Monthly Archives: April 2011
You get a new hammer, everything looks like a nail. You get a new video camera, you think you are Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola all rolled up into one.
Amateurish, but endearingly crude and uninspired…
Son provides camera work while I tactically, accurately, and quickly place rounds in the dirt backstop.
Dicing with my son. My skill behind the wheel….If you are patient, there are some inspired effects towards the end…
Of all the video on Youtube, these are some of them…
- It annoys me when a pastor tells the congregation to repeat something he just said, usually something amusingly demeaning, to the person sitting next to them. This recitation apparently will help reinforce some point the pastor is trying to make. For example, the pastor will instruct you to tell the person next to you that they “are really screwed up” at the beginning of one of those No Perfect People Allowed sermon series. The more edgy pastor may instruct you to say ‘effed up” rather than “screwed up.” I am not amused.
- I am really bored with the ‘No Perfect People’ tee shirts and sermon series that are ubiquitous in certain ecclesiastical circles. I am not aware of any church that sports “Only Perfect People” tee shirts though I used to attend a church that was, in retrospect, so self-consciously holy that I am surprised that some of the congregants walked rather than hover ethereally a few inches above the ground. On the other extreme, I found this post of April 18, 2011 on pastor Gary Lamb’s blog that takes that NPPA reverse snobbery meme to an extreme:
C3 Church truly is the church where No Perfect People Are Allowed.
We’ve got greeters smelling like alcohol on Sunday mornings.
We’ve got guys who smoke a little wacky weed playing in the band.
We’ve got teenagers who are so consumed with screwing anything that moves, I can’t get them to think about anything else.
We’ve got drug dealers who give financially to the church.
We’ve got homosexual couples who are sold out to our vision.
We’ve people who recently have gotten DUI’s walking around.
We’ve got atheists on our set-up team.
We’ve got a pastor (that would be me) who struggles with insecurity.
We’ve got a volunteer staff full of divorced people.
We’ve got cutters.
We’ve got meth heads.
We’ve got gossips
The only three people who have ever taught on our stage are a former sex addict, a former meth head, and a former cocaine addict.
I could go on and on but you get the point. We’re a church full of imperfect people and we wouldn’t have it any other way!
- I do not like fill in the blank sermon notes. Sometimes, they are too easy to figure out. HT to Stuff White Christians Like for the following example.
- I do not understand the need to turn hobbies into ministries. Nice people and intentions, but do we really need a motorcycle ministry? Can we just not be a group of Christians that just rides together on occasion for the fun of it. Then you have the infamous pole dancing class ministry that made the news not so long ago
- I ahbor silly church signs. Recent example found locally: “See it. Sow it. Reap it.” Apparently that was the Gospel message for Easter. Another sign recently seen at a church not too far from home: “Free trip to Heaven. Details inside.”
For Easter, I am reposting the following essay from December 21, 2007. Unlike others, I am not sure when I became a Christian quite honestly, but I think is was not long before I wrote the following. He is risen! I am a great sinner and He is a greater Savior!
Let me talk to you about my Messiah, Jesus Christ. Let me open quite controversially. If Christ is just a great moral teacher, He failed, and failed miserably. For all His altruism, His selflessness in serving others, for all His concern for the disenfranchised, for His formidable moral standards, His end is not one that I would consider a glowing endorsement for emulating His life. He was crucified; He died a death quite gruesome and, in death, was associated with criminals. If such is the potential end for emulating Christ the Teacher, then I want nothing of it. If we consider Christ only a moral example, then I cannot endorse Him above the Buddha. I cannot endorse Him above Gandhi. I cannot endorse Him above an Old Testament patriarch. They differ not in kind, but only in degree. His death carries no greater meaning and import than that of Martin Luther King’s. However, if Christ is more than a teacher, if He is who He and His followers claim Him to be, the Son of God whose death on the cross precedes something greater, His physical resurrection, I then must consider Him in an altogether different light.
