, people believe that John is advocating good works as a solution to being saved. However, I think it goes much deeper than that.

If I give to him who has none, if I take no more than what I need, if I tell the truth even when it does me ill, if I am to do all these things; what needs to happen to me?

I have to live outward, not inward. I have to think of the needs of others. I have to change my thinking and behavior and do that which does not always come natural.

Think about fruit bearing trees. Left to their own, they rarely bear good fruit. The best trees are fertilized, trimmed, pruned, picked, cultivated. They are not left to their own devices.

Isn't that what many Christians are aiming for with their annunciations of accepting Jesus? - Leave me alone! Save me from Hell, but leave me alone. I want to live for myself-keep those pruning shears away. Save me and bless me, but I will take care of the rest.

I think Jesus is offering us better than salvation from Hell. I think he offers salvation from ourselves. As Walter Brueggemann said at a conference, "I need salvation from being a $h!T"

I think one of the primary reasons the evangelical movement has so little effect outside of its own circles is that we have turned the cross of Christ into salvation from Hell rather than salvation from ourselves, our narcissism, our sin.

I run into so many people who know, deep down, that there is something afoul inside, but they don't know what to do about it. All the church has offered is,"Don't worry about the blackness in your soul, just accept Jesus and you can go to heaven!" And then we smugly shake our heads when they go looking for relief somewhere else.

I think our defining salvation in this way has led us astray from what God wants. I do believe in Grace. Like Eustace at the pool, only HE can dig deep enough. However, he will not do it without our consent. We have to truly desire to be free of the dragon skin.

Lewis said that, in the end, there will only be two kinds of people. Those who say to God, "Thy will be done" and those to whom God says, "Thy will be done".

Friday, April 28, 2006

Inerrancy... you have obviously mistaken me for someone who cares.

Every few months I am part of a conversation where the inerrancy of the Bible comes up. In the past, I listened quietly but rarely put in my opinion. Mostly because I really didn't have one, and the argument seemed to be driven by folks who enjoyed theological fencing.

However, I have become more embolden to offer my opinion because I have seen these discussions take a turn in which they begin to elevate the Bible to a place, I believe, it was never meant to be.

Consider - "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" 2Tim 3:16

It is profitable for doctrine - correction and reproof - instruction in righteousness.

This is not how I am seeing the bible used. Here is how I do see it being used; see if you have encountered this.

The divinity of Scripture - The Bible as the fourth entity in the Godhead.
I see this transformation in two ways:
First, for eternal life we have added to dependence on Christ the qualification that you must believe the bible is inerrant. I am hearing more and more Christians equalize belief in Christ with belief in the Bible as inerrant. You must almost pass through the inerrancy door before you can come to Christ. The argument goes, "In order to believe in Christ, you must believe in the Bible because if the Bible contains error then how can we believe in Christ?"

The Second way I see this happening is through the synonymous usage of Christ, the word, and the Bible. Christians use them so interchangeably, that to many, there is nary a difference. Algebraic logic - Christ is the Word, The Bible is the Word, Christ is the Bible.

Pharisees and the Law, Christians and the Bible
Another thing I have encountered is the Bible being used by Christians the way the Pharisees used the Law. The Pharisees used Scripture to distance themselves from the irreligious. They made stuff complicated and difficult and thereby kept their club clean and exclusive. Unfortunately, the Bible seems to be used in the same way - not inviting people in, but keeping people out.

I believe few people come to Christ through proof. I see Christians get side tracked, and rather than talking about Jesus with unbelievers, they start arguing inerrancy. The reality is, you cannot prove the Bible is inerrant. If you choose to believe that, some of that belief must be taken on faith. So why argue it with an unbeliever? It will not change their heart. If proof were the turn-key, then the Israelites should have been the most godly, compassionate, and loving group around. No one in history saw more proof than them.

What does one mean by inerrant?
I am finding that the word inerrant has as many hues in explanation as the Trinity. What does one mean by it? To hear some folks explain it, you would think Paul was merely taking dictation. I have committed some of Paul's epistles to memory and one of the nice benefits of memorizing large portions of scripture is that you quit basing your theology on sound bites. One starts to see that it really is a letter, written by a man who is on a mission from God.

