Monday, April 30, 2012

T or F: Jesus was a peace-maker

I chose this statement in light of this post. Also, I chose it in light of a struggle I have had lately, after being told that "I can be offensive at times."

I especially like the line, "He’s relentless in His desire to offend the sensibilities of self-righteous people."

Before I get to me, let's think about Jesus. When I think of the Jesus of the gospels, I can think of many issues of Jesus the peace-maker. He brought about peace through his words, through his healings, and ultimately through his death. But I also see much of Jesus the offender of sensibilities. He not only confronted the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, but often his own disciples as well. He called Peter "Satan." He told the masses they must pick up their crosses if they want to follow him. He told his disciples they must become like children if they want to enter his kingdom, he told a rich young man to sell all he had. The list goes on.

Jesus was not concerned about gathering a large number of disciples around him just for the sake of numbers. In fact, he often said offensive things for the seeming purpose of weeding out those who only wanted to fill their bellies. Yes, Jesus was a peace-maker, but he was often offensive in the process. How ironic to us!

I am not Jesus, I know that. But I desire to be like him. So I know that I must sometimes be the peace-maker. But what about being offensive? Could I, should I, ever be offensive?

I will share one story, you tell me if I was out of bounds. We had been attending a church for well over a year. I had questions about the pastor's sermon content and specific statements he had made from the pulpit. I tried talking to him, but he became offended and wrote me a letter suggesting that if I did not like his sermons, perhaps I should find another place of worship. Elders spoke to me, telling me that we need to get along, be unified, but never addressing any of the questions or concerns I had. At one point, I chose to wear headphones during the sermon, and see what happened. Answer: Nothing. Even though the pastor saw me, as well as several of the elders, no one said a word. I was not spoken to until I started attending a small group. I was then told that my comments at group were out of line, and I was asked to "find another place to worship." Long story short, I am now looking for another church home.

At the meeting where I was asked to leave, one of the elders said he had been told I had worn headphones at one of the services. Truth is, he had been one of the ones to see me do so from the front of the service. He asked me what I was listening to. I told him, "sermons from other preachers." He chose this time to confront me, and asked if I thought this was right. I told him that all of my efforts to engage in conversation has been ignored. Was that right?

I admit that I have said some offensive things over the years. But sometimes the truth hurts. Maybe this particular incident was wrong, maybe not. I still struggle with the whole deal, but what do you do when people just bury their heads in the sand and condemn you, but when you ask what is wrong they just speak in vague generalities about how your conversation does not promote unity. Or how when you ask them if they can articulate what they are accusing you of, they can't. They just know that they are uncomfortable.

Jesus made a lot of people uncomfortable. Jesus makes me uncomfortable sometimes. I am okay with that. In fact, those seem to be the times that lead to the most growth, if I don't stick my head in the sand.

I recall one instance of Jesus saying he did not come to bring peace, but a sword. That is a tough teaching. It makes me uncomfortable. But it can bring me peace too. Peace in the aftermath of the struggle. Real peace.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

T or F: Jesus hates everything secular

So where would we find Jesus, at a Casting Crowns concert, or the Grateful Dead?

Again, I am not saying there is anything wrong with Casting Crowns. In fact, I love their music. But the question is not if the music is good or bad, it is where would Jesus be? I think an honest look at his ministry says he's at the Grateful Dead concert, hanging with the sinners. No, he's not taking a toke from blunt that is being passed around, he is just being himself, talking about life and his Father, intriguing some who are listening while others continue about whatever they were doing.

I think of Zacchaeus, a tax-collector who was curious about Jesus. He wanted to see Jesus without being seen, but Jesus called him out, and then had dinner with him. Now Zach was no small sinner. He was a hated sell-out, helping the Romans finance their control over his people. And yet in the midst of the dinner, Jesus proclaims that salvation has come to this home.

