Wednesday, July 29, 2015

 

Worth Thinking About

Jeff Dunn:
Graduation gave way to marriage, then children. We found ourselves moving several times between Ohio and Oklahoma, with a one-year exile to Orlando. Each move brought a new church home, always staying in evangelicalism. (Including six years in a Methodist church—but it was a charismatic Methodist church …) And with each stop I felt farther and farther from the God whom I loved. I was no longer experiencing discipleship. I was being pampered and coddled. Instead of being shown how to love one another, even when it is hard to do so, I was told just how special I was to God. Instead of communion being the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world, it was about how partaking would bring me healing and strength and blessing. I was told that if I believed the right beliefs (which seemed to be a moving target), Jesus would come into my heart and be my personal savior, with the emphasis on personal. Leaders of these churches planned and worked to meet my “felt needs.” Evangelical books I was given to read were just self-help platitudes with scriptures dropped in here and there. Worship songs talked about how good it feels to be loved by God rather than the rich theology of those dusty old hymns. There was very little theology, as a matter of fact, very little need to train my mind to think of God. After all, God thinks good thoughts of me all day, and that is all that matters.

[...]

My first love had turned into a plodding existence, saying and doing all the right things so as to fit in with all of the others who passed through the Total Perspective Vortex and came out smiling smugly that they were they center of all things. I had become Mary and Joseph, walking three days back to their hometown before they discovered Jesus wasn’t with them. He was about his Father’s business, while I was about my own.

I longed for, yearned for, a return to my first love. I sought programs and activities and services to get me there. I got up earlier and prayed more and read more and did more. I fasted and confessed and … and then I just gave up. That is when God met me. About six years ago the Lord began emptying me of myself. He began to strip away the nice Christian wallpaper I had put over my real self. He helped me to see that I really am just a tiny dot on a tiny dot in the vastness of things, and that was freeing to me. For with myself so small, I could once again begin to see just how big and wonderful and awe-full God truly is. Now I find silence to be louder and sweeter than Christian noise, and I find it much more peaceful to have simple dreams than big dreams.

So I have come to the 40 year mark of my journey of faith with barely any faith left. The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years before they finally assembled before Joshua at the edge of the Jordan, ready to enter the land promised to them. I’m sure it took those last several years to get everyone fed up enough and tired enough and hungry enough to leave the familiar wilderness for the unknown. And once they crossed over, things were not easy for them. There was much building and fighting and learning and praying and believing to be done. The last several years of my life have been years of upheaval and tumult and pain and hunger and a longing for Jesus as he knows himself to be, not as I think he is in my own Total Perspective Vortex. I will not be the center of things when I cross the river. And I am now prepared to cross over.

I am at the river’s edge. But for me, the river is not marked Jordan.

It is the Tiber.
Read The Whole Thing.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

 

How Do You Pray?

Jeff Brumley @ Baptist News Global:
A new poll has revealed something religious leaders have known for years: Americans are pretty self-centered when they pray.

And even when not praying for themselves, they are praying for family, friends and favorite teams — which, pastors say, often amounts to the same thing.
The article goes on to interview Baptist preachers that give some pretty old and hackneyed "solutions" to this problem. But the problem isn't prayer, it is much deeper.

We live in a world that is about fulfilling felt needs. The church, rather than teaching that there is more to life than the satisfaction of felt needs has catered to the trend in order to "remain relevant" and "succeed." This trend in prayer is just one symptom of the bigger issue. When church is reduced to salvation, what else do you expect?

The church has ceased to move people towards maturity. The "solutions" cited in this article are things I discussed in the 1970's in classes for new Christians. They do not move one towards maturity, they simple get one started.

But then to teach more we have to know more and have put it to use. Hmmmm...


Monday, July 27, 2015

 

Do Guns Kill People or Do People Kill People?

