Tuesday, May 19, 2015

First Sermon

I am going to deliver my first sermon in a few weeks, on June 7, 2015. I will be covering Deuteronomy 6:4-9.

“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

I am looking forward to this, speaking about the importance of this to both Jews and Christians. I really want to speak about the connection of Christianity to OT Judaism, since we so often neglect the Old Testament, even though Jesus is the fulfillment of that.The importance of the Trinity in here, how do we love God and what does that mean, as well as loving others and the connection to loving others and the Ten Commandments. The challenge will of course presenting this in a non legalistic way, I intend to address that directly by presenting all of this in a loving thankfulness kind of way and presenting he who loves Me will obey My commandments as a centerpiece.

New Ministry Things

After working as a helper for several years at the church I attend I eventually got to a place where I am able to become a licensed minister. I will be receiving this license in a couple weeks and I ask for your prayers, for me to fulfill his will in this. I am not sure if I am called to be a Senior Pastor or to be a staff pastor doing other things. I am still trying to figure this out.

I enjoy talking theology with people as well as church history and a bit of textual criticism.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Protestant at a Catholic Abbey

For my spiritual retreat I went to a Catholic abbey in Oceanside, California called the Prince of Peace Abbey on Saturday August 30th. I went there not really sure what to expect, but was immensely blessed by the experience. 

I got there about 10AM and, after being impressed quite quickly with the quiet there, had an initial discussion with a receptionist who gave me the lay of the land so to speak. It was a smaller abbey so there wasn’t too much to see but that was good.

I started by going to a library they have there. Though there was enough light there to read, it was dimly lit and quiet also.  In my first visit there I just spent about a half hour looking around and thinking about what I was seeing.  Many of the books in the library were donated and some of them were for sale. I bought a couple things there including a book on the Didache, one of the earliest catechetical works of the Christian church.

I then went to a Catholic Mass, steering clear of things I do not agree with. There were several interesting things that came out of that. Common practices in Catholic churches include kneeling and bowing. This was the first of several why moments of reflection I had there. If someone bows out of habit that has the potential of being legalistically problematic, while genuine reverence is of course a good thing. The Gospel reading there was the Talents Parable in Matthew 25:14-30. The priest spoke of the depth of this parable and how each time we read it we get a little more. Do we realize we are given things by Him to be used for His glory? Looking at the way the three people handled the talents, a question to ask is will we take risks for Him? Did the one talent guy commit a sin of omission? He mentioned the song "It is better to have lost at love than never to have loved at all." Let us think about that from a Christian context. Do we love Him, really? He spoke of Jesus giving us the church; I need to think about that one carefully. I believe we as members of the body of believers in Jesus past, present, and future are the church, so a question to ask is is the church for us or for God the Father? He spoke of come share in your Master’s joy, implying Lordship. In a non-spiritual way, I was amazed that with about sixty people there they actually distributed Communion wine in a shared cup. I of course went up with my arms crossed. 

I then walked the Stations of the Cross there; it was a large circle outside that was about a half mile around. I have done this a few times as a Protestant. The key reason I do this is because I am reminded of the sacrifice given by Christ, for me, for us. My sin put Him there, and Christ, the God-man, suffered immensely in a physical sense. The price was enormous. Do we comprehend that? I was reminded of the carry your cross Bible reference and could not help but ask myself rhetorically if I would be willing and able to do that?

After walking that loop and praying some more after I was done, I went to burial grounds there for monks who were buried there.  While I am not Catholic, I gave thanks to God for men of extraordinary faith. When I encounter past Catholics or other Christians via history, I am always thankful for them. 

By this time I had been there about three hours. I then went back to the library for some more reading, prayer, and spiritual reflection. I read a couple chapters of Eugene Peterson’s book Eat This Book. This book starts out with a reference to the Hebrew word Hagah, which is what meditate in Psalm 1 is the translation for. However, that word has other usage instances that imply a much higher level of immersion and connectedness with that is being “eaten.” Revelation, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah all have references to eating a book, to better connect with it, so it can become part of us. He used an example with a dog gnawing a bone slowly over some time as a way to demonstrate it. If scripture is holy, it must be read that way as well. What can get in the way of this sometimes is viewing ourselves as sovereign. We are not the authority, God is. 

