Monday, June 30, 2008

You may or may not know, may or may not have guessed, may have suspected but prayed that it wasn't true, that I'm a youth minister. After church a few weeks ago, I was greeted in the parking lot by the mother of one of my teens. They're a Christian family, but so far, have been unable to find a church that they're welcome. The son is home-schooled and so, does not run in the same social circles as most teens in our town. For this reason, among many others, including income, race, familial situation, and so on, they have been disincluded from many congregations in our town. None of this was on my mind when she pulled me aside. I am given to rather unusual stunts, sometimes and I fully expected to recieve the blunt end of her disapproval. Instead, she was there to ask me if she needed to pull her son out of our youth group. She assured me that it wasn't anything that he had said that brought her to that conclusion, but that he had been in our group for six weeks and, up to that point, had never made it past three before being asked to leave.

That makes me sad.

I assured her that if I had the chance, I would take a dozen kids, just like her son. It was unusual, she said, to find a church that emphasized community, safety, and acceptance. It was equally rare to find a church that thought God's love was as good a motivation for salvation as a fear of Hell. She thought it was odd that we focused on fixing the problem--man's lack of a relationship with God--rather than the symptomatic sins that churches usually attempt to fix.

I say this not to toot my own horn--God knows I've done nothing to be proud of, with the exception of free-climbing the exterior wall of our church. I say it because I think that right now, there are other youth groups like ours that are being labelled as wishy-washy or liberal. We are neither. And we need to encourage one another. You're doing the right thing.


Monday, May 5, 2008

Why come to Christ? On Grace To You last week, John MacArthur gave us half a dozen ways to know that we're not really saved. I wanted to review a quote and give my thoughts on it. It was phrased in the form a of a question after all.

"Secondly, there needed to be a recognition of divine wrath. John at the end of verse 7 preached the wrath to come. And that is absolutely critical. Any faithful preacher preaches on hell. He preaches on fiery, eternal judgment because why bother to come to Christ for the forgiveness of sin if you're not going to by that coming escape eternal wrath? There must be a recognition of divine wrath to elicit a true repentance."

I have to ask why? Why must someone be afraid of Hell to convert honestly? To me, it sounds as though MacArthur is selling God short. Is God's holiness greater than Hell's terror? If so, why shouldn't that be our focus? If people can most effectively come to Christ through fear of Hell, then Hell's must be the more prominent point. I don't think so.

I have to wonder about the authenticity of conversion to Christ if we're only doing it as fire insurance. Don't get me wrong. I think we can come to Christ in all sorts of ways--I think we can be scared, romanced, loved, awed, convinced, maybe even tricked into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, but if we're honest with ourselves, and if we're going to grow as Christians, we'll move away from those superficial reasons (scared, romanced, convinced, and tricked) into the deeper reasons (love and awe).

Lest someone think I'm making this up, as I have been accused of, the whole text of the sermon can be found HERE.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

After a long week of moderating the snot out of a particular message board, we were finally treated to the sight of a particularly obnoxious member's banning. I won't go into details, most of you who would have any interest probably know the story. But I will say this much: it is nice to be able to use the word "Emergent" again, without it being equated to moral relativism. In addition, it will be very nice to go for two weeks without seeing the word "postmodern" used as a derogatory term.

On a similar note, we were comparing McLaren and MacArthur, and I went through all the trouble of typing up a transcript that I wanted to post it somewhere other than on a messageboard:

McLaren said, "...People ask me, what do I think is the way to Heaven. I have a problem when they ask me this question, because it assumes that the primary purpose of Jesus coming, and the primary message of Jesus was about how to get to Heaven."

MacArthur replied by saying the McLaren was calling everyone that believed Jesus came to save us stupid, and gave an explanation of propitiation, then said, "[Salvation] was the only reason he came. He didn't come to fix life here. He didn't come to eliminate poverty. He didn't come to eliminate slavery. He didn't come to bump people up five notches on the marriage satisfaction scale. [Considering how short life is, you see] how silly it is to think that Jesus came to fix something in somebody's life for the little moment that they live on earth...Look at the life of Christ. He didn't even fix the world that he lived in. He never, ever, basically assaulted, one social institution that was out of whack. Not one. So he never had a social agenda. He cared for people. He fed people, sure, but he fed them once, and he didn't feed them everyday."

He goes on to draw a parallel to welfare, but you can listen to the interview for yourself.

I think that's it for the night,

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

John MacArthur just has released a revised edition of his MacArthur Study Bible, as if the first wasn't bad enough. I like the fact that the name "MacArthur" is the largest word on the cover. It's bigger than the sord "study," bigger than the word "bible" by at least 300%. If you open it, there are pages that are three-quarters commentary and one-quarter biblical text. But I suppose that's how much effort it takes to justify some of the things he believes in.