Jesus did not hate the secular, he embraced it. He went out into it and attracted people to himself by the strength of his living the truth. He embraced it without letting it attract himself to it. That is tough for us humans. Anytime we surrender to the satisfaction of this world over our satisfaction in knowing God, we have fallen short. Some would say, "Then why take the chance? Why not just avoid the world?" My answer is, "Because then we are already defeated."

I read today in Matt Chandler's book, The Explicit Gospel, how we have changed the Great Commission. Instead of going out into the world, we want to invite the world to come to us. While that is a sweet idea, it is not what Jesus commanded.

Jesus did not hate the secular, he embraced it. What about us?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

T or F: Jesus loves everything Christian

Jesus is everywhere! No, I am not talking about His theological omni-presence. Just look around, you find him on T-shirts, mugs, cards, candies, photos (when did he have time to pose?), figurines, etc. My question for today is, what would he think of this?

As I write these T or F posts, I am trying hard not to use my own preconceptions, but rather to look at the Jesus of the gospels. I don't seek to offend anyone, I am sure that my own house has its share of Jesus all over it. But what would Jesus think if he walked in and saw this stuff? Would he smile? Would he be offended? Would he be angry?

For some (perhaps obvious) reason, my mind keeps going to the story of the cleansing of the temple. People were providing a necessary service, but they were gouging the temple goers in the process. So is Jesus only okay with it if I buy it on sale or at a yard sale? Gotta dig deeper.

What is the heart of the matter? Why do I possess such things? Is it worship? And if so, what am I worshipping? Am I worshipping God? Am I satisfying some need to show myself or others that I am a Christian (rather then by showing them with my actual life)? What possesses me to spend money on something that depicts Jesus rather than assisting the poor? What would David Platt do?

I now think of my books, my "Christian" CD's (although not one of them has been baptized). Where will it end?

Now I think about the freedom I have in Christ. I think about Paul and his comments about eating meat that has been sacrificed to idols. A few trinkets to remind me about my love for my savior are not a bad thing. Jesus commended the women who poured the oil on his feet to prepare him for burial. I probably don't need the Jesus-mints (I believe they are called Test-a-mints) that I have heard about, but a picture or a bumper-fish might not be a bad thing. I guess it actually is up to the individual and God on this one. No judgments here, but there might just be a few more items in my next garage sale.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

T or F: Jesus wants us all to get along

Unity is a funny word. At least as it is interpreted by some. For some the idea of unity equates to the idea of peace. Unity is where everyone gives up their "self" for the greater good. But is that the idea that Jesus had when he thought of the unity that he wanted his followers to have? I think to answer this question, we have to look at Jesus himself.

Jesus came into a world in which there were different ideas about what it meant to be a follower of God. And his idea was different still. So did he give up on his idea just to bet along? No, he blew the existing paradigm to bits. He told stories and confronted leaders and took it all the way to the cross. The cross was a bloody, humiliating, despised death that would have offended many. So much for peace!

I think here of the peace-keeping forces that have been in place around the world. Using military might, guns, and bloodshed to keep peace. Can anyone say, "oxymoron?" That is because peace and unity are not the same. You can have peace, but if those subjected to the peace do not agree to the means of that peace, you do not have unity.

Does that mean that unity means we must all agree? Again, no, because not everyone will ever agree on everything when it comes to politics or religion. But we can agree on essential matters and give freedom in others so that we get along. We can dialogue instead of dictate. We can love.

Jesus wanted unity among his followers, but at what cost? Certainly not at the cost of truth. Certainly not at the cost of freedom. Certainly not at the cost of anything that would hinder the glory of God.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

T or F: Jesus wants to heal the sick

Does Jesus want to heal the sick? Any of them, some of them, all of them? This is a tough question because it makes us take a look at what Jesus wants (as opposed to what we want) and it makes us address the idea of suffering from God's point of view and not ours.

If we look to Jesus of the gospels, we see several things. One of them is that he heals a lot of people, even going so far as to raise some from the dead. But he also allows suffering. He hesitated before going to raise Lazarus, causing his family added grief. We are told that in his own hometown he did not do many miracles because of their lack of faith. He heals some, others not. Is it like a lottery?

I don't think so. One thing I know about Jesus is that he too was willing to suffer. He did not view the cross as something to be avoided. So perhaps we too need to view our suffering in such a way. Remember Job. Remember that our trials purify us. Remember that it is not about me and my comfort.

I believe that when Jesus heals, he does so with a purpose, and when he does not heal, he also does so with a purpose. A fellow blogger, Kansas Bob, has blogged about miraculous healing that he was witnessed. I do not doubt him. But what about those who do not receive such results?

Healing is not an automatic for the Christian. At least not physical healing on demand. Healing is a blessing,but sometimes so is not healing. Garth Brooks, is his song, "Unanswered Prayers" tells a story of a young man who was in love, only to not have that love returned. In the end, he ends up happily married to someone else, a person he would have missed had the other woman returned his affections. I am not saying the theology of the song is perfect. No theological system is. But sometimes no is a good thing, and God knows when that is on every account.

Jesus wants us to find our joy in our God, not our circumstance. Sometimes healing brings us to that place. Sometimes it does not. But if we find our strength in the Lord, and not in his gifts, then it is not a matter of what we get from Him, but how we live in Him. And that is something that Jesus wants for us, and lived out himself, all of the time.

Friday, April 20, 2012

T or F: Jesus wants us to be happy and content

Does Jesus want us to be happy and content? And the correct answer to this depends on your perception of happy and content.

If I look at the life of Jesus, and specifically ask, "Did he want his disciples to be happy and content?" I would have to look at how he treated them. Let's see, he called them away from their comfort zones, took them away from the vocation that they knew, traveled a lot, didn't directly answer their questions, told them things like they must pick up their crosses, called Peter Satan...should I go on?

Yet, he spent time with them,he showed them mighty miracles, gave this same Peter keys to the kingdom...totally confused yet?

Here is my perception: Jesus was not so much concerned with their comfort as he was with their understanding of what it meant to be a disciple. He was honest with them,he loved them, he was okay with letting them struggle. He was very desirous that they grow. He was preparing them for a great mission. Had he sugar coated the reality, that would not have been love. Yet he wanted them to be joyous. He wanted them to know God and find their strength in Him.

As a disciple, should I expect any less? Or the tougher question, should I pursue anything less? Jesus wants me to be filled with joy, but not the joy that is based on circumstance. Rather, he desires that I find the unspeakable joy of knowing God as my Father. The Bible says that Jesus endured the cross for the joy that was set before him. (He 12:2) Some think that that refers to the joy he found in providing salvation for you and I. I think it was the joy he found in being obedient to his Father.

My son, 10 years old, is allowed some reading time each day in class. The other day, he brought a book to me and asked if he could read it at school. It was Radical by David Platt. The smile on his face when I told him yes was ear to ear. Is it because my son loves Dr. Platt? No, it was the joy he found in pleasing his father. That is the joy I want. That is the happiness that Jesus wants me to find.

Reality verse Fantasy

I am teaching 6th grade this year, and this week our story deals with fantasy verses reality. The story is Don Quixote and the Windmills, where the main character assumes the identity of Don Quixote, and attacks some windmills which he says are giants. When faced with the reality that they are windmills, he simply states that a wizard has turned then into windmills. I think this character would make a great modern theologian.

I have been struggling with the idea lately of what was Jesus really like, and what would he say to us if he showed up today.

Let's begin with the fantasy Jesus. He is the one that most people believe in today. The one who wants everyone to be happy and content, who wants to cure all of our sicknesses, who wants us all to get along, who loves everything that is Christian, and who hates all that is secular.

Now compare that with the reality. Sound like a topic for a series of posts to me. This could get sticky. But it also could reveal some things that need to be talked about.

Stay tuned...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

One thing the Internet has taught me...

