Archive for February, 2010

This is the first article in a three part series. Most of what is written below was written over a year ago as the result of a challenging and valuable Seminary class called Shaping the Heart of a Leader. I share it with you as background for the following two articles, Wrestling With the Word and Unfiltered. (Note that references to the present or recent past have been left as they were written back then.)

Listening to God
Reggie McNeal says succinctly in his book A Work of Heart, the function of the Christian leader “is to reflect God’s heart to God’s people. This cannot be done apart from a leader’s firsthand knowledge of God’s heart.” I’ve discovered that a great way to practice listening to God is to be willing to pause and reflect on what is happening right now and how it relates to your own growth. Maybe this has occurred because of a lack of structure in my own life, but I often see/hear God responding to me not when I set aside time, but when I simply set aside my own agenda. To that end, I have spent a great deal of time reflecting, listening, and figuring out what my own “agenda” (desires, wants, dreams, etc.) is. It has been said that you can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been. So I am going to look backward so that I can better examine my life now to open up my life to God’s work in me.

The Past Does Matter
The church I attended throughout my youth was conservative and growing. Truth and scriptural authority were highly valued. Emotions on the other hand were mostly ignored. When I was young, I was committed to church, to youth group, and to growing. I sought and was directed toward a leadership role at church in the youth group as well as in starting up a bible study at school. A couple of times as I was growing up I had encouragement to go into preaching by other Christians. The narcissistic side of me thinks that what they saw was pride, self-righteousness, and over-confidence, and those things very well could have been there, but those few comments were a big part in me going into full-time preaching.

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What are the over/under odds of attacking the messenger vs. attacking the message?

My pick: 2 comments

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Yesterday, it was suggested I was piling or (or possibly being overly selective) from site submissions.  And in that light, I thought it might – at the very least – be entertaining to have an example of some of the other stuff that gets submitted from time to time (along with a number of very good ideas/links that we’ve used):

For the “discerners” who don’t always seem to “discern” correctly – NO ENDORSEMENT IS IMPLIED.

On the horizon is an approaching religious and cultural furore so contentious, any clash of civilizations may have to wait. On one side, a manuscript titled: The Final Freedoms, against all the gravitas religious tradition can bring to bear.

The first wholly new interpretation for 2000 years of the Gospel/moral teachings of Christ is on the web. Redefining all primary elements including Faith, the Word, Baptism, the Trinity and the Resurrection. This new interpretation questions the validity and origins of all Christian tradition; focusing specifically on marriage, love and human sexuality, it overturns all natural law ethics and theory. At stake is the credibility of several thousand years of religious history and moral teaching, and will certainly impact other fields of intellectual inquiry.

What first appears a counter intuitive challenge to the religious status quo is worth closer examination; it carries within its pages ideas both subtle and sublime, what the theological history of religion either ignored, were unable to imagine or dismissed as impossible. An error of presumption which could now leave ‘tradition’ staring into the abyss and humble all secular, atheist speculation. This new teaching has nothing whatsoever to do with any existing religious conception known to history. It is unique in every respect. What science and religion have agreed was not possible, has now become all too inevitable.

Using a synthesis of scriptural material from the Old and New Testaments, the Apocrypha , The Dead Sea Scrolls, The Nag Hammadi Library, and some of the world’s great poetry, it describes and teaches a single moral LAW, a single moral principle, and offers the promise of its own proof; one in which the reality of God responds directly to an act of perfect faith with a individual intervention into the natural world; correcting human nature by a change in natural law, altering biology, consciousness and human ethical perception beyond all natural evolutionary boundaries. Intended to be understood metaphorically, where ‘death’ is ignorance and ‘Life’ is knowledge, this personal experience of transcendent power and moral purpose is the ‘Resurrection’, and justification for faith. Here is where true morality, called righteousness begins.

Here then is the first ever viable religious conception capable of leading reason, by faith, to observable consequences which can be tested and judged. This new teaching delivers the first ever religious claim of insight into the human condition, that meets the Enlightenment criteria of verifiable and ‘extraordinary’ evidence based truth embodied in action. For the first time in history, however unexpected, the world must now measure for itself, the reality of a new claim to revealed truth, a moral tenet not of human intellectual origin, offering access by faith, to absolute proof, an objective basis for moral principle and a fully rational and justifiable belief!