I read, in the New Testament canon and in early church history, stories of martyrdom. I read, too, of multitudes abandoning the very foundations of their life to turn and follow, often at great personal, and sometimes ultimate, cost, the One whom they believed to be something greater than a teacher. These 1st century Palestinian Jews (and the gentiles, also), the first followers of Christ, had no great need of a Messiah as a life coach, a minister to their finances and marriages. Their lives were, I believe, even if in a time of political tension, quite predictable for the most part. They were tied to the rhythms of the land, of harvest. They were, for the most part, farmers and craftsmen. They were embedded in the life of the synagogue. Too, the individualism, the obsessive focus on self, of contemporary western culture would be, I believe, quite alien to them.
The Messiah that many were expecting and the Messiah that they received were quite different from one another. Again, there was political tension in that time and place. Judea was under Roman rule and before the first century closed, the 2nd Temple would be, as predicted by the Messiah, in ruins. The expected Messiah would be a King, a strong Man who would break the shackles of Roman oppression and return to the Jews self-rule, and Jerusalem, the city of God, would take her place as the beacon of light to all the nations. This did not happen, though. They instead received a Child who would grow up to divide rather than conquer, to turn child against parent, neighbor against neighbor. He would upset the status quo. He would be, for a time, a pauper King, having, as He said to would-be disciples, no place to lay his head. The Messiah was homeless. His family, for the most part, before witnessing the resurrected Christ, did not, I believe, consider Jesus to be anything but perhaps a bit mad. Even his inner circle of disciples could not wrap their minds around Christ’s proclamations about Himself. Rather, they still anticipated a political King who would establish a theocracy. The pre-Easter Jesus, on the cross, left his followers discouraged and defeated. The post-Easter Jesus revolutionized his adopted ones. Easter changed everything.
How can I talk coherently about Easter and find words worthy to address our risen King, words not compromised by cliché? I am humbled by the task. First, Easter is absolutely not just a metaphysical event having no concrete reality. The resurrection was not just merely a spiritual event; it is more than metaphor. The resurrection actually occurred in time and space. The Creator, the One through whom all things hold together, was willingly brutalized and murdered by His creation. He willingly became our Scapegoat, our blood sacrifice once for all. He is the new Covenant. Everything changed on Easter.
I can give coherent reasons and evidence to help illuminate the reality of the Easter event. It does not, contrary to what most would imagine, require a giant leap of blind faith. I can affirm with as much clarity the physical resurrection of Christ as I can most any event in ancient (and not so ancient) history. Where does this leave me, though? What do I do with this formidable knowledge? What does it mean and to where does it lead? Before we can even begin to address these questions, we must inquire as to the why of the Easter event.
Why did the Word that created cosmos, created humanity, deem it necessary to take on, from the Christmas event to eternity forward, a sinless human nature, and after taking on flesh, have it brutalized and nailed to that tree? Only in the context of that question can we begin to understand the Easter event. Here we find truths both simple and daunting, both compelling and repulsive.
We, as disciples of Christ, are beholden to our Messiah to apprehend these difficult truths to the best of our ability. Because of complacency that often permeates American Christianity, I believe that, as a church, we often worship more a pre-Easter Jesus rather than the post-Easter Jesus. The pre-Easter crowds gathered to the Messiah to receive from Him. The post-Easter Messiah drew to Him those who were willing to die for Him. The followers of the pre-Easter Jesus fell away from Him at the cross. The post-Easter disciples of Christ followed Him to the ends of the earth; they looked to give themselves away, to serve the Messiah, to die to self. I ask myself, which Christ am I following?
For some reason, after seeing this, I think about Spinal Tap
OK, one more….
I am the king of hyper-focus. I latch on to something the intrigues me, that concerns me, and I cannot let go. Eventually though, I will bury a certain bone in the backyard of my mind, pick up a new bone and gnaw on it for awhile, but eventually something will happen or something will be said that draws me back to that long buried bone.
