Archive for June, 2011

“It is not enough to have the courage of your convictions, but you must also have the courage to have your convictions challenged.” (emphasis his)

~Christopher Phillips from Socrates Cafe (pp 3-4)

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(OK, technically Saturday, but I was on the road all day and didn’t get a chance to post anything)

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I marvel at how, too often, we define people by what they’ve done. We do it with others and with ourselves. And we sometimes do it with those whose lives are recorded in the Bible. I think the epitome of this error is when we talk about “The Woman Caught in Adultery.” Anyone with a basic knowledge of the gospels is probably familiar with her story. (If not, it’s recorded here in John 8.) And yet when we get to heaven, we will not see her bearing that scarlet letter. In the eyes of God, she is not “The Woman Caught in Adultery.” She had a name in life, and now she has a new name. This is how we will know her.

From this day forward, I’m going to call her “No Longer Condemned.”
This poem is written from her perspective.

Caught in the act,
Without defense,
Too late to retract,
This latest offense.

Pulled from the bed of my illicit lover,
Frantically grabbing a sheet to cover
My naked body from the leering eyes
Of lustful men in religious disguise.

They wrongly believe their self-righteous zeal
Will appease the lust and guilt that they feel.
So they lash out, condemning, accusing,
Oblivious to the grace they are abusing.

And yet I cannot deny
I’m guilty of this crime
I confess I did not try
To even resist this time

Self-loathing swarms,
And overtakes me.
Self-pity storms,
And nearly breaks me.

They drag me before a rabbi from Nazareth,
I feel like bait in a trap they have set,
Caught so they can try to catch him,
Accused so they accuse him of sin.

Confusion mixed with humiliation,
No way out of this shameful situation.
How did I ever come to this place
Of such dishonor and disgrace?

Just an adulteress without a name,
I feel the rising blush of shame,
My nakedness runs deeper than skin,
Dark passions lurking deep within.

Defenseless I weep,
As each accusation rips
And pierces deep
Like arrows with poisoned tips.

But in my disgrace,
Here in my fears
I find a safe place
From these verbal spears.

This man, this teacher
This prophet, this preacher
Looks upon me with love, not lust
With eyes that invoke hope and trust

And in the midst of this chaos and din
The noise and mayhem don’t seem to faze him.
He calmly traces his finger in the sand
Absorbing all their raging demands

When he looks up, his gaze pierces each heart
And his soft, yet firm, answer tears them apart,
“Let any one of you who is not a sinner
Be the first to throw a stone at her.”

As this truth takes hold,
The clamor dies down
Stones once held
Now fall to the ground.

And starting from the oldest man,
They quietly, slowly leave,
Convicted that their scheming plan
Revealed their own hypocrisy.

I find myself alone
With this new-found friend.
I find myself known
And no longer condemned.

His hand and his love raise me to my feet.
My shame is lifted and my fears retreat.
My accusers have dispersed like my guilt
And finally all my defenses wilt.
With love in his voice and in his eyes,
He peels away my thin disguise.

He asks, “Where are your accusers?
Does no one condemn you?”
Timidly, I reply, “No one, sir.”
Though I can hardly believe it’s true.

Then with a voice soft and sweet
That bids my fear and shame retreat,
I hear the words like refreshing water,
“Neither do I condemn you, my daughter.
You are redeemed and restored,
In my grace, go and sin no more.”

Love sweeps in and floods my soul,
For the first time ever, I feel whole.
Forgiveness and redemption are mine,
Mercy and grace, surreal and sublime.

No longer broken,
Or compelled to pretend,
Jesus has spoken,
I am no longer condemned.

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I was writing this up as a post, and it just wasn’t coming together. So I tried a video instead.

Here’s the link that I reference (to the actual interview): John Piper interviews Rick Warren

I’ll note that if I hated Rick Warren with a passion, I’d still only have to change about 5% of this video. So a laundry list (given in the comment thread) of his errors will not be germane to the OP. Not that that’ll stop anyone. I’m pretty darn good at derailing myself. Just sayin’…

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Why does everything seem to be about numbers and lists and steps?*

I was taking a minute this morning to peruse some of the headlining blog posts and the Twitter feed at Churchleaders.com and here’s a sampling of what I found:

Twelve Reasons Why Church Membership Matters

Ten Reasons Twitter is like a marathon

Ten Ministry Principles I Wish I Knew When I Started

Nine Reasons why you shouldn’t give up

Eight Leadership quotes and lessons from Super 8

Five Ways to Protect the Heart of a Leader

Five Distortions of the Gospel in our Day

Four Ways to Show Outsiders You Care

Three Stumbling Blocks to Forward Progress

Three Theological Foundations Shaping 21st Century Youth Ministry Strategy

Two Rules for Transparency in the Pulpit**

There was also an advertisement: 25 Proven Outreach ideas for your church.

