Thursday, December 9, 2010


Validation is a funny thing. We validate parking, so we can show that we have a legit reason for parking someplace. We have valid or invalid coupons and tickets. We have valid and invalid filenames on computers. Rarely, however, do we think about how valid we are.

Do you feel validated?

Do you feel invalid?

What is your validity based on? Your performance? Your past mistakes? Your present circumstances? Who you are with, what you are doing, what's in your bank account, what you drive, where you attend church, what position you hold there, how much you know, how mature you are, how much influence you have, how many people love you?

Are you valid?

What makes you feel worthwhile? Getting things done? Others telling you that you are valid? Being needed or being desired?

Are you worthwhile?

What makes a person invalid? Are they worthless, too much trouble, too much hassle? Do they talk too much, know too little, not look right, not act right? Not in the right place at the right time with the right things to say?

What is valid?

Just stop for a minute. If your brain is going a million miles a minute, slow it down, take a deep breath. What is a minute worth? What is the worth of a breath? What is the worth of a quiet moment without productivity, without effort or labor. With achieving or accomplishing? Is that minute, that breath, that moment of your existence wasted? A deep breath, a moment in time, is it valid? Is a heartbeat valid?

Is it worthwhile?

If you can answer that question, then none of the rest of it will matter.

Monday, November 8, 2010


Do you like pain? Probably not, most of us don't. I know I have a cabinet full of things to help get rid of pain. Tylenol, Advil, and some prescription medications. Physical pain is horrible, but I think there are many cases in which we enjoy and saver emotional pain. People say things, and we take it the most negative way possible, we start conflict and drama and issues because we become addicted to it. It makes us feel important, alive and powerful when we have anger and rage and we become defensive. It gives us things to talk about, something to focus on and it keeps our lives from being empty. It keeps us from being alone, empty and vulnerable. If we stay on the offensive, or if we stay offended then no one can sneek up and hurt us. We are already hurt, and that gives us control. When things calm down, we find drama or create drama or find the people who fill our lives with emotional trauma.

I believe it's an addiction. Physical pain becomes an addiction, everything from cutting to weight lifting becomes addicting because it releases endorphines. Emotional pain because addicting because of the power we feel like it gives us. It gives us purpose, makes us feel stronger and more powerful. Pain gives us focus, gives us something to concentrate on and leave the rest of the world behind. We can get into conflict and use it to excuse other parts of our lives, to ignore and block them out. Maybe that is why so many of our conflicts are self-induced and so many are very trivial. We avoid the serious things, and get caught up in petty and in-consequential things. I think we need a recovery program for the emotional trauma addict.

The Butterfly is still in God's Hands.

The Butterfly Effect How Your Life Matters by Andy Andres. This is a short e-book that I looked at. It's a small book, quick read only took me 10 to 15 minutes to read the entire book. The Butterfly Effect comes from chaos theory, saying that the increased air movement from a butterfly flapping it's wings, over time and distance changes the global climate. The book reviews the lives of some individuals who's actions through time made a huge impact. There isn't much for theological content, it seem almost secular. Our actions have an impact, but there is no talk of God's plan, or how God orchestrates history. I believe that God uses people to make a great impact, but I believe that it's God that is in control and He deserves the glory. This book seems pretty humanistic, elevating the accomplishments of men apart from the work of God. I guess if a book carries the label of "Christian" it should have a little more Christian content in it. At least it's short.

Living with Confidence in a Chaotic World by Dr. David Jeremiah

This is a book about end times, which is not my favorite read, but I enjoy Dr. Jeremiah. His theology has solid backing when it comes to the end times (even though I don’t agree with him, he has some good point). This book was a little less academic than I am use too, it's great for the average church member and the maturing Christian. Not much theological content, great for the concrete type learner and reader. Good advice by Dr. Jeremiah about how to keep faith strong when everything else falls apart. How to survive the turmoil we see in today’s world, and lays out 10 way we can stay strong and have confidence. He doesn’t get too deep into theological issues, doesn’t talk about eschatology much, which made it a much more enjoyable read. Dr. Jeremiah gives good real world examples, and writes much like he preaches. This is a great “every Christian” book, but don’t expect to get a lot of depth from it, but some good content.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Walking the Talk

There have been a few times in my life where God has made me walk my talk. There have been times when I have given hard advice and then had to live it myself. Things like forgive, or help or support or pray for or serve. It never seemed to be long before I found myself having to forgive or help or pray or serve. It's always easier to know what to do from the cheap seats. When you sit back and see a situation from the outside. When you are not emotionally invested and when you don't have to go through the process, it's easier to see what to do. The arm chair quarterback, the backseat driver.

