Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Time for a New Year

It's New Years Eve or 2013.  In a few hours it will be 2014.  In the New Year there are some things I want to focus on and accomplish.  I know there are somethings I need to do in my life to improve my writing and my knowledge, so I am going to make it a goal to read 52 books this year, one a week.  I am also going to spend the next 12 months doing a deeper study of the New Testament.  I am going to attempt to continue to write, working on blogs for this site, for SBC Voices and continue to work on books and articles, and hopefully get some more things published.

I will continue in my current job, I plan on trying to start another Master's Degree if I can get some financial assistance.  I want to do some more work on my coaching and do some more coaching.  I hope to combine all these things to make 2014 a great year.

I try to make themes for every year.  I have had themes like "Not a Hill Worth Dying On".  Last year I had a theme about having stability, but then I got laid off in June, close to a year from when I got . . . left the church.  Two summers in a row of being suddenly unemployed has left me a little scarred.  I am going to think about the theme for 2014, so keep watching for when I announce and unpack it.  I am not sure what it will be yet, I am continuing to think about it.

Lastly, I would like to ask you to pray for me this year.  My desire is to be overwhelmingly filled, anointed and empowered by the Holy Spirit in a way that I never have been.  Please pray that the Holy Spirit would overtake me in a new way and I would be filled in a lasting and life changing way.  Thank you, I am blessed by all my readers, supporters and friends.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Learning Humility

I have spent the last 18 months learning lots of lessons in humility. Some have come from employment, or the ending there of. Part has come from asking for help in my in ability to do things on my own. Part has come from having to learn new things be a trainee and the new guy. Some have been from being around people who have gently humbled me.

Tonight I spent some time with a man who I am sure is brilliant and wise far beyond what I will be. He is righteous and holy, he is talented and most of all, he is humble. He let's me speak and tell stories, he encourages me and helps me.  He is patient and kind and generous and gentle in speech. He doesn't need to be heard or right or the center of the room.

Spending time with men like this convicts me to be more gentile, more quiet and calm and content. He is a great picture of humility for me and I pray that I will be more like him as I age. For me, he is the picture of Paul as he says "imitate me as I imitate Christ". He is a powerful and effective leader for me, and I pray you have people in your life who do the same for you.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

I love Christmas time.  I love spending time with family, relaxing and having time together.  It's fun and relaxing and I love it.  It's cold outside so it's a great reason to stay home and stay inside.  Christmas is a great time to enjoy all the things God has given, knowing the ultimate gift of His Son has been given to us.  Our salvation is the greatest, most precious gift ever given.  I hope and pray that you have unwrapped this precious gift and know the warmth and love of Christ.  This Christmas season, I hope the love of friends, family and most of all Christ will keep you warm.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Danger of Experiential Church

We live in a world today that is all about the experience. Our modern American cultures sells us the experience and we line up to buy the biggest and best. Even going to the store has become experiential, with sights and smells, music and pleasant decor and lights and colors.  We pay for the experience, bigger and louder and in 3D.  We market the experience, and we have become infatuated with wanting to experience more and the newest greatest things.  The experience has become expected in our culture.

The modern Church is a reflection of the culture of the people who make up the congregations.  The church has been effected by the larger societal outlook.  One of the major outlooks that have shaped the end of the 20th and dawn of the 21st century is the Postmodern view of experientialism as foundational in truth.  What we experience becomes reality.  Individuals no longer believe those things which have been foundational or even orthodoxy and have submitted their experiences and those things in which they can explain in their place.  The Sunday Morning Service has been one of the most impacted areas of this experiential view on what is true.  We see it effect the way we structure and organize the experience, opting for new d├ęcor, a more modern wardrobe of those on stage, lighting and sound control and effects, themes and motifs as well as the music selection.  Each of these things exists to create a mood, an environment, an atmosphere and an experience.  The goal is no longer transformation, but a movement to a directed feeling or experience.  This culminates in the alter call experience, which is the height of the emotional draw in the modern worship service.

In an effort to market salvation in this experiential mode, we have substituted Biblical ideas like being drawn, surrendering your life, confession and repentance for more relational terms.  We speak about a personal relationship, inviting Jesus into your heart, making Jesus your best friend.  The alter call has become a mixture of sudo-Biblical language combined with modern psychobabble and feel good experiences to create an emotional high.  It is not uncommon to see people crying and wailing for reasons that they cannot express.  Many will attribute this to a movement of the spirit, but this action is not seen anywhere in scripture.  Often these people experience little to no real life transformation at all, simply have an experience that plays on their emotional state.

