Thursday, April 24, 2014

 

Divorce

At Christian Century, Carolyne Call talks deeply, intimately and painfully about divorce:
Despite the warm and loving support of family and friends, few truly understood what was happening to me. Deep spiritual questions plagued me. When I married, I believed that it was God’s will for me to be in this relationship for life. Was I wrong? Had I failed God? Could it be God’s will that a marriage end? What did God want of me now? There were few people with whom I could discuss such questions. I couldn’t share the yawning grief that would suddenly bloom when I stumbled on my husband’s handwriting scribbled in the margin of a book. I couldn’t explain the persistent questions about who I was without my spouse. And I couldn’t describe how I was wrangling with God and questioning my faith. The spiritual isolation was profound.

Over time I met and spoke with other people of faith who were divorced, and I began to wonder if there were parts of this experience that we held in common. Were any of the spiritual struggles the same? How did divorce affect their understanding of God? Was it possible to grow spiritually through divorce? My investigation into these questions led me to research and write about divorce.

I considered the role of clergy and congregations in the process of a member’s divorce. How could congregations reach out to and embrace those going through divorce? What could clergy learn from hearing the diverse voices of those who had been down this road? They receive little seminary training for the spiritual and theological questions that arise from divorce. In my case, I learned more from speaking with those involved in divorce. Their struggles, questions and stories, along with my own experience and reflections, helped me see my role as a pastor more clearly.
It goes on like this for quite a while. It is quite moving and justifiably so. But, and this is a big but, the word "I" dominates it like the Cascades dominate the landscape of the northwest. Not to mention the fact that it never attempt to find an objective viewpoint. Ms. Call seems concerned only with herself and her feelings, never once are questions of forces greater than herself or those who share her experience considered.

As Christians we are called to balance all these matters. Yes, we have to seek our one health and happiness, but we are also simultaneously and equally duty-bound.

I understand divorce - I have even counseled friends to seek it. But any discussion of it must include both the personal and the objective. IF we make it all about us we have missed the gospel altogether.


 

Illuminated Scripture


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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

 

Promotion, Sales and Conviction

Todd Rhoades expresses dismay at hype and fictionalization in the sales of Christian, well, whatever. Look there are a couple of things I want to get off the table immediately. 1) There are pure hucksters out there - Pure rip-off artists putting on Christan clothes. Don't want to talk about them. 2) There are pure marketers out there - their job is to sell something. Many of them are secular companies with a religious branch or division. Don't really want to talk about them either. What I want to talk about are people that borrow the methodology of those groups to sell either charitable work, or perhaps the gospel itself.

Remember the parable of the woman that gave her last shekel quietly and the rich guy that gave a lot in a showy fashion? Jesus points out the woman made the bigger sacrifice, and what He is looking for is sacrifice.

Now, here is my question - if what Christ is looking for from us is not necessarily results, but character change (sacrifice in the parable) can the techniques of sales and marketing produce that. Yes, they are known to alter behavior, but Jesus is looking beyond mere behavior to motivation. IN fact, if you think about it, isn't that what the whole message of Christ (and the Holy Spirit!) is really about? Behavior is not enough.

Most marketing technique appeals to the animal in us - it modifies our behavior, as the behavior of animals was modified in the work of B.F. Skinner and those that have followed in his intellectual footsteps. God, on the other hand is trying to pull us out of our animal nature into the nature that is in His image. So one approach reinforces what the other seems to want to eliminate.

Maybe we need to think about this some more.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

 

Worship As Submission

Dan Edelen argues that worship is not prescriptive, but submissive. Yet he participates in the canard that there is a "worship time" designed to prepare one emotionally and spiritually for a message:
Yes, the worship had been exemplary, as usual. No doubt the Lord was present in their midst. But then, so it seemed was a spirit of bureaucracy....
If indeed worship is about submission, then its "spirit" should invade all aspects not merely of the service, but of life.