Have you found yourself in a situation where you need to take your own advice, or should take your own advice? When it comes to certain things, are you doing the same things you are telling others to do? If someone needed spiritual growth, what would you tell them? Attend a small group Bible study, pray and read the Bible, attend worship and be connected. Are you doing those things? If someone is in conflict or angry, what would you tell them? To forgive and to love and to show grace? Are you doing those things?

How about gossip, what would you tell someone if you heard them gossip? What advice would you give to a younger person? What about if someone was gossiping about you, how would you react? We need to keep those thoughts close when we are tempted to gossip about a situation, or to make a negative or disparaging comment about someone. Its easy to know when someone should keep silent and not say anything negative. It's not so easy when we are upset and are tempted to gossip.

I want you to encourage you today to take your own advice. In your life, your job, your marriage, your church life, do what you would tell your kids or grandkids to do. Do what you would want to see others do. Be the person you expect others to be. Do the things you are waiting for other people to do. Be the one who steps up and steps out instead of waiting for someone else. The person who God is waiting to use just might be you.

In Him,

Pastor Dan

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The dry season

In life there are seasons that come and go. In my life, I have been in the rainy season where things just flow. I can be creative, I can write freely, my thoughts and theories seem to be in abundance. Right now I seem to be in a dry season. While I have outlines and ideas written down, the ability to develop them and really write them down seems to have left me. My blogs are becoming dry, short and virtually non-existent. My thoughts seem to be much more shallow, the pools of ideas have dried up into mud puddles. What was once deep enough for me to spend hours plumbing is now not enough to even get me wet. It's frustrating for me, but has allowed me to turn to some more physical pursuits. I have been working with my hands more, working on my shop, on my truck, and working with some wood. I don't know how long this dry spell will last, hopefully the ideas will flood back soon, and the rains will return. In the mean time, try to keep the dust out of your eyes.

Monday, October 4, 2010

KJV Only

So I have been looking at the KJV only thing for a while, and wondering why are people so set on this version. If you are KJV only be prepared, you may get upset. The KJV is not the best anything. It's not the first English translation, it's 1611, the Geneva Bible is 1560. It's not the most literal translation is the ASV. It's not the most accurate, it's not the most readable, and in my opinion, the ESV is a much better translation from the original text. So why focus so hard on the King James? I have a theory.

All false assumptions (like the KJV is the only Bible) start from a faulty root. For example, Evolution begins with the false assumption there is no God. Until you fix that assumption, you cannot tackle evolution. People will hold to things that make no sense because they have to deal with their foundational error. The KJV error is that the Catholic church has always been evil or corrupt. As a result, everything from the Catholic church is rejected, and there must be a way to legitimize the Protestant church before 1517. Thus enters the Trail of Blood. To further legitimize the Reformation, the KJV is seen as the move to give the Bible to the common man, and it's in contrast to the Latin Vulgate used in Rome, therefore it becomes the Bible of the Reformation. As the Protestant Bible, it's now seen as sacred.

Here is the deal. The Catholic church has always had a faithful remnant, the Protestant church started in 1517, not with John the Baptist (sorry Landmarkests). The Baptist church came from the Puritan movement and was started by a Separatist from the Anglican Church. Ana-Baptists and Baptists are very different. There is nothing more "holy" about tracing lineage back to the Apostles, if a new church starts in China or Romania or Africa because they picked up a NIV and read it and the Holy Spirit came upon them and they started a church without any missionaries, it would be a valid New Testament church, it doesn't have to "go back" to anyone. Just have to be focused on The Lord Jesus Christ. The Church is defined by who we are and who we serve, not by where we came from. Once we dispel that false assumption, I think the KJV controversy loses it's luster.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

rainy day

I sit here this morning and drink my coffee and look out the window at the rain and think about all the stuff I have to do today. I have a couple articles to write, a sermon to finish, lots of misc odds and ends to do here and there. In the middle of that will the the question, phone call, visit or whatever else happens in on my office. I get so caught up in the stuff that I think I often miss the time. Outside my office window, I can see the trees and many of them are changing, the rain isn't horrific and it's cloudy and misty. It's that calm rain, it's peaceful and quiet, the type you want to sit on the porch with coffee and just relax. I'm not relaxed. I seldom relax. My back is often tense and knotted up, sometimes I have some heartburn and I seldom feel at ease. Why? I don't know. Maybe it's because I am high strung, maybe I am really stressed, maybe I lack faith or perhaps a sin issue has me all tied in knots.