The most fundamental problem with this method of operation is the effect on orthodox theology.  Scriptures become subject to experience and individual interpretation based on preferences and not exegesis.  Passages are no longer being exposited and understood, they are simply a tool to lead the preacher or teacher into the topical message.  This masquerades of exegetical preaching, but it is a farce of topical preaching usually on the agenda of the speaker.  The context of the verse is given little consideration, and there is no real study given to the actual meaning or the original usage.  Scriptures become a tool to communicate an idea instead of the divinely inspired instrument of teaching, training, reproof and correction in righteousness.  

We have taken the Biblical idea of Salvation and turned it into an experience to the point where the average church attendees cannot tell you if they are saved, how they become saved, or what Salvation really is.  They have an idea of saying they are sorry and saying a prayer.  Concepts like propitiation, substitutionary atonement and imputed righteousness have no meaning.  Many have never heard about the wrath of God that is upon sinners, and the concepts of election are not even discussed, even though they clearly exist in the scriptures. The average church goer feels they are saved by an experience, and we find newer and better ways to market salvation. Our pews are full of false converts, trusting in an emotional experience and not Christ.

In many ways, those churches which have taught the inerrancy of scripture have set up a system by which they cause the scriptures to contradict themselves.  They teach there is no election, no predestination and man has free will, and they use a series of verses to substantiate their claim.  The issue arises when there are verses that speak of election and predestination, there becomes a contradiction and class in the scripture.  This leads to two outcomes, the scriptures are no consistent or an interpretation is incorrect.  Since the verses that speak of election and predestination are much more clear than those which can be interpreted to represent free will, the second option is ignored.  This leaves a fractured Bible in which church members are free to pick and choose which parts they would like to support their theological, moral and ethical ideals.

The outcome has become churches, denominations and a country that is splintered, divided and broken over debates, arguments and beliefs that are not Biblical.  These are based on our experiences, what we want to experience and how we think we can cause others to experience.  We have used guilt, fear and coercion to try to manipulate the masses to the point the church itself is shrinking and drying up.  The church is unable to compete with the entertainment factor of the media industry.  The church has lost so much of the truth that they are no longer able to offer doctrine that is really life transformational.  The result is a revolving door that people come in for an emotional high and are gone when they hit a low.  When they find that their view of God and their experience in reality don’t match, they will walk away, only to return when it climbs back up again.  The solution is Biblical foundation based on orthodoxy in a body of Christians who are unwilling to compromise on the truth of the Word.  It will not be popular, it will be a slow and steady reform and it will be hard to build a megachurch or continue with church growth, but it is the only way to curb the slide towards heresy.

True community and a Biblical doctrine that holds the test of time will build the church that will survive the destruction that experientialism brings. In the end, the megachurch may be an thing of the past, but the community of committed believers will continue on.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Max's Life of Joseph

I have recently finished You'll Get Through This by Max Lucado, which is an examination of the life of Joseph and how God can use bad things for such a great purpose.  I think as humans, we look at small snippets of life and make judgement calls, when God is looking at our entire life and His entire eternal purpose.  Joseph's life was instrumental in what God was going with the nation of Israel and moving them into Canaan as an army able to take and occupy the land.

In doing so, Max unpacks how God moves and working in our lives and through the bad stuff.  We know that bad stuff happens, but in this book we are really challenged with the idea if we trust God to be working when we are in the pit, the dungeon, when we are wrongfully accused and how God works things for our good and His glory.  In the end, when God says all things work together for the good of those who love Him, do we really believe it?  Do we really trust God in the hard times in our lives?

This book wasn't unique, it wasn't a different view of the story of Joseph, but it is good and worth reading.  Max Lucado has a knack for talking to you like he is telling you what you need to hear.  His writing style and methodology makes this book worth the read, so I advise you to check it out.  Borrow it from someone, find it in your church library and give it a read.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Don't Be That Guy

You know that guy?  You know that guy!  That guy who does that thing.  Ok, let me be a little more specific.  There are certain types of people that just make most people a little edgy.  They make your hair stand up and you feel like you are walking on egg shells.  Let's talk about the different kinds of "guys" that you should never be.

"The Offended Guy".  This is a label that is often put on left wing liberals, but "that guy" can be any political or religious group.  When you say something they disagree with, they become offended.  This guy is really in the news lately with the whole Duck Dynasty thing.  I'm not gonna blog on that.  Someone believes something that contradicts you, says you are wrong, you get offended.  In Christian circles, charismatics offend the non-charismatic, the liturgical offend the evangelicals, Catholics offend Protestants, Calvinist offend Traditionalists and bloggers offend everyone.  Someone is always crying about something someone else said.  Don't be that guy.  Toughen up and realize it's not all about you.  If someone says "I think Calvinism is evil and of the devil to destroy the church" and you are a Calvinist, suck it up.  That person is entitled to their opinion, right, wrong or really stupid.  If a traditionalist says that Calvinists are lame, or if I say I have strong doubts that most people who hold Traditional theology are even saved, it's an opinion.  It's a view, it's not worth getting all hurt and crying about.  Stop crying and complaining, stop whining on Facebook and blogs and Twitter.  Grow up, stop being hurt.  Don't be that guy.

