Monday, May 25, 2015

How Should Christ's Followers Respond to Memorial Day?

It's Memorial Day again. This is the day that our culture tells us we are to remember American soldiers who have died in combat. Some people do this, while many others just enjoy a day off work and maybe a juicy burger.

As those who claim Jesus Christ as Lord, how ought we respond to this day? Should we follow the cultural status quo by remembering the military dead? Or, should we simply ignore the whole thing and enjoy a day of freedom from our normal labors?

I'd like to suggest a third option. We Christians, while enjoying a restful day, ought to spend some time remembering. However, what we remember will be significantly different from what typical Americans do.

Let's remember that war is terrible.

Let's remember that war is always terrible.

Let's remember that "just wars" do not exist.

Let's remember that wars do not solve problems.

Let's remember that wars have all sorts of unforeseen long-term consequences.

Let's remember the war dead from every country, both military and civilian.

Let's remember that Christians ought never participate in war.

38 You have heard that it was said, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you (Matthew 5:38-42).
43 You have heard that it was said, "You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy." 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:43-48).

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Beware the Status Quo


According to Wikipedia, "status quo is a Latin phrase meaning the existing state of affairs, particularly with regards to social or political issues."

When it comes to church life we must beware the danger of the status quo.

Life has a certain momentum to it. We wake up, we do stuff, we go to bed. Repeat. While we may not be doing anything particularly sinful, we may also be wasting away many days without even thinking about it. We just exist on automatic pilot. I'm as guilty as anyone else of this.

It's easy to point at the church institution and see the entrenched status quo at work: Christians "go to church" on Sundays at an expensive building to sing "worship songs" and listen to an "expert" lecture to them. This happens week after week after week.

Instead of looking at the institution (which admittedly is an easy target), it probably does us more good to look at self. What areas of our own lives are governed by the cultural momentum of the status quo? Sometimes I can go for an entire day without thinking about serving/helping anybody else. I can go for hours at a time without even thinking about God. Not good.

We must all beware the status quo. It is a great spiritual danger to us as individuals and as the body of Christ.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Busy, Busy, Busy


I haven't blogged much lately because life is extremely busy right now.

This is not a bad busyness, but it certainly requires quite a bit of time. Last weekend our younger daughter graduated from high school. In a couple of weeks our older daughter gets married. We are currently trying to both get the house ready for guests and plan the last details of the wedding ceremony and reception.

On top of all this my job at JCB usually has me working at least fifty hours per week. Added to that is my increasing running schedule; I run almost every day after work. This is a choice, but again it takes time.

My wife Alice and I are what you could call "joyful but busy." If we can just make it through the wedding with no major complications everything should be fine.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Sorry, But I Can't Stop Asking Questions.


Actually, I'm not sorry.

Our society is full of people who rarely question anything. They simply go along with cultural norms because that's the easiest thing to do. Questions are uncomfortable, and we live in a comfort-worshipping country. The last thing most people want to spend their time doing is asking questions (unless they are questioning why something in their lives is interrupting their comfort).

What is even more disturbing is how few people in the church ask hard questions. We follow a person - Jesus Christ - who was about as counter-cultural as anyone who ever lived. He taught numerous things that directly challenge many aspects of our society that we often just take for granted. More specifically, Jesus gave many instructions that fly directly in the face of the way most churches function today. I suppose that's why so few Christians ask those hard questions.

Well, I'm not going to stop. I hope you don't either. We need to be inquiring as to why things are as they are.

Below is a simple list I threw together of examples of church-related questions we must not stop asking:

1. Why do so many Christians gather for "worship"?
2. Why do we largely ignore the poor and needy?
3. Why do many Christians allow the secular government to educate their children?
4. Why is modesty a dirty word in the church?
5. Why is the Lord's Supper often more like a funeral than a celebration?
6. Why are Christians in the military?
7. Why do many Christians segregate by age?
8. Why are we surprised when we suffer for Christ?
9. Why are so many pastors paid salaries?
10. Why do so many simple church folks have poorly-defined doctrine?
11. Why do churches spend so much money on themselves?
12. Why does the church deny any Christians access to the Lord's table?
13. Why do many Christians invest so much in secular politics?
14. Why do we divide over so many inconsequential issues?
15. Why do we expect secularists to care about Christian principles?

