12.29.2009

Crazy Days...

I have been given reason to ponder lately...

We have had several people make decisions to leave our community in the past month. We have also had some people decide to move to Buffalo to step intentionally into this community, and a few others who have called to say they are praying about moving here.

We also have relationship with several people who still look to us for pastoral care and friendship, but no longer want to be a part of our church community, and are now involved in another church here in the city.

In the midst of all of this, we have had some struggles financially, nothing traumatic, just a little boat rocking...

And just today we had another church in the area offer to support us financially in what we are doing.

Taken together, it all has my head spinning a little.

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It all has me pondering about relationships.

So just what is a healthy way to leave a church?

What are legitimate reasons for Christians to pick up and move?

What is a healthy relationship between churches supposed to look like?

How does Christian community work with people who belong to different church communities?

How should we respond to Christians who leave their church to join ours?

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When it comes to moving and leaving, I think, more than anything else, the process is the important part of the equation. The outcomes may vary from situation to situation, but there are certain fixed points in the way in which the decisions should be made:

1) Decisions should come out of community discernment not individual desire.

2) We should have the blessing of the community.

3) We should have a clear sense of the underlying motivations to our decision.

And a few cautions to think through:

1) Relational funkiness should never be a reason to leave.

2) If I am unwilling or unable to do something here and now, then it is imprudent to think I will be doing that something there and then.

3) I am the cause of most of my problems, and I will be going with me.

4) The grass is rarely greener on the other side of the fence, but when it is, we are probably called to stay and water the grass on our side.

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I am still thinking about relationships with other churches, but I do think there is at least one thing I am sure of:

When people show up to my church from another church, I have an obligation to their spiritual well-being to make sure they have the blessing of their former community.

12.26.2009

Triage

PLEASE! don't major on the minors!

For Grandpa





Christmas/Birthday Fun

Here are pics of the kids enjoying presents from Zane's B-day, and from Christmas...











12.25.2009

Emmanuel: Christmas Reflections

An Unexpected King and an Upside Down Kingdom:

We read in John's prologue that Jesus came to the world that He made, and that world didn't want Him. Jesus' life is framed by a birth in a feeding trough, and a death by public execution. Hardly the way a king should enter the world, or leave it. Of course His birth was announced by battalions of angels, but they sang only to shepherds; and He did rise and then ascend, but only a few women and fishermen were witness...

God's power and glory look very different than we might imagine. This is Emmanuel, God with us; and it isn't what we could have thought up for ourselves. In fact, it turns out that our notions of the gods are almost stood on their heads when the real God actually does show up.

Becoming One of Us:

Jesus, the Second Adam, is not merely God among us, but God become one of us. Fully God, and fully man.

Colossians 1:15-20 gives us a picture of a Cosmic Savior, a fully divine being, and an exact representation of God. Hebrews 2:14-18 paints a picture of the perfect human, a flesh-and-blood savior, and a perfect image of humanity as it should be. Hebrews 4:14-16 goes on to explain the significance of Jesus nature. Because He is a perfect representative of heaven, and of humanity, He gives us access to the throne of grace.

Christmas is Jesus bridging heaven and earth. I would turn to my Kenyan friend Dus to prepare for a trip to Kenya, or to my Rwandan friend David for information about Rwandan culture, precisely because they live here, but came from there. I can turn to Jesus to find access to God's Kingdom, precisely because in his very person He has brought heaven to earth.

Affirming our Humanity in Order to Heal It:

The leper approaches, even though he knows he shouldn't. He is banished from human contact, yet desperate hope propels him forward, "If you are willing, you can heal me!" Jesus doesn't heal him.

He touches him!

It is not until after Jesus affirms this man's humanity, proclaims his dignity and worth as a son of Adam, that Jesus speaks the word of healing that ends leprosy. First, Jesus chose to deal with the spiritual leprosy of alienation and humiliation.

Emmanuel is God touching us in the exact places where we have surrendered to sin's dehumanizing effects. He places His hands on us, not on the clean parts, but on the wounds, the ugliness, the blood and puss, the stench, the filth... It is only after He proclaims us loved and cherished by the Father that He then restores us. Christmas is God with dirty feet, stained clothes, bloody head, and pierced palms; entering our world fully.

12.24.2009

Good and Evil

"But abuse does not destroy the proper use."

NT Wright tossed this little phrase into paragraph about political power, but it implies a definition of good and evil that bears exploring and repeating.

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Sin is not a thing. Evil is not a thing.

Good is a thing (or rather many things). Pleasure, beauty, purpose, power, existence! These are good, in and of themselves. Some of the typical targets of Christian vilification, sex, alcohol, dancing, gambling, tobacco, etc. are not evil, nor is engaging them inherently sinful.

They are not evil, because evil is not a thing!

Evil is the perversion of good, not its opposite. Therefore adultery is the sin, not sexual pleasure; drunkenness is the sin, not alcohol; addiction not smoking; titillation not dancing; you get the picture. Something is evil when it takes some good thing and misuses it; a public official using his political clout to oppress the poor; a woman using her beauty to diminish other women; enjoying the pleasure of food with no regard to issues of larger importance; separating sexual intimacy from personal intimacy; again, you get the picture.

