Well, apparently someone let him into the eggnog too early. I found the following video of him online:
A month or so ago I was checking the various job boards online and came across a listing that I knew my wife would love.
"Kari, where is the last place on earth you would ever want to live?" I asked her.
Her first answer was Alaska. I guess you have to know my cold-blooded and highly-connected wife to understand that answer. She's not interested in being too far away from Mama, and he's not interested in being cold.
So I pressed farther. "Besides Alaska, where is the last place you'd ever want to live?"
She didn't miss a beat, and said exactly what I expected she would say.
"El Reno, Oklahoma."
That's where she grew up. She's not interested in going back except to visit. I guess they're right - you can't go back home.
So she turned the question on me. "Where's the last place you would ever want to live?"
Mine was easy: Norman, Oklahoma, and for less noble reasons than hers. I'm just not a big fan of a particular college sports team that calls Norman its home. They're our arch rivals. I was taught as a child never to say the word "Sooner," and spent my formative years honestly thinking "Sooner" was the "S-word."
So I laughed today when I sent a resume to a church with an opening in... you guessed it... Norman, Oklahoma.
It was a novelty send, really. I'm not very qualified for the job they're seeking to hire, and probably won't get past the first cycle of passing around the resume. But it's a church where some exciting things seem to be happening.
Immediately after I sent the resume, I received a reply from their executive pastor. It read (in part):
"We are really excited to hear from you...I plan to send you and several others anapplication by e-mail tomorrow morning. We also plan to pray specificallyfor you and God's direction in this matter. Have a great day!"
Now as much as it pains me to admit that anything good could come from Norman (:)), I have to applaud this church for its professionalism.
They may never read my resume again. They may be secretly laughing that anyone from Stillwater would dare apply for a position there. But their response was quick, encouraging, and let me know what the next step in our "relationship" was.
Not too shabby... for a church near the home of Zero-U.
Dallas Seminary has a few of the groups of people you would expect to see on the campus of a theologically conservative evangelical seminary. The "Hebrew Junkies," and "Greek Junkies" can be spotted pretty easily. They usually have a fist full of vocabulary flash cards, a pocket protector with various colored pens to help them color code their translations, and are loaded down with two or three dictionaries that they never seem to put down.
The "Missions Freaks" are a little harder to spot. Your best bet to spot them is in the parking lot, as they get out of their car that is emblazoned with "Every Tribe, Tongue, and Nation or BUST" bumper stickers. On occasion, you get the random white guy walking around campus in a native African robe... that's a dead giveaway.
My favorite group of people on campus are the "Grass Hippies." (I named them myself) These are the seminary flower children of the twenty-first century. They congregate in the grass in front of the library on almost every occasion.
The seminary has a dress code that seems to fly in the face of the Grass Hippie mojo. You won't find these guys wearing their business-casual attire on campus - not if it interferes with flip-flops and jeans. They seem to buck all the authority of the school, insisting it's legalistic.
The other day, I heard one of them griping about the school's "no-alcohol" policy. It's designed to preserve the reputation of the seminary. This guy was bragging that he drinks a beer every week just in spite.
Today, the temperature has dropped in Dallas. When I drove home from campus, it was 29 degrees. The freezing rain is pelting the campus. But when I walked out of the library to go home, there were two Grass Hippies sitting on the grass, a blanket spread on the ground, and an umbrella protecting them from rain. Flip flops, blue jeans, and a winter parka that must have been imported from Siberia.
The statement they make is pretty obvious. "We're going to do what we want to do when we want to do it because we can."
Never mind that these are the people who will be leading churches in the near future. These are the people who are the product of the church of the past twenty years - the product of a church who consistently put rules ahead of relationship. Don't smoke - you'll go to hell. God won't love you if you have sex before marriage. Show up to church on Sunday nights, Wednesday nights, Sunday mornings, and for Monday night visitation. If you don't, God won't love you as much as those who do.
We've prescribed right behaviors using the wrong motivation. As a result we've taught our kids to distrust any rules or guidelines we present because we've abused them so poorly in the past.
I spent my first couple of years despising the Grass Hippies because they are so overt in their challenge to the guidelines the seminary has put in place. Now, I just feel sorry for them. They feel as though the only way to challenge rules they don't agree with is to obey them just to the point that they won't get kicked out. Where will that attitude land them in five or ten years? Furthermore, how will it change the landscape of the church when these guys start leading their own congregations?
I guess we'll see. But I'm not liking the looks of it.
Church members said they feel their generosity was abused by scam artists. They are no longer even sure that the couple were left homeless by Katrina or that they were a couple at all."They came in humble like they really needed a new start, and our hearts went out to them," said Jean Phillips, a real estate agent and member of the Temple of Deliverance Church of God in Christ. "They actually begged for the home."
The church was also shocked by an ungrateful interview the couple gave with WHBQ-TV in Memphis."I really don't like this area," said Delores Thompson. "I really didn't, and I didn't know anybody, so that's why I didn't move in and I sold it."Thompson, reached at a New Orleans phone number by The Associated Press on Tuesday, thanked the church for its generosity but said she saw nothing wrong in selling the three-bedroom, two-bath house."Do I have any legal problems? What do you mean? The house was given to me," she said. "I have the paperwork and everything."She refused further comment and hung up.
The church had decided that it would do something special for one Katrina-displaced family, in addition to its other efforts to help evacuees. The church set up a committee to find the right family and conducted several dozen interviews.Delores Thompson, who did most of the talking for her family, told the committee that she had lost her job as a nurse and that her husband had lost an import-export business in New Orleans, committee member Joy Covington said.The committee also heard how the family had lost its home and most of its possessions and how the children, a 14-year-old girl and 16-year-old boy, were eager to get back in school.
The family said it wanted to resettle in Memphis.After the church settled on Thompson, real estate agent Phillips helped her pick out the house she wanted, and it was bought in Thompson's name. She took possession in February and sold it in September. Property transfer records for the resale list her as unmarried; the papers from the original sale list her as married."I feel like it was a sham or a ripoff," Covington said.
The church hasn't discussed legal action, but the members are upset because the house could have gone to a more needy family, Covington said.
Thompson claimed she and her family were living in an apartment supplied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but did not invite Phillips over during the house search."She didn't want me coming over there," Phillips said. "She'd say, `I'll meet you.'"Covington's husband, Edward, said the family had been listed by FEMA as displaced. But he said the church took Thompson's word for it that their house was destroyed.
I love Psalm 136 because it is one of the Old Testament Psalms that was sung by the Israelites to remind themselves of God's work in their lives. This song imparticular reminded them of who God is, what God has made, what God has done, and what God has given.
I'm particularly fascinated by the middle of the Psalm that describes the salvation history of Israel. The Psalmist reminds the Israelites of God's salvation from the hands of the Egyptians following the Passover. Then he reminds them of their salvation across the Red Sea. Following that, he reminds them of their salvation during their time in the desert. All those times were magnificent times of God's salvation in Israel's life for which the Psalmist reminds them that they should "Give thanks" (v. 1).
The Israelites were thankful to escape from the hands of the Egyptians... for about thirty minutes. Then, if you remember, they began to gripe to Moses, asking "weren't there enough graves in Egypt? Have you brought us out here so we will die in the desert?" Then the Lord provided a way across the Red Sea by parting the water, and the Israelites were thankful... for a few hours. Then they began to get hungry and began to complain. So God gave them Wonder Bread from heaven to eat along with quail that He provided, and they were thankful... for a few weeks until they got tired of quail and manna casserole and wanted some water to go with it.
Israel had a history of seeing God show up in their lives and soon forgetting all about it. And the Psalmist points out that their griping was a poor reflection on God's character. What God has done is a reflection of who He is. But sometimes we need a reminder.
This Thanksgiving, as you go around the table and share all the things you're thankful for, remember that Thanksgiving is about more than just what God has done in our lives - it's about who He is.
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever.
Perhaps the only good that came out of that spat for me was that it caused me to hone in on exactly what I believe should be essential for membership within a local church, and exactly what the Scriptures say about the purpose for baptism.
As a part of that thinking, I've been looking through the Scriptures at the various references to baptism, and have come up with a question: What exactly is baptism supposed to picture?
