Posted on October 28, 2013
We all have those moments when we know that something we just realized should have been more obvious in the past! I call this reading through a dimly lit life. Sometimes that dim light is a lack of experience, sometimes we are just not ready for the lights to be turned on all the way… and other times we refuse the light to be anything but dim!
Let me tell you about one of my recent dim lit moments!
One Community Church is going through a sermon series called Story. We are walking through the biblical narrative from Genesis to The Church on Sundays, and then we go further into the story of God our Life Groups… then and we are reading through the stories during the week in our church bible reading plan here.
I’ve never sat on these stories for 1-2 weeks at a time. In school your zipping through large chunks of the OT in single sittings. And like many people who read through the OT I tend to struggle getting into them because I struggled with finding how they relate to my life.
So dwelling on the story of creation, separation, the flood, cain and able, Noah, or God’s covenant with Abraham for more than a week has been eye-opening! I think this is the consensus for many engaged in this process. While many have felt like they already knew the stories, most everyone has been surprised by what they are getting out of it this time around.
We engage the stories during the week and ask God what he is speaking to us through that particular story and what we are going to do about it! Finding ourselves in God’s grand story has produced some very cool stories.
For me… I’ve been overwhelmed with the thread of God’s overwhelming love, patience, provision, and pursuit of His creation. Every story shows how God is loving and patient… I’ve never considered God patient in light of sending a flood to destroy most everyone on the earth, but It’s there!
I’ve never seen the pursuit of God at every turn and in every story like I have the past 6 weeks. From God walking into the garden calling out to Adam and Eve while they hid from God to the patience and pursuit God has for Abraham entering into a covenant to bless the nations through one family! Abraham screws up, questions God, gets ahead of God with Hagar and Ishmael… and yet God still pursues Abraham and blesses with the promise of a son!
How did I forget about God’s pursuit of Tony Simoncini?
How did I let that part of my story fade away?
This Is Amazing Grace! What other king leaves His thrown in pursuit of His creation and reconciliation with them even in their rebellion? What an amazing king He is!
It reminds me of a song Darrell Evans sang often in his worship concerts. It was called Nothing Else Matters and it went like this…
Here He Comes – Leaping Over The Mountains
Here He Comes – Bounding over the hills
With a passion, You pursue Me
With a longing heart I will seek You
With your presence, You satisfy me
Your love is better than life
Nothing else matters than being here with you
Nothing else compares to this world I’ve danced into
All the other noises simply fade away
I can only here your voice as I dance with you in fields of grace
May we all understand that God is in pursuit of us… no matter where we have been, no matter where we are right now, and no matter where are going. He is pursuing you and me! What would happen if we simply turned around, and took a few steps toward him?
What would happen is we pursued Him, like he pursues us!
Posted on October 22, 2013
While I respect his desire to get at the truth, and I believe he has many good things to contribute to the body of Christ, his latest crusade (actually this subject has always been on his radar) culminating in the Strange Fire Conference is a sad display in Christian apologetics and scholarship from John MacArthur. You can watch the talk he gives to kick off the conference as well as read articles on what was said here…
I won’t bore you with a lot of my own insights except to say that I think MacArthur and others have it all wrong. They have essentially lumped in all people who believe in the gifts of the spirit being active today into this pile of trash that I don’t believe everyone belongs in. Granted I feel like there are plenty of people in the charismatic movement who need to be rebuked and have some bad even destructive theology … but I certainly don’t believe this relates to everyone or the majority for that matter who would consider themselves a Charismatic believer. Here’s some of the mud-slinging. I’d love to hear if you agree or disagree with his stance, his generalizations, and this conference. As I listened to some of the talks given, there was a lot of spiritual and biblical gymnastics going on because let’s face it… to deny the gifts of the spirit which are clearly active in the very bible he claims has no mistakes, you must explain away things or ignore those things exist in a large portion of the New Testament.
The strange fire tag of the conference comes from Leviticus 9 and 10 where people’s offerings are either accepted by God or not… those that have offering not accepted by God using “strange fire” are then consumed themselves and judged immediately by God… MacArthur says, “”What I’m talking about is the charismatic movement that offers to God unacceptable worship, distorted worship. It blasphemes the Holy Spirit. It attributes to the Holy Spirit even the work of Satan. People are caught up in it, deceived, led astray.” I guess Jesus had not entered the conversation yet… but let’s see what happens.
He starts with a “Blaspheming of the Holy Spirit” line of thinking. Basically saying that because what is manifest in the Charismatic movement is not from the Holy Spirit but Satan they are doing the unthinkable and blaspheming the Holy Spirit… even though the true definition of Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is attributing something that is from God to Satan and not the other way around. I find it interesting that a man so knowledgable of the scriptures is actually blinded to his own arrogance stating that this fact is “lost on them” referring to people who are not cessationists (meaning the gifts of the spirit ended when the last apostle died). Anyone in Utah think that sounds familiar!