"The Know Everything Guy"  You know, the guy who starts sentences with 'actually' just before he tells you why he's right and you are wrong.  The guy who has an opinion about everything, and he is always right and if you argue with him, he will drop some sudo-logic term.  I swear if I hear or read one more person call my statement a "straw man" when they have no idea what a logical fallacy even is, I'm gonna throw up.  It's a cop out for the know everything guy to keep him from being wrong.  If all else fails, he'll give you the "well it's open to interpretation".  It's usually not, but the know it all guy can't be wrong.  He is right all the time about everything, and you are wrong.  He is usually in charge of something that gives him all sorts of infinite knowledge.  Whatever, don't be that guy.

"The Back Stabbing Smiler".  You know,the guy who is all nice when he is face to face, but will slander you to everyone else.  When you disagree or have a falling out, he will say it's ok, he forgives and he wishes things were better.  When you leave, he's gonna tell everyone why you are a loser, you are to blame and you are generally a bad guy.  Don't be this guy, this guy is like a cancer that goes around eating joy.  Sucks the life out of you and will destroy relationships and community.  Don't talk bad about people you don't like.  It's bad enough you don't like them.  I know it's hard when someone offends you, but if you are gonna bash someone, do it too their face.  Don't be smiling and happy, while hiding a knife behind your back.  At least be open enough to say "I think you are a loser".  Don't become so good at being fake you forget who you are.  Don't be that guy.

"The  Band Wagoner".  Have you ever met someone who changes their opinion after every seminar, class, show or book?  Suddenly they are on to the next big thing.  The new celeb walks in with a new idea and suddenly they are the expert.  They learn something new and it's all you hear about for week, until something else new comes along.  Even worse is the guy who hangs out with this guy and follows everything, getting excited about every new fad.  Don't be that guy, and don't be his lackey.  Don't stand in life for 3 days for the new Iphone, it's crap just like the last iphone.  Ok, sorry, had to bash the iphone, but you get the point.  Don't just follow for the sake of following, that's not cool at all.  Don't change your opinion cause someone else changed his opinion, and fads are fads, quit chasing them.  Don't be that guy.

"Drama King"  You have seen drama queens. . . in middle school.  Ok, they are in high school, college and everywhere else.  Worse than a drama queen is the king.  The guy who always have a problem, an issue and something to complain about.  His job, his family, his pain and his terrible burdens.  He will dump his problems on total strangers, and demands attention and sympathy all the time.  Life is always such a struggle, and he always has it worse than you.  If your head hurts, his head, neck and shoulders hurt.  If you had a long days, his was longer.  If you are broke, he's in debt. . . to a loan shark no less.  Always something to whine about.  Don't be that guy.

I know in life there are times when we know the answers, we find a new idea that is really great, things are going bad and we have to warn someone about the guy you were just polite too.  Sometimes we get hurt and offended from time to time, we all have these moments.  That is ok, just have your moment and move on.  Don't stay there.  Don't build a house there.  The world is full of trials and hardships, the last thing we need is "that guy".  Don't be that guy!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Theological Lessons from Metallica

I have a confession first.  I like Metallica, I have for a long time.  I think they are excellent musicians and lyricists.  I am unsure of their belief or faith, but I have found some things in Metallica's music over the years that have great theological messages.  There is one that really struck me, and when I saw the video it hit me ever harder.

Until It Sleeps

This song is about sin, and it's pretty obvious it's about the darkness that lives inside the human heart and our desire to be free.  One of the things that I have seen is the church suffers from small syndrome.  We have small sin that needs small forgiveness.  We simply do some bad things sometimes, and we just need to say we are sorry.  This isn't the biblical picture of sin, Metallica gets it.  They are violent about getting free from sin.  Tear me open, pour me out.  Wash me till clean, tear me open, make you gone.  They understands the wretchedness and the evil that lives inside man.  Jesus knew it too, and He used violent language.  If you eye causes you to sin, tear it out and cast it from you.  Don't gently remove it, rip it out and throw it away from you.  Cut off your limbs if they cause you sin, cast them away.  The violent nature of is seen on the cross.  Jesus didn't simply die, he was beaten, scourged, battered, disfigured, nailed to a cross, tortured and finally stabbed.  Sin is violent, the price is violent and severe.

