Monday, March 30, 2009

one thing...

So a while back, I heard a speaker ask the crowd, "If you could only hear one thing from those you love...your family...your closest friends...etc...just one thing - what would you want to hear?"

The obvious answer he was leading towards, and the answer most everyone gave was, "I love you." Sappy enough to be a great illustration. But something about it struck me as being a sign of a larger problem.

We want people to love US.

It makes sense. We all wanna be loved. I think DC Talk sang it. That makes it true. But how often do we put the importance of those we love loving us, above those we love loving God/Jesus? If I had to narrow all that my wife and children were allowed to say into one phrase, I'd rather they tell me they're in love with God (whatever that means) than they love me.

Not to say I don't want them to love me. Totally do. They'd better. :) But I hope and pray that the life I live communicates how important I believe how they live in relation to God is, compared to how they live in relation to me. I don't think I do a very good job sometimes. Thankfully I'm still relatively new to this marriage and parenting thing, and can keep working towards my communication skills - both in word and deed.

This sometimes innocently skewed mindset creeps its way into other areas of life too. Our friends, our co-workers, and for those of us in ministry especially - those we serve. We look for approval (love). We look for meaning (love). We look for significance (love). We look for purpose in relationship with other people (love). We do a crazy amount of things sometimes, all under the guise of acquiring a sense of being needed, or "loved" by others.

I hope that others love me. I'm pretty sure there are many out there who do. I've felt it throughout my life, and in many ways it has helped me through life's storms. In the same way, there are a ridiculous amount of people that I love. But in the same way that my love for God trumps each of those, I hope and pray that each person my life bumps into - can see my genuine desire for them to be involved in the Love of God more than me or my ministry/life or anything else.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Love: a lent poem.

You’re the intimate untouchable

Mighty lamb, broken Devine

The ultimate intangible,

And yet I feel I’m held by you…


Contradictions and consistent.

Always changing and the same.

All of existence finds its’ purpose

In the Kingdom of your Name.


We the masses verbally assault your bride-

Misguided and impure

Lord help me when in darkness

To live out your love for her.


I teach it to (my) your children

This I know – I’m loved by Jesus

Sometimes great, often horrible

Immanuel – God with us.


No one greater, none more powerful

None with more humility

None more broken, or more vulnerable

Or acquainted with suffering.


Thank you God. Thank you Father.

Thank you Spirit. Thank you Son.

For your breath, for your promise

For your past, and for your Kingdom…




(yeah that's right, I get down with rhyming and stanzas...deal with it. :) )

Friday, March 27, 2009

healthy perspective...

You may remember my post about atheist bus ads back around Christmas. The atheist community has continued to find new cities to bring these ads to, in many different forms. Christians responding to the ads range from a bus advertising jihad to turning a blind eye.

Among all the possible responses, Mike Clawson posted a blog on The Friendly Atheist recently, pointing to a posting by Eugene Cho on God's Politics' Blog. I enjoyed what he has to say. Here are a few highlights:

"I suspect that in the near future, some Christian group or folks here in Seattle will fund a set of new ads in response to these ads. And then at that point, I’d like to launch my own campaign and Web site called:

http://can’twefindbetterthingstoinvestourmoneyinlike-homelesspovertywatereducationmalariaetc.com

Don’t buy that url. It’s mine. Anyway, in an earlier post, I shared three reasons why I think these ads can be good:

1. Christians shouldn’t feel entitled to anything. We live in a larger marketplace — if you will — and we need to compete to have our voice expressed and heard. Maybe it’s my upbringing in San Francisco and living the past 12 years in Seattle, but while at times it’s tiresome, I enjoy living in a culture and context where the culture isn’t dominated by the christianese subculture. Being a follower of Christ isn’t part of the cultural expectation but a choice that one must live out.

2. I find it funny that “atheists” are identified by an opposition to the belief of God. It’s a reactive belief system. To atheists: What is your purpose?