The bone I am going to dig up is a particularly odious one. It is an attitude found in the written and spoken thoughts of the luminaries of the church growth movement, and their influence is found in those lesser lights that seek to mirror the attitudes and methodologies of these success-driven church growth experts. You hear it in the ubiquitous leadership conferences, you read it in blogs, you hear it in ‘sermons.’
This metaphorical bone is the conceit that it is not the post-modern, seeker-sensitive, purpose-driven pastors job to feed the sheep. I have written on this subject ad nausea in the past, but in the last couple of weeks, I have heard sermons that absolutely infuriated and grieved me.
Before I continue, let me give you a bit of a back-story, more of which can be found here. I used to attend Perry Nobles gigachurch, NewSpring Community Church, and over the three of four years I spent there, it seems that Perry often mentioned, in an often sarcastic and demeaning fashion, that sheep complaining of not being fed are lazy and contemptible. I initially did did not give the aforementioned attitude much thought, other than thinking that he was a bit snarky and perhaps unique in his attitude, but I came to see the fruit of this attitude in a more personal way. I was becoming a bit hungry for something above and beyond the constant rotation of sermons on financial stewardship and tithing, on dating, marriage and relationships, and finding my purpose and plan in life. There were other issues as well, and in wanting to meet with someone from the leadership of the church to discuss my desires and concerns, I was grudgingly allowed a phone conversation with an associate pastor.
In naively mentioning that I wanted to hear more about the Jesus that the first Jewish and Gentiles were willing to die for rather than recant their faith as contrasted to the life coaching I was used to hearing (and I was gracious in my request and concern), I was politely told that essentially I was just being selfish in wanting to be fed more than the ‘meals’ that were being served. Quite frankly, to be told by a church that I had poured myself into that I was selfish for wanting to be taught more about Jesus absolutely crushed me. So, you see I have a first hand experience and vested interest in not letting this bone remain buried.
Now, I understand the need for Christians to read the Bible. I also understand Paul’s admonition found in 1 Corinthians 3:1-2. What is interesting with the text is that Paul is not saying that it is not his job to feed his charges meat, indeed he wants to, but that they are developmentally delayed and not yet ready for the spiritual meat that he desires to serve to them.
What is most striking in these declarations of pastoral abdication of Christ-appointed responsibility to feed the sheep is the sheer arrogance, sneering meanness, and demeaning caricatures in their portrait of starving sheep.
Here is one example featuring Steven Furtick, friend and I suppose ‘student’ of Perry Noble :
If you go to this Fighting for The Faith podcast, from 53 minutes to about 1:07 hours in the podcast, you will here similar attitudes and content from Mark Beeson, lead pastor a Granger Community Church, one the the flagships of the seeker-driven ecclesiastical methodology. What is so sad is the laughter of the audience in both Steven and Mark’s tirade.
The question I have to ask of such ‘pastors’ is this: if it is your Christ-ordained responsibility to be the under-shepherd to the flock, to feed them, and starving sheep come to you for meat as they tire of cotton candy and milk, is it your job to mock them or to feed them something more substantive? I suspect that most of these pastors harbor such an attitude towards starving sheep because they may be incapable of serving a rich, Christ-centric, Word-focused meal. It takes them out of their comfort zone of ‘vision-casting’ and serving their rotation of topical bait-and-switch life-coaching pablum and exposes their weakness and inabilities to deeply, carefully, and contextually exposit the text of the Bible. It exposes the lack of understanding or care for the deeper things of Christ as they often serve a graceless, legalism-lite Moses dressed in a Jesus costume. More could be said on this sad subject, but for now, let me leave you with the following verses:
1 Cor 3:1-2
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able.
“Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep?
(Thinking about all those aforementioned and ubiquitous leadership conferences where the leaders feed leaders meals of secular business methods on how to use the sheep most efficiently)
15When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” 16Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” 17The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.
5Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. 6Then Ezra blessed the LORD the great God. And all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground. 7Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, explained the law to the people while the people remained in their place. 8They read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading.