Thursday, September 24, 2009
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Dedicated to Ken Silva, Chris Rosebrough and Reformata
First I would like to make clear the fact that I am not in any way shape or form some kind a mindless follower of Jay Bakker nor am I a member of any Emergence Christianity conversation. I have found in both an affirmation of the beliefs that my reading of Scriptures, my personal experience of God, the history of the Christian tradition and my own reason have led me too. I have also found in so many that are “lumped together” under the umbrella of the “Emergent Church” a shared understanding of the Grace and Love of a God we serve with our lives.
I have discovered over the last few months a wonderful forum to share ideas, praise God’s presence in our lives and ....lose your cool in 140 characters. The first few weeks were enchanted, finding someone new each day who posted golden nugget after golden nugget of applicable wisdom and experience. It was a virtual treasure trove of resources to enhance my ministry. I even had the opportunity to hook up with some like minded folk who’s ministries I had followed and learn of others that I would have never met!
All was well in the Twitterverse...and then...A growing storm of conflict, criticism and flat out un-loving un-christian condemnation hit. Any attempts to block or avoid conflict were met with more lightning strikes of personally painful jabs or quotation marked words used to show (sarcastically) the folly of there use (i.e. in my case “pastor” Connie Waters because the assumption is that anyone with Biblical Sense knows a woman can’t be a pastor). Any attempts to communicate directly were used as (internet source) quotes and twisted like a piece of aluminum siding in a tornado to infer half true or untrue assumptions by the author.
There are a few things that I have found interesting in reviewing these tirades...I mean blog posts. First is the assumption of being the only true “Bible Believing Christians” I have yet to see a time in which another theology was examined and found to be in any way correct. It is only a slim sliver of the Christian community that is seen as experts or scholars. Any other credentialed expert is discounted as heretical, liberal, worldly or just plain WRONG.
For another thing, there seems to be a tag team effort to encourage a debate. There is a continued request for debate when there is no hope of anything being learned or gained by an exchange because there is an agenda. The real intent of any exchange is to discredit the other person and show the TRUTH that is so carefully guarded and apprised. That seems to me to be like asking a bear to place it’s foot in the trap! It is also interesting how most engagements end in attempts to debate not the person they are speaking with but the “head outlawpreacher” (not that there is one) Jay Bakker. What motivation would Jay or any other person have in talking to or debating anyone who is affiliated with Reformata?
Also, it appears that the players in this theological melodrama seem to WANT to cast themselves in a negative light. Ken Silva says in one of his wonderfully named entries that “I am well aware that they’d think I was some kind of an angry, narrow-minded fundamentalist bigot” Ok, I can only speak for myself but yes, that is how you come across dear brother in Christ, now that you recognize it I hope the Holy Spirit will help you to turn from that behavior. Even of his own “conservative evangelical leaders” Ken says “Well, I am not here to win a popularity contest;and if evangelical leaders -whose forums dwarf anything of mine - would stand up and be counted during this apostasy there wouldn’t be any need for AM, Christian Research Network, Slice of Laodicea, Etc” (Ken, there you go assuming again). Maybe they are silent not because they lack your vision and prophetic clarity on scripture but because they do not see this issue as an apostasy! Hum...it appears to me that many evangelicals have embraced some of the practices and understandings of the EC!
Another point that I find particularly irritating is Silva’s use of statements as overtly sarcastic put downs. A specific example that I can talk about was when he said, “The question is: why doesn’t Bakker, who some call a scholar, actually address the Biblical instead of marginalizing his critics as haters.” Sir, I am the one who called Pastor Bakker a scholar! And I would be honored to be quoted having said so! A Scholar is defined as “a specialist in a particular brand of study: a person who is highly educated or has an aptitude for study,” In every way Jay fits the definition, it has very little to do with alphabet soup at the end of his name and very much to do with the wisdom his ravenous reading, prayer, dialogue, life experience, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit have given him. And further more, he does not keep all of that knowledge of God in his head, he doesn’t simply read the word of God, but as all Christians are called to do, he embodies it. I have engaged him in conversation and have learned more about the Grace of God then from any PhD I know (and I know many, few of which you would recognize as scholars however)! I would not presume to speak for Jay but if it were me, it would not be the fact that I could not address the Biblical, but that as you said yourself, you do come across in a negative way and you are not going to win a popularity contest...would you want to talk to yourself the way YOU describe you?