Yep, I said it, written by a man.

Is that so horrible?

This is Paul, a man who spoke with Christ, who faced all kinds of persecutions, who established churches, who was martyrd.

He is credible. I could do worse than to follow his instructions.

Are you saying you don't believe the Bible is inerrant?
No, I am saying I don't know.... and I don't particularly care.
In History you have primary and secondary sources. Primary are people or items that actually touched the event. Secondary is what it says... it came from a source secondhand.

For me, the Bible is THE primary source. I love CS Lewis, but if I find doctrine that contradicts the Bible, I will always go Bible first. For me, the Bible is used to develop doctrine, for correction and reproof, and for instructing me in righteousness. That is all it is intended for. I think to do more is to mold it into a golden calf.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


"Once you label me, you negate me" ~ Soren Kierkegaard

The truth of that quote has become very real to me of late. I was listening to a talk show host who was telling a story of his mother. While driving with her, they were listening to talk radio. The mother heartily agreed with the radio announcer until she learned who it was. Once she learned it was a person she disliked, she no longer considered what the host had to say insightful or witty.

I have seen that happen so often. Rarely can an idea stand on its' own merit. We almost need to know the political or theological stance of the person advancing the idea before we will commit to an opinion.

I was talking with a gentleman I know in class recently. Our conversations have sometimes turned to the theological and I was tempted last week to ask him what he was. As the words were about to escape, I caught myself. What advantage would that knowledge bring? Would it not be more misleading than helpful? If he were to tell me that he was Baptist, or LDS, or atheist, would that not cause me to consciously and unconsciously assign to him a lot of baggage and history that may or may not be true? Would it not take me longer to then unlearn all of my incorrect assumptions than to simply learn by conversation what he believes?

I probably fall under the category of Christian Evangelical, but there are numerous points of my beliefs that would fall out of line with that general definition. I sometimes hesitate to define myself as Christian, because then I feel a need to clarify all the points that one would associate with me based on that definition, and yet are not true of me.

In Silence of the Lambs, Clarice wants Hannibal Lector to fill out a personality profile. He laughs, "Do you believe you can dissect me with this blunt little tool?"

I think we do a great disservice to our development with relationships when we label. We do it for ease, but are short cuts beneficial when they lead you where you do not want to be?

Monday, March 13, 2006

Greater Things Than These

There is a scripture in John 14 where Jesus talks about the fact that those who bear his name will later perform even greater things than he did. He said this while referencing his miracles. I believe he made a similar comment in Luke.

Over the years, I have heard Christians lament that we are not seeing the sick healed and the dead raised. "Why are we not seeing these things?" they ask. What is wrong with us? Didn't Jesus say that we would do greater things than these?

An answer occurred to me one night during our family small group. I wondered if, as often is the case, we were approaching the question wrong. Perhaps we are missing a point.

First, as a people, we are very into signs and wonders. We love the "ohhh and ahhh" effect. However, when you look through scripture, fancy miracles never accomplished too much. Regardless of what one saw, no matter how grand, it brought about little heart change.

So was Jesus really insinuating that we would be performing greater parlor tricks? That, like Bruce Almighty, we would part our soup while everyone looks on in awe? Is that all Jesus is looking for?

Consider - If God suddenly granted me the authority to heal those I touched, cause the blind to see, raise some dead folks..... what has that cost me? In what way is that taking up my cross? How am I dying to self? Does my being responsible for a miracle cause me to- (borrow from Romans here) "hate what is evil, cling to what is good"? ; "Be devoted to others above my self"? "Be joyful in hope"?; "patient in affliction"?; "faithful in prayer"?. Does it cause me to "share with God's people are in need"?

Probably I would simply have another level of arrogance to contend with.

This is just my opinion, but I think Jesus had something else in mind when he said we "would do greater things than these". His miracles tended to focus on outward circumstances. I think he was saying (and I paraphrase intent here), "So you think these miracles are cool? Wait till you see what is coming! Today I fixed a problem on the outside, but in the future WE are going to heal people's hearts and lives. People can live without an eye.... they cannot live with a broken life".