MacArthur is in deed in danger of this blasphemy himself; he spent 15 minutes in his talk stating that anyone engaged in a church that teaches charismatic doctrine is engaged in, “Paganism, Satanism, and the Kingdom of Darkness.” PLEASE!
Is he allowed to disagree with the prosperity gospel and call out men and women who pray on the vulnerable with a false gospel… absolutely! Is he allowed to act like everyone not like him is wrong… nope! But that is exactly what he does in just about every doctrine and theology, and his tone wreaks of arrogance and pride.
He goes on to say that anyone who takes the Lord’s name in vain is in danger of this hell fire… last time I checked my salvation was found in Christ and not my own ability to keep all the commandments. Can you picture a non believer sitting in his service… they would be like I guess I have no shot in hell of making it to heaven so why even try.
BECAUSE HE’S GOT IT WRONG… YOU AND I DON’T TRY WE TRUST!
His own doctrines of grace are trampled underfoot, and he now practices what I dare call idolatry with works based worship. He seems to indicate that we must work hard to be able to worship the Lord correctly, and if we don’t worship correctly we are in danger of being consumer by this angry God!
Sad his “doctrines of Grace” ONLY apply to pre-destined and elected salvation and not worship or living the way of Jesus in the kingdom of God here and now.
He goes on to arrogantly connect real worship to the reformed tradition. The real understanding of the gospel and proper doctrine lies within the reformed tradition according to MacArthur. The rest of us are basically in danger of missing God, even being consumed. Relying heavily on Sola Scriptura (scripture alone) as his mantra for believing that we need nothing but the bible to worship and follow Jesus. Then he says that the Charistmatics have not added anything to sound doctrine, or understanding of worship and caps that off stating, “The gospel is the reason they are saved… and they didn’t invent the gospel”. I’m not too sure what that has to do with anything but it didn’t make him sound smart or funny in my opinion.
I loved this quote (insert tongue into cheek), “the charismatic movement is loaded with non christians. People who are there for carnal reasons.” Because everyone who goes to his church has died to themselves and lives their lives totally unselfish and without carnal desires… the reformed churches he loves so much have none of these problems I’m sure : )
He also says, “Its success comes from its connecting to the kingdom of darkness. It’s the Trojan horse of evangelicalism in the city of God.”
Why do I write this?
The church has been missing the presence and contribution of the holy spirit for a long time. We have been taught by MacArthur and others to rely on sound doctrine and the preachers exposition MORE than we have been taught to personally follow the Holy Spirit in a daily relationship with Jesus. And frankly… I’m sick of it! People’s claim to sola scriptura flies in the face of how Jesus and The Holy Spirit have always interacted with people. Does it happen within the scriptures… YES! But is that the ONLY way… NO!
In fact the scriptures and our selfish arrogance can be a stumbling block, just ask the pharisees. “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:39-40)
We can love the scriptures, and miss the ONE whom the scripture point us too!
I also write this because if you study the Holy Spirit (start in Acts 1 and read to chapter 4 and tell me that The Holy Spirit is not something that is manifested in people’s lives… to do so would require biblical gymnastics! Period!
I also write this because the Church is so good at pointing the finger from the inside out. We judge those outside of our walls because we find it so easy to judge those inside our walls. If we hate those in the camp, why would we love those outside of our camp?
Many in the reformed camp are not cessationists and one guy went to the conference to sell some books that might suggest a different route to the argument and was not received too well. Mark Driscoll actually went to the conference and tried to hand out his upcoming book and sign some for the conference attenders and he was stopped and the books were taken by the Strange Fire Conference army.
One last thought… Jesus said the world will know we are his disciples by our love for one another. I realize that false teaching should be addressed, but lumping everyone who believes in the gifts of the spirit being active today is not the answer nor is their biblical reasoning consistent with the rest of their theology. MacArthur himself states that “the bible means what it says”. To understand it is to read it and that the meaning of the scripture is what the scripture says.”
May the church rise up and see the Holy Spirit move in the lives of people all over the world and may we see Jesus lifted up so that He will draw all men to Himself (John 12:32)
So, what say you?
Posted on October 18, 2013
If you follow Facebook you have likely seen someone share a blog written by Nate Pyle questioning the often quipped Christianeze faith killer to someone in the midst of tragedy and struggle, “Don’t worry, God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.”
I too have been the victim to this stupid statement. Sadly, I had probably said this to others.
It was my attempt to squash my own fear and anxiety in that uncomfortable moment of someone’s grief. Sure sometimes we genuinely want to help those we love and stop the pain with our words of wisdom, but more often than not it’s less about the grieving heart and more about our inability to let pain do what pain does. So we panic, we speak without thinking, and at times cause more pain.
Are we really that uncomfortable in the silence, the pain, the grief, the unknown that we resort to short one liners, that upon examination fall short of everything they are intended to accomplish?
Are we worried people will “lose their faith” over a painful experience?
