Monday, December 9, 2013
Marriages are organisms & divorces are funerals; To be clear, I do not believe that divorce kills marriage. To me, that would be the same as saying that funerals kill humans. Divorce is . . . how to put this . . . divorce is the "death certificate." It's what happens when the carcass of the once-living marriage has begun to decay in your kitchen, and it's better to divorce than to keep up the painful pretense.
So I'm not anti-divorce, even though I am pro-marriage. A medical student is not anti-funeral, just anti-sickness.
Let’s offer care to marriages. The ones that are ailing, the ones that are dying. Let's offer "well-marriage" checkups. Let's bring healing to sick marriages. Let's start a Missionaries of Charity (Mother Teresa reference) for marriages, where marriages can be brought to die, being cared for and in dignity--for not every sick marriage revives.
Here's the offer, World:
I will provide "moderated conversations" for your marriage's sake. I will provide these free of charge. For the rest of my life.
Moderating your conversation means that we sit at a dining room table (your table or mine) with both of you on either end. I guide and protect your conversation, creating a safe-zone. I take nobody's side. I offer no counsel. Sometimes my wife will be there, sometimes another friend from church, sometimes just me. We use active-listening tactics. I have good tools in my toolbox for helping stalled conversations restart and resolve. This is something we're good at, and we train you to be good at it, too, so you can pay-it-forward afterwards.
Why Free? When I see the news, I wish I were helping as a relief-worker in a refugee camp. I don't offer much to the homeless in my community. I am constantly wondering if I should become a "big brother" at the local boys-and-girls-club, but I never have. I don't go to the hospital to pray for people. There are so many ways that I don't serve humanity, but the moderating-conversations to help ailing marriage get better . . . that's something I can do. It's no more than "doing my part" when others are doing theirs--I'm grateful for the ones that have stepped into the breach in all those other areas, and this is where I take action and live out the true meaning of my creed.
For more info, email me (Tim) at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find out more about me at www.sgfbend.org.
Friday, December 6, 2013
“To be honest, this question grieves me because I feel that it represents a much bigger issue than simply a couple SF tunes. In true Socratic form, let me ask you a few questions: Does Lewis or Tolkien mention Christ in any of their fictional series? Are Bach’s sonata’s Christian? What is more Christ-like, feeding the poor, making furniture, cleaning bathrooms, or painting a sunset? There is a schism between the sacred and the secular in all of our modern minds.
The view that a pastor is more ‘Christian’ than a girls volleyball coach is flawed and heretical. The stance that a worship leader is more spiritual than a janitor is condescending and flawed. These different callings and purposes further demonstrate God’s sovereignty.
Many songs are worthy of being written. Switchfoot will write some, Keith Green, Bach, and perhaps yourself have written others. Some of these songs are about redemption, others about the sunrise, others about nothing in particular: written for the simple joy of music.
None of these songs has been born again, and to that end there is no such thing as Christian music. No. Christ didn’t come and die for my songs, he came for me. Yes. My songs are a part of my life. But judging from scripture I can only conclude that our God is much more interested in how I treat the poor and the broken and the hungry than the personal pronouns I use when I sing. I am a believer. Many of these songs talk about this belief. An obligation to say this or do that does not sound like the glorious freedom that Christ died to afford me.
I do have an obligation, however, a debt that cannot be settled by my lyrical decisions. My life will be judged by my obedience, not my ability to confine my lyrics to this box or that.
We all have a different calling; Switchfoot is trying to be obedient to who we are called to be. We’re not trying to be Audio A or U2 or POD or Bach: we’re trying to be Switchfoot. You see, a song that has the words: ‘Jesus Christ’ is no more or less ‘Christian’ than an instrumental piece. (I’ve heard lots of people say Jesus Christ and they weren’t talking about their redeemer.) You see, Jesus didn’t die for any of my tunes. So there is no hierarchy of life or songs or occupation only obedience. We have a call to take up our cross and follow. We can be sure that these roads will be different for all of us. Just as you have one body and every part has a different function, so in Christ we who are many form one body and each of us belongs to all the others. Please be slow to judge ‘brothers’ who have a different calling.”
Monday, December 2, 2013
I asked God to take away my pride.
And God said "No."
He said it was not for him to take away,
but for me to give it up
I asked God to make my handicapped child whole.
And God said "No."
He said her spirit was whole,
her body was only temporary.
I asked God to grant me patience.
And God said "No."
