Saturday, June 06, 2015

A Lot Can Change In Nine Years

I have definitely changed a lot in my thinking the last nine years (when I started this blog). I think that's important to point out because you may find posts you don't like or agree with. Just so you know, there are posts here I no longer like or agree with as well.

I thought about what I should do. Start fresh on a new blog? Delete posts I find unacceptable now? No. This blog represents my faith journey and I am not ashamed of that.  I hope my future posts will demonstrate where I am now and tell the story of where I am going.

I have made a lot of new friends in the social media world and I have and will lose others. I no longer accept the label "conservative" or "evangelical" nor will I staunchly defend the ivory tower world that exists in the "religion" I have been a part of the last 20 years. Heck I honestly don't accept labels at all.  I just want to follow Jesus and love people like He did.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mother's Day!

John 19:25-28

25 Standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple He loved standing there, He said to His mother, “Woman, here is your son.” 27 Then He said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home. 28 After this, when Jesus knew that everything was now accomplished that the Scripture might be fulfilled, He said, “I’m thirsty!”

Maybe this isn't your typical Mother's Day passage but it struck me this week. Perhaps we don't feel the impact because most bibles (every one I have looked at did) separate verse 28 out and put it at the next paragraph. Maybe I am nit picking. Or maybe it wasn't until the Lord Jesus had taken care of His mom that He could know that everything was accomplished. 
Moms are special, Jesus' mom was special to Him. Perhaps his last act on earth was to ensure that His mom would be cared for, in this case by the Apostle John himself. I think it's important that we see this side of Jesus. When people are dying, even the Lord, what is most important tends to come to the surface. 
Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there. May your day be full of blessing and favor from the Lord. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

I Haven't Forgotten

I haven't forgotten to blog lately as much as I have been going through a season of soul searching. I am sure (and I want to) that I will get back in the swing of things. I am on a journey and am enduring a period of rethinking at questioning some things. I know you've been there, too. Honestly, we are all just pilgrims on this journey of life and faith.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Book Review: Churchless (Monday Link Up #6)

This weekend I read Churchless by George Barna. Here is my review. This is also a Link Up Party.

The greatest takeaway from Churchless is that we need to rethink how we think about the "unchurched". According to Barna three out of four unchurched Americans should really be called "dechurched" as they at one time used to be a part of a church in some fashion. Also according to Barna, one out of six Americans who are churchless fall into the category of "born again" meaning that they say that they have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior and are depending upon His work for eternal salvation.

I find that this should give us pause as we engage with those outside our church walls. Many of them have not abandoned faith at all...rather they have given up on local churches that have burned and hurt them. We have so long equated church attendance with spiritual maturity and this is something we need to be cured of.

If there is a downside to the book it is the fact that there are too many stats. I knew going in that Barna is a pollster, so stats are his bread and butter. However I did find myself at times getting lost in the lists and charts just wishing for a little more help by way of application. I guess the reader is left to that himself. The problem is, of course, that it's easy to make stats say whatever you want them to say.

Overall I gave this book a 3 out of 5 stars on Goodreads. It was exactly what I expected it to be, nothing more...nothing less. It's a book that I believe could be helpful to anyone wanting to understand the cultural shift we see happening with regards to how people are feeling about local church involvement. It is also a quick read, I read it in one weekend without much difficulty or effort.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Church That Killed The Pastor

I was thinking about a pastor friend of mine yesterday. He died a few years ago and I am convinced that his church killed him. To protect the innocent (and the guilty) I will call my friend Rick. Rick served a small church in the rural south. He loved this little church. Worked hard for them for many years and was a leader in basically every ministry of the local Baptist Association at one time. His family was well connected into the community and his youngest daughter (a high school student) worked with me in youth ministry at the same association already mentioned.

Rick was always asking me how my family was. His family sent cards when my son had his open heart surgery and even sent a little money in one of the cards. He genuinely cared about people. This was refreshing to me since my wife was actually criticized by some in our own church for "missing too much church" after our son's open heart surgery...but that is another story for another blog.