The answer I gave for many years was that baptism pictures the death and resurrection of Christ. This is the traditional stance of the Baptist church and of most of the Bible churches with whom I'm familiar. This view is based first on the fact that it makes sense to us. Water baptism (by immersion) is a good picture of someone dying, being placed in the ground, and rising out of the grave. Secondly, the view that water baptism is a picture of Christ's death and resurrection is based on the fact that Romans 6 describes baptism along with the death and resurrection of Christ.
However, I'm not sure this was what the first church would have had in mind when they were dunked. The picture of death and resurrection might be clear to us today, but would it have been as clear to a person in the first century? Jesus was buried in a cave, not in a hole in the ground. The burial practices for most people in ancient Israel was not anything like what we picture today. As a result, I'm not sure that the image would have been quite as potent to a first century Christian as it is to us today.
With regard to Romans 6, I think we ought to reexamine the passage. Romans 6:3-4 says
"Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life" (6:3-4).
If Romans 6 is talking about water baptism, we need to reexamine our theology of salvation. Because if Romans 6 is talking about water baptism, the only way to "live a new life" is to be water baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus. This passage isn't talking about water baptism at all. In fact, as my father-in-law has said, "Romans 6 doesn't hold any water. There's no water in Romans 6."
Furthermore, people were water baptized long before the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. What did that baptism picture? Add to that that Jesus was baptized. Was Jesus identifying Himself with His own death and resurrection? That seems like a little bit of a stretch.
I've thought of a couple of possibilities for what baptism might picture other than the death and resurrection of Christ. First, it could be a picture of cleansing. This would have been clear to the first century Christians - most of Jewish origin - who might have seen it as a reference to the priest's ceremonial bathing to demonstrate his cleanliness before God.
It might also be possible that baptism was just supposed to demonstrate a person's identification with Christ. You might know that the Greek word "baptizo" literally meant "to dip." A person who worked with cloth might "baptize" her cloth in die so that a white piece of cloth would be identified as blue. Maybe baptism was simply intended to demonstrate identification in the sense that we're identifying ourselves with Christ Himself and nothing more.
I'm not sure I know the answer. What I do know is that baptism is commanded of Christ-followers. I do know that it seems to be important to Jesus (Matthew 28:18) and to the apostles who began the early church.
So I'm opening up the table for you. What do you think? What's the picture intended by baptism?
It seems you can't go very far in today's Christian circles before you're asked your opinion on the topic of homosexuality. Homosexuality has become the "abortion of the 90s." But it's a much different issue than abortion, and than almost any other moral issue the Church has had to answer in the past several centuries. It's certainly not my intent to give a complete solution to the discussion, but I do have some random thoughts about the issue that I don't hear a lot.
1. Before we can address the question of homosexuality in the church, we have to first understand that from a gay person's perspective, the issue is of identity, not behavior. Before we can talk about behavior, we have to address identity.
2. No one has ever gone to hell for being gay.
3. Attraction is completely different than action. It is one thing to be attracted to something and something completely different to act on that attraction.
4. Simple attraction is a moral neutral. People are attracted to people and things all the time, both for good and for bad.
5. Most gay people I know tell me they would not choose same-sex attraction if they got their choice.
6. Genetic predisposition does not condone a behavior in God's eyes. We're all predisposed to do things God doesn't condone.
7. You cannot hope to have an intelligent discussion without a discussion that assumes both sides' unintelligence about the other side.
8. "God Hates Fags" is not a Christian apologetic.
9. Sex outside of a God-ordained marriage will always be sex outside of a God-ordained marriage.
10. I'm a hypocrite if I enter a discussion about someone else's sin issue without making a regular honest attempt to deal with my own.
Prominent evangelical Ted Haggard's murky admissions of sin following allegations of an affair with a male prostitute have reignited a volatile argument over the roots of homosexuality - a debate where religion, politics and science collide.
Haggard, who has said he isn't gay, was fired this month from New Life Church in Colorado Springs and now faces what church officials call a "restoration process" that will include a clinical exploration of his sexuality.
Details of that process remain vague. But evangelical leaders who will shepherd Haggard through his ordeal do so amid questions about how evangelicals balance emerging research and their religious beliefs.
Although the nature versus nurture debate - biology versus psycho-social factors - has simmered for years, most recent research has pointed toward sexual orientation being hard-wired into humans, at least to some degree, said Anthony Bogaert, a psychology professor at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, who studies sexual orientation development.
That finding holds for men more than women, who may be more "flexible" in developing sexual orientation, he added.
"The pendulum is probably pushed at least a little toward the biological end of things," Bogaert said. "Certainly some argue that psycho-social processes play a role. But for guys, it looks as if it's determined very early in life, and that determination is probably influenced strongly by biology."
Americans have gradually changed their thinking on the origins of sexual orientation over the past 30 years.
Steve Smith, 43, of Denver once enrolled in Exodus International to try to overcome his attraction to men. Initially consumed by guilt because of his fundamentalist Christian background, Smith said he eventually rejected the idea that he could change and accepted who he really is. (Post / RJ Sangosti)a 1977 Gallup poll, only 13 percent thought people were "born with" homosexuality, while 56 percent attributed it to "upbringing or environment."
Those numbers shifted in opposite directions until this year, for the first time, the "born with" responses surpassed "upbringing" 42 percent to 37 percent.
Eleven percent think it's a little of both - a figure that hasn't changed much over the decades.
Alan Chambers, president of Orlando-based Exodus International, which advocates "freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ," describes more accepting attitudes in his movement toward the role genetics may play.
Exodus' stance is that homosexuality is "multicausal," Chambers said. One side of the debate is guilty of saying it's only genetics, and the other side is guilty of saying homosexuality can "go away" with prayer and reading the Bible, he said. Chambers said biological and developmental factors play a role.
"Whatever the root cause, people make a choice," Chambers said. "Not about their feelings, but about what they do with those feelings based on convictions and not on science."
Steve Smith, a 43-year-old Denver massage therapist, said he first experienced same-sex attractions shortly after puberty, acted on them in college and - owing to his fundamentalist Christian background - felt overwhelmed by guilt.
Soon afterward, Smith enrolled in an Exodus International program with other young adult men who lived in a nondescript house near San Antonio.
People who feel same-sex attractions lacked healthy relationships as children, Smith said he was told, so living together like a family for a year would create nonsexual bonds and "delete" their homosexual thoughts.
Although the program "offered a lot of camaraderie and connection," he said he came to reject its premise.
Ultimately, Smith said he found clarity about his identity lying alone in bed at night.
"You know who you really are in those quiet moments," Smith said. "I knew then that nothing had changed in me fundamentally except my behavior."
Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family also has championed the belief that gays can change. The ministry has staged one-day "Love Won Out" conferences nationwide, often accompanied by protest and publicity. Ministry officials declined interview requests for this story.
Joseph Nicolosi, president of the National Association of Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), coined the phrase "reparative therapy," a controversial treatment that claims to help people change their sexual orientation.
NARTH holds that biological, psychological and social factors shape sexual identity at an early age for most people - but it places greater emphasis on family, peer and social influences. The group doesn't see homosexuality as "normal and a part of human design" or unchangeable.
Robert Spitzer, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, conducted a study often cited by NARTH as evidence that gays and lesbians can change. But he bristles at how reparative therapy proponents gloss over his further determination that in the general population, such change is rare.
"The Christian right never mentions that conclusion," he said. "I find their whole agenda obnoxious. They want to humiliate gays and deprive them of civil rights."
"Therapy" draws fire
Major professional groups decades ago rejected the concept of homosexuality as a "mental disorder" - that change dates back to 1973 - and have more recently published their opposition to reparative therapy.
The American Psychological Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics all have issued statements recognizing concern for the harm such treatment can cause patients.
Jack Drescher, a New York psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who holds "counter-conferences" to the "Love Won Out" gatherings, disagrees with the notion that there's no harm in trying to change sexual orientation.
He echoes many researchers who say there are no solid, peer-reviewed studies showing reparative therapy works and no accepted standards of practice.
"They're not invited to give lectures in medical schools, they're just marketing these ideas to the public," Drescher said. "They like to create in the public's mind the false impression that there's a controversy you need to know about."
Not that there isn't lively discussion exploring the origins of sexual orientation.
