August 31, 2006

Memorization

Since I am now able to blog, I thought I would write about what has been on my mind lately.

My devotional time consists of about an hour, evenly divided, of Scripture reading, prayer, and journaling. I often throw in a little meditational reading from various Christian Classics. I noticed, though, that what I read sometimes stuck and sometimes did not. I would read a passage in the morning and by the time I got to the church, my mind would be going in a thousand different directions. I also noticed that Iwas reading from various passages scattered throughout the Bible. I was reading a lot of Scripture and theology and stuff like that throughout the day, but it was hit or miss if it stuck. And theology and stuff ABOUT God can never replace the stuff FROM God.

While reading The Great Omission, I read a statement that encouraged me to re-try the discipline of memorization. I decided to begin commiting passages of Scripture to memory each. Length didn't matter. I choose something early in the week (so far they have been from the Psalms) and memorize and meditate on the passage throughout the day. Usually by Wednesday I have the chosen passage relatively under control.

It is easy for me to use the excuse, "I am no good at memorizing." The point, though, is not that I memorize a lot of Scripture, but that I take a chunk I can handle and meditate on it throughout the day. I work at memorizing the passage for the week. I say it while driving in the car. I write it down. I keep thinking about it and reflecting on it.

I have found that what we set out hearts on and think about throughout the day, becomes part of us. The best way to think on the things of God is to memorize Scripture. I have been amazed at how this practice has affected my life so far. I think the passage I have been memorizing this week says it all--

Psalm 1

Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.

But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.

Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

Frustrating

With Blogger down it is as though I have lost my journal. I know people will probably not see this until things get cleared up, but I guess I had to try.

August 30, 2006

Satire

What is the role of satire and humor for those seeking to follow God?

Many have read Mark Driscoll's comments on Mainline Churches, Presbyterians, and Brian McLaren. There are many other blogs that think Mark Driscoll's use of "humor and satire" are admirable. They laud him for his wit and his ability to make light of "bad theology" (read any theology that is not Reformed Calvinism!).

What is the role of satire and humor for those seeking to follow God? How do we balance satire and humor with God's command to "love your neighbor as yourself"?

Is it possible to have humor, wit, and satire without devalueing the person?

I find is appalling that so many bloggers, many of them pastors, would applaud such behavior. Only those who are arogant enough to think they are absolutely right in their theology and practice...I guess, to use the words of someone rather important, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone."

I know that I am not perfect in my theology, my practice, my love for others, my use of satire, wit, and humor, but I hope I have the humility to recognize that and not judge others too harshly. Even now, as I critique Mark Driscoll and others, I recognize that God is using them, but I still wrestle internally with why we bite and beat up on our own. Critique their theology, their practice, but resorting to name-calling devalues the person.

August 29, 2006

Why I Kissed Calvinism Good-bye

Scot McKnight writes an interesting article concerning the Calvinism-Arminian issue.

I am an affirmed Arminian, in the sense that I do not believe a person is irresistibly held in their salvation through grace. I believe that a person honestly seeking the face of God will never slip away, but a person, through rejection or laziness can loose the assurance of their salvation.

I do love the grace-fullness of Calvinism. I love the grand vision of God. But I can't get past the evidence of God's interaction with His human creation as evidence that His sovreignty is something different than what Calvinists generally mean by the term "sovreignty." I think that Arminians often resort to guilt, in practice, to "encourage" people to pursue God and grow in grace. We have a works mentality that we need to "do" more and more to stay in.

I think there needs to be a balance. We are responsible to "do" the works of that come from a life of faith and grace. But we should not be constantly worrying if we are "in" with God. I think much of the problem for both Calvinists and Arminians comes from our definition of salvation. Salvation is not simply saying the sinners and prayer and being "in." Salvation is accepting Jesus' way of life as our own. It is a journey. We get into trouble when we think of salvation in terms of "in" or "out," or in terms of only a point (event) in time. Making a decision to follow Jesus and trust in His salvation is always immediately connected to growing in grace.

Anyway, the debate is almost not worth bringing up because all it does is create dissension. I think that much of the problem that some have with the Emerging Church (ala Brian McLaren) is more a Calvinist-Arminian debate.