So this is the part where I am suppose to write something inspiring or some lesson or something like that. Don't have one. We read and write and look for the 30 minute tv-show answers so we can get our life all wrapped up and solved nice and easy. It's not like that. Life is hard and messy and sometimes issues drag on until they break us. Sometimes we don't learn the moral, sometimes we don't win the day, sometimes we just suffer through until it kills us. What I have gained from all this is that God is and must be sufficient, my family should be cherished, my friends should be celebrated and enjoyed and I must find the grace in the moment.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

my suitcase of sin

Sometimes I feel like as I climb the ladder of sanctification, I find a suitcase and it's filled with something. Pride, anger, resentment, all sorts of different things. I grab the suitcase with one hand, but I can no longer climb the ladder. I am hanging on the ladder with one hand and the suitcase with the other and I am stuck. I think Paul experienced this, because I echo his words "what a wretched man I am". You know what I'm saying? One day I'll figure out who to toss the suitcase.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Fearless by Max Lucado

Fear seems to be a major issue for many Christians, and Max Lucado tackles the issue head on. Fearless is a great read, and like most of Lucado's books it flows quickly. What I enjoyed about this book that I haven't like so much in his others is that it's more practical. There is more application, more opportunity to apply and live out the principles. We all have issues with fear, and we can all grow in the area of living out of trust and faith. It's a quick read, I think you should pick up a copy, give it a quick read, it's worth the time. I have always been a Lucado fan, and this book I think it one of his better ones.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Do you want to be happy? I have been realizing how much I worship happiness. We all want to be happy, after all the American dream is the pursuit of happiness. Happiness has become an idol and we work so hard for it. We do all we can to be happy. We get married because the person makes us happy. We find a job that makes us happy, we find activities that make us happy. What happens when we become unhappy? What are you willing to give up for happiness? What do you keep because you think it will make you happy? Are you willing to break God's laws for happiness? If so, then I would say you worship happiness. I do, and I'll admit it. I struggle when I am not happy, work hard to be happy. It can destroy us, this strong desire to be happy and fulfilled.

What we need instead is hope. Hope when we are happy that we will have a time in eternity when it's always like that. Hope when we are unhappy that Jesus still holds us and it will all be set right one day. Hope when we are doing well, hope when we are down. Hope is stable, we can hold to it all the time, and it's grounded in Christ. Happiness is un-stable, it comes and goes like the wind. Hope is a solid rock.

More than that, Jesus never said to have happiness, He said to have hope. Hope is better, hope is more fulfilling. We need to pursue hope, hold to hope, cling to hope and thank God that we have hope. We have hope in our faith, in our salvation, and in the return of our Lord and Savior. We hope for Heaven, we hope for the salvation of our friends and family, and we hope for real, lasting and loving relationships. We hope in the body of Christ and we hope in the work and power of the Holy Spirit.

I am trying not to sell myself to happiness. It's a fleeting feeling, it's a cruel master and it's a controlling dictator. Just when I think I have it, it slips away and I can't hold it. Happiness is a tease, it's unfaithful, and it's never dependable. Happiness is selfish and self serving, and the pursuit of happiness destroy people, homes and families. How many people have walked away from things because they weren't happy? What would have happened if they would have looked for hope, hope that it can be better, that God can work and bring joy.

Joy. Joy is a tricky subject cause we don't really know what it is. We often equate joy with happiness or we make joy something so nebulous that it's hard to pin down. I think when we have hope we have joy. I think hope and joy come together, and I am not sure you can have one without the other. Joy may come as peace, fulfillment, finding your place and purpose. Finding your place in the Body of Christ. We find joy in community and we find hope in that same community. We come together, broken, flawed and hurting. We take turns treating one another's wounds. We encourage one another, teach one another and support one another. We hope in one another and learn to trust one another. Happiness is selfish and doesn't trust, joy and hope brings community. I need community, I need other people. I admit I am weak and I need help and I have hope. I hold to hope and it's so much better than holding to happiness. Don't get me wrong, I love to be happy and I'll take it when it comes, but it can be my focus. I can't worship it, I can't chase, I can't give my life to it. I have to trust Christ and have hope in the words that He tells me in His word. To trust Him, that He will come back and get me and I can have hope.

