Saturday, August 15, 2009

Reforming My Theology

I just finished two incredible books by two incredible authors, and I gained so much from both reads that I believe, between the two books, my views on church, fellowship, and mission will never be the same. Still, the most incredible part lie in two things....

First, these two author's had a lot of the same thing's to say, as far as where the church was and where it was headed, and what we need to do to steer it back on course. Second, these two men lived some 400 year's apart from each other. The first book I plowed through was "The Reformed Pastor" by Richard Baxter, a Puritan minister in the Church of England in the mid to late 17th century. The book itself was written in 1655 by a man who saw a need for the men of God in his era to do many things, first among them, to "take heed to themselves." He felt that the church suffered from a group of pastors who were far to caught up in who they were in the eyes of society and what privileges their positions held. They were becoming lazy in doing what they were called and appointed by God to do. One of my favorite lines from the book is when he states that no one was ever saved for being a good preacher, but for accepting the work that Christ has done on his life and that fact that he was a wretched man beforehand. He gives a lot of attention to the point that man will not believe anything you say as a preacher if you do not act in your own life as if you mean what you say from the pulpit. In addition to this, he spends a lot of time discussing with pastor's that their duty is not only to preach a message from the pulpit on Sunday, nor is that enough for the salvation of men and their building up in the Lord. He says that pastors ought to take every moment they have to go from house to house and meet with people during the week, to answer questions they have and lead them to salvation if needs be. In other words, he spoke a message that we are beginning to learn more and more; that church does not begin or end in the building we have dedicated to it on Sunday morning, and that both our life style and our ministry and instruction must carry over throughout the week.

The second book changed my life, honestly. Well, it definitely changed my view of ministry and church, and answered a lot of questions that I had been turning over in my mind. The book was "Confessions of a Reformission Rev." by Mark Driscoll, the senior pastor and founder of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA. If you have never heard or read this guy, he is phenomenal! The link to his weekly podcast is here. I highly recommend you take up listening or watching this one, his teaching is right on. Back to the book, though; this is the most honest read I have picked up in my entire life. To sum it up, he takes you through his personal spiritual journey as he starts a church that grows from 50 people to over 5000 at the current moment, chronicling all the things he did right and wrong along the way. Just like Richard Baxter said hundreds of years before, one of the biggest problems affecting the church is a lack of strong leadership and failure to understand that leading a church takes every moment of every day.

I think the things that both of these books have taught me is about getting back to basics. Both Driscoll and Baxter agree that every sermon, every time should somehow lead back to Jesus since the entire Bible from start to finish is about him in some form or fashion. In our spiritual disciplines, we need to make time for more of the timeless practices that have always served men and women of God; solitary prayer, study of scripture, etc. Also, hanging out with other Christian is a vital part of doing life together, but it can never take the place of real accountability and corporate study.

Just some thoughts to go down the road with. Now that I am back in school studying more theology, I have to remember that knowledge is nothing without heart. I'd love to hear what you guys have to say on the subject, though...

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Necessity of Community

First off, let me say how important it is to me for you guys to join in the discussion by leaving comments. A blog without comments is simply a journal lying open on a table, with everyone reading over it, thinking their own thoughts, and walking away. You will never bother me, even if your comment tears my blog to shreds.

I say this because it is an important part of the point that I am about to make, which is actually something that God has been dealing with me a lot about lately, which is the importance of each and every one of us to each other, that is to say, the importance of healthy Christian community and fellowship. I think this is something that was lost on me from the early days of may salvation experience, although it is probably the reason for everything else I have ever done in my life. See, people have this inherent tribal need for community, and this need fuels the reasons behind every social activity, from Facebook addiction to street gangs to night clubs to fan clubs, we all want to belong to a group of people that understand us, that share in our hurts and triumphs, that we can identify with and even label ourselves as. This need also helped to create the Christian sub-culture that we have today, which has become more of a social club that is exclusive to anyone who doesn't have the proper t-shirt or jargon.

When I first came into relationship with God, I felt for the longest time like I was the only person my age in the county who had done so, with the exception of the occasional super-lame, bible thumper who was not relational to anyone other than a devout follower of the "turn or burn" school of theology. Then I met the hypocrites. Statistically, there is something like 7% of my age group that even attend church on a regular basis, and even fewer who are true followers of Christ in all it's biblical implications. The majority of the people who do attend church in my age group tend to do so either out of guilt or habit, with no real depth of faith or honest devotion to Christ and his teachings. This was a bit discouraging, since every time I had an issue on how to live out my faith, I had to talk to someone who was too old to really be able to relate to the situation at hand. Although their hindsight and wisdom were very helpful, I was really searching for someone to go through things with me, to hold my hand across the waves as a physical, tangible, and audible form of the love of Christ.