He said patience is a by-product of tribulations.
It isn't granted, it is earned.
I asked God to give me happiness.
And God said "No."
He said he gives me blessings,
happiness is up to me.
I asked God to spare me pain.
And God said "No."
He said suffering draws you apart from worldly
cares and brings you closer to me.
I asked God to make my spirit grow.
And God said "No."
He said I must grow on my own.
But he will prune me to make me fruitful.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life.
And God said "No."
He said I will give you life,
that you may enjoy all things.
I ask God to help me LOVE others,
as much as he loves me.
And God said, "Ah, finally you have the idea."
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
4 Reasons NOT to Promote into Leadership (a talk by Steve Prokopchak, DCFI)
Friday, October 18, 2013
Monday, September 30, 2013
Go take a listen. Then come back.
Like Wes, I do want my circles of influence to ripple outward in positive, identifiable ways. I want my children to know that they were a priority for me, even as I pastored a church and generated income in a variety of ways. I want to have been a faithful, honorable man.
And on that day when my strength is failing . . . still my soul will sing!
Sunday, September 29, 2013
In those days I saw Christians of Bend, Oregon, doing their chores and work on the Sabbath and generally keeping it busy with lots to do; full of tasks and to-do lists and sometimes their recreations also became distractions. They were doing all this even in the holy places on the Sabbath. Therefore I warned them about their to-do lists and productivity on that day. People who believed in no God at all lived in Bend and engaged with all sorts of to-do's and distractions, on the Sabbath and with the Christians of Bend.
The first paragraph is from the Scriptures. The second paragraph is pretending to be parallel, but the analogy only goes a short distance. If it's useful to you, that's great; if you noticed that it's not 100% theologically sound, you're right. Just dismiss it--you don't have to set me straight unless that's really how you want to spend your time. I'd rather have a conversation about Sabbath-taking than about my attempt to apply Scripture to modern-day.
Here's what got me thinking about Sabbath rest:
Sabbath is a day when my work is done, even if it isn't.
Sabbath is a day when my job is to enjoy. Period.
Sabbath is a day when I am fully available to myself and those I love most.
Sabbath is a day when I remember that when God made the world, he saw that it was good.
Sabbath is a day when I produce nothing.
Sabbath is a day when I remind myself that I am not a machine.
Sabbath is a day when at the end of the day I say 'I didn't do anything today,' and I don't add 'and I feel so guilty.'
Sabbath is a day when my phone is turned off, I don't check my email, and you can't [reach] me."
Some of those are meaningful for me. Some of those not so much. I find that I am deeply impacted by the thought of being prohibited from accomplishments, productivity, and to-do lists on one day a week.
How do you Sabbath? If you don't Sabbath at all, are you aware that Scripture talks about God really caring--that it's really important to him--that his people Sabbath?
Friday, September 6, 2013
My wife and I have just come off a period of fasting and we're into raw foods for a longer period. Today I breakfasted on a puree of apples, pears, and celery, and it was DELICIOUS! So delightful.
Then, just now, I went through the kitchen and snagged a cherry-tomato off the counter. WOW! What awesomeness to actually get to chew something. Gratitude overwhelms.
Five minutes later, as I passed the kitchen from the other way, I snagged another tomato. (here's where it gets gut-level honest)
munch-munch-munch. scrunched-face. "Two weeks of Raw Foods? Why did I agree to this?"
The difference between the two tomatoes was zero. The difference in my level of gratitude and attitude was incredible; a 180 shift into grumbling. I am the Israelites coming out of Egypt, and they are me.
Lord, help me to be first-tomato grateful in every circumstance. Lord, help me resist second-tomato disdain.
Sunday, August 4, 2013
This morning we are visiting my parents in Spangle, and it's a Sunday morning. So we're "in church." The pastor is gone today, and it is a pleasure to see the church taking on the responsibilities of doing church without his guidance. "Um, I guess it's time for announcements. Did someone get asked to do the announcements? No? Well, are there any announcements?"
Same story with prayer requests. The worship leader with the mic seemed entirely uncomfortable taking prayer requests, but she did a fine job. The church organized itself into the morning's sequence with marvelously little intervention, and the missing pastor was hardly missed. He had asked a friend to come and give the sermon, which fit just fine into the sequence of the morning.
I'm impressed. I want to create a culture that carries on when I'm missing. Not in any very similar way to this Sunday-morning culture, but it is absolutely my goal to create a self-sustaining culture of being church SGF-style!