Really?

And if I had looked harder, I’m sure I would have found 6 & 7, and maybe 11. (And believe me when I say there were other 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, and 12’s scrolling on the Twitter feed and on the news page.

I have to be honest with you: this bores me to tears. Does anyone really expect anyone to keep all those numbers or lists in their head? This is one thing I dislike about the generation of humanity now living: everything can be summed up in a bulleted list. Sometimes I think preachers or writers do these list things because Jesus isn’t interesting enough. That’s just my opinion.

I’d like to see someone write an article at Churchleaders.com titled: One Reason Jesus is Enough.

I just want to take a moment to express my angst. I hate PowerPoint. And I hate lists. And I hate 3, 4, 5, or any ‘point’ sermons. I’m sure they are helpful for someone, but I’m not interested. I have also decided that if I ever have the privilege of preaching weekly in a local church again, I will not ever use PowerPoint. This is only tangentially related to my point.

OK. That’s my technology rant. Here’s my real point: Do we really need 2 of this or 3 of that or 9 of these and 10 of those? Do we? Is this the point of how to be a ‘good leader’ or how to ‘do the job well’? Isn’t One thing enough? Or is that too simple for the church to comprehend? Or are leaders simply incapable to understanding anything apart from a bullet point, numbered list?

I’m reminded of a song by Rich Mullins: My One Thing.

Everybody I know says they need just one thing
And what they really mean is that they
need just one thing more
And everybody seems to think
They’ve got it coming
Well I know that I don’t deserve You
Still I want to love and serve You
More and more
You’re my one thing

Save me from those things
That might distract me
Please take them away and purify my heart
I don’t want to lose the eternal for
The things that are passing
‘Cause what will I have when the world is gone
If it isn’t for the love that goes on and on with

‘Cause who have I in Heaven but You Jesus?
And what better could I hope
To find down here on earth?
Well I could cross the most distant reaches
Of this world, but I’d just be wasting my time
‘Cause I’m certain already I’m sure I’d find

You’re my one thing (one thing)
You’re my one thing (one thing)
And the pure in heart shall see God***

I’m not putting down Churchleaders.com or the people who write there. I’m just asking a question: Is it too simple to say to the leader: Jesus is enough? Is it naïve to say only One Thing matters?

Frankly, I think too many people make it way too difficult to be a Jesus follower let alone a preacher in the church.

“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

*Don’t read too much into this article. Mostly I found it amusing that so many articles began with the idea that “Here is a Definitive List of [some important topic]“. It seems about as creative as stacking rocks.

**I have written out the word for the numbers due to a formatting glitch. The articles themselves use the representative symbols (i.e., 12 or 2 or 3, etc.)

***That’s only a portion of the lyrics. There’s more. Mullins may not have been making my point, but I like the song and wanted to include it.

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I have an iPad. It’s a great tool for a counselor. There are so many ways it has helped me in my practice. An added bonus is that my kids have a “computer” to play with that is pretty easy for me to monitor. The drawback of this arrangement is that they have figured out how to take pictures and make movies on it.

I mean literally thousands of pictures and videos.  One daughter took 189 pictures of just her right hand. It’s kind of fun to scroll through them.  Many of the pictures are too distorted to actually be of any value. Of course, if you and I are facebook friends, you’ve had the opportunity to see some of the videos.

Today, as I was preparing for my daily sessions I hooked the iPad upto my computer and began to look at the new pictures. Some made me laugh. Some I couldn’t quite figure out.

One made me stop dead in my tracks and swallow really hard. There was a picture of my daughter and my friend’s daughter. My baby didn’t look like a baby anymore. She looked entirely too grown up.

Lately, I’ve been more aware of this truth. My girls are growing up.  The day is probably coming when they won’t want to spend as much time with me as they do now. I want them to stay this small longer. I want them to need me longer.

Of course, I really don’t. That’s not actually the answer. That’s a recipe for emotionally stunted adults who don’t know how to function.

What I want is to soak up every minute I have with them. To gaze on each smile, and catch the glint in each eye. What I need to do is be present every moment that I am with them.

My time with them is limited. Today I will see very little of them. There isn’t much that I can do about that. Tomorrow, I will have the opportunity to make them a part of my entire day. They can help me weed the garden, mow the grass (mostly just riding in the wagon behind me) and I can play with them. Or I can choose to do other things that need to be done. I can be distracted by the pressures of life.