And as for debating Chris Rosebrough, I have real problems with that idea for anyone. He does not even attempt to be civil, he comes across as judgmental, condescending,calculating, haughty, and a mean spirited attempt at satire in the style of Rush Limbaugh (of whom I am a fan...SEE! stop assuming!) So speaking only for myself, it is not that I (and many like me) don’t have our answers to the questions you (and those like you) have. It is just that you have made your position clear, your hearts and minds are not open to any ideas but your own and we can choose not to engage you in something that will be harmful to both of us and to any poor unfortunate souls who happen across the conflict, it is called “taking the high road” not being scared.
Our Lord asks us to be kind, loving and deal in a spirit of Grace with our brothers and sisters in Christ. I understand that each time I react to the diatribes of those who poke and prod and use Guerilla Theology ON people that I do damage to myself however, God’s grace is there for me as well, and I will ask for forgiveness for any unfair or hurtful thing that I have said.
I am not attempting to create a showdown at the OK corral, I am simply asking that all of us think what we are doing to the body of Christ and the Kingdom of God. Acknowledging that we all see only in part what we will someday see clearly! I pray for each of us, that we can all be reconciled in the truth and someday have a good belly laugh in heaven at all the things we had wrong and marvel together in the Love and Grace of the Father who died to save us ALL!
Friday, July 17, 2009
23 Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring,* heirs according to the promise.
I have always loved this passage of scripture, it makes me feel loved and cared for by my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It reminds me that God had a plan all along to bring us into relationship with our Creator. And it helps me know that God loves us no matter who we are or what our statue in life.
As a child I was educated in a private school of another denomination. I was always conflicted about the teaches of a God who expected us all to be perfect and seemed to be looking for a way to send us to hell if we stepped one toe out of line. I had a lot of fear as a child, fear of making God angry and making God not love me anymore. But I also had a lot of questions as a child, a lot of unanswered questions as to why the same God who chose to die for us would at the same time be looking for ways to condemn us to a fiery pit? I watched over the years as many of my childhood friends made a commitment to the church, scared of their fate if they did not. I watched as they tried to live up to the expectations their ministers preached at them. I also watched as they began to give up, thinking that they could never live up to the standards that others seem to achieve. I could almost see their faith and hope slip away, replaced with resignation and acceptance of their condemnation. Many of them feel into self destructive patterns that affected their lives for years. It was heartbreaking to watch. Those who longed to be in God’s presence feeling unworthy and unwanted.
It was this small passage from the book of Galatians that helped me to begin to understand the truth about Christ’s sacrificial love for us and our relationship with a God who cares for each and every one of us. When I read the words in verse 25: “But now faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian” That it hit me...Jesus came to bring us into relationship with God the Father not to add a new layer of judgement. Verses like John 1:17 “The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” and John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave His only Son, so that ALL who believe in him may not perish but may have eternal life” tell us of a God who has made provisions for reconciliation with the Divine, to reunite with us with a minimal request in return...that we believe! WOW! A God who will love me and wants to be with me even when I mess up? A God that wants to love me SO much that Jesus was willing to make a path leading straight to the Kingdom of God? Now this is a God I could understand. The more I read this text from Galatians, the more distant my former understanding of a judgmental God became, the less bound to laws and rules, the more thankful for grace and mercy. And the oddest thing is, I did not become someone who believes they can do anything they want... I did not fall away from my moral center just because I believe that grace is shown me everyday. Instead of being scared that God is looking for a way to send me to hell, I am everyday seeking ways to be closer to the holy and divine image of Christ which loves God completely and loves neighbor as self. Love of God and neighbor always points us to God’s will not because of fear but because of relationship and gratitude.