Thursday, June 6, 2013
SGF needs form, too; right now we're too amorphous, too go-with-the-flow. Maybe because we're so small, maybe because we're so new, maybe because we're all friends so "leading" as if from a platform doesn't work.
When we were praying about what is needed in the way of form and roles, I felt a nudge in my spirit that I was immediately suspicious of. It seemed pretty convenient for me: instead of being nudged to pray more, feed the hungry, concentrate on the youth, encourage more missions, the word that popped into my mind was "FRIENDSHIP." How suspicious, how very like a false prophetic word to affirm the status quo and not call out new passion or vigor or zeal.
I said it out loud, though, and had the group test it. Immediately the Lord provided two Scriptures:
1) "They will know you are Christians because you're friends."
The actual text says:
John 13:3 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
(The actual text of 1 Corinthians 13 says "have not love" where I've inserted the idea of "friendship.")
What if, when this life closes and the next life begins, what if this happens: the Lord holds up next to me a checklist of Christian virtue and discipline (You know the checklist, right? We had it in mind because we were recently rebutting together a list of Things Jesus Didn't Say, and two of them that gave us the giggles were: “"For God was so disgusted with the world that he gave his one and only Son." and "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you a checklist of things to do and not do in order to remain in God’s favor.") and finds the checklist item FRIEND--with a checkmark next to it--puts the list down, looks up, and says "Well done, good and faithful servant."
What if prayer that grows out of friendship is what counts? And generosity. And patience. And hope and trust? What if it's actually all about being friends?
Incidentally, it's not just friendship with believing, nice-looking brothers who are in the same socioeconomic status that I'm in. It's also about befriending Samaritan untouchables--the ones who are hard to be friends with. Loving the unlovely.
Not saying it's the final word in my understanding of faith and the proper role of church. But it's an interesting twist. We thought we were feeling the discomfort of formlessness, and the Lord seems to have told us that what's really important is ... being friends.
PS. And yes, we did belt out a round of Friends are Friends Forever, as one must when talking about the subject in any length. Grin.
Thursday, April 25, 2013
Sir Ken Robinson wrote his book, Out of our Minds: Learning to be Creative, several years before we had our conversation last Sunday, but today I stumbled across an oh-so-pertinent section worth quoting here.
We had been reflecting on the first of the Campus Alpha videos in which the speaker advocates for a view of mankind as being triune: body, soul, and spirit. Some of us in the room thought there was good reason to segregate our human experience into three parts, while others spoke up for a body & mind (but not a separate spirit) human experience.
Robinson describes a historical reason for how our society has got to such a place where we dismiss the spiritual and emotional aspect of our humanity:
"In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the leading figures of the Enlightenment and of Romanticism drew clear divisions between intellect and emotion. The Rationalists distrust feelings; the Romantics trusted little else. In their different ways, both saw intellect and feelings as separate realms of experience that should be kept apart from each other. The consequences of this division are still felt to this day. They can be catastrophic and they are everywhere.
Rationalist philosophers aimed to see through the illusions of superstition and common sense by a remorseless process of skeptical reasoning. In the natural sciences (including physics and biology), feelings, intuition, values and beliefs were seen as dangerous distractions: the murky froth of an undisciplined mind. David Hume, a leading light of the Enlightenment, put it bluntly: 'If we take in hand any volume of divinity . . . for instance, let us ask, does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Commit it then to the flames, for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.' . . . If there is a force beyond logic and evidence . . . science should make no presumptions about it and take no interest in it."
Thursday, March 28, 2013
Judgment (eating from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil) is strictly forbidden to humans. Even when something is clearly off-limits according to the Scriptures you read, please keep your mouth closed* and let the Holy Spirit do the work He wants to do and in the order He wants to do it. Who knows but that the Righteous Judge might render a different judgment from what you would do in His place?
*Admittedly there is a time to approach a Christian brother with a sin-concern, and to this I can only say "tread so carefully--tread so lightly--keep judgment far from you and watch your posture on that day when you do approach your brother about sin. Oh, tread softly."
Monday, March 25, 2013
|H is for Heretic. Bad cow!
CS Lewis, Bill Johnson, and Greg Boyd are some of my favorite unrepentent heretics. I also admit to thinking highly of Tony Campolo, Ted Haggard, and Donald Miller, and--with reservation--Rob Bell. In each of those cases I've spent some considerable time studying the accusations against them and am usually pretty alarmed at the mean-spirited videos and articles that are aimed at "bringing truth and light." These watchdogs set out looking for dangerous heresy and found themselves in equally dangerous hysterisy.
