Archive for November, 2010

5 “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”

Malachi 4: 5 and 6.

I’ve been thinking about these verses a lot lately. I think we’ve done a really good job in the last 10 years or so of teaching people to recognize their wounds from their parents and how that is impacting their life. We have done a good job of helping people to realize that they don’t have to be like their parents. They don’t have to make the same mistakes.

But…

I wonder if we have done as good of a job teaching people to explore their parents wounds. In other words, what does it look like to look at the people who have wounded me and try to understand what it means to minister to them? I wonder if we worry so much about how others hearts should be toward our hearts that we forget the second half of this verse and others like it that talk about turning our hearts toward those who have come before us.

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“…a charge of lying against someone whom you have always found truthful is a very serious thing; a very serious thing indeed.” –CS Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and The Wardrobe, 44

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I’m thankful for a God whose love
has depths and dimensions
that defy comprehension,
whose mercy and compassion
have neither limit nor ration,
and exceed the confines
of my feeble mind.
I’m thankful for a God whose grace exceeds
my ability to squander it,
who pursues me in my wandering,
who never gives up,
who always lives up
to His name
and glory
and honor.
I’m thankful for the Christ, the Messiah,
who dwelt among the least,
the despised and diseased,
who was maligned and falsely accused,
whose body was battered and abused.
I’m thankful for a mount called Golgotha
where love personified
and incarnate died,
where mercy and justice united,
man and God no longer divided.
I’m thankful for a tomb,
empty,
gaping,
vacant,
evidence of a resurrection power,
proof that death has been devoured,
power that is now mine
thru the resurrection of the divine,
so I shall not die, but live,
forgiven so I can also forgive.
I’m thankful for the abiding and patient Spirit,
the living God in me
setting me free
from my captivity.
I’m thankful for the power of that same Spirit within me
using me to draw women and men
to the God who’s in love with them,
in spite of me,
not because of me.
I’m thankful for the blessed hope of the soon return
of the slain and risen Lamb,
Son of God and of man,
the King of kings,
the Lord of lords,
of whom saints and angels sing
in harmonious chords.
I’m thankful that His return will birth
and usher in the new heaven and earth.
Gone will be sorrow and sin.
Gone will be death and disease.
All the redeemed will be welcomed in
to joy and bliss that will not cease.
Gone will be all that keeps this feeble man
from pure communion
from perfect union
with my God and with my fellow man.
I’m thankful for a faithful God who has fulfilled His covenant
thru Jesus Christ our Lord.
So let us all in one accord,
each who now rejoices
lift our joyous voices
and proclaim, “We are thankful!”

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“Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church” (1 Corinthians 4:15-17).

“Jacques Ellul insists that this resurrection life must be lived in this world, but at the same time he insists that the Christian ‘must not act in exactly the same way as everyone else. He has a part to play in this world which no one else can possibly fulfill.’” (Eugene Peterson, Practice Resurrection, 261)

Graduate school is a lot of fun. I am learning so much about achievement gaps, high-stakes testing, functional behavior assessments, response to intervention, No Child Left Behind, and more. I am learning about Bloom’s Taxonomy, KWL, Evidence Based Practice, content standards, teacher accountability, labor unions, graphic organizers, charter schools, magnet schools, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and…well, there are more ways for a human to be ‘broken’ than I could have ever imagined…and I could go on and on for a while. I have learned more than I thought I needed to know, and less than I probably need to know. Who would have thought that teaching children to read would be such a complicated ordeal?

Education is a serious enterprise in the United States. I am getting my money’s worth out of this experience and I am glad for it because I am spending a lot of money getting this education.

About 9 months ago or so, I began to realize something strange. It goes something like this. I am in school to learn about more than the multitude of variations of ASD that a child might have. I am learning about more than the thousands of children’s books published every year in the United States. I am learning about more than what is required to be a certified teacher in the state of Ohio (3 different praxis exams including HQT requirements for NCLB, comprehensive exams, 52 hours of graduate school, a semester of student teaching, a portfolio, and more).

You know what is scary? I have been learning about myself. You know what I realize? I’m ugly. I realize that I am pretty much un-fun. You know I have had to learn how to laugh and be the class clown again? I’m boring. I’m sensitive to rebuke. I Hate failure (I recently lost three points on an assignment; not happy). I’m jealous of the success of others. I’m impatient (the trip to Cleveland about kills me). I’m arrogant. There are a few people who are smarter than I am (I didn’t get the highest grade on a recent mid-term). I’m comfortable. I like leading, and not so much following. I like talking, and not so much listening. I like being in charge, and not so much taking orders. And, trust me, there’s more.