One thing that the Internet has taught me is that I used to be very narrow minded. I did not think that I was, until I saw the vastness of the mindsets that are out there. I thought that people who did not go to church or did not believe in God were just closed-minded. But reading the thoughts and blogs of a variety of people, I have found that many are well thought out and passionate about their beliefs. That does not mean that I agree with them, but I am learning to respect them more, and myself a bit less.

That being said, I have found a blog by an author named Rachel Held Evans. While I do not agree with all of her views, I find a bold and refreshing honesty in her writing. And a willingness to dialogue and question things in life.

Recently, she worte a post titled, "Better conversations between churched and un-churched Christians." This is a topic that is near to me, considering our recent, well blogged about church experiences.  I responded to her as follows:


Just a few thoughts:
You said, “The comments that hurt the most are not the meanest, but the ones that hit close to home.” What a beautiful and profound sentiment. I believe that it is also full of truth, so much so, that it is hard to sometimes look at these issues objectively. Rather than wondering why so many are leaving, we feel the weight of guilt because sometimes we equate church attendance with Christianity. Jesus went to church, well, to synagogue. But he was not so well received there either. So maybe instead of looking at this issue through the light of our own shortcomings, we need to look at it through the shortcomings of many churches. And the truth is, many churches are more concerned about a person’s attendance than they are about their depth of commitment to Christ. And this is something that many Christians, young and old, are becoming more and more disillusioned with.
Most evangelical’s idea of evangelism is to invite someone to church. Every Sunday, pastors encourage people to invite their friends and neighbors to church. We even have “Friendship Sundays” to make this easier. But in the process, we have lost sight of true Christianity. Suddenly, the church becomes this magic beacon to attract people in. We build lavish buildings, have spectacular worship services, and then complain that people leave because of consumerism, when the consumerism process started with the churches! It’s like seeing that magic product that will clean everything, ordering it, using it, only to find that the stain remains. Would you really then order more? I love your line, regarding when someone has been hurt by the church, “the proper response is, ‘I’m so sorry; tell me what happened,’ not ‘suck it up kid.’
I understand the “unhealthy appetite” for negative church stories. I have my own. Misery loves company, so the saying goes. But that negative company only goes so far. Yet I believe that many churches also supply the needed company of fulfilling an “unhealthy appetite” that misery loves so well. Truth is, we all love company, acceptance, etc., and will seek to fill those needs in whatever way fits us. Just because one goes to church doesn’t make them a Christian, any more than going to McDonald’s makes one a Big Mac.
You seem to nail it when you say, “What we want to see is real change, not new paint on an old façade!” So what about the churches that are growing? What about the churches that are attracting 20 and 30 year olds? What are they doing different? Perhaps a useful exercise, instead of looking at what does not work, would be to look at what does work.  I know churches like this do exist, although they may be rare. (The Village Church in Dallas and Redeemer Presbyterian in New York come to mind.)
May your prayers be answered and may your seeking be rewarded.
I believe that it is important that we be able to separate the flawed church from the perfection of Christ. When we look to the church to be perfect, we will be disappointed. That said, I do not think that we should just look the other way when we see a problem in the church. Paul didn't, and was even willing to confront Peter when he saw that his behavior was not in line with the truth.

I just keep coming back to those 3 little words. Ask, seek, and knock. And perhaps we might add, be patient.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Can this happen?

I am about halfway through Matt Chandler's book, The Explicit Gospel."

If you are not familiar with Matt, you should be. He is one of the preachers that I listen to that has challenged my thinking about what it means to be a Christian.

And it fact, he poses this question in his introduction: can you grow up going to church every week and not hear the gospel?” (Matt Chandler (2012-04-09). The Explicit Gospel (Kindle Locations 142-143). Good News Publishers/Crossway Books. Kindle Edition.

Is it possible that I have not really heard the gospel? On the surface, that is an easy question, how could I not have? Surely amidst the mirade of sermons I have heard, I have heard the gospel serveral times. Or have I?