Jesus Creed » Why I Kissed Calvinism Good-bye: "I love the “architecture” of Calvinism — that is, the focus on God’s glory and loving God, and I love the magnitude of grace in that theology, and I even love the radical transcendence that is often found in Calvinism. The CT piece frequently connects the attraction of young Christians to Calvinism because of its beauty.

When I was in college I sat for afternoons in our library and pored through Calvin’s Institutes, leading my dear wife to comment that I’d be better off underlining what I didn’t like because I had underlined most everything! Calvin’s Institutes are doxological; I still dip into him and read him. And, at the same time, I was a huge, huge fan of Spurgeon and read his Autobiography twice while in college. And, of course, other Calvinists banged around my desk — like the ever-wordy John Owen and I read devotionally John Brown’s commentary on Hebrews and Manton on James.

Then I went to seminary at Trinity, Grant Osborne asked me to be his TA, and one of his first assignments was to work through his extensive notes on the Calvinist-Arminian debate. Which I did. To be up to snuff on it, I read Howard Marshall’s Kept by the Power of God — and my mind changed. Not all at once, but this is what I remember: the consistency of the OT warnings for the covenant community formed a natural bridge for me to the NT warnings. And I couldn’t contest his many, many passages that all added up to one thing: genuine believers can lose their faith by throwing it away consciously."

August 26, 2006

Where is the Love?

I was not going to post about this, but I caved.

Mark Driscoll is the pastor of a large church in Seattle. He is a strong voice in favor of Reformed theology. He is doing a lot of good work in planting churches through the A29 network.

But the Bible tells us that that what comes out of a person reflects what is deep inside. I understand the need to maintain proper doctrine. I understand the desire to preserve the Truth of Jesus Christ and to warn our brothers and sisters in Christ who seem to be moving away from the path.

But come on Mark! Is this really the way? Inflammatory words and derogatory name-calling? The same people who look up to Mark would also down Falwell and Robertson for some of their statements.

How is this language an example of "love your neighbor as yourself"? How is this an example of "bless those who curse you, do good to those who hurt you"? We should be an example of GRACE and Truth. This may have some Truth, but there is absolutely NO Grace.

I am sure Mark is a nice guy, but I just don't get it.

Father, Son, Spirit . . . or . . . Rock, Paper, Scissors | TheResurgence: "The One God has kindly told us who He is—Father, Son, and Spirit. But some chicks and some chickified dudes with limp wrists and minors in “womyn’s studies” are not happy because two persons of the Trinity have a dude-ish ring."

August 25, 2006

Convert or Disciple?

The past week I have been reading The Great Omission by Dallas Willard. I always find him challenging and convicting.

Having grown up in a "works" emphasizing background, I often have to fight the guilt of "not doing enough." I think many people feel that same way. The primary debate between Calvinists and Arminians, I believe, is the discussion around grace and works. (There are other things involved. I don't want to over-simplify the discussion, but feel this is one issue at the heart of the conversation.)

I like Dallas's comment that "Grace is opposed to earning, not effort." It reminds me that I cannot earn my salvation or put myself in a place where God loves me more. Perseverance in the face of trials, practicing the spiritual disciplines, and participation in the community are not ways to earn salvation. They are ways that God makes us more like His Son. They are ways God uses to transform us from our present state into a "new creation" that is is clothed with "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control."

God doesn't just want to get us out of hell. He doesn't just want to forgive our sins. God wants to heal us completely. (By healing I mean more than just physical healing.)

Often we sell "following Christ" short by reducing it to simply the forgiveness of sins, escape from Hell, and entrance into heaven. It is more than conversion.

Being a disciple means that we drop our old way of doing life (repent) and begin doing life in the Way of Jesus. Instead of asking "What would Jesus do?" We ask, "What would Jesus do if He were me?" We accept the life of a disciple whatever career field we enter.

God wants to make us holy...Christlike.

God makes us more like His Son through our perseverance, our practice of the disciplines, and our participation in His community. It is funny how the more we "do" these things, the more "grace" is given.

The standard God sets is high. Often people say things like, "That way of life is impossible!" When, I think, they really mean, "That is too hard!" Just because something is hard, does not mean that it cannot be done. Too often people expect a lightning bolt from heaven or "revival" when what they need is consistent pursuit of God. If we are not spending time in His word, praying regularly, participating in His community, then we have no reason to expect God to "renew" or "revive" us. That is like sitting in front of the television, eating Cheetos, and one day expecting to run a marathon.