Then I found a group of young men and women who, although far short of perfect, possessed the perfect love of Christ in such a practical way, that Ash and I were instantly welcomed into their fold, never feeling for one day like an outsider or a visitor. We made fast friends with several of them, and can now not only have the deep conversations and discussions that we needed to have with others as we all figured our faith out together, but can also just have a good time and enjoy the life that God has blessed us with.

Which brings me to my point; Paul the Apostle said the body of Christ is to operate exactly like the human body operates. We are all given different but specific gifts and qualities so that we might come together as a whole and serve, edify, and encourage each other. Just as the head cannot say that is has no need of the feet, we all are tied together in desperate need for each other. God designed his church, his body, to be this way. Even God himself exists as three who are one but separate, Father, Sprit, and Son, in perfect loving relationship with each other since the beginning of time. Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us that we are supposed to gather together for two purposes; to encourage each other in love and to do good works. James tells us in his letter of the healing power of conversation and confession, or complete honest openness, with other believers.

I cannot tell you what a difference a healthy and strong fellowship of believers will do for your relationship with God and the quality of your life; it is something that has to be experienced, and I do not mean on Sunday morning, after which we retire to our work weeks and our own lives, not to cross paths again until the following weekend is drawing to a close. The end of the second chapter of Acts tells us clearly of the practices of the early church, and yes, they did gather together to worship as one huge body once a week, but we have missed the most important part. They gathered together EVERY DAY from house to house, eating, talking, enjoying life together, experiencing life together, doing life together. This is a a major peice of the full life we have in Christ.

We are called not only to be the hands and feet of Christ to the world, but to be his ears, and shoulders and arms, and even his laugh and his love, to the ones he has put in our lives to encourage, and to encourage us...

I would love to hear your thoughts on this, and to hear stories of how healthy community has affected each of you. Most of all, if you don't have this in your life, I would like to talk to you about how you can get some REAL friends, and really get connected with the love and heart of God.

I have an exciting announcement for my next entry, and I hope that the discussion will be sparked by this one, as the next one will be built upon your comments!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Peace and Security

I am extremely excited about being able to network this blog to Facebook, especially since I feel like the more people that join in the conversation, the more we all get out of a blog. I am also glad because I feel like I am going to explode if I don't get some things out of me that have been weighing me down for quite some time now. Unfortunately, the time is not yet come to completely divulge everything that may be on the horizon, there are a few things I would like to make known...

I am in a bad financial situation at the moment. The only thing that makes this worse is that I will very shortly not be, thanks to the wonderful first time home buyers tax credit that is currently in effect, as well as being able to get some money back that has long been missing, but these last couple of months have really been a challenge. We have really learned how to make due on very little in order to invest in the future and move forward. On top of that, it seems that Murphy's law is still alive and well, and at times (and I'm sure many of you can relate) more effective than gravity. All these things and more have really pushed us to the edge, and have filled me up with more than one feeling that I have not been entirely sure how to deal with, but the one that surpasses them all is the one that I can least explain...

It's this feeling of peace. Not just hope, or expectancy, and I am not saying that there is not a measure of fear mixed in with it all, but pure, calm and surety about the future that seems to come from somewhere deeper than all the others feelings swirling around on the surface. I had read the verse in Phillipians 4:7, about the peace of God that surpasses all understanding, but it really does defy logic and everything that I know should be controlling my mind. As I said, it's not as if I don't worry, it's just that, it doesn't consume me.

This feeling seems to stem from many sources. First, I am constantly reminded of all the times God has been faithful to me in the past, and like David, I am encouraged within myself. The last three places I have worked have all gone out of business, and each time I have lost a job, God has given me a job that is better than the one I had lost. Second, sometimes I find myself thinking, without knowing how it even came to mind, about the future, not in this world, but in the world to come, in the world that Jesus is coming back to redeem and reclaim, and I know that know matter what happens in this life, I have my promise. I know that doesn't seem very relevant or practical to some of you, but is the one truth that stands through the ages and has encouraged greater men than you and I.

Most of all, I am confronted daily with the richness of my life, no matter what my bank account balance is. I am surrounded by an amazing family, friends, and the greatest church family that I have ever known. I am married to my best friend, and our life is incredible, even with it's troubles. I would rather be broke with her, than rich with anyone else. My future is bright, and every day points toward a grand destiny that has already been chosen for me.

For those of you who don't find this helpful, or practical, or for those who think that this has been said a million times too many, perhaps it is time to return to one of the basic truths that God teaches us, and that Jesus seemed to hold so dear. Our treasure in not entirely in this life, and the part of it that is can not be found in banks and handbags. Sure, we can't live without that kind of wealth...or can we? Whatever you are facing, I hope that you will be encouraged by this, and I hope you will in turn encourage yourself and those around you, to know that even in the darkest of times, there is more to life than what we own, and that our security is not the FDIC.

