Thursday, March 21, 2013

Humility and learning it's lessons

Jesus gave a list of blessings in the Beattitudes, and I think lately I am filling a few.  A lot has happened over the last 8 months.  I had worked towards a goal of serving in a church, filling the role of Pastor of Education.  I had that role in a couple churches, and I felt like I was where I was suppose to be.  It was hard, I struggled in some areas, I had strengths and weaknesses and I was keenly aware of my weaknesses.  I went to school, I learned, I went to conferences, I had mentors and coaches, I real magazines, books and blogs.  I tried to learn from the best, but it wasn't enough.  One day it ended like a gun shot.  It was just over, no fanfare, no memorial, not even a goodbye, it was just over.

I did what any man would do in that situation, I found another job.  I am actually working two right now, times are hard.  I enjoy my jobs, they are not my calling or my passion, but I enjoy what I do, but it's a struggle.  I work outside my field, I am trained to be a pastor, an educator and I am, to put it bluntly, a nobody.  I am the bottom of the totem pole, I am the "kid".  I went from Pastor to kid in the blink of an eye. I don't mind being bossed around, told what to do, but in the part time evening job, I am being told what to do by 20 year olds.  I struggle sometimes because I have pride, I have a BA, and MA and more leadership training that this kid has high school credits, yet here I am.  Humbled.

I wonder if Paul felt this way.  Training to be a leader, a Pharisee with the best training.  He becomes a believer and a missionary.  He goes to Athens and preaches, they laugh at him and he leaves and goes to Corinth and makes tents.  I am sure he enjoyed the work, but he was doing miracles, preaching about Christ, starting churches, and now he is making tents.  He tells the Corinthians about a thorn in his flesh, possibly his blindness or the fact he was stuck making tents.  Whatever it was, it kept him humble.  I don't have a thorn so much, but I have been made humble.  I am a nobody with a blog who gets to write.  Sure, I have good friends, an amazing wife and awesome children.  My life is great, but I never thought I would be where I have found myself.  I will try to keep my chin up, knowing this is working for my good to make me more like Christ.  I am striving to do ministry where I am, investing in the people around me.  Tonight, I was able to share some things that I learned with a young man who is feeling the calling on his life.  God has blessed me where I am and I am thankful, but sometimes I miss what I had.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

In Ministry

As I am getting older,  there are some things in modern American Churchianity that I am rejecting. Today's item to toss out is the idea of being in or not being in or involved in Ministry. I am not rejected the idea of people being in ministry, I am tossing the idea out of a Christian being a Christian and not doing ministry.

First off, let's talk about ministry. This doesn't mean you have a title, position or a job description at your church. Ministry means there is something in your life that you invested in for the spiritual and eternal benefit or someone else. Everything from preaching and teaching to giving someone a cup of cold water in the name of Christ. Helping people, serving people, sharing with people are all areas of Ministry.

First thing we need to toss out is the idea that someone can be a Christian and be a complete consumer. If you don't invest yourself in anyone, ever, something in wrong. There may be a season you are a bit below the radar, but you are still praying and encouraging others, right? If you are doing nothing for anyone else, better search your heart. Something is very broken?

Second, less toss out the idea that you have to serve in your church for it to be valid. The best place to do ministry is probably in your local church, and they need you, but ministry will often be outside. Hopefully your church recognises the needs to train, equip and release people for ministry. Often your ministry will be at your work, home, school or other places you spend time. These are the places Jesus calls you to be. 

The key thing is to find your ministry focus, your calling. Maybe it's your family, raising kids or taking care of aging parents. Maybe it's to coworkers, neighbors or friends. You may be called to help with kids, teach in Sunday School or serve as a deacon. Plant your life in that ministry, let God tend your vine and produce a harvest. If you are not serving, not producing a harvest, maybe you need to make sure you are connected to the vine.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

What Separates the Elect from the Unelect?

One of the foundational keys to Woven Theology is the concept of timelessness of God.  God is not in, bound or subject to time.  Most of the issues that concern predestination come from putting God inside of time, having Him make a decision about a human being before the human exists.  In this, God is perfectly just in His election, but this leaves me with a huge question.  What is the extent of foreknowledge, but more importantly, what separates the Elect from the Unelect?