This is both process and event. There is a point where we say, "I believe Jesus' way is the best way. I am going to live life trying to be like Jesus." But we also recognize that we are in process, and the rest of our lives will be a growing process. It is not easy, but it is do-able.

Are we converts or are we disciples?

I don't have it perfect. I fail often. But I want to be a disciple, and I know that when I do my part, God ALWAYS does his part and gives me grace to "do" my part.

August 24, 2006

Goodbye Pluto!

And I thought it was tough when I had to surrender my ordination credentials for leaving my old denomination!

Pluto stripped of its status as a planet | Top News | Reuters.com: "Pluto was stripped of its status as a planet on Thursday when astronomers from around the world redefined it as a 'dwarf planet', leaving just eight classical planets in the solar system."

4 Steps to Forming Great Ideas

Here is my knee-jerk reaction to this article: it is good, and is good advice for anyone wanting to write or preach.

I think I need to take the advice.

Let Your Blog Posts Marinate (4 Steps to Forming Great Ideas) at LifeDev: "I’ve always had what I would call “writers ADD”. I would write about whatever thought came into my mind at the time of reading the articles, knee-jerk style."

August 23, 2006

Welcome to the Sweatshop

You load sixteen tons, and what do you get...
another day older and deeper in debt.
St. Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go...
I owe my soul to the company store.

Here is a "fun" game and exercise in the futile life of a sweatshop worker: SIM*SWEATSHOP

The Great Omission

Over the past few days I have been reading The Great Omission by Dallas Willard. I love to read his stuff, and suffer a great deal of conviction when I do.

He offers a challenge that many churches are simply making converts and not disciples. He argues that there is a mistaken concept that you can be a Christian without ever having to step out and become a disciple.

After discussing the rigors of discipleship, says, "But, someone will say, can I not be 'saved'--that is, get into heaven when I die--without any of this? Perhaps you can. God's goodness is so great, I am sure that He will let you in if He can find any basis at all to do so. But you might wish to think about what your life amounts to before you die, about what kind of person you are becoming, and about whether you really would be comfortable for eternity in the presence of One whose company you have not found especially desirable for the few hours and days of your earthly existence. And He is, after all, One who says to you now, 'Follow me!'"

He also offers another very good insight, "Grace is opposed to earning, not effort." Sometimes the dichotomy between works and grace is a false one. You cannot earn your way into heaven. There is nothing you can do to make God love you more. Your works will not be a factor in whether you "make it" into heaven.

Your works, however, do determine whether you live a holy life. I know that sounds likes works-theology. I don't mean it that way, but I do remember suffering for years asking God to give me a deeper walk with him. Then I realized that I had to actually wake myself up and discipline myself to read the Bible, pray, etc. The consistency I desired in my devotional time was not going to just magically happen, I had to take responsibility and do something about it.

Check out this blog discussion: The Great Omission

Snakes on a Plane in 3D

Sometimes you have to wonder what goes through a person's mind to pull something like this!

Rattlers freed in "Snakes on a Plane" theater prank: "Life imitating art is all very well. Unless, that is, it's a movie about deadly snakes on the rampage."

Perry and Gary: Fighting for Crumbs!

While these two church planters fight for crumbs: Mad Babble From A Church Planter...: Challenge accepted: "Perry has accepted the challenge and came up with the best thing for the winner to get: The loser has to wear the other teams shirt and post it on their blog for a week."

The Buckeyes are ranked #1

So in a sense, Clemson or Georgia...doesn't matter...it is all crumbs from the table...sorry guys!

August 22, 2006

Hive Mind and the Lowest Common Denominator

This article addresses a question many are wrestling with concerning church leadership.

here is a mentality that says lead as a group. This is in contention with the pastor as CEO model that many perceive to be a dictatorship of sorts.

I think team is a good metaphor, but with a coach or someone making the decisions and focusing the direction.

Here is the article, what do you think?