Sin, truly, is "missing the mark."

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...and so, we must realize that engaging in perverse behavior is no greater an evil than abstaining (or encouraging others to abstain) from behavior that is healthy!

Of course, there are appropriate times to set aside pleasurable and otherwise good activities (1 Corinthians 8:13), but there is the equal danger of allowing prudish people to set the agenda in a way that denies the inherent goodness of God's creation (Colossians 2:16-23).

Jesus is the Lord of Life, who has come to share that abundant life with us, and we must learn to embrace His creative goodness. We can no longer be the prudish people who cannot talk about sex without getting red cheeks and hot collars, instead, we must begin to recognize (and to teach the world) that it is not the porn star who is sexual, but the monogamous husband and wife. We are the possessors of the reality, of which the world has only parody.

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Our witness is hampered by drunkenness, surely; but we must begin to acknowledge that our witness is just as tarnished by an inability to enjoy fine wine.

12.22.2009

NT Wright

... once God decides (with the call of Abraham) to work to address the problem of evil through people who are part of the problem as well as part of the solution, there is going to be an awful lot of messiness, which will reach its climax when God not only gets his feet muddy with the mess of the world but his hands bloody with the nails of the world.

12.20.2009

On Earth as it is in Heaven

"We cannot, then, pray the Lord's Prayer and acquiesce in the power and glory of Caesar's kingdom. If the church is not prepared to subvert the kingdoms of the world with the kingdom of God, the only honest thing would be to give up praying the Lord's Prayer altogether."

NT Wright

(Taken from the article linked in the title)

12.17.2009

Open Hands

It is such a difficult thing to hold God's gifts to us with open hands, instead we 'white-knuckle it,' holding tightly to what we have...

...and in so doing we are telling God we don't trust Him. If He were to take away what He has given us, we feel we are lost. What does this say about us? What does this say about our faith in the Giver?

St Paul says that he 'had nothing, yet possessed everything." (2 cor 6:10)

12.14.2009

Theology

Jesus chose fishermen.

How does that communicate theology?

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What theology is communicated by our practices?

12.05.2009

Wanna Start a Movement?

"In fact, in the mind & heart of God, church is another word for church planting school."

Sean McMasters

12.03.2009

More Lyrics From Another Life

All the perfect people- Shallow and deceitful
Staring back at me on TV in magazines
Look so good like a box of fresh wrapped twinkies
What the heck happened to me?

So I took a drive to a rich and wealthy country
Saw everything I wanted and everything I need
Went right up and tried to join their party
You oughta seen the look when they saw me

Crossed up eyes- Stupid grin
Perfect people won't let me in
Who's who list- Where's my name
They won't let me join their game
I bet you think that I'm insane
There's no one left for me to blame
Screw the perfect people
Man, they all look the same

We're not much to look at
Too short, dumb and so fat
Never gonna win a beauty pageant it's a curse
Always gonna be a better doorman
At the best clubs
How could thing's be any worse?

Don't have much to go on don't want your opinion
Don't have much to gain and I ain't got much to lose
Looks like you got it all and I'd really like to
Get some
You got something I could use

12.02.2009

Heteropraxy Revisited

I can't begin to count the number of conversations I have had with friends about theory that quickly moved to practice.

"Yeah, but how does that get lived out?"

That question was sure to be asked early and often amongst the women and men that I was discipled by, discipled with, and those that I was fortunate to disciple.

In a community of practitioners, scripture and theology becomes a lively and practical conversation!

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The reality is, you and I can be on the same page in terms of language, we can sign our names to the same statements of faith or doctrine or ministry philosophy, but be worlds apart in what those statements actually mean. I have seen it happen time and again. Deep and meaningful conversations lead to (what are seemed to be) real and lasting agreements about God, ministry, and life. Then we live or work together, and we discover that we have very different ideas about just what we meant by what we agreed upon.

A simple example:

"God is good!" Does this mean, "I need to embrace suffering in order to discover what God is trying to accomplish through it," or does it mean, "God would never allow anything hard or painful to happen to me?"

We could easily talk through how this applies in every sphere of theology, scripture, ministry, and life.

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Here is the sticky point:

It is precisely this 'fruit' of our theology that God is concerned with addressing. Another way of saying this is, if your theology is good, and your life is bad then your theology is bad!

So the only way to really discover our respective theologies is to engage in lasting intimacy with each other, and to repeatedly ask, "Yeah, but how does that get lived out?"

12.01.2009

Mega Church Envy

I came across an interesting comment on a blog post the other day, it was in response to someone critiquing a Church building a multi-million dollar bridge to ease their parking issues, instead of building wells in poverty stricken places:

"I was an Atheist for a decade until Jesus decided to reach me at Andy Stanley’s mega-church. When I was an Atheist I didn’t donate any portion of my income to build wells in Africa. Now I do.

You call it a waste. I call it an investment."


Wonder what you think?

Click on the title for the link to the church web site specific to the bridge.