For example, Cornell University psychology professor Daryl Bem's "Exotic Becomes Erotic" hypothesis melds nature and nurture. He embraces research showing a genetic element at work but submits that genes simply code for "temperament" that can lead a child to be either gender- conforming - as in boys acting like boys - or nonconforming.
For the nonconforming boy who identifies more closely with girls, other boys become the "exotic." And as that boy moves into adolescence, the exotic becomes erotic - and the object of sexual desire.
Reparative therapy proponents have cited Bem's work to support their own - something Bem challenges as a politically driven agenda.
"I don't think my theory, even though there's room for experiences, gives any strategy for changing a gay child to a straight child," he said.
At the same time, he notes that politics tinges all sides of the scientific debate. "People start with attitudes," he said, "and then figure which theory they like."
Open to change
Warren Throckmorton, psychology professor at Grove City College in western Pennsylvania, disagrees with some of the tenets of reparative therapy. But while he firmly asserts that he's not a reparative therapist, he doesn't discount those who claim to have been transformed.
"For people of the evangelical persuasion, they believe that the core of their being is about their relationship with God," Throckmorton said. "If they're truly being who they are, for them that means bringing their sexual feelings into alignment with their religious beliefs."
And that, he added, could be the next step for Haggard.
"It appears he's struggled with his feelings secretively," Throckmorton said. "And now he has the opportunity, if he can be completely candid with some counselor or adviser, to sort out how he wants to live and what boundaries to place in his life."
But some in the gay community worry about repercussions of the Haggard scandal.
"I am concerned he will go through this restoration process and come out the other end a confirmed heterosexual and become a poster child for the illegitimate process of reparative therapy," said Michael Brewer, public policy director for the Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Community Center of Colorado.
From its Denver offices, the Christian ministry Where Grace Abounds offers support groups, counseling and other resources for people struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction.
Director Mary Heathman, poring over Haggard's two-page apology read at New Life Church last week, was struck by one thing in particular. Haggard wrote about seeking assistance "in a variety of ways" to his struggles, with none working. Then he admitted that when he stopped communicating about it, the "darkness" increased.
"That's the key point right there," she said. "Transparency for any problem is the beginning of the solution. As (Alcoholics Anonymous) says, we are only as sick as our secrets."
Early in the book, Patterson writes of his own experience, "One year I didn't want to go back to work after my vacation. I was burdened with the problems of the church and depressed over struggles in my family. But I gritted my teeth, pointed the car toward home and went back grimly determined to be obedient to God and do my job. This attitude continued for two weeks. Then one night in a prayer meeting the Lord spoke to me. The words were harsh, but the tone was tender. He said, "I don't need this from you, Ben. If you can't serve me joyfully, don't call it service. You dishonor me with your ingratitude. Change your attitude or get another job."
Right now, I'm overseeing a new opportunity at Fellowship in which each person at the church will be encouraged to read through the New Testament in a year. In addition to reading one chapter from the New Testament, we've invited almost 300 of our leaders to write a short devotional over one of those chapters. So, five days a week, each member will be encouraged to read a chapter from the New Testament as well as a devotional written by someone else in the church body. It's an exciting time.
As I began receiving responses from the leaders we invited to write, the contrast between responses was amazing. For some, the opportunity to serve was met with joy. They were excited about the opportunity to be used, and ecstatic about how God might use this opportunity to bring the church together for something incredible.
Others responded positively, but with the excitement of someone who had just been asked to scrub the public toilets before summer camp. "Yeah, I'll serve... if you can't find someone else."
I wonder how many of us cop that same "if you're going to twist my arm" mentality with God on a regular basis. How many of us enter our own ministries every day because we feel like we have to?
What would happen if we all realized that God could find someone else to do what He has called us to do? He could find someone else and equip them to do the job "better" than we could do it. But He didn't. He chose us. We get to serve the Creator of the universe. We should serve with gratitude and joy, or as Patterson said, get a different gig altogether.
Bachlorette parties and bridal showers are so lame. Shanna Moakler threw herself a big, fat divorce party in the über-chic nightclub, Light, at the Bellagio in Las Vegas this weekend.
“I’ve been to past friends’ divorce parties so I’m not the first person [to have one],” Moakler told People magazine. “I’m not groundbreaking or anything. I’m really doing it for myself to have closure and celebrate being single again and start a new chapter in my life.”
In celebrating the split from her “Meet the Barkers” co-star/husband Travis Barker (who hooked up with Paris Hilton, who then got clocked in the face by Moakler), Moakler did shots with her girlfriends and had a specially made divorce cake featuring a knife-wielding bride figurine on top, with a trail of blood leading to a groom sprawled at the bottom. Yummy!
“I don’t have any regrets about doing it. I am who I am and I make my own decisions. I totally respect people’s opinions. I never thought I would be getting a divorce. I never thought I’d be here,” the “Dancing with the Stars” reject said. “At the end of the day, this isn’t the worst thing in my life. People go through it every day. I respect people’s opinions, but this is my opinion. This is how I’m showing the world that divorce is OK. It doesn’t have to be the end of your life.”
Hey, a divorce party beats a pity party any day
I've been on both sides of the hiring process. Twice I've been the person preparing and mailing out resumes to prospective ministries. Twice I've been the person reviewing resumes in hopes of hiring a person to fill a ministry vacancy. Both sides are tough, and both sides demand a realization that no matter which side of the hiring process you're on, Christian decency demands a ministry-oriented and sensitive heart.
You see, candidating for churches is a lot like dating. You want to find a place where you're compatible or a candidate that will be compatible with your ministry - and doing so means an element of vulnerability. That vulnerability starts with the resume. Sending a resume is like asking a girl out. The chances are, you've looked over the profile, like what you see, and think there's at least a chance that the two of you could be compatible.
You would be amazed at the cover letters and resumes I've received from well-educated men who look like they put together their resume in five minutes, and spilled their breakfast on it on the way to the post office. The resume is your first and only opportunity to make a good impression with a church. God created spell-check for a reason.
From the other perspective, you'd be amazed at how many times I've sent carefully prepared cover letters and resumes to churches to be completely blown off. In fact, the majority of guys I talk to who have applied for ministry positions report similar results to mine - for every ten resumes you send out, you can expect that you will hear precisely nothing from eight of those churches. That's pretty sad. At least when I was in college and was turned down for a date, most girls had the decency to tell me so.
In contrast, I received the nicest note from a search committee the other day. It was hand written on church stationary and said, "Thanks for taking the time to apply to be our next senior pastor. We will be accepting resumes until November 5th, after which you can expect communication from us either way. Please continue to pray for us as we seek God's man for this church." I sincerely hope something works out there, because that's the kind of ministry I want to be a part of.
They say that breaking up is hard to do. They're right. When you have to face the music that a church doesn't think you're a good fit for the opportunity you've built up in your mind, it's hard. It's particularly hard when that news comes as a form letter that doesn't even have your name spelled correctly. Or, when the letter only says "Dear Mr. Freeland, We have decided to seek other candidates in our search for a senior pastor. Sincerely, Pastor Search committee." When I was in high school, I had a girl break up with me on my answering machine. She had more tact than some of the letters churches send out to candidates who are not good fits for their ministry.
I received a "break up letter" a few years ago from a church that read, "Dear Mr. Freeland, We have reviewed your resume and prayerfully decided that your level of experience is not a good fit for the position we are seeking to fill. Please know that our search committee prayed for you by name tonight and asked that God would provide you with a position that will be an excellent mutual fit. Thank you for your interest in ______ Church." They let me down easily, told me the grounds for their decision, and did it in an extremely edifying way. Much better than "I think we should see other people."
Search Committees are filled with busy people - people who give up hours out of their week to filter through resumes, contact candidates, and discuss the future of the church, all while trying to stay above water at their "real jobs," and spending time with their families. It's hard to take the time to do the little things, like ensuring that every applicant receives some sort of communication from the church. But the small touches can make the difference between encouraging a candidate in his ministry - even if you don't want to hire him - and discouraging him more than you can imagine.
Similarly, applicants are busy people. Most of them are involved in trying to finish strong where they're currently serving, and are helping families through times of transition. But that's no excuse to demonstrate anything less than excellence and professionalism from your side. If you can't handle stress with professionalism and grace now, why would anyone think you'll be able to when you arrive at a new ministry?