If God looks at an individual, and they become the elect because of a work or an action, they are not elect, but they have in fact earned God’s merit and salvation, and that is works theology.  Right away we have to throw out the concept of earned salvation because it’s defiantly contrary to Bible teaching.  Let’s define a work, anything that a human being can do and take credit for that merits or achieves salvation.  If we do anything that gives us Salvation that doesn’t come from God, we can take credit, we can boast and therefore, we merit our salvation.  We have compromised too much on this point, and that is rejected outright.

So, what is left to examine?  I think foundational we need to pose a question about how God views us.  Since God is not trapped in, subject too or limited by time, it stands to reason that from God’s eternal vantage point, He sees us complete.  Everything we have said, done, and thought, combined with our attitude and outlook, added with who we are, where we come from, our family, how and where we are raised, who invested in us and prayed for us and who shared the gospel with us. All of these things fit together to form us, from what we normally eat for breakfast to where we went to college, who we married and what size shoe we where.  God sees the complete picture and in seeing that complete picture He is completely justified in who He elects.  This is not based on what we’ve done, but who we are.  This will also include how others pray for us, share with us, invite us to church.  We don’t earn salvation, but we are commanded to pray for the salvation of others.  That means our prayers make a difference as God calls and elects.  We are told the belief of a parent matters, the belief of a spouse matters, the prayers of family members matter.  All of these things come together to make up who we are.  We don’t earn Salvation by being in church, but perhaps we are in church because we are called, and perhaps we are called because we have a heart that is open to being in church. 
Now what we have done, but who we are.

Those who are unelect, they have a closed and hard heart, are surrounded by pagans, no one is praying for them, no believers are sharing with them, when God sees them as a completed individual, they are immersed in sin, selfishness and destruction.  As Christians in time, this means that there is time for us, because their life isn’t over.  Someone who appears to be far from God from our perspective may have something that God knows about that will happen.  They will later receive prayer, teaching and they are ultimately the elect.

I bring this up because often people argue with election, saying “then there is no point in sharing the gospel with people” but since we are commanded to do so, the election of an individual may be dependant (at least from our perspective in time) on if we share the gospel and pray for them.  The reality is that election is completely and totally up to God, yet it is the responsibility of the individual to have a soft heart, an open ear and be in a place for God to speak.  It’s also dependant upon us as Christians to share, pray and witness, knowing that is can change them as a person.

I realize how abstract this concept is because it has so many moving parts.  Us as beings in time, working in time and through time and trying to think about God being outside of time working on something that cannot be earned, yet we are responsible for our reaction, our actions and our duty.  This is why it’s Woven Theology, God is weaving a tapestry of Salvation that is based on nothing but His sovereign will but includes the actions and reaction of every person involved.  The relationship between man and God is grown and matured by us being involved in God’s plan, not because He needs us but because He designed it.

Let’s look at the Apostle Paul.  When he was Saul, his heart was heart, he persecuted and he was an enemy of Christ.  When God looked at Saul, he say him as a completed person, someone who experienced grace and was open, someone who was prayed for and covered in the prayers of many.  God saw a man that others invested in and he in turn invested in others.  God was pleased and glorified to elect Saul to become Paul and share his faith with the world.  In the same way, God looked at a man like Judas.  I don’t know all of the story and history of Judas, but he was greedy and callous.  He stole from the money of the group, he betrayed Jesus for money and his heart was cold.  Jesus said it was better if he was never born, and in the end he couldn’t live with himself and committed suicide instead of seeking forgiveness.  The man Judas was, his heart condition caused him to be in a position that God’s wrath remained on him, even while he walked with Jesus.

As I continue to think through this, please share your thoughts and help me flesh this idea out more.  I will pray and continue to search the scripture and ask you to please do the same as you join me in this exercise of faith.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Ring of Gold

I rarely take off my wedding ring, I live, sleep, work and shower in my ring. I can't really get it off anymore, I can't get it over the joints in my finger. At work one night, however, I had my hands in a sink of cold water. I was drying my hands and noticed it was a little lose. I slid it off and look at it. That moment standing in the back of a Pizza joint at my part time job, looking at this little piece of jewelry that I wear all the time and my head flooded with memories. I thought about the last 12 years and all that Elaine and I have through.

Being married to my wife is incredible and such a giant blessing I can't even find words to express it.  I love her more today and I did yesterday, but less than I will tomorrow. The blessing that God gave me in my wife is more than I could have imagined I would receive.