Friday, April 29, 2011


I haven't blogged since Sunday because I've been (gratefully) working quite a bit.  If my math is correct, I've logged 52.5 hours since Monday morning.  I work again tomorrow.  I prayed for work and God provided.

I'm hoping to blog sometime this weekend.  

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Lord's Supper Meal - A Great Unifier

Today we gathered with friends in a home to encourage one another in Christ. We read the bible, prayed, talked about how our weeks had gone, discussed opportunities the Lord had given to us, and sought the Lord's direction in what to do about how large we are getting (we now have close to forty people when everyone is present).

The goal in all this was to edify one another in Jesus Christ. I hope we are all now a little more like Him and closer to Him.

Oh yes. We also ate. If it was a good enough reason for the early church to gather, it's good enough for us, too. As we do each week, we celebrated the Lord's Supper as a full meal. Today we had burgers, hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, and baked beans. As we ate, we tended to talk in smaller groups of three to five. We dads discussed holiness of life and unity within the church.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

When Different is Not Better

We tend to make changes in life when we find better options. We're open to improvement when something works better, looks better, sounds better, tastes better, etc. However, when something is good the way it is we mostly just leave it alone. The old saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

We make changes because we believe that the new thing we are doing or using is better than whatever we were doing or using before. We believe improvement is taking place.  For example, we are soon probably going to buy a new computer. The one we use for homeschool purposes is very slow and shuts down frequently for no apparent reason. We desire improvement in the computer department. Therefore, we're eventually going to have to shell out the money for a new one.

None of this is rocket science. It does, however, become problematic when we look at the life of the church.

Friday, April 22, 2011

"I Saw a Tabernacle and I Thought of You."

Something sort of weird happened this week.  A co-worker said to me, "I saw a tabernacle and I thought of you."  Hmmmmm.  That was a first.

Let me back up a bit.  This co-worker (let's call him Sam) knows that I'm a Christian and that I used to be a professional pastor.  From what I can tell, Sam is nominally Roman Catholic.  He holds to some of the traditions, but doesn't seem to care too much for God.  Sam lives in a neighborhood where a local church has constructed a temporary model of an O.T. tabernacle.  I saw it myself; it looks something like the model in the photo above.

Sam drives by the tabernacle every day.  For some reason the tabernacle made him think of me.

I'm not sure how I feel about this.  No one has ever said anything remotely like this to me before.  I suppose it could be worse.  He could have said something like, "I saw an illegal sweat shop and thought of you" or, "I saw a strip club and thought of you."

The tabernacle is certainly symbolic of someone wonderful: Jesus Christ. In that sense, I'm glad Sam said what he did. However, I think what's really going on is that he knows my job was as a salaried pastor, pastors deal with the bible, and the tabernacle is in the bible.

I'm hoping to make more of a positive impression on Sam in the days ahead for the cause of Christ.

That got me thinking. What would I like Sam to eventually say makes him think of me? I've come to this conclusion: I'd love to hear Sam utter these words, "I saw someone sacrificially and lovingly help a stranger in the name of Jesus Christ and I thought of you."

That would be great.

What Do Families Do?

In the New Testament we read the church pictured as a family. This is an extremely important metaphor. In response to this, we should ask what families do. So, when they are functioning properly, what do families do?

Families share their lives with each other.

Families spend a lot of time together.

Families talk, and talk, and talk.

Families support one another.

Families encourage one another.

Families care for each others' needs.

Families challenge one another.

Families practice discipline for the good of the individual and family as a whole.

Families teach one another.

Families exhort one another.

Families share their struggles with one another.

Families relax together.

Families eat together (a lot).

Families give to one another.

Families sacrifice for one another.

Families stick together during the hard times.

Families serve each other.

Families work together to help other people not in the family.

This is obviously not a comprehensive list. However, it does provide a picture of how families share life together. Since this is the case, it seems that the church should look like this as well.

What can we do as individuals to encourage the above? That's probably a good question for all of us to ponder.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Family Relationships, Not Events

When we read about the church in the New Testament we see a picture of people in close relationship with one another. We see family.

Jesus himself indicates that our relationships with our church family will actually be closer than that of our genetic family.  Paul repeatedly refers to fellow Christians as "brothers."

As we think about the church in general, we see that relationships are extremely important.  In the book of Acts, the church spends a great deal of time together.  Things certainly weren't perfect; however, the people genuinely cared for one another. They showed this in very practical ways. As we look in the epistles, we read numerous commands that deal with how Christians are to treat one another. This is all based in relationships.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Selectively Directionally Challenged

I've been thinking lately about how so many of us, myself included, are sort of selectively directionally challenged.

This is what I mean: when it comes to interpreting the bible, we sometimes move in one direction and we sometimes move in another. Some of the time we (correctly) look to scripture in its appropriate context and try to determine what the original authors meant. We then attempt to make application to our lives today.