Like I said earlier, finding the right fit for a ministry is a lot like dating. And in both cases, if both sides did a better job at it, perhaps the divorce rate would be much different.
PS - Happy Birthday to my wife. When the dating process works, it works, and I got a good one.
It turns out John MacArthur isn't quite as prim and proper as most of us would like to think. In an attempt to show that he's hip with today's generation, he's recorded a rap.
You can hear it here.
I could be wrong, but I think the scratching and bebopping comes from none other than Mr. Pyromaniac himself. He's probably doing all the percussion with his mouth.
(HT: Monday Morning Insight)
As I got out of my car, he met me in the parking lot. I had my ultra-thin NIV in hand (I try not to bring out my fat NASB around people who don't know me very well... it freaks them out), and he told me, "Oh, you won't need that."
"If (emphasis mine) we talk about the Bible they'll put it on the screen."
This particular Sunday, the subject of the pastor's sermon was "Would Jesus Use MySpace?"
I should have guessed from our encounter in the parking lot.
Now, there's not a very good way to bring this kind of thing up with your friend - particularly when your friend is a newer believer who lives in a different city, and who is really excited about the new church he's going to because it "meets my needs."
So at lunch, I casually mentioned something about how different his church was from mine, and how fun it was for me to get to see where he was attending. "Different?" he said, "How?"
"Well, the church I go to talks about the Bible a lot. In fact, we believe that if this God is as great as we say He is, we probably ought to tell people what He says."
"Oh yeah," he replied. "Well, our church just really focuses on being culturally relevant."
That just kills me. "Would Jesus Use Myspace" is not cultural relevance. In fact, it's about as far away from being truly relevant as possible.
Somewhere along the way we've decided that "cultural relevance" means talking about "cultural things." It doesn't. Cultural relevance means taking the things that are timeless, and talking about them in a way that today's culture can understand, relate to, and apply.
The church needs to take a message that is relevant, and show a fallen culture how it applies to them. Instead, a lot of churches are using the platform of the church as a rant on cultural issues in the name of cultural relevance. As a result, they're prostituting the platform and using it to say things that aren't timeless, don't meet the real needs of the culture, and thus aren't important or relevant at all.
I've always been fascinated by people who dreamed big dreams. Some of my favorite books are the biographies of men and women from various points in history who moved forward with dreams that nobody else thought were possible. Those are my kind of people - the ones who dreamed big, and who had the courage to put feet on their dreams. I want to be like those people...
One of the buzz words today is the word "vision." People who dream big dreams and put feet on those dreams are called "visionaries."
But I think that "vision" is something of a misnomer for what these people do. "Vision" implies someone who can see into the future. We get the idea that "visionary" people have an ability to forecast everything that would happen in the world, and to create ideas that would be on the cutting edge of those events - modern-day prophets, who can see the unforseeable and act accordingly.
As I study the great "visionaries" of today and of history, I find that these people are most often not people who have a clear picture of the future in their mind. Instead, I find that the majority of the people we call "visionaries" are more astute in history and current-events than the future. Rather than attempting to guess what a culture will look like in fifty years, they concentrate on the things that never change and plan to adapt.
I'm not even going to try to tell you what the culture will look like when I've been a pastor for fifty years. But what I can tell you is that in fifty years, the gospel will be the only hope of the world. In fifty years, people will still be hurting, and will still have a desperate need for meaningful community. In fifty years there will still be a struggle between sin and grace, and believers will still need to be challenged to live in accordance with their identity in Christ.
Some things never change. And my forecast of the future is this: the ones who will hold the keys to the future are the ones who understand the timeless truths of the past and plan to adapt their language and methods accordingly.
Apparently a young lady, Ms. Freda Brown, was employed as a preschool teacher at First Baptist Dallas. Employed, that is, until she got pregnant outside of marriage.
At that point, the human resource director at First Baptist met with her and told her that premarital sex was not in keeping with the standards expected of employees at First Baptist, and that she would need to commit to remaining abstinent if she wanted to keep her job. Some time later she was approached by a group of employees at First Baptist who reiterated the character requirement and asked Ms. Brown several questions that she deemed "inappropriate." Finally, Ms. Brown was relieved of her position with pay and insurance until the baby is born.
Now she's claiming to have been discriminated against because of her gender and pregnancy and is taking the church to court, suing for wages and damages.
Pardon me while I stand back and applaud the administration at First Baptist Church Dallas.
Not only does this discipline seem to have been executed thoroughly biblically (first one-on-one, then with a group, finally publicly), the church bent over backward to treat this woman with consideration and grace.
I can't get over how the church went the extra mile to minister to this lady. She could have been fired as soon as the pregnancy test turned to a plus - not because of the pregnancy, but because of the conduct that led to the pregnancy. But even after she was fired, the church made sure the baby who had nothing to do with this would be provided for, and even gave Ms. Brown the time and resources to find a new position. This church balanced the demand for integrity with grace and love in a very difficult situation.
One of Kari and my favorite things to do together is to relax on the couch and watch TV. Since we don't get to do a lot of relaxing, and certainly don't get to relax on a routine schedule, the invention of the DVR has saved our marriage. Okay, not really, but it's a great invention that everyone needs in their home. We set it to record all the events we want to be sure not to miss, and it records them for us - even when they change nights without warning. Then, we fast-forward through the commercials and watch an hour-long show in about 45 minutes. (We don't like to waste time when we're relaxing!)
We're die-hard 24 fans. During the season, our schedules revolve around making sure we have time to watch 24 on the night it's on. In fact, it's the only show we feel like we have to watch on the night a new episode comes out because everyone and their dog is talking about it the next day. We've been known to stay up much later than normal so that we can be sure to catch a new episode of 24.
But 24 isn't on until January, so we have to have other shows to fill our time. Here's what's on in the Freeland house right now:
1. Six Degrees - This one's new this year. So far, it's a pretty good drama about six people who have random connections to each other. The story line keeps bringing them closer together, so I assume at some point they're all going to meet. It doesn't hurt that Erika Christensen is a very "likeable" character, and Kari says the same for Jay Hernandez.
2. The Nine - The jury is still out on this show. A group of nine people get stuck in a bank during a bank robbery. The relationship that they form sticks with them even after they're let out of a hostage situation. I think I would like this show better if it took place during the hostage situation. I could use a little less of the romance and a little more of the action. As it is, from episode to episode the show reveals more about what happened inside the bank to help forge the relationships these nine people now share.
3. Grey's Anatomy - I watch this show because I'm a good husband, and for no other reason. Grey's Anatomy is like a hybrid between ER and Days of Our Lives. Kari loves it, and I tolerate it. That's about the best I can say. I do question the believability of an entire hospital staff sleeping with one another, and none of them ever contracts a STD. You'd think doctors would be a little more careful about their promiscuity. But I guess that adds to the drama of the show. I'm not a big fan.
4. The Office - Kari watches this show because she's a good wife, and for no other reason. Actually, I think she secretly likes it because she always protests when I watch it without her. This is the only show on television, past or present with the exception of Seinfeld of which I can watch reruns alone in my house and still laugh hysterically. If you've ever worked in an office environment of any kind, you'll see the people you used to work with in these characters. (Is it a coincidence that Drew and Dwight start with the same letter? I think not.)
5. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition - This show strikes a perfect balance for Kari and I. She loves it because of the ooey gooey story lines and the cool home accessories that Ty Pennington and crew picks out for needy families. I love it because it gets me excited about ministry. Why should secular TV networks be doing a better job of identifying needs and serving the community than the church? We can do that.
And a note for Tim Stevens who looooves NBC's Studio 60. Man, I've tried and tried to find something to like about this show, even trying it again after your recommendations, but I just can't do it. I'm a huge Matthew Perry fan, but even he isn't enough to carry the show. Maybe those of you who love this show are seeing something I'm missing. If so, I'd love to hear your perspective.