I have hope in the promises and hope in the faith. I can't see God, and I have never seen a angel or a pillar of fire, but I have my life. I have my heart, my walk, the ability to do things I can't do on my own. The ability to love and trust and have hope. That doesn't come from me, I am selfish and angry inside, but I have peace. It only comes from the Holy Spirit, and I have hope that He will continue to work in me and through me to change me. I have hope that His love will become my love and fill and over take the anger and bitterness that comes from losing the happiness I feel like I deserve.

Hope. Do you have hope? I sure hope so.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Too much brain

So I like thinking, analysis and rationalizing stuff. I enjoy talking through and thinking through some issues, but I have found a big hole recently. Sometimes we use too much brain and not enough faith. Let me unpack that a little. There are things that the scriptures say that we don't fully want to agree with, so we gloss over them to just superimpose what we want to believe. Most of what we want to think is secular, humanistic and usually pretty prideful and pride filled. I hear too many people say "well I just don't believe that" and when faced with a scripture, they just blow it off. It seems to me that more and more we are ok with minimizing scripture in favor of what we want to think and what we want to believe. As long as it makes sense to us, even if it's different from our own experience, we tend to hold too it. We humanize God, we secularize the processes of God and make God more like us, instead of becoming more like God.

Sometimes we need to trust that what the Bible says is true, even if we don't understand it. We need to trust that God is doing things which are outside of the confines of our knowledge and understanding. The ways and purposes of God are eternal, and how can we as finite people understand. There is a time for intellect and understanding, but there is a time to trust that what the Bible teaches is true, regardless to our feelings about it.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I sit down every day with the intent to write a blog. Then I decide to get a cup of coffee and things come up. Phone calls, visitors, things that need to be taken care of, questions to answer and before long, my day is over and I haven't blogged at all. I feel like there are thousands of things I want to write about, but never get it done. I have 2 books in my head waiting to be put down on paper, but they never seem to make it. I have some Bible Studies for The Revolution Inversion that I need to write, but things always seem to come up in front of them. There are lots and lots of things I want to discuss and discover, but it seems life gets in the way.

You ever feel like that? You ever feel like life is in the way of really living? Books to be read, things to get done, quality time to spend, things to do or say that never seem to get done? I wonder if it's our ego that makes the list, or just the reality of the world that keeps us from them. Seems like for every thing we get done, there are 3 more waiting in the wings. Are you there with me? Having things to do that never seem to get done? Well, hang in there, you are not alone. Hopefully, we will get there together. . . someday.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Know Thyself

This is an issue that I tend to harp on quite a bit. The reason is because I don't think very many people actually know who they really are. I think there are several reasons for that, first, because we live in darkness. I'm not talking about the lack of light type of darkness, but spiritual darkness. Even Christians I believe often come out of the darkness but stay in the shadows. We view ourselves under false pretenses, either what we do, who we are, how much we make, how we dress, how much we attend church, the list goes on and on. We may accept that we are saved by grace, but often we live by our own works, and in our own power. We don't see ourselves in light of who we really are, who we were created to be, how God made us, loves us.

The second part is I think we are ignorant. We have ideas, thoughts and theories about God, life, the past and the future and we have no interest in letting go of our false ideals. We hold to our ideologies that are often like a carnival mirror. These false ideals of how we view the world distort the world and distort how we see ourselves. Sometimes we flatter ourselves, but I think more often than that, we condemn ourselves. We compare ourselves to the ideal, people who don't really exist. Often time to escape, we begin to idealize ourselves, and begin to think more of ourselves. In either case, we think too little or too much of ourselves, we don't really know ourselves.

I think all of this culminates in society where we are expected to be like other people. I have noticed in the trend of the giant sunglasses that girls wear, I have a theory about why they are so popular (cause they are so ugly). They cover up so much of your face, that you look like everyone else when you wear them. It doesn't matter that they are hideous, it matters that you look like you are suppose to look in society. We are expected to conform, to blend, to dress the same, talk the same and act the same as the group we are with, and often we are not even truthful enough with ourselves to admit to it.

It happens most of all in the church. Simple things like what version of the Bible we use can be influenced by where we go to church. What we sing, and how we worship. Do you stand, sit, raise your hands, fall down, roll around, vibrate, laugh, cry or handle snakes? It depends on what sort of church (or strange cult group) you are in. If affects the way we do lots of things, but when we understand who we are, we can begin to act in and through the way God made us. In the next few weeks, months, years (sometimes I am slow on the blog) I want to talk about some avenues where we need to learn who we are. This, as well as some more woven theology and the rest of my big deal. Hope you keep reading and commenting with me.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Christian Hackers?