Levy: Poking a Stick Into The 'Hive Mind' - Newsweek Steven Levy - MSNBC.com: "Lanier's widely circulated online rant was the equivalent of poking a stick into a beehive—or, more specifically, the much-celebrated 'hive mind' of the modern Internet. Books like James Surowiecki's 'The Wisdom of Crowds' and Kevin Kelly's 'Out of Control' have provided a philosophical underpinning for the idea that the world benefits when people participate in unpredictable, emergent enterprises. Google's search engine uses the linking behavior of the entire Web to determine the relevance of search queries. The open-source movement believes that the bottom-up method of software development is more effective than when elite designers dictate what code should be written.

But the output of such efforts, says Lanier, is often a mundane reflection of the lowest common denominator, an inevitable consequence, he writes, of the 'stupid and boring' hive mind. Not surprisingly, the targets of his criticism are crying foul."

Laughable Pt. 2

Here is the pastor's response to the elderly lady removed from teaching Sunday School: First Baptist Church, Watertown, NY: Pastor's Message

I guess the laughability factor goes back to her court. She knew exactly which button to push to get people fired up and put the pastor on the hot seat! She used the restraints placed on the church by the law to twist accusations against the church and the pastor.

This has gone from laughable to sad!

I think women have every right to minister from a leadership stand point in the church, so I don't agree with the church in that regard. But I do believe they have the right to act in accordance with their theological beliefs. I think this action on the woman's part, though legally not slanderous, is slanderous nonetheless.

August 21, 2006

One More Reason to Laugh

Here is a perfect example of why people think the church is a big joke!

This isn't about a "literal" interpretation of the Bible. Nobody interprets is in a literal sense at all points. If they did, they would still not be eating pork!

CNN.com - Sunday school teacher dumped for being female - Aug 21, 2006: "The minister of a church that dismissed a female Sunday School teacher after adopting what it called a literal interpretation of the Bible says a woman can perform any job -- outside of the church.

The First Baptist Church dismissed Mary Lambert on August 9 with a letter explaining that the church had adopted an interpretation that prohibits women from teaching men. She had taught there for 54 years."

I Disagree

It is possible to disagree with someone without misrepresenting or misunderstanding them. Unfortunately, we are too often in such a hurry to get our ideas out that we miss the opportunity to understand and learn from people we might disagree with. If we do not take the time to understand a person and their side we are merely creating straw men and an easy target.

It is hard work and time consuming to understand a person and their theology. We also have to recgnize our own theological biases in the discussion.

Just a thought after reading: Why is Wright Misrepresented and Misunderstood by so many of his Reformed Critics?

Bible Discernment

The animated Knight of Death is rather disturbing!

Bible Discernment: "What Does The Bible Say? The Bible Alone is the Word of God. KJV The Real Word of God"

August 20, 2006

Where is God?

We live in a violent world. We fear flying in planes because they might be hijacked. We fear stree and gang violence. We fear all kinds of things.

Luckily we don't have to fear this:swissinfo - Gunfights as Congo heads for presidential run-off

This morning, during a Bible study at the church, I was asked, "Where is God's provision for those people in Africa?" I remember the lament of Psalm 40 (which is the influence for U2's song "40"), "How long, oh Lord!" I think this is a continual reminder that we must be the Church and we are God's hands to bring the Kingdom...to bring justice.

A few months ago, I went to a conference where Brian McLaren was speaking. He said something I found very helpful. "Mercy is standing at the top of the Niagara Falls pulling people out of the water before they plunge to their death. Justice is going up river to stop whoever is pushing people into the water."

The Church should be involved in acts of mercy and acts of justice!

August 19, 2006

Why am I a Christian?

Here is a great article. I will let it speak for itself (though I have included only part of it).

Under the Acacias: My Story: Why am I a Christian?: "So why am I still a Christian? Well, probably for three main reasons:

Firstly, Jesus. I still find the life and teaching of Jesus unmatched. His compassion for the weak, his grace towards sinners, his hatred of injustice and religious pomposity, his offer of forgiveness for all, his teaching on love, and his call to sacrificially follow him to find God's kingdom are still captivating after all these years. I am persuaded that the story of his life, his death for our sin, and his resurrection is basically the way it is told in the Bible, and that both inspires and challenges me.

Secondly, my own experience since knowing Christ. The things I have seen happen in my own life, the changes in my own heart, and the inexplicable answers to prayer, I can't explain away.

And thirdly, his followers. We are all 'works in progress.' Accusations can justly be made against many who call themselves Christian. But I have discovered among those who seriously attach themselves to Christ, a love and grace that I have not seen anywhere else.