There is so much more that I would like to write about the things that I am being shown at the moment, but this will have to do for today. It seems God shows me the most in the times when things are the hardest, which is another reason that we can take joy in trials...

If you can relate to this, let's discuss it, or if you have anything to add, feel free to post. That is my favorite part. I'll leave you with the chorus of a song that is really bringing me through right now...

"There's a raging sea right in front of me, wants to pull me in, bring me to my knees,
So let the waters rise, if you want them to, I will follow you, I will follow you..."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Quid Est Verita


My favorite thing about blogging is that people that you care about, and that care about you, read these things, and start a discussion about them. These discussions spark a lot of thought and growth, and a lot of the conversations that arise are ones that you might never have had otherwise, since you don't get to talk to everyone on a regular basis, especially in our fast paced world. I had started a blog on another site, and no one ever read it, so I thought, why not Facebook? Everyone gets on Facebook. All the time. Not the ideal blogging format, but I would rather have more discussion than pretty formats, anyway, and since I am a nobody, I am not likely to get many of you to migrate to another site, say to join in the discussion, so I will double post my blogs here on Facebook.

That being said, I named my blog Quid Est Verita, which means "What is Truth?" Many of you will recognize it as the question asked by Pontius Pilate in response to Jesus' claim that he WAS the truth. While studying one day, I came to the realization that we have made Pilate out to be a villain all these years, when in actuality, I found myself to have more in common with him than I first realized....

Many of us want to believe there is a God, or that God cares about us, but with so many conflicting viewpoints and opinions to choose from, and so many paths that seem right, we find ourselves asking the same question as Pilate. Here was a man, a judge, a governor, who came to work just like every other day, not expecting to have the weight of the decision he was now faced with thrust upon him. This man Jesus claimed to be the Son of God in the flesh, and it was up to Pilate to decide whether or not to have him executed. The sacred and the religious had thrust themselves into his life, and he was not prepared to make such a decision, and honestly didn't want to be forced to.

So what does he do? The same thing you and I would have done in that situation; try to pass the buck. And when that didn't work, he washed his hands of it. He put it off on someone else and tried to remain neutral, so he could sleep better knowing that if the Son of God was killed, he would not have been the one to make the call. Being honest with myself, I think I would have done the same thing, and this scares me.

The biggest lie that we have been convinced of is that in the battle between the dark and the light, in the choice between God and Satan, or good and evil, that there is a third choice: we can remain neutral. This is not so, and many of the choices we put off or worse, the ones we think don't matter in the grand scheme of things, matter more than you can possibly imagine. In Luke 11:23, Jesus promises that "Anyone who isn’t with me opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me." Paul says it different in Romans 6:16; "Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living."

There is no middle ground, there are no safe choices. If anything matters, everything matters, because everything is spiritual, and every choice spiritual in nature. Everything you purpose to do will either build up your soul or tear it down, and you risk going down in history not as a Judas, but as a Pilate; to betray Christ and his cause not through treachery, but through apathy.

I hope you will join me on these discussions. I am going to use them each week as a build-up to Tuesday night discussions at our house, but also as a way to share thoughts and get input from all my Facebook friends. I pray we can all journey and grow together in our faith. Also, I just tagged a bunch of people in this note, if you don't want me to tag you, discreetly let me know. I know everyone doesn't give a crap about these discussions...and if you weren't tagged and would like to join in, let me know as well...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Looking in the Mirror

Okay, so we didn't make it to Portland. Things don't always go the way you plan, even when you feel like God is leading you and you are doing your best to make his plans happen. I really want to get away from the personal blogs, but I feel like there are so many things that God shows me not through Scripture or Bible study, but just through situations, through working through my emotions, through people who piss me off, or let me down, or make me happy now only to let me down later, and so forth. I think that I learn more from the Scriptures once they have to be drawn upon in ways I never imagined they could be used.

Sometimes I just have this nagging feeling that I am not doing anything that amounts to much. I know that I am not the only one who feels this way, but let me be more specific. I feel like I have been called to do certain things, and then those things don't work out very well, if at all, and you wonder if you were called to begin with, and if you were, do you just suck at your calling? You know it can't be God getting in the way of things, so that leaves two other options: others or you, and when so many of your projects seem to go belly-up, quote The Rabbi in Lucky # Selvin, "The first time someone calls you a horse, you get mad, the second time, you hit him, but the third time someone calls you a horse, well, it's time to go shopping for a saddle." I always tell people that if the same situation continues to happen in your life multiple times involving different people, perhaps the only common variable (yourself) is the problem.

I know that God has a calling on everyone's life, and I have made it my mission to try to help people realize all of the potential that they have in God. I know it is easy to get distracted, trust me. But is you are constantly pulled away by the same distraction over and over, then it may not be the distraction that is the problem. Perhaps you are too easily distracted.