The list goes on, and on, and on.

When we ask questions we must be aware of the fact that they will often not be welcomed. Questions by definition challenge. If we challenge the status quo those who benefit from that status quo will not be happy. While their responses will be varied, we can and should expect something unpleasant.

We are responsible for asking responsible questions both in content and in presentation. At that point we "let the chips fall where they may." We cannot control the responses we receive.

One thing we can be certain of is that if we do not ask questions nothing will change.

Keep asking. I know I will.

Monday, May 11, 2015

I've Reached Non-Violence, But Not Non-Resistance

I've been giving a lot of thought lately to the issues of non-violence and non-resistance. Having grown up in American evangelicalism, this has been a struggle for me. After much searching of scripture and analyzing of my own assumptions and motives, I've finally reached a point of embracing complete non-violence. I'm determined to respond to all of life's circumstances, no matter what, in a non-violent manner. No exceptions.

I believe we followers of Christ must take our Lord's teachings seriously. Jesus says some extremely straightforward and earthshaking things in Matthew 5:38-42:

You have heard that it was said, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

Christ continues in 5:43-48:

You have heard that it was said, "You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy." But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

I'll be honest: the above verses make me uncomfortable. I don't particularly like them. A large part of me wishes they weren't in the bible. However, we don't get to pick and choose. Based on Jesus' life and teachings, it is clear that he expects non-violence from his followers.

When I talk about non-violence, I'm not speaking about politics. I don't care to be part of some sort of flower child, peace sign, pot smoking club. I have no intention of taking Christians to task who are part of the military (although that issue does raise some significant questions). I'm not going to start rebuking Christians for having guns. The list goes on.

This is more about what I'm for than what I'm against. I'm for living a life where every interaction with other people is a peaceful one. This will not always mean agreement. I will no doubt have different thoughts, ideas, opinions, etc. about all sorts of issues than others will. However, this does not mean that things have to get violent. Additionally, just because someone else is violent toward me does not mean I have to respond in kind.

I believe in a sovereign God who oversees all circumstances. This includes violence toward me and my family. I trust him to protect me as he sees fit. When it comes to protecting my own family, I trust God with that as well. Would I respond violently if someone was attacking my family? At this point I do not know what I would do. The husband and father in me says "Yes I would," but I struggle to defend that scripturally.

My goal is to live in a non-violent manner at all times.

As for non-resistance, I'm not so sure. I have an easier time (at least in my mind) defining non-violence than non-resistance. While non-violence seems fairly clear cut, non-resistance feels murkier. When we look at the life of Christ we see Jesus at some times not resisting, but at other times he did. For example, when he cleansed the temple (not a violent act by the way), he was certainly resisting the status quo of the day. When the Pharisees put their traditions in front of biblical truth, Jesus rejected them forcefully. In fact, he resisted anyone who was teaching against God's truth. As for his disciples, Christ consistently resisted their lack of understanding and faulty assumptions about what the Messiah should be.

I'll be pondering non-resistance quite a bit in the days ahead. I've got to come to a clearer understanding and definition of what it means and does not mean. That being said, I do think Christ's call to non-violence is clear. Although it flies in the face of our Republican-loving, gun-toting American Christian subculture, it is what Jesus calls us to do. Will we do it?

Count me in for non-violence.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Jesus is the Only One Who Deserves to Monologue


When we look at Jesus Christ's earthly ministry we see quite a bit of teaching. While some of it contained back-and-forth conversation, others of it seems to have been mostly monologue in nature. The Sermon on the Mount is a good example of this.

I've heard Christians use the Sermon on the Mount as evidence for modern monologue preaching. The thinking is that "if monologue was good enough for Jesus it must also be good enough for us." This is problematic for a couple of reasons. First, Jesus was teaching people who were interested in him but were not yet his followers (in the sense of understanding the gospel and being indwelt by the Holy Spirit). Because of their lack of understanding, Christ sometimes needed to monologue.