Look at Peter... for all he saw, there was little change in him. He desired a lot, but lacked the power to change... and that was with Jesus being right there.

Look what happened to him tho... once he really surrendered, he was a different man and went on to help other people leave their darkness and start a journey with Christ.

Doesn't a healed leg seem rather feeble when compared to a healed life?

On Sunday, our Pastor talked about some of the stages you go through as you progress in Christ. In the beginning, it is all about "me". In time tho, if that person continues to surrender, it becomes about others and Him.

I am really beginning to think that the "greater things" Christ was referring to was not "miracles". Rather, he was seeing ahead to a day when people would set aside their life for His.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Engaging Education

My wife and I won tickets from a local radio station to go and see Dr. Laura while she was here in Salt Lake. I might disagree with the good doctor on a point or two, but overall we are on the same page. I might be a little more diplomatic in my interactions, but then she only has a minute or two to get to the point.

One story she told is of her son, who at the age of 12 had decided he wanted to quit his martial arts lessons. She told him no. When he had his black belt, then he could quit if he wanted. Her rationale was that at the age of 12, he did not have the foresight to weigh the long term benefits of staying or the detriment of quitting.

I often hear people in education seminars boasting of the effectiveness of a particular program because it is engaging. That kids learn best while having fun and working with their interests.

Of course, being a both/and kind of person, I don't necessarily disagree with that assessment. However it is, as with many either/or arguments, missing some valid and needed alternative thought lines.

For one : If children, or any other learner for that matter, engage only in pursuing their interests... doesn't that narrow the field of their experiences? A child that decides early on that they only like macaroni and cheese at a particular restaurant, may never discover the other wonderful menu items if they do not venture out.

Second: If only engaging items are pursued, the child never learns to appreciate items with deferred gratification. For example, in one of his books, CS Lewis talks about his love of reading Greek poetry in the original Greek.. Prior to that pleasure, he tells of the tedious process he had to go through to learn to read and understand Greek. He did not enjoy that process. It had no pay off of its own. It was certainly not engaging.

Students have always complained about tedious homework. They complain, "When are we ever going to use this?!" Teachers have tried to come up with explanations in the past, but it was always assumed the work needed to be done. Now I find that parents and educators have been swayed. The student is right. They may never use this and besides, it's boring. Let them quit and do something else. If it is fun, it is worthwhile. If it is not.... well, shame on the teacher who would expect a student to do something they do not enjoy doing.

I for one quit trying to justify whether or not a child needed to learn long division or how to reduce a fraction a long time ago. My point is not that they learn these things (though that is a wonderful by-product), but rather that their mind becomes trained and that their will becomes disciplined.

I compare it to physical training. Most exercises that sports professionals go through to prepare for the game have no direct correlation to the game itself. When in real life will a man lift a weight 20 times, stop, and then repeat? The point is not the motion in and of itself but rather to train and strengthen the muscle so that it will be ready when a physical task is presented to it.

Why is it that if you were to present a new concept or idea to me and a 10 year old at the same time that I would grasp it faster... probably much faster. Neither of us have previous experience. The simple answer is that my mind has more training. It has been through the problem solving process more often. I have done the mental push-ups, so I can handle more mental weight.

The path of least resistance is to not stay on top of the kids homework, to make them practice their instrument, or keep to them on a path of completion when they would rather give up. I have often said that children will take that power of control if you give it to them - then resent you for giving it to them.

Friday, February 10, 2006

More than Passions

I was flipping radio stations today, and I heard someone sharing that God will really use us when we discover what our passion is and use it for him. I think this has become a common thought line in a lot of churches and Christian books.

Now I don't necessarily disagree with the overall point but I think, as with much Christian theology, we tend to always put things in either/or language; when in fact, I think God uses a fair amount of both/and.