This is ‘religion’ without any of the conventional trappings of tradition. An individual, spiritual, virtue-ethical conception, independent of all cultural perception, contained within a single moral command and single Law that finds it’s expression of obedience within a new covenant of marriage. It requires no institutional framework or hierarchy, no churches or priest craft, no scholastic theological rational, dogma or doctrine, stripped of all myth and ‘worship’ requires only conviction, faith and the necessary measure of self discipline to accomplish a new, single, moral imperative and the integrity and fidelity to the newly created reality.

If confirmed and there appears both the means and a growing, concerted effort to test and authenticate this material, this will represent a paradigm change and advance in the moral and intellectual potential of human nature itself; untangling the greatest questions of human existence: consciousness, meaning, suffering, free will and evil. And at the same time addressing the most profound problems of our age.

While every day, from every television screen, newspaper, radio and web, the limitations of mankind are becoming both obvious and ominous by the failure to successfully address and resolve the most pressing problems facing the modern world, threatening humanity and the earth itself, with this revelation, we are offered a way out.

Providing the ‘means to ends’ this new teaching is asking humanity, choose the future you prefer? The status quo, where existing religious traditions, mired in their own contradictions, corruption, hypocrisy and hocus-pocus, offer little but pretensions and divisiveness, and where existing political process can only feebly respond to the growing chaos of more war, terrorism, economic turmoil, environmental degradation, injustice, spin and whitewash, natural disaster, plague and pandemic; or learn to comprehend that human nature, prisoner to its evolutionary root, exists within fixed limits of understanding, and by taking new personal and moral responsibility, in a single change of mind, heart and conduct, by faith, transcend those limits and blow the status quo strait to oblivion.

Trials of this new teaching are open to all and under way in many countries, colloquial evidence already suggest confirmations are taking place. For those individuals who can imagine outside the cultural box of history, who have the moral courage to learn something new, to stand against the stream of fashionable thought and spin and will TEST this revelation for themselves, an intellectual and moral revolution is already under way, where hope meets reality and the ‘impossible’ becomes inevitable, with the most potent Non Violent Direct Action any human being can take to advance peace, justice, change and progress.

Published [at the moment] only on the web, a typeset manuscript of this new teaching is available as a free [1.4meg] PDF download from a variety of sites including:

http://www.energon.org.uk
http://thefinalfreedoms.bulldoghome.com
http://www.dunwanderinpress.org
http://thefinalfreedoms.blogspot.com

I’ve not downloaded this yet.  I’ve not given it all that much time.  If someone wants to download it and post a review in the comment thread, that would be a capital idea…

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Cage MatchThis past weekend, I had lunch with a good friend of many years, John, and afterward we spent some time discussing Paul and his letters to the different churches (among other things).  John’s in a house with three daughters (the youngest of whom is in college) and my youngest son is a senior in HS this year, so our need for male companionship (outside of the family dog) lends itself to all sorts of interesting conversation.  But I digress…

I was remembering my NT professor’s instructions that when we read any of Paul’s epistles, we need to remember that he isn’t just sending a random shout-out or bantering with the churches he’s writing to, but that he’s actually answering some questions they’ve got and giving advice on specific situations within the church.  So – since we only have the answers, but not the questions, it is important that – if we want to do a deep study of any epistle – the first thing we ought to do is to try and discern the questions posed to Paul.

Somehow, John and I got onto the topic of I Corinthians, and he told me something he’d picked up in seminary regarding the questions posed to Paul that led to this particular epistle.  If you read the context of this letter, and the second epistle to the church in Corinth, it becomes evident that the church in Corinth had a problem that was not all that uncommon today:

1) There was at least one – if not multiple – vocal busybodies within the church who disagreed on issues of both orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

2) The busybodies were calling out those they disagreed with in the church, and playing out their personal grievances in public.  While some might have been legitimate, a number of them were quite petty.

3) They also were instituting somewhat of a hierarchy within the church – possibly based on social status, but more likely based on their “seniority” within the church.

4) One of the busybodies took it upon himself to write to Paul, and most likely (as possibly the first FDDM – “foot-driven discernment ministry”) hand delivered it to Paul.

John suggested I read I Corinthians as if the questions Paul was answering questions from this context, and that it would likely make the entire letter seem coherent in its entirety, rather than a collection of disconnected thoughts.