At other times we look at our lives today, decide what we believe about whatever issue, and then look for scripture verses to support our current practices. We don't like to admit doing this, but we all fall into this trap at least occasionally.

We see two directions here.  On the one hand we let scripture inform and direct our experience.  On the other hand we let our experience determine scripture verses/passages we search for.

I said above that we are "selectively" directionally challenged because we often choose which direction we desire to move. As much as we don't like it to be made public, the reality is that we often let the bible inform beliefs and practices of ours that already happen to line up with the bible. However, when we have certain practices, traditions, behaviors, etc. that cannot be defended well from the bible, we often search for verses, pull them out of context, and use them as "support" for what we want to do.

Let's be honest. We all do this to some degree. As it relates to the church, we all (I think) like to believe that the bible informs how we think of the church, live as the church, and serve as the church. However, if we honestly looked at our church practices, whether individual or group, we would see that some flow from scripture whereas others come from our preferences/traditions.

How should we handle this conundrum? As much as possible, let's discard our habit of being selectively directionally challenged. Instead, may we try to start with scripture and move from there toward our experiences. When we do this, Jesus Christ speaks to us as Head of his church to inform all we do.

This is only something that the Holy Spirit can accomplish. Additionally, Christian friends often see blind spots in out lives that we have no idea exist. Let's encourage and exhort one another to move in one direction.

Monday, April 18, 2011

"The Rabbit and the Elephant"

The Rabbit and the Elephant gets its title from a comparison of the reproductive speeds of rabbits and elephants. While rabbits multiply very quickly, elephants require a great deal of time to reproduce. The authors (Tony and Felicity Dale with George Barna) convincingly make the point that while simple churches are like rabbits, traditional/legacy churches are similar to elephants.

When I purchased this book, I assumed from the title that it would focus mostly on the multiplication of simple churches. While multiplication was part of the focus of the book, the authors also spent significant time speaking about the simple church in general. I found this to be helpful because they ended up writing about simple church reproduction within the broader context of simple church.

The authors focus on a great number of issues related to simple church life. They begin with the basics of what simple church is and how it functions, and then branch out into various other topics such as prayer, teaching, leadership, giving, missions, etc. Within this discussion multiplication is described and encouraged.

A significant bonus is the vast experience the Dales have in simple church. They add numerous practical examples to illustrate the concepts they discuss. These illustrations help make their ideas come to life.

This is a nice book for anyone to read regardless of background. The reason is that the authors both cover the basics of simple church and at the same time provide many helpful specifics for church multiplication. I found that while I had previously thought through some of what they discussed, I was also challenged with some new ideas.

I recommend it to all readers.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Starting with a Blank Slate

What would happen if we could forget all we know about the church and start over? What if we could literally begin with a sort of mental blank slate, open our bibles together, and simply see what the pages of scripture say? It would be like taking a mulligan on our understanding of the church.

We well know that this is an impossibility.  We don't live in science fiction so we can't obtain any sort of mind-wipe. Also, we have all experienced much good in the life of the church that we would not want to forget about. Most important, we all have church family relationships in Christ that we would never want to forfeit.

But what if we, as the church, got together and tried as best we could to forget our knowledge, definitions, functions, practices, traditions, etc. of the church and delved into the pages of the bible to simply see what it says?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

On Saying "The Church"

The language we use reflects what we think about things. It also impacts what other people think we believe.

Sometimes even the small words that come out of our mouths say quite a bit. As it relates to the church, the word "the" carries a great deal of meaning.

When we say "the church," we instantly imply unity, togetherness, brotherhood, and oneness in Christ. We are focusing on all the people of God. In this case, the word "the" is all-encompassing. It creates a picture of all of the redeemed in community and togetherness before our Lord Jesus Christ. "The church" suggests harmony, brotherhood and sisterhood, joy, peace, encouragement, and support.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Would Jesus Have Me Love My Country?

As Christians living in the United States of America we find ourselves in a bit of an odd situation. We are not part of a persecuted minority religion like so many of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. Instead, Christianity remains the largest religion in this country (at least in terms of those who claim to be Christians). We also enjoy freedom of religion to a degree that far surpasses that of most fellow believers around the globe.

Because of these things, many American Christians have adopted a love of "God and country." We see this in much of evangelicalism today. We all agree that we should love God. However, should we love our country? For us Americans, should we love the USA?

Another way of putting it is this, "Would Jesus have me love my country?"

Monday, April 11, 2011

It's Easier to Blog About the Negative

It's a sad comment on human nature, but blogging negatively is much easier than blogging positively.

It often takes little effort to put together a post blasting something that we don't like, don't approve of, or don't think is right.  In my case, for example, it is simple to target various things related to the institutional church such as large buildings, salaried pastors, planned meetings, etc.