Digging deeper, this is a crucial question for the Christian. One that will make some throw up their hands with their fingers in the shape of a cross as if warding of an evil vampire. "Stay away with your evil words!" But is that the attitude that Christ would have us to take? Or maybe more correctly, isn't that the attittude that Christ fought in the Pharisees and the teachers of the law? Ouch!

So I have to lay aside my pride and ask myself, "Have I heard the gospel?" "What does it mean to really follow Christ?" "Am I just fooling myself and in danger hell?"

Those are tough questions. Questions that when I began asking them, got me asked to leave my last church. But they are questions that I want to wrestle with.

Some conclusions that I have come to:
  • Yes, you can go to church and not hear the gospel. That could be your fault, the fault of the church for not preaching the whole gospel, or a combination of both.
  • Wrestling with God is not only a good thing, I believe it is a part of being saved. I cannot take another person's faith and make it my own. God gave me a mind and the ability to use it. He is not a small God, and is not afraid of my honest questions.
  • No one has it all down. No one. And I should probably stay away from anyone who says they do. But I should also probably stay away from anyone who cannot defend themselves, for their faith is probably not really their faith, but just something that has been handed down to them that they are detached from personally.
There are many different theological thoughts out there, and one can easily get lost in them. I don't think that is what God wants from us. But I also don't think He wants blind submission either. I think God loves our questions and struggles, and He desires that we can be honest with Him and others. I don't think God expects us to deny ourselves in that fashion. In fact, I think the denial He expects from us is only going to be found as we seek Him, as we ask, and as we knock.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Is that salvation?

Found here.




At about the 1:19 mark, he says, "I don't know any other salvation besides a radical salvation."

I love that statement, and what he says that follows. So many will come forward today, shake a pastor's hand, maybe be greeted by the entire congregation, or get baptized, or sign a card. But if there is no change, if we have merely made a choice to go to heaven and not go to hell, is that salvation?

I think many in the church would say so. After all, they have their eternity staked on it. Pastors would say so, they have their paycheck staked on it. But is this what Jesus taught? Even and especially those outside the church, who point a critical finger at the church, no better.

I love that this man stutters a bit. It is not his eloquence that grabs me. It is not his message of a better life now. It is just the powerful message of a life changed by the gospel of Christ.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Abrasive like sandpaper

I admit it, I can be abrasive. For instance, my wife never asks if "these pants make my butt look big," because she knows I will tell her the truth. I have a thing for the truth, even when it hurts sometimes.

The gospel is like that. It can be abrasive and rub people the wrong way. I went to David Platt's "Secret Church" simulcast last Friday. There were about 100 people there, most whom I did not know, a few I did know. There were some local ministers in the audience.

At one point, David said (not an exact quote), "You can have said a prayer, signed a card, been baptized, even be in church leadership, and still not be saved!" Do you think that some found this abrasive? I think some did. But the bigger question is, is it true? And if it is, David would be doing a disservice to the gospel by not saying it. People can take it however they want, they can choose to act or not act upon these words, but David was not wrong ins speaking them.

Sometimes the truth hurts. Sometimes we would rather hear a lie. Sometimes we would rather believe a lie that tells us we are okay, that we are safe and secure in God's arms and nothing bad is going to happen to us. That sounds so good, doesn't it? I want that kind of religion. But that is not the religion that Jesus preached. I seem to recall something about carrying our own crosses, not denying Him, going the extra mile, etc.

Listen! Then ask yourself, Does my preacher love me? Is he telling me the whole truth, or just stepping on my toes enough to make me uncomfortable a bit (if at all)? Is he motivating me to have a deeper walk with Christ, or just to modify my behavior? Is God the center of his message, or something else? Do you walk away from there feeling like you want to embrace God or feeling ashamed and thinking you must try harder?