John suggested I read I Corinthians as if the questions Paul was answering questions from this context, and that it would likely make the entire letter seem coherent in its entirety, rather than a collection of disconnected thoughts.

And he was right.

And what was funny (at least to a nerd like me) was this:  When I got to I Corinthians 13 (the “love chapter”), it took on a whole new light.  It also made me wonder if reciting this chapter at weddings, framing it and putting it on the wall, etc. as a “beautiful expression of what love is” might not be missing the point a bit.  Maybe it’s a little bit more like taking a letter you received from Mom and Dad while away at college, scolding you for problems you’ve gotten yourself into and framing it for public consumption.

If you have time today – or even if you don’t – I think perhaps sitting down and reading I Corinthians with the possibility that the above context was what Paul was replying to might be a good thing for each of us today.

Grace and Peace,

Chris

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Here is a recent submission we’ve received here at PPP.Info:

I have written a book called, “The New Pharisaism: How Spiritual Bullies Attack the Church.” The book deals specifically with the damage caused to church leaders, Christian ministries, and local churches by organizations such as “The Berean Call,” “Slice of Laodicea/Crosstalk America,” “Light House Trails Research Project,” “Media Spotlight,” “Southwest Radio Church,” “Apprising Ministries,”"Understanding the Times,” and many others.

In the church today, we are faced with a new level of intensity when it comes to spiritual abuse and bullying. As you know, this New Pharisaism falsely claims that New Age, Eastern mystical, and occultic practices are being introduced into most churches in America as part of the apostasy of the last days. This inflammatory and divisive material has made its way into local churches through individuals and small groups of bullies who have used it for their own selfish gain and self-promoting agenda.

My book also deals extensively with how to stand against this attack and how to find healing and recovery after the attack has occurred.

I believe that the book is an invaluable resource for your readers and anyone who is dealing with Pharisees today. The book is fully documented with scores of footnotes and is based on the careful exegesis and the sound exposition of God’s Word.

“The New Pharisaism” is available as a ebook download on my website at www.thenewpharisaism.com. On the website, you can also read about my credentials, download the introduction preview, and see the table of contents.

I would be most appreciative if you would let you readers know about this book.

Thank you and may God bless,

Pastor Bill Slabaugh

Has anyone read this? Any volunteers?*

*- My pocketbook is running incredibly low right now, so if anyone has $13 and reads this, I’d be interested in a review…

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We need to listen attentively to every conversation, read discerningly every book, if we hope ever to discern the truth and implications of the love word.–Eugene Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, 311

Nineteen Years

For nearly nineteen years of my life I have gone to bed with the same woman every night. The darkness comes upon earth, the doors of the house are locked, the children are tucked into their beds and then I climb into bed and roll onto my side. Then I gently scootch as close as humanly possible next to my wife, my bride, my girl; my girl of nearly nineteen years. She is usually asleep because, for the better part of those nineteen years, I have been a preacher or a student who does his best work at night after the darkness has fallen upon earth, the doors have been locked, and the children tucked into their beds.

She does not mind; too much. Most of the time she awakens from her slumber and scootches back against me and I feel our warmth mingle and dance like the flames from two candles mingling and becoming one. I hold her close for several minutes until my hyperactivity disorder kicks in and I am forced to roll on to my other side. Of course she follows; without fail. We do this a few times before we settle into a comfortable deep sleep.

What is amazing to me is that she lets me. And, no matter how much we have argued or complained at each other during the hours of sunlight, when we get under the covers—we always sleep under the covers—there is only room for one of us in the bed. So we sleep next to one another. In the early days of our marriage (and again during our senior year at Bible college) we slept in a twin bed. It was only sometime within the last three years we graduated to a queen size bed.

Nearly nineteen years.

Nearly nineteen years of room for one.

Nearly nineteen years of shared warmth.

It’s like all those hurtful things we have said and done to each other vanish once the covers cover, the pillows absorb, and the flesh melds. I’m not talking about sex. I’m just talking about the closeness, the oneness, the friendship of a lover who is closer than a friend; closer than God.

And if you don’t think I’m telling the truth about that ‘closer than God’ remark, then look back to Genesis where we are told about God making man and woman, husband and wife. There you will see, as I saw one day, what God saw: “God saw that man was lonely, and this was not good.” So what did God do? Send his Holy Spirit? Infuse man with a dose of religion? No. Instead, he made the man a bride, a woman, a lover, and a friend.  She was flesh of his flesh, bone of his bone. It was the first and only time in the history of the world that a man gave birth.