Here's the fun part, though: As I wandered into my local Christian bookstore, I saw an entire shelf of them , perhaps a dozen copies, with bright yellow "50% off" stickers. Seems the sales aren't going so hot. A week later, I checked back. Still, not a copy sold. Another week, still nothing. They will, most likely, be returned for credit, a sales clerk told me.

Nothing warms my heart like Calvinist literature unread. It's always reassuring to know that what, only twenty years ago, might have sold like syrup at a hotcakes convention, is now informing store owners what not to purchase. Next time, try something more theologically significant, like John Wesley's A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, of Brian McLaren's More Ready Than You Realize or, for that matter, Veggietales.

Good night.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Another quote that's helping me to narrow my focus comes from the same book I mentioned last week, More Than Forgiveness, by Steve DeNeff. By this point, I'm sure that some of you are wondering whether or not I'm being paid to promote this book, but the truth is that in all my searching, I've never found a book that better expresses what I believe. Because of my slightly atypical views, some people have a hard time grasping what it is that I'm saying, and I'm partly at fault for assuming that they'll understand my definitions. Whatever my motivation for continually mentioning DeNeff, this is the two part quote on which I want to concentrate:

"I am thinking of a Little League basebasll game I attended with my wife while our son, Nicholas, was a child. He came steaming around third base, full speed ahead, while the ball was relayed from the outfield. As the catcher reached for the ball, our son plowed into home plate. There was dirt and equipment flying everywhere, and in the end, the umpire ruled him safe.
The home team cheered. The audience hooted. Then suddenly, my wife jumped to her feet and screamed, "Nicholas-" And then with all the grandstand watching, she ordered, "Help that other boy up.
I could have crawled under the bleachers. This is not the way men watch baseball. But this is the ethic of our day. Whenever two people collide over anything, it is not so important who is safe and who is out, nor how either played the game. The most important thing in life, as in Little League baseball, is whether anyone got hurt and whether or not we helped our rival up once the dust settled. Contrary to popular opinion, this is not holiness. It is only good sportsmanship. It is political correctness. Of course, to be cruel would be wrong. But one has really missed the point if he dabbles with etiquette while bigger issues are at stake."

"There are now serious ideological problems dividing the church. Some denominations are debating the authority of Scripture. Others are fighting over the place of homosexuals in their congregations: should they be listed among the unconverted, the members, or the clergy? Still other denominations are debating the matter of women in the ministry. And when holy people decide these things they are better off to raise thier voices in public than to slit each others' throats, politically speaking, in private. Unfortunately, there are many denominations that seem more interested in dusting each other off than in whether or not they arrive at the right conclusion."

So there it is. My mind is still in flux. I must begin to weigh the value of my conclusions and the power of my words, to make sure that, whatever I say, it doesn't compromise truth.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Under the advisement of the Holy Spirit, and great men like John Wesley and Steve DeNeff, and friends like Pete Aldin, I have begun to wonder if this idea of "Emergent Venom" is not, somehow, counter-productive, or even counter to scripture. I can rationalize (and perhaps even be correct) that men like John MacArthur are inadvertently describing, by their actions, how they want to be treated, at the same time, I do not wish to address anyone in their fashion.

This first struck me while reading Wesley's A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, and again, while reading More Than Forgiveness, by Steve DeNeff (A MUST READ). But lately, Pete Aldin has been doing a series called Famous Last Words, a study of the last verse of each book of the bible. When he touched on Joshua, he made the following comment:

We live in a day of reformation in the church. As an older style of leadership dies away over the next 15-20 years, lets not adopt a position of "Good riddance!", but let's honor them. And not just honor them, but take their bones - their "presence" and legacy - with us into the future. Click for full text.

And that struck me because, as I said to him in response, This is something that I struggle over struggling with. It is very easy for me to see the passing of certain prominent (yet wrong) leaders of the church as the glorious passing of a tainted era. I rejoice that they are in Heaven where they can do no more damage. And that's wrong of me. There are few, if any, in whom I should not be able to find something honorable and good.

I want to seek love and unity and holiness, not a purging of the people that I disagree with from Christianity's steering commision. So be patient with me while I sort this out. It may be that Emergent Venom will become a grounds of defense, or it may cease to exist altogether, or honestly, I may realize that I was okay to begin with (though I doubt it), and keep right on. I appriciate your patience.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Caught you by surprise. You weren't expecting us, but we were preparing all morning and afternoon. Is it a surprise that we were able to humble you, break down your arguments, and beat you over the head while you were just trying to get to your car without making a scene? It was? Good. We captured every humiliating moment on video, and we're going to post it online. Does that make you happy?

The moment of decision is a tender one. You've just realized that you're not on the right track. I wonder if some of these people don't feel a bit like the guy on Jerry Springer that was just told his wife had been cheating on him with two midgets, a Nazi lesbian, and their dog-trainer. Paul's conversion was a great turning point for Christianity, but how would he have felt if someone had been standing over his shoulder with a camera while he scrambled around on the dirt, in tears, not knowing if he'd ever be able to see again.