3. Conversation. They’ve invested tons of money in these advertisements and, frankly, it’s probably been the greatest recent catalyst for conversation about God for many people and churches. It’s like free advertisement for theists and Christians.

But seriously, we don’t have to go through this in every international city, do we?"

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Thoughts on: The Circumcision of the Heart (Part 2)

The heart of someone whom God has worked on, has circumcised, is and acts differently than before. But it is not God who, without permission, reaches down and circumcises without permission. It is our created state, our freedom from love, that allows us to regularly offer our hearts, motivations, and lives up to the God who offers to transform our sacrifices in His perfecting Love.

Wesley is also quick to include that this is not merely something than can happen, and one can boast. It is evidenced by the fruits of the Spirit in a persons life. That Spirit which is the source of all such transformation. That yes, we are called to “agonize first to enter in at the strait gate”, but it is not from our efforts this happens.

Wesley uses the scripture mentioned to remind the people that God has not called us solely to some non-physical “circumcision of the soul” where it’s all taking place in a ethereal spiritual realm, and we can only speak of it vaguely. He preaches right from the Gospel, which says “circumcision of the heart”. It is a very real sacrifice God is calling His followers to make in response to salvation offered in Christ.

In those days, it would probably seem like you are following “the law” simply because God has elected you as one who will. In the book of Romans, it was the religious leaders of the time who felt that God’s work was evidenced in the strict following of the law. John Wesley preaches these words to both misunderstandings using scripture and reminds people of his time and beyond that the law has been fulfilled by Christ. As God works on our hearts that we have offered to Him, we are made more and more into the image of Christ. So that “the mind in us which was also in Christ Jesus…and whether we eat, or drink, or whatever we do, we do all for the glory of God.”

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Thoughts On: The Circumcision of the Heart (Part 1)

In 1733, John Wesley would have been about 20 years old. He was just finishing up his studies at Oxford University, and yet already involved in the ministries and evangelism. Before his days, it was widely discussed that humanity played either the main role or no role in salvation. More recently, John Calvin had expanded on earlier theologians’ work to state that humanity played absolutely no role as salvation is concerned. It seems almost specifically to that belief that he preaches his sermon “The Circumcision of the Heart”.

He begins his message with a quote from Romans 2:29, that “circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit and not in the letter.” Wesley doesn’t waste much time before revealing what he is speaking of here: Holiness. His second point would have been something they were familiar with: God’s work in our lives “implies humility”. It is something being worked in us. Calvinists of those days would have connected with his words here, and he discusses further how unable we are on our own to do anything but “add sin to sin”.

But what could be easily missed in that same sentence, he expands on further later on. That along with humility to allow God to do His work, comes faith, hope and charity. That Wesley connects these things as part of the experience of salvation, would have been hard to swallow for many who had already accepted that their heart has nothing to do with the work God is doing in and through them.

But these three things cannot be overlooked, Wesley believes. It is the process of God to bring His love to perfection in our lives, and we are very much involved. We respond, both to God and to His creation, and are given faith through God’s grace.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

fragile...

I remember one Sunday morning, we were loaded into the car. My older brother was driving, I was on the passenger side, and our 3 younger sibs all in the back seat. We were all dressed up either from or for church that day. Driving on a good sized highway, 2 lanes going the same direction.

We saw a truck crossing the highway, who stopped between the opposing sides at a stop sign like you would expect. Didn't think much of it really. Until, we we approached that intersection, when it was too late to stop (again, we were on a highway), for some reason he pulled right out in front of us. My brother swerved to try and avoid/soften the impact, but there wasn't anything he could have done....we smashed into the truck, and in an instant many things happened. Everything went blank.

Seconds later, we were collecting ourselves. Obviously our main concern were our three youngest siblings in the back seat. Through the smoke, and the smell of the airbags, we turned to see 3 uninjured, but clearly shaken, younger family members. Not having been in an accident before, but seeing them in movies - we knew the car was about to explode. :) So we hurried to get everyone out, and by that time were instructed by the local neighbors to sit on the grass nearby. A bloody nose on our driver seemed the worst of the injuries. Whew. Brush some dust off my shirt. That's when I noticed it.

My pointer finger was bending in a different direction than all the other fingers. Midway up, where the big knuckle usually allows it to bend forward, it was branching out sideways. I felt no pain, so I was kinda amused by the fact that I could still bend it, even with the odd direction. Then the adrenaline faded, and pain hit like no other. Oh man, the pain of a day filled with straightening one simple finger. I was on meds for Epilepsy at the time, and they didn't know what medication would cause a seizure, so pain medication was off limits for now. I get a shiver just remembering.

I'm thankful the extent of our injuries were very minor compared to what could have happened. I know that not everyone makes it out of something like that unscathed. As we continue towards Easter, I remember that I am fragile. My body is made up of blood and bones. I look forward to the physical bodies that are brought to live by Christ in the new creation...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Local Elections...

I posted a few days ago some information about where to find local election stuff. In trying to figure out a little more about this local election, I found a sample ballot (click the green link at the top) for Macon County residents. Check it out, and you'll find the information for the city/village/township you live in, and what elections you have occurring.

Here's a sneak peek for residents of Decatur:


City Councilman: (4 yrs., vote for 3)
Carey Grady
Betsy Stockard
Adam Ruderman
Dan Caulkins
Jerry Dawson
Julie "Moore" Wolfe
Adam Brown

City Councilman: (2 yrs., vote for 1)
Larry Foster
Patrick McDaniel
Marcia Phillips

Township Supervisor: Arthur Walker or Duane Potter

Township Clerk: Ada Owens or John Sellers

Township Assessor: Denita "Dee" Mathews or Tom Greanias

Township Highway Commissioner: Gordon Brenner (unopposed)

Township Trustees: (vote for 4)
Hilda Walker
Lisa Jones
Raushana Pender
Donna Verry
Michael Sexton
Mark Younker
Christopher Siudyla
John Bolletta


Decatur Park Dist. Commissioner: (vote for 2)
Robert Brilley
Erwin Arends
Cynthia Deadrick
John Davis
Louis Wood

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Lent = Easters Advent

"my biggest problem starts on Easter Monday (the day after Easter). I regard it as absurd and unjustifiable that we should spend forty days keeping Lent, pondering what it means, preaching about self-denial, being at least a little gloomy, and then bringing it all to a peak with Holy Week, which in turn climaxes in Maundy Thursday and Good Friday...and then, after a rather odd Holy Saturday, we have a single day of celebration...

..Easter week itself ought not to be the time when all clergy sigh with relief and go on (vacation). It ought to be an eight-day festival, with champagne served after morning prayer or even before, with lots of alleluias and extra hymns and spectacular anthems. Is it any wonder people find it hard to believe in the resurrection of Jesus if we don't throw our hats in the air?

This is our greatest festival. Take Christmas away, and in biblical terms you lose 2 chapters at the front of Matthew and Luke, nothing else. Take Easter away, and you don't have a New Testament; you don't have Christianity; as Paul says, you are still in your sins. We shouldn't allow the secular world, with its schedules and habits and parareligious events, its cute Easter bunnies, to blow us off course. This is our greatest day. We should put the flags out."

NT Wright, "Surprised by Hope"

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

dude...

Remember spending a late night with a bunch of friends when you were in your teens?

How you'd alternate between moments where everyone was zoned out, staring into nothingness - and moments where everything is hilarious?

We do that at lunchtime. :)

Monday, March 16, 2009

nothing like the book...

So here's a cheesy youth pastor illustration, that you've probably already heard, so you can skip it. But it hit me last night.

Ever read a really great book, and then went to see the movie, and became a bit disappointed? Maybe it was exactly the same, but just different than you imagined. Maybe it was cut a bit shorter in order to condense into a movie's length. Maybe they changed the story in large ways, just to fit whoever was making the movie's desire to bring it to life.

Whatever the case, if you've ever read "Jurassic Park", and then watched the movie, you know what I'm talking about. The book is pretty much always better than the movie. The more a movie stays true to the book, usually, the better the movie.

As Christians, we are a people of a Book. The Word of God. We are called to live out those transforming words - the calling back to a covenant relationship, the proclamation of His Kingdom, loving others, being involved in new creation, mercy, grace, life, etc...

Our lives can become illustrations of the Word of God. Examples for others to watch and interact with, that point them to the amazing story God continues to write with His creation.

I know that there are days in my life where if someone was watching, they'd say, "Man, that was nothing like the book." Thankfully, even those days are exactly why the Word of God exists.

I guess that's where the illustration falls apart/becomes beautiful. It's as if a Book was written that actually talks about the movies that will be made from it, and those movies continually point back to that Book for anything worth watching.

So maybe it's not an easy illustration to talk about. But still - I pray my life reflects much of the grace/life/redemption/new creation/Kingdom stuff found in the Book that I desire to draw my life from.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

More Elections...

On April 7th, 2009 - Decatur, IL will be having an important set of local elections. We have a Mayor to elect, along with 1 2-year council seat, and 3 4-year council seats.

If you want to know more about the basics on each candidate, check here for their bios. Seriously, take a minute and meet each of them (via their submitted info) at least. Chances are you don't know much about them, like me, and might as well begin with the basics.

Interesting/easy to do to find out where who is getting what money: Go here. Enter "Decatur", "Illinois", and then "2009", and leave the rest blank. 13 people or so will show up....many of them candidates. Check out who's getting what from whom.

Should be enough to keep you busy for a bit...put together a list of who you'll be voting for....and mark April 7th on your calendar!!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

nice shirt...

It was 7th grade. I was at my locker between classes. I looked down at my feet briefly - dark socks. I always wore dark socks with my tennis shoes and jeans. Looking back, I can't remember why. Maybe they were more comfortable? Maybe they were cheaper? Not sure why I even remember looking at them, unless the symbolism of me looking down was important to this memory. That's when I heard her...

"Hey Chad (that was my name at the time), I like your shirt. Girbaud, huh? (pronounced "jah-boh" or something like that) Where'd you get it? Those can be expensive, eh?

In that split second of response time, I had choices. Here was a semi-attractive, popular-crowd type female complimenting me. But she was also asking the source of her own compliment. Do I answer honestly?

Do I tell her, "well, I go to a clothing bank once in a while, and we're allowed to take a certain number of shirts. I had no clue this "Girbaud" (I pronounced it gerr-bawd) was anything other than a slick foreign word. I liked that it was long-sleeved, and blue/black. But now that you complimented it, I'll probably wear it at least once a week until there are holes in the cuffs."

Or do I make something up? "Eh, I had a few bucks left from Christmas still, and thought I might as well get a decent shirt to wear. (shrugging it off)

Ooops, she was still waiting on a reply.

"Um, can't remember. A gift I think. I've had it for a while, I'd just lost it."

"that's cool"

ah, memories of teenage drama in a boy that was probably nothing more than a gumball for the girl.

Friday, March 13, 2009

What about Them?

A post by Bishop David Kendall - of the Free Methodist Church

(take a few moments to read, it's totally worth it.)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

the storm in the calm...

Another aspect we've talked about this week - why we enjoy staying busy. Yesterday I brought up the fact that there are many ways to simply "be" in life, and we all have different paths in that regard. But one thing we all share, whether we enjoy it or not, is the need for silent time before God. That time that makes most of us accidentally fall asleep (which seems a lot more okay than we allow ourselves to think it is). No matter how we are wired, some sort of "silence" is good.

Sometimes we avoid that silence, because we're afraid of what may happen during it. Left with only ourselves, and God, we actually have to think of our self. When we don't try to fill the silence with prayers of some sort, when we embrace the silence and release our desire to control it - we may be confronted with those aspects of ourselves that we try and ignore. Those things about us we try to stay too busy to notice. Those parts of ourselves that we try and cover up.

These "dark emotions" (simply because they are generally kept hidden): anger, lust, greed, insecurity, pride, apathy, etc.

We are instructed, from a young age usually, to fight these. To pray with all we have, "God, take this from me." But yesterday, in guided prayer, we were asked to name them in ourselves. To personify them. To notice them. To imagine God responding to that personified emotion. To seek what "good" might come from this aspect of ourselves we've denied most our lives.

I recommend this. Psycho-babble though it may sound - it offers to be an experience of God that can bring healing and purpose to an area of our lives that needs.

Reminded this week, that although there is value to finding our our strengths, the things we're gifted at, etc. God can use our weaknesses, our broken areas, sometimes in even more powerful ways. Where we are weak, He is strong.

May we seek silence, and know that God is with us through the storm...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

the rest of the story...

We are meeting with Mark Yaconelli for two days, along with all the national leaders of youth ministry in the Free Methodist Church. We are talking about the future God has in store for the Church, and for our church. How important we believe it is to connect the youth/young adults of today to a living experience of God, before they decide they're not into "church" anymore. (sometimes by slow release, sometimes by a dramatic break) At the root of all of this, we find the care/experience of our own souls. So we are spending time thinking/turning towards God together. There are a group of about thirty of us. It's refreshing. It's encouraging. It's vision-casting. It is rest.

We talked a lot yesterday about the importance of finding regular periods of rest in our lives. How, especially in ministry, it's important for ourselves/families, but especially as those who lead. We need to be people who model "rest". The world certainly won't do it. I could go on a rant about how the world loves busy-ness, or how the Bible loves rest....but you get the picture.

So the question becomes, now that we know we NEED rest and need to model rest to the world, what is does that mean? Maybe not so obviously, it doesn't mean that everyone just needs to take a nap in the middle of the day, although perhaps that's what you need. I'm definitely not the napping type. So what does it mean for me?

I think fatherhood can be something that compounds our busy-ness if we allow it. I also think it can be one of the greatest gifts God has given to someone in need of rest. My children cause me to slow down. To turn off the tv. To play. To imagine. To create. To sing/dance. These things give me rest.

We took our kids with us to Hawaii for our "Wheel of Fortune" vacation last year. Some thought we were crazy. We had moments where perhaps we thought we were also. But during/after the experience, we realized how much they added to our trip. Without them, we would have felt pressure to "go out", and "experience the island", etc. That would have costed much time and money, and put stress on what was meant to be a vacation. Instead, we hung out. We played. We slowly traveled around a few beautiful places/neat things. We had permission to simply "be".

So, especially during this time of Lent, what rest is God calling you to be more aware of/participate in your life? What activity/practice that adds stress to your day could you do without for a bit? What is something in your life that allows you to simply "be"? Find and do....or....not do....and may God meet you there.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Watchmen...

So I have a confession. I'm reading the "graphic novel" (comic book) "The Watchmen". Mainly because I love super-hero's, and the story seemed to pull me in. I know, the movie is rated R, and even the book itself has all sorts of cussing/situations in it, and I'm probably horrible for even telling the truth that I'm reading it.....but there it is.

The sometimes inappropriate story comes at a very appropriate time. Lent.

Murder. Rape. Child pornography. Hate. Violence. Selfishness. Lust. Greed. The list could go on and on. Humanity as a whole is filled with so many horrible things. The book continues to ask the question, "what makes them worth saving?". What redeeming qualities are there, if any, about the mess of human existence? What makes a life worth living, in a time where so much suffering and pain exist?

I've not finished the book. But I don't think it hits the mark for what many of us would consider the "why" to the questions above. It gets deep, and talks about the miracles (on a quantum level, even) that make such chaos worthwhile. It definitely raises the question for the reader, however.