To sound utterly cliche', Edelen's point is to "Let go and let God." In order to make that not a cliche' it has to be more than about some sort of emotional release - it has to be transforming! And transformig not just of our worship services, but of every aspect of our lives. It has to penetrate both the behavioral prescriptions and the emotional high to reach a new and much deeper level. A level that is both a part of us, and somehow beyond our understanding.

We must submit not just out emotions and our behavior, but our core - wholly and totally. That's worship.


 

Kitty Kartoons


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Monday, April 21, 2014

 

Polity Matters

Bobby Jamieson writing @ 9Marks posts a lengthy and thorough defense of congregational forms of polity and makes the case that such is the New Testament prescription for church organization. The piece is too long well argued for excerpting, but it is well worth the time and effort to read.

I am a Presbyterian primarily because of polity. Frankly, given the shifts in majority Presbyterian theological views in the last decades there are many churches with which I am better aligned theologically, but there are none that get church governance right.

My argument, unlike Jamieson, are purely practical. The Presbyterian version of congregationalism offers two thing that I find mandatory - 1) less opportunity for a charismatic leader to run amok and 2) better ability to check same when it does happen. In a nutshell, if God is going to tell one guy something, he is going to tell everybody something.

The downside is what we have seen happen in the church in the last decades, but this is a result not of the system, but of failing to exercise it properly.

The only real disadvantage to the system is it is hard to keep God sovereign - it requires leadership of extraordinary devotion and humility. But then that is what the church is supposed to produce, is it not?


Sunday, April 20, 2014

 

He Is Risen Indeed!


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Saturday, April 19, 2014

 

Comic Art

ARTIST GENE COLAN








Friday, April 18, 2014

 

Battling For Church

Ron Edmondson lists "Seven Ways Satan Tries to Destroy a Church":
Church conflict – Satan loves business meetings that get out of hand or when two church members have disagreements outside of church. He loves when church members argue about trivial things, such as colors of the carpet or big things, such as whether to add another service. Doesn’t matter to him. Show him a good argument potential and he’s willing to stir the fire.

Burnout – Satan loves to burn out a church volunteer, staff member, or pastor. If he can make them feel they are no longer needed, their work is not appreciated, or that they no longer have anything to offer…he feels he’s winning part of the battle.

Rumors – Satan is the stirrer of dissension. He likes to plant little seeds of a juicy story, about someone in the church or community…sometimes even the pastor or staff…and watch them quickly spread through a church congregation or community. The version, of course, usually grows to a larger portion than reality. Satan likes that too.

Busyness – Satan loves to distract church goers with a plethora of activity that produces little results in Kingdom-building.

Lies – Satan attempts to interject what he calls a “half-truth”; just a hint of false doctrine and then watch it disrupt or divide a body. Of course, we all know that half-truth is really just a cleaned up version of a bold face lie, but Satan is clever enough to disguise a lie in a way where false teachers gain entry and do damage before being discovered.

Scandal – Satan loves a good, juicy, gossipy news headline in the local paper. If it will split, divide or destroy a church body…even better. If it will destroy someone’s Kingdom calling or work…he’ll take that too.

Marriage and family disruptions – Satan loves to destroy any relationship, but he also goes after key leader’s marriages; even the pastor’s marriage. He likes to encourage prodigal children. He wants to cause families to fight within the church and fight with the church. Satan knows if he can destroy a home, he has a better chance of destroying a church.
OK, ideally, I think he is right, but we live in a fallen world and all of those things are inevitabilities in a fallen world. They cannot be eliminated from our churches. The key question is, "How do we deal with them?" These forces, bad as they are are only destructive on a church wide scale if we make bad choices in handling them.

Trying to pretend like they can be eliminated is a diversion from the essential question of what to do when they happen.

There are no set answers for each situation is different, but trouble usually begins when a church attempts to hide its foibles rather than confess to them.


 

Friday Entertainment

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/vaticancityandholysee/10162563/Vatican-asks-is-the-Hulk-Catholic.html

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