So I wanted a documentary last night (yes on purpose) about Linux. It was called Revolution OS and if you are into nerdy stuff like that, you would enjoy it. You see, Linux is an operating system, like Microsoft Windows, but with a major difference. It's part of 2 movements that have sprung off each other. The first is called the Free Software Movement, started by a guy who worked on some software called gnu. The goal of the Free Software Movement was to be able to share, to give the needed tools away along with the source code so that others can improve upon it and then share it with others. When Linux hit the scene, it helped spawn the Open Source Movement. Open Source is similar to Free Software, only if I take the source code of a Linux OS, like Ubuntu and I change the source code and rewrite some of it, I can then rename it to like jdanlinux and distribute it, I just need to give credit to Ubuntu for their work. Some of the linux systems are for purchase, most are free.

So, what you are asking yourself is, what does that have to do with Christianity? You see, the individuals who are anti-open source are companies like Microsoft who have a corner on the market, have closed source and proprietary software (Microsoft stuff only works in Windows). You have to play by Window's rules, and the code is closed, so if you want to change the software to meet certain needs, you are out of luck. You just have to hope Microsoft will. On the other hand, in the Open Source and Free Software camps, you are free to change and adapt. For example, there was a program called Bison that ran in C. A guy needed it to run in C++, so he re-wrote some code and created Bison++. They gain advantage by sharing ideas, by helping, supporting and sharing, while Microsoft lacks this advantage.

For the better part of the last century, the Church has been Microsoft. It has been run from the inside, many have a very top down structure and it's closed. The end users (people in the pews) had very little ability to make changes, only to choose to attend or not attend a church. This has hit a climax now in the 21st century when we have created a generation of church hoppers, shoppers and many who would rather just stay home and watch church on tv. They have been fed up with the closed system, coming to a room with a bunch of people they never connect with.

The church is beginning to see it, they are moving closer. The Small Group/cell group movement is pushing closer to the community aspect, but what I have noticed is that these hackers have the idea of community down better than the church. The software community works better than the Christian community. This community truly wants to connect, share, interact and help and support one another. It's based on giving and sharing and helping others. That is what Jesus taught for us to do, to give and share and help, but so often we are shamed by these other communities.

Perhaps it's because the tech industry in better at change than the church. Maybe it's because the tech movement is moving so much faster than the church. I think when it really comes down to it, Free Software and Open Source work so much better because they are less paranoid than the church, they are not as concerned with control, with manipulation and who the "leader" is. As we see the small church/organic church model begin to take off, we will see the church and the tech market begin to look more and more alike. The focus will be on the community, on the body and not so much on the individual.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

1 A.M.

Do you ever have the greatest thoughts at like 1 am and then lose it by the time you are ready to blog? That is totally my life. I sat around last night and thought about all the stuff I wanted to blog about, and I almost came down to blog it, but I didn't. Now I am sitting here in the couch and I can't remember for the life of me what it was I was going to say.

I am trying to adjust to my life with a neurological disorder. For those of you who read my blog and don't know (which I know is many of you), I have dystemic disorder. Dystemic disorder is related to bi-polar, but it only goes one direction. It's also called mono-polor, people who are dystemic either go manic or depressive. I get depressed. I have struggled with depression my whole life. I remember being depressed at 17 and 18 and not even understanding that I was depressed. I was depressed at 24 but in total denial. I was depressed at 28 and 29, but by that time I admitted it.

I struggle with the diagnoses and the idea of being flawed, of having nothing I can do about it is not the problem. It's the stigma of depression. It's like the Christian community believes that if you have Jesus, you should never be depressed. Anti-depressants are seen as little pills of no-faith, and I struggle with that. I guess it comes down that I worry too much what people think of me.