When we speak or hear of being spiritual, the world’s view of that can give it a negative connotation. I usually think of non-Christian mystic types when the word spiritual is mentioned. The Bible should be the text by which we live our lives. The world has an interest in souls but not in scripture; shouldn’t there be both? Do we have both? The word Bible comes from biblion, implying plot, meaning, and purpose. Do we really want to read the Bible as only a historical work? Sadly many nonbelievers do that; do we as believers? Is it a stretch to say that the entire book has a purpose of changing us, to make us more like Him?

I then went to pray for about a half hour, focusing on how I was being changed by this, and asking God for more of it.  

They of course had a store there that I took a quick browse through before leaving, looking at some Ignatius Press books and many different Bibles. 

In summary I spent about five hours there and would say that quiet, solitude, peace, and retreat cannot be fully appreciated until they are experienced. I intend to do this on a somewhat regular basis; I was tremendously encouraged by the experience.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

2014 Missions Trip to South Africa

I just got back from a missions trip to Johannesburg, South Africa. I wanted to write about it some before too much time went by.

We left on Tuesday Jan. 14th from Los Angeles, and the first stop was in London. I had never been there before, so getting a quick view of the city via the tube was something I enjoyed. We mostly rode the Piccadilly line, winding up walking around near Westminster Abbey and Big Ben before getting back on the tube to go back to Heathrow and subsequently South Africa. It took till mid Thursday for us to get to South Africa. I need to actually go back so I can go in to the roughly 1000 year old Abbey.

When we arrived there we got picked up our missionary contact, Cheri Kommel, and some of her associates. My first peek into South African culture came on the drive out of the airport, when we discussed the post Mandela transition, and how many folks didn't have bread to eat. We made our way to the Nazarene Theological College Johannesburg campus, while also doing work at the neighboring Good News Convention Centre. The trip was a Nazarene Work and Witness trip. For the work piece of it, we went there primarily to work on technological things, such as improving the wireless LAN setup there so wifi could be used more around the campus. We used some Ubiquiti networks devices that covered the desired area nicely. We however had numerous technical challenges along the way, resulting in us not completing all of the desired work. This was my first missions trip, and from what I have heard that is a somewhat common occurrence. With another day we could have finished it up, but we got close enough that I would call the work portion of it a modest success. These challenges were shaping experiences it turned out I think we would all agree.

Of course, the real joy of this trip comes in the Christian aspect of this. Because of the above challenges, tensions were at some times high. I believe we grew as a result of them. No matter how hard you try, when you go halfway around the world to do some work like this, there will be some pieces of information that will not be communicated to you. For example, two members of the team went to Thulamahashe. We were told there wasn't wifi at the church we were going to. When the team completed the 6 hour drive to get there, replacing a flat tire on the way, they observed they had wifi, but that it didn't cover all the area that they wanted covered, and that there weren't power or LAN connections at all of the desired locations. Consequently, the work was left incomplete; we will be providing them instructions so they can finish it.

While that was going on, work was getting going at the main campus as well. We ran into hurdles because of lack of knowledge regarding their network and inability to get the hardware we needed. At times, the tension from this inability to complete things was really heavy over all of us. However, mixed in with all of this were several excellent moments of Christian ministry discussion. We spent a lot of time with Cheri, mentioned above, as well as a man named Lloyd Solomons, a pastor who is heavily involved in Nazarene Youth International in South Africa. Two members of the team rode as Lloyd made the above 6 hour each way drive, and to hear the team member's descriptions, they exchanged testimony stories along the way. The members of the team were really moved by this.

I also had excellent conversations with Lloyd, including some regarding South African youth and how when children are growing up they are thinking about what they want to be and gangster is not being considered at that point, yet due to life circumstances or sometimes poor choices, that is where some people end up. We also had excellent chats regarding other ministry topics like what should we be doing when pastors fail or members backslide.

I also spent parts of couple days at the Africa Regional Nazarene office. They needed some tech assistance and we provided that to them. The excellent conversations I had with them while working there will stick with me for awhile; they are really devoted to the service piece of Christianity. This, while not the entire Gospel, is an essential piece, and is one way to help tell if we really are new creations in Him. Jesus showed Himself to be the ultimate servant.

