Archive for the 'ODM Responses' Category

(i.e. shooting fish in a barrel)

As I have noted before, debunking the theological hokum that runs rampant in the God-blogosphere has never been a primary purpose for this blog, but has been described for years as “the lowliest” of the six tasks that this blog seeks to accomplish.  This perspective was, IMHO, strengthened by the somewhat recent name and URL change that we underwent here.

But in the words of Dr Horrible, sometimes “a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do”.  Especially when it’s this dadgum funny (in the “ludicrous” sense of the word).

A little context first:

Mark 4:11 – And [Jesus] said to them, “To you it has been given to know the mystery  of the kingdom of God …”

Romans 16:25 – Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began

1 Corinthians 2:7 – But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory,

1 Corinthians 15:51 – Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed …

Ephesians 1:9 – having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself,

Ephesians 3:3-4 – how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ),

Ephesians 3:9 – and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ;

Ephesians 5:32 – This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

Ephesians 6:19 – and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel,

Colossians 1:25-27 – the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Colossians 2:2 – that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ,

Colossians 4:3 – meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains,

1 Timothy 3:9 – holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience.

1 Timothy 3:16 – And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory.

Notice a pattern? Is it too much of a stretch to say that the word “mystery” is often used in Scripture to describe (or at least be associated with) good things?

Now, admittedly, there is a verse in Revelation that associates this word with something bad:

Revelation 17:5 – And on her forehead a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.

So, let’s see.  Fourteen associations with good things. One association with something bad. Is it too much of a stretch to say that it would be at least fallacious (if not downright silly) to somehow imply that the Revelation verse is the only standard by which we should measure the word “mystery” (ignoring the other 14)?

Yet that’s exactly what this post does.

Now granted, I have some major problems with Brian McLaren (the “attackee” of that post).

They used to be purely theological until I heard him sing.  But I digress.

But how am I supposed to take seriously anything said about him (or anything/anyone else) from a source so devoid of basic logic?

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PittsburghI did something this past week that I haven’t done for quite some time: I took some time off from life and went to Pittsburgh with my wife and sons. We have wanted to see the fireworks from Point State Park for quite a while and this year we were finally able to do so.

We stayed in a small hotel in Oakland, which is a few miles from downtown Pittsburgh, and where The University of Pittsburgh is located. We were in a fourth floor room that had one window with a spectacular view of the mountains and Monongahela River. It was quite exhilarating to look out the window and see the river, the mountains, the bridges, the freeways, and all the cars moving along without a thought to the fact that those roads are being held in the air by nothing but concrete and rebar.

On Sunday, July 4th, we walked from our hotel in Oakland down Forbes Avenue through downtown all the way to Point State Park where we joined in with thousands of people, scattered upon the grass and concrete, to watch the fireworks. We sat behind an family of Arabic descent who were sitting next to a young white couple who were sitting next to a black woman and five small children (all boys). We watched sky-divers make a dramatic descent to earth, putting all their faith in a thin piece of silk and a few ropes. We saw people watching from the safety of their hotel rooms behind us. We listened to the thump, thump, thump of the All-America music being played by a DJ a short way off in the distance, “Born in the USA, I was, Born in the USA!” We smelled the BBQ, sweat, cigarette smoke, popcorn, and smoke from expended fireworks.

We saw a stand where we could get our favorite Chinese dish, General Tso’s chicken and fried rice. Or, if we preferred, from another stand, popcorn or cotton candy. We watched people squeeze 15 people into a space suitable for maybe 5. We saw people talking on cell phones and others talking face to face. We saw some folks making out. We saw some women dressed like they were going to church and others dressed like they were opposed to the very idea of clothing. We saw men in suits and others in their biker get-up and children in pajamas. We saw entrepreneurs selling glow sticks and others selling bottles of water. There were booths with information and food. There were police and other safety people. There were…people, Americans…and we were all together.

The young white couple that sat in front of my family was especially interesting. Next to them there was a black woman who was tending to five small boys. I don’t know if they were all hers or not, it doesn’t matter. What was amazing is that this young white couple became fast friends with the five small black boys and before long all five boys were sitting on the young couple’s blanket. Then the boys also began partaking of the couple’s chips. They talked as if they hadIMG00514-20100602-0055 been friends forever but when the fireworks began the conversation abated and there was a chorus of ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ from the five boys and the young man and woman. It was a beautiful thing–these utter strangers sharing food and blanket space and a song of celebration.