The real gospel is abrasive, and some will reject it. But to those who have open hearts, the real gospel is like a steak dinner, drawing us to it, letting us taste and see that it is good, and satisfying us completely. But don't eat too much, cause it might make your butt look too big.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Just Another Day

This year, Easter is much like any other day around our house for a variety of reasons.
  • My wife is recovering from surgery
  • My father-in-law, who is bed-bound, lives with us
  • Our church has asked that we no longer attend there, but find another place to worship
  • My daughter has CIDP, and while doing well, her treatments consumed a lot of time this week
  • Life
Alan Knox, who posts "Scripture...As We Live It" on his blog writes this for #203 here...

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. But, only accept those who esteem (or do not esteem) the same days as you. (Romans 14:5 re-mix)

I love his re-mixes, because I see a lot of truth in them. I know that there are some who would think it awful that we are not in church today. Yet my salvation is not based on my church attendance, even on Easter! Sorry for all of those who will be crowding into churches today just to get a few brownie points with God. I think that the saddest part of all of this is that most preachers and members will do their best to make these people feel welcome in hopes that they will join their church, but few will actually love them enough to preach the gospel to them in hopes that they might know Jesus.

My daughter (10) is sad because we have not had an Easter egg hunt or baskets or chocolate. She esteems this day higher than others, but for different reasons (or maybe not) than others. This will hopefully be a lesson on the true meaning of Easter for her as well. We have discussed our handling of Easter with both daughter and son (also 10), and will do so more as the day goes on.

So today is much like any other day, a day where we set apart Christ as Lord as we always should, but also a day where we deal with many of life's issues. Even though this week has been Spring Break for us, I have had to deal with carrying the burden of the housework as well as the extra burden of caring for my wife and taking care of my daughter's treatments (2 this week, and they take about 7 hours each.) So I cannot take a complete Sabbath rest today, as I still have planning to do for school tomorrow.

I guess my point is this, it is hard on me not to go to church today, not to have a fellowship to call home. But the place I was going was not really a place of fellowship. We hope to find a place soon, and even have a potential place we want to visit. I have listened to one of the pastor's sermons there, and he seems to have a solid grasp on Scripture. My old self tells me that I am being bad today. That I should be doing more, finding a way to go to church. But my new self tells me that it is okay. God is in control of my circumstances and He knows my heart.

And I would rather be home under these circumstances than to be in church going through the motions of obligation without my heart being attached to God. I pray for those in church today, that God would reach down and touch them, that He would use something to stir up their hearts toward Him in real worship.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Jesus Emmanuel - Matt 1:18-24

Matthew 1:18-24

This is not the birth one would expect for God, is it? Born to a young girl already pledged to another. I think we overlook that a lot. Mary was promised to another man. Why not choose a virgin who was not already promised? One reason I believe is that it gave false legitimacy to her pregnancy.A virgin who was pregnant would likely have been stoned for her adultery. With Joseph in the picture, there was some semblance of legitimacy to her pregnancy. Now, Joseph could have denied it was his and ordered the stoning, but he was a "righteous" man. But did not righteousness require her stoning? So there must be another kind of righteousness besides the one that adheres to the strict letter of the law.

MORE THOUGHTS:


Imagine God taking a woman who had already been pledged to another. But isn't that what He has done by taking us? We were pledged to death, to sin, to destruction. We were full of sin, ugly and shamed. But He takes us as His bride. Just like Hosea, he marries a whore. And He loves her.

Okay, back to the original post...

Isn't that why Jesus came? To offer a new kind of righteousness, one that fulfills the law in one sense, but rises above it in another sense. I know that in reality, Jesus was the Son of God, but I wonder too, how much this righteous, human man was just the right person to be His earthly father.

One more thought, regarding the two names of this child. One was Jesus, which literally means Jehovah is salvation. Even His name points to God. Every time the disciples called Him Jesus, they were pointing to God. Even more ironically, every time the Pharisees called His name, they too were pointing to God as the author of salvation. And if God is the author, He gets to write the book as He pleases. The child would also be called Emmanuel, meaning "God with us." The combination of these two names is amazing. God, who is the author of salvation is with us.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Like a symphony - Matthew 1:1-17

I have decided to read through the book of Matthew. While I read a lot of other books, I am currently reading N. T. Wright's "Following Jesus," I donlt want to get too far away from what the Bible has to say for itself.