So the issue became pride and self centered-ness. I care too much what people thing, want to please people and do all the things that get me kudos. If God gave me this burden to carry, I should share it with the community, but I don't. It makes me wonder how large my Christian community really is. Perhaps it's not as big as I would like to think it is. As you read this, I hope it grows a little (knowing the community of folks who reads my blog is pretty small). I hope this confession helps you and inspires you a little in your own struggle with whatever your burden is.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

My Big Idea part 1

So I have been looking at Biblical education through the eyes of a professional educator (even though I am not a professional educator per say). In this experiment, I have used a technique that I totally believe in, called scaffolding. If you are not up on ed lingo, you probably think of scaffolding as that thing you use to paint a house. Well, the technique is similar to that thing used to paint a house. You build a base level and stand on it. Then you build a level on that and stand on that. Then you build a level up and stand on that. So on and so forth as you move upward. It works in a similar fashion in education. Let's use math for example. First you learn to count. From there you learn simple addition, then more complex addition. Then you learn subtraction, then more complex subtraction. Without learning addition and subtraction, you can't learn to multiply or divide by hand. Without knowing those functions, you can't do algebra, which you need to do trig, which builds to calculus.

What if we apply this same concept to Christian Discipleship? What would we build on? Naturally we start with the revelation of who God is, and I believe we best learn about the person of God the Father in the Old Testament. We also learn about the law, and who we are as humans, sinners. We don't grasp the full weight of sin apart from the Law. We are so far from the standard God has set for us, we can never come to God on our terms. God is powerful, above all and preeminent. I think one of the short comings of the modern church teachings is that we haven't communicated how from God all of humanity is. We have projected an image that we in the church are perfect, that we have the answers, we are right and everyone else is wrong. The Old Testament shows us how wrong we ALL are. The Nation of Israel, God's chosen people, continually break the covenant and are punished for it. They go into exile because of their sin, why should we think we are any different. Many of us, in church or out of church live a life as pagan as they did before the exile. We worship anything that causes distance between us and God. Usually, we worship happiness, we worship what we think we want, or what we think will make us complete (happy).

We find grace in the Old Testament, but more than that, we find grace personified in the New Testament in the man Jesus Christ. He is 100% God who came to earth as 100% man. He lived the sinless life, a life that measures up to God's standard, and died in my place. Because He died in my place, He takes my punishment and I take His standing before God. We call this Substitutionary Atonement, He paid the debt in my place. We see this clearly through the whole cannon of scripture. Creation, fall, the law, futility and failure, Christ, His sacrifice, His resurrection, the gift of Salvation, the Holy Spirit, the Great Commission, the Church. The process as a whole is important, so this is where my big idea comes in.

Perhaps we need to build a frame work in order to build upon the major concepts. Perhaps the way we teach too often focuses on just one aspect in great detail, but we miss the overall message of the scripture. Once we build the framework, we can begin to build on the levels as they develop. How you ask? Let's talk about that in part 2.

Monday, June 14, 2010

How do these two things reconcile

I have been wondering if anyone can scripturally reconcile this statement:
"To be saved, we must accept Jesus"

and this verse:
"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." Eph 2:4-10 (ESV)

How is "we must accept" not a work? Is it not an action done by our own power in order to gain salvation? Is that not something we can take credit for? Is that not something we can boast in? Do you really "accept" salvation, or are you just saved? Discuss:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Too many things becomes nothing

Have you ever had so much to do that nothing gets done? Maybe you feel overwhelmed or confused. I have so much to blog about that I don't seem to blog anymore. I have lots to write on Woven Theology, I have some thoughts on worship, some on communion, a few on community and the nature of the church. It's like the list of the blogs I need to write gets longer and longer, but none of it seems to get down in ink (or type or pixels or whatever). I have some things to write off this site also, so admittedly, I haven't had time to make this my first priority. I realize, however, I need to make time. Many of the thoughts will grow stale if I am not careful. So, here is my plan.

Next blog: God at eternal and temporal in woven theology.
2nd: Communion and community.
3rd: tbd.

Stay tuned!

Monday, March 15, 2010


I have realized how much our society and culture in this country prizes self-sufficiency. We have to do it ourselves. We earn whatever we get, we get what we deserve, we put in the effort, do the work and pull ourselves up by our boot straps. I have found that biblically, that mind set is pretty close to heresy. Instead of recognizing it, we have just adapted it into the church, and it's not new.

When Martin Luther was a young man in the monastery, he had the duty to serve communion. He was terrified because he knew he wasn't good enough. He learned to hate God until he found true grace. Luther worked so hard to please God, but always aware of his own short comings. He was more self aware than you or I. If we were as keenly aware of our sin as Luther, we would probably end up in the same place Luther did. He spend time incapacitated by his guilt, struggle and hatred. As I look at Luther, I see that there are stages or groups. It appears to me, there are basically three groups or stages.