When the fireworks were over, everyone stood up and began the long walk back to wherever they were living that night. Some undoubtedly went to their hotel and others went back to their house. Maybe some went to their cars and others went a walking (like us!). It could be that others went to nowhere as they had nowhere to go or back to their box under a bridge. But for those 25 minutes at Point State Park, we were altogether one people.

It’s sad, really, that it takes something like a colorful recreation of bombs bursting in air is required to bring a people together, as one.

That same Sunday, the fourth, we also attended a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game. It was 9 innings of pure bliss (even my eldest son, who rather despises any and all sports, said the game was his favorite part of the trip.) There was so much going on that day–not least of which was the Pirates coming from behind to win the game against the Phillies. I can only think of one, maybe two, things that I enjoy more than sitting at a baseball game in hot, July heat, but not many more.

There we sat in a crowd of 28,000 people cheering for the home team Bucs! It seemed like the weight an entire city was riding on every pitch. It was so intense that I didn’t even mind the three year old sitting behind me who literally kicked the back of my chair for nine innings. There was the perogi race, the weiner toss, the t-shirt toss, and the perfect coordination of the ground’s crew who came out every three innings to drag the infield. There was the standing and singing of God Bless America in the seventh inning and the follow-up during the stretch of Take Me Out to the Ball Game. Have you ever heard 28,000 people singing Take Me out to the Ball Game? It is quite truthfully a sound to behold. There were the fireworks and the roar of 28,000 people in the seventh inning when Pirates rookie Pedro Alvarez walloped a homerun kicking off a rally that eventually gave the Bucs the win.

And of course let’s not forget the view. We sat in the upper deck along the third base line. From there we had a spectacular view of downtown Pittsburgh and the Allegheny River. The accompanying picture does no justice to how wonderful the view was that day–clear sky, downtown, baseball, and 28,000 people who cared about nothing but the outcome of a silly game. And yet I knew beyond doubt that I was automatically friends with everyone in that stadium–joined together by some mystical bond created by the crack of a bat. I was friends with Pirates fans and Phillies fans alike.

While I sat there I was thinking about Scripture. I was thinking about John who, by the end of the Revelation, is also thinking about a city that has come into his view.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

And also I thought about this one from later on in the same chapter:

IMG00460-20100601-1815“The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia in length, and as wide and high as it is long. He measured its wall and it was 144 cubits thick, by man’s measurement, which the angel was using.” (Revelation 21:15-17)

I was thinking about all those people in that great city. I was thinking about all those squares and cubes and and geometry and the symmetry of the city. I was thinking about a river flowing through the city. I was thinking about God and whether or not he was King of that city too. I was thinking about that building right near the center that looks like the top of a castle (in the picture). It’s made entirely of glass and does it ever shine in the light. It’s called the Pittsburgh Plate Glass building. I was thinking about the city sparkling in the sunlight and glittering in the moonlight. It’s a veritable city on a hill whose light cannot be hidden.

I was thinking about the church. I was thinking about all those people and how many of them knew about Jesus. I was thinking that my experience in Pittsburgh was so unlike my experience in the church.

“I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelation 21:22-27)

I was thinking that I wish church could be like that baseball game–where everything we disagree about and hate each other for is forgotten because we are overwhelmed by what is right in front of us. Nothing else mattered that day except baseball. I wish I could say that in the church the only thing we truly cared about was Jesus–that we were truly overwhelmed by Him.

I was thinking that I wish church could be like those fireworks–where everyone from every different walk of life and culture is brought together under one banner and celebrates. I wish I could say that in the church the only banner we unite together under is Jesus. And I wish we didn’t have to wait so long for it to be a reality.

I was thinking that I wish church could be like that city–where everything is in balance and shines and sparkles and glows and radiates unity in the sun. Where strangers walk together and every tribe and tongue is united under one Name. I wish I could say that the church glows and shines in the Son. I wish I could say we truly were that City coming down from heaven.

I was thinking that I wish the church could be a place where…

I was thinking that I wish the church could be a place….

I was thinking that I wish the church could be…

I was thinking that I wish the church could…

I was thinking that I wish I could love the church, and all of the stupid people that make up the church, half as much as I loved the people in PNC Park that day or in Pittsburgh that night. I think if I could learn to love again the church then maybe I would see that I don’t need to spend so much time wishing the church was something other than what it is and instead I could concentrate on being what the church is: loved by God. IMG00466-20100601-1947

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:25-32)

I don’t know if that makes sense or not. I probably should have just said, at the outset, that I wish I had the intestinal fortitude to love the church the way Jesus does. Or, I wish I could love the church the way I love Pittsburgh–a city full of strangers.