The rest, as we say, is history; or future.

So in a sense, the woman has a power that even God does not have. Man was alone, lonely, when it was just him and God. That loneliness went away after God made the woman. I’m not saying God created the woman to ‘cure’ the man’s problems, but rather the man’s problem was cured when God gave him the woman. Eve satisfied a place in Adam’s life that God did not and, presumably, could not.

That’s a powerful way to see Eve. It’s a powerful way to see my wife.

8 Months

I have worked my way through a tremendous amount of suffering over the last several months. I have fleshed it out here quite a lot. It has not been a happy time for the most part. Constant worry about how I would pay my bills. Deep depression at the fact that I was no longer fulfilling my vocation on this earth. Anger that I was (am) working at a job that is frustrating and purposeless. Distress that I have essentially been forced out of my denomination of ordination. Embarrassment before my peers and friends who have not been kicked out of their pulpits—jealous that I am no longer a part of the ‘club.’ Sinful because I was no longer under the constraints of maintaining the ‘pulpit demeanor.’ Fear that my children might judge the church, or Christ, because of the actions of one congregation.And worse. All of this haunts me day in and day out.

Prayerless because I have been terribly angry with God for allowing evil and greed to prevail in my former congregation—because he did not answer my prayers but remained silent. Incredulous that none of the elders, deacons, preachers, or members of the other congregations in my denomination (in my part of the world) have reached out to me, my wife, or my sons—those who were my friends, those with whom I worked, served, and prayed, those who had formerly listened to me teach and preach the Gospel, those who formerly counted on me to lead, visit, conduct funerals or weddings or prayer retreats. Stupefied that I was hung out to dry after nearly ten years of service to the same congregation whom I loved and cared for deeply. Disappointed that I rarely see my sons or my wife because of the work and school schedules we have to maintain. Frustrated because it seems God has taken away all that I thought I was supposed to be and replaced it with things I never imagined myself to be.

I have no other words to describe it, although I’d like to. This is what Renee has had to deal with for…well, forever. And yet, she’s still with me; we are still one.

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I remember when my father got his first label maker. It was a long time ago and the labels it produced were the thick plastic kind with raised letters. Unlike contemporary label makers that actually print, this maker was really a crimper. The label was produced by crimping the plastic band to produce raised letters. In the process the coloration of the plastic was removed on the letters – thus raised white letters on a colored band. At the time it really was cool. Fortunately, my father resisted the temptation to label everything… though he did label a lot of things… a lot of things.

Labeling has a certain function of course. It allows things to be identified easily. We label a file so that its contents can be known at a glance. We label a bin so that we can know what’s in it without opening it. Some people label shelves or cabinets to prevent others from placing things in them that are forbidden. We label things to identify their owner.

Labels are potentially useful, very useful.

They can also be very useful in categorizing people. Followers of Jesus were first labeled Christians in Antioch. This was because the church there was comprised of mostly Gentiles who had embraced Jesus as Lord and Messiah – calling them Jews would not work. A new label needed to be created, and it stuck. Labels are very useful in identifying and categorizing; Christian, Liberal, Gay, Calvinist, Egalitarian… are labels.

Labels are also potentially dangerous, very dangerous.

They can be very dangerous in categorizing people when those assigning the label wield them – not as a shortcut, but as a weapon; when they are assigned out of laziness; when they are assigned based on secondary or even tertiary issues. Labeling is the ally to all who practice Guilt by Association.

We all do it. We all label. Sometimes we do it correctly, sometimes we do it incorrectly. Some however are more consistent in their misuse of labeling than others. Some excel at weapon-labeling and for them it is not a tool as much as it is a first step… a step from which all other steps must proceed.

This was recently illustrated to perfection through two different exchanges between select writers here and self-proclaimed discerners, both of which took place on the sites of the latter. I say self-proclaimed so as to be clear this is not a label I have assigned to them, they have done so themselves.