When the church gathers today there's no need for monologue. This is because those present are all able to teach one another and should be doing so. All are indwelt by the Holy Spirit; each can edify another through personal instruction. Monologue is not necessary and can actually stifle body growth.

Second and more important, Jesus gets to monologue because he is God. He alone has a special status within the church. He has insight we could never have. He knows the standards he expects. He teaches the beliefs we should all have. I'll say it again: Christ is Lord and God.

No one in the body of Christ is Christ (only the Head is). None of us should teach as Jesus did just because he did it. Jesus did many unique things. Who are we to teach as he did as if we have the right to monologue? It's actually fairly arrogant thinking.

The church has no need for lecturing. Rather, the entire body grows together most effectively when all take on the responsibility of teaching each other. This form of mutual edification is more than suggested in scripture; it is what we should be doing. Through body life we all gain from the knowledge and experiences of everyone else in the group. Group knowledge is far more accurate and full than individual knowledge.

Jesus alone gets to monologue. We don't, nor should we.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Marathon Training


That's me in the photo above. By the grace of God I've lost thirty pounds over the past three months. This has included cutting out Coke and ice cream, eating lots of vegetables, and running almost every day. It has not been easy, but I'm thrilled with the results so far.

Back in February I realized that I had to do something about my weight. I had gradually creeped up to over 220 lbs. Although I ran a few times each week, I ate and drank so much junk that it didn't matter. I felt gross and flabby. I could barely fit into my work pants. Yuck.

Like most people in our country, losing weight has never been particularly easy for me. I came to the conclusion that I needed some sort of tangible goal to motivate me to drop the pounds. Therefore, I selected the Savannah Rock 'N' Roll Marathon. I've only run one marathon in my life - and that was over a decade ago; this will be a great challenge.

The only way for me to run 26.2 miles is to get down to a more appropriate weight. I'm currently at 190. Everywhere I've looked says I should weigh about 175. That means I'm already 2/3 of the way to my goal. Sweet!

I'm not going to hyper-spiritualize this endeavor. I'm glad I'm losing weight but don't see it as a huge spiritual issue. As followers of Christ, there are many more important things than being at a healthy weight. That said, I feel much better. For that I'm thankful.

I'll post occasional updates about my marathon training. On Sunday I managed to run nine miles fairly easily. So far my body is holding up under the mileage. As we get closer to the marathon's November date the miles will increase. I hope my joints in particular can withstand the pounding.

Now to find my belt. My work pants keep sagging (and that's a good thing).

Monday, May 4, 2015

On Linking

I rarely know well in advance what my work schedule will be at JCB. Some weeks we work forty hours, but others more like seventy. This makes it difficult to blog regularly.

Like many of you, many times I see excellent blog articles throughout the week. While I might not be able to blog, I can still point out these good reads by linking to them. While I've done this numerous times before, my frequency of doing this going forward will probably be increasing (while my own writing dips a bit in number).

My posts that simply link to others will start with the word "Linking." Not very original I admit, but at least you'll know what's going on.

Today I'm linking to two different interesting posts. First, Benjamin Corey has penned an excellent piece entitled 5 Reasons Why So Many Christians Are Feeling Burned Out Right Now.

Second, thanks to Arthur Sido for pointing out this interesting post from the Gospel Coalition of all places: Why Aren't Calvinists Pacifists?

I will by no means agree with all the posts I link to; rather, my intent is to point out thought-provoking pieces.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

On Misinterpreting "Peacemakers"


In Matthew 5:9 Jesus Christ famously says the following:

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (ESV)

"The peacemakers are blessed, for they will be called sons of God." (HCSB)

"How blessed are those who make peace, because it is they who will be called God’s children!" (ISV)

"Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." (KJV)

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (NASB)

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God." (NET)

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God." (NIV)

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (NKJV)

"God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God." (NLT)

"Happy the peacemakers -- because they shall be called Sons of God." (YLT)

I've listed ten different translations of this verse to show that they all say basically the same thing. We will be blessed by God when we live as people who make peace. This does not suggest that we earn God's favor by being peacemakers, but it does make it clear that God is pleased by this behavior. He also expects it.