I was thinking I spend too much time wishing and not enough time doing.

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Stuart Scott - ESPNTo be honest, I’m getting a bit extremely tired of Christians who are striving to be conformed to the image of Stuart Scott.

I read a blog post today. Granted, it’s a bit old. I scanned it when it was fairly new, but some personal issues in recent days brought it back to mind, and I was wondering, “Was it really that vomit-inducing or is my memory given to exaggeration?” (Answer: no exaggeration on this one.)

Now let me be clear. A lot of what was in this post — when it was sticking to facts — was very accurate and true. But the way in which it was presented — and garnished with a healthy dose of the author’s opinion — was enough to cause anyone with any intellectual honesty to throw up in their mouth at least a little.

The post discussed the reasons given for leaving the faith and/or never believing in the first place. These reasons were broken down into three categories, the first of which was claimed (by the post author) to be mostly populated by obviously fake stories. In case we missed that, it is re-iterated a bit later that the author doesn’t believe the person telling the story most of the time. This is followed by highly dismissive language that covers the writer in the event that one of the stories turns out to be true.

This is then followed by a deadly logical refutation of 10 possible reasons (how we got from 3 to 10 is anyone’s guess), complete with Scripture references backing up much of the refutation.

(The sensitive of ear should be warned that I am about to use language that — in a different context — would probably be deemed offensive. But I am using it in a Biblically accurate sense.)

So, if we boil the post down (along with some of the comments that followed), what the author has said is this: “Take that, you damned atheist. And if you don’t buy into the logic I’ve presented, then to hell with you.”

Literally.

But that’s not quite the message that I hear from Jesus. In Mark 9, we see the story of a possessed boy and his father seeking healing for him. Jesus told the father, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” The father admitted to an incomplete belief (”Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”). And you know what Jesus did? He healed the boy.

In John 20, the disciple Thomas stated unequivocally that he would not believe that Jesus was risen unless he had visual and tactile evidence. And so, the next time they were together, Jesus accommodated him. And He did not rebuke Thomas for his lack of faith.

I’ve yet to meet a hurting person for whom logic was the answer. Yes, it can certainly be a tool to help that person see the truth. But it’s certainly not the answer. Jesus is the answer.

I am genuinely happy for the author that he has not faced adversity that was significant enough to shake his faith to the core. And I genuinely hope that God doesn’t deem such adversity necessary in the future to build the author’s sanctification.

But, for the rest of us, there’s grace.

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First of all, go watch this message.  I’ll wait.  What I’ve got to say pales in comparison.

Very powerful stuff, IMHO.

One ancillary statement that Matt Chandler made, though, stuck out to me because of prior conversations here.  Several pastors/teachers have been repeatedly thrown under the bus by ODMs and their ilk because they chose to speak at conferences or churches where the other speakers didn’t agree with them theologically — sometimes with significant differences.

The “unequally yoked” phrase from 2 Corinthians 6:14 gets hideously misappropriated and gross exaggerations like “partnering in ministry” get bandied about.  Not surprisingly (and I say this with regret, because I are one), a lot of such silliness comes from those that would consider themselves to be of the Reformed community.  I point that out because Chandler is a Reformed guy and this was at T4G, which was lousy with Reformed guys.  So when he talked about the issue, this was not two hyper-Pelagians discussing it over a beer.

The embedded video below (in case you haven’t listened to the whole message yet — you heathen) kicks in at the start of the statement that’s relevant to this post.  As background, he’s talking about the vision that he had for his church when he first started pastoring.  The statement runs for about 1 minute, 25 seconds (you can quit listening when he says “I’ll be working”).

In a minute and a half, Chandler crystallizes what I’ve believed for some time. I don’t think I ever want to hear that “partnering in ministry” crap again.

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i hate it when that happens
(or I hate it when that happens)

Luke 18:10-14 (NKJV):

Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

Jesus’ parable of the Pharisee and the publican (aka tax collector) is something that many of us cling to. This world is lousy with Pharisees (particularly as described in this parable) and the advent of the blogosphere just gave them a bigger bully pulpit and a louder megaphone. Trying to disabuse readers of some of their silliness — more specifically, trying to help others avoid the pain brought to me by the Pharisees in my own life — is one of the primary reasons that I write.