Here’s hoping I choose to be present with my girls. In fifteen years, I doubt I will remember the chore that I didn’t get done today. I doubt that I will remember the stress of today.

I am quite certain I will miss my girls. Tomorrow I will have the memories that we create today.

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So, in a discussion the other day (on differing views of Creation), I was pressed for my view of Creation.  While I don’t think it’s anything long-time readers aren’t familiar with, I got the feeling that it was controversial.

What do you think?

Chris’ Credo

One) I am vehemently agnostic* as it pertains to Creation.

Two) As such, I believe that the only item of primary importance in the Creation story is in Gen 1:1 – “God created”.

Three) I believe that Young Earth Creationism (YEC), Old Earth Creationism (OEC), Intelligent Design (ID), Theistic Evolutionism (TE) and multiple permutations thereof are all possible views of Creation – and that no matter which you choose, it is of secondary importance.**

Four) I believe that elevating ones view of Creation – apart from Gen 1:1 – to primary importance is legalism. At opposite ends of the scale, YEC’s do this when they claim that other parts of the Bible (or all of Scripture) are untrustworthy if their view is not correct, and TE’s do this when they claim YEC/OEC/etc’s are backward, unserious, stupid, anti-science, etc.

Five) I believe that basing systematic theologies on the Creation account is arrogant and counterproductive, and is really a subset of #4.

Six) I believe that holding someone’s view of theistic Creation as a test of faith (or seriousness of faith) is arrogant and counterproductive.

Seven) If someone at the “conservative” end of the scale starts building truth claims based on their view of creation, I will argue that the opposite end of the scale is just as reasonable as theirs. If someone at the “liberal” end of the scale starts degrading the opposite end of the scale as anti-science and unserious, I will argue that science and religion are not mutually exclusive and that we cannot prove w/ science how the world was (or was not) created. (i.e. I use a religious argument to counter a religious argument and a scientific argument to counter a scientific argument.)

I could be wrong, but I think my position is probably the safest one, particularly since it does not seem to be made an item of first importance to the early Christian church.

* – somebody denying something is knowable: somebody who doubts that a question has one correct answer or that something can be completely understood

** – if forced to choose at gunpoint, I would say that the earth (as a planet) and the universe is probably billions of years old, but mankind is only 6K-10K years old, that Adam was the first man “made in the image of God” (whatever that actually means, though, is up for debate), and that I have no clue as to whether God completed the “days” of Creation in literal 24-hour days or figurative ones. And even so, I am very possibly wrong on all counts.

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The following post is one that I wrote for my own blog today.  This is something that I see quite a lot in sessions and I would normally not post like this to my own blog but it’s been relatively quiet around these parts for the last few days and I feel the information is helpful. Enjoy or ignore. Either way, have a great day.

One of the common issues that I deal with in couples counseling is related to the aftermath of mistakes.

A spouse cheats

A spouse uses painful words like a scalpel to cut as deeply as possible.

An angry outbursts scares the bejezus out of a spouse

A secret offense is brought to light.

The list is quite long, and I am sure you could probably add two or two hundred things that you have experienced or heard of happening.

Invariably, the question posed to me is, “Why can’t she get over it?” or “Why can’t he just move on? I said, I was sorry. I feel bad about it.”

Often this comes across as defensive to the offended spouse and even to me as a counselor. The following are some steps that I believe are helpful in repairing broken relationships.

1. Leave all the but’s in the barn.

You’ve heard this one before, “I am sorry, I feel bad that I did that, but….” Invariably, an accusation or degradation for the spouse follows that but. Here’s the problem, when you say I’m sorry but___________, it sounds like you aren’t really all that sorry. It sounds like you’re wanting to make sure that your spouse gets some of the blame too.  It sounds like your saying the adult equivalent of the four year old, “She did it too” defense. It’s silly. It’s shallow. And it is not helpful. If you messed up, own that. Don’t try to deflect blame. Don’t try to pass it off to your spouse. Just admit that what you did was wrong. No one made you do it. We control our own actions. What is interesting to me is that when someone commits to this idea of actually owning their own mistakes, their spouse will often start admitting their own errors.

2. Double down on your patience level

If you have done something that has damaged trust in the relationship there is absolutely nothing you can do that will “fix it.” You may have to answer a lot of questions. You may have to answer the same questions more than once. You may have to answer questions that don’t seem relevant to you but matter immensely to your spouse.

3. Check your ego at the door.

Click here to continue reading this post at my own blog.

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