So I have chosen Matthew as a starting place for today. N.T. Wright makes an interesting analogy about the beginning of Matthew. He likens it to a symphony, with its high and low moments. Jesus's geneology is certainly not what one might expect from the Son of God. Yes, there are some important players in the OT in his pedigree such as Abram, Issac, Jacob, and David. But there are also some low lever players, like stating that Solomon was "by the wife of Uriah." Ouch!

God is never shy about how He accomplishes things. He does not need the biggest and most enfluential humans to get the job done. He only needs Himself, and what a joy when He takes us on the journey with Him. Jesus's pedigree was not perfect, only He was. But isn't that what matters? My pedigree is not perfect either, nor am I. My only hope is in the perfect pedigree of my Savior. Anything else is foolishness. And I have seen a lot of foolishness.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Pastor's Letter - Conclusion

All in all, if you just read through his letter, it is amazingly well crafted. He gets his point across without saying anything that would likely get him into trouble on its face value. He "thought a letter might be simpler than trying to schedule another meeting." How considerate on its face value. Thanking us for our integrity and courage. Sharing his pain. It almost seems as if he has had a change of heart. But then the stonewall defense. My friends stand behind me, you misinterpreted or misheard my message, that wasn't what I intended to stay...and then the wall goes up. "I do not intend to give a rebuttal..." Can't lose a game if you won't get on the court!

Then more defenses, but not of his message, just of himself. I spend time and effort preparing, researching, crafting my sermons. I have my message vetted by the same people who always vet them, the have doctorates, I take far more precaution than the average preacher, etc. All in defense of him and his integrity, nothing about the message because that would not be "a helpful process."

So an analogy. I go to a doctor, who diagnosis a problem, say cancer. I go for a second opinion, and this doctor says it is not cancer, but a lesser, easier treatable disease. I go back to my doctor to discuss the other diagnosis. Instead of considering the possibility or even hearing the other doctors reasons, he simply says that he will not give rebuttal to that doctor, to do so would not be helpful. He warns me that the potential of quarreling with him could have life-threatening consequences! He then goes on to tell me that he takes his job seriously, reads medical journals, discusses his cases with other, even more qualified doctors than himself. He talks about how long I have been his patient, and doesn't that count for something? But he never reexamines me or listens to the reasons for the other doctor's diagnosis. I am supposed to have total trust in him because he says he cares for me. But his actions say that he cares for himself, and that he is hurt and angry about my checking with another doctor. So what do I do? Do I trust him or the other doctor? In reality, I probably do neither. Instead, I start researching some for myself, and probably even get a third or fourth opinion. My health is too important for me to lay at the feet of some quack who, though knowledgeable of some things, clearly does not have my best interests at heart.

So is my spiritual health. So, if it walks like a duck, and talks like a duck...you know the rest. Quack!

The Pastor's Letter - Part 5

The previous 4 parts are my previous 4 posts. My musings are in bold type.

I hope and pray that knowing where I stand on these issues will allow you to interpret my comments in the future in a way that you find harmonious with Scripture. (Sorry, I don't base my interpretation of Scripture based on knowing the person who is speaking. We all fall short, and no one knows it all. And it is sad that you would even expect this. At one time, you commended us for our searching of the Bible, as did the Berean Christians. Apparently, however, if we do not do so and then quickly and blindly come to the conclusion that you are right, then it is a problem.) I pray that you will now be able to be encouraged, deified, challenged and changed as a result of God working through my efforts in preaching. (Actually, because of how you handled this, even less so.) I am hoping you will be able to embrace me and my preaching just as you have embraced the other aspects of our ministry here at UCC. (Of course that is what you are hoping will happen, because then you won't have to deal with any problems in your perfect church, full of perfect people who all agree with you apparently.) If so, that will be a wonderful answer to prayer!