The first group are the pharisees, the Roman Catholics, the legalists, who believe they are good enough. These are arrogant, prideful people who exist in the church who believe they have kept the law, done the work, are good enough and God owes them. Most of them would never say that, they would never admit it, but deep down that is how they feel. I'll admit that sometimes I struggle not to be there, after all, I'm a seminary trained pastor. I read, write, study, teach, preach, live and learn, always focused on God. Right? Did you see what the first letter of that horribly arrogant sentence was? "I". I am the subject, God is the object. Look at what "I" do. I made the decision, I have free will, I walked the aisle, I said the prayer, I found Jesus, I read my Bible, I go to church. God is auxiliary to my "religious" activities. This is where Martin Luther found himself, working to be good enough.

The second group is where I end up after spending time in this mode. It's where Martin Luther ended up. Disenfranchised, bitter and grieved. Martin Luther came to hate God. As John Lynch said in his message "True Faced", "pleasing God turns into how much I do to keep Him pleased". There is always more to do, more to read and study and work at. I can always be better, always be busier, more productive, sin less, care more and try harder. Eventually, I become so tired, my soul weary, my flesh exhausted. We blame God, the church, the Bible, we say things like "I don't like institutionalize religion", but the reality is we despise ourselves. We hate our faults, our short comings, and we feel inadequate, but we don't want to admit that, so we blame everything outside of ourselves. We are mad and angry at God because we are working so hard to do something He never asked us to do. We work so hard to be perfect when all along, He only asked us to trust Him. Sometimes we get a glimpse of that, and we become more angry. "How dare you ask me to give up my effort of self-sufficiency, after all, don't you want me to be better?" Does it resonate in your soul? Can you feel it? Your pride, your desire to pull yourself up by your boot straps, your desire to be in control. You want to do it, you want to fix it, you want to do it yourself. It began as soon as you became self-aware, at the age of two, you began. You wanted to do it yourself, be self-sufficient. We grow and learn to be more independent, it's part of our human nature. No one has to teach us how to be selfish or stubborn, self reliant or arrogant. So here you are. You are mad at God because you can't do it yourself, and you are mad at God because He wants you to trust Him and not try to do it yourself. You want to, yet you can't and the more you try the more bitter you become. This is why Christianity is dying in America. We are learning we can't do it. We are finding that our flesh, our temptations and our short comings easily master us. We are controlled by our fear and by our inadequacies. The only thing worse than being inadequate is being inadequate and unable to do anything about it yourself.

The third option is the place I desire to be, but I can't get there. Here is the problem, I struggle to get there on my own, and in my struggle I become self-sufficient for a short time. I quickly burn out, and I can't find the way to trust without striving on my own power. I am working to learn grace, which becomes a contradiction. I know it can be done, I believe Martin Luther did it. I believe that John Calvin did it, and gave us some keys in reformed theology. We kick and struggle against reformed theology because it takes the power away from us. We hate it, because we lose control. Somehow I must find a way to relinquish control. I can't find a way to live inside the paradox. I must find a way to live out my faith as a response, instead of living out my response to find grace. The Christian world as a whole is not helping me. I read books and articles and listen to messages and songs that tell me how to do the things I need to do in order to get a "spiritual life". If I just pray more, read more, go to church more, give more, then I'll get there. I can't find a method that's not a method. My entire life falls back into me trying to please God, which then becomes on what must I do to keep Him pleased. My Heavenly Father slowly degrades into the Heavenly School Master, ready to punish or reward me based on my merit. After all, shouldn't we get what we deserve?

So here I sit, coming back full circle. Striving to live in grace, but finding myself neck deep in works. Wanting happiness and fulfillment, not grace and relationship. All the time focused on me, what I did, what I do and what I want. I feel trapped and suffocated by my inability to escape the prison I have constructed for myself. The ironic part is I know God wants to free me, and for whatever reason, I can't or I won't allow Him to do so. I feel the inner struggle of Paul as he writes "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?"Romans 7:24 (ESV). So I trust in words of Christ to Paul. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor 12:9 (ESV). Even as I am trapped in this prison of my own making, even as I can't escape and I can't figure out how to get it right, I am still being saved from myself. Maybe I can't see it. It seems to me that Paul couldn't see it, feel it or grasp it either, but grace. Amazing Grace. It's sufficient for even me, the wretch that I am.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Limited Atonement

I have often struggled with the teaching of limited atonement. I understood it in concept, but thought it was a purposeless doctrine. That was true until I read an article that was against the Doctrine of Substitutionary Atonement.