I submit to you that the reason we put these kind of silly statements on our tongues and deliver them to those who are hurting comes from the need to fix our own anxiety! We are unsure of some things, we don’t appreciate uncertainty, and we have been taught that uncertainty and doubt are bad when it comes to matters of faith.
The irony of this thinking… Certainty Is The Opposite of Faith! Not doubt, not fear… but Certainty!
If you need to have faith in someone or something it means you don’t know what the outcome will be. When you don’t know all of the details and the end results are up in the air, it takes faith!
Sometimes MASSIVE faith.
True Faith is beautiful and inspiring… In the midst of certainty faith is not really faith, but in the midst of uncertainty, doubt, and even fear
FAITH IS BEAUTIFUL!
Can doubt kill faith, sure it can but so will telling people they can’t doubt because it’s the opposite of faith. With this line of thinking If doubts continue they will be forced to conclude that faith is not in the cards for them…
The real question is, can faith thrive in the midst of uncertainty?
I’m not saying that we should walk around with doubt in our hearts as a constant, but if you find yourself wrestling with matters of faith begin the search.
Ask questions, dig for answers in the scriptures and in those you trust with spiritual things. I can’t guarantee that you will find all of your answers, but I am certain that if you search with an open heart for authentic reasons you will find Jesus at every turn.
You might not find YOUR answer, but you will find THE answer. Cheesy I know, but it’s the only way I can explain my own story of doubt and struggle in the midst of the storm.
I have been on this same search as a result of my own doubts and fears in the midst of the most painful experience of losing my second son Micah 6 years ago. I don’t have all the answers to my questions, but I know God now more than I ever dreamed possible. And my continued pursuit of God has strengthened my faith in ways certainty could not!
I now own a faith that is stronger than ever, yet I still face ambiguity and uncertainty at times! I now enter my uncertainty with little to no anxiety because I sense God at every turn.
Jesus said in Chapter 11 of Matthew’s Gospel after much doubting and questioning from his disciples and John the Baptist, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
The jews have a practice called “sitting Shiva”. Shiva is the Hebrew word for 7 and the practice means you sit with a grieving person/family and don’t say a word until 7 days of silence is over, unless the person breaks the silence with you. Can you imagine how difficult it is to sit with someone and not say a word? Listening to the sobs, watching the tears, hearing every gut wrenching whimper? We need more silence in our culture of grieving!
How can the Church reach people who are far from God… quit acting like we have all the answers, never questioning a single thing for the sake of religious faith and trade it all in for a rich, honest, authentic life of faith that thrives BECAUSE we have some uncertainties that will never become certainties in this life. Faith trumps certainty.
Rest in the unknown, pursue God, and watch Him become bigger than any answer you need.
Check this song out by All Sons and Daughters. Meditate on it, sing it, live it!
Posted on October 5, 2013
I’m not much for commenting on politics, and this will not be a systematic approach to solving the worlds political problems. However, I was reminded the other day listening to President Obama blame everyone else but himself for the government shut down that people love to play “The Blame Game”.
Why am I surprised? I don’t like to take the blame for things… I often look for other “reasons” for my troubles and/or my transgressions.
I’m reminded of the sermon I just preached in our Story series about humanity’s separation from God. Adam and Eve both blamed others (Eve blamed the serpent, Adam blamed Eve) for their blatant disobedience to the simple instruction God gave to eat as much fruit from any tree in the garden except one.
They both blew it and blamed it on everyone but themselves.
What about you? Do you play the blame game? Is it everyone else’s fault that your life is where it is? Or that you find yourself in a particular spot that you didn’t really ask to be in?
I don’t know how to get the government back on track, but here is what I do know.
As long as we have people in leadership the blame game will be played. It will always be someone else’s fault, because the natural inclination for most of humanity is to deflect the responsibility… and sadly it’s much more acceptable to play the blame game than admit to a mistake.
That’s where the gospel comes in… this is actually the truth of the good news.
We can all stop playing the blame game, because Jesus said it doesn’t really matter who’s fault it is.
He is a giver of grace no matter who is to blame and that’s the kind of leadership we need in our lives and in this country.
At some point the blame is not as important as the need for a solution. I’m so thankful God thinks this way and rescues us in-spite of where the blame lies.
I think our leaders could learn a thing or two from Jesus, what about you?
Posted on September 28, 2013
A few of my friends have died in recent months. I found out about one of them on Facebook of all places!
As I scrolled down his page there was picture after picture and comment after comment posted by other friends of their fond memories and well wishes for him and his family. Another friend died and his Facebook page became the place that friends from all over the country engaged in story telling about their favorite moments with him.
For many, Facebook has become a living memorial. It reminds us of birthdays for people who have passed as their FB account is still active, and some others keep loved ones Facebook account active to spread the word about a certain cause related to the death of a friend or loved one.
We don’t live our lives for others nor to be praised by them… but I was reminded that what we do on this earth matters. It matters to a host of others, and it matters to the kingdom of God.
What will others write on your wall in memorial to your life?
What would you like the people who don’t know you personally read about you on your wall?