In the section of South Africa that we were in, it was different from the USA, but not so different that we couldn't cope. Food tasted slightly different and so did bottled drinks. The food was mostly recognizable, so that made it easier to deal with, though we did bring some food with us just incase. We ate a lot of sandwiches while we were there trying to keep it simple, eating a couple meals outside the facility as well. We did spend a couple days out on safari at Pilanesburg, having an encounter with a bull elephant that made our van's driver use reverse to keep us a safe distance away.

What I really came away with primarily was a vast difference in the everyday existence of South Africans vs. USA residents, as well as consciously examining all that I am doing now that I am back home. When I first got home, this was especially evident. I recall sitting down to watch a little TV and do some tech things the day after I got home and thought, this seems a little out of place in comparison to the last couple weeks. I was in a sense convicted when comparing these activities to those I saw while there. The Regional office time was also tremendously impactful to me; encountering technical folks who were also using their skills for His kingdom was most motivating.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Wesleyan Thoughts on the Westminster Confession of Faith

Although I primarily attend a Nazarene church, which has essentially Wesleyan theology, I often think about and/or look at other branches of Christianity, for the purpose of seeing what I can learn from them. Just because I am not a Calvinist does not mean I reject everything opined by a Calvinist. So, with that thought, here goes. I am going to examine the Westminster Confession of Faith to see what I strongly agree or disagree with.

So then, let us examine chapter 1. The first paragraph addresses the difference between general and special revelation. The heavens declare the glory of God, but that is not enough to teach us about Christ's salvific work. God has revealed Himself to us in a multitude of ways to select folks in the Old and New Testaments.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

My Gallup Strengths Finder Results

In early 2011 I purchased a Tom Rath book and took its included Gallup Strengths Finder test as seen here. I haven't really thought about the results for awhile, but they recently came to mind as a result of me re-evaluating my SHAPE, both spiritually and otherwise. For those that don't know, by SHAPE I mean the following, as heard from Rick Warren.

Spiritual Gifts

Here are my top 5 strengths. I am re-thinking what these mean for me.

People who are especially talented in the Learner theme have a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve. In particular, the process of learning, rather than the outcome, excites them.

People who are especially talented in the Connectedness theme have faith in the links between all things. They believe there are few coincidences and that almost every event has a reason.

People who are especially talented in the Input theme have a craving to know more. Often they like to collect and archive all kinds of information.

People who are especially talented in the Analytical theme search for reasons and causes. They have the ability to think about all the factors that might affect a situation.

People who are especially talented in the Intellection theme are characterized by their intellectual activity. They are introspective and appreciate intellectual discussions.

Now the question is, what do I do with these. I am re-evaluating them now.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2013 Ideas

In the past I have not proceeded with tremendous deliberateness or planning with regard to my Christian walk. I have often decided to read and study certain things based on what seemed interesting in the short term, and taken teaching opportunities that came up as a result. As a result of interaction with some Christian leaders I know, including Alan Stoddard, I have decided to put a little more planning into this.

I am not licensed or ordained in a Christian church, but I believe this is a long term goal I will pursue. Consequently, although this is not something I will achieve in 2013, other short term goals I work on from a faith perspective should I believe help with discernment and hopefully achievement of this long term goal.

In the short term, things I want to focus on include the following things.
  1. I am married, so I am by default my wife's pastor. I need to ensure her spiritual growth. We will be working on studying the Bible together. We are very different people in terms of study methodologies, so this will be a challenge for both of us. I normally use Logos with a stack of Bibles, commentaries, and somewhat academic books. We will likely be doing the chapter study method from Rick Warren's Bible study methods book.
  2. I am fairly often given what I would call substitute teaching opportunities at the church I attend. I also lead and sometimes participate in #bodylife chats on Twitter. Consequently, I need to be sure I continue to learn to be able to do that. I am fairly motivated to dig into interesting things on my own without much external prodding, so this should be pretty easy. I have been called a digger; I love a tough question. Even though there are some things about God I believe we cannot know, looking at these tough questions draws us closer to Him.
  3. Prayer is very important to me; and corporate prayer I believe is something that is sorely missing from Christian corporate worship today. I intend to do all I can to encourage that in many ways, including talking about it more on #bodylife chats, and working to lead more of it at the church I attend. I would love for believers I interact with to want to go to prayer first as opposed to waiting till we are flat on our backs, out of breath and or options.
  4. I want to do all I can to encourage people to generally talk about faith. If we disagree so be it, but let us at least have the conversation, so that we can know why we disagree, and so that we can each ponder our correctness. Let us be able to be ready to make our defense to anyone who demands from us an accounting for the hope that lives in us.
  5. I do a decent quantity of reading, studying and interacting with people regarding Christian faith. I have not recorded much of that, aside from some personal notes. I will want to record more of what is hopefully beneficial for others in this blog.