In some of the coming blogs, I will return to some thoughts that I have picked up over the last few weeks, thoughts that I know have changed the way I view my Christian walk and faith. but this time, I just wanted to take some time to sort out thoughts, clear my head, and perhaps let some people know that they are not alone in their frustrations.

P.S.--I think my biggest problem right now is I miss my friends. I am married to my best friend, but there are two other men of God that I have always grown with and learned from and that I feel have spoken the most into my life that are gone, living away now, and sometimes I miss them so much it kills me. That would be Matt Cross and Nate Reed. I have never had friends like these, and I am coming to believe I never will again. I wish we could all live in the same city, even the same time zone, and all do God's work together, but He has had other plans. I have tried to find people to help fill the void that is left with you guys not being around, and I have failed. Godspeed to both of you, and I hope to see you soon.

Next: Looking Ahead

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Wichita, KS

I wanted to take a moment to set down some thoughts about this trip, and first, to say that it was so absolutely packed full that I did not have any time to take an awful lot of pictures, and didn't think to have someone record me speaking, which I did say I would do. I apologize, and next time I will be more prepared, in a lot of ways!

Honestly, this has been one of the most rewarding things that I have done in my life. The weather got rough right before the doors opened, and so the turnout was nowhere near where we had hoped it would be, but the people that were there really got a lot out of it, I think. I was surprised by the fact that I didn't forget any of my points, and did fairly well even without my introduction video, since the power went out and we couldn't get it off of the computer! After the event was over, I spent two hours talking and praying with people, which is always a blessing, but I think that they blessed me more with some of the things that they said to me.

The bands were great. The local act, Of The Rescue, were really a great bunch of guys with a real heart for what they do. Most local acts show up with this home turf attitude and exude jealousy toward the bigger act, but these guys weren't that way, which is odd, but refreshing. And speaking of refreshing, I can't say enough about the time we get to spend with Mikeschair. Their single "Can't Take Away" is number nine on the charts right now, and is played almost once an hour, but they have no egos, no attitudes, no rock star complexes. They have stayed true to why they started, and are the most excellent group of guys to work. It's so rare to see this that I actually kept waiting for them to break character, but they never did. They really are the same all the time.

But the best experience I had from the whole trip, and what I learned the most from, was the traveling here. I had a 2.5 hour layover in Atlanta that turned into a 6.5 hour layover. I was not excited, but I sat down, had some food, and started having conversations with people. I had the opportunity to talk about God with three very interesting and different people during that time, and I think I did more ministry there than I did the entire rest of the trip. God really showed me how I have to be prepared to share my faith in and out of season, to do as Jesus did and go to where people are at and start the conversations.

I am sitting in my hotel room, about to check out and fly home, already excited about next week, not excited about my really long layover, but then again, I probably have a lot more ministering to do before I get home to my wife. The more I live, the more I learn that we are all ministers, at all times, and more than likely the biggest changes we make in someones life will be when we least expect it....

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Change is a good thing...

I have been reading a book recently that has forced me to stop and think, in detail, about the changes that God has brought about in me in the past few years. I am beginning to wonder if you can wake up as the same person two days in a row. Things on the outside change you, change your perspectives. Not only that, but as a Christian, you have something on the inside constantly working to change you as well. For instance, today I am more clam and collected than I was yesterday. And a year ago? I was very easily rattled, not to mention quite a bit more arrogant and substantially less understanding of the viewpoints of others. I was much less willing to let God have a say in anything. And ten years ago? What could be said of who I was then versus who i am now? That is like comparing two different people; I possessed almost none of the qualities that I do now. However, ten years from now, I hope to be more in tune with the qualities that God is awakening in me. Most of all, I hope I am more of a people person. 

The thing is, we have to be wide awake to life. I am very aware of the beautiful wife I share my home with, the wonderful food that I ate today, the friends, the sunlight on the leaves at the park around sunset. Unfortunately, the cost of living wide awake is that I also must feel the sting of the betrayals I face, the pain of the words that are said to me in anger, the gnawing emptiness of a lost loved one; but the cost of not living wide awake is much greater. I spend each day trying to wake myself up more and more to my life in God. We accomplish nothing when we walk through life in a trance, and we miss so much of what this world that God created has to offer. Sure, sleepwalking through the day can keep us numb to the pain, but I can't describe to you what it feels like to live and breathe and take my every moment of being from him and his goodness. You have to work on the relationship.

Now, I want to pose a thought: what would God say if you went to marriage or relationship counseling with Him? I think He would probably tell me that I put words in his mouth too much; to which I would reply that he confuses the hell out of me most of the time, which can be very frustrating. Not to mention the times when he clams up. 

The important thing with God is the important thing in any relationship: keep up the conversation...