Blogs are amazing things. When I first started blogging almost two years ago, it was because I thought it would be a great place for me to hone my writing skills, test-drive some ideas in the public marketplace, network with some people who were doing things on the cutting-edge of ministry, and respond to some of the things that are important to me. I made two mistakes when I started:
The first mistake I made was to include my real name. chrisfreeland.blogspot.com isn't very incognito. I'm not one to go around googling my name, but if I were, I would notice that my blog is one of the first things to show up on a google search for "Chris Freeland." So, any perspective ministry that might consider me as their future pastor will likely stumble across this blog as they search the web to make sure my name hasn't shown up in any news articles (particularly on the arrest pages).
The second mistake I made was to reference Pyromaniac (my infamous uncle) in one of my original posts. He blogrolled me, blogspotted me, and all the sudden instead of seeing 10 or 15 visitors on my blog every day, I started seeing 90 or 100 on some days.
That's intimidating. Particularly when you read some of the people who comment on Pyromaniacs on a regular basis. Some of these guys (and their homeschooling wives) have nothing better to do than nitpick words and throw rocks at each other. I've searched high and low for a job that would allow me the free-time to spend hours perusing blogs of people I don't like just for the sheer joy of catching them on a point I disagree with and using my stellar debate skills to run them into the ground... but I don't have that kind of time.
And I'm not sure that's a very God-honoring use of the blogosphere.
Now, this is by no means a defense of the Pyromaniac - he can defend himself, and he's certainly not innocent of this kind of thing (by his own admission). Lord knows I don't agree with everything Phil has ever posted. But there's a right way and wrong way to enter discussions with people in a public arena even such as the blogosphere, and that's where the quote above comes in.
There are issues that must be discussed by Christians. There are ideas that must be vigorously debated among Christians. But in those discussions, motive is everything. It is one thing to say "I am right, and your thought is not as good as mine." It's something completely different to say "I am right, and you're stupid and evil."
Ideas are not identity, but we don't separate the two very well.
When we mistake ideas for identity, we show our ignorance of the issues. (How's that for alliteration?) Instead of stopping long enough to understand the person presenting an issue contrary to ours, it's too easy to cast dispersion on their character as if to say "you can't trust this person's character - why should you listen to their ideas?" That's not fair fighting.
The Lordship debate is a great example that I've been on both sides of at various points in my life. But the issue isn't ever going to be resolved because neither side can stop calling the other side names long enough to understand the other person's actual perspective. News Flash: Everyone on the lordship side isn’t a rabid “fruit inspector” who spends his life looking for reasons why the sinners around him must not “really” be saved. And everyone on the no-lordship/free grace side isn’t an antinomian or a Bob Wilkin/Zane Hodges groupie.
Another example of this is the current controversy at Bellevue Baptist Church - the former church of the pastoral giant Adrian Rogers. They're enmeshed in a church controversy that seems destined for a church split. One of the members of a faction who opposes the elders has chosen to start a blog in order to chronicle his point of view. In poor taste, he chose to publish an email correspondence between himself and one of the church staff members. Check it out and see how long it takes for the debate to turn from ideas to identity - by my count, one paragraph by each party involved.
I fail to see how either example in any way reflects the biblical mandate to speak the truth in love, or to lovingly show another his faults in hopes that you might restore your brother. Frankly, we as Christians so busy proving someone else wrong that we fail to demonstrate one iota of good Christian conduct in our dealings. We don't care about the discussion of ideas - if we assassinate individuals, we won't have to worry about their ideas anyway.
Shame on us.
Tonight, Drew Leaver (my boss) will be preaching at Fellowship North. Drew always does a great job, which is surprising because he always gets tossed the topics that the senior pastor doesn't want to handle. We're in the middle of a series on 1 Corinthians, and Drew "just happened" to draw Chapter 5 - the passage on church discipline. He'll do a great job though, but if not, at least people will be informed enough not to talk bad about him behind his back.
On Sunday, I'll be preaching at Fellowship Bible Church Arapaho. FBCA is the original Fellowship Bible Church where Gene Getz began his ministry as a pastor in the seventies. The church is a lot different now from when Gene was there, but it will still be fun to preach in front of live people who aren't seminary students and professors. If you're in the area, it would be fun to meet you. For service times and directions, check out Fellowship Arapaho's website.
Next week, I'll be back with a post that was provoked by my favorite radio talk show host in the world, Mark Davis. He does a local radio show in Dallas, but does a two-hour national show that you can hear on the Sirius ABC talk channel among other places. Here's the paraphrased quote - I'll relate it back to my life next week, "Years ago when it came time for public debate, we said 'I'm right, and your position is not as good.' We don't know how to debate that way anymore. Today when we debate, we insinuate 'I'm right, and you're stupid and evil.'"
Have a great weekend.
- Robert Murray McShane
You know those classes in college or graduate school where the professor thinks his or her class is the only important class you'll ever take at that institution and proves it by piling a load of work on you? I've got two of those this semester, and they're eating my lunch. On top of that, things are pretty busy at the church (I just finished putting a major project to rest, and have picked up another project to take its place), and I'm beginning to start thinking about what I'm going to do when I graduate in May of next year. With all of those things combined, I was lucky to have time for a shower this morning, much less a blog entry.
I promise to be better (but not a lot better). I think I'm about over the hump, and have a lot of things to blog about, but am just now getting to the point that I can come up for air. Look for some more from me in the next few days and weeks.
Southern Baptist leaders are sprinting to their computers to blog about whether or not tongues and other sign gifts are "for today," and whether or not Paige Patteson is acting outside his authority to delete the sermon transcript and video from online records. In fact, everything I've read centers on whether or not Paige Patterson is treating this pastor fairly. And Patterson is taking quite a bit of heat.
Patterson may very well be wrong here, but not in the way you might think. The biggest "wrong" Patterson may have committed was inviting this pastor to speak at chapel in the first place.
This pastor was knowingly and willfully diviscive in delivering this sermon, and he deserves the lion's share of the heat. This issue has been debated vigorously in Baptist circles, and it is clear where Patterson (and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary under his leadership) stands on the issue. What was this pastor hoping to prove?
If you're hopping on your computer to lambast Dr. Patterson, you might contribute a paragraph or two to the complete lack of wisdom on this pastor's part.
It's one thing to have a position contrary to the norm and speak about it in your own church circle, as Henderson Hills did recently. It's another thing to go into a place where you know you will cause conflict and division and speak out anyway. Especially on a non-essential issue.
Who of us would go to Dallas Theological Seminary and slip in a statement about how "dispensationalists are all wet?" Who would go to The Masters Seminary and make a statement about how we think "lordship salvation is silly?" Who would go to a contemporary church service and casually mention that "drums are of the devil?"
If I know my convictions on a non-essential issue are in conflict with the place where I'll be preaching, I have two choices: (1) Decline their invitation to preach, (2) Speak from one of the thousands of texts that do not force me to be diviscive. The option of being a sacrificial lamb for a splinter issue should not even cross my mind.
It seems to me that if you're going to camp out on a peripheral issue in 1 Corinthians 14, you ought to take the time to read the whole book. 1 Corinthians 8 would have been a great passage for this pastor to read before he chose to send the Southern Baptists into yet another tizzy.
Allow me to explain.
In the Old Testament, when the situation was bleak, and God showed up in a big way, those who were involved had a "tradition" of setting up rocks as memorials to God's faithfulness during those times. Jacob did it after he had his famous "Jacob's ladder" dream in Genesis 28. He set up the stone pillow he had been sleeping on as a memorial so that he would always remember that God was in that place.
When God defeated the Philistine army using a thunderstorm, Samual set up a rock and called it "Ebenezer" saying "this far the Lord has helped us." (1 Samuel 7)
Joshua is another example. When the Israelite people crossed over the Jordan river on dry ground en route to the Promised Land, Joshua stacked 12 river boulders on top of each other so that when their descendants ask "What do these stones mean," the Israelites could recount the story of God's faithfulness despite difficult times (Joshua 4).
Kari and I don't own a single rock, but we've got a tremendous rock collection. You should too. There's no encouragement like the encouragement of looking back and seeing the hundreds of places God has been faithful in the past, even despite difficult circumstances.
So start your own rock collection, beginning today. Put it down on paper so that you, just like Joshua, can tell your grandkids "that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God."
I've only had three classes that I would place in the last category without hesitation. The first was a class by Dr. Bill Lawrence called "The Spiritual Life." Basically, the class was an exposition of Romans 5-8, and I'll never be the same. He's now teaching some of the same material with an organization he founded called "Leadership Formation International."