For each of the items above, I will have to continue to study to do them effectively. Additionally, when I do spiritual gift surveys, prophet, teacher, and leader are almost always the top 3, and the above items correspond with these gifts I think.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Faith Bio

When I was a child I was into music in a big way. Friends that I had back then whom I now tell that I play bass guitar are not at all surprised. From those years, the other interesting part of the story is that I was Roman Catholic, from birth until I was about 16, and was also an altar boy during much of that time. That part of my life was very influential I believe in terms of shaping my view of God. A key question I recall having back then was how God could have both no beginning and no end. I remember thinking at the time that the idea of anything without beginning or end was illogical.

After a few years of not taking faith too seriously I had a few experiences that helped bring me back to being a disciple.

My mother in law has been a Nazarene for several years. I had been to church with her a couple times in her hometown with my wife; during one of those trips she had us meet with an evangelist. When she came to visit my wife and I in California in about 2004 she asked me to find a Nazarene church for us to go to. I found one by looking online for the closest one to where we lived. After my wife, mother in law and myself went there for two Sundays, my wife and I continued to go there afterwards. When I was a child, a teenager, I had not really studied the differences between Catholic and Protestant beliefs; studying these and the worship style differences are the biggest issues I dealt with early on.

I had a coworker from 2000-2003 that did the same job as I did in a neighboring city. At one point I went to his office to meet him for a purpose I don't recall. What I do remember is getting into his car and some Christian music or talk started playing on the radio. He quickly went to turn it down, but I had already recognized it as Christian and told him to leave it on and it wasn't a big deal. We started talking Christianity and eventually worked our way to my illogical query above. We had a chat that went something like this. He asked me, you believe God made everything, right? I responded yes; I don't accept the something from nothing atheist position. He then responded with something like this; well if you believe that do you think God exists outside of space and time as we understand it? This friend is a pretty smart guy and we had already had some physics chats, and I had also studied some physics in college an an engineering student, so this wasn't a totally implausible idea to me. After additional study on the attributes of God, I really discovered this is one of the things that makes Him God. Some have argued that for God to really be omnipresent He would need to exist in many more than the usual 3 dimensions of space and one of time (x, y, z, t) that we normally think of.

While Purpose Driven Life was a very popular book, Barnes and Noble had it on display. I came across one of these displays and read some of it in the store, not realizing until I picked it up that it was a Christian book. Reading the first couple chapters in the store really struck me strongly. I suspect that this book had that impact on several people. After reading some of it I was ready to go to a different church for a weekday study of the book while continuing to attend the usual church on Sunday; several churches were doing that back then. After talking with my pastor at the time about this, I was given the opportunity to lead a group read and study of that book and really enjoyed it. This was my first Christian teaching opportunity.

I enjoy interacting with people of various faith backgrounds; I am willing to have at least an initial conversation regarding faith with pretty much anyone. This has led me to encounter people of widely varying faith backgrounds. I also over the course of my life have gotten to know many Orthodox and Messianic Jews, so this also has added to my ability to speak to folks of many backgrounds.

At this point, most of the ministry work I do takes on the form of either music ministry at the church I attend, or acting as a small group leader, either in person or online. My Twitter participation is largely focused on Christian faith talk. At the church I attend, Mount Carmel Church of the Nazarene, in Rancho Penasquitos, California, which has this website, I recently obtained a district license after having been a locally licensed minister for two years.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Thoughts on Against Calvinism by Roger E. Olson

I have read the introductory pieces and first chapter of this book so far. Here are some initial thoughts.