So there you go. I recommend Jesus. I don't necessarily recommend all that is done or taught in his name. I don't necessarily recommend you agree with everything the churches might say or do. But I do recommend Jesus. His call to leave the empty rubbish of self-gratification and follow him comes with the promise of forgiveness, with the possibility of freedom from destructive habits, and the with the challenge to change the world."

August 18, 2006

Every Woman's Dream...

and yet it happens to a man!

If I were him I would have eaten my way out.

BBC NEWS | Americas | US man survives chocolate ordeal: "A 21-year-old US man ended up in hospital after spending two hours trapped in a vat of chocolate, police in Wisconsin said on Friday."

August 17, 2006

Fighting for Peace

This has "irony" written all over it. Probably as much irony as sending military troops into an area to...oh, sorry.

Buddhist monks brawl at peace protest | | The Australian: "PROTESTERS calling for an end to recent violence in Sri Lanka found themselves brawling with hardline Buddhist monks today, after a rally dubbed a "peace protest" turned unexpectedly violent."

August 15, 2006

Spiritual Lesson Here???

I will let Seth's illustration speak for itself. If you need someone to draw spiritual/church life implications for you...then...nevermind.


Seth's Blog: Two things you can say: "Two things you can say

...and one of them is wrong. (More from JFK).

'You must be feeling really frustrated.'

What a great thing for a gate agent to say to a frustrated traveler. I saw it used three times in ten minutes, and it worked every time. It enabled the agent to get on the same side of the conversation, it allowed the customer to let off some steam and got both sides moving.

On the other hand,

'Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part...'

This is true, of course, unless your goal is to make the person happy, or, at the very least, get rid of them. There were all sorts of clueless people at the airport today, cutting lines, yelling, getting angry just because they didn't leave enough time. Not the airline's fault, that's for sure.

Yet the best way to handle the situation is not to persuade, convince or bully the person into admitting that they were wrong. No reason to teach these people a lesson, because they're not going to learn a lesson anyway."

August 14, 2006

Creedal Christianity

When I started my first church plant, I began the beliefs page with the Creed. I felt a need to get "back" to something that was inclusive of fellow Christians and got away from sectarianism.

Today, we often call people "heretics" because they disagree or dissent to OUR understanding of Scripture and OUR doctrinal persuasion. The Creeds offer us a tool for defining "heresy" and showing us the borders of the Christian faith.

If we believe that all truth is God's truth, then we are able to affirm the true, the good, the holy (??) that is found in other religions and in our world. But the creeds show us the border of the Christian faith. If what we consider "true" in other religions crosses the boudary established by the creed, then we are no longer in Christian territory.

Too often the church has been a doctrinal church rather than a creedal church. I know about the passage that speaks of doctrine, but I don't believe it is speaking of doctrine the way we use that word today.

In Velvet Elvis, Rob Bell talks about theology (our words about God) being inadequate to capture the reality of God. He uses a trampoline as an example; the springs being our words about God. He contrasts this with the popular model of theology as bricks in a wall. The problem with that model is that if one brick is removed the wall crashes. For the Apostle Paul the only brick he saw as absolutely necessary was the resurrection.

Here is an article from JesusCreed:

Jesus Creed » Emerging and Orthodoxy: "For many in the emerging movement there is a good reason to express the Christian faith by appealing to the creeds: that reason is ecumenical. By appealing to the creeds one is able to get way behind and well beyond fundamentalism and the sectarian tendencies of denominationalism. "

August 10, 2006

45 Hours a Week

Tony Morgan is blogging his synopsis of the Leadership Summit. Here are his notes from Andy Stanley's session. Andy has a lot of good stuff to say.

tony morgan | one of the simply strategic guys: Leadership Summit [Andy Stanley]: "God, I don't have time to build a ministry and take care of my family. I'll give you 45 hours per week as a church planter. If you can build a church on 45 hours, I'm your guy. I'll let you build has big a church as you can with that 45 hours, and I'll be satisfied with that. But I'm not going to cheat my family."

Leadership Lifecycle

Tony Morgan has a great synopsis of Bill Hybels first session from the Leadership Summit. Bill believes, and rightly so, that leaders develop through a lifecycle. J. Robert Clinton's Book The Making of a Leader points this out as well.

