Nov 30, 2008

The Shack by William Young

I recently finished reading "The Shack" by William Young.

It's interesting that this book has cause such a controversy amongst Christian leaders.

Folks I respect like Mark Driscoll tells people not to read the book because it makes heretical claims about God and the Trinity.

And then there are other Christians leaders I respect like Eugene Peterson who equates "The Shack" as the modern day version of "The Pilgrim's Progress."

How can there be such divergent views on this book.

I was curious so I wanted to read the book for myself.

Here's my two cents on this - The Shack is no systematic theology. But that's perfectly fine. It never intended to be so. It's a novel. It's a fictional story about how grace and mercy and healing can break into a person's life. It was never intended to be a theological text book. It's a book about grace.

And when read as such, it is a marvelous book that demonstrates the awesome healing powers of God through grace.

Just as "Pilgrim's Progress" is not meant to teach systematic theology, neither is that the purpose of "The Shack."

And just as the fictional book "Pilgrim's Progress" teaches some monumental truths about God and who we are, so does this fictional book called "The Shack."

I whole-heartedly recommend that you go pick this book up and read it. You won't regret it.

Where's the Impact?

Jesus promised the disciples, “Upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell shall not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18).

Jesus tells us that the church of Jesus Christ is the hope of the world.

Jesus tells us that it’s God’s plan to use the church to transform the world.

I believe that to the core of my being. This truth is something I would be willing to bet my life on.

But here’s the thing I’ve been wrestling with.

If this is true, then how come we see so little evidence of this reality? Why is it that there are hundreds and thousands of churches all around our country and we seem to be on the losing side?
• Why is it that there seems to be ever more increasing violence and more war?
• Why is it that terrorism, racism, and consumerism seems more rampant than ever before?
• Why is it that there seems to be more divorce and more marriages breaking up all around us?
• Why is it that the gates of hell actually seem to be winning?
• Why aren’t our churches making more of a difference?

Nov 28, 2008

What a Wacky Way to do Church

Why do we have so many churches?

I have been wondering about all the resources and finances that goes into maintaining the facilities of the churches around our area. We spend hundreds of thousands of dollars every year just to pay for our facilities, and I don't know of a single church that is filled to capacity. Why do we do that?

What keeps us from working together to make a difference in the community? Why couldn't we come together to pool our resources of finances, people resources, and talent resources to really make a difference in our community?

Oh, yeah. That thing called denominations.

You know what? To the 246,000 unchurched in our ten mile radius, our denominational differences don't mean a darn thing to them. They don't care whether we dunk em, sprinkle, or pour water for baptism. That just doesn't matter. What people want to know is...
  • Is God for real?
  • Can God really make a difference in my life?
  • Is there a hope and purpose for my life?
  • Can I really make a lasting difference through my life?
And if we really are the church, shouldn't we be able to look beyond our small denominational differences to put the mission of God before all else to grow new Christians, and to grow Christians to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ?

And yet, because of our stupid denominational identities, we are separated and leave almost no impact in our communities.

Does anyone else think that this is a wacky way to do church?

Nov 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

We're all going to have our fair share of turkey and fixings. Most of us will consume more food than necessary. We will be surrounded by the people we love.

It's been quite a year. We've made it thus far out of some difficult situations.

Remember to take the time out to thank God for all that you have. I encourage you all to take about ten minutes and write down on a piece of paper for the things that you thank God for. And as you make this list, I want you to think about the things that you couldn't live without. Because those are the people and the things that we most often take for granted.

After you've made your list, say a prayer thanking God for everything written down on your paper.

Have a blessed thanksgiving and make sure you get to one of God's houses for worship on Sunday.

Nov 25, 2008

Dangers of a False Jesus

David Hirsch says, “If our conception of who Jesus is false, then it is better for us to be atheists because an allegiance and adherence to a false Jesus is absolutely devastating. It would be far more preferable if we just didn’t believe anything.”
• The false Jesus who says it’s all about comfort and security destroys Christian mission.
• The false Jesus who says it’s okay to turn a blind eye to the suffering in our very inner cities as long as we’re raising our children undermines Christianity.
• The false Jesus who says it’s okay to keep accumulating goods and bank accounts at the expense of investing ourselves fully to the cause of alleviating the suffering of our community repudiates everything the Christ of Scripture lived for and died for.
• The false Jesus who says it’s perfectly fine to remain racially divided in your churches and worship while the rest of the world is multicultural undermines the gospel that we are all God’s children.
• The false Jesus who says you keep doing church the way you’ve always done church in your own little circles and denominations because that’s the way we’ve always done church is killing our witness in a non-Christian majority world.