Well, apparently, God deemed that I needed to be smacked right between the eyes last night. It occurred to me — rather jarringly — that I have been guilty of living as though the publican prayed:

‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this Pharisee.’

In short, I have been proud of my lack of pride. I’m not sure which this is more — stupid or shameful.

It’s all about humility.

I have a feeling that I’m not alone. I hope I am, but I kinda doubt it. If the shoe fits, your mileage may vary, etc, etc ….

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I was going to save the video, below, for the Open Thread Friday this week, but as I’ve thought about it, and discussed it with a number of folks, I think it deserves a focused post of its own.

http://www.vimeo.com/11501569

Context, Context

Before any further discussion on the video, I think it’s important to have a little bit of context around it:

  1. The video was produced by the media staff at North Point Community Church in Atlanta, GA (where Andy Stanley is the senior pastor).
  2. The Sunday morning worship style being lampooned is the style used by NPCC.  They are making fun of themselves (not somebody else), while making a point.
  3. The video was specifically produced for last week’s Drive Conference, which North Point sponsors for church leaders and creative teams.

Kudos

First off, I’d like to applaud NPCC for 1) being able to laugh at themselves; 2) for being aware of the dangers of church-as-entertainment; and 3) for making this video available, since it has a message that should be heard, but also because it could be misused by their armchair critics who can roll out their favorite whipping boys w/ this video and use it as a misguided indictment on style, rather than a message that could have been produced for any “worship style” used by American churches.

Style vs. Substance

I think that quite often, the critics within the church – across the spectrum of styles – like to play off of a style-versus-substance meme, creating a competition where none need exist.  As I noted above, this video could have been produced to skewer ANY Sunday morning worship style – be it hymns-hymnals-and-pews, Contempervent (I love that term), high church, or incense-and-icons.  One can have substance in any “style”, but when it becomes a show or a rote pattern – tradition for the sake of tradition – it has strayed from the path.

I believe that all forms of artistice creativity can be used for the glory of God in worship: painting, music, dance, drama, sculpture, writing.

One danger is making it the focus of worship rather than a method of worship.  This is just as true of well-done interpretive dance as it is of skillful oratory.

Another danger is making it a distraction from worship rather than an enabler of worship, which is why if something cannot reach a certain level of artistic quality, it might be best not to insert it within corporate worship settings.

Sidebar on Giving

Next, one of the tangential points they bring up is around tithing.  I’ve always found it interesting that the basic message you hear in the church is “what you give is between you and God”, but you know that your giving is being tracked – by law – by the church, for the purposes of tax reporting.  So, the question becomes – what is being done with the tracked giving data?

I know some churches who make it common knowledge that the church treasurer shares NONE of the individual giving data with the leaders of the church.  That way, there is no danger of “playing favorites”, based upon someone’s giving history.  On the flip side, though, it also has a lesser degree of community accountability.

At the other end of the spectrum, I know of churches (and a larger number of non-Christian religious groups) who ask for your pay-stubs and/or W-2’s, in order to make sure that each family is giving its 10%.  To me, this degree of accountability seems to go against the “free-will” nature of giving, and the heart of giving, itself.

Most of the churches I’m familiar with, though, have no spoken policy on who – leadership-wise – knows the details of individual giving, and how those details are used.  In some ways, this ambiguity can be good, but can also be cynically viewed (as elicited in the video).

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From the Apostle Paul, to the church in Colossae:

Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

And the church in Galatia:

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

And the church in Corinth:

The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

In short – if we, as Christians, happen to believe that Paul had something important on the issue of races and classes, then we ought to recognize that its core is this: In Christ, there is no discrimination between races, classes, sexes or nationalities in the salvation they have received.

In this respect, it is love that ought to lead Christians to both respect and love all men, as loved by God, created in His image, and paid for by Jesus’ blood, if only they will recognize him as Lord.

Unfortunately, as he is wont to do, Satan takes something that God has made good – a love and respect for all men – and has taken that grain of truth and twisted it into a false view of “tolerance”, and then inflicted it upon the people of the world. Even though I’ve not paid incredibly close attention to the news this past week or so, I’ve heard (or been sent) a number of stories that all seem to have this tension as a common thread between them.

Read the rest of this entry »

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From Oswald Chambers :

We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God. As soon as we abandon ourselves to God and do the task He has placed closest to us, He begins to fill our lives with surprises. When we become simply a promoter or a defender of a particular belief, something within us dies. That is not believing God — it is only believing our belief about Him.

There’s more to the devotional.  I recommend the whole thing.  But I thought this part was particularly good.

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