He is largely writing this to address the young, restless, and reformed crowd. He believes some of their thoughts regarding God's absolute control and creation of all things, including evil, is problematic. Since God cannot stand to be in the presence of sin, I would happen to agree. This is why we need Christ after all.

I have been researching the Calvinist vs. Arminian perspective for a little while now. This is not the first time that I have heard that Calvinism may not be properly summed up via the TULIP acronym. I have been thinking of reading the Canons of Dordt; I believe I will need to do that to more properly understand the keys of the Reformed faith.

When the author discusses freewill, he seems to be mentioning examples like Hitler and the Holocaust. I don't for a moment think that that horrifying sequence of events is from God.

It seems like the author so far is not clearly separating justification vs. sanctification. I believe most but likely not all would agree that there is a level of freewill involved in decisions that we make that are likely to impact sanctification, rewards, or eternal treasures in Heaven. However, what about freewill in the saving act? I await reading more of the author's opinion there.

Moving on to chapter 2, we now get to the first key. With any substantial debate, there is always the question of definition. What does it mean to be reformed? Many would argue that the TULIP acronym is the key. The author points to some older confessions as the basis including the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic and Westminster Confessions. These in addition to the above Canons of Dordt are the basis for this branch of the Christian faith according to the author.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Why I Hate Religion Videos

There is a video going viral now on Youtube regarding religion. Some portions I agreed with, and some I didn't. Several friends pointed it out to me, the first of which is a D.Min. student and former pastor of mine. A Messianic Jewish Rabbi friend asked me what I thought, so here we go. I was also reminded of this Mark Driscoll video I saw previously. Many of these thoughts really could be a chapter in a book, hmm..

Jesus is greater than religion is more or less true, depending on how you define religion. What is religion? To me I view it as a belief system based on God's special revelation to us via the Bible. I think what both of these people are objecting to is a set of rules to live by.

Did He come to abolish religion? Once again I think there is a religion definition problem here. He and many of His followers were Jews. He came to fulfill The Law.

I do realize folks who label themselves as Conservative Christians sometimes do both groups a disservice. If we spout beliefs with hostility or angst, that is incorrect. We are called to be His ambassadors; we need to do that.

We all have planks in our eyes, sins and problems that we struggle with; we need to not be looking down our noses at others.

Religions have started wars because people have taken the task of conversion entirely too far. I would say that people who call themselves Christians that have done this are not adhering to the teachings of Christ, and might need to question their faith. That is God's job, not mine.

Why does religion build huge churches? Especially since I am an Ex-Catholic, I will confess this is a tougher question. In part I would say folks have obeyed the idea of giving greatly to God for the sake of an excellent location for a worship service. They likely missed out on what we would call a Christ centered life in today's language, being too focused on the facility and Sunday service. By now I am hearing the Organic/Missional/Frank Viola/Brian McLaren message pretty clearly in this video.

Why are the poor not being fed? They are by some community organizations, at least here in San Diego, though hunger is still a problem. There is a relevant Bible story about helping the poor or disadvantaged. We should contemplate this story and the poor.

We can't be looking down at the single Moms. I grew up in a household like that; those Moms are putting in serious work. They may or may not have have sinned to get in that situation. We don't know all the facts. I think all we should do is present God's Word to them in a kind way and let God work on them.

Regarding the way we act when we are believers, I think we would all agree there are always some things we don't want the world to know, that only our closest friends should. If we get to a point where we are taking the false facade too far, we can wind up like the Pharisees. Are our hearts circumcised as we see in Romans 2? Our lives should be visibly different as believers. I would personally hope that as we grow closer to God we would sin less, though I know perfection in a sinless sense is only attainable by God.

God has done great things with people who have sinned in very big ways. Repent and believe is the basis of the Gospel; we need to do that. Once we realize what He has done and can do for us eternally, we should be overflowing with joy.

Christ did come for the sick, we need to be sure to not exclude them from our assemblies of believers if they are moved by God to investigate and perhaps come closer to Christ.