I used to be on the other end of the "passion" spectrum. I was convinced earlier in my Christian theology that what you were good at or had interest in was the very thing God would NOT use. I thought if I enjoy it, it isn't sacrifice. If I am good at it, it is my power not his. My thinking changed in my early college years. A friend of mine (Rich Kifer) who worked with Detroit Youth for Christ helped me see life from a different angle. A man from my church was killed while witnessing down in Detroit. I was telling Rich that I felt like a loser because this guy had given his life for Christ, while I on the other hand do diddly-squat.

"What are you talking about?" he replied. "You coach bible quiz teams, you chaperone our trips, you do YFC promos, you meet with kids to study do tons of stuff!"

I shrugged, "Yeah, but I like doing that stuff."

He looked at me and laughed, "Dude, you have one twisted view of God!"

I say that to demonstrate the other side of the spectrum, but I believe the man on the radio is no less erroneous.

Take my church for example. There are lots of spots where God can use your passion. Singing, speaking, acting, tech, kids... what do you like to do? There is place where you can use it for God.

However, there are also plenty of things that need to be done around the church that will probably never qualify as someone's passion. Cleaning bathrooms? Emptying leaky garbage? Stacking chairs? Mopping?

I think if we stood around waiting for people who had a passion for these things (in and of themselves) we would probably have a pretty grungy church soon.

Perhaps "passion" can become our excuse. I don't want to do job ______ because it is not my "passion" (not because it is inconvenient, or I feel it is beneath me).

I remember working at a DC/LA conference back in 96 (a big YFC rally). The 8,000 kids would get together in the arena for an hour, and then break into groups of a hundred or so to go off to sessions in conference rooms. Well, my team's job was to get the sound going at the various conference rooms in the different hotels. Staff was spread thin due to various problems that were being worked out the first morning.

With 20 minutes till the kids came, me and two other guys were setting up the sound in two conference rooms. One of the DC coordinators poked his head in and said, "Guys, would you mind getting chairs set up when you're done? We don't have anyone on that for this building". Dave started setting up the hundred chairs that would be needed while Rich and I finished the sound. What is interesting is that the speaker for this break-out session watched the whole exchange - and he continued to watch. For the remaining 15 minutes, he sipped his coffee while we rushed to get ready before the kids came. It seems setting up chairs wasn't his passion.

Rich had a cool insight that evening. He was commenting on 1 Corinthians 12 where Paul is talking about various spiritual gifts. Paul concludes by saying "but eagerly desire the greater gifts". However, Paul never said which gifts were the greater. Rich said that the greater gift is the gift God needs at the moment. The gift God needed to make use of that morning was the gift of service. Therefore, that is the gift we should have desired.

I remember reading about Henri Nouwen. He was a Harvard and Yale divinity professor and authored many books. God called him to work at a home for the physically handicapped and mentally disabled. He said at one point, that it was there that he really was used by God and got close to his heart. He said (I paraphrase here) ' None of these people had any use for me as a professor or an author. My talents were of no use. It was then that God worked THROUGH me".

I believe we limit the potential for God to grow in us and through us when we only offer him our passions. Scripture tells us he wants our weaknesses too!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Hell No!

I have really been committing to get back into reading. I just got done with Brian Mclaren's "The Last Word". I am presently reading "Blue Like Jazz" and upon recommendation, shall be taking up "the Sparrow" next.

I highly recommend "The Last Word". If nothing else, it give you a peek into some alternative thoughtlines that exist in the Christian world.

Brian McLaren really challenges the typical evangelical thoughts on and purposes in preaching Hell. I found a letter that I sent out to a bunch of friends about 6 years ago when I first started wrestling with Hell. Here is that letter, and my thoughts at the time:

Hello all,
I have been hit by a new theological trauma that has been giving me the runabout for the past few days, so I thought I would toss it out to you and see what you think.

It all came about the other day when I was listening to talk radio. There was an atheist on there begrudging the whole "see you at the pole" event. He was a usual ranter and party-liner, but one of the callers said something that really threw me.

“It is not so much that I don’t believe in God,” he said. “But I have a hard time believing that a being such as has been described would use violence of the ultimate sort as punishment for non-compliance."