Then this weekend I happened to be at a church that has taken The Shack off their shelves because of accusations of heresy that have lapped up on their shores. The Shack, heretical? Until a month ago I hadn't re-read The Shack since my first exposure in 2008, though several times I've handed the book to friends and have recommended it on our church website: www.sgfbend.org/our-flavor. This winter when I finally had a chance to read it a second time, I did so with a very fine-meshed theological screen. I approached it from the standpoint of 1) knowing that it's a good and important message, but that 2) it deals with some pretty messy theological areas. I wasn't going to burn the book if I found theological error in it (I'd already benefited too much to want to do that), but I wanted to know for myself what small error it might contain. (Remember, this is before I'd heard of accusations of heresy.)
I read it with cheese-cloth filter, alert for problematic areas. I re-read several passages because I thought there might be a problem, but my most careful reading exonerated those passages. To my own surprise, I had finished the The Shack and had nothing on my notepad of "problem areas."
Yesterday I read part of a heresy-rant book Burning the Shack, and I now realize that sometimes WHO wrote something is as important as WHAT he wrote. I still feel comfortable with The Shack, in part because of the editing and writing team that collaborated on it. I'm not at-ease with the doctrine of universal reconciliation, and I'll watch for it in any future novel I read from Paul Young and others, but this unease probably won't compel me to start a new blog called www.watchdogs4jesus.com to track my findings and alert others to slippery-slope theology.
Until yesterday I had never even thought to try a Google search for "Paul Young Heretic." Wowie! He is some kind of bad guy! Curiosity. How about the other guys we like? Turns out that more than half of the people I've listed on SGF's "our-flavor" page are Heretics (the kind that make one capitalize the word). The others on my list probably aren't famous enough for the brand.
- Don't ever become famous.
- Don't EVER admit to questioning.
- Find the hardline Scribes of your day and only wear the colors they wear and eat in the cafes they eat in. (Don't even think about dining with a tax collector or smiling at a prostitute!)
- Publish scathing articles about other people's heresy. McCarthyism lives! Publish or Perish--Scathe or be Scathed!
My dad and I were engaging this morning in a fun conversation about the heretics that we appreciate, and we decided to do some Googling to try to find a prominent Christian leader who hasn't generated a nice wad of angry heresy-accusations.
Try it for yourself.
Who do you follow who hasn't been blasted for heresy?
Pretend that that was the end--that's what I wanted to say today. I'll keep this part brief as a post-script:
Beneath the bravado of self-labeling as Heretic in the post-title, I don't want to really engage in heresy. While I believe that there are far fewer actual heretics actually doing damage to the faith than alarmists would have us think, I'm not disappointed to find that I'm still as orthodox as ever. Here are two good litmus tests (can you affirm the articles of both?):
National Association of Evangelicals: Statement of Faith
- We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.
- We believe that there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
- We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and in His personal return in power and glory.
- We believe that for the salvation of lost and sinful people, regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential.
- We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit by whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a godly life.
- We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost; they that are saved unto the resurrection of life and they that are lost unto the resurrection of damnation.
- We believe in the spiritual unity of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Monday, March 18, 2013
Last night I found my son crying in the tent-fort he'd made from his blankets. Sometimes I ask "what makes you sad?" but this time I asked another question: "What negative phrase is looping in your brain?"
I had seen what had triggered him. He was reading the report card and noting every area that indicated an imperfection. Needing improvement in the "organization" department means that he's a 4th grade boy--it shouldn't mean that you put your chin on your chest and slink to your room like a beaten puppy!
So I knew what had caused him to be sad, but I also suspected that it would be something more "core" than dismay at his report card. When he looked up at me I asked again "What negative tape is playing in your head?"
"It's difficult to love me."
That's my negative tape, not his, but his is very similar. Jesus encountered me last September and helped me into a new identity. I am no longer cursed with the mental refrain of "unlovable." I have broken free!
Let's not have my son listen to this negative tape for 30 years and then break it off. Let's go after it when he's a little guy. He's just a kid. Why does the Enemy take advantage of us when we're weak? Why attack little kids?!
There are appropriate scriptures that help answer this question. Name one in the comments?
[If you'd like to join us for any of our Easter-week celebrations, starting next Thursday night at our house, let me know. We'd love to include you!]