Paul understood the nature of sin and how evil it is.  The things I want I don't do and the evil things I don't want to do, I keep on doing. Wretched man that I am.  The Bible is full of the language about sin that it kills us, brings death and destruction and it taints our lives.  We don't seem to have that sort of reaction to sin, we simply tell people "if you choose Jesus, you will be fine".  How can we choose Jesus when we are so tainted we can't choose to follow God's law?  Our sin keeps us from making a choice to choose Jesus, we don't find Jesus, we don't even trust Jesus without the work He did for us.  It was raw and violent and bloody and we have turned it into an academic exercise.

My prayer is becoming more like Metallica's song.  I need God to tear me open and pour me out, the hate and the pain and the dirt ruin me.  I can't do anything good, I can't seek after God, I can't even take care of myself.  I don't want to be held in sin's grip, I want to be free.  I want God to be violent with me, to tear my heart out and clean it.  Anything less simply will not conquer the power of sin.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Perfect Life, the Cloudy Lens of Social Media

I was talking with my wife this morning about life and marriage and friends and, well random things.  It came up about how life looks through social media.  It occurred to me (with her help and pointing it out) that social media can be the ultimate form of the church mask.  If you are unfamiliar with the church mask, let me explain.  You wake up grumpy, yell at the kids, fight with your spouse and sulk all the way to church.  When you get there, you are all smiles, everything is great, your family is perfect and nothing is wrong.  You smile and laugh all through church, get back in the car and fight all the way home about lunch plans.

Now most of us don't fight in public, we save that for home.  We don't air our dirty laundry for the world to see, but we are also afraid to act human.  We assume that everyone has a perfect life and we are the only ones with problems.  Where do we get this idea?  Use to be church, now it's Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and other social pages.  We put our best foot forward and look like we are perfect, but inside our homes, we are falling apart.  You may be asking "what's wrong with that".  Well, several things.

First, no one really knows us.  No one can hold us accountable, no one sees where we struggle and we are left to struggle alone.  We carry our own burdens, but scripture teaches we are to carry one another's burdens.  We hide our burdens, no one can see them, no one can carry them.  We let our pride and ego stand in the way of transparency and community.  We have stopped being open and real with people, we would much rather maintain our image.

Second, it creates a false sense for others.  It's akin to magazine covers.  Unless you live under a rock, you know the woman who are on magazine covers don't really look like that.  They have been photo shopped and air brushed and retouched.  In the end, we try to live up to an unreal level of expectation, one that cannot be obtained outside of digital artistry.  Gravity happens to us all, but we strive for the unobtainable.  Social media does the same thing, and we often feel isolated with our problems.  The few who post about being depressed or hurt, often they are given more support by those outside the church.  Inside the church, we have the pre-typed answers about trusting Jesus, letting go and letting God.  These things, while they may be true, are not helpful. Notice none of them come from Jesus.  He said come to me, I'll give you rest and, oh by the way, carry one another's burdens.  He said love each other as I have loved you.  It's the idea of community, and we have traded it for the cheap social media imitation.

In the end, we become the most connected group of isolated people ever.  We have constant contact with people, we can chat, text, call, skype, facetime, snapchat, and IM each other all day long, but we end up alone and no one really knows us.  We need to use technology in appropriate ways, not to have superficial relationships, masked lives and broken, lonely hearts.  Let's connect in real and authentic ways and have real relationships.  Carry one another's burdens.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Charles Crim, Earth's loss and Heaven's gain

A great man of faith, a hero, mentor and friend passed away.  Charles Crim was my Director of Missions growing up, he was a gentle man with a huge heart.  When I was in junior college, he walked with me as we started a BSU on campus.  He was encouraging, supportive, he invested in me and helped me grow.  He was such a strong man of faith and left a strong legacy, he will be missed greatly.  I know I will see him again, and that day I'll rejoice.  Until then, I'll always remember what a great friend Charles was, and I am so much better for having him in my life.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Can't Just Be Content, What's My Deal?

I have been . . . out of vocational ministry for about a year in a half.  I was told that I am no good at ministry, I'm not cut out for it and I should find a new job.  After getting fir. . . .resigning from my position, I've tried a few things.  Right now I'm in production, running machinery and I really enjoy my job.  I make pretty good money and things are starting to get stable around my house.  So here I am, taking my day off and sitting down to write.  I write blogs, books, articles and reviews.  I am still working on RI, which is now For Real Life Ministries, looking at another Master's Degree and finding ministries that I would like to start or partner with.  What is wrong with me?  Why am I so drawn to write and speak and preach and teach.  Why can't I just be an operator at my job, attend and serve in my local church context and be happy.  My dad was an operator, he served at church and was content.  He never wrote, he didn't desire to start new ministries or a church.  He didn't set out to try to write theological works and he was happy and content.  Why can't I be?  Is it a calling, or do I just have a need to be more than I am?  I guess time will tell if I am called or just needy.  Pray for me that I have discernment and figure out what I should be doing.