How had I missed that question all these years? We all know the arguments for why “a loving God sends people to Hell,” but in the moment following that question, all of those arguments fell apart for me.

Many of you have read C.S. Lewis’s The Problem of Pain. Though the issue of pain is a stumbling block for some, and though it is a struggle to deal with at the time, it can always be brought to near triviality in the scope of eternity. As Paul said in countless different ways in the epistles “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us”. I wish Lewis had written a book called the Problem of Hell.

Here are the questions that have been rolling in my head the past couple days, which I am having difficulty finding solutions for.

First, there is the finality of it all. If suffering can be used as a tool to develop empathy, correct us, refocus us, cause us to go deeper, then there is an ultimate good to it. In my present paradigm, God can do nothing else. What man (or Satan for that matter) intends for evil, he can always turn it to a good. God can wrench glory from even the direst circumstances.

What then, does Hell provide? There is no ultimate good that can come out of it, because there is no opportunity for redemption. I realize the usual argument would be to say that they had an opportunity to accept salvation, but rejected it. This doesn’t seem to wash with me anymore for three reasons:

Can it truly be said the people who have rejected Christ have a clear understanding of what they are rejecting and what they are accepting in his place? I don’t think so. I don’t think that most Christians have even begun to get a handle on this, let alone someone who has no familiarity with the ways and teachings of God.

IF such a person existed, could they be truly sane?

IF they were sane, is hell a reasonable result?

    I think the reasonableness of hell is really hard for me to grasp. However rebellious or hideous a man may be; is hell a good solution? Eternal torture beyond measure?…forever?…. for the choices of eighty mortal years? When I sit down and consider that eternal destiny, I start to wonder.

    Also, what would the reason be for such an extreme punishment? (And this is the ultimate extreme). I have trouble reconciling it with the character of God, as I understand it. Is this vindictiveness? Getting even? What possible motive could God have? Holiness alone does not seem to be enough. Holiness says sin cannot be in God’s presence. Hell is an eternity beyond a mere removal from God’s proximity.

    Another curious point- what would motivate God to think up such a place in any case? He teaches me the proper way to think in Philippians. Hell could not come into that thought line. How does one, in line with goodness, contemplate the torture of his creatures?

    I have started a casual study of scripture at this point, and have gotten few answers. The Bible has a lot to say about sending people there, but little reason why… other than they are sinners. This always leads me back to my list of questions.

    Anyway, these have been my thoughts the past couple of days. Romans 11 says to ‘consider therefore, the kindness and sternness of God.” I am troubled considering that sternness.
    Feel free to respond, or not, at your leisure.

    Thursday, February 02, 2006

    Love God, Love his Children

    Whom does the heart of God desire to dwell with?
    People who bear his name, but despise their fellow men created in his image?
    Or people who purport to have no interest in Him, but love their fellow men?

    I try to think of this from my view as a Father.

    A friend has affection for me, but despises my children?
    An aquaintance has no interest in me, but loves on my children?

    Whom would I prefer in my house?


    Train Them!

    It says in Hebrews 12:
    No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
    I read that scripture countless times back when I was a Bible Quizzer. At the time I took it to mean that the discipline God gives me will probably not be fun, but will be for my good. It was a hopeful passage.

    I read it entirely different nowadays. Flip it around. Read it from the discipliner's point of view. Being a parent the past 8 years gives me a new perspective.

    No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful... a teachable moment in the life of my child is presented, but I don't feel like dealing with it... I would rather fiddle on the computer, or watch TV, or continue my conversation. To stop and address the situation will take time... this is painful.

    Later on however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. If I take the time to parent now... to fulfill my responsibility, I will reap a harvest of righteousness and peace.

    I write this with some trepidation, because I am a heading into boasting territory. But I will boast with a purpose.

    My wife and I have great kids!

    We often get compliments on their behavior, but I will occasionally hear something to the effect of, "Yes, but you have naturally compliant children."