If that’s what being a Christian and being a part of a church means, is what we are doing here in our churches in The Colony, is it even worth doing? multiplying? Worth imitating?

We live in a community that has 270,000 people in a ten mile radius from us, and 91% of them are unchurched. Here’s what that means in a very practical sense. While we keep doing church the ways we’ve always done it, segregated by race, by denominations, and history, 246,000 of our neighbors, coworkers, and will spend an eternity in damnation apart from Jesus.

That my friends is simply unacceptable. We must discover better ways to do church. We must get better at making new Christians and growing them up to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.

To the 246,000 unchurched in our area, our denominational differences don’t mean a darn thing to them. They don’t care if you’re Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopalean, Church of Christ, Assemblies of God, or non-denominational. What they need to know is does God matter? Can God change my life? Is God for real? Is there hope for our world?

Nov 24, 2008

Choices and Chairs

One of the things I get to do as a pastor is to counsel people both through the joys and the disappointments in life. Most of the counseling sessions take place in my office.

In an span of four hours, there was a couple who was sitting in my office who are at the end of their ropes and is desperately trying to make their marriage work. They are barely hanging on wondering if it's even worth trying to salvage.

And then within the hour, there was a different couple sitting in the same chairs who couldn't wait to get their married life started. They are going through pre-marital counseling and like every other engaged people I've worked with are convinced that they can work through any issue or problem they will face together as a couple. No one getting married thinks that they are going to divorce. No one getting married thinks I'm going to be absolutely miserable.

And as the two sets of couples left my office I pondered how we get there. How do we get to where we find ourselves.

Neither of the couples find themselves where they are without a myriad of choices. It's those choices that brings you to where you are in life - whether it's to get married or thinking that youare ready to quit on your marriage.

So here's the deal - today, make some good Godly choices. Make the choices that demonstrate your love and appreciation for one another. Avoid choices that discourage and demean. Make good Godly choices. You don't want to end up in a place of misery. You don't get there over night. It takes choices.

Make good Godly choices today.

Nov 19, 2008

Eye of the Tiger

My son, 3 years-old, loves the song Eye of the Tiger. I don't know where he first heard it but he sings the intro - dah - dah, dah, dah - dah, dah, dah - dah dah dahhhhh.

It's been playing at our house and in our car on the ipod. He's had the thing repeating on the home stereo for the past three hours and he's not tiring of the song.


Nov 14, 2008

Right Theology and Polity is Crap unless They are Tools for God's Mission

Evangelicals are so concerned about making sure that our theology is sound. We want to make sure that Christ-followers are able to affirm the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, and that the scripture is the only authority in our lives, and a host of other theological concerns.

Evangelicals are hyper concerned about sexuality - to ensure that gays and lesbians are not ordained, that singles remain chaste in singleness and married couples remain faithful in their marriage, etc.

It's all crap if we are not partnering with God to make new Christians and faithful disciples.

It's all crap unless God is actively at work to transform lives, heal marriages, change eternal destinies.

It's all crap as long as we keep turning a blind eye to the poor and the lonely while we live in our luxury and keep going deeper in debt, totally mismanaging God's resources.

It's all crap as long as we remain blind to the injustices in our society and in our world.

Right theology and polity structures are tools to enable God's ministry and mission. Right theology and polity structures are not the aim of the church - they are tools.

Nov 13, 2008

Post-Denominational Denomination

We have reached a critical turning point in the life of the church in the Presbyterian. Things will never be the same. We as conservative evangelicals who affirm the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ and the authority of scripture over our lives and those who disregard such essential tenets can no long co-exist in the same denomination as if nothing has changed.

The only way forward is for us to discern how we can be a church together. Although I do not know what that church likes, I can say with all certainty that it does not look like anything like the church and the denomination of today.

Many others and I have been looking at what this restructuring of the denominations might look like. And this morning I had a huge "A HA!" moment.

Martin Luther did not think through all the ramifications of what the protestant reformation would look like and be like. The more true statement is that the protestant reformation happened to him. The reformers did not know all the details and complexities. The details and complexities happened upon them as God's church happened upon them.

And I am completely at peace with that idea - that God will do what God needs to do. And our part in this journey is to continue doing what we've been called to do - make disciples of all nations and to baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and to help them become faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. And as we do that, the reformation will happen upon us.