Each leader goes through a lifecycle. They are tested and stretched at each phase. They have certain responsibilities they must be accountable for, and through them, they grow. Leadership is growth.

Tony breaks down Bill Hybel's session. Be sure to check it out.

tony morgan | one of the simply strategic guys: Leadership Summit [Bill Hybels]: "If we aren't intentional about our growth, our leadership influence will plateau and ultimately die."

My Acting Debut!

Outflow_Promo_05.mov

A month or so ago, I was invited to be part of a new project by Steve Sjogren and Dave Ping. I think is going to be a great book and a great resource for the Church. I got to be part of the promo video, but scheduling conflicts kept me from taking part in the larger video shoot. I was very dissapointed, but it was still fun.

August 9, 2006

Would You Rather...

I don't know which would be worse being fired with no warning or working for a 16-year-old?

SI.com Say what? Wie's caddy 'shocked' to be fired: "Michelle Wie didn't make it through her first year as a professional without firing her caddie, getting rid of Greg Johnston after a tie for 26th in the Women's British Open.

Johnston began working for the 16-year-old from Hawaii when she made her pro debut last October in the Samsung World Championship, where Wie was disqualified over an illegal drop in the third round."

August 8, 2006

One more point

8. Don't over-generalize. Over-generalization NEVER helps anyone (pun intended). Saying things like "You ALWAYS" or "Pastors no longer" (there is an implied "every" and an implied "always" in this statement. which pastors? where?)

How to Have a Fair Fight (Conversation, Discussion, Debate)

Over the past week, I have been involved in a rather heated e-mail discussion. I was called a heretic, and I was accussed of holding ideas that I do not hold.

So in the spirit of searching for discussion guidelines, I thought I would try to write down a few ideas that I feel helps the fighting remain fair:

1. Assume the best of the person. When we begin discussing something with someone, we should assume that they are honestly wrestling with the issue and give them the benefit of the doubt. We must assume that they are looking at Scripture and attempting to draw out principles to live by.

2. Recognize the medium has limitations. We are all bound by the limitations of language. Misspeaking is nothing new, and when you add to that the medium of blogging and e-mail, things get worse. This goes back to number 1. We must assume the best of the person.

3. Checking one box does not mean the person has checked all the boxes. We are all guilty of this faux pas. We assume that because a person votes Democrate that they believe Abortion is okay, or because they vote Republican they don't care for the environment. Just because a person holds one belief does not necessitate they hold others. We can say it does, but it does not. This leads to #4.

4. Things, in the real world, do not necessarily play out to their natural conclusions. Logic says that everything must play out to its natural conclusion, but in reality, things do not. (This is not a rejection of logic, only that pure logic does not exist when the creatures using it have emotions, background, and other phsyiological things affecting it.) I can say that we do not live under the Law, promote Grace, and NOT accept a lawless Christianity. (This is a faulty example, but aren't they all.)

The way I define logic is: step A always leads to step B which always leads to step C. Computers are logical. When they begin searching for a file they begin at A and work to the end. Humans have logic, but they are reasonable. Meaning we take logic and add experience and background and emotion and whatever else. When we go to look for something, we think about what it looks like and where it was the last time I saw it. We don't go to the attic and start looking there.

5. Seek to understand the person's point of view. We live in a sound byte world, and we often react to people based on the sound bytes they give us. It is wrong to catagorize a person's stance based on a few random statements. Stephen Covey says, "Seek first to understand before seeking to be understood." This is the foundation for good listening. When we listen to other people we have a better chance of hearing not only the words they use to express and idea, but also the background, the intensity, the emphasis, and the true intent behind those words.

6. Respect the person you are speaking with. This means watching the language we use so that we are not name-calling. It also means we are careful about the connotative meaning of the words we choose. Some words, because of popular use, are caustic in nature. We must be careful of the words we choose because they have more meaning than what Webster gives them--there is connotation.

7. No body ever argued someone into their belief. The most we can do is to state what we believe, discuss the things that lead to that belief, and then make changes based up discussion. When we discuss something with someone we need to listen to their side, understand their point and intent, and then evaluate our own stance. We also need remember that winning the argument is not the intent, but rather discussion and growth.