I am learning not just what is required of a teacher, but I am also learning the sort of teacher I do not want to be. This has been the most important lesson I have learned and not just from going to class at CSU, but also from working a part time job at a local school. And I realize, most importantly, that the teacher I do not want to be is a teacher who is not the things I just listed, above, that I am. I don’t know if that makes sense or not. I’ll say it this way then: not having my own pulpit any longer is the hardest thing I have ever had to do. It is harder to lose a pulpit than it is to gain one.

What I have learned, though, is that those things I described above are the very things that I had become. I hate mirrors. I keep asking God, ‘Is it safe to land?’ He keeps saying, ‘Wait’ (which I suspect is God’s way of saying, ‘Oh, I have a few more revelations for you.”) As I look back on nearly fifteen years in the pulpit I realize that I had quite forgotten what it was to be a terrified 25 year old fresh out of Bible School and stepping into a pulpit for the first time. I had grown quite comfortable with my skills. Frankly, I had become impatient, arrogant, condescending, comfortable, boring, sensitive, jealous, boring, and un-fun. And more. You know what I forgot most? People. I did a lot of serving, but I think sometimes I did it so I could be up front, in charge, and not (always) because I loved people.

I forgot what it was like to work 60 hours a week and have to get up on Sundays to worship. I forgot what it was like to have visitors in town and want to stay up late Saturday thus necessitating an absence on Sunday. I had quite forgotten that most people do not have Bible College educations and even less have seminary educations. I forgot to be with people and their hurt. I forgot what it was like to serve because I was called to and not because I was paid to. I used to complain that the money I was paid tied me down, bound my hands and prevented service, real service. As I look back I realize it did so, but not in a way I expected: that is, I stopped serving because I could and wanted to and started doing so because I had to.  I forgot what it was like to drown in sin, to struggle with addiction, and to feel hopelessness. I forgot what it was like to think God had moved a million miles in the opposite direction.

I forgot how to suffer. I forgot how to hurt. I forgot how to feel. There is a certain amount of pleasure and satisfaction that comes from a sermon well-written and better-delivered. And don’t get me wrong: a great sermon goes a long way on paper. But for all that I suffered, I forgot to suffer. I forgot to weep with my people. I forgot to hold them. So protective of myself was I, so angry at not having leadership, so frustrated by the lack of growth, so bitter at betrayal, so jealous of fellas half my age preaching in churches a hundred times the size of mine…I was becoming more and more the person I was warning the congregation not to become. I gave up the safety of insecurity and vulnerability and weakness for the caves of strength and clarity and well-spokenness. I traded. In the end, the only way for Jesus to awaken me was to destroy me.

Now, here I am, alone with the self I hate, the one I created in the image of the world. Here I am, now, alone with my introspection. I am the Bob Eucker of preaching: thought I belonged in the front row only to find out…not so much. Here I am, now, saved by grace only much more aware of it than ever before in my life. I am learning what I had forgotten: how to love and be loved, how to be known by Jesus, how to walk by faith. I am learning to let Jesus be in charge. I am learning to follow and listen. Learning that temptations are all around and there are people who will spoon feed them to you if you ask.

I’m in no way undermining the consequences or the failure or the sin of those who hurt my family. But, and this is a huge but, but, neither I am clinging to them for dear life and breath any longer. Holding on was probably worse than experiencing them to begin with. Genuine love, true joy, is possible when the person counts on Christ for his love and joy and not on the perfection of circumstances or identity. I spent almost ten years forging an identity in this community where I live only to have it taken away in a matter of hours and days. I spent the better part of 20 years becoming a preacher, but along the way I forgot how to be a disciple.

Sad. But true.

I should wrap this up for now. In learning what sort of teacher I do not want to be, I have inadvertently, or not, learned the sort of preacher that I had become. I also have learned why I became not so useful in the church. You see, I let My Ministry become that which defined me and my life and my existence. I learned from Tim Keller that this is a bad thing to do. My identity, Paul wrote, is not wrapped up in who I am or what I do. That is why he writes that we are to imitate Christ. Our identity is wrapped up in who He is which is, precisely, why Paul writes that we are to become like Christ.