It is much more difficult and requires more work to put together a post that speaks more about the positive.  As per church issues, this might deal with participatory meetings, house gatherings, full meal Lord's Supper celebrations, etc.

It bothers me that writing negatively is easier for me. I'm serious. It bothers me. If I dare to be a bit introspective, it shows at least a little immaturity and bitterness.

I'm not suggesting that we should never deal with problematic issues. In fact, some of the best blog posts (mine and others) constructively compare positive and negative things and then draw conclusions. This may deal with the church or any other topic.

What is problematic is when we bloggers are drawn at a visceral level to take aim at whatever we disagree with. If I currently look through my list of blog post ideas, there are a good number that wage war upon all things institutional church.  I'm beginning to see more clearly that this has very limited benefit.  I might feel good after I post negatively and others who agree with me may comment.  But in the end, what good does it do?

It is possible to write in such a manner that we deal with negative things in a positive way. The tone of this type of writing is gracious, humble, instructive, balanced, and seeks positive outcomes for all sides involved. This is far different from simply sending word-based missiles flying at what we dislike. It also strives for unity instead of division.

It requires much more work to see anything good in what we don't prefer. As per church things, I can see some good that comes from institutional church bodies. However, it's a struggle to write about those aspects. In my flesh, it feels so good sometimes to say, "That's not biblical!! Knock it off!! You hypocrites!!"

I write this post because I'm going to try to blog more positively about church life. Of course as I do this I will at times compare and contrast what I believe is biblical with what I think are man-made practices. This will by nature have some negative bent to it. However, the goal will be constructive.

This is all easier said than done. I'm tired a lot these days. In my fatigue, it will be simpler to get negative, destructive, and mean on this blog. I'm determined to avoid that downfall. Therefore, I hope you see somewhat of a shift in tenor here.

The outcome may not be exciting.  I've seen over the years that I get more comments on blog posts that are more controversial, inflammatory, and in-your-face.  Oh well.  If I get fewer comments, so be it.  I think it will honor God by striving for more constructive dialogue (however you spell that word) about both what we believe and how we live this out.

It may be easier to blog about the negative, but I'm determined to go more positive.  If it's more work, that's probably a  sign that it's a good thing.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Family Permanence and Intimacy

The apostle Paul frequently refers to other Christians as His "brothers" or "brethren" in Christ. The Greek word is "adelphoi."

He uses this word over and over again. Paul must have good reasons for this. Why does he do it?

In that culture, brothers and sisters held deep, permanent, and intimate relationships. These were some of the strongest (if not the strongest) bonds in that society.

Paul could have repeatedly used the word "friends." Instead, he chose "brothers." Why?

I believe Paul was stressing both intimacy and permanence. He may have had other reasons as well, but these two seem to be a big part of his intent.

What Sort of Dialogue?

As we look at church gatherings in scripture, we see much dialogue taking place. This falls within the context of new covenant family relationships and is designed to edify the body as a whole.

As we think about getting together with the church, whether the setting is more or less formal, what should our dialogue look and sound like?  What should our focus be? What's the goal?

These questions are important because if we give them no thought, we may end up doing a lot of talking with the church but accomplishing very little. So, what sort of dialogue should we aim for?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Familial Edifying Dialogue

We've seen so far that the biblical practice of speech within church gatherings was dialogue as opposed to monologue.

But what was the goal of the dialogue? And what was the context?

The goal was clear: edification. Paul emphasizes this in I Corinthians chapter 14. The apostle uses the word "edification" in verses 3, 5, 12, and 26. We need to remember that chapters 12-14 focus upon the appropriate exercise of spiritual gifts within the assembling of the church body.

It is also important to remember the context of the church itself. In other words, what does Paul consider the church to be? One key metaphor that Paul uses to describe the church is the family. In all of Paul's letters to churches he uses the term "brethren" to refer to his brothers and sisters in Christ.

For example, in Romans 1:13 Paul writes, "Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles."

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Historic Savannah Photos

Yesterday my daughter Mary and I walked through Savannah's historic district. Specifically, we made our way through all the squares. Along the way we took numerous photos of Live Oaks, Azaleas, historic homes, church buildings, other architecture, fountains, and lots of people. Below are some of the best (the exception being the one of the balding guy).

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Free Beer!

I found myself in the midst of an odd situation yesterday.

Let me back up a bit.  Earlier this week we were told that the Discovery Channel would be filming at my place of employment (JCB) for a new show that will air this summer. The producers of the show wanted to give a glimpse of the JCB employees in a more casual setting to supplement the factory footage. In order to do this, we were all invited (and highly encouraged) to go to a particular restaurant after work on Friday.

Most people don't want to go to a restaurant after work at the end of the week.  In order to get more folks to come, JCB offered to pick up the tab. In other words: FREE BEER!