8. Don't over-generalize. Over-generalization NEVER helps anyone (pun intended). Saying things like "You ALWAYS" or "Pastors no longer" (there is an implied "every" and an implied "always" in this statement. which pastors? where?)

These are just a few thoughts. Have I missed anything?

All Due Respect

Yesterday I posted about those who have attacked Rev. Greg Boyd's stance on the role of the Church in regards to politics. I did not include a link to one of bloggers because he was only one of many that I had read.

However, I did comment on his blog, and he was very humble in his response. He listened to Rev. Boyd's message. He still does not agree with Rev. Boyd, but at least he gave him a fairly good hearing.

We don't have to agree with each other, but we do owe it to our Christian brothers and sisters to understand where they are coming from. I am a regular reader of Randy's blog, and appreciate his humility in taking the time to listen. Finally, someone with an opinion who is willing to give the other side a fair listen.

Thanks Randy.

stuff i think: In the interest of fairness...: "
In the interest of fairness, I downloaded the audio that Eric referred to and listened to it last night, albeit in 3 sections, while working on benefit dinner programs, and before drifting off to sleep. Dr. Boyd probably deserves more attention than that, but I doubt he listens to my sermons front to back either. I'm just saying I didn't have the time to sit down with a notebook and jot down thougths as he taught. Nevertheless, I observed the following:"

August 7, 2006

Irresponsible

It is irresponsible to respond to an issue, a book, a movie, or a person's theology or sermon without attempting to understand what they ACTUALLY say. I have seen several posts and been involved in an e-mail discussion concerning Rev. Greg Boyd's take on the church's role in politics. Woodland Hills Church - 2004 Sermon Archive
(The first sermon of the series is "Taking America Back for God?" on April 18).

Whether you agree or disagree with someone, you have a responsibility to understand where the person is coming from and what they are actually saying. This means putting what you believe and what you want to say on the back burner until you understand them.

If you are unwilling to actually listen and understand a person, please refrain from interacting with the rest of the world. As Christians, one aspect of loving our neighbor means that we respect those we speak with and listen to them. I agree with Stephen Covey, "seek first to understand before being understood."

Quick Thought on Preaching

I think good speaking begins with good writing and good writing begins with lots and lots of reading.

Always read broadly. Read what you like to read, but read broadly.

August 4, 2006

Heretic

Over the past few days, I have been involved in a lengthy e-mail discussion with some old friends and new friends. In the midst of the conversation, a position I took was compared to that of a heretic, and, in a sense, I was called a heretic. It was not directly calling me a heretic, but he did call another theologian a heretic.

That brings up the question: What is a heretic in today's world? And, Who has the right to define the heretic?

I find it interesting that prior to Constantine making Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, Christians only had to fear the Roman Empire. Christians were killed not because they differed on various theological points, but because they refused to differed with pagan religions.

But within one year of becoming the official religion of the Empire, Christian had to fear other Christians. Differing theological opinion was enough to declare someone a heretic and have them burned at the stake. Entire countries went to war because they had different theological takes on an issue. I am sure there were other reasons for the wars (terrority, military power, greed, land aquirement), but no one can deny that Christians began killing Christians.

Yes, Jesus made strong accusations against the Pharisees and religious rulers. But I believe the Bible demonstrates that it was their practice more than their beliefs that Jesus criticized. He was more concerned that their errant beliefs had led them to errent practice than he was that they had errent beliefs.

Manilow Mania

I think it would drive me crazy too! Manilow or anything by Bill Gaither and his crew.

CNN.com - Manilow tunes annoy residents - Jul 17, 2006: "It could be magic for some, but the use of loud Barry Manilow music to drive away late-night revelers from a suburban Sydney park is getting on the nerves of nearby residents."

Thanks to Jenn for the link.

August 3, 2006

Fastest Growing...Really?

I found this article from Outreach Magazine through Monday Morning Insights.

I did some checking, though, and found that according to official denominational records two of the churches on the list did not make as big of gains as the list claims they made.

Where do they get these numbers?

More importantly, how should we as a church REALLY look at the numbers game?

top100_2006.pdf (application/pdf Object)

August 2, 2006

Enough Said

Children dying in Africa (melodramatic tone to enhance the disparity), and we get...