I do not know yet what part I am to play in this world, but I am learning that if I must continue that I must find myself in Jesus first. So all I’m really trying to say is this: be careful. Maybe you are a young preacher, setting out on your way and looking to forge an identity or be the next big thing on youtube or the next big itunes podcaster. Don’t give in. You were meant for less.

Maybe you are a long time faithful person in Jesus. Don’t despise the wilderness.

I am meant for less. Thankfully. Because where there is less, there I will find Jesus, the one who has been looking for me all along. And now that I am exposed, undone, out in the open…now, I suspect, he can finally see me, and I can finally see Him.

And He is a sight to behold!

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Just a bit of reflection… of something that I am just as guilty of as those that I see doing it.

A thought that often pops up in my mind as I read “Christian” blogs and comments when people call each other names (liar, heretic, emergent, whatever) and the response that follows – why do we care so much about our “good names”.

When I look at the Lord’s Prayer this part stands in contrast to how we react to people calling our name or character into question:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,

If we live for the honor of God’s name we cannot simultaneously live for the honor of our own name. It’s like trying to serve two gods – it’s a conflict of interests.

I cannot find one scripture where Jesus reacted to anyone who attacked his character. Whenever someone said something bad about Him, He always pointed them to the character of his Father. One example that stands out for me is the one in Luke 15 where Jesus is accused of associating Himself with sinners. He could have reacted in anger, telling them about how they where hypocrites being sinners themselves while He is holy and never sins. But instead He tells three stories demonstrating his Father’s heart for sinners.

If we confess that we have died with Christ and are raised in a new life with Him, living for His cause and not our own, our name and reputation shouldn’t be of concern. This protecting of our reputation on blogs and in comments shouldn’t be.

Now, I know this is process we grow in – laying down our lives. That is why we should also have grace for one another in this respect.

May we live for the honor of His Name alone!

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“We have only one life, and the choice of how we are going to live it must be our own choice, not one that we let the world make for us.”–Secrets in the Dark, 39

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…their fingers are typing.

This brilliant turn of a biblical phrase sums up the sympathy Dan Kimball expressed for Chris Rosebrough.  Why?  Because Chris had the nerve to spend time with Dan Kimball and as a result declared him a brother in Christ.  Apparently this brought a slew of accusations against Chris Rosebrough on his Facebook wall.   Not being a friend of Chris’s on Facebook, I did not see any of the attacks, but the excerpts make the point.

In response Chris Rosebrough dedicated his show on November 15th to an interview with Dan.  I urge that you follow this link and listen to it: Fighting for the Faith, November 15, Dan Kimball Interview.  I was excited to hear someone we have addressed as an ODM take the time to read Kimball and research his beliefs – and come to the conclusion that Kimball is a Bible-believing Christian who holds to the uniqueness of Christ, the existence of Hell, the authority of Scripture, a denial of universalism… etc.  And even though Chris and Dan disagree on methodology… they look at each other as brothers in Christ.

Of course this does not settle the issue.  As Kimball has said, some still accuse him even after being giving all the nescessary evidence to the contrary.  And although in the interview Kimball affirmed that his theology has always been conservative and that he wished he had made more clear distinctions in the earlier years of the Emerging Church conversation, one site responds to the interview by posting;

Regardless of where he may, or may not, be now it’s simply beyond question that one of those involved with the [Emerging Church], right from very early on, would be Dan Kimball, author of The Emerging Church; no amount of attempts at obfuscation on anyone’s part can obscure that.

‘Tis true – out of the overflow of the heart the fingers type blogs, and the hearts of some still overflow with bile.  But this is not the case for Chris Rosebrough.  I am sure that there will be many things Chris says in the future that will make me cringe… yet at the risk of sounding condescending… I am thrilled and pleased to see Chris take discernment seriously.

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Rich Mullins, in weekend retreats he & Beaker ran, many years ago, used to quote C.S. Lewis’ definition of love:

“Love is desiring the best for someone else, and being willing to do something about it.”

For the life of me, my Google-fu is weak, and I cannot find the original source (which I’m sure has been paraphrased).  Even so, this is the best, most concise definition of love (agape) I have found.

Can anyone do better than this quote?

Read the rest of this entry »

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