We all have had similar moments of realization I'm sure. You're standing in the middle of a carnival downtown, or a greedy Wal-mart scene on "Black Friday", or an obnoxious parent at a kids sporting event, or even just seeing the conditions in other countries while we worry about how much gas costs by the cent. How screwed up are humanities priorities?

I'm thankful for a God who looks at all that we've chosen to become, and continues to be broken with love for us. Who has already begun, and continues to work towards, drawing all back into a covenant relationship with Him. Who has initiated His Kingdom right here in our midst, and calls us to join in proclaiming it with our very lives/being. Emphasis again - I'm thankful for a God who LOVES US. (I wanted to use all sorts of adverbs there, but couldn't pick the right one. Suffice it to say, there are many phenomenal ways that we are loved.)

As we recognize our humanity, even the aspects that make us shiver, may we be filled with the heart of God for His children. May we admit/confess that we are all just as fallen, and in need of His Spirit's work in our lives...

Monday, March 09, 2009

Once again...

So I finally finished reading "The Shack". I've blogged twice before about it, and felt like I owed one last "hurrah". Seriously. This book needs to be read. But it is also a dangerous book.

Dangerous in the same way that "Fireproof", any other Christian movie/book/product, or even the metaphor of "asking Jesus into your heart" can be dangerous. It would be very easy for us to throw this at someone as a "fix", or a "medicine" for suffering/pain/etc. To think that any of these things "fixes" anyone, or brings completion to a life that needs God, is all too tempting for a culture of gratification.

The book is not perfect...but it is a great book. Very well written. Yeah it's cheesy at times. But acceptably so, in my book. Beautiful images and well-thought-out words/pictures of God and humanity. It offers healing by pointing to God and His Spirit. Great themes of forgiveness, and how exactly God may work in some regards.

But it is not medicine. It is not a cure. It is a book. Lives need Jesus Christ. We need genuine community with each other towards the Kingdom, and given life by His Spirit. I believe God can use this book in awesome ways in the lives of individuals, and in communities. But I also believe this book could be misused just as easily.

May we find ourselves caught up in loving others towards God...and may visible/experiential acts of worship such as this become more and more available as He continues to reveal Himself....thanks to the author/his conspirators for making it available to the public.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

physically speaking...

Talking with my wife the other day, I realized another reason I enjoy the season of Lent. It is the emphasis on the physical. Beginning with Ash Wednesday, and throughout the 40 days (minus miniature celebrations of Easter on Sundays) we remind ourselves of our physical existence. I'm grateful for the mentors/teachers/pastors I have that have revealed God's love for the physical world to me.

I grew up with the line of thinking that these bodies are mere "soul holders". That unfortunately, our souls are trapped/carried around in these physical robots (remember Krang from TMNT?) until they finally fall apart to the extent that our soul is finally released.

Thankfully that's not the case. Sure these physical bodies get old. They age, wither, and fall to various elements/diseases, and ultimately breathe their last. But even with that, we see signs throughout scripture, and I have come to believe these bodies are somehow intricately and beautifully connected to the body that is to come. The "new creation" body. (1 Corinthians 15) And even apart from that, God Himself came as Jesus, and lived/died in a human body, redeeming it in so many ways.

Yes, there are many places where it talks about the "flesh" as it relates to evil. But the word refers more to a "carnality" than to a general physical being. When God talks about our bodies, and when Jesus related physically to others - there is a sense that these bodies are very sacred and precious things to God.

Maybe that's why I like hockey so much...even if I can't play it. There is a sense of joy that I see on players faces when they skate smoothly down the ice, toying with the puck around other players, and ultimately either scoring a goal, getting crunched into a wall, or checked by another player who's enjoying the game just as much. It's a very physical game. I'd like to think that, given eternity in the new creation, I might enjoy such a moment myself. For now...dreams.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

a tough question...

"What if God didn't (or ceased to) exist?"

In a recent blog, the Friendly Atheist posted a video made by someone that posed this question. The video is obviously sarcastic, but it brought up a good question. One that we should be thinking about, especially as we journey towards a celebration of Easter together.