Once we realize it is all from Him our faith is from Him and not our actions, that is a very freeing experience.
We need to be careful of disregarding rules; there are some things we are told to do or not do in The Bible. If you aren't sure, research it or ask around among your believing friends. Once again I think there is the issue of what kind of ambassador are we being. Sanctification and rewards also come into play here. Do we want treasures in heaven?

I suspect the video is right, that many of us would not let Jesus in, or we would at least look down at Him tremendously, if he showed up with 1st Century appearance and odor? He is also very right regarding Jesus not supporting self righteousness. Once again, modifying our focus off of ourselves and onto Him is what we should do, and this really should be a pretty fundamental Christian teaching.

While religion is a man-made system, assuming we have proper Biblical texts to go by, this man-made system should be based on God given ideas. Do we screw up, absolutely. Repent.

Religion is an infection if you miss out on the self righteousness lesson above, and become too much about either the system or the institution, and not enough about Him.

Slave is a word with substantial negative connotation in the USA. However, we were bought at a price. The Greek word doulos is best translated as slave; we often see servant instead because of these negative connotations.

Jesus does make us see; He is the light as John 1 so clearly states to us. Does a religious institution make us blind to Him. I would argue that may or may not be true depending on the group you assemble with.

I believe that both God searching for man AND man searching for God can occur. Ideally, as we grow in faith, we continue to search to know more and more of His truth. The last 50 seconds or so is excellent, until the very end when hatred for religion is repeated.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

BelieverTalk faith chat with a friend

     I have a friend Kevin who I met several years ago in college. We have tried over the years to keep in touch, sometimes doing a better job of it than others. We have met up a few times over the last year and our discussions regarding Christian faith have been good. Generally, he is left of center and I am off to the right. After meeting and talking a few times, Kevin had the idea of recording some discussions. I don't want to speak for him, but my hope is that we encourage discussion among the faithful.

     With all of that said, here is a link to the show.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Lent for a former Roman Catholic who is now Protestant

     For many Protestants, Lent is something that is associated with Catholicism. As a former member of the Roman Catholic faith, this has been something that I have spent some time thinking about. Most Protestants  wouldn't consider going to an Ash Wednesday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, or Stations of the Cross service; I believe that is to our detriment. I believe it should be that these events are all celebrated in a looking forward to resurrection kind of way. These other days paint a more complete picture for us of what the Lenten Season should mean, as we hopefully prepare ourselves spiritually for celebration of Christ's overcoming spiritual death.

     I am interested if any of you have made commitments to give anything up for Lent, or make changes in another way, and if so how is that going for you?  For me, I got a nudge to listen to The Bible audio style in my car. As I have listened to this over the last couple weeks, I believe it definitely has brought me closer to Him. Hearing Pilate and his wife and their thoughts as recorded in the Gospels, or the people asking for the release of Barabbas stood out to me the most this time around. "The people said His blood shall be on us and on our children!" is an absolutely horrifying statement.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Impact of Online Friends

I sometimes wonder about the effectiveness of online ministry, the impact of online friends who we never meet in person. I recently had an experience with this I feel compelled to share at this point.

A few years back, while cruising through MySpace, I discovered that it was used for a lot more than merely meeting people and as a path for musicians to increase their fan base. I saw there were Christians there who were blogging, participating in forums, and generally trying to discuss faith with others.  Pretty early on after finding this out, I met someone named Amy.  Initially we just exchanged faith posts and small talk; I discovered pretty quickly she was much more Reformed than I:) A few things about her stand out to me. I am a former Catholic, so that was perhaps part of it.

She was staunchly pro-life; I recall seeing her affiliated with the people who put red tape across their mouths, writing LIFE in large letters along the tape. She was always involved in prayerful demonstrations at abortion clinics. As I got to know her better and started to realize the difficulties presented to her, this was even more impressive.

I recall at least one year where during Lent she would abstain from all social networking. Once again, as an ex Catholic, this was really food for contemplation for me. Do we need to perform a Lenten fast from something that is important to us? I would argue no. However, if that allows you to become closer to God as a result, by all means, go right ahead.

I recall also a time where she posted online, looking for a large print King James Bible with a soft cover for someone she knew in a jail or prison.  I happened to have just such a Bible that wasn't getting much use, so I offered to send it to an address she gave me.