Madonna's toilet seat demands - Showbiz News - Life Style Extra: "Madonna demands a brand new toilet seat at every concert she plays."

August 1, 2006

A Quote from Pastor Boyd's Book

Woodland Hills Church - The Myth of a Christian Nation: "For some evangelicals, the kingdom of God is largely about, if not centered on, “taking America back for God,” voting for the Christian candidate, outlawing abortion, outlawing gay marriage, winning the culture war, defending political freedom at home and abroad, keeping the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, fighting for prayer in the public schools and at public events, and fighting to display the Ten Commandments in government buildings.

I do not argue that those political positions are either wrong or right. Nor do I argue that Christians shouldn’t be involved in politics. While people whose faith has been politicized may well interpret me along such lines, I assure you that this is not what I’m saying. The issue is far more fundamental than how we should vote or participate in government. Rather, I want to challenge the assumption that finding the right political path has anything to do with advancing the kingdom of God."

Jesus and Politics

A friend sent this to me: Jesus Creed

The article it references is given below.

Disowning Conservative Politics, Evangelical Pastor Rattles Flock - New York Times: "“When the church wins the culture wars, it inevitably loses,” Mr. Boyd preached. “When it conquers the world, it becomes the world. When you put your trust in the sword, you lose the cross.”"

I believe that those in the Religious Right are doing what they believe to be the right thing to do. I believe that is also true of those on the political left.

What both articles are calling for is a middle ground; a role where the church is prophetic. That does, however, involve saying that something is right or wrong (like abortion, war, neglect of the environment). The problem is that if you vote for one party you accept certain aspects of that, but, becasuse the party doesn't vote for it, you are rejecting other issues that are just as important.

In our culture we have a role to play as voters, and I am simply tired of the church being swayed and played by those in political power. We are seeking to rule over people rather than to serve other people. I am tired of having to choose the "lesser of two evils"! I am tired of having to accept a rejection of environmental issues in favor of saving human life. But I also don't believe that these things can be truly legislated!

Many in the church have come to believe that morality can be legistlated, and it can in a sense. But true heart transformation takes something more.

Why is it that people will spend more money picketing an abortion clinic than they will spending that money to give these women viable alternatives? Why? Because picketing means that you don't have to actually get your hands dirty with these women who are obviously sinners. Because standing on a street corner with a sign is much less "involved" than caring for someone. Because it is good to fell morally superior to others. Take this reasoning and apply it to whatever issue you like.

I like Pastor Boyd's concept of serving under.

The Da Vinci Code

Okay, so I finished reading the book. (I know it is quite a ways out.) The first 150 or so pages were filled with most inane description that I almost put the book down. But after thost 150 pages, the story took off and was rather exciting.

I can understand why people would want to respond to The Da Vinci Code. It speaks of historical and current organizations and documents as though they are actual history. And, they are somewhat historical. I also understand that this book is a work of FICTION. But, we know that fiction always carries something of what the author believes to be true. Fiction is simply a story used to relay non-fiction thought, ideals, and values.

I have two problems with Dan Brown's assumptions as he writes. I know he can let himself off the hook by saying, "It is only fiction," but lets assume he actually wants us to believe some of this stuff.

First, he does not fairly distribute the distrust. By this I mean that the same caution and distrust that he aims at the Catholic Church and, more importantly, early Christianity should be aimed at the Merovingians, Gnostic gospels, and secret societies. He assumes that what they say is true without once considering the possibility that they have ulterior motives or that they would lie.

Second, he is functionally agnostic. The Christian faith believes that God spoke. The religion of the Jews, as expressed in the Old Testament, is vastly different from the worship of idols surrounding Israel. Yes, there are similarities, but there are some vast and important differences. Robert Langdon and others in the novel assume religion to be part of society, but never believe that God, if one actually existed, would speak any kind of truth into the world.

Ther are some historical problems. Dan Brown wrongly has Robert Langdon say that early Jewish practice had temple prostitutes. They had temple prostitutes when they strayed from God and took on the worship of idols, but this practice was always condemned by Jewish Scripture and God's prophets. This is one among other things.

All in all I liked the book as a work of FICTION. I completely disagree with the premise, but I am sure it could be said I am simply defending what I know. To each his own.

I did read another blogger who simply asked, "Why do people want to believe this?" I think that is the church's biggest question.