"If God ceased to be - what about your life would change?"

Obviously an impossible question, and ridiculous to even ask, for those who believe God to be the source of all that is, etc. So it's not necessarily that I want us to think about how we would respond to this situation. But rather, what does it tell us about who God is to us? Would it merely change what we do?

The video reminds us that there are more reasons than simply (or not simply) "God wants me to", to the questions of: why be a good person? why help others? why live a certain way?

So then the question can become, what difference is there between the good that I work to accomplish, and the work someone who does not believe in God accomplishes? A glass of water to someone who's thirsty is simply that, right?

Easter is a good illustration, in some ways. Many will celebrate Easter - time off work, colored eggs, special colored cookies, a dinner with family, maybe even attend a church service. But not all who celebrate Easter will celebrate Easter - Jesus Christ (the crucified God) being resurrected (given a "new creation" body ahead of all humanity) as the initiation of the Kingdom of God's arrival.

It's a bit easier to describe that difference. But it may not be easy to see that difference if we were to watch 2 people through Easter Sunday.

May our "glasses of water" be different in such a way. May we trust in God to provide that difference as He continues to bring His Kingdom and make all things new.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

What we celebrate...

"...when Paul spoke of Jesus having been raised from the dead, and pointed on to resurrection as God's promise for all Jesus' people, nobody in Corinth would have thought he meant simply that Jesus had gone after his death into some glorious but non-bodily existence. (think about it; if that was what Paul and others had meant, why did they suggest it happened 'on the third day', rather than straight away?) People sometimes talk vaguely about Jesus being 'raised to heaven', but that simply isn't what the word meant...

..Christianity, you see, isn't a set of ideas. It isn't a path of spirituality. It isn't a rule of life. It isn't a political agenda. It includes, and indeed gives energy to, all those things; but at its very heart it is something different. It is good news about an event which has happened in the world, an event because of which the world can never be the same again. And those who believe it, and live by it, will (thank God!) never be the same again either." - Tom Wright

That's what (Easter) is all about.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Love Shack...

What you gain from the cover/back of "The Shack" tells you it's a story about a father who's daughter has been abducted. A tragedy no doubt. It also talks about a note from God, telling the man to meet him at the shack that weekend. The front cover tells you it's altogether a story where "Tragedy Meets Eternity". It does sound just a little cheesy altogether. The forward doesn't help much either. I braced myself for a painfully predictable, albeit flowery and intense, story with a pretentious picture of God himself. (I think it's difficult to present God as a character with dialogue in a creative/human way, without seeming at least a bit pretentious - unless you're the Bible)

Thankfully, I'd already committed to reading the entire book. Because after you get past the covers, and the forward, it's a great book. Understand, I've not finished it yet. It may become horrible. But the 3/4 of it I've read so far are worth reading even if it does. Maybe a little pretentious/cheesy in a few of the interactions with God, but I think in this case it's okay.

One part of a conversation with God, speaks about freedom. There is some dangerous ground here, but good ground to put out there none-the-less. Jesus is speaking (as the human that he is) about institutions, and saying he never tried to form any. That institutions are human-invented, and can end up working against God's Kingdom, even if they are the church.

If someone reads this book (close mindedly) looking for permission to leave/not be involved in a church, they will get a pat on the back, and permission granted. Unfortunately, I'm sure that will happen with some. For me, it was quite the opposite. Understand, this is only one small part of all that connected with my soul throughout the book. That same conversation of freedom, talks about the freedom to exist within those institutions. I believe that to be where God has led me, and can free others who desire the community a church offers, but are cynical to the "institutional-ness" of it all.

Do I agree with all the weights and measures and organizational red tape found in serving God through professional (and paid) ministry within a specific denomination? Not always. But do I love, and commit to this community as a family member wanting to serve his own? Yes. I'm not perfect, and in no way do I see my involvement as "bringing genuine Jesus-ness" to an institution that ignores Him. I actually think highly of our leadership, and the direction we are going as the Free Methodist Church. If I ever believe we are not being led towards the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, I pray that I will be faithful to yell loudly.