The other two classes were both taught by Dr. Jay Quine. One was "The Gospels," and the other was "Old Testament Prophets." You've heard me talk about him before, but DTS just decided to run a profile of him on their main page. I've copied the text below, but you can find it here too. I particularly love the last paragraph, and the last sentence.
Dr. Jay Quine
Dr. Jay Quine’s purple socks give him away. He is not a typical professor, nor is he a typical lawyer. Born in Washington State, Dr. Quine married at the age of 21 and became a municipal court judge at the age of 24. He was a prosecutor, and is now a pastor, professor, and parent—and the discipline it took to become a lawyer and the faith he came to know personally in college have taught him to persevere through the toughest of trials.
A Rocky Start
After one year of marriage, Dr. Quine and his wife moved to Idaho to be close to the law school in which he was enrolled. “We lived on a wheat farm up in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains,” he says. The four-bedroom farmhouse had no television and barely any radio reception. No neighbors were in sight. “So it was just the two of us,” he says. “It was a really wonderful way to start a marriage.”
Twenty-seven years, five states, and two sets of twins later, Dr. Quine and his wife have come a long way from simple wheat farm living. Their twin boys, Preston and Skyler, are nine, and their twin girls, Madison and McKamie, are six. Their days are filled with everything from ballet and swim lessons, to basketball and baseball games.
So much activity, Dr. Quine admits with characteristic honesty, can strain a marriage. “You become more partners in a project than husband and wife. We just don’t get time together. We went to Israel this year as a couple without the kids and had two weeks together. It was just so wonderful to talk with my wife.”
But the joys of children outweigh the hectic schedule. He says his kids also keep him honest. “They will smell a fraud,” he says. “So [being a parent] forces you to be genuine, which is what we all need. You can’t just say you love them; you’ve got to love them. You forgive them. You accept them. You don’t hold grudges. You have to give of yourself all the time.”
One way he gives of himself is to read to his children. “When the boys were six I read through the Old Testament with them every single night. And I read from the New King James. Any question went,” including the inevitable question, “‘What does circumcision mean?’” he says. “Now I’ve decided to read the New Testament with the girls.”
Are You the Waiter?
Honesty is a valuable trait in a judge, but Dr. Quine’s foray into law began so early that no one believed he was one. At 24 he began working as a municipal court judge in Washington. “I was the youngest judge in the state,” he says. “I went to these judge conventions and I looked like the waiter. It was really funny.”
And Dr. Quine’s judicial practices were as unconventional as his age. “Fridays were traffic and small claims court. The people don’t have lawyers, so I’d come out and say, ‘One of you is going to lose and one of you is going to win. I’m not one of these guys who cuts the baby in half. You have ten minutes to see if you can resolve [your problem] without me, or the power of the law comes down on you.’ Then I would leave and come back,” he says. “Eighty percent of the time they would have figured it out.”
Although he loved practicing law and felt he was contributing to society, Dr. Quine was disturbed by a sense that he was “prostituting” his gifts. When the time came for him to petition for superior court judge, he and his wife decided instead to relocate to Dallas. He finished his Th.M. in three and a half years, something he attributes to learning how to read in law school. What are his secrets? “Focus, concentrate, know what to look for, know what to not look for, get past the fluff, zero in on the important stuff, highlight, take notes.”
From Dallas and Back
After taking all those notes Dr. Quine and his wife, moved to Lincoln Park, New Jersey, so that he could work as a singles pastor. Beginning with a small group of 17, it slowly began to grow. Soon, a few single musicians began to attend and with Quine formed a band called Just Three Things. Before they knew it the singles group was steadily increasing in attendance and the band was touring up and down the East Coast. They played venues that varied from spots in Manhattan to the rooftop of Patterson Prison. “It was absolutely incredible work,” Dr. Quine says of working with the singles group and seeing the band take shape. “So many people came to Christ because of it.”
After four years Dr. Quine went to pastor another church in central New Jersey. “They wanted to grow and build, so we started a building project seven months later.” While he was helping the church to expand, Dr. Quine was also expanding his horizons. He began teaching at Philadelphia Biblical University (PBU) and eventually became the chairman of the Bible program. Nearly three years later he was spearheading the effort to create a Master of Divinity program from scratch.
Because of that involvement, he and his wife moved their family to Yardley, Pennsylvania, to be closer to the campus. And because he’s also a pastor at heart, Dr. Quine took over pastoral roles at a little church two blocks from their new home. “We lived this idyllic life,” he says. His children walked to school and to church and could ride their bikes everywhere. The draw to Texas again was all in the timing. With the Master of Divinity program up and running at PBU, Dr. Quine felt led to return to full-time teaching at Dallas Seminary. And although the transition has been as tough as law school, he still says that “everyday is an amazing day in our house.”
And each day he earns the respect of his colleagues such as Dr. Thomas Constable, chair and senior professor of Bible Exposition. “Dr. Quine combines excellent scholarship with many years of effective pastoral and academic experience,” Dr. Constable says. “He understands well how the Scriptures bear on the situations our students and graduates face in ministry.”
He understands because he has been in each situation—whether he’s behind a judge’s bench, a podium, a pulpit, or a dinner table. And in every situation he seems to know what the music group’s name indicated: just three things matter in life—faith, hope, and love (1 Cor. 13:13). So when he is behind a dinner table with his family, Dr. Quine will occasionally raise his glass to signal the family’s traditional toast: “Jesus is coming back!” they chorus and clink glasses. What does that mean for a father who has worn everything from a judge’s robe to a professor’s purple socks? Well, in the words of one of his children: “It means the mosquitoes won’t sting anymore.”
Yesterday was my last day of Summer vacation, ever.
I thought Summer and me had bid our goodbyes once before, in 2002 when I graduated from Oklahoma State University and moved to Dallas to work full-time while attending Dallas Seminary.
But I became reacquainted with my old friend when we decided to move to Plano last year so that I could serve at Fellowship Bible Church North and ramp-up my class load. I had forgotten how much I missed him.
It's a good thing though. Nine months from now, I'll be a seminary graduate - armed and dangerous. I'll have to work a "real job" at "real hours" for "real money," and summer vacation and I won't be able to be friends any more.
I'm sure gonna miss that guy.
If it wasn't for the sad goodbye to my friend summer vacation, today would be a great day. I love the first day of the fall semester at DTS because the campus is flooded with a new class of first-year students pursuing their dream of a Masters-level education in theology and the Bible. Many of them have stories you wouldn't believe, and are making sacrifices to be here that would give you a lump in your throat.
Too many seminary students lose that dream somewhere around third semester Greek, and it's a shame. Somewhere along the way too many of us learn to argue but forget how to love others. We learn how to be right but forget how to serve. We learn to be accurate but forget how to apply. And we learn how to write but forget how to dream. We begin to serve the god of knowledge above the God of the Bible.
There's hope on the campus today. Today I see a few hundred students with desire, passion, intensity, and a genuine love for Christ who haven't yet learned to forget that seminary can be an unbelievable extension of our worship, if we let it.
This just proves what we've all known for some time: Starbucks is a covert operation run by Satan attempting to bust the budget of millions of pastors who have no place better to meet.
(Thanks to Seth Godin for the link)
I've said for a long time that one of these days I'm going to write a book of stories including some of the things I've experienced in ministry in just my short number of years serving full-time as a pastor. I've hesitated to begin the manuscript because nobody would believe it. But the more I read the news, the more I realize there are some pretty crazy things that happen in churches.
To make a long story short, the Watertown FBC sent Mary Lambert a letter in the mail from the pastor's wife telling her she would no longer be allowed to teach her Sunday School class based on 1 Timothy 1:43, "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent." She's now gone to local and national news sources with her story.
There are so many things wrong with this story that it's not even funny. Here are the top three:
1. The deacons/elders/pastors at this church handled the situation very poorly. Even if the lady is an old bag, you owe her the honor of a face-to-face conversation prior to a letter delivered by the postal carrier. The issue for me isn't the application of 1 Timothy 1:43, but the failure to apply wisdom in their delivery. It's one thing to deliver truth and another thing to do it with love. If the deacons/elders/pastors had elected to have the hard conversation with this lady, and to do it in love, the issue never gets wings.