This girl was radically obedient to God; she really was an example in that way. I believe there are many others out there like myself that she inspired. Almost 2 months ago, I happened to see on Facebook the day that it happened that she had passed. I was bummed; I did not know that she was THAT ill. The thought I have regarding this whole thing is this. When you meet people online, although this is usually not as good as an in person relationship, do not underestimate the impact you may have. It may be an inconsequential exchange of pleasantries, or it may also be something leading to an inmate coming closer to God. We do not know His plans, only He does.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Thoughts on church

Regarding what some people believe is wrong with the Christian Church, here are a few thoughts I have had or things I have observed.

We have gotten too into the show, the emotional intensity, the what can church do for me mindset. We have forgotten what Lordship means, the importance of real exegetical teaching, and the real reason we should be there, to worship.

I believe we are all sinners. Those of us who are truly saved, because of our changed hearts, will be less likely to sin, but I do not believe it ever goes away in totality. Now then, what is the impact of this? Those who are in church leadership positions are not exempt from the above. So, when a church leader screws up, what are the consequences? At the minimum, he or she will be less credible, less likely to be followed. Leaders should be and often are held to a higher standard according to 1st Timothy, but they are not perfect. We are all ambassadors for Him; I am reminded of a DC Talk song where it talks in an opening monologue about us affirming our faith with our lips but denying it with our lifestyle.

There is also another trend that is occurring now that is not new; people are moving in an attempt to return to what they perceive as the 1st century church. Some who are opposed to organizational structure, in churches or otherwise, are drawn to this movement by this perceived lack of organization. There are risks however, to me these exist primarily in the realm of lack of accountability. Even if there are no pastors in this methodology, leaders will still emerge, they always do. What is to prevent these leaders from teaching false doctrines, as we see so often mentioned in New Testament letters. For me, the risk of a cult type group emerging is worth mentioning. Additionally, to go too far down this road is to risk discrediting the Biblical mentions of the gifts of shepherding and teaching.

Some of us see verses about breaking bread house to house and think that was their worship, without noticing or thinking about the Hebrews 10 and Colossians 3 ordered assemblies in synagogues. We are told to assemble, to teach, to admonish, to sing, and to encourage one another, among other things. Are we doing that? We need to seriously ask what our assemblies are about. If the experienced believers amongst us are going to help the milk drinkers become meat eaters, we really need to look at that. A new believer needs different teaching than an experienced believer.  This can happen in a couple different ways.  The experienced believer, if they have the teaching gift, can and should teach the new believer.

Regarding our roles in church, I really believe a change of mindset is necessary.  We cannot continue to act in a way that is self-serving as opposed to focused on God.  We in the USA are far too comfortable with church hopping, treating it like a consumer experience.  I don't think people should leave a church for many reasons; perhaps the most valid is preaching that is not Biblically correct.  Aside from that, if a church needs work, those with the proper gifts in the congregation should be stepping up to have at it.

Atheism is also an area where those that have that religious belief are more vocal than before. If you just stopped in disbelief at the apparent contradiction in the previous sentence, read on please. I would argue that, although atheism is by definition lack of belief in a God, it is a religion. There is a something from nothing creation story that requires much more faith than intelligent design.  The idea of entropy, which is an order becomes disorder line of thinking, is counter to those who believe in biological evolution.

I will stop there to limit length for now.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Am I a Believer or Disciple

I recently had a chat with a pastor regarding the above, specifically the difference between being a Christian believer and being a disciple of Christ. What I learned from that and from listening to some recorded sermons on this has been enlightening. To become a saved member of the Christian church simply requires belief in Christ. Now this belief is more than head knowledge; the demons know Christ is the Son of God. So then, what does saving faith look like, and what is the difference between that and being a disciple? This will take time to cover completely, so I likely will address it in pieces. This is important to consider because it seems to me that some of my Christian brethren are rejecting the idea that someone can be saved if they still have sin in their lives. For me, I assumed that all should desire to become disciples of Christ, making sacrifices along the way throughout our lives while seeking to grow more close to Christ. Sadly, this is not always the case. In the past, I have always interpreted the believe phrase in John 3:16 to include follow. I now realize that for some, that does not enter into the picture.