Christian Platt argues in a piece entitled "Is the Internet Killing Christianity?" that the egalitarian nature of the internet is doing a way with the gatekeeping functions of institutions, specifically the church. And further, he argues that this is what God intended all along:
But Jesus has been calling us to such radical abandonment of the “gatekeeper” model of religion from the very beginning of Christianity.
Here I think Platt takes the Reformation idea of all men as priests and pushes it a bit too far. Indeed we do not need intermediaries between ourselves and God, but we desperately need leaders.

It should be obvious to anyone paying attention that there is probably more bad information on the internet than good. We all know people that have spouted information from the internet without any real understanding of the context in which the information is/was offered, or of the ramifications of that information. In other words they don't know what they know.

I would look at this from a slightly different angle. The internet could very well help the church focus on being what God intended it to be. The church is not a purveyor of information, it is a purveyor of wisdom and a developer of character. These things cannot be acquired solely by reading or watching a video - they require experience and a human touch. This view does not remove the gatekeeper function so much as it changes the basis on which the gate is opened and closed.

The key question is will the institutions be able to see and adapt to this reorientation? Platt thinks not, he seems to think institutions will be eliminated altogether. I disagree. I think some religious institutions will adapt and many will fail, but there will always be institutions. As the church organized and replaced the Jewish authority, as the protestant churches replaced, in some areas, the Catholic church, so new institutions will arise in the death of the current ones.

Gate keeping is a necessary function to virtually any human endeavor. The problem is not gate keeping, it is whether it is well done or not.


Saturday, July 25, 2015

 

Comic Art

Artist Frank Miller 







Friday, July 24, 2015

 

It Cannot Be A Program

J Mack Stiles writing@ 9MArks:
God can use programs. I know people who have come to faith at evangelistic events. For the record, I often promote and speak at evangelistic programs. But I don’t think programs are the most effective, or even the primary, way we should do evangelism.
He goes on to describe a better idea:
But the gospel is pictured not just in our love. Have you ever thought of how many biblical instructions God has built into the fabric of the church that, if done correctly, serve as proclamations of the gospel?

In pursuing a healthy culture of evangelism, we don’t remake the church for evangelism. Instead, we allow the things that God has already built into the church to proclaim the gospel. Jesus did not forget the gospel when he built the church.

For instance, baptism pictures the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. It shows how his death is our death and his life our life. The Lord’s Supper proclaims the death of Christ until he returns and prompts us to confess our sins and experience forgiveness anew. When we pray, we pray the truths of God. When we sing, we sing the great things God has done for us through the gospel. When we give financially, we’re giving to advance the gospel message. And of course the preaching of the Word brings the gospel.
Let me rephrase this just a bit. The best way to do better at evangelism is to do better at being the church.

I wish that were not a novel idea.


 

Friday Humor


Thursday, July 23, 2015

 

Patience Required

Mark Daniels

Although the little story at the beginning of today's installment of Our Daily Bread seems trite and unnecessary, the point is a good one.

Our prayers often revolve around asking God to hurry up and bless what we want to do. What if God’s answer to us is simply, “Be patient. Wait upon Me”? We can pray with David: “Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly” (Psalm 5:3).
Patience in prayer is difficult. (Really, patience in anything is difficult, isn't it?) And no matter how many times I have seen God work in me and in circumstances for which I've prayed for long periods of time, I still find patience in prayer difficult. God seems to need to teach me the same lessons repeatedly, including this one about waiting for Him and His timing and His will. Thankfully, He's more patient than I am!
 AMEN!


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

 

What is Missed?

Anne Helen Petersen writes about "Missing Church, Not Religion". It's a book review, but I found it remarkable. A pull quote is hard, you need to read this thing whole. Please do so. After you have done that a few time you need to ask yourself some questions.
  • How could a person bifurcate church and religion in this fashion?
  • Does that say something about how we "do" church?
  • Or, does it say something about who we are in the church?
  • She misses the "smells and bells," not so much the praise chorus and good times. What endures?
  • Is the problem the smells and bells or is it how WE stripped them of meaning?
I could go on, but I found this a remarkable insight into much of what is wrong with the church these days.







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