2. A lot has been said against the pastor and elders in this situation, but this "sweet elderly lady" certainly isn't innocent. Surely after teaching Sunday School for 54 years she ran across a passage or two concerning how to deal with disputes inside the church. 1 Corinthians 6 comes to mind, Matthew 18... In every case, the dispute is to be handled within the church, not in the court of public opinion. When this lady called her local news to gripe, she demonstrated spiritual immaturity that should disqualify her from teaching even if her gender does not.
3. The pastor is also a city council member. That always makes me cringe. For one, I'm not sure how he finds time to shepherd his flock and lead a city at the same time. My golf game would take a serious boost from that type of ministry schedule. Additionally, I'm not sure the best place for clergy is in dictating public polity. I'm all for Christians in secular politics, don't get me wrong, but can't imagine how it would be a great thing for paid clergy to occupy those positions. I'm not worried about his Christianity infiltrating his politics, but have serious doubts about whether or not he would be able to keep his politics out of the pulpit. And that's a problem.
The Church is supposed to be salt and light in the world. That would be a lot easier if we stopped doing stupid things.
It's a little too early to get excited about the Major League Baseball playoff hunt, and my Texas Rangers are well entrenched in their customary late-summer choke anyway. The countdown clock I've been using to gauge the time until the college football begins is below two weeks now, but watching it is like watching grass grow.
Meanwhile, the majority of the ministries at the church are ramping up toward kickoff but aren't there yet. Summer classes are over, and the Fall Session doesn't begin until the last week of August. Although this is officially my last summer ever as a full-time student, I'm ready to get cranking again.
These are truly the dog days of Summer.
The Type-A voice inside of me hates this time of year. (Admit it - you hear those voices too). I'm a visionary guy who loves to create. I love to strategize, plan, implement, and be active in the development of new things. And I'm addicted to the adrenaline rush that's attached to coming up with a new idea, implementing it, and watching it work. So these two weeks to me are like quitting crack cold-turkey.
But I also find that my Type-A voice doesn't do a very good job of governing my levels of emotional, physical, and spiritual health. Picture him as the cheerleader dressed in red sitting on my left shoulder shoulder screaming, "Go! Go! Go!"
I've got another cheerleader on my left shoulder who doesn't get much attention. She's the cheerleader sitting on my right shoulder screaming, "Rest! Rest! Rest!" I don't listen to her very often because, frankly, her constant nagging gets bothersome. How am I supposed to create, plan, and strategize with all of her screaming on my shoulder?
The Dog Days of summer let the "Rest!" cheerleader have her way. And it's probably a good thing.
I used to have a choir director who had a great philosophy I've tried to adopt. He would constantly tell us, "Let's practice hard now, have our crisis early, and we'll coast into the concert." That's wise advice.
So, I'm thinking of these two weeks as having my "crisis" early. I'm recharging, taking advantage of the chance to read some things I've been wanting to read, and trying to catch up on some of the projects I've been wanting to do.
This way, I get to rest on my own terms. If I listen to the "Go!" cheerleader for too long, I'll end up resting on someone else's terms after I've sacrificed my physical, emotional, or spiritual health, and I don't want to go there.
For today, picture me as the cheerleader on the right. "Rest!" Kick back. Read a good book. Reconnect with your family. Watch the Little League World Series. And have your crisis now. September will be here before we know it.
Stumped? I'll show you.
In case you've been lounging around under a rock for the past few days, you know that a man has confessed to the murder of JonBenet that took place almost exactly ten years ago. Although there are some serious questions as to whether John Mark Karr actually murdered JonBenet, or just needed a way to bust out of Thailand's prison system, the self-professed pedophile is being extradited to the U.S. for further questioning.
Karr's confession included these words "I was with JonBenet when she died. It's very important for me that everyone knows that I love her very much and that her death was a mistake."
Let's shift gears to the other situation, a situation you might not know about, Oklahoma University has been embroiled in a controversy that has seen its start quarterback kicked off the team after receiving thousands of dollars from a car dealership. Rhett Bomar, a star quarterback from Grand Prairie, TX was on the payroll of the car dealership but rarely, if ever, clocked in. While you're not going to see me crying about the demise of Zero-U football, I did find Bomar's press conference following his dismissal from the team extremely interesting. "I'm not a bad kid. I made a mistake and I'm disappointed that it happened that way, because I enjoyed my time at O.U. and I wanted to continue my career there. I made a mistake and I have live with it."
What do the JonBenet Ramsay murder and the demise of the Oklahoma University football program have in common? In both cases, the alleged perpetrators claim the crime was committed by mistake.
Those aren't mistakes. Boneheaded? Yes. But not mistakes.
I made a mistake when I typed "shift" above and missed the "f" with my finger (Thank God for spell check). My sister-in-law made a mistake when she forgot to fill up her car with gas before heading home from our house last week (Now everyone knows, Sara). You make a mistake when you're swinging for a fastball and the pitcher throws a curveball.
Duct taping a six-year-old while you strangle her with a cord is not a mistake. It's premeditated, heinous, first-degree murder.
Taking paychecks from a car dealership where you don't work is not a mistake. It's also premeditated, a violation of known rules, dishonest and selfish.
Somewhere over the past several years, we've lost the ability to call evil what it is. Particularly when we're at fault. We talk about "mistakes," "accidents," "mishaps," and "inadvertent errors," but we've lost the ability to look our evil in the eye and call it what it is. And what suffers as a result?
Think about it: rightly or wrongly, we expect forgiveness for mistakes. That's why we call them mistakes. Mistakes happen. Everyone makes mistakes. This could have happened to anyone. Mistakes deny ownership of the thing that has been done, blaming it instead on chance or bad luck. "I'm not a bad kid," says the former Oklahoma University quarterback."
Wrong Rhett. You are a bad kid. And so am I. And so is everyone else who will read this blog entry. You know what they say, "the first step is admitting you have a problem." And failing to understand that we have the problem - we are the problem - prevents us from understanding the depths of God's grace.
When I think that Christ died for my mistakes/accidents, I'm non-plussed. But to think that He paid for my evil... I don't deserve that.
Jack's an extremely relational individual, and self-proclaimedly borders on ADD. We have a lot in common.
The topic of conversation was sweet-spots. If you're not familiar with the terminology, picture a golf club. Although you can advance the ball by hitting it anywhere on the club face of your nine-iron, the club was designed to produce maximum effectiveness when hit in a specific place: the sweet spot.
The theory is that all of us have sweet spots as well. We can each do life and ministry a lot of different ways. From a human standpoint we could participate in many activities and "advance the ball." But we've each been designed with a specific gift-mix and certain abilities to allow us to be maximumly effective in certain areas.
My sweet spot seems to be preaching. Jack's is helping staff members and others through the really tough situations in ministry. Often that includes hard conversations and difficult decisions, sometimes in which a staff member needs to be reassigned or terminated. Jack thrives in those situations.
How can you be highly relational and still enjoy those conversations? Most of the people I've known in the best who were direct and confident in hard conversations were not the type of people you'd play golf with. But Jack is. And for the life of me I couldn't figure out how he balanced the two.
So I asked him.
What he said is worth repeating. He said, "Chris, when you're highly relational and analytical, you realize that the hard conversations are often the very best way to love a person, and they're almost always best for the overall health of the church. What it comes down to is this: people crave someone who will tell them the truth. I see it as a privilege to be able to be honest with people that I care about, even when that honesty means a little discomfort for me on the front end. If we aren't willing to tell them the truth, who will?"
The First Church of Tiger Woods is up and running. Actually it's been around for several years, but just came across my radar.
Is this a joke? Not really. The self-proclaimed "pastor" of the church has an article on the site called "what is this really all about?" He's serious about his disillusionment with the Christian Church, a disbelief in the Bible, and his agnostic view of God. But if God does exist, Tiger Woods is probably him.
Even if the site contains a large amount of hyperbole, and it does, the sentiment is still sad. Check it out for yourself. Don't miss the comparisons between Jesus and Tiger. And while you're reading the site, consider this: Does the Church bear any responsibility for websites like this? Obviously they're the result of fallen human people behaving as such, but is there something else there?