    I want to shout "NO!" This has not come without cost! My wife and I think about, consider, and discuss our parenting. We plan for how we will deal with situations. We read. We study. We observe and consult with successful parents. We observe unsuccessful parents to note what we want to avoid doing. We are very conscientious of our parenting. We take time to parent. We both would say that it is the single most important thing we do in our lives. The behavior of our children (or sometimes lack thereof) is NOT an accident.

    Perhaps it is because I teach for a living that I am always looking for teachable moments.

    The other day I carved a turkey and set aside the wishbone. I told my 4 year old son and my seven year old daughter about the game of the wishbone. I debated not mentioning the wishbone to them because my son is very sensitive and I knew he was going to lose.

    No, I told myself, he is old enough to learn to lose properly.

    Each child grabbed an end... made the wish... snap.... and my son's lip tightened, his foot slammed the floor, and frustrated tears began to well up in his eyes.

    "Jacob...., no".

    I sat down in front of Jacob and took both of his hands in mine.

    "Jacob, I love you... please look at my eyes (I never discipline without eye contact). My son, you lost just now and I know you are frustrated because you wanted to win. There are times you win and times you lose. When you lose, you may not stomp your feet and cry. That is not right. Everyone loses sometimes don't they? When you lose... be happy for the person who won... and do you know what the right thing to do would be? (with his lips puckered he shakes his head)... you go over to the person who won and shake their hand like this (shake) and say 'Congratulations'. Do you think you could do that?"

    My son nodded, took a final sniff, and walked over to my daughter and took her hand, "Congratulations Kaki" (his nickname for her). She replied with a thank you and a hug. Then they went off to play.

    Now I by no means think that this will be the last time Jacob pouts and cries when he loses; but he will be taught each time that is not appropriate and will be shown what is appropriate. Perhaps someday soon, he will fly in that area on his own.

    Until then, my wife and I will be looking for teachable moments, because we want that harvest of righteousness and peace... for ourselves and our children.

    Friday, January 20, 2006

    His Value System

    I am often disappointed in our apparent lack of progress as a Christian Community. I count myself in this as well. Though we have created a fairly large sub-culture, the ways in which we have chosen to set ourselves apart- (in some cases) not drinking, not smoking, "accepting" Jesus Christ as our personal savior, going to church, etc... these things don't really bring about true change. At the end of the day we still tend to pursue things God would not; we value things he does not.

    I think Jeremiah 9:23-24 gives a good peek into God's value system:

    23 This is what the LORD says: "Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches,
    24 but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice, and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the LORD.

    Scripture pegs us so well. We tend as humans to be impressed with others based on three things:
    1. How smart someone is
    2. How much influence (celebrity status) or power they have
    3. How much money they have

    In Jeremiah 9:23 we are specifically instructed NOT to be impressed with these things. Yet, People magazines cannot stay on the rack, we kiss up to people who have no character because of their influence, we crawl over each other to make a buck or get with someone who has the bucks. We are awed (or intimidated, also an incorrect response) by smart people.

    This is also the standard in most of the Christian community. Our glory is not in our Redeemer, but in our house, degree, promotion, portfolio, etc..

    In the American Church we have made a pecking order of people's worth - with pastors, authors, speakers, and singers at the top. I once heard a pastor comment to someone, "Well, if he wants to speak at MY church, perhaps he should start at the ground level and teach Sunday school."


    The Lord delights in our knowing Him, in Justice, in Righteousness, and in Kindness. I believe that when, as a people of God, we can make those the earmarks of our value system, we shall stand apart and shine without even trying.

    Saturday, January 14, 2006

    Ring Tones Suck

    I am not sure what large rock needs to be dropped on people's heads before they start realizing that there are really no redeeming qualities to cell phone ringtones. I have yet to hear a top 40's tune come blaring out of someone's purse or coat at a convenient time. I go to college on Wednesday nights, and at least once per class, one of those obnoxiously loud ringtones goes blaring out while the owner scrambles franticly through their purse in an attempt to squelch it. (To add insult to injury, the owner then proceeds to take 10 steps away from the group and carry on a loud conversation which we get the pleasure of hearing).

    Ringtones rarely seem to bring the owner anything but embarrassment. Why are they used?
    Related Posts with Thumbnails