After many years working hard for his little church, Rick was fired. Now the church didn't consider it firing. They did the best they could to spiritualize it and paint themselves in the best possible light. After secretly meeting they told Rick they could no longer afford to pay a pastor and that service would almost immediately be over. They, of course, had to be "good stewards" of God's money, no matter how it hurt the man and family that had poured years of their hearts and lives into this faith community.

Within a couple of months of this I received word that Rick, in his mid 50s, suddenly died of a heart attack. I know from personal conversations that he was worried about his family's future. He was never given a chance to make a case for the church keeping him on. They very quickly hired a new guy as pastor, which of course proved they had been lying all along. There were many awkward feelings at Rick's funeral from the members of his church. They knew. We all knew. They were the church that killed their pastor.

I am determined that this will not happen to me. Even if it means giving up on pastoral ministry. I think many pastors have been killed, albeit indirectly, by churches and by snakes in the grass who disguise themselves as God's people. I know this sounds harsh, but Jesus said to beware of wolves in sheep's clothing. The only place those kinds of wolves lives is in the "church". Maybe there are churches who take good care of their pastors. In 20 years of ministry this has not been my experience. I wish it was...but it's not.

I recently read where Rachel Held Evans believed the American Church is dying and maybe that was a good thing. She said maybe God would resurrect something meaningful from the ashes. Maybe she is right.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Where Are You, God? (Monday Link Up #5)

Where are you, God? It seems that many Christians often believe or are told that this is a question you should never ask. Lots of children are taught in Sunday School ever week that one of the worst sins is the sin of doubt. Don't ask questions because it may mean you are going to hell. But is this accurate? Is this what we see from God's saints in the Bible? Is it what we see from God Himself? A quick look at a well known passage from Psalm 22 may shed some light on this:

"My God, my God why have you forsaken me?" Psalm 22:1

This Psalm, written by David, is a classic example of a passage with an intended double meaning/application. David was genuinely asking this question in one of many times in his life where he felt God had abandoned him. Yes, the same David that would write the very next Psalm (Psalm 23) where he basically says that everything is OK because God is with him says in the psalm preceding that God had completely abandoned him.

My observation is this: doubt isn't necessarily as bad a thing as we make it. In a recent book I read from Phillip Yancey he stated that doubt is a major ingredient for faith, that what makes faith,well faith, is that it is exercised in the midst of doubt. Much like a person cannot show courage except in the face of fear, you cannot exercise faith but while starting straight at doubt. We learn from David that it's better to tell God how you feel...He knows anyway.

One other thought about Psalm 22:1. Jesus quotes THIS passage from the cross. Not Psalm 23. Jesus doesn't say, "God, I am not worried cause you are with me" (though there certainly are times that would be an appropriate thing to say). Following Gethsemane where Jesus pleaded with God that this cup of suffering would be taken away He quotes David's anguishing cry that God had abandoned Him.

We know, of course, that Jesus was forsaken FOR US. God turned His back on His Son so that He wouldn't have to turn His back on us. But often lost in this is the VERY REAL sense of abandonment that Jesus felt. It seems that even the Son of God thought it was OK to voice what seems to be least from His human nature. That's something to think about. 

Monday, March 02, 2015

Who Am I? (Monday Link Up #4)

Psalm 8

1 Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory
in the heavens.
2 Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
3 When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?

5 You have made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honor.
6 You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their feet:
7 all flocks and herds,
and the animals of the wild,
8 the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.

9 Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

I wanted to make three brief and simple observations about this beloved Psalm from my own personal meditations this week.

#1 The Universe is Big

David says that there were times when he "considered the heavens". It's good for us to do that every once in a while. We are learning it seems every week of a new galaxy or a new planet. We have all seen images beamed down from the Hubble Telescope. God's creation is vast and seemingly has no end.

#2 We Are Small

And here we are. Almost 7 billion people on this speck of the universe we call earth. Each of us is a blip on the radar of history and the cosmos.

#3 God Loves Us Anyway

As insignificant as we may seem, God is in fact mindful of us. He cares in great detail about my life and your life. This caused David great wonder, and it should do the same for us.