I'm convinced that if the Church did its job of truly worshipping God for Who He is, the rest of the world would be scared to death to make such off-the-cuff jokes about Him.
"[ours is the age of simulation] For just as shopping malls simulate the great outdoors, replacing sun and trees with fluorescent lights and green plastic "plants," we simulate danger with amusement park rides, friends or enemies with talk-radio hosts, rebellion with torn jeans and black boots, sex with lewd phone conversations, revolution with improved fabric softeners, and freedom with the newest panty liner. We simulate real life by eliminating risk and commitment, and end up mistaking what is real for what is only artificial. We exist, that is, encased in a giant cultural condom.”
- Joey Earl Horstman
Edit: I've received two or three emails from people saying that they don't get the quote. One said, "I think I'm not a deep enough thinker. It could be that I can't get past the panty liners and condoms!"
It could be. It could be that you have to understand the context of the quote. It's in a chapter about the way we as a culture relate to God and others.
The idea is that most people don't know how to relate to others or to God any more because we've grown accustomed to a life of simulation. Nothing's real - everything's virtual reality. We're so used to things being fake that we don't notice when they are. Amusement park rides aren't really dangerous. Neither are talk-show hosts our "buddies." But we call in to their shows and pretend they are. Panty liners don't give girls true freedom, but the commercials on TV advertise that they do.
As a result, we're mixed up, and living lives that are sheltered from reality. We'd rather simulate real relationships with God and others because "real" relations are dangerous. (Hence the condom metaphor).
The experience of reading ultra-traditional theologians back-to-back with ultra-contemporary theologians has been something like taking a cold shower after you run. The initial shock is almost unbearable, but ultimately you even out somewhere in the middle and are thankful for the event once you've recovered from the shock.
I've noticed something about the authors I've been reading that is subtle, but awfully telling about the great divide that exists in theological (and church) circles today.
(As a side note, I realize the terms "traditional" and "contemporary" are loaded to the hilt with baggage, but chose them because they're decidedly less loaded with baggage than the others I could have chosen)
The majority of the authors I've read with a more traditional bent tend to write of the second Person of the Trinity as "Christ." They emphasize the "Life of Christ," the "Words of Christ," and the "Person of Christ" among other things. For the most part, what they say about "Christ" is accurate and biblical.
On the other hand, many of the authors I've read with a more contemporary flavor to their theology tend to emphasize the second Person of the Trinity as "Jesus." They emphasize "Loving Jesus," "Coming to Jesus," and "Believing in Jesus." Like their traditional counterparts, many of the things they say about "Jesus" are accurate and biblical.
What's the difference? Emphasis.
I told you it was subtle.
The term "Christ" typically points to the Deity of the second Person of the Trinity. It is a title that means "anointed," and usually speaks of His exalted state above the Universe as a unique Person of the Godhead.
The name "Jesus" is exactly that: Jesus' name. It's the name the second Person of the Trinity was called by Mary and Joseph when He was born a Man. Most clearly, the name "Jesus" reminds us of Jesus' humanity.
Is it right to call the second Person of the Trinity "Jesus?" Sure. Is it okay to call Him "Christ?" Sure. The writers of Scripture use both.
So what's in a name? More than you might think. The names and titles people use to refer to the second Person of the Trinity are awfully telling. Many of the ultra-traditional theologians emphasize Christ's deity to the detriment of His humanity. As a result, they present a "Christ" who is impersonal, cold, uncaring, and surreal. In contrast, many of the ultra-contemporary theologians emphasize the humanity of "Jesus" to the detriment of His deity. In their books, we find a personal, forgiving, "Jesus-is-my-homeboy" man, but miss His holiness, perfection, and complete sovereignty.
Both extremes are a tragedy. Jesus Christ is 100% God, and 100% man. Talking about Him as anything less is blasphemy and idolatry. It's hard to balance the two. It's impossible to understand the two.
It's a tricky business to accurately picture the Person of Jesus Christ with our words, thoughts, and ideas. But we must take great care to not speak less of Jesus Christ than is true of Him... even in the subtleties.
Back in July, Tony Morgan posted a top-ten list of reasons he was glad his friend Tim Stevens was blogging. I don't have a top ten list for Drew, but his blog is certainly worth checking out. Drew has a way of putting things profoundly and succinctly at the same time and will be a great blogger. I'm excited to be able to point you his way.
As tropical storm "Chris" sets his sights on the Caribbean en route to the United States, my name is being heard on newscasts all over the world. I'd like to thank all the little people who made this honor possible.
People keep telling me that there's no way this storm is actually named after me - after all, there were four kids named "Chris" in my third grade class. If it were named after me, they say, it would be "Chris F.," the name by which everyone from my childhood knew me. Have you ever noticed that in your moment of glory, people seem to line up to shoot you down?
So what am I doing now that I'm famous? Well, mostly sitting by the phone waiting for Pat Robertson to call. The 700 club will surely want to interview me about God's latest display of wrath. That's good, I've got some stuff I want to tell them.
Meanwhile, since today is the first day of the month, I get to start a new book of the Bible on my devotional plan. Last month was Lamentations, and I'm sure glad to move on. Sure, Lamentations was good. There were some good surprises throughout the month - like discovering that the book is about hope more than it is about lamentation.
If you count how many times the book refers to God's promises either directly or indirectly, you see that Jeremiah (I'm assuming he wrote the book) was convinced that even the current situation - as awful as it was - was a reflection of God's faithfulness to His promises. And throughout the book you see hope shining through that God's faithfulness in judgment was evidence that He would be faithful in restoring His people.
But beyond that, Lamentations was a whipping for me. So I'm excited to move on.
If you're taking the devotional plan journey with me, you should know that I'm going to depart from my plan this month. I've had some recent thoughts about the Sermon on the Mount, and am going to spend this month in it instead of going to 1 Peter. I'll get back on track with 1 Kings in September.
That's all for now. Watch for my namesake on television tonight, and stay tuned for updates on exactly when I'll appear on the 700 club. I'm thinking about growing a mullet so I fit in with some of the previous guests.
And if you haven't already, give it a shot tomorrow - consider this a challenge.
If you attempted the excercise and listed 100 things for which you can say "blessed are You God," my guess is that you found it a little harder than you anticipated. I sure did.
It bothered me that it was so difficult - I generally think of myself as a pretty thankful person. I work hard to come at God with more than just my requests and gripes, and to be thankful for the things He's done for me. But when I try to list 100 of the things for which I can give God praise, I had a hard time.
The day started with me running late for a 7:00 o'clock meeting. As I drove through the drive-thru of our neighborhood Starbucks, I wrote on my pad "B'rakhot #1 - Thanks for the coffee." Then the Starbucks lady came to the window and handed me my cup. "Thanks for the coffee," I said.
For some reason, the fact that I said the same thing to the coffee lady that I said to God troubled me. I think that's a good thing, because it put the whole excercise of saying 100 b'rakhot in an entirely new light. The 100 b'rakhot isn't just about being thankful. It's about being thankful, but it isn't just about being thankful.
The idea of the whole excercise is to see the things that reflect God's attributes and character in the world around us - not just the stuff that God gives us.
It's hard to break out of the 10-year-old-at-Christmas mentality. You know what I mean - we say "thank you" to your parents for the gifts, but it's often rushed and insincere. After all, parents are supposed to give gifts at Christmas, aren't they? Gifts had shown up under the tree for years, so we grew to expect that they'd be there again. We were thankful, yes, but were never "awestruck" by the fact that our parents continued to give us gifts even though we really didn't deserve them.
The 100 B'rakhot excercise reminds us to be awestruck at what God does for us on a regular basis. It reminds us that even the most minute things reflect the character and attributes of the Creator God. From the minds that created the technology and innovation that make my alarm clock work every morning, to the fossil fuels that power my commute to work and school every day - God created them all. The wildflowers that spring up along the median of a metropolitan freeway reflect the creative nature of an infinite God, and the value He places on beauty and excellence. The smile of a 2-year old covered with donut crumbs reminds us of the hope God gives for tomorrow, and the wrinkled smile of a ninety-year-old bedridden saint (also covered in donut crumbs) reminds us of the hope God gives for eternity.
Blessed are You Lord, (Baruch atah Adonai), Maker of heaven and Earth, for You have done great things.