But what does Jesus mean by being peacemakers?

I've heard this verse misinterpreted many times by well-meaning (and usually military supporting) evangelicals. Far too many of these folks say that Jesus is mainly referring to helping others make peace with God by accepting the gospel. This verse amounts, in this view, to another Great Commission. While sharing our faith is certainly important, neither the context of this passage nor the specific wording indicates that Christ has this in mind here.

Why would these evangelicals misinterpret this passage in this way? The reason is that they, ironically, fear the idea of peacemaking in its most basic sense. I'm referring to helping others live lives of day-to-day peace with other people through turning the other cheek and loving enemies. These truths, while spoken by Jesus in this very chapter, are not popular in much of American Christianity. They fly in the face of the military aggression that is so prevalent in our society and which is so often supported by the church.

In Matthew 5:9 Jesus is not talking about assisting lost people in coming to peace with God through the gospel. Rather, Jesus is telling his soon to be followers that he expects them to live peacefully in an unpeaceful world. He expects them to not retaliate when wronged (look at 5:10-12). Jesus desires that his people promote peaceful, kind, non-aggressive interactions among others. While the world wages war, Christ's people are to be agents of peace.

Let's be those people of peace that Jesus is talking about in the Beatitudes.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Jesus Christ Our Excellent Teacher


Jesus Christ is both a shocking revolutionary and an uncompromising challenger. He's also an excellent teacher. We see all three of these roles throughout Christ's earthly ministry, perhaps most clearly in the Beatitudes.

Even when he is teaching profound truths, Jesus speaks in a manner that is easy to understand. He sits on the hillside, selecting his words carefully. When we read the Beatitudes we are stunned by the simplicity and depth of what our Lord is saying. He's not trying to be a fancy orator. His is not a carefully crafted speech. He's certainly not standing behind a podium. Rather, Jesus just speaks the simple truth in a way that almost anyone can understand.

As we read Matthew chapter five we may have trouble digesting what Jesus says. This is because his ideas are so vastly different from those of the world. He challenges us where we are by giving us no loopholes or out-clauses. He expects his followers to live in a radically different way.

He's such a good teacher that we have no excuse. Let's be honest: we understand what Christ is teaching in the Beatitudes in particular and the Sermon on the Mount in general. His exquisite teaching assures this. It's the living-it-out part that gives us difficulty.

As we read through the gospel accounts we see a man who reaches people where they are. He speaks to them with an intent of being understood. For example, his discussion with Nicodemus in John three is significantly different from his interaction with the Samaritan woman at the well in John four. Jesus is discussing his good news with both of them, but doing it in differing ways so each will comprehend.

Our Lord is not a God of confusion. He has taught us well. The big question for us is what we will choose to do with his excellent teachings. Will we obey?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Jesus Christ the Uncompromising Challenger

Jesus Christ's teachings in the Beatitudes are nothing short of world changing. They take people's general expectations and flip them upside down. Our Lord's instructions show him to be a shocking revolutionary. In addition, Jesus was also an uncompromising challenger.

When we come to Matthew chapter five we do not see any sort of extended lead in. Rather, Jesus jumps straight into his sayings with, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Christ does not beat around the bush. He is not giving suggestions. These are not simply good ideas.

Jesus does not compromise on his expectations. Rather, this is how he expects his body to live. While we might hope for some loopholes, he provides none. Christ also makes no apologies for his lofty expectations. His followers will, albeit imperfectly, live in a way that will make them stand out from the world.

These sayings are no doubt a massive challenge to us. We might much rather talk about Jesus' death, resurrection, and the salvation this purchased for us. While those are no doubt wonderful things, the reality is that our Lord saved us in part to live a certain way. He has outlined that way in the Sermon on the Mount. What an incredible challenge for us!

