Archive for January, 2009

hope and freedom

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

Adrian Warnock is asking people to write about why they love the church. He’s also giving away free copies of Vintage Church, and I’m a sucker for free stuff. You can read Adrian’s blog here.

Joking about free stuff aside, I love the fact that people are being encouraged to write about why they love the Church. Particularly among younger Christians it’s very popular to not like the Church. Yet, how can you love Jesus and not love His Bride? Granted, imperfect humans make up the Church so it’s much harder to see the radiance in her that Christ sees. But it’s still there. And Jesus is madly in love with His Bride.

There are two facets of the Church’s radiance that I see and am grateful for. The first is hope. It’s almost cliche to comment on how messed up the world is. Just yesterday the front page of the Detroit News had a picture of a guy that had frozen to death, and the man that found the body was afraid to report it because he didn’t want to get introuble for trespassing. Everytime it seems like it can’t get worse something else like that happens. Yet, the Church speaks hope into this miserable experience. The Church proclaims that this misery is not permanent. The Church proclaims the Gospel of Jesus that promises not only redemption of individuals but redemption of the world. Moreover, the Church lives out the hope of the Gospel by living a redeemed life and modeling it to the world.

The second facet of the Church’s radiance is freedom. The reason that this misery exists is because humanity is held captive by sin. The evidence of this is everywhere. Although American culture tries to deny the very existence of sin stories like the one in the Detroit News cannot be explained away so easily. Yet, the Church proclaims the Gospel of Christ that frees people from the power of sin. The Church models this freedom and in so doing draws others to the freedom that is only foind in Christ.

Jesus’ Bride is radiantly adorned in the hope in freedom that is found in Christ. That is why I love the her.

Selfish Prayer

Friday, January 30th, 2009

I noticed a disturbing trend as I was praying this morning. As I journaled/prayed this morning, I noticed that lately my focus has been more on what I want from God rather than on God. I was focusing on the gift rather than the giver. Noticing that, begged the question why? Why was I practicing something totally antithetical to what I teach to others? Why was I sekeing God’s blessing and not God’s presence. As I processed that with God, He showed me the root issue. I haven’t been trusting Him enough. I haven’t been trusting that God really wants what’s best for me and has the best plan from me.

I had effectively decided that I can make my best future if God will just provide key things for me to avoid major roadblocks. I was behaving as if I didn’t need God in my life. I needed His wisdom. I needed Him to provide opportunities for me to do what I wanted. But… I didn’t need Him.

How ridiculous! That whole experience was a great wake up call for me. I don’t have a clue what the best possible future is for me. What I need is God. What I need is to live in His presence and to follow Him moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day. I was getting way too far ahead of myself. That was a great start to a great day. I hope and pray that I can maintain this focus.

Husband in Chief

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

Have you noticed the media coverage regarding the Obamas’ public displays of affection? Right now with the media frenzy around the first family everything ends up in the news. I have, however, found it interesting that the public displays of affection between Barack and Michelle Obama have gotten so much air time. I’m glad it has though. It’s great to see a married couple that love each other and aren’t afraid to show it. I’m incredibly frustrated with the way marriage is so often portrayed in our culture. It’s not a “ball and chain.” It is the most fulfilling human experience in the world. Yes, I understand it doesn’t always work out that way. People marry the wrong people for the wrong reasons. But, whose fault is that? It’s refreshing to see the most influential couple in the world show what marriage could and should be. I hope that one of the legacies of President Obama’s time in office is a reminder of what marriage is intended to be and a strengthening of the marriages in America.

The Voice of Disdain

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

Like many people today I watched the inauguration of the first minority President of the United States. I was watching the coverage on ABC and was very disappointed in the way the newscasters handled themselves. I’m not sure who it was but whoever it was he was incredibly unprofessional, particularly in how he handled Rick Warren’s invocation. The newscaster didn’t even try to hide his disdain for President Obama’s choice of Rick Warren as the one to give the invocation (scornfully commenting on the fact that it is the President-Elect’s choice on who will give the invocation) or the fact that the Christian pastor mentioned Jesus in his prayer(scoffingly mentioning that the question of whether he would mention Jesus in the prayer). Now, I get it that evangelical Christianity is not held in high esteem in popular culture today. And, I don’t really care that this particular newscaster has a problem with the President’s choice or with Rick Warren using Jesus’ name in his prayer. I do, however, expect newscasters to be professional. Just as I expect everyone to be professional when doing their job. If the same disdain were expressed for a minority faith expression I believe that newscaster would have been at least chastised by someone at the network. It’s disgusting that on this momentus, historic moment in history a professional newscaster couldn’t be professional for the sake of honoring the moment.