But if after this you still do not have confidence in me or my preaching, then-sadly-we are probably not the church for you. (So, there is no room for disagreement with the pastor in "your" church. No questioning, no discussion, just fall in or fall out.)There will be no hard feelings on my part should you decide to move on, (In fact, I will be dancing the whole day!) and I pray God blesses you wherever you make your church home. (Because otherwise you might come back!) Of course, this would not be the outcome I have been praying for, (Because there are 4 of you, and that will hurt our attendance averages) but it would probably be a better outcome than you being in a church with preaching you cannot support. (Better for me that is, because this stuff hurts my feelings and makes me uncomfortable.) My sermons reflect not only my positions, but those of our leadership and the church as a whole. (When I say the church as a whole, that excludes you, of course.) It would be difficult, at best, for you to be happy and to grow here if you are on a different page regarding matters as important as those reflected in your paper. (Actually, quite the opposite. Your preaching has caused me to search my Bible more than at any other time in my life. It is kind of like being in school and preparing for a debate. You have to be on your toes and do your research, or you will fail. I have done my research, and feel that I am more than ever prepared to give an answer for what I believe to be true. I just am sorry that it has fallen on deaf ears. Well, not really deaf, more so unwilling to listen. I believe that there is a difference!) It would be more likely that your frustrations would only grow. (First, I don't base my "happiness" on external things. My joy is in the Lord, and being unhappy is not the problem for me that it is for you. To quote John Piper, "God is most glorified when I am most satisfied in him." So my joy is not based on my circumstances. God's blessings surround me in times of plenty and times of little, in times of despair and times of rejoicing. I see that as a major difference in our approaches to Him.)

Whatever you decide, I will regard you as friends and as my brother and sister in Christ. (If this is how you treat your family, I feel sorry for them.)

There you have it. The entire text plus added commentary. It makes me sad to go through this, but it also helps affirm our choice and see the value of the past 18 or so months. Praise God.

The Pastor's Letter - Part 4

Parts 1-3 are the previous posts. My musings are bolded.

I regret that you came to a different conclusion about me as a preacher and that you interpreted my comments in a negative and objectionable light. Perhaps it was because you did not know me and were not sure about some of my foundational beliefs, so when certain statements were made you feared I meant them one way when, if you had known me better, you would have known that I did not mean them that way. (Yeah, Jesus had that same problem when He spoke to the Pharisees. But seriously, if you have to know the preacher to understand what he says when he preaches, isn't that a problem?)

One theme that seemed to permeate your comments was the theme that we need to focus on giving glory to God, not get caught up in a bunch of works and rules, etc. to (Okay, perhaps I was not clear enough for you. It is not that we should not being doing good things, it is that the good things we do should should be motivated by our love for God and seeing Him as beautiful, and not by a desire to be blessed or curry God's favor. When 90% of the sermon is telling us how to behave and the other 10% is offering an invitation, that does not glorify God.) I assure you, that I agree that glorifying God is paramount. (That is what you say, so then why is that not reflected in your messages?) I also believe that we can best glorify God when we devote ourselves to the disciplines and practices given us to follow in the New Testament. (Okay, so you admit this.) Preaching on such things is not intended to replace the goal of glorifying God, but rather to enable us to reach that goal. (While that might not be intended, it is the result. We do not reach the goal of glorifying God by human effort. You can espouse all the behaviors you want, without the gospel it is in vain. Gal. 1:6-7  6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.)

Another theme I picked up on in your responses was an emphasis on the fact that God has to bring about the change in our lives - we don't do it ourselves. Again, I agree with you and my sermons are not intended to contradict that truth. (Again, while that may not be the intention, I believe it is the result.)  At the same time, I believe that God won't bring that change into our lives against our free will. As I said in Come and Be Fed,  we can't do it without Him and He chooses not to do it without us. (Yes, cliches are fine, but what does that really mean? How much is God and how much is us? How much do we need Him and how much dies he need us? Inquiring minds want to know.)    

More later.