It is important for us to see that these verses do more than challenge us. They also show us what an amazing person Jesus was. He not only instructed his people in how to live, but also showed them perfectly how to do this. He lived the ultimate life of humility, mercy, purity, and peacemaking. He suffered severe persecution but never retaliated. Just incredible. As if that wasn't enough, let's recall that these verses provide wonderful promises; both verses three and ten end with "for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Jesus doesn't compromise. Jesus does challenge. Jesus is also faithful to reward.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Jesus Christ the Shocking Revolutionary


Jesus Christ's first teachings in the bible come in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7). The initial section of this sermon is the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:2-12). I've been pondering these eleven verses quite a bit lately. I'm stunned by what shocking and revolutionary teachings these were and still are.

In one sense these aren't revolutionary; Jesus was explaining the full meaning of the Old Testament law. However, no one thought of the law this way. Therefore, in comparison to how people were living and thought of the O.T. law, Jesus' sayings were extremely revolutionary. He was commanding his followers to live in ways that flew in the face of how the world lives. Christ expected his people to be humble, to mourn, to show mercy, to be peacemakers, to accept persecution, etc. These are not the ways of the world.

Sadly, these are not generally the ways of the church either, then or now. We generally fail to live up to what Jesus demands. This is not surprising considering that we are imperfect beings. However, when it comes to the Beatitudes, we don't even come close. It's interesting that Jesus holds us to such a high standard. It is clear that our Lord had and has plans for his body to live in a starkly different way from that of the world.

When we take time to think through these verses, what we see should shock us. We see wonderful blessings promised as part of salvation in Christ. We deserve none of these. We also see descriptors of Christ's followers that seem so different from almost anything we see on a daily basis. For example, how many of us truly seek meekness? Instead, we generally struggle for what we believe is ours. What about peacemakers? Does this describe us? Usually we want others to be at peace, but not if it costs us. Or what about accepting suffering for Christ and doing so willingly? We are generally clueless in this regard.

On the one hand I'm glad Jesus has a high standard. He would not be such an impressive God if he let us live like the lost around us. On the other hand, his design for his people challenges us to live in a way that we are probably not. He expects our attitudes and behavior to shock the world because of how revolutionary they are. If the world often times does not understand us, that is probably a good thing. Conversely, if we fit right in we likely have a big problem.

We ought to be shocked by Christ's teachings. We should also ask ourselves whether or not we are even attempting to live up to them.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Sermon Avoidance Does Not Make You "Lukewarm"


A couple of years ago a young Christian man told me that I was "lukewarm." He was referring to this passage:

14 And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation. 15 "I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." (Revelation 3:14-22, emphasis mine)

Let me provide a bit of context. At the time our family was gathering regularly with a few others families each Sunday in homes. We would sometimes see each other during the week, but for the most part our Sunday get together was the main time of fellowship. We shared in bible study, prayer, eating, and much conversation. It was almost always an edifying experience for me. We enjoyed being together.

One Sunday a young couple visited with us; they were invited by one of the other families in our group. I'm not sure why this couple came (maybe curiosity?) because the man clearly did not believe the way we were "doing church" was the right way. He was a very big supporter of sermons. He liked to discuss what preachers had said and written as part of their messages. Our church family had no need or desire for sermons.

Did I mention that this young man was only twenty-five-years-old at the time?

What I still do not understand is why this couple kept returning to our gatherings. It makes no sense to me. They were nice enough, but the way we functioned continued to bother them. One day it came to a head. The young man asked if he could meet with the elders of our church family. Several of us men (the older men of the body; nothing more than that) came together one evening in a home. The young man basically complained to us that the elders in our body needed to have more authority and that we should have sermons. We did not agree. I hope you see the irony here. The young man was saying that we should have authority, but he had no interest in our authority when it came to not having sermons. While making his case he kept referring back to one specific sermon he had heard and told us that we really needed to listen to it.

We kept asking him to support his assertions with scripture. He failed to do so. Eventually he told us that the real reason he wanted to meet with us was to tell us that we were "lukewarm." However, his only reason for saying this was because we did not preach and teach the bible the way he thought we should. He wanted someone to stand up front and give a typical monologue style sermon as in traditional churches. He equated this with caring for what the bible had to say. We disagreed.

It was clear to me that he saw himself as doing some sort of duty for God by rebuking us. He would not listen to what we had to say. We elders (all in our forties) were being rebuked by a twenty-five-year-old for not grabbing more authority. This encounter was both fascinating and disturbing.