The thing that was interesting about both of these cases, even though the labelers come from wildly different scenarios, was the consistency of using labels as weapons, the lack of logic, lack of thought and… well lack true discernment. This is where I venture into speculation – I speculate that labeling has become short-hand because it is easier than actual thought, it is easier than actual research. It is easier to connect the dots of guilt by association (even if such association does not really exist), then label. And once the label has been applied – it matters not what the person actually says, does, or believes. The label has been applied – the case is closed. Don’t bother with what is actually in the bin or folder, just label it. Don’t bother discussing or researching or getting to know what a person believes or does – just label them.

For example: In one of the conversations I was labeled as unsaved, Emergent, a follower of a false Jesus and anti-Semitic. There are more, but these will suffice.

I am anti-Semitic because I advocate a two-state solution in Israel/Palestine.
Never mind that I never said anything against any Semite and even affirmed Israel’s right to exist.

I am unsaved because I disagree with someone who is filled with the Holy Spirit.
Never mind my profession of faith, my reliance on God’s grace, my repentance, my faith experience of God’s grace… all were summarily dismissed – the Holy Spirit never disagrees with himself, and we disagreed, therefore I have not the Holy Spirit. I must admit I admire the logic: “I am filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit never disagrees with himself. Therefore, by disagreeing with me you prove you have not the Holy Spirit.”
Apply label – unsaved!

I am Emergent because I referenced a common faith, a faith shared with said Holy Spirit believer.
This I found comical, since the reference was not to some interreligious experience, or even interdenominational ecumenicalism – it was a reference to the shared faith between the discerner and me. I was attempting to establish common ground in Christ. The use of the phrase “common faith” was enough for me to be labeled.

I follow a different Jesus because I refused to label someone else as “Not a Christian.”
This became the crux of the matter. Even though I laid out exactly what I believe, even though my beliefs are thoroughly orthodox and biblical, even though these beliefs were never addressed or disagreed with – I follow a different Jesus based on guilt by association, based on connecting the dots, based on being labeled. Never mind that all I did was refuse to label someone else, who I do not even know.

We also practice hypnotism.
Never did figure out what that was based on.

When I pressed for an answer as to which of my very detailed beliefs the discerner found lacking… I was referred to the story of the disciples brushing the dust from their feet. This and other examples of the misuse of Scripture in the labeling process could easily be another post in and of itself. This tactic is used because discernment is not the goal, answers are not the goal, knowing is not the goal – the label is. Above all else, the label must be defended.

Other writers experienced similar labeling, mostly based on equally shallow, tangential, and irrelevant criteria. I chalk it up to laziness, joy in hostility, and a false-discerning attitude.

The point is this. Labels are very useful tools; when applied properly and with a little thought and research. They can also be hurtful, inaccurate and sin; when they are applied flippantly and in spite of reality.

Labels are useful in defining the contents of a bin or folder; they are useful in categorizing and identifying people. But they are worthless and worse when one applies a label without looking into the folder or bin first. They are even worse when they are applied in direct contradiction to the contents of the same.

Let us all learn from the abuse of labels and use them wisely and apply them accurately.

I have left out the names of the discerners and their sites because they are not the point. I prefer it remains that way.

UPDATE: Since this has run its course, and it was pointed out that without links the facts cannot be checked I am updating the post: the sites that labeled us using shallow, tangential, and irrelevant criteria are Rapture Ready. and Discerning the World.

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A little over a year ago, I told a friend and frequent critic of the Emergent Church that I believed the EC had died as we knew it. There were things happening there that simply were going to cause people to figure out where they stood on some things. I have maintained that the EC, like all movements had a center, a left and a right. What was interesting to me was the fact that I thought those who were more left were going to be the one’s to cause this shift.

The other day, I read an article by a friend and fellow student Jeremy Bouma. He called his post, “Goodbye Emergent, Why I’m taking the theology of the Emerging Church to Task.” Jeremy lays out how he got to the point he is at and explains where he intends to go with his series.  The comments range from thoughtful to what was that person thinking?

I doubt that Jeremy’s departure from Emergent will really signal a great shift in anything other than the fact that I think he is one more guy who is asking what does it mean to be emergent, and how does that effect my beliefs? Of course, the watchdogs watchblogs have made mention of his post and even some emergents writers have loaded up for bear.

This is an interesting time. I think we’re going to see some more clear definitions laid out for us over the upcoming months. I think that will be good, not so we can decide who’s in and who’s out but so that we can honestly know where we all stand. It will make it harder for some who like to use a broad brush to do so and that is always a good thing.

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