For this, and many more reasons, I recommend "The Shack" highly to anyone who had been wanting to read it, but due to where it's sold and who's recommended it so far you've chosen not to. It's not perfect. But it's challenged, impacted, connected me with my emotions in many ways, and revealed aspects of God to me that resonate with what I've read in scripture. I like it, and I think you will too...

Monday, March 02, 2009

The Shack (no spoilers)

So I'm about 3/4 of the way through "The Shack", a book written by William Young. Apparently, it's been a buzz for a while. I'd never heard much about it, until I accidentally picked it up one day a few months ago. The cover looked interesting enough. I turned it over to see what the back told me. Immediately I saw a quote by Michael W. Smith, recommending the book. I did the only sensible thing: I put it down. No way I was gonna buy/read some random Christian Fiction bestseller (okay, I'm addicted to Dekker, but other than that.).

So here I am, almost finished with the book, and I have a GIANT recommendation for it's author and publishers. I hope they're listening among the thousands of people who read my blog on a daily basis (or at least annual basis). Ready? Here it is:

Publish a leather bound, or at least remarkably boring looking covered edition. Call it whatever you want. Do NOT put quotes by famous Christian people on the outside of it. Don't advertise that it's out in Christian bookstores or on Christian radio stations. Simply allow it to exist. This will give cynical people the ability to check the book out on their own, without proclaiming it to the world (if they read in public).

I'm more than a little ashamed to say, I did not even think about reading "The Shack" because of how obvious it would be to anyone in public that I was reading "The Shack" (and yes, largely due to Smitty's recommendation on the back). Although now I know the only ones who would judge me for reading "The Shack" are people who have not read "The Shack".

Thankfully, along the same lines as the movie "Fireproof" recently, my wife told me I was not allowed to judge a piece of literature/cinema/art, until I'd actually experienced it. So we committed to reading it together. Have I mentioned I love my wife?

Come back tomorrow for a few (still no spoilers) thoughts on the book....

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Officially: Obama = Not the Antichrist

How do we know? Because Tim Lahaye said so of course!! According to Lahaye, too many people don't like Obama, and when the "antichrist" comes, everyone will like him.

How will that be possible?

Without flinching, Mr.Lahaye went right into his explanation: Because everyone who loves Jesus will disappear at the "rapture", making it possible for everyone who's left to swear allegiance to the antichrist, of course. So yeah, Obama is "involved" in end times - with his "socialist" agenda and anti-life propaganda, he's simply "preparing the way" for the antichrist. It all makes perfect sense.

Oh good. I'm glad this guy is allowed to get on TV and represent a major line of evangelical belief. If people watch/listen, and have read the Bible at some point, they should smell something foul. I'm excited to know that so many people will show up to church Sunday, hungry for answers, and asking questions that should have been addressed a long time ago.

Where exactly did all this rapture talk come from? (is it Biblical?)

Is there one anti-christ that we should be on the look out for? (there are many people who are/have been/will be against the things of Christ, watch out for all of them who try to lead)

We're used to saying things like "ah well, it's not that important what people believe, as long as they believe in Christ". I can get down with that. But I still think, especially as world events begin to line up (again) with "rapture theology", that we should be discussing exactly what we know from scripture, and what we've invented. The Kingdom work here and now suffers because so many are focusing on being "rapture-ready", or simply believe that checking the "I believe" box fulfills what God has called them to in this world.

I guess that begs the question: is it possible to believe actively in rapture theology, and still be faithful to the gospel of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ?

Answer: Yup. Totally. I've seen it. I think I see it on a regular basis.

So why not just leave it well enough alone? I don't know. For most of my teenage years, I knew the rapture was fact, and lived towards it. When I began to discover the truth about where the things I knew came from, it deepened my journey, and delivered much more Hope to the Gospel message in my life/world. I want that same deliverance for those I love...