Substitutionary Atonement states that Jesus died in my place. When He was on the cross, He bore my sins. By dying, He took the punishment for my sin. He died in my place. He was my substitute, because the punishment He suffered should have been mine.

If Substitutionary Atonement is true, that means my sins were atoned for when Jesus died on the cross. He bore then 2,000 years ago. That leads us to two places. The first is the Armenian viewpoint, of unlimited atonement, which states that everyone has the potential for salvation, which means that Christ bore the sins of everyone at Calvary. While it sounds to good and pleasing to stay that Christ bore the sins of every person on the cross, it makes salvation a work. Let's elaborate.

If Christ bore the sins of everyone, and died as a substitute for everyone, then everyone is atoned for, yet not everyone is saved. What is left in the salvation process? Acceptance. That means that we earn salvation though accepting it. That is a gnostic teaching. Either the work is acceptance, understanding, belief or surrender, all those things are dependent upon me. I am therefore responsible for my own salvation, and I am not saved by grace through faith, but rather I am saved by knowledge though faith. I am saved by receiving the atonement. Is that scriptural, or is that humanism?

The alternative is Limited Atonement. It's the reality that God prepared some for salvation since before the foundation of the world, elected them, their sins were paid for on Calvary and they receive grace. We find this in Romans 9.

19 You will say to me, therefore, “Why then does He still find fault? For who can resist His will?” 20 But who are you—anyone who talks back to God? Will what is formed say to the one who formed it, “Why did you make me like this?” 21 Or has the potter no right over His clay, to make from the same lump one piece of pottery for honor and another for dishonor? 22 And what if God, desiring to display His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience objects of wrath ready for destruction? 23 And [what if] He did this to make known the riches of His glory on objects of mercy that He prepared beforehand for glory— 24 on us whom He also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?
Romans 9:19-24 (HCSB)

So I assume some of you reading this point don't agree with me. After all, why would we be commanded to seek and knock, and what is the value of preaching? What about Romans 10:9 and 10:13?

But how can they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher? 15 And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How welcome are the feet of those who announce the gospel of good things! 16 But all did not obey the gospel. For Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed our message? 17 So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.
Romans 10:14-17 (HCSB)

Perhaps you are asking about those verses, about evangelism and what is the point if people are already redeemed. It's a tricky subject I'll admit. So let's go deeper, let's get woven.

In my theological offering of Woven Theology, I have stated that Gods unconditional call and election works in concert with God's foreknowledge, our response and responsibility. That means we are elected and called by God without any work or merit of our own. We know that we are chosen, we are saved and redeemed by grace. It's God who gives grace, we cannot and do no earn it, it's for the glory of God. We also know that our belief has an impact that we believe and we trust God and we are saved. So, we can't be saved without belief, we don't believe without Grace, we don't get grace unless we are chosen, we don't get chosen unless we believe. How?

I think the key comes for a verse in Joel.
I will repay you for the years
that the swarming locust ate,
the young locust, the destroying locust,
and the devouring locust—
My great army that I sent against you.

Joel 2:25 (HCSB)

There is a spiritual reality that sometimes things flow backwards, work in recompense. In Joel, Israel was disobedient, and they were punished. They repented and God re payed the punishment, and it became like the punishment never happened. God can work backwards, can buy back, pay back and restore things to how they were before.

Woven theology stays that you believe because God gives you the ability and the grace to believe, and you have the ability and grace from God because you believe. The reality is that you were called and predestined to believe if you are a believer, and God gave His son for you, and your sins are atoned for because of Grace. We share and we pray for others, because prayer, obedience and response are the mechanisms in which God operates as He predestines those from the foundation of the world. Overwhelmed? We are just getting warmed up.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Losing sight

I have discovered about myself that I so often lose sight of some of the most important things in my spiritual development. The first is living by grace, and not by self effort. I am so hard on myself, trying to do all the things I am suppose to do. The second is part of the same issue, which is having a simple faith. I sometimes over think, over analyse and forget to just trust and believe. Simple faith and living by grace. In my line of work, my spirituality becomes work, and I begin to look at everything as work. Bible study for the sake of me growing closer to Jesus gives way to me studying for my job. Prayer becomes something I do in my job, and this new year I am trying to live my grace and have a simple faith. That doesn't mean I will stop my work on Woven Theology, or I will stop thinking about eccelsiology and church structure, but in doing so, I am resolved to not let my relationship with Christ suffer.