Pray for the Civilians too

Friday, January 16th, 2009

We hear a lot about praying for the troops overseas. Don’t forget to pray for the civilian contractors too. Up until recently it never really occured to me to pray for the American civilians in combat zones. Now, it’s very important to me because my dad is one of them. He left today for Afghanistan and will be over there for a year, at least. Most of these contractors are retired military personel that have volunteered to support the mission overseas. Please, remember to pray for them too as you pray for the troops.

Standing on Formality… or Not

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

I’m catching up on all the blog posts that I didn’t read during the holiday season. Scot McKnight, as usual, has had some really interesting ones. One in particular caught my attention and I want to touch on it. Scot was complaining that there isn’t enought reverence in the pastoral office in many churches today. You can read Scot’s post here

As much as I respect Scot, I have to disagree with him on this one. I agree that those that have the privilege of serving God in the roll of pastor should acknowledge that privilege. It is, however, vitally important that pastors work diligently to break down the clergy/laity divide. Standing on the formality of the pastoral office leads to the misnomer that there is such a thing a professional Christ-follower. That, of course, is ridiculous. Those that God has called to vocational ministry have a special role in the church but they are no better nor more important than those called to serve represent Christ in government, academia, or the secular marketplace.

Scot’s illustration at the end of his post, in my opinion, supports my point. The taxi driver is guilty of believing the myth that there are people that are vocationally closer to God and therefore can talk to God more directly. There is nothing that Scot could say or do to help that man that any other Christ-follower couldn’t say or do. Those of us that are ministry professionals need to focus on the preisthood of believers and not on professional clergy. I think reducing formality is an importat part of this.

Another First

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

Indulge me a moment of paternal pride. Brenda read her first word last night. Jen taught her to read the word “love” on her new teddy bear’s t-shirt.

Incarnational Technology

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

Lately technology has become a big topic of discussion in the church world. The discussion has really been around forever. It got pretty heated in the “worship wars” of the 80s. Then the question was the use of electric instruments, words projected on screens, and image magnification. The conversation has now moved to the use streaming media, and mass collaborative tools.

Recently I read a blog post that gave a fair critique of technology in the church. You can read it here. The author raises some very good points regarding the use of technology. He’s not opposed to it but feels that technology is overused in evangelical seeker-sensitive churches.

I’d like to take a moment to respond to his point. The critique stems from a presupposition that the goal is to be cool. He uses the word relevant, but in the context in which it is used, cool definitely fits better. In truth, a lot of churches use relevant when they mean cool. When the goal is to be cool, then the technology is definately being misused. If the goal is to be relevant, and by relevant I mean communicating in a way that connects with the audience in the best possible manner, then technology is certainly incarnational.

Often the incarnational is misdefined as living among people. Although Jesus certainly did live among people, so did all of the first century Rabbis and they were not incarnational ministers. The incarnation was God communicating to his audience in the best possible manner. Look at how John describes it in the prologue to his Gospel. The incarnation was God being relevant. Greg Koester makes this point well in The Word of Life: A Theology of John’s Gospel.

The best medium of communication in the first century was the spoken word. Throughout the history of civilization the most effective medium for communication has developed as society developed. Before the Guttenberg Press the most effective communication in Medieval Europe was stained glass windows and passion plays. Today American society communicates through technology television, the internet, texting, etc.

If the goal is to be the coolest church in town then it is not an incarnational church. It’s more like Simon the Sorcerer in Acts 8. If the goal is to communicate the truth of God in the most relevant vehicle possible, then technology must be used. With that said, technology should be leading people into community which, I believe, must ultimately lead to human interaction. But, that is not the definition of the incarnation, and that is a topic for another post.