This young man, while well-intentioned, was far off track. It was not long before they moved on. Last I knew they had moved near Houston, Texas to be part of Voddie Baucham's church.

I wish things could have turned out differently, but this young man would not listen. His error is in how he thinks of church life. In his mind zeal for God and ceremonial preaching go together. He believes that love for the Lord is most clearly shown by sitting and listening to a speech.

He is wrong.

None of us has to adhere to the typical traditional, institutional style of gathering in order to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. In fact, I would argue that taking part in church meetings that seek to edify the body through mutuality is a sign of great care for Christ. According to the bible, that is to be the purpose of gatherings.

If you read this blog regularly then you probably have no use for sermons. Don't worry, that's fine. Sermon avoidance does not make you "lukewarm." Rather, it might just be a sign that you care about how God wants his church to live. As far as I'm concerned that is evidence of being just the opposite of lukewarm.

Monday, April 13, 2015

"The Reformers and Their Stepchildren"

When I was in seminary I was required to read The Reformers and Their Stepchildren. Although the book interested me at the time, I didn't give it a great deal of thought because I was reading so many different books. It quickly faded into the background of my mind as I tried to ingest all sorts of other required reading.

I'm now far removed from seminary. My views on the church have changed dramatically since those years. I decided it was time to read this book again. I'm glad I did.

The Reformers and Their Stepchildren, written by Leonard Verduin in 1964, takes a fascinating look at the stark differences between the Reformers (such as Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin) and those who were called by various names such as "Anabaptist." Both of these groups had broken away from the heresies of the Roman Catholic Church. Both held a high view of scripture. Where the two groups differed was in their view of the church. While the Reformers largely took a Constantinian view of church, the Anabaptists believed the church should be free. This led to a massive rift.

The Anabaptists thought that each person in an area should be free to choose what he believed. This necessarily led to a composite society. The Reformers, seeking protection from the government, looked for a melding of church and state. Therefore, everyone in a given location was considered part of the church in that location. The Anabaptists wanted no part of this view. This led to severe persecution by the Reformers (and Catholics) toward the Anabaptists.

The Anabaptists were known by a wide variety of different names given to them by the Reformers and Catholics. Almost all of these were derogatory in nature (even the term "Anabaptist" was originally negative). Verduin entitled the various chapters in this book with these negative names; the chapters deal with different but related topics such as baptism, the Lord's Supper, and church-state relations. While the Reformers and the stepchildren held the same basic views of the gospel, it was their differences over the church that led to the problems.

This book is extremely well researched and detailed. At some points it bogs down a bit, but the large amount of information is needed because this book is a challenge to the Reformed view of both the Reformation and the Anabaptists. The author was forced, due to the resistance this book would face, to add a great amount of detail.

The interesting thing about this book is that, for most of us in the modern West, a free church is the norm. We cannot imagine anything other than a composite society. That was hardly the case 500 years ago. Back then the Anabaptists' hope for church life led to persecution, shunning, and death. They desired what we have.

This text is much more than a history book. It is living in the sense that the Anabaptists, or stepchildren, asked many of the questions about the church that we do today. The difference is that they often paid for it with their lives.

This book is worth your time.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

My Name Is No Longer on a Church Membership Roll. I Guess I'm Not Going to Heaven.

As far as I know, my name is no longer on any local church's membership roll. I cannot confirm this for certain because I'm not about to dig through old file cabinets to find out.

The church where I worked as pastor is the last place where I was a member. Last year I emailed to request that my name be taken off the roll. I received a confirmation message that this occurred. This is the best I can do.

Since I'm no longer on a church membership roll I suppose this means I'm not going to heaven. That makes me sad.


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Poppycock

I like the word poppycock because of the way it sounds. It basically means "nonsense" or "rubbish."

If you want to read an example of poppycock, simply click on this.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

By the Way, Christianity is Not a "Religion of Peace" Either

In my previous post I made the case that we should reject the ignorant, politically correct, and patently false notion that Islam is a religion of peace. In doing so, I did not want to imply that Christianity is a religion of peace. When we look historically at the religion Christianity has become we see much violence. This is to our shame.