Nov 12, 2008

Held in Bondage by the Property Clause

Simple question - how many Presbyterian Church (USA) congregations would remain PC(USA) congregations if the property clause was not in effect?

Is the only thing that keeps some of us PC(USA) the property clause? Or is there more to being Presbyterian?

I think the only reason why some of us remain PC(USA) is the property clause.

Is there more to being Presbyterian than the property clause? Yes there is. And this is where things get more complicated.

That's all for today. My head hurts from being in a think tank meeting all day. More to come.

Nov 11, 2008

There is a God - and You are not God

God created us and then created the entire universe because He loves us. And because He loves us, God has given dominion over the entire created universe to us.

And that is exactly what we're supposed to do - have dominion over all things. But the problem with how so many of us live is that it seems that many things have dominion over us instead.
  • schedule has dominion over our lives
  • our financial commitments have dominion over our lives
  • friendships and relationships have dominion over our lives
  • addictions to alcohol, drugs, tobacco, sex, porn
  • careers
  • etc.
God wants to tell us something - in order to have dominion over the things that God has put under us, we need to get under the one thing that God has put over us.

In order to rule over all the things that God has put under us, we need to get straight just one thing - There is a God, and YOU are not God.

Once you understand that there is a God and that you are not God, then you understand that you don't own all these things, that you are a manager and a caretaker of all these things that have been entrusted to you. And when you start understanding that you will have to answer to God for what you did with your life, then you start managing your money, your life, your career, your sex drive and life, and everything else based on God's guidance. And when you do that, all these things become a blessing to you.

That's how it works.

Nov 8, 2008

A Not-so-Funny Joke

What if you had something really important to say...

What if you knew a truth that would make the difference between life and death...

What if you knew something terrible that was going to take place and you knew how to alert others to avoid this tragedy...

What if you knew all these things and when you told them to your friends and family no one believed you?

What if no one takes you seriously because they've always thought of you as a joke?

That's exactly what happened to Lot in Genesis 19:14. He has been told by God that Sodom would be destroyed because of its depravity. And when Lot goes out to his sons-in-law to warn them of the impending doom, "he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting."

What a sad statement.

And what's even sadder is that we as Christians have been sharing this same message - there is an impending doom and judgment that awaits every single human being. But this is totally unnecessary because Jesus has made a way for us by taking our sin upon Himself and paying the penalty for our sins. But everyone must choose. Everyone must act. And the millions of people all around our churches and Christians think of us and our message as a joke.

This is no one else's fault but our own. We don't live like we take this message of redemption and transformation very seriously. And if Christ-followers won't take it seriously, why should anyone else?

Nov 5, 2008

Promises of God - Why the Heck Does It Take So Long?

Abram was 75 years-old when God promised him, "I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing" (Genesis 12:2).

Abraham is 100 years-old when this promise finally comes to fruition.

Does this bother anyone else?

I know. I don't have much patience. But it bothers me that God would promise something and then not do it until decades later.

Abram believed God. And when God wasn't coming through like God promised, he took things into his own hands and conceived a child through Hagar.

Why is all that even necessary? Why did God wait 25 years? Was Abram not ready? What's the deal?

That's the thing. - God doesn't operate on our time schedule. God has His own timing. You can do that when you're God.

It's just that guys like me going through every day life with very little patience, has a hard time accepting this. But whether I have a hard time or not, God is God and His promises will come to fruition. That I know.

Still doesn't mean I have to like the waiting part.

Nov 4, 2008

What About the People in the 400 Years of Slavery?

"Then the Lord said to Abram, 'Know this for certain, that your offspring shall be aliens in a land that is not theirs, and shall be slaves there, and they shall be oppressed for four hundred years; but I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions" (Genesis 15:13-14).

For a people as individualistic as we are, the promises of God to Abram are absolutely frightening. We cannot help but think about our relationship to God in an individualistic way - my salvation, my God, etc.

But I wonder if that's the best way to think about God.

Just look at the promise of God in Genesis 15. What about all those people who have to live for 400 years in oppression and slavery? What about their rights? What about their freedom? What do they get in the promise of God?

But they have to be there. There needs to be 400 years of oppression. So are those people blessed for being enslaved because they are a part of God's plan?

Man, I don't know. I don't know how to make sense of all this.

What I do know is that sometimes the actualization of the promises of God take time. And often times, it takes more time than I am comfortable with. I hate waiting. I hate the in between time. I want God doing great things time all the time.

That's why I find such passages so difficult to understand. It's still God's word so I will keep wrestling with it.