The law was never meant to be used as a weapon by God to condemn us, it was a guide to help us stay in relationship with God and one another. And Grace did not come and wipe away the law but to complete it...because if we love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and love our neighbors as ourselves then we will be able to show grace and love to one another even when we aren’t perfect just as God has shown it to us.
Lastly, We have to remember that NONE are outside the love of God, as Galatians 3:28 reminds us “ALL are one in Christ Jesus”. It is a challenge sometimes for us to remember that God’s love is out their for everyone, the playing field is completely level for ALL who believe, even messy, sinful, lawbreakers like you and me!!
Friday, June 19, 2009
Monday, April 27, 2009
I Timothy 4:11 Get the word out. Teach all these things. And don’t let anyone put you down because you are young. Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity.
Sometimes we can learn more by listening to those who are younger than we are then we can teach them. I have lived this over and over again as I have worked with children and young adults.
In my time as pastor of Hyde Park UMC in Covington, I had the privilege of knowing a teenaged boy named Michael Wayne Cullens. Michael met me at the door with a wide grin and a shock of red hair, I immediately liked him because he just looked so darn much like Mickey Rooney from the Andy Hardy movies I watched as a child. He was always there to do any odd job we needed done at the church, and he ran the “digital demon” which was the malfunctioning digital hymnal the church used because the pianist had past away and no other was available. He had always lived with the grandparents, and he was known by everyone within walking distance.
It pained me to leave that church, but we did stay in touch with many including Michael and Jessica who began teaching the younger children after I left. Michael talked to anyone who would listen, and helped anyone who needed it. In the poor part of town surrounded by housing projects and drugs, there was never a lack of folks who needed to talk. Michael stayed true to God’s call on his life and never became a victim of the temptations that so many of the young folks around him did.
In November of 2007 Michael’s leg broke. The x-ray showed that a tumor had all but replaced the bone, the leg had to be removed if there was any hope at all of saving his life. With a minister on each side of his bed, Michael told us, “ It is all going to be okay, I will be here as long as God needs me to be.” Michael, with Jessica by his side every day, counseled other kids with bone cancer, spoke at churches and gave his witness, and shared with us the wisdom that comes from trusting God so completely each day that you can praise God even in the midst of your own physical pain. His faith is the faith that we all aspire to have and many of us work twice as long to have half as much.
Friday, March 27, 2009
Monday, December 8, 2008
Closing out the old year and beginning a new one is always lots of fun! We run non-stop from Thanksgiving until New Years Day (which I usually spend in my Pajamas locked in my house, bone tired). I usually spend some time that day looking back on all the things I have done in the year past and looking forward to the year to come which is a blank slate of possibilities. For an artist, this is similar to the excitement of a new sketch book, all white and empty ready to be filled with thoughts, dreams, plans, but also knowing that sometimes tears, anger or disappointment will fill some of the pages. The thing I have found over the years is that when the sketchbook is full and you look back, you see the beauty of it as a whole, including the darker pages which creates what we call “contrast.” See, you can’t really notice the “highlights” without the “lowlights.” I believe God set it up that way!
Almost everyone has seen the work of Thomas Kinkade, “the painter of light”, I’ll tell you a secret, all in the world he does is balance his lights and darks to draw your attention to the light! He does it masterfully! You could also do the opposite and call attention to the darkness. It is a balancing act to have both light and dark and not allow the darkness to take over. Our reflections on our year and on our Spiritual journey are the same exact way. We paint our lives in ways that draw attention to the Light of God or to the darkness of life’s journey. For some of us, the ability to look on the light side of life comes naturally but for others of us, it takes much energy, discipline and practice not to fall head first into the darkness. Which ever way you are wired, it takes practice and intentionality not to lean to far in the direction that is most natural for you. You have to feel the bad stuff in life, you can not live life fully without pain, but you can't live a life of nothing but pain either. So learn to acknowledge the darkness in life, but also learn to glorifiy God in those times in which peace passes all understanding, not being thankful FOR all things you have to go through but thanking God IN all situations you find yourself. As you learn to be aware of the balance of light and dark you will also find that you will glow with Light though the darkness.