Please allow me to take a moment to clarify one key term. When I say "religion," I'm referring to man's attempts to get to God by his own means. This describes any religion in the world that does not have Jesus Christ at its center.

Institutional Christianity poses some problems when it comes to definitions. While it has many aspects of man-made religion, it also focuses to one degree or another upon Jesus Christ. Additionally, many wonderful Christian people attend institutional churches. This makes things a bit murky.

The sad reality, however, is that institutional Christianity has a long history of violence. This all began when Constantine made Christianity the preferred religion of the state. Whenever the church and state come together, the church becomes the whore of the state. This always (no hyperbole) leads to violence and aggression. All through the Middle Ages the church struck out against any they deemed to be heretics. During the crusades, many Muslims were slaughtered in various attempts to retake the holy land.

During the Reformation, both Catholics and Protestants killed in order to defend what they considered to be theirs. Dissenting groups such as the Anabaptists felt the wrath of both sides, finding little shelter anywhere. Even in modern times many within the church support violence. When President George W. Bush, himself at least sort of an evangelical, decided to start two different wars the church in this country largely lauded him.

When we look at the life of Jesus Christ we see one of non-violence. In fact, we see a man of peace. This is the model he left for us to follow. While the man-created institutions that masquerade as Christianity embrace war and violence, those who truly seek to live as Christ did desire lives of peaceful existence with all people. This is not to suggest that Christians cannot endorse or even commit violent acts; rather, I'm saying that those who do so have no biblical basis for their beliefs and actions.

Ultimately, Christianity is not a religion of peace because Christianity is not a religion.

Christianity, at least what we see in the scriptures, is about knowing and living for Jesus Christ. It is not man's attempt to get to God, but rather God's successful reaching down to mankind. He has done so in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Christ never retaliated even though he would have been completely justified in doing so. This is the type of life we must lead.

Let's follow after Christ, rejecting both the violence and made-created religion that permeates this world.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Can We Please Do Away With the Ignorant Notion that "Islam is a Religion of Peace"?

One ubiquitous talking point for both politicians and talking heads is that "Islam is a religion of peace."

This idea persists because it is politically correct. However, a glance around the globe tells us otherwise. The Islamic State (or whatever its latest name is) is, well, Islamic. Boko Harem also claims the name of Islam. So does Al-Shabaab.

Remember Al-Qaeda and the Taliban? Both are Muslim groups. The list goes on.

Quite frankly, the above groups' behavior is not surprising. After all, they learned from the founder of their religion: Muhammad. Ever since the starting of Islam it has been bathed in blood. The rapid spread of Islamic ideology and way of life soon after its founding occurred mostly at the end of the sword.

Islam has been consistently violent wherever it has gone, at least until those areas submit wholesale to its rules and laws. Only after a society kneels to the demands of Islam does it become somewhat more peaceful (and even then dissenting residents face the wrath of Islamic rule).

I'm not suggesting that all Muslims everywhere are terrorists. Most are not. However, the reality is that Islam far outpaces any other religion when it comes to violence. Just watch the news. It is all too common.

What we need to understand is that Muslims who are engaged in violent activities are simply following the model they've been given by Muhammad. In light of that, it is understandable why they behave the way they do. More surprising is why more Muslims aren't involved in terroristic acts.

The reality is that any ideology, belief system, or worldview that does not come from Jesus Christ cannot be fully peaceful. The reason for this is that only Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Only Christ brings true peace to the world. Only through the gospel can people come to know what true life and peace are all about.

The world is full of all sorts of false religions. At a spiritual level none of these are peaceful. Probably because of the manner it which it started, Islam appears to be the most violent. How many more atrocities have to be committed in the name of Islam before the talking heads and politicians wake up to this reality?

Islam is most definitely not a religion of peace.

How should we followers of Christ respond to Muslims? I'm glad you asked.


(Before I receive any angry responses about Christianity please let me tell you the name of my next post: "By the Way, Christianity Is Not a Religion of Peace Either.")